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Building Projects Around Motivated Individuals

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: Building Projects Around Motivated Individuals

“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.” – The Agile Manifesto

This is the one principle behind the Agile Manifesto that keeps me up at night. It’s the first part, the one about building projects around motivated individuals that has me worried. It is probably the single most important factor for a successful Agile team, and the one that is the most difficult for a project manager to really influence.

When I was introduced to Agile a few years back, that was the first thing that caught my attention. I was amazed at how dependent these lightweight methodologies were on the quality of the people on the team. For Agile to work, you really need to select your team members carefully and, to quote the Manifesto, give them the environment and support they need… to get the job done.

But here’s the catch… many of us don’t get the opportunity to hire our people or even pick our team. That is decided for us before we are handed the project.

And that is why this principle worries me. As companies try to realize the benefits of Agile, they are going to do it with their existing people. Most companies, especially the big ones, are going to have a mix of talents and people that are motivated in different ways. Can we assume that by creating an Agile environment, empowering the team, and encouraging them to self-organize that motivation will necessarily follow?

Don’t we need motivated people first?

I sincerely believe that creating an environment where people can be successful will have a wonderful impact on attitudes and bring out the best in folks. Just be aware that Agile is not going to solve any of your personnel problems. It will, however, bring these issues to the surface so that they can be dealt with quickly. As managers we need to do everything we can to support the team and help them be successful.

Sometimes that means helping find new team members.

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