Motivation is difficult to describe, but it is a term that is used often in organizational theory and project human resource management and has been defined and described in many different forms. One definition is that it is "a process, action, or intervention that serves as an incentive for a project team member to take the necessary action to complete a task within the appropriate confines and scope of performance, time, and cost" (Flannes and Levin, 2001). Motivation is a critical element for a high-performing project team, regardless of whether the team is collocated or is operating in a virtual environment. However, while the presence of motivation does not guarantee stellar performance, its absence certainly will result in long-term problems. Furthermore, individuals vary as to what motivates them, and the sources of motivation for an individual might not be constant throughout the project.
Different theories of motivation can be grouped and classified into drive theories, incentive theories, evolutionary and biologic theories, achievement need theories, and fear of failure theories. In general, all motivation theories note that individuals display a wide array of different motives at different times of their careers and at different points in their lives (Flannes and Levin, 2001). Among all motivation theories, one of the more relevant to the project management environment categorizes team member behavior into three separate and identifiable categories that address the need for achievement, affiliation, and power (McClelland, 1961). The need for achievement is characterized by a desire to seek attainable but challenging goals and feedback on performance. The need for affiliation is characterized by a desire to be part of a group with friendly relationships and to have roles that involve human interaction. The need for power is characterized by a desire to make an impact and to be viewed as influential and effective.
The following anecdotal illustration in the development and management of a charter will highlight the major differences in the three behavioral facets. The achievement-oriented individual, who is interested in team goal setting, will be the one who initially develops the team charter. However, once the project gets under way, the power-oriented individual, who is interested in being a leader in charge, will call frequent meetings to modify the objectives and content of the charter and to ensure they continue to relate to the organization's strategic vision and mission. Amidst all of this, the affiliation-oriented person, who is interested in providing an amicable working environment, will try to moderate the efforts of these two individuals, will work to facilitate meetings, and will mentor new team members when they join the team so they understand the team's operating protocols as delineated in the team charter.
Those people with a high need for achievement are driven by a high desire for success and the fear of failure. They typically take calculated risks and set goals of moderate difficulty for themselves in order to maximize the probability of attaining those goals. These people like to see concrete evidence of their completed work. Achievement-motivated people tend to be more concerned with personal achievement than the extrinsic rewards of success. They like to solve a problem methodically. They prefer not to leave the outcome of unresolved issues to chance.
Someone with a high need for achievement should best be placed in project roles in which he or she is asked to complete a challenging task. Work suitable for this person would challenge his or her abilities and skills. The achievement-oriented team member will avoid administrative tasks if at all possible, so that he or she can concentrate on the technical aspects of the project. Since the achievement-oriented individual is interested in setting goals, he or she will enjoy participating in the development of the team charter. Once the achievement-oriented person commits to the goals of the team through the team charter, though, he or she wants freedom and flexibility in executing his or her assigned tasks . Therefore, such a person is well suited to the virtual team environment, since this person does not need close interaction with others in a face-to-face setting to complete the assigned work. This type of team member would be particularly effective and productive if the assigned duties deal with an entire work package for which he or she has primary responsibility. He or she can easily build a sense of identity around the content of the work and does not require extensive face-to-face interaction with others on the project team in order to identify with the project. Achievement-oriented people prefer to work primarily on their assigned responsibilities and tasks. These individuals do not have a great desire to interfere with, be involved in, or even know the details of the specific work being done by other members of the team. Achievement-oriented team members are very likely to set personal goals to accomplish their tasks ahead of schedule.
Most achievement-oriented individuals can quickly adapt to the use of technology for communications. Thus, they can use technology to disseminate key technical issues for edification of other team members. They also might find the virtual forum an easier way to present complex information, issues, and ideas. Not surprisingly, they might even prefer use of the electronic water cooler as a forum to exchange ideas and insights, primarily because an electronic forum will focus more on the technical aspects of the work than on possible personality traits. This type of team member likes to receive feedback on his or her work and recognition from subject matter experts. Interestingly enough, it would be perfectly acceptable to these members if recognition were announced in a medium other than face-to-face interaction. This person enjoys the independence afforded by the virtual environment.
People with a high need for affiliation strive to build a friendly environment in which to work. They enjoy being part of a team, tend to conform to group norms, and like to work toward team success. Affiliation-motivated people are noted for seeking acceptance and friendship from others and for having a cooperative attitude. They respond positively to requests for assistance from other team members and are sensitive to the feelings of others.
By comparison with the achievement-oriented person, the affiliation-oriented person may find it difficult to work on a virtual project. He or she is reluctant to join virtual teams because this person enjoys interacting with team members, discussing ideas, providing assistance, seeking approval from other team members, and socializing with them during the course of the project. However, with the increasing use of virtual teams for projects, more and more people who might be affiliation-oriented will be assigned to virtual teams . The dilemma will be to determine under what circumstances such individuals would find the virtual team experience to be a rewarding one. More importantly, the challenge is to explore under what circumstances an affiliation-oriented person would work as diligently on a virtual team assignment as he or she would on a traditional team. One approach to consider is to use affiliation-oriented people in roles such as that of a relationship manager for the virtual team. During project initiation, the affiliation-oriented person could be commissioned to provide a sense of identity for the virtual team. This person's efforts would be directed toward providing a way to enable team members to learn about the strengths and areas of expertise of each other and toward introducing some common ground among the entire team to enable team members to get to know each other.
Then, during project execution, an affiliation-oriented person could find professional satisfaction in performing the following project duties:
Introducing new members to the team and its methods of operation
Introducing the technologies that the team is using to facilitate its communications
Helping others on the team to understand the project's goals and objectives and aligning the project's purpose or mission with their own personal wants and needs
Serving as a communications expeditor
Making sure that everyone is kept up to date about upcoming milestones, project status, new or emerging risks, accomplishments, and meetings
Serving as a facilitator by working to ensure that any meetings held, whether on line or through video- or teleconferencing, stay on track and that everyone has an opportunity to participate
Maintaining a "parking lot" during meetings for issues to be discussed later, for potential solutions, and future action items
Presenting team members with ideas to keep them focused and challenged, if it appears that some team members may not be actively participating
Promoting camaraderie among team members
Checking for consensus on team ground rules among team members
Following up on any action items that are assigned in meetings
Serving as a neutral party if two or more team members are having a conflict and helping them focus on interests and not positions
Mentoring younger team members in the project management profession and helping them learn new concepts
Ensuring that the team celebrates success as key project deliverables are completed
People with a high need for power are noted for influence and control. Even if they are not the official project manager or leader, they like to persuade others to see or do things their way. They will often try to define and redefine the goals of the team, in response to their interpretation of the overall goals of the organization. Power-motivated people are noted for being competitive and for being eager to make decisions on behalf of the project. They are comfortable directing the work of others, will take risks, and like to get publicized recognition for their contributions.
Of the three personality types, the person who is most power oriented in motivation may find it most difficult to be a member of a virtual team. In the virtual team, this individual will have a far more challenging time persuading others to accept his or her point of view. It may also be harder for these individuals to demonstrate leadership and to be visibly recognized for their contributions. Because they are not on the scene and not interacting regularly with other members of the project team, power-oriented people might not have the opportunity to participate at will in a variety of project tasks. Power-oriented team members might feel an intense sense of frustration in virtual teams because they will not be able to easily take initiative in order to solve problems, as least not as much as they do when they work on traditional teams. Further, since they might lack opportunities to meet and interact with internal and external project stakeholders, they might feel that their virtual project team contributions will not be recognized as frequently as compared to contributions of a member of a traditional collocated team. Nonetheless, it is likely that power-oriented people will be asked to become virtual team members. To capitalize on their natural strengths and orientations, they could be asked to perform some critical roles such as:
Helping to clarify the project's purpose and critical success factors
Relating the project's purpose to the overall strategic vision of the organization
Providing a clear and complete articulation of the team's charter
Leading team meetings
Helping the team come to closure during problem-solving sessions
Identifying project stakeholders and making sure that their requirements are being satisfied by the project
Mentoring others on the team by showing them better and more effective ways to complete the assigned tasks
Fostering forthright discussion of the issue when two or more team members have a conflict that is impeding project performance
Pointing out the merits of possible opportunities that others may perceive as risks
While a number of different instruments have been designed to address the primary motivational style of individuals (Flannes and Buell, 1999; Schein, 1990; Briggs-Myers et al., 1998), we have prepared an instrument that can be used for project-specific behavioral attributes. This instrument is applicable to traditional teams and virtual teams alike. Specifically, the instrument is intended to assess one's need for achievement, affiliation, and power in the project management environment (Appendix 4B). Our premise is that motivation involves goal-directed behavior and that with an understanding of one's primary motivational approach, one can ascertain those project roles, and team responsibilities, that each team member should pursue to make the greatest contribution to the project deliverable . Further, with this information, the project manager can determine the most effective avenue for motivating the people on his or her team, based on each team member's specific categorization as high achiever, high in affiliation needs, or high in power motives. The project manager should work with each team member to identify that team member's specific motivational orientation in order to match it with the project resource requirements. Further, the project manager must determine how each team member's individual needs relate to the project goals. Naturally, the project manager should continually look for opportunities to help each team member accumulate new knowledge and skills to make his or her professional profile more well rounded.