Team management and motivation

I’m working these days on developing a course on managing virtual teams so I’ve taken some time to think about what I do and how I do it.

During the last financial year, the service I’m managing recorded growth of 65% (compared against an ambitious target of 20%). Consequently, delivery time has been reduced and… here comes a shock for any academic: quality has improved! Any theory would tell you that, if you reduce delivery time and increase work load with the same resources, quality will drop off.

What made the difference? I would rather say it was the motivation of each team member. On my side, I did not stay to check each of their tasks but I rather encouraged flexibility and efficiency over bureaucracy and strict rules. I transferred much of the assessment from my own review to the final beneficiaries. They are the ones to say if the work was good and to what extend. Interim and final financial year results are transparent, including individual rankings: most of poor performance has been corrected the moment they saw their place. I’ve not used financial incentives as motivation factors and I think of “carrot and stick” as being a manipulation theory rather than real inside motivation.

I had a look over the research performed during the last years on motivation and Dan Pink’s message from a TED presentation got my attention:

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