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Intrinsically igniting your PLM team


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Nancy Winslow is a freelance writer and software consultant, with experience of implementing a host of different PLM solutions in retail and brand environments. Today we post a piece from Nancy originally published in our Annual Review 2014. Nancy’s exclusive article looks at tried and tested methods for inspiring passion and commitment in your PLM project team.

Nancy thumbA motivated team is absolutely essential to the success of a PLM implementation rollout. Like any enterprise level commitment, the longer a PLM project takes the harder it is to keep everyone engaged and focused on a goal that may still seem an insurmountable distance away. So how do project managers inspire their teams to stay positive and productive throughout the multi-year course of their projects? The answers vary on a case by case basis, but the methods that are the most impactful might just surprise you.

Anyone who has been involved with just one software deployment knows how difficult it can get. Even with an effective selection project completed, a well-planned project roadmap, and a skilled team raring to go, implementing PLM is never easy. If at any point the team loses sight of the end goal, that team could begin to erode and lose their incentive to keep on the proper course.

Many companies offer a bonus to team members if the project comes in on-time and on-budget, but is that enough? In a recent Gallup poll where roughly 180 million employees from 142 countries were surveyed, the result was astonishing. Only 13% of employees worldwide are actively engaged at work – meaning psychologically committed to  their job – leaving a staggering 87% of workers floundering without clear near and long-term goals, and their employers suffering as a result. The United States came in slightly higher at 29% [1]. , but this still leaves a significant majority of team members chronically unmotivated.

So how do successful managers motivate their team members to stay focused? Science has proven over and over again that those extrinsic motivators, such as bonuses, pay raises, and special privileges are not nearly as effective as intrinsic motivators that include praise and outward appreciation.2. This is not to say we don’t need to get paid. Everyone needs to get a fair wage, but the important thing to consider is that paying someone what is expected based on experience and market demands takes the  subject of money off the table, and frees project managers up to focus on the more effective incentives.

Intrinsic motivation – which we will call the “heart” rather than the “head” for our purposes – is motivation to do things because we love doing them. This motivation comes from within. On the other hand extrinsic motivation – the proverbial carrot and the stick – include rewards like bonuses, a steady paycheck, or even the fear of losing something should we fail. Extrinsic motivation originates from outside of ourselves. Although the carrot and the stick is effective to a certain point (after all, none of us work for free) the problem with extrinsic motivators is two-fold: they are controlled by external forces, and, surprisingly, they don’t actually appear to support long term motivation particularly well. [2]

Intrinsic motivation, as stated in Daniel Pink’s book entitled “Drive”, is based on three elements: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. Autonomy is the freedom to choose the best way to accomplish something; Mastery is getting better and better at it; and Purpose is about doing something that is bigger than ourselves. Pink boldly proclaims that these are the basic elements of a brand new operating system for business – one that shuns the performance to financial reward equation that has typified business motivation for decades. [2]

And it has been decades. For more than forty years, management techniques have remained relatively static – in short, business has changed, while management has not. [2]. Project Managers may have begun applying better methods for creating and managing cohesive teams, but these types of methods are not being used to manage employees on a day to day basis the way they should.

For workers performing duties as part of an organisation – producing a service or a product – as well as for those working together on a project, it is essential to share the purpose or objectives of their efforts. With PLM teams specifically, where normally members have been involved with the project from the start, it is highly effective to have the team, together with management and representatives from the business, understand why the project is important. That purpose needs to involve more than just the bottom line – it needs to link back to the people performing the work as well as its customers. It can be easy for executives to find motivation in margins and profitability, but much less so for project team members whose concerns are more immediate, and whose own sense of satisfaction is not as closely coupled to the success of the business strategy as a whole.

Certainly the team should understand how its efforts will help the company to save money but that alone is not enough. Beyond the KPIs of profit building lies a deep and more impactful message that binds not only the team deploying the application, but also the end users. Those who will work with the new PLM system day in and day out must understand and share in a vision for how the proposed improvement(s) to their process(es) will help them create a more robust and sustainable partnership with both their internal and external customers.

When a PLM project is successful, it will allow for better quality products to be created in a shorter amount of time, making them more likely to be market-right and profitable for external customers. But that is not all; enterprise solutions need to work from the start of the process to the point where it hands off to another solution, such as an ERP or CRM system. When there is a cohesive purpose that is shared with the stakeholders, there will be a greater respect for both the processes and systems, as well as for the people involved.

So, understanding clearly the objectives of the project is important but that is not enough to sustain an intrinsically motivated team. Intrinsic motivators, at their best, should allow teams to self-manage and self-sustain, without having to be reminded of their purpose. Once they are clear on what they are trying to accomplish and why, letting them decide how it’s going to get done is what develops a sense of ownership. Remember that your team was put in place because they had experience, knowledge, and education, making them experts in at least some aspect of the project. So why not trust in them to know how to get to your shared destination?

Today software development teams routinely reference the framework of “Agile” [3] and a methodology, known as Scrum. [4]. Scrum is not an acronym: it is based on the practice found in the game of rugby, where teams huddle together to create a strategy to overcome the opponent. As a Certified Scrum Master myself (in the office, not on the rugby field), I understand the power of using methods that mimic basic human behavior. Referring back to the elements of intrinsic motivation, autonomy (as in that of the team), is self-directing. If your team members know what they need to do, and each has expertise in a relevant area of the process, this will ensure motivation for contributing to the overall efforts of the team, since both long and short-term goals are naturally shared.

Another element taken from Scrum is a meeting that takes place after each project phase or “Sprint” called “The Retrospective”. [5]. This is a meeting that is held as part of the project, designed to discover what worked and what didn’t, for the purpose of helping the team understand clearly what they do well and what still needs improvement. This supports the second aspect of intrinsic motivation: mastery. This practice is what keeps the fire burning within long after the sprint is over and we’ve all regained our collective strength.

Mastery, for a team, means more than just mastering skills – it’s also about learning to work together as an entity to improve communication and trust. When team members are working in this type of an environment, they naturally show more respect and patience with those outside the team. With PLM projects, attitudes vary, and I often find that each team member’s approach and mindset is closely informed by their specific role in the product development process – something very few other people on the project team share. However, I have found that when approaching even the most difficult of users with patience and respect, they become more open and relaxed. Teams with members that are confident, feel respected, empowered, and are able to leverage their experience will be more patient and respectful of others – ultimately benefiting the entire organisation.

Allowing a team to self-manage ensures that each member contributes to meeting its objectives and shares that all-important common purpose. Having a sense of meaningfulness in what we do, both individually and within a group, rewards us, and that feeling of self-respect cannot be taken away unless we allow it. Teams that can share the planning, execution, and management of their work, including the problem solving activities, will not only stay focused and engaged, but will continue to improve as a team, grow as individuals, and share a more supportive approach to working with those their efforts serve.

It’s important to remember, though, that while every team is made up of individual members, teams do not act in a vacuum. Teams operate within an environment, like planets in a solar system, and their effect on that environment can affect other teams either positively or negatively. Therefore it is essential to recognise the efforts of the team as well as the individuals. In order for this process to work well, upper management needs to be engaged and supportive of the actual work involved in reaching milestones, rather than just the milestones themselves. Indeed, an early Gallup study found that 69% of employees prefer praise from management over and above financial incentives. [6].

To put it bluntly, team leaders, if they don’t already, need to say thank you and say it often. And senior management is not exempt. Recognition from the big boss can be one of the highest forms of motivation given to any employee but, unfortunately, it is rarely used.

Jack Welch, known for his turn-around of General Electric was known to often walk the factory floors. His approach for managing absolutely tapped into the intrinsic needs of his employees. One of Mr. Welch’s lessons, as shared in an article entitled “Twelve lessons from Jack Welch’s leadership style” supports his belief of the importance to inspire creativity and free flow thinking. He believed management should “never lead by intimidation” and should “always let others know exactly how their efforts are helping the organisation.” [7].

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Teams and team members need feedback, not just from their peers and not just at the end of a multi-year project. Building a feedback mechanism into the PLM deployment process is essential, since it can ensure that regular conversations take place, linking sometimes arduous and difficult tasks to a sense of broader achievement and the longer-term strategic goals of the business.

Intrinsic motivation, then, is essential to productivity and creativity in the workplace and beyond, but applying it takes practice, and a genuinely caring and respectful attitude.

While self-managed teams can be highly effective, each member needs a certain amount of autonomy to do their work. PLM projects require a high level of creativity and for team members to perform this type of work it demands cognitive thinking. Once cognitive thinking is required, extrinsic motivators negatively impact performance.

While each member needs autonomy to reach his or her highest potential, teams also need to be cohesive. If there is an element of me versus us, it needs to be addressed. Each member, while having his or her own role, must understand and believe the whole is greater than the part. Keeping in mind the elements of intrinsic behavior, remember that being a part of something bigger than oneself gives us purpose.

Finally, we all know PLM projects can be challenging, and the longer they take to complete the greater the chance the cohesiveness of the team will deteriorate. We know the work must get done, the team will get tired, and focus will likely waiver but, if the environment is right and the motivation is intrinsic, the work can be fun. To quote the great Yankee Team Captain, Derek Jeter; “You gotta have fun. Regardless of how you look at it, we’re playing a game. It’s a business, it’s our job, but I don’t think you can do well unless you’re having fun.” [8].

Notes & References
1. Data taken from “Worldwide, 13% of Employees are Engaged at Work”, October 8, 2013 regarding the Gallup poll entitled State of the Global Workplace.
2. These descriptions and beliefs are taken from the book “Drive” written by Daniel Pink and referenced throughout the book and on various videos found on You Tube regarding motivation in the workplace.
3. Reference to “Agile” is based on the methodology known best in software development and can be referenced at http://agilemethodology.org/
4. Reference to “Scrum” is based on a specific Agile methodology developed for software development and can be referenced at http://www.scrumalliance.org/
5. Element found in the Scrum framework developed for Software development and can be referenced at http://www.scrumalliance.org/
6. Referenced from the article entitled “Building better performance through intrinsic motivation” written by James Adonis, Engagement Expert and Motivational Speaker
7. Referenced from the article entitled “Twelve lessons from Jack Welch’s leadership style” written by Jack Welch found on Vietnamworks http://advice.vietnamworks.com/ en/hiring/effective-management/twelve-lessons-jack-welch-s-leadership-style.html-0; with notation of original source: The Welch Way
8. Taken from a collection of quotes by Derek Jeter and about him and found on the site Baseball Almanac that is located at http://www.baseball-almanac.com/quotes/ derek_jeter_quotes.shtml
Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for eight years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like our PLM Project Pack, or our Annual Publications, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.