Personal motivation is the foundation of effective working in individuals and essential for meaningful Business Change.

The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA) have published an excellent animated video on motivation based on some of Dan Pink’s work available on Youtube. To summarize, money and bonuses have been shown by various studies to be terrible motivators for complicated and complex work. People need to be paid enough so they’re not worried about mortgages, paying for food and living their perception of a reasonable lifestyle. Once these basic needs are met financial rewards for knowledge work actually detract from motivation.

Happy, motivated people are productive people. Motivation is based on Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.


Autonomy is a key ingredient in motivation.

Organizations often talk about empowerment rather than autonomy; however, they are not the same thing. Simply, empowerment is given whereas autonomy is taken. This distinction has an effect on moral responsibility in terms of decision making.

Because an empowered individual or team is given its mandate for action from a higher power (i.e. management), the moral responsibility for its actions is, at best, derived from the high power but normally resides with the higher power. Empowered teams will often go and check with their senior management. Over time that degrades to only doing what they’re told.

An autonomous individual or team, however, assumes their own moral responsibility. An autonomous team has the right to do what it wants (within ethical constraints) without asking permission, without external limitation to the scope of that right. This is in contrast to an empowered team who are empowered to “do something” and therefore by implication anything that falls outside of that defined “something” is contentious.

Some organizations struggle with implementing this idea because there isn’t full trust between teams and the Business Leaders. However, if teams are truly trusted to act in the best interests of a transparent Strategic Direction they can be autonomous in selecting their working practices.

Autonomy doesn’t preclude fitting in with stakeholder’s requirements, only choosing the tactical details without constraint.

For a software team this means that the autonomous team can decide to take whatever action necessary to achieve its goals (as aligned to Strategic Direction and therefore Requiremements) only when the customer is part of the team making those decisions.


Individual Mastery refers to the continuous growth of a person’s skills as well as the mechanisms useful in increasing and rewarding mastery.

As we learn more in a field of knowledge such as Software Development, Business Management or any of the various specialisms that those terms overlap with, we are on a journey from novice to mastery. As we learn more, we need to learn new things to keep our skills fresh. We need to learn from a variety of sources, some outside of our specialist field that inform our understanding at a deeper level.

Mastery = (knowledge + talent + practice) * experience


People need a sense of individual purpose. When this is strongly aligned to team purpose, and in turn to business purpose, motivation and happiness spread through the organization.
Few people wish to work in an organization whose purpose they disagree with and few businesses would want them to. However, purposes can only be aligned if they are transparently communicated. Business purpose is described in HSD through Strategic Goals and a shared understanding of Business Value.
Teams can describe their purpose as part of their Team Forming practice that also provides a mechanism for on-boarding new people.