Project Practitioners > Process Are Like Motivation

Process Are Like Motivation

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


Processes and work practices are like motivation, the more you have, the more you need to create.


Around the new year, everyone is motivated to become a new person. A lean, mean, fighting machine ready to take on the world. A month or two in, these people revert to their baseline and continue life as is. Their motivation is short-winded, as is with motivation in general.


If you constantly need a foot up your ass to get going, the second you are left to your own devices, nothing is getting done. No one is making you do anything, so you choose to do nothing. You need motivation, so you watch an Eric Thomas or The Rock video to get the blood pumping.


This habit becomes like an addiction. Instead of a 30-second clip to get you motivated, you need 5 minutes of heart-pumping music along with a message about hard work. Five minutes turns to 10 turns to 30 and all of a sudden there is not enough motivation in the world to get you going.


Relate this to work practices and processes. Senior management implements a work practice that improves efficiency by 30%. That is a big deal. Products are flying off of the line, and work orders are getting fulfilled at a record pace. So what does management do? Implement more work practices and processes.


Instead of focusing on the big wins, they turn their attention to the remedial. What time you arrive at work, when you take your lunch, and how you submit paperwork all becomes a work practice. Here are at XYZ Company, Inc. we take lunch at noon for half hour, we get here five minutes early, so work starts promptly at 8 am, and we fill out our paperwork the same way using the same words in the same locations.


After a while, instead of realizing the benefits of work practices and processes, XYZ Company, Inc. starts to see their employees not doing any of them. There are so many to keep track of they turn into none at all. Like an addict, senior management starts to add work practices to perform the other work practices to try and achieve results when all they are doing is driving people away.


Discipline trumps motivation. People are like electricity, they take the path of least resistance. To avoid this temptation, discipline enters. You do not give yourself the choice of yes or no, go or stay, do or do not. You are at the gym becoming bigger, faster, and stronger because you have no other option. You are efficient and effective at work because no other option exists. You do not need a work practice or boss telling you to do something. It is instilled in you.


Let’s figure out how to get more disciplined and not rely on these motivational techniques or work practices:



Know Your Weaknesses

Take time to honestly self reflect and find those weaknesses. If you know working close to somebody results in nothing getting done and another trip to the senior manager's office, why continue to put yourself there? The same goes for a terrible job. If the commute to work feels like hell, why continue to sign up for this?


Once you have identified your weaknesses, start to eliminate them. Find ways around them or ways to cope. If you have to work at your job because bills need to get paid, find the light through the darkness. Maybe work is next to a fantastic restaurant that serves lunch where you can get away for thirty minutes. Maybe there are one or two or many others in your same situation under the same roof you can gather together and share stories making each other feel better about the situation.


The first step is to identify those weaknesses, then you have to do something about them. The action is where the pack separates itself. A lot of people know their weaknesses yet continue to let them impact their lives. The real magic is the action step.


No Outs

Don’t give yourself options. You will always choose the path of least resistance. Not doing something is always easier than doing something. Talking about it is a little more difficult than nothing but accomplishes similar results. Not giving yourself an out means there is no other path than to do it.


Go to the gym. It’s the only option. Turn in the estimate or proposal on time. It’s the only option. Get a job that makes you happy and not regret or despise the commute. It’s the only option.


You get the idea. The second you leave a crack in the door, you always have that out that makes it easier. Discipline closes that out door and keeps you going even when you do not want to.


Celebrate the Wins

Big or small, celebrate the wins. The path of progression never ends so you must celebrate along the way. There is no destination at the end where confetti falls from the sky and Luther Vandross’ “One Shining Moment” plays from the heavens. You can celebrate a win like this (as the winner of NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament does every year), but that is not the end of the journey.


Discipline keeps us on the path even after a monumental victory. Even after a small victory like stepping foot in the gym after years away, discipline keeps that streak alive moving forward. The hardest thing to do in sports is to repeat winning. People get comfortable at the top. That drive to topple Goliath is no longer there because you are Goliath. The target is on your back.


Discipline keeps you at the top. Organizations can do the same thing. You may have a competitor in your space you can never seem to beat. Then one year, you finally beat them. You sold more products. You grossed more revenues. Whatever the metric is, you win. Time to celebrate! However, if the celebration lasts too long, you will second once again.


Keep Moving

No matter what, keep moving forward. One mistake does not derail a career. Celebrating the wins helps to put one foot in front of the other. Rome was not built in a day. Overnight successes go years, or even decades, without being discovered.


You win, or you learn. No one is undefeated (except the 1972 Miami Dolphins). Take the L and move on. If you continue to take L’s doing the same things over and over, insanity plays a role. However, if you learn from a mistake and grow, that loss may be the best thing that ever happened to you. You would have never found out had you stopped.


In projects, the work has to get done one way or another. A person quits. You find their replacement. A vendor closes its doors. You find another. The project does not cease because your schedule is behind or your budget overrun. By moving forward, the end gets closer.




Process, work practices, and motivation have their role, but when you start to depend on them for action, you cease to exist. The need for more begins. You become a robot to the instruction. You become afraid to be creative because it is outside of the constraints of the processes. Approval is too heavy of a decider. You seek it for everything.


You start to send an email asking for approval to replace a water heater or a carbon monoxide when the law states you need to replace it. There is not a decision there, but because a work practice or process states you need approval first, you override the obvious and do not act.


Then what happens is the senior management implements a work practice for emergencies that you need to follow. Rather than letting a manager decide, they always want to have a systematic approach to problems. Again, there are benefits to supplementing work styles with systems, but not every instance requires a process to follow.


Let humans be human. The process for a child to walk is continuing to fail until success. There is not some set standard of assisted steps to take before finally walking. It just happens.


Do not rely on these work practices, processes, and motivation to provide the source for action. Be disciplined.

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