Motivation and Autonomy in Global Software Development: An Empirical Study

by   John Noll, et al.

Distributed development involving globally distributed teams in different countries and timezones adds additional complexity into an already complex undertaking. This paper focuses on the effect of global software development on motivation. Specifically, we ask, what impact does misalignment between needed and actual autonomy have on global team motivation? We studied members of two distributed software development teams with different degrees of distribution, both following the Scrum approach to software development. One team's members are distributed across Ireland, England and Wales; the other has members in locations across Europe and North America. We observed the teams during their Scrum "ceremonies," and interviewed each team member, during which asked we asked team members to rate their motivation on a 5 point ordinal scale. Considering both the reported motivation levels, and qualitative analysis of our observations and interviews, our results suggest that autonomy appears to be just one of three job aspects that affect motivation, the others being competence and relatedness. We hypothesize that (1) autonomy is a necessary but not sufficient condition for motivation among experienced team members, and (2) autonomy is not a motivator unless accompanied by sufficient competence.



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