Tuesday, July 19, 2011

$300,000 bonus

There was a big road construction project over the weekend in California, with predictions of major travel disruptions around the area. However, things didn't turn out as expected, and the construction company earned a $300,000 bonus for finishing the job in 33 hours instead of the expected 56 hours.

So what would you do to get a project done sooner. Is this an effective way to run your technology project?

According to Daniel Pink in his book Drive, cash incentives won't motivate the team effectively. According to Pink, "if-then" rewards such as a bonus for getting done early, aren't effective in the long run. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced the  idea of flow, where intrinsic motivation takes over and the person is absorbed by the task at hand.

I recently took over a project that was "challenged." One of my steps has been to remove distractions from the project team so they can focus on the development tasks. I'm using Kanban to help with that, minimizing the work in progress and helping the team focus on what needs to be worked on next.  What should happen next is their efficiency goes up because they aren't multi-tasking and they can get to that point of becoming absorbed by a single user story and get into the flow. I think it will take a couple more weeks to really know how effective my approach is, but throughput seems to be going up so far. This is good, since I don't have $300k to give the team.


Scott Duncan said...

Always interesting to know what the oncentive fotr extra money actually does to get work done sooner than promised.

Does it mean people worked a lot of overtime and that was paid out of the $300,000?

Does it mean some things were skipped that were deemed just padded time?

Does it mean some essential quality checks were skipped (and we hope we don't find that out in some future dangerous situation)?

Or does it mean the schedule was "padded" in some way to start with and, for the original price (or less), the work cou;ld have been done in the shorter time anyway?

Clinton Keith said...

Daniel Pink made a point about intrinsic vs extrinsic (e.g. $300k) motivators being dependent on the creative aspects of the work. Extrinsic motivators do work for projects that don't require creative efforts. This is where road and software construction might differ a bit ;)

Thanks for the post.

Curt Finch said...

It is true that the motives for completing a project efficiently are not always monetary in nature. For instance, my sales team once met a lofty target goal in order to see me dye my hair blue (which I did...) Sometimes it pays to get creative with the ways we motivate our employees.