In the beginning of a tech startup there is an incredible amount of energy and excitement around a new software idea. Everyone works hard and fast to deliver the first iteration of a product usually only to be met with a lack of immediate traction.
Sometimes this requires months of experimentation and hard work before you achieve real product market fit. How do you keep the team motivated during a time of constant disappointment?
Over worked and under appreciated
Most people want to know their hard work is serving a purpose and providing meaning to the customer they serve.
If you push a team to constantly deliver (such as every 2 weeks) and let that become the status quo for months on end, people will become burnt out and their output will diminish.
This phenomenon can also occur when things are going great but in order to meet customer demand the team has to maintain maximum output for long durations. Once fatigue sets in and motivation fades it’s difficult to keep people engaged and happy.
Solving common organizational problems like these are not easy and most businesses simply choose to ignore the issue.
In order to keep a team motivated you have to give back and reward the extraordinary.
When a team member goes above and beyond to deliver on a tight deadline, a quick thank you email and an infinite back log of work is not an appropriate reward.
Solving the burn out problem
Basecamp’ s Shape up methodology has the perfect solution to this issue with its “cool down” concept. In my experience this allows a team to deliver consistent results every cycle indefinitely.
Providing some downtime after achieving a goal is essential to keeping a team motivated long term. Give people the opportunity to refresh with a quick break and to spike their creativity by exploring things important to their personal interests.
Implanting a cycle based methodology will quickly reveal your teams true intentions. Top performers will shine bright while providing incredible results while slackers will quickly be revealed through their lack of delivery.
The cycle and cool down structure keeps a team motivated and focused, resulting in the extraordinary becoming the norm.