Team Motivation By Problem Statement

JFK May 1961 – CC0 Public Domain
JFK May 1961 – CC0 Public Domain

Recently, I came across a problem statement from the early 1960’s and it tied nicely with the topic of Mission and Vision statements.

Many years ago I was lucky enough to work with a gentleman who had made a career of providing consulting and corporate training services. While I am not sure this would classify as a Mentor-Mentee relationship, he did leave a lasting impression.

During our time together I attended several workshops that he facilitated on the topic of Mission Statements. Many of his workshops were focused on small teams that existed inside of much larger organizations.

The workshops were always great and he was a great facilitator…no matter the size of the audience. Very personable and connected with all in attendance. During his workshops he would educate attendees on the purpose of a vision statement and a mission statement for their larger organization as well as their smaller working group/team.

As workshops moved along and small teams started to zero-in on their mission statements, he would ask the teams how motivated they were feeling. It was no surprise that hands did NOT shoot into the air by attendees who felt especially motivated.

These mission statements were not motivating. The problem he explained was that they are simply vague statements. Samples usually included:

  • To empower creation…
  • To change the world…
  • To become the number 1…
  • To give everyone power…
  • Etc.

He would push the teams further to develop a vision… a future state of their smaller working team. This helped with motivation, but only slightly.

The real change came about when he introduced the idea of the Mission Essential Task List. This was a to-do list of the tasks that members of the team would do regularly to achieve their desired future state, the Vision statement, that would be directly aligned with their Mission and that of the larger organization.

Today, I am wondering if an exercise in Problem Statement creation might be beneficial to smaller groups that have been created inside of larger organizations.

Problem statements are very similar to Mission Statements but are tied directly to a reality of something that needs to be fixed or changed. Fixing or changing some product, service or process is what motivates people. Problem statements don’t have to describe a problem, just something that can be solved. The idea bing that…it is possible to arrive at the correct answer.

Finding the correct answer is especially motivating to those individuals that work in technology.  Here are a few things that will make a problem statement more motivating:

  • Learning – individuals that work in technology would love to learn new things and master them
  • Value – individuals that work in technology would love to work on something that makes a difference
  • Competition – individuals that work in technology would love to compete and prove their intelligence and hold bragging rights
  • Difficulty – individuals that work in technology would love to solve a problem that initially seems to be unsolvable

The problem statement mentioned at the beginning of this post:

“First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. “ – John F. Kennedy in May 1961.

-RG