The fun is dead, long live the fun!

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Are you happy on Monday morning? What about Friday evening? We all know how office workers are waiting for the Friday evenings… Because work is hard. Because there is no more joy. Really? How people who are not feeling good about their work can produce something great?

If you ask any of your colleague when they felt joy at work they probably tell you about some challenge they faced and successfully solved or brainstorming, where their team produced a great idea. Also they can point out the time when they worked with a great passionate team of developers. Even if they were creating “one more social network”.

Our bosses are talking a lot about the performance, hyper productivity and all other similar things. They want to get the passionate team members, producing the great quality products. But no one cares how that “passion” emerges and why would these people are so devoted to their work. It is supposed just to exist, as the miracle, so no one can influence that. We are too serious to talk about the joy and play, because “we are doing business here”!

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If we just expect people to “produce” the passion and joy from inside of themselves we are “sucking” their energy, finding them empty in 1-2 years, so they just leave the company or join the army of ”zombies”. Our main task, as the managers, is to create the system where everyone in the company may take joy in their work, give their “fun” energy to the system and get it back.

When I am talking about fun and joy some of the people think of parties, people wearing the clown costumes and not working in the office. But I can tell that the most joyful teams I worked in were really hard working. The work was fun, we had some intrinsic reinforcement, joy from the job itself, from the the achievements.

So what we, project managers, can do?

Socializing

You can’t imagine joy and fun to appear when everyone is isolated. Yes, introverts are having fun being alone, but even they need to spent some time socializing. You are more likely to succeed with fun if you have a strong social network, teamwork. Team members should not only do their part of work – their tasks, but to be the part of the bigger goal which the whole team walks towards.

You can combine the joy of the socializing with joy of learning by building the expert guilds  – networks of people with common interests. The more time they spend together – the better for the company. If they also are learning some professional skills – that is ideal.

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I also should warn the project managers from enforcing too much collaboration. Software developers usually require some private time to have the good productivity and creativity. So your job is to create the “environment”, not to push them to collaborate.

Taking breaks

People think the “agile” development is like the play, developers seem to have a lot of fun with it. But the reality is that this approach is very effort consuming. Let’s imagine the typical scrum development process – team has a sprint after the sprint, starting every Monday and having demo every Friday. This never ends. You always do your best, thrive for improvement. They had this great release they were working hard on and today they are starting a new sprint… It can feel as the never ending process.

Team needs the time to recharge their batteries. So plan the small “pause” between the releases. I assure you this time won’t be wasted(if your team is still alive), this small stop will be used for thinking over the things you sometimes forget during the routine work. It is a chance to see the whole picture and think over the strategy, improvements and changes. So treat this breaks as the “time for thinking” and building up the team.

Humour

When I know that the team is ok? When I hear them laughing! When they have some unique jokes about their project, client and me. Managers usually are the serious guys, but better take your job serious, not yourself. Tell jokes, always have a funny story to tell to illustrate the idea you trying to explain. One of the best things that can form the feeling of the “we are the one team” are the jokes that can be understood by the team members only. Some small funny traditions.

If I was the person who is responsible for hiring managers I checked them for the sense of humour.

People feel joy when they do what they are good at

Have you ever felt good when doing the things that you are not good at? When you are not satisfied with the results? I suppose – no. When people are using their strengths they feel good. It’s like when you was a child and learned riding a bicycle – you like the feeling of riding, that wind in your hair, how other smaller children are looking at you. So just let people do what they are good at  – everyone should be respected for his expertise, they should be able to build their strength and had the joy coming from it. If the person is good, for example, in teaching others – create the professional groups where he can train the other colleagues or mentorship system.

Hire positive thinking people

yes, the negative thinking people can be a great professionals in their field. But why not to allow yourself to form the team with the optimistic people? There are enough optimistic professionals out there. Yes, it would be hard. But why creating a good team should be an easy task? It is a huge mistake to hire people who are not suitable for your company culture. Even if they are great in development.

Give them the sense of purpose

Start with the most important thing – the purpose of the company. Without the sense of meaning teams will fell just lost in the woods. Project manager is responsible for the sense of meaning in the frames of the project team. You should point out what is worthy in the people’s work,  as the only way to make them “sacrifice” something they value (we are spending the major part of our life in the office, guys!) is to give them the good reason, which is worth it. In response they will have the feeling of meaning and self-worth.

fun copy 2Don’t think it is easy. People won’t sacrifice anything just “for the company”. Why should they? Don’t also think about that as the way of “tricking” employees – it can work, but only once. People will give you something only if it is the fair trade.

Have the team of professionals

Build the strong teams. People are interested in working with the strong professionals.

Give them more control

When people have control – they are more engaged, as they are not only following the rules created by someone else but the ones who can create the rules. Do not be afraid to experiment with the level of autonomy of the team. During one of the workshops the trainer told us a great story about one of the teams:

Once they decided to provide team some budget that they could use on anything they wanted. You think that they started wasting this money? Buying candies or beer? Yes, they bought beer the first time… And the second one. But then they started buying some useful things and even paying for the education (books, courses). Their manager was increasing the budget from month to month. And finally the team had control over almost all the team’s budget – they were choosing everything by themselves – from the new tables and chair to whom to send to the Ruby conference this month. This team was super engaged in their work – they created their own “world” in the office. And they didn’t lose a single team member during this period of time.

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You, as a manager, will get a great benefit from increasing the level of “consciousness” of the team. You will have much less work to do) The main issue is that there is no one common “recipe” to create such a self-organizing team. So you’ll just replace one work with the another one and still be 100% loaded)

 Inspiration:

9 thoughts on “The fun is dead, long live the fun!

  1. Thanks for following my blog. Hope you enjoyed reading about the lighter side of corporate life. I have read through some of your entries – quite interesting and informative. Will follow your journey. Based on the the way you spelt ‘humour’ I would assume that you are not in the USA! Regards.

    1. Wow, I was wondering, what was wrong with it… My native language is ukrainian, we were taught the “classic English”(British), as they called it, at school. Now I am in the US and getting adjusted to the new ways of spelling))

  2. Ever experienced this fun approach in remote teams? It is quite hard since motivation comes from other sources besides those you mention and keeping commitment alive turns into a PITA if people can’t push themselves for the sake of doing things and yet harder to make people connect when they haven’t ever seen each other face to face.

    1. I worked with just a several remote teams and it was rather hard each time. It’s really difficult to tell jokes via skype/gotomeeting once a day, not all the time, as I am used to) With the remote teams there is less “hot fixes” and you have to plan carefully, as there is no chance to change something quickly or get some update by just talking to the developers in the kitchen. I personally hate working with 100% distributed teams – each time I just hope I got the team of good people, as I almost don’t have any influence on them. The only things which helped – insisting on video conferences, meetings from time to time in person.

      1. Ha! you mention something really dull yet really annoying: promptness. Lots of us fail to get that remote means more than not just being there. Is a freedom in exchange of commitment. Reply from anywhere at any time. Things have come to the lack of will rather than lack of tools. I guess this has a huge impact in the fun factor when waiting for answers becomes a constant sense of frustration.
        Feel your pain 🙂

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