Friday, August 17, 2012

Creative Developer Motivation and Autonomy

"Motivated developers are the most productive".  Is an axiom, but as a developer, high productivity wasn't the only reason I enjoyed being motivated.  Creative motivation is intrinsic.  We are creative because we like being creative.  It gives us joy.  Making something new work is a huge reward in itself.

How do we support such motivators?  Studies have shown that the top three creative intrinsic motivators are:

  1. Autonomy - The urge to direct our own lives 
  2. Mastery - The desire to get better at something that matters 
  3. Purpose - The yearning to do what we do in service of something larger than ourselves
The first, autonomy, is a challenge in organizations because most organizations do not trust their developers to have much of it and developers don't often trust their organization back.  Trust and autonomy take time and have to be built into a culture.   Building trust often has to be built from the bottom up (unless it's part of the culture from day one).

One starting place to build trust is in the iteration/sprint.  Can developers be allowed to take control of how they achieve their iteration goals for just two weeks?   This question defines the first fork in the road between organizations that will have success being agile and those that will not.  There are many other forks in this endless, challenging road, but if trust can be built over the short term, you're off to a good start.


Jason Yip said...

This reminds me of three of my blog posts that you may find interesting:

Features of Being autonomy-supportive,

PERMA for human motivation,

Socialisng, trust in the work context, and diversity,

Clinton Keith said...


Thank you for posting these! I always enjoy your contributions, but find myself unable to keep up (you write a lot).

It doesn't surprise me that you've written about this subject. It is a critical area to success with agile.

However, I do think differently about socializing and team building. I do think it contributes quite a bit. Maybe that's from my own experience of conducting some pretty intense retrospectives after a few beers ;)