Sociotechnical

RAMPS – Purpose is Service to a Greater

This entry is part of 15 in the series RAMPS

RAMPS: P is for Purpose, the sense one is serving a valued "greater". Those who rate this band of the motivational spectrum highly can be go-to workhorses, but only if we keep them connected to their valued greater. If rhythm is largely focused on the distribution of "feels good" through one’s working life, purpose works to carry us through the "feels bad" part of it, by transforming the local discomfort into an instrument for the higher goal. Have you ever …

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RAMPS – Ways To Affect Mastery

This entry is part of 15 in the series RAMPS

RAMPS: Affecting mastery, the sense an individual has that she is growing in a way she values, means first jiggling our ideas about efficiency & relevance in work, then jumping in to the opportunities that jiggling will reveal. We talked about the widespread pernicious conceptual cluster we call "finish-line efficiency": the idea that software development is basically a race, w/a start, a well-marked track, and a precise finish line some distance away. Overturning this is central to engaging mastery. I’m …

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RAMPS – Mastery is Opportunity to Grow

This entry is part of 15 in the series RAMPS

RAMPS: M is for Mastery, the sense that my work is actively helping me grow, along some dimension I value. When my motivational spectrum calls for a high degree of mastery, I do my best work when it is just a little over my head. People sometimes confuse the drive for mastery with a drive to know everything. But it’s not the knowing, per se. It’s not catching the skill, it’s chasing the skill. My own spectrum rates mastery the …

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RAMPS – Ways to Affect Autonomy

This entry is part of 15 in the series RAMPS

Autonomy is the sense of free motion in a team. I adjust the levels of this by expressing important needs as problems, letting go of unimportant needs, and managing risk by a combination of acceptance, next-stepping, and iteration. The more we need creative technical work, the more we have to concern ourselves with providing the humans who do it the adequate autonomy to do it well. Machines can’t give us what we need, and the extent we build machine-like things …

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How I Work – Just Programming Mix

When I’m programming, I am centered broadly on the cyclical application of small textual changes, each one producing value I then harvest to identify, enable, or energize the next. Before we dig in: This is how I roll code. It is not a prescription of any kind for you. I have a prescription for you, and I can offer it, but it has almost nothing to do with what you’ll read here. These are details. The prescriptions are at a …

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RAMPS – Autonomy is Freedom to Move

This entry is part of 15 in the series RAMPS

Autonomy is a powerful factor in motivation, and the more creative & technical the work, the more likely autonomy is to figure largely in the maker’s motivational spectrum. Here are three different ways I work when I am geeking out. Each of these is about equal in probability to be the one I use for any particular problem. I will write a long essay in slack, driving my colleagues to comical exasperation at times, rubberducking in prose until I get …

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RAMPS – Ways to Affect Rhythm

This entry is part of 15 in the series RAMPS

Achieving good Rhythm, a well-tuned distribution of "feels good" across time, is at once the most visceral of sensations and the most difficult to reliably prescribe. Affecting rhythm, therefore, is a fundamentally experimental effort. There are three broad levels to think about, and each has its own possibilities and limits. There is the individual maker, a team of makers, and an organization that hosts, funds, plans, and manages that (or those) teams. At the outer circumference, the org has the …

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RAMPS – Rhythm is Tension and Release

This entry is part of 15 in the series RAMPS

Rhythm is about sequences of alternating tension and release. Noticing, orchestrating, and managing the levels and timing of those sequences is one way I can affect the motivation of myself and others. Take a second right now give yourself a nice full-bodied stretch, complete with a yawn. Feels good, yeah? Some of you are at the end of your day, others the middle, and to be honest I’ve only been up for a couple of hours. But it still feels …

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RAMPS – A Way I Approach Motivational Puzzles

This entry is part of 15 in the series RAMPS

Motivational Puzzles Rhythm, Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose, and Safety are important bands in my own motivational spectrum, so I often use them when I’m thinking about other people’s motivational spectroscopy. I’ll give you snapshots of the meaning behind those bands in a minute, but I want to start with that base metaphor, of spectrums, spectroscopy, and signature. When you bombard an element with electromagnetic radiation — for the sake of shorthand, when you make it glow — it gives off visible …

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Stories About Stories

This entry is part of 4 in the series Stories

Some stories about stories, continuing from How Stories Change Things. First, a story-story from history or two. In 1900 the story of Thomas Jefferson was that he was a founder of our nation, a naturalist, and inventor, a President, and the author of some of the most stirring language about human equality ever penned in English. In 2000 the story of Thomas Jefferson was that one of the hundred-odd slaves he owned, the young half-sister of his deceased wife, was …

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