Author Daniel Pink taught us, in his best-seller “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, to turn all our preconceived notions about motivation on their head. He made the case in the context of business and education, but his ideas are a good model for life in a project-based organisation. At the core of his concept of motivation is “The Four Ts” – autonomy over the Task, Time, a Team and a Technique. Taking this autonomy away has significant consequences.
By limiting the four Ts, an organisation erodes its most valuable asset: intrinsic motivation. So, in Pink’s opinion, to achieve maximum motivation in the 21st Century, people must have autonomy over their tasks. But how is this achieved?
Well, it isn’t by dangling a carrot in front of people’s faces, nor is it by threatening punishments and sanctions. The harm of incentives and disincentives has already been demonstrated to outweigh the good. There is no nastier or more misused disincentive in the arsenal of a manager than bad scheduling. Too often, employees suffer at the hands of an unrealistic schedule; bad schedules create bad social contracts. No-one can be motivated by a schedule in which they have no belief or even any ownership, and teams often have to take toxic measures to meet unrealistic schedules, which is absolutely counterproductive. Yet, as obvious as these things are, the bad practices don’t go away.
This is the enduring crisis in project management. Outdated, conventional project management is unrealistic, incomplete, antisocial and utterly un-motivating. When it is applied, it stifles productivity and innovation in companies, and there is nothing for anyone to gain from continuing down this road. Nevertheless, management and their teams remain locked in a stalemate as they remain locked in the old ways.
This is where the social project management movement comes in. It is a growing effort to fix the issues of traditional management, standing on the significant shoulders of pioneers of social design; those who drove innovation for platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Wikipedia. These people are shedding light on the fact that project life can be made more efficient and more effective by making it more fun.
5 fundamental principles
In order to transform old, outdated standards in favour of practices that have a greater chance of success in the modern world, one must pursue entirely new principles and fresh practices. Here are the fundamental principles that can help evolve a project-based organisation by improving the management’s capacity to motivate teams:
1. Collaboration and projects cannot be separated
A project is the means by which an organisation gets things done. Every project is the embodiment of aims, objectives, deliverables, plans, resources, purpose and promises. Any conversation and content that is unrelated to projects amounts to nothing more than entertainment. If this was not the case, everyone would need nothing more than the Facebook Corporate Edition as their intranet software and everything would be perfect. Social features by themselves, disconnected from projects, have no structure and lack direction.
2. Participation must benefit every participant
Conventional project management creates real value for management, but not for their team members. Every team member must be able to answer the question “What’s in it for me?” if they are to achieve genuine engagement with tools and processes. Think social media meets project management.
Staff can participate in project discussions using social project management software
3. There must be maximum transparency
Your team is full of smart people, so you waste their talents by limiting their opportunities to connect and communicate ideas. Their focus becomes too narrow, and their motivation and productivity suffer. Through transparency, you will create more motivation, greater engagement and, ultimately, maximum innovation. A digital workplace is the best way to achieve this, as it helps people stay connected. There is no need to stop at team members; collaboration and transparency can be extended to clients, contractors, partners and stakeholders to enhance the results.
4. There must be maximum autonomy
Team members will benefit greatly from autonomy. Give them as much ownership as possible over data, estimates and general control. Then, aggregate information intelligently for managers. Have faith in people to make smart contributions, but maintain a public audit trail to ensure there is accountability (not unlike Wikipedia).
5. Estimate and schedule realistically
Honesty and integrity are the cornerstones of organisational character. But through the construction and enforcement of schedules, they can be eroded at great cost to the company. A realistic schedule has to acknowledge the realities of balancing workloads, making justifiable promises and encountering uncertainty. For modern projects, a good real-time scheduling engine is helpful; preferably one that manages uncertainty with ranged estimates.
With economic and political challenges profoundly affecting the modern climate, now is the perfect opportunity to remodel the way we function around the core principle of self-direction. Going back to Daniel Pink, he speaks of a “Results Only Work Environment”; a future we could all benefit from. The change towards this can be accelerated through the insistence that project management tools are evolved to fit the way we do our work, rather than the other way around.