There’s an old saying: One volunteer is worth ten pressed men. It is a saying that stems back to the days of early sea travel when people used to ‘press gang’ the crew. That is, gangs used to go around bashing people over the head to knock them out and when the person woke up they would find that they were far out to sea as part of a ships crew. It’s an extreme form of coercion.
So the saying goes, it’s better to find the one person who wanted to be there and was committed and willing to work for the outcome and success of the mission. The same can be said on projects and change initiatives. Finding the people who really care, are committed, and engaged makes a difference to the outcomes and effectiveness of investments. Google are quite extreme about this. They don’t allocate anyone to a project. Instead they ask Product Managers to share their product visions and plans and allow engineers to ‘volunteer’ to work on the product. Their open source culture allows people to get involved with anything where they see fit to match their own skills with the problems at hand.
There are other examples of these approaches today. The infamous Valve Handbook is a good example of how their company goes about discovering volunteers.
Regardless of how extreme the approach is, how might you improve the commitment and engagement of those on your team? Is there a way of getting people to volunteer for different aspects?