Flow: are two dimensions enough?

Inspired by a comment by Joseph at the recent Agile Coach's Gathering I've been experimenting with the use of this model in mid-year reviews for my team.

One of the guys observed that it seems to have a missing dimension. It seems that it's possible to have a case whereby an individual is working on a solidly challenging problem, well up the y-axis, and they have the high level of skill to meet that challenge, well along the x-axis...and when all's said and done they'd really rather be doing something a bit more enjoyable.

Missing axis: fun.


David Peterson said...

Yeah, there's nothing more demoralising than producing high quality code for happy customers who actually want what you're developing.

keithb said...

I know you're being facetious, and yet...

This is not the case we had, but for the sake of argument, imagine: producing high quality code in a language you don't like for happy customers you don't respect who's business domain is one you have no interest in. For a year.

How much fun would that be?

Notice, though, that your example and my inversion of it don't actually say anything about the challenge and skill dimensions of the model.

David Peterson said...

Ha, yeah, I used to have a boss who'd regularly interrupt any laughter and sternly remind us that, "having fun at work is tantamount to theft". He was joking luckily.

What if you have great fun when you're at work, but you have a 3 hour commute each way which you hate?

What about other dimensions like "meaningful", "ethical", and "strategic"?

Anonymous said...

According to the sources I read on this model, if you are in the target zone, you are supposed to be experiencing exhilaration, aka fun at work.

Perhaps someone is fooling themselves into believing they're actually working on something that THEY would consider a real challenge?

This has reminded me of one of the HR models I studied at university. As far as I remember, the theory is that people divide their work environment into factors that they evaluate as "healthy" and "unhealthy".

When joining organisations, a new employer is selected based on subjectively determining that they organisation offers sufficient healthy factors. Eg challenge, fun, meaningful, ethical, etc

A single unhealthy factor is sufficient to override all healthy factors and cause someone to leave. Eg challenge, fun, meaningful, ethical, etc

Inbetween healthy and unhealthy evaluation of factors, are factors that do not sway a person at all. Eg challenge, fun, meaningful, ethical, etc.

A ?great? thing about [organisational] psychology is that it is all subjective experience of exactly the same [workplace] phenomena.

Rob Brown said...

I think you are referring to Frederick Herzberg's Two Factor Theory - Motivation Factors versus Hygiene Factors. See wikipedia and other useful sites for more info.