More on Self directed teams, Knowledge management

I’ve been sharing this video for the past 6 months or so. It includes Dan Pink’s talk about motivation based on his book “Drive”. I’ll review Drive in another post.

RSA is the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, other links and the full video are here

This is an entertaining and accessible presentation of Dan Pink’s thesis that we need to rethink motivation and management for the 21st century work force. Carrot and Stick rewards/punishment will no longer work, in fact will be counterproductive. Surprisingly, the “carrots” can do more harm than good. Now I’ve heard much of this before, Watts included a similar presentation of three stages of management in his presentations and I’ve played that same themes in my talks.

In a nutshell, 20th century (Scientific) management replaced an older management style that relied on human’s base drives. Taylorism in particular, replaced treating people “as beasts to be driven” with the “like cogs in a machine” simile. The manager, of course, had to determine when, what, and how work would be performed. The successful manager was a master designer, master strategist, and a master puppeteer. The results were spectacular (obviously, a need for local knowledge had to be designed out of the system). This view runs afoul of human nature when people must perform tasks requiring non-trivial cognition and when task complexity overwhelms the manager’s ability to design and direct. Drucker introduced “knowledge management” to address this.

Pink focuses on the need for autonomy, mastery, purpose as motivation for knowledge work (my characterization). Watts anticipated this by at least 15 years and while the agilists get “autonomy” I think many have still not fully caught on. Autonomy is important, but so are mastery and a greater purpose. Purpose is the job of the leader and senior management. A paycheck is important, but it’s not purpose. A 40 hour work is motivating, but it is not, in itself, purpose. Moreover, autonomy in a larger organization has it’s own challenges. Management methods must include training and coaching of management.


About Bill Nichols

PhD in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University I'm a software team coach and instructor with the TSP Team at the Software Engineering Institute
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