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Giovanni Asproni. Agile Times, Vol. 4, February 2004

Motivation, Teamwork, and Agile Development
Giovanni Asproni

Motivation as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary 11th edition is “1 a : the act or process of motivating b : the condition of being motivated 2 : a motivating force, stimulus, or influence : INCENTIVE, DRIVE”.The fact that motivation is the most important factor for productivity and quality is not a new discovery. It has been pointed out for the first time by the studies conducted Elton Mayo around 1930. Since then there have been several studies that confirmed the same results in several industries including the software development one [2], [4], [10], [14]. Nevertheless, until recently the main focushas been on process-centric methodologies, the ones that Jim Highsmith calls Rigorous Software Methodologies (RSM) [5]. The basic assumption behind RSMs is the same behind scientific management—that is, to improve productivity and quality, it is necessary and sufficient to improve and formalize the activities and tasks of the development process. In this kind of methodologies people have to adaptto the process. The advent of the Extreme Programming first and the Agile Movement later, has put people back at the center of the development activities. In these kind of methodologies “people trump process” [3], the processes have to be adapted to the needs of the people involved. According to Jim Highsmith agile development methods appeal to developers because they reflect how software reallygets developed [5]. In this article I claim that agile methods also appeal to developers because they reflect how they really like to develop software. Since nowadays, most software is developed by teams, I have taken the approach of showing the strong connections between motivation and effective teamwork, and then showing how agile development methods are related to the latter.

Theclassic experiments that demonstrated the influence of motivation on productivity were conducted by Elton Mayo from 1924 to 1932 at the Hawthorne Works of the Western Electric Company in Chicago [8]. The results are known under the name of “Hawthorne Effect.” The original purpose of the experiments was to find the effects of illumination on productivity. The results were quite surprising:
• • •When illumination was increased, productivity went up When illumination was decreased, productivity went up When illumination was held constant, productivity went up

After these results, Mayo and his associates began to wander what kind of changes in the work environment could influence productivity.


Giovanni Asproni. Agile Times, Vol. 4, February 2004

They set up an experimentalgroup taking six women from the relay assembly line. The group was isolated from the rest of the factory, and put under a supervisor who had management style akin to a leadership-collaboration style [5]. The experiment consisted in introducing some variations to the work conditions—for example, reducing the number of working hours, increasing the number and length of pauses during the workday, etc.The experimenters introduced the changes always keeping the experimental team informed, asking for advice or information, and listening to complaints. Productivity always went up. Eventually, all the improvements were removed. Productivity was the highest ever recorded. The final conclusion was that the six women formed a team that cooperated spontaneously and wholeheartedly to the experiment.The team had considerable freedom of movement, was not pushed by anyone, and was involved in every decision that could affect their work. Under these conditions the workers developed a higher sense of responsibility that induced them to do a better job, and at the same time, feel happier and more satisfied. These experiments evidenced for the first time that workplaces are social environments,...
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