Over the years, most of the time, most of us, do the job that we are assigned to do. Yes, the outcome of our hard work is dependent on many factors – our capability, the outside environment, our luck (yes, it does play a part). There’s one other factor that decisively impacts this – our motivation level.

In this post, I wish to discuss a very simple, yet powerful test, in my perspective to measure our motivation level. With the help of the scenario below, we will sense the response – and measure our motivation level.

This post is not about those who are demotivated, or those who will not be willing to do the job.

The background scenario

Like most software projects, this project too had a retrospective – along its journey. This team had decided that there will be only one significant action item that they will take and implement. There were four junior developers, who all had joined as campus trainees together, 15 months ago. They had joined the retrospective, along with the other team members.

As they walked out of the retrospective, these 4 junior developers were asked individually to summarize what was the key action item.

Here is what they said:

  1. Developer A – “My manager said, I should have a detailed plan to performing my unit test.”
  2. Developer B – “Going forward I must have a detailed plan prior to performing my unit test.”
  3. Developer C – “I need to have a detailed plan prior to my unit testing, so that my manager can perceive the quality of my work.”
  4. Developer D – “I want to have a detailed plan prior to my unit testing, so that I can ensure that my code is good for the integration test.”

So, on the face of it – the action item from the retrospective seems very clear, isn’t it. There’s no confusion – every body has stated about the creation of a detailed plan before unit test. Seems, like a true professional team. Let’s now see, how to look at their motivation level.

Analyzing the response

Response 1 – Should Plan

Developer A, clearly finds an external pressure acting on him. His manager, is the external force – that is going to make him do the plan. He is not seeing any value in doing the plan. So, he will comply with it, as long as the managerial force is upon him.

Response 2 – Must Plan

Developer B, does not see any value in doing the plan, either. She, has however tried to convince herself, that the plan is a necessity. So, she will do the plan going forward, more to comply with the decision taken, rather than finding it to be of value.

Response 3 – Need to Plan

Developer C, sees an opportunity for himself. He looks at creating the plan, as a way to impress his manager about his commitment to quality. So he will push himself to do the plan going forward, so that he is recognized as a “quality developer”.

Response 4 – Want to Plan

Developer D, believes that making the plan, will be truly valuable. She, is convinced, in her mind, that this is the best way to create a good code. She’s looking forward to putting this approach into practice.

The findings – Intent

  • Should do the task – implies a need for an external pressure; perceive no value addition; forced compliance; fear of rebuke. Motivation level – Low.
  • Must do the task – implies a forced pressure on self; perceive no value addition; implicitly complying to avoid rebuke. Motivation level – Moderate.
  • Need to do the task – implies a forced pressure of self; may not believe in the value addition; will do it looking at the personal need. Motivation level – Good.
  • Want to do the task – implies no compulsion to do it; sees the value; has conviction in doing it and will enjoy doing it. Motivation level – Excellent.

In conclusion

While I used the concept of 4 identical people – so that the capability and the external environment is same; in reality it’s only ONE person – that’s YOU. The person who asked, the question at the end – is none other than YOU to YOURSELF. So there’s no need to fool yourself with the TRUE response.


So, the next time, you want to know your motivation level – Ask yourself the question, so that you land up with one of the 4 words as your response:


I Should Do


I Must Do


I Need to Do


I Want to Do.


I have chosen these 4 words, that can help me determine my true feeling and intent – unambiguously to myself. If you find it comfortable to choose a different set of 4 words that will help you do the same, do so by all means. But it’s important to get the unambiguous response to yourself.

I am sure this test for motivation level – is not complex by any definition. Also, the true results of this test are only known to you.

The first step, is to know your current state. In a future post, we will analyze the inter-play between these responses,

As, always, looking forward to your perspective. Have you got a simple headline test? Can you share it?