In May 2004, David J. Anderson wrote a blog post about pride as a motivator (which is printed in his excellent new-ish book, Lessons in Agile Management: On the Road to Kanban). A decade on, I think it still has resonance.
A summary of his blog post is:
- Teams in big organisations often lack a vision and a sense of meaning for their work. In short, they feel lost.
- He inherited such a team, and he needed to motivate them to raise their performance for a new undertaking.
- He created a sense of identify for the team using a logo.
- Had a positive effect: “I rallied the team with pride …”
- But it was divisive: “… and created an internal rivalry with other teams” as they wanted to show everyone else that they were better.
- Started a trend of internal rivalry – company later banned internal identity marks.
- Anderson’s postscript adds: People must be motivated by emotion and, while many managers resort to fear, he believes that pride is a strong alternative.
No doubt many of you will have been involved with a team whose morale was low. What have people done to try to improve the situation?
I recently joined a team during a seismic transformation – a near complete rebuilding of team members – and it was not pretty. But the team rallied. It helped that we had some of the brightest people around on the team, but we carved out our own vision, generated team objectives, and decided how we were going to move forwards. Interesting, in light of Anderson’s post, we also created a team logo. As the team’s initials are S.A.S., we’ve gone with a military theme – although adapted for our fashion-based industry.
And how has that gone? Well, in less than 6 months, the team has bonded well. The individuals are working as a unit. New functionality is sound, robust and producing results. But, unlike Anderson’s experience, we are also working amazingly well with other teams. Maybe it’s because our regiment is a central service consumed by other teams, rather than an independent, introverted, product-based team that he was working with. Maybe the other teams in our organisation are more forgiving of playful banter. Or maybe it’s just that our logo is much better?