I recently finished reading Eric Ries' The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. I included the subtitle because, Ries suggests, business leaders and project teams should consider themselves "entrepreneurs" and should be working to create the innovation that will make our organizations successful.
Not too long ago, I asked if it made sense for project team members to feel a sense of skin in the game, I believe it does. Ries suggests, that people "...need a personal stake in the outcome of their creations."
Neither he nor I believe this always needs to be some kind of financial stake (although that sometimes makes a lot of sense), however even in organizations where a financial stake is unacceptable or impossible because the organization is a non-profit or government, "...it is still possible for teams to have a personal stake," says Ries.
Ries describes how Toyota creates this sense of personal ownership and stake in the outcome with the role of shusa, or chief engineer:
"Shusa are often called heavy-weight project managers in the U.S. literature, but this name understates their real roles as design leaders. Toyota employees translate the term as chief engineer, and they refer to the vehicle under development as the shusha's car. They assured us that the shusa has final, absolute authority over every aspect of vehicle development."
The shusa is responsible for the development of every new car from start to finish. In the late 70s I met an engineer at Toyota who was really excited to pull out the schematics of the quarter-panel he designed. My first thought as he describe how this was "his" quarter-panel was, "It's a fender." That "fender" happened to be recognized as part of the best engineered car in the world that year. All these years later, I admire his passion and sense of ownership. I don't know if he had a financial stake, but his name was attached to the car and he definitely felt a personal stake in the outcome of that project.
When teams have a personal stake in the outcome of a project (whether financial or otherwise) they feel a greater sense of ownership, perform at a higher level and ultimately contribute to the success of their organizations. What are you doing to give your team a personal stake in project outcomes?