The Art of Motivating and Delivering

Does your organisation “provide opportunities for people to achieve so that they will become motivated” OR “motivate people to get them to achieve”.

In organisations where the culture is to provide opportunities for people to achieve so that they will become motivated, there is more of a tendency for individuals to pull or ask for work and to focus on the throughput or delivery of products and services. This culture is harder to develop and requires people to be pro-active and a much higher level of discipline from all involved in the organisation. Senior managers need to be very careful to ensure that they do not step in and take over when the going gets tough. Senior management needs to be there to support and guide.

Where the culture is to “ motivate people to get them to achieve” there is a tendency for management to push work onto the project team. In this culture there is also a tendency for senior managers to interfere in the activities of project team members as they think they can do a better job.

Provide opportunities for people to achieve so that they will become motivated

When the culture is to “Provide opportunities for people to achieve so that they will become motivated” individuals draw satisfaction and pride from delivering a good product or service. The reason for this is that by default, for this culture to exist the following must be in place:

  • Each individual in the team needs to know what is expected of them at work.
  • Each individual must have the materials and equipment they need to do their work right
  • Each individual should have the opportunity to do what they do best every day at work
  • Recognition and praise is given for good work, while constructive help and if need be criticisim is given for poor work
  • The development of each individual is pro-actively addressed

  • Motivate people to get them to achieve

    When the culture is to “motivate people to achieve something”, there is normally a reward of some sort, quite often money used as the means of motivation. The danger with this is that the focus of individuals becomes the reward rather than the outcome of the job.

    Observable characteristics of this culture
    1. The team is given work items and told to get them delivered by a certain date or within a certain time frame.
    2. There is little flexibility on time, cost and scope variables, often reinforced by contractual agreements.
    3. There is a general tendency to multitask and get work started on the assumption that the team will somehow also get the work finished.
    4. Work in progress tends to build up.
    5. There is a backlog of requirements that grows resulting in work items that do not get delivered in time or at all.
    6. Even when people are working hard the rest of the organisation loses trust in the development team because they do not seem to keep to delivery expectations.
    7. There is a time management focus on keeping everyone fully occupied all the.

    The challenge for the project organisation

    As projects are by definition temporary organisations, it is reasonable to assume that project managers do not as a general rule determine an individual’s next promotion or able to give a bonus. The consequence of this is that project managers are not really in a position to give the rewards that are believed to motivate (entice) people to achieve the desired result. In addition to this there is the additional problem of self-centred influential stakeholders who will constantly demand that their work items are put to the top of the list. The problem can be compounded when the team is expected to cover work items from multiple work streams.

    I strongly believe in promoting cultures where the project organisation provides opportunities for people to achieve so that they will become motivated. If you look at the criteria for this culture, you will notice that most of them are related to soft skills that will not cost more to realise in financial terms. They are dependent on attitude rather than finances.

    The opinions of each individual are listened, considered and discussed in relation to the objectives of the project.
    • All team members must be committed to doing quality work?
    • Individuals need to enjoy the company of others in the team and have respect for each other.
    • Each team member must have a candid talk with either the team leader or project manager about their performance, and about opportunities to grow.
    Characteristics that can be observed in an organisation that has this culture
    1. There is an understanding that there is interdependency between time, cost, scope, quality and benefits realisation. This is enhanced by a culture of collaboration that is accommodated in any contractual negotiation.
    2. Multitasking is not expected or encouraged, people are encouraged to see each work item through to completion
    3. Work in progress (WIP) is pro-actively managed.
    4. There is a focus on the production rate of the team; constrained resources are likely to be fully loaded while other resources will not be.
    5. There will be more focus on selecting work items based on value to the whole organisation (systems approach) rather than for individual departments or people.
    6. There is a time management focus on how much throughput there is over a period.


    The culture of your organisation is more important than the methodology or tools that you use.
    For some methodologies to achieve what they were designed to deliver, the culture of your organisation is critical. Without the right culture the methodology has no chance chance this is particularly relevant for the agile methodologies.