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The minute you think you've got it made, disaster is just around the corner,
As the philosopher Yogi Berra once remarked, "It ain't over til it's over." He was talking about baseball, but the message is equally applicable to business. One of the only fatal diseases I know of in the business world is to think that you have all the answers, and to assume that the game is won because you happen to be on top of things at the end of the fifth, or seventh, or eighth, inning. The hard fact is that, as long as the game is still being played, you can win it or lose it; relax your guard, and you can bank on one thing: after it's over, you're going to have less on the board than the competition.
I'll go one step farther. Since business—like baseball, or football, or any competitive endeavor—doesn't end after one game or one season, "it's" not really over even after it's over. There's always next season, the next accounting period, the next fiscal year. You may be twenty market share points ahead of your competitors in July. But if you think that's enough, if you think you can forget about motivating your people to greater effort because your current system is perfect, don't bet on having that market spread in December. I've always liked Bert Lance's comment about leaving well enough alone: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But as Lance found out—and as unwary managers find out every day—everything is always a little broke; every operation in which people are involved is by definition running at less than 100 percent efficiency, and can be made to run better by the continual application of better motivational energies.
Earlier in this book I mentioned the importance of doing regular preventive maintenance. Anybody who works with machinery knows you've got to do that to protect your "capital base." Number Six engine might be purring like a kitten today, but kittens grow into crotchety cats, and that's why you've got to keep an eye on them all the time. The same thing goes for people—those human "machines" which are, after all, your most valuable and delicate asset. People need preventive maintenance, too. The manager who forgets that is setting himself up for "Muddle in the Middle."
In my company's seminars we address the problem I'm raising here by insisting that our manager clients frequently, and consistently, evaluate the results of the motivational system we teach them. And we provide them with on-site help to let them do that better. We've found over and over that relying on training alone is a losing game, because the minute you leave the factory, all those well-trained people are going to be reverting to their old Behaviors, and your work will have all been for nothing—unless you keep tabs on what's happening by an on-going Evaluation system.
Evaluation is the fifth element of our P.R.I.C.E. motivational system. I'm going to talk about this element in this chapter, and show how using it can help you consolidate the drive of your teams, and ensure that they're going to be just as up for peak performance six months down the line as they are when you first start to deliver Consequences.
THE ABC MODEL REVISITED
In discussing the ABC Model of behavior back in the Introduction, I said that an Antecedent is anything that you say, or do, to initiate a Behavior, and that a Consequence is anything that happens as a result of that Behavior being performed. I also said, parenthetically, that many Consequences can become Antecedents in their own right—and thus create new Behaviors. This circular aspect of behavioral response is particularly important to managers. It's what lets them keep feeding data in to the human "capital base," and getting it "fed back."
Take an example I used in the last chapter: the case of the chronically absent line manager. Say you're that manager's supervisor, and you've just found it necessary to deliver the negative Consequences that you warned him you would have to deliver if he continued to take days off from work: you've written up an official discipline report and put a copy of it in his personnel file. For him, that report is a Consequence. But it's also an Antecedent, because you have designed it to initiate a change in his Behavior. Obviously, what you want to know now is whether or not it's done what it was designed to do. Has it motivated him to straighten out his act?
In other words, you want feedback. In the last chapter I spoke about the feedback that the employee you're trying to motivate needs if he's to understand where he's supposed to be going. The positive and negative Consequences you provide—from the docking of pay to the writing of a Reinforcement Memo— are examples of that necessary feedback. But you need feedback, too. You need to be able to read the "consequences of your Consequences," to see if they need adjustment. You do that by Evaluating.
It makes sense that, when you go back to assess the effectiveness of an operating system, you start at where you were before you put in the system. In our system that means, to measure your current rate of success or failure with regard to motivation improvement, you check out your data-based Recording, and go back to your initial baseline.
This doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to be reading line graphs. Maybe you don't even have a posted, week-by-week track of your absentee manager's attendance. But you'd better have some numerical idea of when he's been in and when he's been out—or your entire project of getting him to keep better hours is going to founder on the shoals of subjectivity.
The point is that, with or without an actual graph, you need to begin your Evaluation by knowing exactly where you started. Since it's easier to demonstrate this by using figures than by using "impressions," let's go back to the example that we developed in the chapter on Recording. There we were setting out to measure the improvement, over time, in the number of units produced on a designated assembly line. We started there with a baseline—that is, an average per-week number of units produced—of three hundred and ninety-five. Let's say that we've Pinpointed certain Behaviors that can increase the efficiency of the line, that we've Involved all workers in the setting of realistic goals, and that we've been implementing reinforcing Consequences for the past several weeks, as the units produced have gradually gone up. We look at our chart now to Evaluate our progress, and this is what we find.
Fat chance, right? The chart I've given here would be ideal, of course—steady, solid growth brought about as a result of the P.R.I.C.E. system—but you know and I know that this kind of a chart exists only in mathematics textbooks. When we go back several weeks after the implementation of a P.R.I.C.E. system to see how it's been working, what we're likely to find will be something a little more erratic, a little less unidirectional, than this ideal diagram. What we're going to find, probably, will be a pattern that illustrates one or more of three basic designs: trends, range, and cycles.
TRENDS, RANGE, AND CYCLES
At the Tarkenton Productivity Group, when we use the word trend, we mean simply the direction of change. This direction can be either increasing or decreasing. You could also find the virtual absence of a trend, as when there is some fluctuation in the direction of change from week to week, but no long-term upward or downward motion. In cases like these, we would have to focus on those small, week-to-week changes to get an indication of how we were doing. We call the distance between the weekly points on a week-by-week graph the range of variability, and we identify this second variable of graphing as either "narrow" or "wide." The greater the fluctuation between points from week to week, the wider the performance range.
In addition to trend and range, there is one other pattern of variability that you have to be on the watch for when you are Evaluating the rate of your progress. That is the cycle pattern, where the points indicating advance or retardation repeat themselves over a given period. Two common cyclical patterns are common. In one case, a performance variable rises and falls in approximate synchronization with the work week itself, with peak performance coming in the middle of the week and poor performance tracking the weekends. In the other example, we see a typical pattern observed in companies where "training alone" is thought to be enough to raise motivation: you see a spurt of improvement, and then a dip in performance as the training is forgotten and things get back to normal (that is, the Extinction Effect).
The value of these kinds of patterns should be obvious. In a perfect world, where the first application of a P.R.I.C.E. system brings bonanza results, you wouldn't need to know in what direction you were moving, or whether you were getting there smoothly or in zigs and zags. In the world every manager inhabits, you do need this kind of assessment to be able to sort out what's working and what's not. Evaluation of the Recording system at regular intervals gives you the essential feedback you need to be able to fine-tune the system.
But how do you do that fine-tuning? What do you look for in Evaluating performance, and how do you use what you find to continue to motivate your teams? Especially if you find that the goal line you set for yourself is not within reach, how do you know what's going wrong?
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