Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Month: November 2011

Biggest Mistakes in Motivating People

I think the biggest mistake we make is in thinking that you can add THINGS to motivate people. Yes, there are basic needs and all those requirements. But so many people think that motivation is driven extrinsically.

Yeah, maybe, but we sure better be careful. Extrinsic rewards are what Managers like to think motivates people. The irony is that these people ARE motivated by extrinsic rewards in many cases — they LIKE those incentives and thus respond well to them, for the most part. SO, that should mean that everyone wants rewards, right?

Well, maybe. Tell you what. I like dogs, so I promise to give a St. Bernard / Labrador mixed breed puppy to everyone who responds to this post. That work for you?

Ya think? Isn’t a puppy an absolutely great reward? Don’t you like dogs? Rather have a cat? How about a small child – there are lots of them looking for a good home these days…

Dan Pink has gotten a great deal of publicity for coming out against extrinsic reward systems. Good book, his Drive. Great Video (google or bing “Dan Pink RSA” – over 7 million views!!). I think Dan gave short shrift to Alfie Kohn’s classic books like, “Punished by Rewards” — he shared lots of research on how rewards do not drive expected behaviors.

What we need is more self-directed positive feedback.

LONG ago (1979?), I came to the conclusion that most corporate feedback programs were awful when it came to supporting performance improvement.

Here are 5 of my 14-point checklist. Most people report systems that support less than half of these kinds of features:

1. Information on performance is based on actual measured accomplishment and not on estimates or opinions about how results were accomplished.

2. Information highlights areas of performance that have quantifiable value to the organization rather than more general areas of preference

3. Performance information routinely goes to the people who do the work, rather than mostly to management.
People see summarized results.

4. Information shows current levels of performance rather than being delayed by a period of time; it is timely enough to provide for self-correcting actions

5. Results are reported regularly and systematically and not on a haphazard or occasional basis.

We do NOT need to focus on adding extrinsic motivators to the workplace.

What we need to do is focus on involving and engaging people in workplace improvement, giving them a sense of ownership involvement and getting the recognition that they deserve for the jobs that they do. They need good feedback systems that direct their behavior as well as positive support from their peers and managers.

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott

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Beware Best Practices, They Can Kill Productivity, Innovation and Growth – Adopt Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter

REALLY?? Best Practices can KILL productivity, innovation and growth?

Someone wrote that as an article in Forbes (online) — it tries to make the point that access at work to Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn will be the kinds of things that will allow organizations to excel. He says, in part, on “The Best Practice myth” that “… companies continue using “best practices” as a tool to stop technology, and productivity improvement, adoption.”

Not using “best practices” is what will save us from poor long–term organizational performance, apparently. It attempts to make the link to the issues of using PCs in the 1980s and that companies that used best practices stayed behind the curve on improvement… The use of “Best Practices” in this article is just so limited and constrained, not at all what most of my peers in our old “behavioral performance management and productivity improvement” groups would even remotely label as such.

When there was that Big Push for ISO 9000 and the like, the drive to document everything was a real impediment to any kind of workplace innovation, since the requirement was viewed as keeping all processes uniform — the irony was that quality was NOT a requirement, just consistency. It was a real dead duck in regards to improvement and innovation and large forces of internal accountants were driven to keep control.

It is like that old ISO 9000 joke about the guy and the dog and the automated factory… The guy’s job was to feed the dog and the dog’s role was to keep the guy from touching anything…

I think that a workforce focused on using real behavioral Best Practices would be continuously and intrinsically motivated to keep looking for new alternatives for improvement. Innovation will come from understanding what the exemplary performers are doing differently than all others and rolling out those behaviors to the rest of the workforce. THAT is a Best Practice, I think. Not resisting innovation. People have always been looking for innovations where they work:

People have always been looking for better ways to do things

People have always been looking for better ways to do things

The old Quality Guys used to talk about having done Continuous Process Improvement.

The irony of that was that they focused on COMPLETING that job. I would rattle their brains by always reminding them to do Continuous Continuous Improvement, that advice from The Department of Redundancy Department.

Continuous improvement of any kind should be a continuous improvement. Using behavioral Best Practices should mean that there are always new Best Practices around for people to integrate into their performance repertoires to improve results.

In my cartoon vernacular, we talk about the reality that the Round Wheels of Today become the Square Wheels of Tomorrow. Ya gotta just keep on putting round wheels on the wagon to keep making progress forward…

See some cartoon stuff and some articles and my Godzilla Meets Bambi animated cartoon on innovation at


For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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