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         Communication Aspects in Software Engineering

15 June 2009

Empower and Motivate Employees

Filed under: Project Management — Tags: — admin @ 11:43

Of all the areas of project Management, people have the greatest potential to shorten software schedules across a variaty of projects. In order to be highly successful, Project Managers want to foster a motivating and energizing culture within their teams.
Motivation can make or break projects. It is undoubtedly the single greatest influence on how well people perform. Research studies have demonstrated that motivated Developers can produce up to 10 times more than their unmotivated counterpart.
Many common management practices however are penny-wise and pound foolish, trading huge losses in morale for minor methodology improvements or dubious budget savings.
Although motivation is a soft factor, the knowledge of how to motivate Software Developers is not a total mystery.
For most people, motivation comes through empowerment, autonomy and trust. The major motivation inhibitor on the other hand is fear.

Providing the best environment to promote motivation:

  • Give interesting job and challenging work
  • Provide personal development and flexible policies
  • Eliminate fear
  • Make eye contact and smile
  • Take responsibility – don’t pass the buck
  • Be honest, loyal and work hard
  • Get inside the other person frame of reference
  • Solicit suggestions and act on them
  • Expect people to succeed
  • Be teachable – commit to learning
  • Inspire – touch their heart
  • Handle every single transaction with each and every person, no matter who that person is, as if you will have to live with that person in a small room for the rest of your life

In his book “Rapid Development” Steve McConnel describes the following:

“Compared to their Managers, Developers are somewhat more motivated by possibility for growth, personal life, opportunity for technical supervision. Developers are much less motivated by responsibility, recognition and interpersonal relationships with subordinates.”

Developers and Managers are motivated by different factors, and this may contribute to miscommunication.
In order to motivate a Developer, it is recommended to emphasize technical challenges, autonomy, the chance to learn and use new skills, and career planning.
Let Developers focus on what they like doing most: developing software. Provide opportunities to learn and expand skills. Avoid excessive pressure.
Allow Developers to experience meaning in their work, responsibility for the outcome of their work, and know the actual results of their work activities. Avoid interuptions and distractions. Respect the need for time off.
Developers grow tired of working for unappreciative companies and rewards are therefore important to long-term motivation. Giving certificates of appreciation for example has proved efficient.
Endeavour to catch people doing something right or great, and give them a sincere praise:

I noticed you did [something great] on [that date] .
I appreciated it because [its effect].

Celebrate special events. Provide T-shirts or mugs personalised with the project’s or team’s name.

Proper execution of a performance review can significantly increase or decrease motivation. Take the time to prepare and make sure your performance reviews increase motivation.
Some performance management system are so complicated and bureaucratic however that the simplicity and ease of coaching has gotten lost. Coaching is a simple conversation and one can use the following structure:

  • Opening statement: “I want to talk to you about [general area of performance].”
  • Observation: I’ve observed [behavior].”
  • Impact: “The impact is [impact on the job].”
  • Request: “From now on, I’d like you to [improved behavior].”

Morale Killers:

  • Developers are sensitive to being manipulated by management. They want management to deal with them in a straightforward manner.
  • One of the quickest ways to drop the motivation to zero is to present Developers with an impossible deadline.
  • Lack of appreciation for efforts
  • Inappropriate involvement of technically inept management
  • Not involving Developers in decisions that affect them
  • Productivity barriers and road blocks
  • Low quality and short-cuts
  • Heavy handed motivation campaigns

Finally, competition can get people to stretch themselves beyond what they even thought possible, while having fun. Most people will go a long way to try to win a fair competition.
Encourage team spirit by organising competitions between teams (not individuals). Make sure every team gets to win at some point or another. Recognise the teams for their strength anyway.
Make sure these competitions are about work (no dress or photo competition), and they are about productivity and fun (not just fun and not just productivity).

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