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Jurgen Appelo calls himself a creative networker. But sometimes he's a writer, speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, illustrator, manager, blogger, reader, dreamer, leader, freethinker, or… Dutch guy. Since 2008 Jurgen writes a popular blog at, covering the creative economy, agile management, and personal development. He is the author of the book Management 3.0, which describes the role of the manager in agile organizations. And he wrote the little book How to Change the World, which describes a supermodel for change management. Jurgen is CEO of the business network Happy Melly, and co-founder of the Agile Lean Europe network and the Stoos Network. He is also a speaker who is regularly invited to talk at business seminars and conferences around the world. After studying Software Engineering at the Delft University of Technology, and earning his Master’s degree in 1994, Jurgen Appelo has busied himself starting up and leading a variety of Dutch businesses, always in the position of team leader, manager, or executive. Jurgen has experience in leading a horde of 100 software developers, development managers, project managers, business consultants, service managers, and kangaroos, some of which he hired accidentally. Nowadays he works full-time managing the Happy Melly ecosystem, developing innovative courseware, books, and other types of original content. But sometimes Jurgen puts it all aside to spend time on his ever-growing collection of science fiction and fantasy literature, which he stacks in a self-designed book case. It is 4 meters high. Jurgen lives in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) -- and in Brussels (Belgium) -- with his partner Raoul. He has two kids, and an imaginary hamster called George. Jurgen has posted 145 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Motivation Over Talent and Process

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Processes are not enough to make people more competent. You need motivation first, or everything else won’t work.

At the Agile Eastern Europe conference in Ukraine I did a session about competence. It got great feedback from the audience. Comments like “best of the conference” and “this should have been the keynote” were expressed multiple times.

Am I bragging?

No! YES! OK, just a little. But I’m trying to make a point here:

I believe I got great feedback not because I’m more talented than others. I’m not! And I don’t get such reviews because I have the best process for doing presentations. I don’t! (If I was good at the process I would be supplying hand-outs, instead of insulting half the audience.)

I’m convinced I only got this feedback because I’m better motivated to be competent. I actually read the books about presenting, and blogs about public speaking. And I actively pursue feedback from audiences, so I can learn how to do better. Why? Because becoming competent is my intrinsic motivation. I might be weird. (Actually I am, since I’m Dutch.) But I simply like it much better than being incompetent!

I am highly motivated to learn and develop myself, to grow relationships with peers, to understand how to make best use of presentation tools, to learn how to express ideas so other people understand them, and to grow into a role as a competent speaker. I think it’s this motivation that pays off. Much more than “talent,” or processes. (I admit I’m good at insulting people of other nationalities. But that’s not a talent. It’s a genetic defect in Dutch DNA.)

One of the slides in my talk showed the CMMI model, which tells us that a level-5 organization has a focus on continuous process improvement. When I asked the audience what was wrong with the CMMI levels, Mary Poppendieck called out to say that continuous process improvement should be the first level. Because that’s where real competence development should begin. And I agree. It’s why I believe that continuous reflection should come before other practices.

However, there is another reason why I think that the CMMI framework is insufficient. My concern has to do with the focus on process in each of the five levels. I believe the processes we use in our work are just one part of software projects, and just one part of ourselves as professionals. A competent speaker, and a competent team member, does more than just continuously improving processes. The first thing he does is to motivate himself.

Being competent means: being eager to learn and develop oneself, growing relationships with peers, understanding how to make best use tools, coaching other people, and growing into a role as an informal competency leader. And apologizing sincerely to Belgians for offensive honesty.

Of course, talent and process will help you achieving competence. But first of all, you must want it.

I very much want to be competent at what I do.

Do you?

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jurgen Appelo. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)



Paul Shezier replied on Fri, 2012/04/13 - 12:27pm

I think "process" and "software development" are oxymoron. CMMI advocates documentation of the processes. CMMI implies that people are fungible, because the process can be implemented by anyone.

For me this is untrue!

I totally support that "motivation" is the way to bootstrap improvement and to become competent!

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