Archive for February, 2015

Communication and Motivation

Posted on: February 25th, 2015 by admin 2 Comments

By Shawn P. Quigley and Jon M. Quigley

Communication and Motivation

We have discussed some of the different theories of motivation and the role that the organization plays in motivation.  Now we will discuss how the employee is responsible to the organization in the realm of motivation.  At first glance one would say that it is the organization’s responsibility to ensure its employees are motivated, but how are they to achieve this goal without the individual communicating their physiological needs, social needs, and individual development and growth needs that comprise their motivational factors?

Communication, Motivation and the Individual

Communication: as we have previously discussed, is a two way street. It is not uncommon for direction to be confused with communication.  Direction is one way – I direct you to do a task and little or no discussion is held.  One cannot be directed to be motivated, as in the manager does not go to the employee and say “be motivated”.  Thus motivation factors must be discerned via communication between the two or more parties. You tell me what your goals and motivational factors are and I tell you what can be met or cannot be met and why.  This is how communication pertains to motivation. While an organization has an interest in having motivated people, it is also incumbent upon the individual to express what drives them to their organization.  All too often assumptions are made; by both parties, on what motivates the other party with little or no actual facts being provided by the other party.  An example of this type of miscommunication or misassumption could be: when you see someone eating, assuming that they are hungry? It could be that they are sad, frustrated, bored, or it could be they are hungry. You do not know the truth without further information and the best manner to gain this information is communication. Or consider the employee that assumes hard work and successfully delivering on the company’s behalf will garner into steady progress through the organizational hierarchy, without articulating their goals associated with their level of performance.  From the employees standpoint this would be an example of Vroom’s expectancy theory[1] of motivation and from the employers standpoint it would be the example of a lost opportunity.

Open Communications and Mental Model

An open discussion between the two parties is another example of the open mental model. This aspect of the mental model is often overlooked because it is viewed as a motivational issue and not necessarily related to the mental model. If a mental model is one’s view point on a topic or situation: how can it not be related to motivation considering that motivation is driven by the perception of the situation and possible outcomes? Employing this train of thought then an organization that promotes the open mental model will have a better chance of having a motivated workforce.

Communication and Motivation Theories

As we continue our discussion of motivational theories, learning organization, and organizational development we will move more toward the application of these items as related to each other.  An organization cannot develop without learning.  Learning best occurs in an environment where people are motivated to better themselves and their organization. This is a prime example of how all of these factors are intertwined.

Symbiotic relationship between development, learning, and motivation.

Symbiotic relationship between development, learning, and motivation.

[1] Vroom, V. H. (2015, January 29). Expectancy Theory of Motivation. Retrieved from Leadership –

More on Estimating – Story Points

Posted on: February 13th, 2015 by admin 1 Comment

By: Jon M Quigley

Silver  Bullet? NOT!

There is no perfect solution to estimating.  We can try to read the tea leaves, consult the oracle or use of a divining rod.  These are still estimates and have limitations.   Story points use proportional mechanisms for estimating, so there must be some foundation from which to work.  Since story points are proportional and not derived in terms of actual hours, we are never deluding ourselves that the estimates are anything more than approximations or wishful thinking or even hope.  Establishing and articulating duration in terms of hours and days can lead people, especially those who see the schedule, to falsely conclude that the duration is not an estimate but something more tangible – like facts or certainties.  Story points are unit-less, there are no minutes or hours associated.

Besides the lack of definitive duration, what is the benefit of using story points to estimate?  What is  the downside?  How can you determine ETA (or estimated time of completion)?

History, Estimates and PERT

Posted on: February 12th, 2015 by admin No Comments

By Jon M Quigley

Schedule Failures Due to Poor Estimates

Of the numerous project failure I have experienced or witness, time and schedule is one of the more frequent occurring.  Sometimes we may see a schedule that is borne out of an executive’s fancy and not reality (sometimes it is marketing).  Sometimes we are squeezed to get a project out as pressure for other reasons.  Time constraints are not bad, it is a way to ensure we are being good stewards of the company’s resources.  This pressure can be good as it can be a catalyst for creativity and generating solutions. That is the subject for later posts.


Duration Estimation and Historical Information

When planning the project schedule it is often practical to look at our historical record for estimating.  Our historical record, if generated over sufficient time, provides us with a glimpse of the capabilities of our Project Management Organization as well as various line functions.  A single point source of historical record (for example one project) does not provide even a glimpse of the envelope of possible outcomes or duration.

Even when we have abundant historical data, we are not out of the woods.  The measurements have limitations.  There can be questions around the validity or veracity of the measurement that may be misleading.  In companies that have a significant political component, there may be some exceptions not noted to make the numbers appear “good”.  There may be changes in the team members and certainly there will be changes in project dynamics and scope details.  All projects are unique, even if there are elements that may be common.  Therefore historical records, like all estimates, are still subject to variation, and with enough representative historical data we begin to understand the variation.

Estimating via PERT

Another estimating technique is called PERT.  PERT attempts to fit a set of estimates to a normal distribution curve. By the way, the assumption that the range of distribution duration for a certain task fits a normal distribution may not be valid.  It does, however, provide a range of possibilities based upon an estimation of three points. Those three points are, most probable, pessimistic, and optimistic. Experience suggests to me that one point estimate durations tend to be on the optimistic side, so asking for a range helps mitigate this optimism. The equation weighs the most likely heavier than the other two estimates by multiplying by four.

PERT = (Pess. + (4xML) + Opt.) / 6

In doing this, we have provided a range of estimates, and perhaps the actual duration will reside within that envelope. We have a download excel sheet demonstrating how this works available.

Project Adjustment is Not Just for Agile

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 by admin 1 Comment

By Jon M Quigley

Project Failure

Sometimes, the reason for the project failure has to do with selecting the wrong approach or methodology.  For example, there are times when we should choose an agile approach rather than a conventional project management approach.  Those of you, who have talked to the staff at Value Transformation, know we believe the project management strategy or approach is situational dependent. There is no silver bullet, there is the application of learning, learn some more, and apply what is newly learned.  That is a valid approach, whether employing a stage gate approach or an agile approach. 

Prioritization of Objectives

The agile approach requires a prioritization of the product backlog, this focuses the team on the immediate objectives and equally important if not more so, ensures the money and resources of the organization are directed at a sale able product at some future date. Prioritization of the scope of the project is NOT just an agile thing, though based upon experience; I suspect many of those reading this believe it to be uniquely agile. The reality is, conventional project management also advises a prioritized scope, though that seldom occurs. 

Project management triangle example

Demonstration of cost, time and scope in the project.


If we think back to the triangle, ScopeCostTime; are the triple constraints upon the project in conventional project doctrine.  The theory is these vertices of the triangle are the points for adaptation or articulation to adjust the project to the circumstances as they arise or are discovered.  The discussion of scope, is the specifically the range of expected deliveries from the project to meet the objective of the organization.  A prioritized project scope is identified; specifically the most important objectives are clearly defined against a graduation of lesser objectives.  Thus we are aware of the range of acceptable scope fulfillment that we can adapt to the available time and cost.  It seems conventional practice consists of holding the time, the cost and the scope constant giving the project team no wiggle room to adapt to circumstances.

Example of adjustments made in the project due to circumstances

Example of adjustments in scope, cost, and time are made in the project due to circumstances.

Poor execution is as bad as poor approach or strategy.  The results will likely produce failure and any success will likely be attributed to luck.

Configuration Management Tales Podcast Part 2

Posted on: February 9th, 2015 by admin 1 Comment

Joe Dager’s Business901 podcast with Kim L. Robertson

Configuration Management Tales #2

The second part of a two part podcast on configuration management tales.


If you missed the first part Configuration Management Tales #1 it can be found at




Expectancy Theory of Motivation

Posted on: February 5th, 2015 by admin 3 Comments

by Shawn P. Quigley and Jon M. Quigley

In our previous post we have discussed Maslow’s Human Motivation Theory (Hierarchy of Needs) and Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory (Hygiene and Motivation Theory). However, to be aligned with our recent post about Pavlov’s Employee we should look at the Expectancy Theory of Motivation developed by Victor H. Vroom.

Expectancy Theory Equation: Expectancy

The Expectancy Theory of Motivation can be shown as an equation:

MF = Expectancy X Instrumentality X (Valence(S))”(Vroom, 2015).

MF is the Motivational Force derived from the three factors of Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence(s). Expectancy is the term used to relate effort put into the task as related to the performance.  Will the effort I put forth produce the gain that I desire is the type of question the individual would ask when employing this section of this theory? The answer to this type of question; for the employee, would be based upon such things as past experiences, confidence, and emotional state.  Of these three contributors all can be directly linked to the manner in which the individual is treated by the organization (Vroom, 2015).  In Pavlov’s Employee, we gave an example of how a negative experience lowered the factor of experience contributing to this portion of the equation.  We can derive from that post there was also a negative emotional state of the employee; due to a recurring pattern.  Specifically, that pattern was a lack of recognition of the employee’s skill and knowledge, their ability to contribute to the project which lowered self-confidence and esteem.

Expectancy Theory Equation: Instrumentality

The Instrumentality portion of the equation refers to the “performance-reward” (Vroom, 2015). From the employees perspective this means will the amount of effort put forth be commensurate to the gain?  This also has some basis in past experiences. Based upon Pavlov’s Employee, we can see this ratio was severely lacking.  Yet another lowering quotient to the equation which is already diminished by what happened in the expectancy portion of the equation.

Expectancy Theory Equation: Valance

The last portion of this equation is Valance.  Valance is used to describe the value the individual associates with the perceived reward for completing the task at a specific level.  It can also be associated with the individual’s level of involvement with the task (Vroom, 2015).  Again this is based primarily on experience and the employee’s perception of the value associated with the reward.  If experience has shown a negative valance: as in Pavlov’s Employee, little can be done to overcome the effect on overall motivation, short of making a reward so compelling that it overcomes the other two diminished factors.  This is commonly why organizations think money is a motivator.

Expectancy Theory Equation: Summary

This interpretation of the theory supports the Leadership Equation post were we came to the conclusion that of the many factors which can effect motivation the experiences an employer provides to their employees will have the predominate affect. This common theme can be seen in most of the theories pertaining to motivation. Yet, employers can be seen creating an environment were negative experiences are prevailing. A simple change to using the Open Mental Model would minimize some of the negative experiences through providing an environment in which employees feel their input and opinions are valued. The irony of this is that people are hired for their knowledge and experience and then that expertise is essentially negated through the propagation of negative experiences by the very people that hired them.

Expectancy Theory Exercise:

  1. Expectancy (effort equal to perceived performance level).
    1. On a scale of -10 to +10 what is your expectancy
    2. Explain why did you select the number you did.
  2. Instrumentality (is your performance equal to level of reward received – equal is positive)
    1. On a scale of 10 to +10 what do you think is your instrumentality
    2. Explain why you select the number you did.
  3. Valence (value of reward received)
    1. Do you place a positive value for the reward received for your efforts?
    2. Explain why you select the number you did.
  4. Using 1a, 2a and 3a, what would your motivational factor be – high or low.
  5. Taking into account 1b, 2b, 3b; what can your organization do to improve these factors?

Vroom, V. H. (2015, January 29). Expectancy Theory of Motivation. Retrieved from Leadership –

Learning from Experience

Posted on: February 3rd, 2015 by admin 2 Comments

By Jon M Quigley

How can we get good judgement (learn)?

Projects are unique, each present distinctive challenges, though these challenges often are constant in theme allowing an extrapolation to other projects.  We can see in projects, functional areas and business processes where this failure of learning costs our organization dearly.  Learning and adapting are hallmarks of good project management and of functioning organizations.  Making mistakes is not a problem as that is how we learn.

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” ~ Rita Mae Brown

What happens when we do not improve our judgement (learn)?

However, we should not consistently burn our hand on the same stovetop and act surprised. If you find your project or organization making the same set of mistakes, you have a learning problem.  To be sure not all can be known, but if you are learning every day, more is known every day.

“There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.” ~ Laurence J. Peter

What are the limits of learning?

It may at times seem like the organization as an entirety is not capable of learning. That is one of the reason we have hyper focused on the learning organization over the past few days. Learning at the organization level is walking a tight rope. Learn something productive and necessary, while not excluding alternatives that may work next time.

“We should be careful to get out of an experience all the wisdom that is in it — not like the cat that sits on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot lid again — and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.” ~ Mark Twain

Each failure, each success provides us with an opportunity to learn.  If we take and maximize that opportunity (spread throughout the organization) we become stronger as an organization.  We learn more as a group about what works and what does not work. This is helpful for the product, and for the project, but we must pay attention to what is going on and listen to those that have learned lessons that we have not yet learned.  As well as teach lessons to those who have not learned.  Student and teacher are one and the same.

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