What’s Agile? Motivated People (Principle #5)

Agile doesn’t rely on motivating people. It relies instead on selecting people who are naturally motivated.

The fifth principle of Agile is:

Build projects around motivated individuals.  Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

Select Motivated People

It reminds me of the principle in the book Good to Great of getting the right people on the bus, and then getting them in the right seats.

Don’t waste your time trying to use Agile with unmotivated people. Get them off the Agile bus. They need to be in a highly-structured environment with plenty of controls and supervision. Theory X management. Routine work that doesn’t require professionalism or creativity.

Fill your Agile project with motivated people.

Fill Your Agile Roles with Motivated People

Then get the right motivated people into the right seats. As much as possible, identify what roles you need, and then select motivated people to fill them.

What if you can’t get a motivated person to fill a role? Should you put someone in that role who is technically qualified, but not motivated? No!

Look harder for someone who is both.

If you really can’t find someone who is both motivated and qualified, then get someone who is motivated who has the aptitude to learn and become qualified for the role.

Motivation and Team Performance

Remember that your opportunities for increasing team performance are much greater at the team level than at the individual level. You might be able to improve an unmotivated person’s productivity by 10%. That’s nothing.

What you want is to improve the team’s performance by 50%, 100%, or more. You won’t be able to do that with an unmotivated person in the way.

Motivation is more important than qualification. Someone who’s motivated will become qualified.

Someone who’s unmotivated will kill your team’s ability to significantly improve team productivity.

Project Manager Responsible for the Environment

Finally, notice that this principle states that you are responsible for providing these motivated people with the environment, support, and trust that they need.

Provide them the environment they need. The right balance between minimizing distractions and maximizing productive interactions. If you haven’t already read it, see What’s Agile? Colocation for ideas on how to do this.

Give them the support and tools they need. Listen when they tell you what they need. Ask them what you can do to remove impediments to their productivity.

Look both within and outside the project team for things that are slowing them down, getting in their way.

And don’t forget to look for opportunities to further improve things that seem to be OK.

It’s up to you to find the right people, get them into the right roles, provide them with everything they need, and to continuously look for ways to improve team performance.

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Read this next: What’s Agile? Face-to-Face (Principle #6)