Monday, October 31, 2011


Via my colleague Aleck L.:

The video is new to me, though the studies it's reporting on are not.  One of the big mysteries of managing engineers (or other knowledge workers, I'm sure) is how to motivate them to do what you want them to do. 

Much of what this video articulates matches my own experiences – but there are motivations controllable by managements (some of them involving money) that my experience tells me actually do work.  All of these involve two elements not explored by these studies: recognition (that is, letting peers – inside or outside the company – know what good thing you've accomplished) and spot cash (that is, cash bonuses awarded not according to some rules or formulae, but rather at the moment some good behavior needs to be rewarded).  I've also seen the power of negative motivation.  I once used a stuffed monkey with a dunce's cap as a motivational tool.  Whenver someone did something dumb, they got the monkey – and it sat on their desk until the next person did something dumb.  That damned monkey was one of the best tools I ever found for getting engineers to behave the way I wanted them to, and it was negative reinforcement.  I'm pretty sure it only worked because the culture we had at that job was right for it, though...

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. Like you I found that small cash awards or gift certificates given out privately with personal thanks was a lot more appreciated than say, quarterly recognition during some upper management presentation which is much more public. The size of the awards didn't matter much whether $50 or $500 it is more the fact you take the time to personally thank them for their efforts.

    The rubber chicken is what I've used for someone breaking the build. I think that is a common thing in agile development groups but I've seen people argue that it wasn't their fault and they did not want/deserve the chicken so I know it makes an impression even as silly as it sounds.