Towards an Explanatory Theory of Motivation in Software Engineering: A Qualitative Case Study of a Small Software Company
Research on motivation has made important contributions for the software engineering practice, but it has mostly adopted quantitative approaches, towards generalizable statements. However, given the complexity of the human behavior, motivation seems to be affected by diverse environmental conditions, and to be moderated by individual and organizational characteristics. Therefore, contextualized and explanatory theories are needed to account for this diversity. This research presents a grounded theory aimed at describing and explaining the motivation of software engineers in the context of a small private software company, in Recife, Brazil. Semi structured interviews were carried out over four months, and data were analyzed using grounded theory procedures. As a result, we present statements that connect, relate, and make sense of contextual factors, describing the central story of motivation in the company. In this case study, learning and growth needs emerged as the strongest drivers of motivation, which in turn increase the goal commitment of engineers and create the conditions for better job performance.