Monday, November 23, 2015

On Motivation, part 2

As the discussion I was having with the Unicorn at the coffee shop was winding up, a fellow I worked with a few years ago came in looking rather, frazzled. He joined us, although he looked rather askance at the unicorn. We made small talk for a bit. He had been promoted some 6 months before to a manager position and seemed frustrated.

The reason he seemed frustrated eventually seeped out. He was frustrated. He was trying to get "his resources" to "engage" in some new methods of doing things.

About this time, the unicorn bowed out and excused himself. I'm not sure this fellow even noticed him sitting at the table.

When we had worked together, he struck me as one who was perpetually looking to make a mark in some way. He always acted as if he knew better than anyone on the team or in a discussion on addressing any problem. He made sure that he offered advice to team leads and managers on how to address a problem - which normally involved wholesale changes to bring whatever was under discussion to be brought in line with whatever his set of beliefs were at the moment.

Funny though - his "beliefs" tended to shift. I'm not sure why.

It almost was as if he looked at whatever the situation was - and decided it needed to be different. Why things were the way they were or how they got that way did not seem to matter.

He deemed them valueless and needed to be completely replaced.

I got pretty tired of it after a while. When I was moved to a different group following a reorganization (yeah, these guys did that every 6 months or so) I did not miss the turmoil or drama of someone ranting about how screwed up things were.

Back to the coffee shop...

So, the fellow was trying to get "his resources" to "engage" in new methods of doing things. The challenge was that people were pushing back. They had always grumbled. Now, they were refusing "to cooperate."

And he was frustrated.

So I took a deep breath and tilted my head, just so, and asked "The processes that were in place before, the ones you replaced. Why were they implemented?"

I think he wanted to glare at me. Actually, I suspect he wanted to punch me. Instead, he said, "Look. This is stupid. I know what needs to be done and how things should be. And they just don't want to do it."

And I sipped my coffee and asked, "Remember when we used to complain about the 'policy du jour' and every 6 months everything changed, unless a new manager rolled in sooner than that? Remember how we used to kvetch about things changing for no apparent reason?"

He glared at me. Frankly, I think he thought I wanted to hit me. (That is funny to people who have met both of us.) "Look," he says, "the problem is these people just don't want to embrace anything new. It is not me or my problem - it is them."

He left the coffee shop. I suspect it may be a while before he goes to that coffee shop again.

The Problem

I suspect that is a pretty good summation of the view of people - managers, directors, VPs, dictators, whatever - "It is not me, it is them."

The irony is, in my experience, the first and foremost rule of anyone looking to change or improve things is - Learn and Understand how things got the way they are.

It is rarely as straight-forward as some would have it. Problems exist - Processes exist - Processes are normally introduced to address specific problems. Other problems may not be addressed by the changes, but, these are usually judged to be lower priority than the ones that are being addressed.

So, new Managers, Leads, VPs, Directors, Bosses... whatever - Before you make changes, I have found it to be a really good idea to take the time in how the organization got there. Even if you "watched" the "mistakes" happen - it is unlikely you were in the discussions that looked at the needs, the problems and the alternatives that got you to where you are.


If you want your "resources" to "get on the bus" and support you, I suggest you take the time to learn these things. Without doing so, it is almost certain that the people you expect to do the things you are mandating, will give your direction and instructions the appropriate level of effort and dedication.

None at all.

Because, when you move on, all these changes will be changed, and nothing will really change.

So, what is the motivation you have to make changes? Are you trying to "make your mark?" Or are you trying to do what is right for the organization?