Sunday, 19 February 2012

On motivation and management

Well, it's been a while since starting this blog and drafting 5 posts that I've never finished! This is the first proper post and I expect it to be a bit rough and ready as I get used to writing again. 

Recently I've been thinking about motivation, more specifically in keeping morale up and motivating a small but busy support team, staffed by junior graduate and student devs. These are talented people with degrees related to their field of work. I'm mindful however that the environment can be high pressure and the learning curve of joining the team steep. I think that true motivation comes from within, but how to unlock it?

Reading Simon Baker's blog on having a goal today sparked something in my brain, a memory lodged there from one of my Master's courses on managing software development. So looking over my notes I find that Humphrey (1997, p. vii) lists the following elements for successful management of technical staff:

1.                   a challenging and worthy goal
2.                   talented, motivated, and capable people
3.                   the training and support to enable the work to be properly done
4.                   a manager with the drive and vision to make it happen
5.                   a leader who understands and cares about his or her followers.

Bingo, number 1 is having a goal! The others are mostly already in place or being worked on, for example I have identified some process improvements for point 3 that I hope to get in place soon (and will provide a blog post once presented internally)

One thing that is biased in that list is the reliance on the manager/leader, perhaps due to the age of the research. I think that this Inc blog post by Ilya Pozin Founder, Ciplex sums up how I feel about the positive impact from effective team work:
empowering your staff to work together as a team rather then everyone reporting to one individual can do wonders. Think about it. What’s worse than letting your supervisor down? Letting your team down! 
perhaps the manager and leader from the last two points would create that environment?

The challenge now is how to provide meaningful goals in a support environment where a spanner can (and is!) frequently thrown in the works by an unexpected production issue.


Humphrey, W.S. (1997) Managing Technical People: Innovation, Teamwork and the Software Process, Reading, MA, Addison-Wesley.

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