16. A drive to serve and prosper as motivation
The desire to be of service to others is either innate or it develops very early in life. Either way, you can’t fake it. It’s a basic human truth that we are at our best when we have a clear and meaningful mission and the resources to succeed at fulfilling it. And some people – including my current team - find that mission in serving others.
Beyond personal satisfaction, service is one of the best ways we humans have to let go of ourselves and our personal problems, connect with others, and find not just fulfillment but a kind of deep down relief. When this motivation to serve is paired with being well compensated for the work, the service arrangement can be happily maintained over long periods of time. Providing service becomes a thing that sustains the team, instead of exhausting them. This has proven true in my company many times over. In my view, profitable service is the most sustainable form of service, with everyone having needs fulfilled and goals met. It is one of the surest paths to a type of happiness and success that can be maintained over a lifetime.
So what does this have to do with Web Reliability? A reliable team is one that is reliably motivated. Serving others in a sustainable manner, meaning not just successfully but profitably, results in a reliable form of positive motivation for a team. The example set by this kind of reliable team creates the side effect of encouraging others to seek the same type of lasting happiness in their work.
Over time the members of this reliably motivated team can become even happier. Their satisfaction grows deeper roots as we get better and smarter and more efficient at the work of serving. The relationships within the team get stronger and deeper and expand everyone’s capabilities as they work together towards their common goal of serving well. Equally important for your business, client relationships also grow deeper and more loyal over time, building trust and providing new opportunities for success as the team’s knowledge about the client and their needs increases.
We’ve been talking about profitability as part of what keeps this service relationship sustainable. What’s interesting is when our mission meets someone else’s mission. In addition to for-profit organizations, my team has had the honor of serving many extraordinary non-profit groups over the years. Because of our personal values, mission-driven organizations hold a special place in our hearts. Unfortunately, many of them cannot afford our services, and we do our best to refer those groups to developers who can work within their budget constraints. But some have managed to build their organizations and teams in a way that does make it possible. As a result, our team has been lucky enough to participate in some very successful and mutually satisfying partnerships.
As an example, for more than 10 years we have had the honor of serving ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit investigative journalism group based in New York. They exemplify the best of the craft and the mission of journalism. Their teams dive deeply into objective facts and data and deliver expert journalism from their website. They also provide resources for citizen journalists and educators and provide all sorts of opportunities for user engagement. There is no hard copy version of ProPublica. Everything happens on the website, propublica.org.
ProPublica was started with an endowment from a few wealthy Americans who believed passionately in the power of the fourth estate in our democracy. ProPublica's mission statement makes clear they exist “To expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.” The founders knew that the long-term goals they envisioned for the mission and the organization could only be achieved by an entity that was solid and sustainable, which meant financially sustainable.
Because of their well thought out business model, the founders ensured there would be enough ongoing revenue to keep ProPublica alive and well for a long time to come. The website provides not just journalistic content, but a data store, a donation portal, and subscription options helping to generate revenue for the organization while keeping users engaged with their mission. ProPublica is sustained primarily by donations, and the website provides a wealth of motivation for donors as well as a variety of ways to click through and help support their work. As a result, the organization has thrived, winning 5 Pulitzer Prizes along the way. The motivation for the teams to serve the ProPublica mission originates in virtue. Because their website is reliable and reliably generates revenue, ProPublica is able to provide their teams with fair compensation for their work, keeping the teams reliable. Financial issues never block their virtuous motivation. Flow is maintained. All of which makes ProPublica a successful example of prosperity following a commitment to serve others. Made possible by their reliable website, of course. Built and maintained by a reliable team.