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“The Progress Principle” by T. Amabile and S. Kramer book reads a little as a forcefully extended magazine article. Authors introduced their – admittedly good – idea and presented research methods used for its confirmation. This was sprinkled with stories made up to protect identities of actors participating in real events, based on which those stories were created. This resulted in above book.

The idea is very simple but in that simplicity also great. Instead of managing people, you should manage progress in order to get more of it. What denotes progress principle? According to the book, those are “…events signifying progress, including:

  • small wins
  • breakthroughs
  • forward movement
  • goal completion” (p85)

That is achieved with help of  The Catalyst Factors (events supporting work) and The Nourishment Factors (events supporting the person). What those exactly are can be found in the book, but you can expect such obvious things there as resources, setting clear goals, respect etc. Of course Progress is hindered by setbacks, inhibitors and toxins, which consist of things opposite to above mentioned positive factors.

What did I learn from that book? Two things, which were not so obvious to me before I started reading it. The first is that negative factors at work carry approximately three times more weight than positive factors. In other words, if I will be disrespectful towards my employee, it will take at least three positive events involving that same employee to balance that blunder out. Secondly, the importance of paying attention to even small wins (progress) is difficult to overestimate.

All in all, the ideas could be familiar to good and experienced project managers. Experienced and wise, as human factor (empathy, compassion, social intelligence, respect) came through as well. But voicing them and presenting them in form of a tool which any manager can use every day is something new, which authors managed to do very well.

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