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PRODUCTIVITY THROUGH PEOPLE
This requires a lot more than pretty speeches and midweek seminars on “people matter” topics for select groups of middle management. It requires nothing less than a reorientation of management philosophy and culture away from the old adversarial view and toward a “participative management” or “team concept” approach. And I mean reorientation on all levels, not just a blowsy pep talk by the CEO, a few trial Quality Circles, and back to business as usual.
The real reason most of the “human management” approaches to the productivity problem have failed is not that they are irrelevant to business reality, but that they are extremely relevant, and yet have not been recognized as such, by the vast majority of managers. They have been force-fed into various management structures without a serious understanding of the behavioral changes that are necessary to make them more than philosophy. They have been bandied about in board meetings, but have not really been integrated into actual day-to-day business reality, because it is still widely (though erroneously) believed that, given the opportunity, people want to get away with doing nothing. If you believe that, naturally, you’re going to look on the manager’s job as indistinguishable from that of a policemen’s.
The idea of “productivity through people” has been around now for decades, and in spite of the fact that some businesses have used it to extremely good effect, it has not yet caught on widely in business circles, and that is one major reason why this nation’s industrial base is not yet out of the low-productivity woods. The reason is that, to be truly effective, the concept itself has to be reinforced, and at every level of a business’s operation. Unfortunately, this is still a novel concept in many American firms, and especially (and ironically) in those smokestack industries whose innovation and forthrightness built our economic base in the first place.
There are instructive exceptions. One of the most famous is that of the California computer firm Hewlett-Packard, which has not only endorsed a “people-centered” philosophy for years, but reinforces that philosophy at every level. Any business executive can get up and spout platitudes about how “people matter” and about how “we all have to pull together now.” Any business can print up posters about motivation and productivity and paste them up on plant walls. But unless every person in the organization understands that people really do matter, unless every employee from CEO to night janitor knows that better Behavior will make a difference to them, it’s all sound, and fluff, and P.R. (which, with fifty cents, will buy you a cup of coffee).
When William Hewlett, cofounder of Hewlett-Packard, speaks of his company’s commitment to “the human side of management,” people do listen, because they know from experience that it’s not just stockholder-report window-dressing. The intimate and frequent contact at H-P between front-office managers, line supervisors, and production workers is seen not as the latest MBA gimmick, but as a matter of business survival. People at Hewlett-Packard understand that management, from the CEO’s office on down, do intend to listen to their people, do value individual input, and do see an intimate and constant connection between productivity and people.
At Hewlett-Packard, that connection is reinforced by a company-wide profit-sharing plan that gives yearly, measurable reinforcement to behaviors that improve productivity. Because of the way the plan is structured, every H-P employee understands that if he falls down on the job, his bonus is going to fall, too, and that if he gives it 110 percent, his bankbook is going to show the difference. That’s using Consequences well, to create not smarter “rats,” but a team of motivated individuals who give a damn where their company is going.
But manipulation of financial rewards is only one motivating factor and – take a tip from someone who played in a six-figure league for eighteen years – it is never the most important one. If higher pay and generous benefit plans were enough to boost performance levels, the General Motors work force would be out-performing Toyota three to one. That just ain’t so, because the Consequences that really get folks moving are never just monetary ones. They’re all intangibles. Things like a memo of appreciation. Coffee and doughnuts when you don’t expect them. Wellington Mara’s quiet speech.
I know if sounds corny. But it’s true. Pay hikes and bonuses don’t hurt, of course, since we all like what money will buy. But like the Beatles used to say, it won’t buy you love, and to some curious and maybe immeasurable degree, the most effective motivating Consequences are seen as a kind of love: they’re the human touches that make a job worth doing, whatever the level of pay. And this is most important when the person you’re trying to motivate is no superstar, but just another “usually adequate” sales rep, or supervisor or secretary.
Unfortunately, it’s precisely these folks that many managers prefer to ignore. They have time to punish the worker whose sloppiness cost the plant thirty-seven minutes of down time. They have time to tack up an “Employee of the Week” award to thank the one worker who really stands out. But that leaves a huge number of people in between, people who are neither “eagles” nor slackers, and who are simply trying to meet their basic obligations by performing “at least adequately” under pressure. One of the principal lessons of this book is that those people need reinforcement, too – and in fact may actually need it more than the Employee of the Week or the slacker.
You do not motivate those people by resorting to uplifting speeches. No pep talk is going to get somebody moving unless it’s linked to specific Behaviors and specific Consequences. That is the first and most important lesson of the motivational system I’ll be laying out for you.
Why should you care about that lesson? Because it’s a simple matter of survival. I don’t care if you’re an NFL linebacker, a middle manager in a steel production plant, or somebody who’s just landed a job with a huge and supposedly “faceless” corporation. Whatever your situation, you’re going to have to deal with people, and you’re going to have to get them, one way or another, to perform in ways that are to your advantage and not against it. If you want to survive, that is.
The secret to “getting people to perform” your way is motivation. And the secret to motivation is understanding the differences between what turns people on and what turns them off.
That’s what these articles are all about. I have distilled a dozen years of productivity-improvement experiences, and almost two decades of NFL leadership experience, into a model of behavior management that can work for you, in your situation, right now. The primary focus here is a business one. I ask the current generation of managers to meet a stimulating challenge. The challenge is in a sense analogous to the challenge faced by the great nineteenth-century entrepreneurs: those up-from-poverty idea jockeys who, with little more than mother wit and a few opportunities, transformed the North American continent into the greatest industrial force the world has ever known. They did that by being willing to take risks, and by taking responsibility for their actions. We have come to a watershed in American business culture where that same sense of risk-taking and accountability is again desperately needed. Whether or not it is met well will depend not just on managerial “will” and “attitude” but on business leaders’ ability to apply some time-tested reinforcement principles to every “human management” situation they encounter. You can take this text as a playbook to enable you to do that more effectively.
Obviously what I’m saying here has an application beyond the business community, and I hope that this will also assist those fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, close friends and casual acquaintances, that have their own “people management” problems, and who would profit by a fuller understanding of how to get others to do things “your way.”
Whether you are a business executive wondering how to get a sluggish assembly line to come up to speed, a carpool driver plagued by a consistently late arrival, or a working mother whose husband just “doesn’t do the dishes,” you share a common human dilemma: how to get a “significant other” to behave in a fashion that more closely approximates what you feel is productive or otherwise desirable. The principles outlined here will show you how to affect that other person’s behavior not in a simply manipulative or rigidly controlling manner, but in a way that ultimately benefits you both. To some extent the root lesson of “participative management” is the root lesson of all human interaction: that a combination of Consequences and cooperation is bound to create better productivity than any mixture of pep talk and command.
My company, the Tarkenton Productivity Group, put that lesson in place in countless businesses plagued by productivity problems. We did it by teaching both workers and management a few basic behavioral principles, and by showing them how to apply those principles on the job through a coherent, well-structured system. We call it the P.R.I.C.E. Motivation System.
The Acronym P.R.I.C.E. stands for “Pinpointing, Recording, Involvement, Consequences, and Evaluation.” In the next section, I’ll be explaining how you can incorporate these elements into your business to turn your people on effectively.
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