Is the desire and ability to loaf while out of site and still get paid the basis of what motivates people who want to work from home or is there more to it? This week on The Guardian Podcast with Ryn Melberg, the controversial topic of the geographically diverse or dispersed Agile team is the topic. Ryn has spent a number of years in her career working on such teams and lately has coached several others. Her experiences combined with her love of “business science” brought some surprising insights.
What Motivates The Knowledge Worker?
According to Ryn, autonomy, purpose and mission are the three key motivators for knowledge workers. Knowledge workers are not limited to programmers or code writers, but people who use critical thinking skills to accomplish their work. In this context, a police officer, retail store manager or professional football player are all knowledge workers. During the podcast, Ryn cited Peter Drucker and his findings about the best ways to motivate those who know far more about their jobs than their bosses do. Pay is not the number one motivator. “If your employer is willing to pay the going rate for people then money will not be an issue,” Ryn said. “If the money offered is below the average then workers will feel unmotivated, but if they are paid the ‘going rate’ money is a non-influencer.”
For the geographically diverse employee working from an alternative location is part of the ‘autonomy value’. “When Yahoo revoked the work from home privileges of their employees, they were cancelling autonomy or one third of what motivates knowledge workers,” Ryn told her audience. “And it’s no surprise that Yahoo is essentially for sale because of poor performance in the marketplace that can ne attributed to this and other bad management decisions made for their knowledge work force.”
Business Costs of Geographic Diversity
Ryn is very candid when discussing the expense needed to maintain employees spread out across the country or the world. “Companies will have to buy more licenses for web conferencing and spend more on security since all work will be done over the Internet,” she said. “There is also a sacrifice of team cohesiveness and camaraderie that are lost when people work in different places.”
Stand Up Meetings For Multiple Locations
Addressing the practical ceremonies of Agile, Ryn allowed that stand up meetings and Kanban boards were more challenging to manage when everyone was not in the same place. “You can still have these, but it is pretty hard,” Ryn said. “But even for those who are physically dispersed you should respect the team by also standing during that time of the stand up meeting. Technology will have to be used to communicate the Kanban board or user stories but it is possible.
The Limits of Technology
While technology makes working and participating with teams possible, there is still a lot to be said for the interpersonal nature of communications that can only happen when people are physically together. “Working together in general requires more creativity like photos of colleagues, web cams etc. but it can and should be done,” Ryn concluded.
The Guardian Podcast is the only weekly podcast of its kind anywhere that deals with Agile, Scrum, Scaled Agile, and issues of governance. The Guardian Podcast can be heard on iTunes, Soundcloud or www.rynmelberg.com.