Adventures with Moving Motivators

It’s the evening of 26 July 2016 in London and I’m off to a meetup. This time it’s ‘Adventures with Agile’ meets ‘Management 3.0’ meets Percy Pigs so it’s bound to be a brilliant evening (yes I have a sweet tooth!). More specifically, this is an Adventures with Agile meetup, delivered by Ryan Behrman, a highly respected Agile Coach and Marks_And_Spencer_-_Percy_Pigs_-_FoodspottingManagement 3.0 consultant, and hosted by M&S Digital at their HQ in Paddington. OK, “Percy Pigs”, so where are the “Percy Chickens” I hear you ask?  (possibly the world’s first agile confectionary joke; or just the world’s worst agile joke).


I was very excited ahead of this meetup. First of all it’s hosted by Adventures with Agile and they are always excellent, dare I say the best in London, and have a great turnout. Also Jurgen Appelo has just had his #Workout book republished for the masses as Managing for Happiness and recently delivered the keynote at the Agile in the City and hosted an intimate meetup to around 30 people in the evening which I really enjoyed. Oh and finally Jurgen has finally done a TED talk. In the agile and happy-work world, all is good!

The only niggle for me is that it was in Paddington which always takes longer to get to than expected as it involves the Circle Line! And yet again, I am fooled by the TFL journey planner which tells me it should take around 15 minutes. Will I never learn. I arrive 10 mins early in the end but it takes a while for reception to get a few of us upstairs – it being out of business hours of course.  Lisa from M&S Digital is great and makes us feel very welcome and the facilitator Ryan restarts the workshop to accommodate us which we really appreciate. Oh, and there is beer and the aforementioned sugary treats! The room was packed out as is often the case at AWA events.

As I mentioned Ryan is a Management 3.0 Facilitator and he delivers a Management 3.0 2-day course. Moving Motivators is one of the games/tools covered in the book Managing for Happiness. One of the core concepts is that you should not waste your time trying to motivate individuals directly, rather, you should ‘manage the system not the people’ and create an environment and organisational system in which people can naturally become engaged and unleash their intrinsic motivation. From a happiness perspective, this means create an environment in which people can be happy. Organised happiness is like ‘organised fun’, it doesn’t really work. Create the conditions for happiness to thrive and importantly, avoid the conditions which destroy intrinsic motivation and self-determination to be happy and engaged at work. Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds and as is very often counter-intuitive which is why Ryan’s meetup this evening is so valuable – and of course Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0 and Happy Melly network more generally.

Moving Motivators is a model of motivation distilled from various classic motivation theories such as Theory X and Theory Y and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Jurgen Appelo has managed to take complex psychological theory and express it as 10 intuitive motivators which require almost no introduction (although the book has a half-page description of each). The 10 motivators come as a pack of cards which can be purchased or downloaded to print yourself.

Ryan walked us through some background theory and then had us work in pairs to lay out our motivators from left to right, least important to most important. The motivators are:

moving motivators

This exercise was actually much tricker than it appeared. It really got us all thinking. I realised that I really needed to be honest with myself and also focus on what is motivating me right now and not in the past. Ryan later pointed out that what motivates us changes over time and also depends on changes we are going through (the next part of the game). The moving motivators can be used in the context of now or in the wider arc of your life. For me at the moment I ranked Goal as my number one as I find myself very driven by that focus on a higher purpose. I also had to be honest that Acceptance ranked as number 3, I think partly because I recently started a new job and getting to know how the culture suits me is always a leap into the unknown.

For the second part of the game, we switched pairs and thought of a change in our lives and how that affected each motivator – moving a card up for a positive change or down for a negative one.


Moving Motivators as a Coaching Tool

The power of this game/exercise is that it is really easy to pick up with little introduction and that like all good coaching tools, stimulates thinking, reflection and increases self-awareness. This manifested itself in lots of discussion both in pairs and in the group discussion afterwards.

Moving Motivators as a Career and Happiness Caching Tool 

One of my observations is that Moving Motivators could be used in the context of career choice. More specifically, in helping choose a career path which will be motivating and fulfilling. This can be done at any point in one’s career of course. In short a great career and fulfilment coaching tool.

Moving Motivators as a Team Coaching Tool

Ryan shared some insights and examples with us around team coaching. He showed us some results of using the Moving Motivators with a team and how the aggregate scores for each motivator can shed light on how to balance the management of the system to motivate the team while accommodating individual differences where those are significant.

tam moving motivators

Moving Motivators as an ‘Employer Screening’ Tool 

The discussion around career selection prompted someone to mention it could be used in an interview to screen potential employees. I responded that it could be used the other way round for an interviewee to screen the employer – “Please can you lay out these cards…”. I was of course joking but there could be something in this. I often encourage people to treat interviews as 2-way and go in with the mindset of interviewing the potential employer! Gaining insight into what motivates your potential employer is valuable information!

Moving Motivators as an Agile Transformation Coaching Tool

We also reflected on the tool in the context of an agile transformation. I asked how it could be used to coach say a Project Manager who feels that agile is a threat to their self-image, job status and career prospects. In short, sees the agile transformation as wholly negative. The moving motivators could be used to explore how the person’s motivations are impacted by the agile transformation and perhaps to help the person see opportunities for positively impacted motivators.

Moving on…

To wrap up, it was a really engaging and inspiring evening. I encourage you to check out the Moving Motivators and use the cards in individual and team coaching sessions. I’m certainly looking forward to trying them again.

If you’ve used the cards I would love to hear your experiences in the comments. Or indeed any recommendations on theories and tools around motivation.

2 comments for “Adventures with Moving Motivators

  1. August 30, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    Hi Rob,
    thanks for sharing this experience.
    I’m playing with moving motivators with single individuals my team. I still have not much experience to share, but I’m starting to see interesting and recurring patterns in the way my team members order their motivators, compared to our team’s and our company’s culture.

    When starting a new session, I still have some difficulties in explaining to the coachee each single motivator: some of them are more difficult to explain than others, at least for me.

    I’m also collecting some ideas (especially ideas from others 🙂 ) here:


    • Robert Aston
      September 16, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Hi Pietro,

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing the link to your experiments with the motivators. Interesting idea to use in a retrospective!


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