The basic premise of the scarcity principle is explained in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition by Robert B. Cialdini. You are likely familiar with the concept. Who hasn't heard an advertisement declaring "while supplies last!" Scarcity-based sales and marketing tactics are abundant. While the concept is fairly intuitive, it often leads to rather irrational behavior. Studies of this principle have yielded some interesting observations.
While the scarcity tactics aren't extremely common in the context of software development management, there are still a few practical applications of this principle.
To employ this principle, you need to first understand what is unique and valuable about your team, your organization, or the particular position of the team member. By helping a team member understand the unique opportunity that is afforded by their position, they will be more motivated to value that position and opportunity. The increased motivation will pay off with increased productivity.
If you don't think that a position of a particular team member is unique in any way, try find ways to make it unique. I once was asked to be part of a development team working on a project that I wasn't particularly excited about initially, as the opportunity seemed quite minimal. However, my manager was very creative in framing up the opportunity in ways that I hadn't previously considered. This significantly increased my excitement, motivation, and overall productivity for the time that I was on this project. Nothing had changed about the project to make it more interesting, it was just a simple re-framing of the context the helped me better understand the opportunity.
There may be times when you afford your team freedoms or flexibility that they hadn't been provided before. Maybe you are going to allow them the ability to work from home. Maybe you are considering a four day work week or flexible hours. Whatever the case, in these situations, it's extremely important to remember that a loss of freedom is damaging to morale.
People's level of happiness is inversely proportional to their level of expectation. If you are not 100% committed to an idea, then you need to properly manage expectations. If you are planning to allow the ability to work from home, or other types of increased flexibility, do it first for a some amount of time on a trial basis.
However, don't frame it as a trial. Just frame it up as a small bonus that is will only happen once for a short time. Summer can be good time to conduct these experiments. You might frame it up as "Summer Hours", "Summer Flexibility", etc. That way, you've properly managed the expectations. If it turns out that the change was a good change, when the summer is over you can enact the policy permanently. If it feels like the policy wasn't productive, it'll just end as planned when the summer is over.
Are you interested in increasing innovation and collaboration on your software team? Then continue reading...