Bethan Timmins Equal Experts Alumnus

Our Thinking, Tech Focus Tue 17th January, 2023

Five ways to ensure your team is motivated to embrace You Build It You Run It

If you’re about to adopt the You Build It You Run It operating model—or you’re already in the early stages of working in it—it’s crucial to ensure your team has everything required to succeed.

In my experience supporting teams to create more tangible business value by adopting You Build It You Run It, there are two common risks to success:

  1. A failure to implement the operational and logistical things needed for the model to succeed, and
  2. A failure to consider the impact on the team–personally and professionally–that can come from a new way of working.

In this piece, I’ll focus on the second risk. For more information on the first risk—including steps you can take to mitigate its impact—have a read through this article highlighting four reasons developers won’t embrace You Build It You Run It (and how to overcome them).

While the first risk is often seen as critical, it’s equally crucial to pause and consider the team in any type of transition in the workplace. By ensuring team members feel heard and motivated, we can reduce the potential negative personal and professional impacts of the transition process. 

There are many different ways we can try to achieve a positive outcome, grouped together as ‘the five types of intrinsic motivation’.

The five types of intrinsic motivation

In looking at the motivation of software development teams, I often reference the insightful work of Shonna Waters. 

Shonna works for an organisation called BetterUp—who drive optimal performance in teams—and holds a PhD in Industrial-Organisational Psychology and Statistics. She is also an ICF-certified coach.

In this recent piece, Shonna suggests there are five types of intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation (or internal motivation) refers to the motivators that drive us to do something for its own sake; simply because the activity aligns with our interests or values. It is distinct from extrinsic motivation (or external motivation), like rewards or consequences for certain behaviours.

The five types of intrinsic motivation are:

  1. Learning motivation
  2. Attitude motivation
  3. Achievement motivation
  4. Creative motivation
  5. Physiological motivation

Let’s unpack each of the five types of intrinsic motivation and how you can use them in the context of You Build It You Run It.


1. Learning motivation

If people are driven by learning motivation, they’re incentivized by the accumulation of knowledge. By trying new things and enhancing skills and experience.

This type of person is driven by a desire to learn more and improve performance.

How does learning motivation apply in the context of You Build It You Run It?

In a You Build It You Run It operating model, developers are able to see how customers use the features they’ve built. This is because they’re involved in supporting the service once it’s live.

By seeing how people interact with the services you build, you develop enormous insights into the features that best support customer needs and behaviours. With these learnings, the team can prioritise and build features that will make their service or product infinitely more effective. 

In other words, they continuously learn and drastically improve their output as a result.

These same learning opportunities are not facilitated in an Ops Run It model, because the team is not in close enough proximity to the customer. They hand the features they build to a separate operations team to implement and operate. In an Ops Run It model, the team works in isolation of the customer, removed from the insights associated with seeing people use what they build.


2. Attitude motivation

Attitude motivation refers to a desire to be positive and spread positivity. These types of people are driven by a desire to feel good about the work they’ve done.

How does attitude motivation apply in the context of You Build It You Run It?

Simple. Look for opportunities to praise your team. To celebrate their sense of accomplishment and make them feel valued within the organisation.

Given that You Build It You Run It empowers teams to take greater ownership of results, there will be many.

Some obvious examples could include highlighting:

  • The number of incidents the team is able to identify and fix within a rapid time frame.
  • Any improvements in average response time for rectifying issues.
  • How much money the team has saved the organisation by actively pre-empting incidents and implementing fixes.


3. Achievement motivation

This one’s a relatively single proposition: it’s about getting things done. Sheer volume of output; a sense of achieving things. 

These people are driven by reaching the finish line or hitting key milestones.

How does achievement motivation apply in the context of You Build It You Run It?

You Build It You Run It is extremely potent in helping teams achieve more.

For example, they might be able to deploy new features to production in weekly or daily cycles. This is in contrast to monthly or quarterly batched deployments.

We’ve helped teams go from 10 deployments a year to over 4,000 without a correlating rise in incidents.

If teams are motivated by getting things done, working in a You Build It You Run It operating model can provide an enormous sense of achievement.


4. Creative motivation

Some people are motivated by solving complex problems. 

In these instances, people or teams are driven by being creative and having opportunities to express their lateral thinking.

How does creative motivation apply in the context of You Build It You Run It?

It’s a common misconception to assume that—because teams are now responsible for operations and feature development—You Build It You Run It will stifle creativity and prevent teams from ruminating or experimenting. 

With the right supports in place, You Build It You Run It should invigorate people with creative motivation. This is because it’s an exceptional way to provide teams with more ownership over their end-to-end digital service. In turn, this creates many opportunities for compelling software development challenges the team may not have broached or considered previously.

For example, consider the following challenge: ‘we want to reduce this service’s number of incidents by 10%. What contingencies can you build, or availability measures can you implement, to help our organisation achieve this goal?’

With the right approach, the operational side of maintaining a service should represent stimulating opportunities for developers, rather than onerous responsibilities.


5. Physiological motivation

Physiological motivation refers to basic needs like food and water. Think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: physiological motivation refers to needs at the lower levels of the pyramid.

How does physiological motivation apply in the context of You Build It You Run It?

Conceptually, this is a little trickier, and treads the line between being an intrinsic and extrinsic motivator. 

In my opinion, this links back to remuneration. And specifically, ensuring you have the right processes in place to remunerate developers appropriately. 

If developers are required to provide out-of-ours support (and they may not always have to, depending on the requirements of the digital service in question), you need to remunerate them appropriately for their effort.

At the very least, you need to implement a range of measures to protect against burnout for developers on call.


So, there you have it. Five simple, yet surprisingly effective, techniques you can use to ensure You Build It You Run It resonates with the different personality types in your team. 

If you implement these correctly and consistently—along with some of the operational and logistical things needed for the model to succeed—you’ll have a greater chance at success. And therefore, a greater chance of reaping the many benefits associated with You Build It You Run It.

For more information on getting the best out of your team check out the video below & visit our YouTube channel or keep checking this blog for further updates.