Amabile and Kramer’s Progress Theory

Some of the ways in which organizations and business managers can try to motivate their employees are well-known and commonly used. Some of the traditional forms of motivation in the workplace include bonuses, time off, recognition in front of others, and more.

Amabile and Kramer’s Progress Theory

While many of these options can be highly successful in keeping individuals and teams motivated, they are not always enough. When you are having trouble keeping people in your organization working hard toward a common goal, it might be necessary to look to other motivational techniques.

One such technique is found in Amabile and Kramer’s Progress Theory. The basic concept behind this theory is the idea that people are motivated by taking steps forward on a consistent basis – even if those steps are relatively small in the big picture. By feeling like they are consistently making progress, people are more likely to remain engaged and motivated toward achieving even bigger goals.

Progress Theory

To help your teams and individuals feel like they are making progress, there are six things that you can do (as identified by Amabile and Kramer). Those six ideas are as follows.

Set Clear Goals and Objectives

This is really the heart of the theory. Without clear goals and objectives in place, it is going to be nearly impossible to identify progress as it is made. Rather than just setting one single goal for an entire project, establishing a series of goals – which are all measurable – is a great way to keep people motivated and on task. Each time they check off one of these smaller goals, they will feel like they are on the right path, and they will want to do more.

Of course, the process of setting goals is not necessarily as easy as it seems. You have to practice setting the right goals which are difficult enough to require focus and effort, but not so difficult that employees get frustrated and give up. As time goes by, you should improve on your goal-setting skill to the point where you will be able to break up any project into small goals with ease.

Allow Autonomy

Very few people function well while being micromanaged – and even fewer remain motivated with someone watching closely over their shoulder. Yes, you are going to help your teams stay on track by setting goals for them, but you also need to know when to step back and allow them to get down to work on their own.

Allow Autonomy

Autonomy all on its own can be motivating, as most people will strive to prove that they can deliver the work required. Additionally, the feeling of progress and accomplishment will be even stronger when someone reaches a milestone without any help from management above.

Provide Resources

To make progress, you have to be sure that your employees have everything they need to succeed. It is hard to accomplish goals without the right resources at hand, so the setting of goals is going to be a pointless exercise if you fail to give your staff the tools required to get the job done.

Provide Resources

Think in advance about what your teams will realistically need to get the job done and they supply them with those tools and resources ahead of time. When they have what they need, employees will not only feel motivated, but they will also feel valued and empowered. In some cases, resources could be physical items like computers or other technology, while other situations may call for making support staff available to the team or individual in question.

Allow Ample Time

One of the keys in setting successful goals is getting the timing element just right. If you give your teams too much time to get the job done, they are going to drag along and work at a sub-optimal level. However, if you don’t give them enough time, they will feel the time crunch and the quality of the work will suffer in the end. Therefore, one of your most-important jobs as a manager is to make sure you strike a perfect balance when timing goals. By giving enough time – but not too much – you can allow your staff to make progress consistently while staying on track for a timely completion.

Provide Support and Expertise

Another role that you will be playing in this process is that of mentor and experienced advisor. You likely have experience that the team does not possess, so you should be available to them for consultation from time to time.

Provide Support and Expertise

While you don’t want to wind up doing the work yourself – as that would eliminate the need to have a team in the first place – you do want to make sure you are helping out as the project moves along. This will help your staff feel as though they are not alone, and it will also promote a successful conclusion.

Learn from Failure

Failure is inevitable. At some point or another, your team is going to miss a deadline, or fail on a project overall. It is going to be up to you as a manager to figure out exact why the failure occurred so you can deal with it appropriately.

Learn from Failure

If the failure was due to a lack of effort, obviously that problem will need to be addressed. However, there is a chance that everyone involved gave a good effort and the project simply didn’t work out. Rather than punishing your team for trying their best and coming up short, you need to commend them for effort and figure out a way to move forward toward a better conclusion next time around.

Feeling the positive emotion that comes along with progress and success is a great motivator for the future. By giving your employees a chance to feel the emotion that comes with progress on a regular basis, you should be able to keep them motivated for years to come. Use the ideas outlined in this theory as you work to motivate your own teams and you will likely be on a path toward success.

You can read more about Amabile and Kramer’s Progress Theory in our free eBook ‘Top 5 Motivation Theories’. Download it now for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.

Key Points

  • Amabile and Kramer’s Progress Theory is the idea that people are motivated by taking steps forward on a consistent basis even if those steps are relatively small in the big picture.
  • To help your teams and individuals feel like they are making progress, there are six things that you can do.
  • Set Clear Goals and Objectives: Rather than just setting one single goal for an entire project, establish a series of goals.
  • Allow Autonomy: Autonomy all on its own can be motivating, as most people will strive to prove that they can deliver the work required.
  • Provide Resources: Think in advance about what your teams will realistically need to get the job done and they supply them with those tools and resources ahead of time.
  • Allow Ample Time: By giving enough time (but not too much) you can allow your staff to make progress consistently while staying on track for a timely completion.
  • Provide Support and Expertise: You likely have experience that the team does not possess, so you should be available to them for consultation from time to time.
  • Learn from Failure: Figure out exact why the failure occurred so you can deal with it appropriately.
  • Use the ideas outlined in this theory as you work to motivate your own teams and you will likely be on a path toward success.

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