A Motivational Kick in the Butt

“The agile manifesto says the product owner isn’t part of the team.”  To this day that is one of the most ridiculous statements I’ve heard about Agile.    What my colleague meant (I think) was “you’re inflicting too much change on MY team and stepping my toes, back off“.

People are motivated by different things and clearly, well to me anyway, my colleague was motivated by power and status.  Power and status are usually bad words in the Agile community when they are associated with people.

That command and control manager  who won’t let the team self-organization is clearly a power-monger and a bad person.    So is that pushy PM who tells the team what scope to work on during the sprint.

I too am motivated by status.  Power?  Not so much, but it definitely feels good when people buy my book (wink, nudge), or share my stuff ,or do other nice things like translate my book and videos without me asking!

Of course sometimes I need a kick in the butt to get moving.  Last year when Happy Melly Express committed to be my publisher for Lean Change Management that commitment added a whole pile of stuff onto my already full plate.  If you are a frequent reader of mine, you probably noticed the sharp drop in the number of times I blogged from October to December.

Enter the kick in the butt from Jurgen, who is the CEO of Happy Melly:

Hello Jason,

I feel a bit disappointed at the sparse communication from your side.
I asked you a question about coaching twice, but I’m not getting an answer.
I’ve promoted your book among facilitators, but from your side there was no reply or follow-up.
And it seems the first crowdfunders of your book also have not heard anything from you. (At least I certainly didn’t.)
You now have a team of people who are trying to help you promote your book.
Maybe there is a valid reason for the little communication, but if this project is important to you, I suggest you now make your supporters your top priority.
I’m planning an announcement about your book over my mailing list this week (1600 people), but I’m suspending it until I’m feeling good again about this project.
Despite the empathetic opening of the email, I was mad!  How dare he!  I work all day, come home, make dinner, clean up, put the kids to bed and then around 10pm start my “other” job.  Why doesn’t he understand that?  It’s definitely not MY fault…it’s this weird set of circumstances called life that is the problem!
As I rapidly, and consciously, progressed through Christopher Avery’s Responsibility Process I realized I needed to change how I managed my own time.
  1. Started setting out-of-office alerts on the days I’m onsite with clients or in meetings to set expectations about when a response from me could be expected.
  2. Re-started using my personal Trello board
  3. Said no when I meant no instead of saying yes!
  4. Became more conscious about planning tasks before diving in
  5. set aside time to manage email

The cortisol dissipated quickly from my brain and I told him that I appreciated this kick in the butt.  I think it’s ok for a someone to give their co-workers feedback that their work or behaviour isn’t up to par.  If you set an expectation and fail to deliver, you give your co-workers permission to call you out on it.  If people don’t feel they can be honest with each other about their performance, trust will continue to erode.  Eventually, you’ll have to hire some expensive consultant like me to help you ‘go Agile‘ and fix everything!

For me, this motivational tactic works.  The feeling of ‘letting people down‘ motivates me to make more of an effort because sometimes I get caught up in the whirlwind of busyness and become un-productive.    I wonder how I would have responded to a traditional incentive like “if you get all your book tasks done, I’ll mail you a cookie!”  Cookie?  Maybe not.  Some of those delicious Dutch pastries?  Probably.

Thus far in my career I’ve had 2 managers who knew how to motivate me.   They knew how to challenge me to get the best out of me.  In all cases, the motivation was giving me a problem to solve with little, if any, directions.    Other more directive taskmasters had less luck!

I like to use the Moving Motivators game from Management 3.0 to help people figure out  what motivates people they work with.  I find it to be the best way to provoke those conversations that typically make people feel icky.    Once the door is open, it’s much easier to communicate with co-workers because you understand what makes them tick.

Many people in the Agile community like to quote Daniel Pink’s mastery, autonomy and purpose motivators from his book Drive.   I prefer the CHAMPFROGS model from Management 3.0 because it combines intrinsic motivators from many models.  And it’s constantly the most popular exercise in my Management 3.0 classes.

In hindsight, I wish that ridiculous statement with my colleague would have peeked my Curiosity motivator before offending my Status motivator.  It probably would have made for a better conversation instead of the stupid argument that ensued.   Had we understood each other, we could have actually solved the problem we were supposed to be talking about.