Project Motivation

Projects are endeavors in which human interactions occur and it follows logically that these interactions will be characterized by subjective and personal traits. As discussed in the previous articles, after the project is defined and structured correctly, and the correct effective communication strategies are in place, the Project manager (PM) should and can focus on the correct Motivation Plan for the Project Team.

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Hunter defines motivation as “the process of developing intent, energy, determination, and action to carry out certain behavior” (Hunter, 2012, p. 139). Motivation is however not merely an attribute a person inherently has or does not have. Motivation has to do with conscious decisions and personal motives that ultimately drive behaviors and actions. These intentions, energy, values and motives drive people to attempt to satisfy individual needs, but they also manifest in group settings. The reason why groups are successful or unsuccessful when participating in team activities, has become a topic of significant interest in organizational settings. Capable employees are considered an asset of organizations, and they play a key role in ensuring a company’s competitive edge in a constantly changing business environment. The motivation and retention of such individuals, and their impact in team settings, are, therefore, an increasingly high priority for PMs.

Team motivation is however described as “the coordination of the intensity and duration of collective efforts directed at a shared team goal through the functioning of interdependent regulatory feedback loops” (Park, Spitzmuller, & DeShon, 2013, p. 1340). In organizational settings, PMs have to lead their teams and keep them motivated to perform at high levels. Motivation is both situational and relational, and it is, therefore, important to remember that people come from various settings and situations, with different experiences and cultural backgrounds. All of these factors will influence the relationships they form with their team members and will affect their motivation, either positively or negatively.

Over the years, a number of theories and models have been developed to describe motivation in individuals, and many of those are applied in the project management environment. Project Managers must have an understanding of different motivational theories to ensure that each employee will be optimally motivated. If their motivational approach is not employee-specific, applied at the wrong time, or in the wrong context, it could potentially result in demotivation of members. In order to better understand the factors that affect motivation in project teams, the motivation theories will be briefly summarized in the next article. This will lead to a discussion of the different factors that affect motivation and then motivation within project management and the role of the project manager in team motivation.

Dawie Steenkamp, PhD, PMP

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