Motivation 3.0 Is Required to Transition from Tribe Stage 3 to Tribe Stage 4

10 July 2014

Gene Gendel
Global Investment Bank

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink says that when it comes to motivation, there's a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system that is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators -- which don't work and often do more harm than good. We need a system upgrade. And the science shows the way.

This new approach has three essential elements:
  1. Autonomy: The desire to direct our own lives
  2. Mastery: The urge to make progress and get better at something that matters
  3. Purpose: The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves
According to Pink, humans evolve through three distinct stages of the Human Operating System:
  1. Motivation 1.0 presumes that humans are biological creatures, struggling to meet basic needs for food, security, and sex. This system is mainly good for survival struggles.
  2. Motivation 2.0 rests on Theory X of Human Motivation, when management assumes that employees are lazy, tend to avoid work, and best respond to rewards and punishments in their environment.
  3. Motivation 3.0 rests on Theory Y of Human Motivation, when management begins to understand that when it comes to intellectual work, employees are ambitious and self-motivated and will exercise self-control. This system presumes that humans seek purpose maximization no less than profit maximization.
In Tribal Leadership by David Logan, a tribe is a group of between 20 to 150 people (150 from Robin Dunbar's research, popularized in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point). A tribe is a basic building block of any large human effort, including earning a living. Tribes and their leaders create each other. People who belong to a tribe tend to recognize fellow tribe members easily. A small company is a tribe. A large company is a tribe of tribes. At a large company, several cultural stages may operate at the same time. Tribal leadership focuses on language and behavior within a culture.

According to Logan, tribes go through five distinct stages in of evolution:
  1. "Life Sucks." (In general.)
  2. "My Life Sucks." (In the background: The lives of others are OK.)
  3. "I'm great." (In the background: "You are not.")
  4. "We're great." (In the background: "They are not.")
  5. "Life is great." (There is no "they.")
And here comes the main Agile argument: It is unrealistic to transition from Stage 3 to Stage 4 in tribal evolution unless people are driven by Motivation 3.0.

Enterprise-wide Agile transformations, adoption of Kaizen culture, flattening organizational structures, building out cross-functional product development teams of skilled T-shaped individuals who think in terms of "We are the team, we are great," not in terms of "I am the great and what else can I do to become even greater" -- all this is the hallmark of a Stage 3-to-Stage 4 transition. This is what we want in Agile. And this is only possible if people are properly driven -- by Motivation 3.0.

Today, most companies still have Motivation 2.0 deeply seated in their cultures: monetary incentives (salary increases, bonuses), individual (versus team) performance assessments and appraisals that encourage people to think "I," not "We." This naturally makes people selfish and self-centered: An individual's overall happiness and success is much more tied to (is the function of) what that individual is/does then to what his/her tribe (team) is/does. Therefore, individuals are less eager to work together for a greater common good then they are to work for their own good. At the end of every day, each person still thinks about what he/she can claim as "my own" in order to achieve individual goals.

In order to move on to Tribe Stage 4, which is effectively the ideal environment for building Kaizen culture, adopting an Agile mind-set, and forming and norming highly performing Scrum/feature teams, people need to be properly motivated by their organizations. Companies must crank their motivation engines to version 3.0.

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Article Rating

Current rating: 4.6 (5 ratings)


Saravana Bharathi, CSP,CSM, 7/10/2014 12:06:28 PM
Great article Gene.
Ravi Srivastava, CSM, 7/12/2014 4:14:07 AM
Nice article. I have also read book Drive and found very interesting. Now I will read Tribal Leadership also.
Gene Gendel, CSP,CSM, 7/17/2014 8:12:05 PM
I think this is a good idea Ravi. Then you will probably see the same relationship between the two writings. Thanks guys for your comments.

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