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Mixing and Matching Motivators

by on October 31, 2012

There are many methods out there to help a team building trust and finding out stuff about each other. Team members need to be comfortable with the others in order to be more productive, and understanding their personalities is a crucial part in that. Instead of personality tests, personal histories, or miniature golfing, I decided to play Mixing and Matching Motivators with the team.

Mixing and Matching Motivators is a derivative of Jurgen Appelo’s game Moving Motivators, which is used for evaluating a change’s impact on one’s personal motivators. This derivative game is used to display and discuss the different viewpoints of team members.

  1. Each participant receives a deck of the ten motivator cards. After the facilitator briefly introduces each motivator, each player sorts the cards according to personal preference. Then, the cards are stuck to a whiteboard (with some whitespace between them), sorted from left to right, starting with the most important motivators. Each participant starts a separate row.
  2. Next, each participant grabs a whiteboard marker and circles interesting facts to talk about. Such as: a similarity among all participants when everybody places the same motivator in slot one or two. Or: a potential conflict between individuals, like some people valuing freedom way over order, and others vice versa. Or just a question about a single motivator and its importance to a participant.
  3. Now, discuss the circled areas. You might want to talk about how a motivator manifested itself in the past, how its high importance to everybody could help in the future, or how its low importance to all participants could pose problems.
  4. Concluding the exercise, note the strengths and weaknesses of the team, as derived from the participants’ motivators and the discussion.

You might want to run a strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats analysis instead, or something entirely different. It is also possible to raise team issues in general. The cards are vague enough that their meaning can be used to start any kind of discussion. Just make up your mind in advance, do not change the agenda in mid-meeting.

The motivator cards make it easy to talk about personal issues as if they were not your own. One can talk about the own need for recognition very neutrally: “The status motivator does not get enough nourishment in this team”. A similar personal statement “I want you to praise me more” might be harder for people. The meeting facilitator can steer the discussion towards the hot spots by asking a question about a related motivator: What it means to a person, whether it is nourished enough in this team, and what the team can do about it. When done once or twice, with luck the team takes over after the first question and fires off the remaining two.

The game gives insights about the team and about each individual participant. Even if the discussion does not surface a hidden conflict, it can reveal the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Product owners gain advice about what kind of work the team likes and will therefore be good at. The team is pointed to their blind spots a.k.a. neglected motivators, and the agile coach receives hints how the team may require coaching.

The Mixing and Matching Motivators exercise is a relative to the “Values” game described (somewhat vaguely) in “Adkins: Coaching Agile Teams”, p. 157.

From → Agile

  1. Mark Michaelis permalink

    I like this approach for team analysis. Especially as it is often much easier to tell if a motivator is less or more important to me than to tell “the importance to me is 3”. But what would be the result if you replay the game with the same team? Will the results be influenced in a way that it actually makes no sense repeating the game?

  2. Several participants commented that it was easy to find the most important motivators, but that the less relevant ones were hard to sort. As I participated in the game both times when I ran it in different teams, I found that the order for my own motivators was slightly different in each run, but not significantly. So there will be a natural fuzziness to the results when you repeat the game under the same circumstances.
    My hypothesis is that importance of a value is also determined by attention, so that a motivator increases in rank somewhat when it is under stress and you currently spend more time thinking/complaining about it. But in general, I would expect values to be somewhat consistent over time.

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