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How to motivate programmers.

One of the most important goals he had in launching his own company, says Micrografx chairman Paul Grayson, was "to create a development environment that really fostered excellence.' Grayson, who spent eight years as a mainframe programmer and project manager, says he wanted Micrografx to be a deliberate alternative to the "Monolithic project teams with too many hierarchies of management and too much reporting" he'd seen in large companies.

"I became really convinced that people weren't treating programmers as individuals," Grayson told us recently. "The managers of these projects thought of programmers as cogs in a machine, as interchangeable parts.' That philosophy, Grayson believed, virtually guaranteed inefficiency and mediocre work.

At Micrografx, Grayson focused on a different issue--motivation. "We want people here to grasp for the golden ring," he says. The result is an incentive system that he says offers three distinct kinds of rewards:

Money. For each of its products, Micrografx sets up a royalty pool based on 2% of sales. The product's lead developer gets 1%; the remaining 1% goes to the programmers who create software tools and common code used in multiple micrografx products. One Micrografx programmer recently earned $180,000 in royalties (plus salary), says Grayson; others can do as well if their products succeed in the market. In addition, Grayson says the company often hands out big cash bonuses to all its programmers when projects are completed. "We just call people into the office and start peeling off $50 bills."

Recognition. Besides money, Micrografx rewards its top performers with celebrity status within the company. Each development team has a lead programmer who takes primary responsibility for a product's success. The Micrografx star system is largely intangible ("We don't hand out medals or pick an employee of the month," Grayson notes), but he says there is a definite commitment to "acknowledging individual accomplishments."

Personal growth. "When we interview new programmers, we always try to find out what kinds of things they want to do," Grayson says. "Usually, the best motivation is an opportunity to do something new, to handle a technical challenge, to grow personally." However, new programmers first have to spend six months to a year working on low-visibility projects. "They have to prove to us--and themselves--that they deserve to run a royalty-bearing project."
COPYRIGHT 1989 Soft-letter
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Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:interview of Micrografx chmn Paul Grayson
Date:Jun 15, 1989
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