This post is the twenty-fourth part of a ramble-rant about the software business. The current posts in this series are:

This post is about passion.

Love or Hate

Love and hate are not scalars; they’re vectors. Hate is love moving in the opposite direction. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. Indifference is also a vector – but its magnitude is zero. It’s not going anywhere. If you’re managing a team of developers, you don’t want indifference or apathy; you want them engaged.

Engaged developers are passionate about their work. They have a sense of ownership – perhaps an over-developed sense of ownership. They work like crazy to deliver. And they take pride in their work. This all sounds great because, well, it is all great. But the way developers communicate their passion varies.

Most are protective of their code – to a fault. This means they will turn on you in a heartbeat if you criticize their baby. Some react poorly. Others behave badly. It happens. You can write them off as poor communicators if you want, but this would be a mistake. Why? We admire the gumption of the developer when they’re busy delivering; this is yet another expression of that same passion. It’s a package deal.

In Community…

The same can be said about members of a community or tribe. In two years of managing teams, I’ve learned a lot of concepts about tribes apply in business. I’ve also learned the inverse is not true – things that work in business often translate poorly to community.

There’s some fascinating thinking about why. I’ve been reading some interesting books lately. I like to read several books on a subject at once – it’s sort of a mental mixed drink of ideas (I’m weird like that, but if you read this blog you already know I’m weird…). I’ve been reading Tribes, Drive, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life, and Cognitive Surplus. More than one of these books offers interpretations of the work of Edward L. Deci that supports incentive theories regarding intrinsic / extrinsic motivations.

One interesting tidbit about the transition from intrinsic to extrinsic motivations is:

It’s a One-Way Trip

From Self-determination theory: Basic needs and intrinsic motivation

Deci (1971)[26] found that offering people extrinsic rewards for behaviour that is intrinsically motivated undermined the intrinsic motivation as they grow less interested in it. Initially intrinsically motivated behaviour becomes controlled by external rewards, which undermines their autonomy.

In other words, when external motivations replace internal, the activity / interest / motivation decreases.


A lot of people will tell you this means salary doesn’t matter. Ironically, those same people are likely attempting to increase their bonus or salary by controlling the salaries of others. <sarcasm> It’s a stretch, but I consider this a conflict of interest. </sarcasm> Seriously, I consider it proof of just the opposite – since salary is indeed motivating these people. Salary isn’t the point (not here at least. Please see my post on Definition of a Great Team for more on salary’s role). Salary is a distraction in a conversation about passion and motivation. Like oxygen, salary isn’t the issue so long as you’re getting enough.

It’s about passion. There’s room for passion in developer teams. There’s actually a dearth of passion because developers have been told to temper theirs. What have we done? What were we thinking? Oh that’s right – it’s more important to play nice than… what? Compete successfully? Deliver? Remember: it’s a package deal.


I see companies and communities struggling with passion. I see some figuring it out – some of these are learning the hard way. Kill the passion and everyone feels good about their contribution… until the company or community folds, that is. Tolerate – no – embrace the passion and everyone feels good about results and delivering and succeeding.

It’s the difference between playing a good game and winning a good game. Both are important and you can choose to feel good about either.

I choose to feel good about delivering.

:{> Andy



Andy Leonard

Christian, husband, dad, grandpa, Data Philosopher, Data Engineer, Azure Data Factory, SSIS, and Biml guy. I was cloud before cloud was cool. :{>