Remote work in IT — Part II—Motivation

Different people have different sources of motivation. It’s possible to write a lot about it, I will focus only on one negative source and move on to the positives. Some people are motivated by small rewards, these people often have very low self-esteem. You have to think sometimes why we run and why we want to be faster and better than others. Why do we want to be different and why do we insist that only our ideas can be implemented? Is the fact that I personally win also apply to the team I work for? Low self-esteem often comes with a need for constant comparison and winning in such a comparison is considered a success. I’m old and I’m at the point in my life where I’m wondering what kind of house I have, what car, what schools my children go to, what kind of laptop, watch, phone, clothes I have, where I go on holiday. These are easily comparable meters and the ratio is simple. The more money I have, the better things I have and the higher I can be in such a ranking. To have money you have to be very smart or work. Unfortunately, it’s usually the second one. When I am on the web of such comparisons and I need money to win them, it may turn out that my main motivation to work is money. I am writing about work so I will focus on this. Is it bad that money is the motivation for spending a good part of the day at work? I don’t think so, but it all depends on what you have to do to make that money. Very often, when I organize teams, I try to find different people with different motivations. Many times I have met good craftsmen who worked at a decent level and at certain times, never took computers home, because after work they had a different life. Were they motivated only by the need to earn money? I don’t know and I don’t really need to know, because I have never used “do something or I will fire you” or “if you don’t do something, you won’t get a bonus”. The IT world is now so cool that a good specialist would laugh at the first idea, and I would always try to avoid the second one, adhering to the approach that it is better to work systematically at medium speed than to have stressful finishes “because we have to get a bonus”. Unfortunately, in this group of people, as everywhere, there can also be completely negative individuals. Working in one company, I could not understand why all the toilets are always occupied at the end of the day. When I went to work at another company and saw the same thing, it enlightened me on the spot. There are people sitting there waiting for the end of the day. Dad, what did you do today at work? Well, son, I sat in the toilet half a day waiting for the end of the day. Another example: “Ahh, when we were young, that was the code writing, a human could sit until the morning.” Well, as you can see, not everyone, some spend their best years in the toilet waiting for the end of the day. We can laugh about it for a long time. But it’s not the point.

What positive motivation sources do I like? In short, I could call it a realistic pursuit of ideals. This is the artist’s advantage over a craftsman. A craftsman can make 1000 of the same sculptures and be glad that the last one he did was as good as the first, finish work physically tired but satisfied. Such work is needed and without such people, the project will not succeed. The artist, however, wants to make every sculpture better, develop it, perfect the workshop, get out of work tired, sometimes dissatisfied, it is not that every sculpture goes better than the previous one, but the overall trend strives for perfection. If we think that such an artist is part of an IT team, where joint success, transparency of what we do, openness to criticism and different perspectives are important thanks to the use of code review practices, instead of a self-contained ninja, we can have a member of a team that will look at the solution as a whole and the result of the whole will be the team success, not just his own.

I think that one should do what one likes in life. Different people have different characters, some like to overcome the following days in suffering and kill each other in pursuit of the goal. Logically, however, it should be like in physics, you need to find a place where by applying the least effort you get the greatest effect. Doing what comes easy and pleasant and at the same time gives specific results. Unfortunately, the reality is that not everyone can have such talent. But on the other hand, it seems to me that such a thing can also be worked on and having the “artist” approach, even changing your field of work after a few years to understand that current occupation is not set in stone forever.

The work we like is more effective from the start, even the best self-deception practices are not able to provide us with long-term high efficiency if we hate our job every day. We need to look for motivation within ourselves, not through external comparisons, then everything becomes simpler.

Let’s go back to the remote work.

Organization of work

Often in the Agile project, we don’t know exactly what will happen next. Of course, we can predict a lot, so the worst is to write down these guesses in stone and then do the next tasks trying to bend reality into some earlier assumptions.

All in all, now my approach is that I leave my tasks not completely described, but when working dispersed into small teams, virtually everyday some decisions are made and the results are monitored by all team members. It is like continuous code refactoring in TDD (Test Driven Development), you never know what can happen to us, but with goodwill, the functionality that is created should be better and better adapted to business needs.

I have exactly this approach in one of my current projects and I see specific benefits. My client is a startup and we know that the goals and target clients of such a company can change. The goal I set for myself is, if possible, to create a solution that will be flexible enough to be adapted to changes in business concepts without incurring any major costs. It works great. For example, we need to use some innovative components in the architecture of our application. The first thing we do is look for what possibilities are on the market, check both free and commercial solutions, I estimate the costs of usage and look at how the maintenance of this technology may look later. If, as of today, the use of something looks relatively simple and does not create any large costs, and the company supplying this component is so popular that it guarantees some stability, then we use it, observing the effects. Sometimes there can be big profits from this approach, sometimes some cost. However, good monitoring of what is happening can mean that the possible cost will be minimized. When writing monitoring, I don’t have to think here that “I’m a great manager, I will look after a flock of sheep, because they can’t do it themselves”, a common understanding of what we do definitely increases the chance of a shared sense of responsibility, and this already creates a completely different situation than in a project managed by a man with a whip. This is a completely different approach than in a corporation, if we imagine a team with one dominant alpha male, who shows his superiority in various ways and must necessarily show that he is a herd guide because the corporation would still decide that he is not needed, we can expect ideas which this man implements are his ideas. If such a man is not a leader, but a supervisor with a whip, then all responsibility is more and more focused on him and how much he “squeezes”. It is very easy in such a situation to make unfair comparisons of people from the team, favoritism or unfair treatment. The effect is that the motivation of those people who have to physically do the work that the success depends on is low and they start behaving like cogs. Am I needed in this machine? I do not understand the idea, I have no contribution to it, but somehow I’m spinning so apparently I’m working. Regardless of whether the team has 3, 10 or more people, whether the task succeeds, depends only on the manager, he clearly shows his responsibility for it and by dominating, forces the implementation of everything exactly as it is in his head. I think that the level of this unawareness increases exponentially as the size of the team increases. The larger the team, the more distant the level of such management and less awareness of what people actually do in the team.

In the next part, I will focus on trust.

Remote work in IT — Part III — Trust

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CTO, Co-Founder & CEO

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Cezary Olborski

Cezary Olborski

CTO, Co-Founder & CEO

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