Friday, 18 February 2011

Locus of Control

As a software manager, one of your main aims is to have well-motivated staff. There are many theories about motivation from Maslow’s Needs to ones that involve lots of “ra-ra” shouting.

A useful one to remember is the idea of “Locus Of Control”. Research has found that people who have an “internal” locus of control (that is they feel that they are in control of their lives) are happier, less stressed and better motivated than people who have an “external” locus of control (that is they feel that life controls them).

One of the main ways of motivating your team into producing that “killer app” should be giving them the feeling of control. Get them to take responsibility and allow them to make the decisions.

Now I can hear the question – “I can’t let my staff make the decisions that’s my job!” If you feel that way then use the Pareto 80/20 rule. You make the 20% of the decisions that carry the 80% of the importance and let your staff make the 80% of the decisions that carry only 20% of the importance.

For example, you make the decision to spend $1,000000 on writing a killer zap app. Then, let your team decide what PC’s and software they should use to do it; the point being that each member of your team should “feel” in control of what they are doing.

If you want a better idea about locus of control, then consider this little test…

How much control do you have of your environment?
For a good indication simply answer YES or NO to these questions…

  1. You can decide the kind of work you do?
  2. You can decide what work you do?
  3. You can decide when to do it?
  4. You can decide the time you come to work?
  5. You can determine the design of your product?
  6. You can decide which programming language you use?
  7. You can decide what programming tools you use?
  8. You can decide the programming technique you wish to use?
  9. You can determine the design of the small section of the product you’re working on?
  10. You can decide what you put on your desk?
  11. You can decide when you have lunch?
  12. You can decide when you have a cup of coffee?
  13. You can decide when to go to the toilet?
If you get to answer yes to any of the first three you’re probably the boss – your aim should be to ensure that your staff could answer yes to the rest of the questions on the list.

If you can answer YES to 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 then you’re doing fine. If you’re doing these things “right” then your company is making money and you should be having a ball. If you answered NO to most of these questions then you have something to worry about.

If you can answer YES to 9 but not 5 then, hey make the most of your little bit; be proud of it: out of small niches empires can grow!

If you can’t answer YES to 10, 11, 12, 13 then you may as well walk out of that door NOW.

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