Agile principles: 8. Motivated and trusted individuals

8. Projects are based around motivated individuals, who should be trusted

This is one of my favourite principles. There are two points that I would like to elaborate. The first is the word “trusted“. Giving trust can make wonder. As Ernest Hemingway said: “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” My advice is to give trust first. I believe that people will return the favour. 

Motivated individuals

Motivation is a key to success. While this is a common sense statement, probably everyone has had the experience of not being motivated. I know I have. I worked at a large Hungarian bank, preparing system design documentation retrospectively in case there was an audit, so they can show that the bank has done their due dilligence. I knew it doesn’t matter what is the quality of the document and once I created, it will be sitting on a shelf forever. Obviously I wasn’t very motivated and while I did everything I could do to make it a usable document, I am sure I could have done a lot better job. If you want people to deliver excellent work, you want them to be motivated. But motivating people is not an easy task.

Motivating speeches can have short term positive effect, but you don’t want to rely only on pep-talks and heart-warming speeches. There are a number of different grouping methods explaining how researchers analyse this topic. One of my favourite introduction is a video on Dr. Jason Fox’s website. Check out the website or go to http://vimeo.com/65137399. The key to successful motivation is … (drum-roll) … doing the work. And it’s true.

I’ve done a bit of research with a project team. I’ve introduced many good/stupid ideas to motivate the team. I had a thank-you box, I facilitated team lunches and coffees, I’ve asked individually and in group sessions how they are feeling, and to my surprise the number one thing that made people happy was getting work done. And the most frustration came from occasions where we were not able to progress due to administrative / political hurdles.

If you are in a management position, make sure the team members have meaningful work that consistently progresses, which often leads to a greater sense of achievement. Honest recognition is important as well.

Let me know your thoughts. What are the things that keep you motivated?