Our Team Compensation Workshop @ XP Day London.

After doing my presentation with Jef at Devoxx earlier this week, I was really looking forward to go at XPDay London.

Especially as Vera and I planned to do a session on

Team Motivation
Individual Compensating Systems.

I’m working with both Jef & Vera at the Belgium Post.

Vera and I came up with this idea when we talked about a consultancy gig we did earlier this year.(There is  a long time between proposing a session and delivering it) In this gig we had a team that was hard to motivate. Without knowing what was their compensating structure, I mentioned to Vera that could be a limiting factor.

When I said that, Vera got a flashback about an agile coaching job she did years ago. In that company the individual compensating scheme, blocked all team work.
From that moment on we did not talk about the current client but figured out how we could turn Vera’s experience into a workshop about this problem.

I really enjoy to work with Vera. She has great idea’s and has no problem challenging my idea’s. Actually we don’t always agree with the direction to go to. For me that is one of the good things about a paircoaching a session: the spectators get to hear both idea’s.

During the publicity for the session I told a story that has the intention to think about how rewards work:

There once was an old man. The kids in his neighborhood enjoyed insulting him on a daily basis. One day he got a crazy idea. He called the kids and he offered them 1 euro if they would come back and insult him again the next day. Surely the next day the kids where back. Viciously they screamed ugly things at him again. The old man kept his promise and paid all of them 1 euro. He invited them to do the same thing again the next day, but now he would only pay them 50 cent a person. The next day the kids came back and did their job. The man paid them as he said he would. He also told them he now had a problem, as he wanted them to come back, but he could only pay them 10 euro cents. The kids where insulted and refused to come back and insult him.

This story shows how it easy it sometimes is to turn intrinsic motivation into extrinsic motivation.

The kids found 10 cents too little for something they did before for free.
This old man did this on purpose, but in corporations (Or families) we don’t always realize that we kill intrensic motivation by offering reward.

The story of Joppe losing intrest in swimming is a nice example of it.

For the preparation of this workhop I read the book “Punished by rewards”. (Actually the story comes from the book)

When I say Vera’s and my opinion differ, this book is a nice example.
The author has the idea’ that behaviorism does not work. The whole book is build on bashing Skinner and co. That style is something we both don’t like. For me that does not limit me to take some idea’s out the book. For Vera it’s not only the style of the book she does not like. Over the last weeks we had quite some discussions about this book.
As I value discussions to learn more about other people, myself and  my idea’s, I find this very interesting.

On top of that the open space “the Shrink’s coach” from Ben & Joseph also triggered some interesting idea’s. Steve Freeman dropped the idea that code and fix attitude of cowboy programmer’s reminded him a lot of the way gamblers reacted when they are at the one armed bandit. I immediately could see the link between this behavior and the unpredictable rewarding scheme I wrote about last year.

I personally believe that this rewarding scheme is the best way to reward people. (another thing where Vera and I disagree)

I am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project coach and you can reach me at yves at my agile training company .net


3 Responses

  1. I’m curios about Team Compensation topic, are there slides or docs of this session on-line ?

    Some free (long) thoughts

    In “The creative spirit” by Goleman I’ve read an interesting example of team/individual compensation: at Skaltek ( http://www.skaltek.com ) all infos of contracts, expenses, cash flow, salaries are shared with all employee, there are no secrets and salary are determined by open discussions with anyone in the company.

    Maarten Volders in a discussion on LinkedIn suggests
    – FAST computers … all the gadgets they need
    – Appreciate what they do
    to keep developers happy

    It is not clear to me at what extent individual compensation and motivation are related. I mean that on one side compensation can be a (de)motivation factor . On the other side a fully grown person know by himself. how to convert his own money in free time, goods, foods or anything else he needs or wishes

    Finally, the old man in the example that win his battle against kids in his neighbourhood: he exploit cognitive bias/rational decisions bias to win his battle. This example scare me a little because I’ve seen people to exchange manipulation for motivation.

  2. Yes I have posted the slided a few days back:

    If you are interested I would really read the book. made me think hard about the way I compensate people.

    Thanks for the link to the Skaltek Company.
    I have read a book about another company that works that way.
    I think it is a great way of working, butit can only work when you start a company like that. Changing a company to work like that would be very hard.

    About the example: this is an example that shows how external motivation kills internal motivation.

    Yes he did manipulate them into not liking anything anymore. I don’t think you can manipulate someone in liking something. You can fool yourself. People might do what you ask them to do, they probably do it’s for the reward, not because they like it.
    And when they do it for the reward, they think about the reward and not about the thing they are doing. ==> The quality is not as high as when they are intrinsicly motivated.

    One more thing:
    I understand what you are saying about manipulation. Don’t forget that every interaction with someone else is manipulation.
    Even when you don’t do/say anything.


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