Marianne Selle

Global Director - ADM

What Motivates Knowledge Workers to Achieve Quality?

We have to admit that we work in the knowledge business. We demand high skills from our employees and we meet customers who are equally highly skilled. Our deliverables are complex and the quality of our deliverables can only in part be measured in exact terms.

If our jobs demanded less skill and the outcome was easily measured, we could solely depend on controlling mechanisms to ensure the quality delivered. It is easy, for example, to count how many trees we have planted or see if the mail is sorted correctly. But it is not easy to determine if a Java program has been written in the most effective way, or if the programmer has spent more time writing in than he should. It is not easy to determine if a project manager could have made the team work more efficiently or controlled the project communication in a better way.

We are able to identify a disastrous delivery and we are able to identify that something seems good. But the nuances  – the difference between good and very good, or the difference between good enough and what could have been better are much harder to identify, let alone measure. Even so – these nuances make huge differences for our customers and our projects and the perception of the quality that is being delivered. How can we ensure this quality when it can’t be measured? How can we make sure our employees deliver this quality when we have no way of finding out? Or rather – what makes a person engage in the task in such a way that this extra productivity is released and the extra quality achieved?

Research has found motivation to be a key to productivity and value creation for a knowledge worker. Motivation or lack of motivation has larger impact on the value delivered by a knowledge worker than education, skills and intelligence (Rune Lines, 2011).  There are many elements impacting the motivation of a knowlegde worker. Many of these are connected to leadership, empowerment, flexibility etc.  All of them deserve our attention as leaders and knowledge workers. There is one motivational factor, however, that I like to highlight when talking to new employees. It is the “ability to change the world”-factor. As consultants we are in the exciting position that we are being called upon to solve real problems for real people. Slow, ineffective systems, bad data, lack of information or lack of access to information, loss of oversight – all these issues are causing fellow humans to spend endless hours trying to cope with them. We, when delivering high quality solutions, make a difference for real people. People have been able to quit smoking because of Ciber, people have avoided traffic jams because of Ciber, people spend more time producing value and less time searching for information because of Ciber – and after more than 30 years in the business, our “change the world”-list is actually quite long. That is why the nuances matter and why we want to make sure that we deliver at the top of our ability – all the time.

Why is “Client focused” part of Ciber’s slogan? Because focusing with the client, sharing his focus, gives a lot more meaning to our work and increases our motivation, – and the quality of our work.

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