Purpose

When you get up in the morning and go to work – what is the point?  Is it just to pay the bills?  Or to get the children to school on time?  Do you have a purpose?

Are there driving reasons why you are doing the job that you are currently doing?  Are you motivated around a goal? Either for yourself, with your team or your organisation?

The core motivators discussed in Daniel Pink’s book Drive are autonomy, mastery and purpose.  I’ve previously blogged on autonomy.  This time around I wanted to throw some thoughts about around Purpose – in a Scrum team, in an organisation and how do these align with individual purpose.

Goals and Visions

Does Scrum allow the team to have a purpose?  The quick answer is – yes – with sprint goals, release goals and a product vision.  These catch phrases help guide the team and the product to attain a fixed focused goal.  Within that goal how we get there is not clearly defined – but we can question what we’re doing in this sprint as to whether it helps us to achieve the vision or goals.

A team may loose a sense of purpose if the goal or vision isn’t clearly defined.  Or if the current goal doesn’t align with the bigger goals or vision.  But at that point possibly the team isn’t achieving the intent of Scrum.

In Scrum we’re encouraged to question why.  To understand the business goal of the story.  To understand the purpose.  Purpose gives focus.  Focus is good.

Organisational Purpose

In Drive, Pink uses the term of “not only for profit” organisation.  I like it.  In too many organisations the sole purpose seems to be to make more money for the shareholders or owners.  Is there something more than this?  How can an organisation provide an employee with a purpose that really motivates?

The example in the book of TOMS donating a pair of shoes to someone in the 3rd world for each pair of shoes purchased is interesting.  Where’s the profit going? Are they a charity?  Neither – they motivate us to buy from them because of the intrinsic value of what they will do when you do.  The same goes for people buying “green” or “organic” – they are motivated by what that means to them.  Working for such an organisation may give you higher personal satisfaction and purpose.

Similarly working for an organisation whose goal is to change the world – Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook – their services are influencing millions of lives.  Or working for a start-up that disrupts an industry and grows into a similar place or niche.  Working for such organisations may give you great purpose and satisfaction.

Open source and crowd sourced initiatives like Wikipedia show that doing something just for profit isn’t the only motivator to individuals.

Most organisations need to make profit in order to exist and pay their employees.  Combining that with a purpose that the employees can become motivated around could be far better for the longevity of the organisation.

Individual Purpose

So back to why do you get up in the morning?  I suspect most people would answer because it is their job.  Some people would say because I love my job.  Others might talk about learning things, learning from people, growing knowledge, growing mastery, growing something bigger than themselves, changing the world in some way, enjoying working with the people, the vibe – team or company, loving what the company does – products or more than that – giving to charity, involving the community or helping to grow a community, the lifestyle perks – flex time, leave, autonomy.  I’m not sure many will actually be motivated with the purpose of making the shareholders richer, but there might be some.

And me?

It would be awesome if we all thought the product that we worked on was the best application that everyone in the world should be using.  I’ve been there and it was inspiring and motivating (and possibly a little delusional :D).  But other things now inspire me instead.  I’m inspired by obtaining mastery.  I want to learn how to get teams to become agile – in code as well as process.  Thus far I think I have already had some small successes in mastering process.  I hope as a team member again I can achieve agility in code.  I do know that I need autonomy in order to achieve that.  I want to strive for mastery while I learn how to deliver better software.   My current purpose is simply to make elegant working software that achieves something like the Beck curve.  This is the unicorn that I’m currently chasing.

A closing thought

It would be awesome if your purpose aligns perfectly with the product and organisation’s long term plan.  But if it only aligns for a while – you’ll do better things and everyone will benefit.

Find a purpose for why you are where you are and you’ll do great things – at least until things change.  Then find your purpose again.  And you’ll find a large part of your drive.

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