Motivate Your Colleagues While Implementing Standards and Frameworks


In her Personality Matters series, Leslie Sachs examines the personalities and people issues that are found in technology groups from cross-functional, high-performance teams to dysfunctional matrix organizations.

Implementing standards and frameworks involves organizing complicated information in order to help technology professionals produce work that is consistent and, by definition, complies with the standard or framework. These same technical wizards often thrive on their individual creative processes. But there are ways to empower and motivate your colleagues while still implementing industry standards and frameworks. This article discusses some of the personality and teamwork issues that you need to consider in this effort.

Motivation and Standards
It can be hard to convince certain people that standards and frameworks are important in the first place. There are several reasons why some individuals resist adopting set standards.

For example, certain very organized personality types prefer their own internally-created systems to those suggested by others. For those individuals struggling with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), or Asperger's syndrome ( a high-functioning from of autism), the need to follow their own standards is difficult to subordinate to what may "feel" like arbitrary constraints. The savvy manager will not fight this issue head-on, but should focus instead on pointing out how following the required standards will enable them to meet their own goals more efficiently. Once the "resistant" employee is clear that these standards enhance their own efforts, compliance is usually 100% guaranteed.

We already invented the good ideas
Some people just don’t deal well with accepting others' ideas. This particular problem crops up time and time again in many different types of scenarios. I have found that the most effective
 way to minimize this distracting behavior is to stress group identity and foster team-building at every opportunity. Linking personal recognition to group productivity encourages all personality types to bring out the best in one another. When team members feel a strong allegience to the group and its mission, satisfaction can be derived from the success of others, as well as from one's own actions. Fostering a climate where colleagues regularly compliment each member for their part in a team effort increases everyone's sense that their ideas matter. 

Loose cannons who don’t want to comply
"If it’s a rule, then it probably needs to be broken." Everybody has probably encountered an individual who embodies this philosophy at one point or another in their professional career. While you can simply avoid such people in your social life, contact at work may be unavoidable. Such behavior is usually a combination of both genetics and early childhood experiences and can be difficult to alter once it has become ingrained. Therefore, the most pragmatic resolution is often a two-pronged approach; a combination that involves making it clear what the cost of breaking this rule is and making sure the individual  won't be tempted to chance it and providing another "innocuous" rule which this person can "violate" to get their "adrenaline rush" for "beating the system". If you can get this personality type to view the technical challenge as the "system" that needs to be beat, so much the better!

Enforcing process, while still keeping the train moving
When you have to lay down the law and force technology professionals to follow a standard, you may hear some grumbling. Howver, it is helpful to remind the team that that these standards and frameworks developed from real-life experience. Nothing motivates like success and these "rules" have proven their usefulness time and time again. As your team comes to see that these guidelines actually do improve their efforts, cooperation will increase correspondingly. Your job is to keep them motivated long enough so that they can begin to see the fruits of their labor. Once the process is implemented enough for the team to appreciate the power and benefits of these safeguards, you can usually count on them to self-monitor.

Formulas for success
Building consensus and acknowledging every members' ideas are essential building blocks. Even the most resistant individuals become more compliant when they are recognized by others. In general, when they feel valued for their contributions on a routine basis, there is less need to act-out or gain attention in more counter-productive ways. Emphasizing the rewards for compliance and group success is usually more effective than threats or coercion. Knowledge of personality types and excellent interpersonal skills can help the astute It manager to keep each member of his team "within bounds".

As you can see, there are many personality issues which can interfere with one's ability to comply with externally-imposed standards. However, such adherence is frequently crucial to project success.

Experienced managers must develop several strategies to address these concerns should they arise. The techniques mentioned above are just a sampling of the many creative methods that an IT manager may need to pull out of his pocket to get a recalcitrant team member to "play by the rulebook".  I'd love to hear from you about your specific experiences keeping your team on track with standards & frameworks.

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