Teams

Product Management, Teams

Post Holiday Blues, How do you Re-motivate your Team?


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Step aside summer…

With the summer holiday period coming to an end I’ve been looking back over our KPI’s for July and August. With the majority of the team on annual leave at some point over the summer, this time of year always tends to be relatively quiet for the Magic Milestones team and September always feels a bit of a fresh start for us. This led me to thinking about the best way to get everyone fully motivated as the long sunny days begin to become a distant memory.

As anyone who knows me will have heard about, I am currently halfway through studying an MBA. Work motivation is one of the subjects we covered early on so I decided to look back at some of the theories and see if there is anything there that could be useful in motivating the team and be worth sharing with you guys. It has turned into a slightly bigger exercise than I planned, so over the next three weeks I’m going to be sharing some of traditional methods and how we have been trying to adopt them. I also cover those we rejected.  My Blog Schedule is:

  1. Post Holiday Blues, How Do You Re-Motivate Your Team?
  2. The Power of Believing  in Yourself as a Motivator
  3. Kerching! Money as a Motivator

This week we’ve been looking at KPI’s for the sales team so I began discussing motivation with them. Interestingly everyone had slightly different interpretations of exactly what motivation meant to them. As we continued our chat the discussion led me to share some academic views on motivation.

Dr Craig C. Pinder, Professor of Organisational Behaviour within the Faculty of Business, University of Victoria, British Columbia describes it as ‘a set of energetic forces that originate both within as well as beyond an individual’s being, to initiate work-related behaviour and to determine its form, direction, intensity, and duration’ (Pinder (1998, p.11) cited in Latham and Pinder 2004)

We came to the conclusion that one of the most challenging aspects in any business is not only how to initially motivate employees but also how to maintain that level of motivation long term. How can managers get employees to work hard and achieve the best results that they can on a monthly basis? Businesses need continually motivated teams to be able to achieve ongoing success within their markets. All these are questions, and more, we ask ourselves at Magic Milestones on a regular basis.

Goal setting is seen as the norm within most companies today, but the idea was first put forward by Edwin Locke in the 1960’s. The concept of goals being used as motivators was then developed further by the suggestion that goals needed to be specific. Locke and Latham (2002) both claimed that by setting specific goals an employee would know exactly what is expected of them and how much effort is required. This would be much more likely to increase an individual’s level of motivation that being given vague goals with nothing to measure against, and being left to interpret them in their own way. We tried this theory and it seems to be working really well.

Other ideas about how targets can affect motivation are around how achievable the targets are seen as by the individual. Vroom’s Expectancy Theory (1964) argues that ‘the strength of our tendency to act in certain ways depends on the strength of our expectation of a given outcome.’ (Robbins & Judge 2015 pg 237)

So workplace goals need to be realistic otherwise they can have the opposite effect. For example in a sales environment, if the targets are viewed as too high, realising that achieving the targets is unrealistic can change an individual’s behaviour and reduce motivation levels significantly. This can then lead to a self-fulfilling cycle where goals are rarely hit and the individual finds it increasingly harder to recover.

However, used correctly goals do give direction and structure to a team allowing them to work more cohesively to hit given targets. The buzz the team get from achieving the targets will then help them keep momentum and stay motivated.

With this in mind, our sales team then started discussing whether the boss should set individual and team targets alone or if working together to agree targets following feedback given, would lead to happy and more motivated team. We agreed that often this would depend on the individual, but that some level of discussion or explanation around target levels would go a long way to getting people more bought in to achieving them. Locke and Latham (2002) show that most theorists agree with this.

So how can feedback help improve motivation? Ashford & Black state that active feedback seeking by employees (especially new ones) is related to high performance achievement. (Latham and Pinder, 2005 ).

Of course, feedback needs to be given at the correct moment; when something has happened or there has been a result (negative or positive), so that it will have the right impact on employees. Frese & Zapf (1994) stated that it is feedback that gives employees the understanding that enables them to achieve their targets. This shows that it is just as important to give feedback when successes happen as this helps re-inforce to employees where they should focus their energy and effort.

Over the summer break we expected things to be quieter in the sales department and the reduction in target reflected this. Of course we all know that the targets then jump back up in September and the team fully understands the reasons why. Hopefully discussing the September sales targets together and making sure we agree that although they are aimed to stretch us, they are achievable, coupled with giving constructive feedback (positive and negative) to the team about the summer performance will help ensure our team are all set with a can do attitude and high levels of motivation.  I’ll let you know next week how motivated we are all still feeling! 😉

By Helen Milanes Tidmarsh

Leadership, Lean, Lean Startup, Product Management, Project Management, Stability, Teams

Did you just build the wrong team?


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No-one goes to work to do a bad job.

Sometimes it may feel that way but really… they aren’t!
Some people may be in the wrong job, someone may be having a bad day, they may have a completely different agenda to you but 99.9% of the time they aren’t trying to fail.
So why do technology teams so often fail? How can we be so bad at ensuring that technology teams actually succeed?
Well my team and I have been pondering this for some time. We’ve been working on something called ‘Team Genes’. Looking at the genetics of what makes a good team so that we can replicate this for our clients. This is my current stance on the subject..

If we built software like we built teams we wouldn’t be so surprised at the outcome.

Organisations consistently go about building project teams with no purpose, design or thought behind them at all and wonder if they have built the wrong team later down the line. The usual process is this:

  1. Bill says he needs an X
  2. Jill is an X
  3. Jill is available to do X (sort of)
  4. Bill meets Jill
  5. Bill and Jill get along
  6. Jill joins the team!

So imagine the same in the software process:

  1. Bill says he needs an X
  2. Acme’s product is an X
  3. The organisation already bought 20 licenses of Acme product
  4. Bill uses Acme product for an afternoon…and he likes it!
  5. Let’s roll out Acme tomorrow!

So let’s break down where Bill went wrong on the product front and then maybe we can learn how he goes wrong on the people front..

  1. Bill’s assertion that he needed an X wasn’t really challenged by anyone.  (Ring any bells?)
  2. The organisation is already familiar with a product so it decides that’s enough to be a contender.
  3. Hence, no-one goes out to look for any other options thus assuming the organisation’s first choice of product was a good one.  Note that the requirements have had a cursory glance at best.
  4. Bill’s happy so let’s go!

The dangers of choosing a software product in this way are that:

  1. An organisation repeats its mistakes time and time again
  2. Politics tend to rule over substance
  3. There is no strategic relationship built with the supplier or investigation into common values and goals.  Hence, the organisation may find the vendor giving them less value over time.

And most CIOs would laugh at Bill.  Silly Bill.  Rash Bill.  And yet the product that Bill was assessing was worth maybe, 10K a year in licenses.  (These days probably a lot less).

But the person that Bill is assessing in the first example is going to cost the business between £200 and £800+ PER DAY!! People often cost between 10 – 20 x more than software does and yet we use MORE RIGOUR in choosing the former than the latter!

Here’s where you might be thinking the following..

This doesn’t apply to my company as we always create job specs for all roles

Newsflash.  A job spec isn’t a requirement.

Do we write a product spec when we go looking for software?  Hell no! We write user requirements.  We state the problem and not the solution.  (Well most of the time anyway).  A person specification would be something like this.. “My name is Bill.  I’m a busy Product Owner with a day job and I’m currently writing all my own user stories.  It would be great if I had someone who could reduce the team’s reliance on my time by creating user stories for me.  I could then spend the time I do have with the team answering their day to day questions about business processes.”   Yes the answer might be to get a business analyst in.  Or, it might be to utilise the test team differently.  Or, it might be that the Dev team lead is totally happy to help out here.  Unfortunately, because we are so used to the status quo we leap to the solution in the blink of an eye.  This is partly because we want our problem solved and partly because in most people’s hiring process, the quickest way to get your problem solved is to ring up an agent and say,

“I want a business analyst please.  For the rest of the project. 3 months would be good and I want them ASAP please”

Let’s look at the next part of the process.  Jill is available.  So Jill is suitable.  That’s the problem with hiring ASAP.  Suddenly there’s a drought for the thing you need the most.  So we look at who is available.

Are you now throwing things at your computer?

Of course I only hire people who are available!!  Why would I do anything else?

Well this point is kind of related to the last one.

Sure someone may not be available, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help you.

Being lean is about minimising waste and waste (when applied to people) comes in the form of under-utilisation.  But how many companies truly assess this ruthlessly before going off and hiring?

Finally, let’s look at the 3rd part of Bill’s process.

He likes her.  He hires her.

Well here’s where I can totally disagree with you.   We hire people using personality assessments as well as those for competency.

Okay not bad.  What if Jill hates doing X? Wants to move away from X and you are just making her do more Xing?? We rarely find out if people are interested in roles just whether they are competent enough.She might be good at it sure but is she passionate about it?

Last but not least, Bill and Jill may not even be working together to produce the same stuff. Jill gets parachuted into a brand new team and left to fend for herself. We used to let software out of the packaging to fend for itself but we soon stopped that. We realised it was insane to impose software on people without due care and attention and yet this is exactly what we do when we impose one person on a whole group of people and vice versa.

Doesn’t that sound a little insane?

How about we do this instead?..

  1. Write a problem statement not a job spec, rather like we do for products
  2. Let the team interview the person rather than their prospective manager or someone who ‘knows’ about the area in which you are hiring
  3. Test where Jill naturally sits in a team and assess if Jill would clash with anyone else or whether there is still a gap.
  4. Ideally do an assessment of your team before you hire ANYONE.  Then you can use this information to inform your choice of both role and the type of person you need.
  5. If they are costing more than around £8K per month, try them out for an afternoon.
  6. Be prepared to accept a failure has occurred – fast – and take action if necessary.  People are rarely fired for swift action provided it’s backed up by evidence.

But that sounds a bit of a long winded process.

Really?  How many hrs did you spend interviewing people last week?  You probably did at least 3.  That’s 3 hrs of your time.  That doesn’t include anyone else’s either.   HR?  Your boss?

We think life’s too short for endless interviewing.

So.. here’s the news.  Magic Milestones can set this up in under 24hrs and it saves time beyond just the first hire.  No-one gets near us without a competency check anyhow so that bit’s done.

To be a member of the Team Genes club our people are tested all year not just when you ask for their services.

Using a different method of hiring is brave.  We know that people’s habits are hard to change.  Why don’t you start the ball rolling and find out more here.

In the meantime, I’m just going off to help Bill out of a fix..

 

 

Entrepreneurship, Failure, Investment Management, Philosophy, Product Management, Strategy, Teams, Uncategorized

The Boy and the Starfish


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When the tide is coming in..

You need a team or a consultancy that can focus on solving one problem at a time.

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water.
Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied,”I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”
The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea. He replied,

“I made a huge difference to that one!”

Author Unknown

 

Consultancy & Training, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Lean Startup, Product Management, Project Office, Stability, Strategy, Teams

Why the “Intrapreneur” has self-discipline beyond any entrepreneur


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Eric Ries (the author of ‘The Lean Start Up’) has written that people can apply entrepreneurial principles within the corporate world.  “It’s not ‘intrepreneurship,’ it’s not ‘like entrepreneurship,”’  Ries says.  “Corporate entrepreneurship is regular entrepreneurship.”

In a recent Birmingham meetup we had a great conversation around this..  One of the things that came out of the discussion was that people in the corporate world actually face a set of challenges that largely come from over-resourcing.  If you think about it, there is a pattern, a path that many have already walked.  However, the intrapreneur needs to reject this path.  Why?  Well, because if they walk it, they just fall into the same trap as everyone else in their organisation.  They are unlikely to change the outcome by doing what everyone else has done before.  If a project manager, a product manager, a DBA, a front-end developer, a back-end developer, a tester, a designer, a UX specialist etc. etc. all get hired straight off, this is fishy to me.  Someone is hiring the Rolls Royce Team for a Fiat Punto job.  However, if the smallest possible team is hired and later skills are begged, borrowed or stolen then this is the equivalent to acting more like an entrepreneur would.  Sorry… I will amend that.  This is tantamount to acting like an entrepreneur should.

However, entrepreneurs are only human.  Just like everyone else.  People like people. Entrepreneurs don’t set up businesses to sit around by themselves.  They want a team around them.  In fact having met and talked to well over 100 of my fellow business owners over the years..  I’d even go so far as saying they NEED them.  So even entrepreneurs, with their tight budgets, cash flow constraints etc. etc. are prone to a little ‘pushing the boat out’ when it comes to hiring people.

But what about Intrapreneurs?  Well, I have to confess here that I haven’t ever been an intrapreneur but I have worked alongside many people tasked with the job of making something work.  Generally, something other people have failed at.  Although they all had the best of intentions I can think of more than a one or two who decided to hire based on the standard template.  And who would blame them?  Entrepreneurs are constrained by the fact they HAVE NO MONEY.  Much of the time it hits their own pocket!  Yet they still OVER HIRE!!  I have done this.  Many times.  It does not end well.

So who can blame the intrapreneurs for acting in the exact same way?  The only difference being that they have more money to waste.

Hence, the actions of an intrapreneur must be more measured, more calculated.  Their resistance to following the status quo must be second to none.  They must have the grit to be able to deliver on a shoestring with all the risks involved.

They are putting themselves in the line of fire by acting in the best interests of the organisation.  WOW.

To me, it kind of feels like an intrapreneur needs to be way more disciplined, way more entrepreneurial, than the entrepreneur ever was.

Stephanie Chamberlain runs Magic Milestones Limited, which is a Delivery Management Consultancy.  She is a serial entrepreneur, published author on Agile Methods and a visiting industrial fellow at Aston Business School.