Kanter’s three Ms – Mastery, Membership, Meaning

When we talked about motivation in session 4, I found Kanter’s keys to motivation quite interesting. She argues that the three Ms, Mastery, Membership and Meaning, are the key elements, which explain people’s motivation at work.

Mastery is the ability to let people develop skills with which they can actively shape the future instead of just sticking to old routines. It basically means to enable people to get out of their comfort zone and help them developing skills to think out of the box. Through this people will reach better, fast and more intelligent solutions. Membership is defined as the creation of community by honouring individuality. It encourages employees to have interests outside from work and to constantly offer opportunities for employees to exchange with one another. This will lead to a better organizational atmosphere within the company. Last but not least, meaning, as the word already implies, reinforces a larger purpose.

I personally think that the corporate culture of a company mostly contributes to how satisfied and consequently motivated employees are at their workplace. This mostly refers to the Kanter’s key “membership”. My brother started his new job last year in Germany. He works as a project engineer and consultant in a medium sized company. I remember that at the beginning of his study he was always aiming to work for a big consultancy such as McKinsey & Company. But during his study his preferences shifted from earning a lot of money and working long hours towards finding a meaning in his work and having the right work-life balance. The company he is now working for offers its employees a lot of incentives such as organizing weekly get-togethers, firm events, trips to the Oktoberfest, skiing trips and much more. He is still able to pursue his interests outside from work and therefore really enjoys working for that company.

From my point of view, your direct environment is an important source of motivation. It probably depends on your personality as well, but I always get the feeling, the more I’m around highly motivating and inspiring people, the more I feel motivated myself. Back home at my university I took the course economic psychology, which really elaborated on how people compare themselves to others, and that people only get their personal satisfaction from being relatively better than others. I believe that to some extent this is definitely true!

I recently watched the movie “The company men” directed by Johnny Wells, which deals with a global shipbuilding company, which due to the recession, has to fire many of its employees. The movie showed a lot about the company’s corporate culture and it was quite the opposite of what I described earlier with my brother. It seemed that the employees there were only motivated by their financial compensation. The company  failed to incorporate the three Ms as they did not let the employees develop deep skills, nor did they create strong bonds between the employees or gave them a deeper meaning for their work.

As already pointed out earlier, I believe that people have different sources of motivation. Therefore, it is not an easy task for a company to find the perfect mix to motivate people at work. Still, I’m convinced that Kanter’s three Ms are important values/keys for companies to integrate in their corporate culture.

By Elisa Senger
Article by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Trailer “The Company Men”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *