One of the reasons why I especially wanted to write Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams for Routledge was because of the productivity problem that afflicts the UK in particular, but the Western world in general. Indeed, productivity is a concern for everybody everywhere; ultimately, if we are not productive we wither, and then we die. That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Furthermore, there are several ways in which productivity can be raised, and the simplest of these – the easiest too – is through new technology. However, because this is simple it is also simplistic.
No-one would deny that being able to use computers or access the internet or develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) and more beside has not profoundly useful and productive in many instances; but who could also deny that each technological advance inevitably creates a new set of problems too? The thing is, technology is a ‘thing’ – inanimate, inert, and highly biddable. Which is why it is the go-to solution for most organisations. In other words, it is a convenient way of avoiding the people issue. Real and sustained productivity comes from people: highly motivated, highly skilled and highly directed people. But creating or forming such people is really complex – not like installing a new computer system.
And here’s where we come to my book: the optimum configuration of highly productive people is called … a team!
If we look at productivity in the UK, what do we find? It is estimated that productivity grew by 2% from 2008 to 2019, whereas before the financial crisis of 2008 it had grown by 2% per year! High productivity is a by-product of top performing teams; and the thing about it to consider is that productivity is simply leveraged performance(s). Each individual is enabled to perform at a high level – to reach their personal best – but wonderfully, over and above their individual performance being itself productive, the collective performances (the team’s) has an amazing synergistic effect out of all proportion to the numbers.
At this point we might also recall Peter Drucker who observed that, ‘No institution can survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it’. Actionable ideas will be, by their nature of being actionable, practical, useful, easy to understand and swift. The promise of building top performing teams is that whilst we do need intelligence, insight, knowledge and skills, yet we do not need to be geniuses or super-people; we need to be honest, diligent learners who seek to help achieve results and also to develop their fellow human beings whom we call our co-workers or colleagues. And we need these honest, diligent learners to be motivated and so highly motivating in everything they do. This, then, is a study about creating motivational teams through having motivational managers who fully understand motivation and how it works.
This issue of approaching top performing teams via motivation has never been more important, since we are going through a new revolution in the work place. We have had, about 150 years ago, the Industrial Revolution, and now we are experiencing the Digital Revolution which is almost certainly going to have as dramatic an effect on the future as the Industrial Revolution did before. A recent report by Deloitte talks about the disruptors to the world of work: increasing automation and AI technologies, workplace relocation and the move away from traditional places of work, and finally the work force itself becoming more heterogeneous, as in less mere employees, but more a combination of, and interaction between, different worker/talent types (e.g. employees, gig workers, contractors, crowds).
All of this leads to some fundamental shifts. Deloitte instances six major shifts that its research indicates need to happen. First, they head up the whole thing as being about organisations which are ‘adaptable’ in future; and to do this, organisations will have to switch from being:
They also comment that organisations will have to consider ‘Employees are your first customers’ and that ‘high performing teams’ will be enabled ‘by adopting connected ways of working and an adaptable culture’.
As you can presuppose from my account above, I am extremely impressed by Deloitte’s research, but equally I am also disappointed. For in a 40-page document there is one word missing: motivation! Every buzz-word is used, except the one word that would really make a difference – motivation is not mentioned once in Deloitte’s report. It’s as if they think that by their analytics and data alone they can re-shape an organisation. Indeed, they talk of ‘…reshaping culture and behaviour to act with agility & collaboration’. And this is exactly what the psychometrics do: it’s a top-down approach which paradoxically claims to empower the work force. It means we are going to coerce ‘right’ behaviours and it is, therefore, staggeringly misconceived. At the beginning of the report we learn that ‘92% of organizations are not correctly structured to operate in this new environment [of the future]’ and my estimate would be that in another 10 years’ time another 92% will not be correctly structured either, because the whole approach is wrong.
In not addressing the bottom-up motivational approach organisations will never solve their people issues, although that may be good news for big consultancies in the same way that regional wars across the world are great news for various defence industries and corporations. Everyone has their job for life - their profits - and there is no change. And that is a real issue; there is an appearance of doing something about the rate of change, about change itself, and there is whole new line of jargon appearing that majors on this theme – the word ‘adaptability’ for example being just such a one. Carl Frey and Michael Osbourne recently observed that ‘Resistance to technological change does not just come from workers fearful of their jobs but from conservative elites who fear disruption to existing hierarchies’. How brilliant, then, to appear to be championing change but never addressing the real motivational issue underpinning it.
From these deliberations, then, it should be clear as to why I had to write Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams for Routledge for this is literally the antidote to all such thinking and pretence. For motivation is at the heart of building strong teams: teams that produce and are effective. In my next blog I shall explore this further, but for the full exploration of this topic go to my book, also available on Amazon