Saturday, April 24, 2010

Misadventures Of Trying to Apply Learnings from LSSC

After a great week of learning at the Lean Software Systems Conference I was eager to apply a key theme, intrinsic motivations trump extrinsic ones.

Our neighborhood was having a yearly clean up of our back alley way. And the local kids ( aged 5-7) had it in their mind that they wanted to play union, and were demanding more pay to continue helping, a strike was coming.

The kids parents started to offer incentives like ice cream and what nots, to properly motivate the troops. Inspired by one of the great talks at LSSC I immediately stepped in with a different approach.

I told the children that if they worked well I'd get them their own clean up tools with super hero stickers attached. This worked to great effect, the children started immediately going back to work with gusto. After an hour I set out to buy some kiddie tools and stickers as promised.

This is where the misadventure begins.
1)Because I was super busy over the last couple of weeks, doing too many things at once, i'd misplaced my bank card without replacing it the previous week.

2)Because I had no bank card, I couldn't get the kiddy tools I wanted for the kids. (the local dollar store didnt take mastercard)

3)I then borrowed my wife's bank card, but because I was in such a hurry, I didn't enter in the appropriate bankcard combination, which caused her bank card to be frozen.

4) Because it was saturday I couldn't get a new bank card even though I biked all over the city looking for an open branch.

5)Because I couldn't provide my workers with the reward of better tools which would actually get them to do more work, I went to the local toy store ( that took MasterCard) bought a bunch of action figures and provided my workers with an extrinsic reward which had the effect of making the workers happy, but all work also stopped as the kids went to play with their toys.

My lessons:
- the extrinsic reward was way more expensive, didn't encourage work over time, and actually stopped work for awhile.- properly providing an intrinsic reward requires just a little organization.
- Bad organization breeds extra work, which causes more bad organization, which causes more extra work
- Management needs to slow down, get organized, and focus on motivating workers, an investment is required, but the payoff is huge.
- It's time to start using things like managing work in progress, and slowing down to speed things up in my personal as well as professional life.

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