Jeff Djevdet

What motivates you?  Let’s get the standard things out of the way and assume that your house is not going to be repossessed, you have money for electricity/water/cable and that you have adequate food.  Once your physical needs are satisfied, what motivates you, what satisfies you?  Daniel Pink, the author of Drive: The Suprising Truth About What Motivates Us believes he has the answer:  autonomy, mastery and purpose.

  • Autonomy.  The desire to be self-directed.
  • Mastery: The urge to get better at something
  • Purpose: The real reason for doing something

The video on YouTube is quite interesting and makes you wonder: what can we change here?  The idea behind his work and the work of hundreds of other researchers is that money, once considered the ultimate in motivation, isn’t that important once you reach a certain satisfaction level.  And that satisfaction level differs on a person by person basis so there is no magic number at which money ceases to play a factor.  And, to be honest, some people are only motivated by money, nothing else.  But for the rest of us?


Autonomy is a key contributor to your satisfaction, the idea that you control your own destiny, that you are the arbiter of your own fate.  Not your boss, not your co-workers, but you.  As a project manager, you may be quaking in your shoes.  After all, how can you give an entire team autonomy and still deliver a product?  The key is to provide guidance, not detailed directions.  You tell someone “build me a wooden dining room table that seats six adults” and not “build me a pine dining room table thirty-two inches high, seventy-two inches long with square corners, pedestal legs eight-inches thick “.  You provide guidance where you need to go and let them determine how to get there.


Mastery is kind of tricky.  Some people work dead-end jobs because it gives them the opportunity to devote time to something outside of work at which they want to get better.  I think we all want to get better at something, but determining what that something might be is key.  Personally, I want to be a better writer so I create these missives in an attempt to hone my craft, to learn what draws people in.  I work at one thing to get better at another.  If what I work at provides me the opportunity to become better at what I want then both my employer and myself win.


Purpose.  Wow.  We all want a purpose in life.  We want to know that what we are doing makes a difference.  Whether that difference is localized, like to a family, or global, we still have dreams and aspirations.  Having a clearly defined purpose, a clearly crafted direction that you agree with is critical for happiness and productivity and I think we all know that.

None of these three – autonomy, mastery, purpose – are about money, they are all about our mental health.  When I worked at Accenture the organization was headed in a direction I didn’t agree with.  I thought it was a dead end and was going to bite us in the butt.  Hard.  And I worried about it.  I told my boss and he told me that he knew what he was doing.  I started drinking.  Pepto-bismal.  I was going through a bottle a week.  And then one day I had an epiphany:  go for the ride as there was nothing I could do but hang on.  So I stopped worrying about it.  I chose my mental health.  (I also left the country, literally, on implementation weekend.  It’s amazing how fast you can get to the United States by car when you have some motivation.)

So, how do we motivate ourselves and the people around us, if what we are looking for are autonomy, mastery and purpose?  How we change how we organize the department?  What do we do in order to change how we organize projects?  How do we change how we organize our daily work?

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