Tag Archives: Herzberg

Motivating staff – the Dan Pink seminar

Excited Businessman Speaking on Cell PhoneMotivating staff is not the easiest thing to do. In fact is it possible to motivate someone else to do something at all?

We can coerce or threaten and, to use that horrible word, “incentivise” people but most people only really do things they want to unless in desperate straits. In other words motivation, for most people, is internally generated.

Maslow‘s idea of people seeking self-actualisation may be considered old hat now but you can still see evidence of that human potential philosophy in the field of positive psychology.

Similarly Herzberg’s two-factor theory distinguished between motivators –  which were intrinsic to the job, and demotivators, or hygiene factors, which constantly need attention like money which motivates for a while but then loses its incentive value.

Dan Pink‘s seminar on this topic is interesting and thought-provoking and you can watch it by clicking here.

First posted September 2010

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Hierarchical management not all bad

up_the_chain_of_command_800_7901Back in the 1960s when behavioural scientists roamed corporate boardrooms every executive claimed to know about Herzberg’s two-factor theory and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Even here in the UK where firms like ICI invited Herzberg over and took his and others’  ideas on board, introducing a Weekly Staff Agreement and similar initiatives.

One idea that came out of this approach to motivating people was the introduction of autonomous working groups in the mid 1970s. In the UK we heard reports of how Swedish companies in particular had adopted these methods (overlooking work by the Tavistock Institute in British coal mines starting over 20 years earlier).

A lot of water and ideas about managing production have passed under the bridge since then although you could argue that with companies either mechanising or offshoring to reduce production costs Taylorism is still alive and kicking

Just recently however researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology  published the results of a 13 year study into a Norwegian company which adopted autonomous work groups and moved away from a hierarchical structure in line with the national and organisational culture of labour empowerment (reported by A Fradera in The Psychologist)

They described a system where different team members took on the spokesperson role for a week at a time. The workforce was initially enthusiastic  saying things like ” the flat structure has come to stay” and “.. no more foremen pointing fingers and telling us what to do” .

After 8 years however some problems had been identified. The transient role of the spokesperson meant they could skimp on onerous duties or things they thought less important like sharing information. Because the spokesperson was responding to team needs it was more difficult for them to resolve disputes or enforce decisions that were unpopular for individuals but good for the organisation.

They concluded that self-management optimised the comfort of the individuals and the team but possibly to the detriment of the company.

So they introduced a system where different people were responsible for different aspects, a distributed leadership model. The 5-M model had someone looking after  staffing (Man), someone looking after Machine and so on. This was an improvement and also meant the M-leaders could get together to decide plant-wide issues in their own area of responsibility.

Unfortunately not every problem falls neatly into one category and sometimes problems were passed backwards and forwards. Concrete and immediate problems were resolved but not those requiring coordination, clearly a challenge to a company that wants to empower the workforce.

It also raises some interesting questions about whether people can develop their leadership skills when they don’t have continuity (doing it only 1 week in six) and whether everyone is temperamentally suited to undertake a leadership role?

Historical note

Post WWII manufacturing industry was largely adhering to Scientific Management or “Taylorism“, an economic approach and  belief that there was one right way.

People known variously as “Time and Motion experts”  and “Work Study or Industrial Engineers” analysed jobs and broke them down into (very) small chunks so that operators on production assembly lines were more easily able to assemble a switch or put wheel nuts on cars (before robots took over).

So Scientific Management both de-skilled workers and led to mechanisation where possible.

Dividing the total assembly time of a product into tasks of a few minutes and of equal duration was sometimes quite a challenge. The work was pretty boring and relentless and conveyor belt breakdowns, often operator induced, provided welcome breaks from the monotony.

In the UK the Tavistock Institute for Social Research had been using a socio-technical approach (combining social, technical, and economic needs in coal mines since the 1950s and were later involved in Quality of Working Life initiatives, a forerunner of today’s concern about work-life balance. But their work wasn’t widely known.

Following the introduction of new ideas about employee motivation by Herzberg and others ie it wasn’t just the financial incentive (although it appeared to be for car assembly workers whose objective was to earn as much as possible to buy consumer goods (called instrumental motivation) and which was said to have enabled the growth in package holidays – but I digress) many companies tried to make the work more interesting. In some cases they also tried to reverse the de-skilling that had been the hallmark of previous approaches.

Job rotation was one easy way to provide variety and it also up-skilled  the operatives. Job enlargement was combining similar jobs together on a permanent basis and thereby increasing the cycle time. Job enrichment was vertical job enlargement which usually meant including some quality/inspection or supervisory element.

And then in the mid-70s we heard that in Sweden at Saab and at the Volvo Kalmar plant, and at Philips in Eindhoven they had gone a whole step further and introduced autonomous working groups. The Kalmar plant was new and small teams worked in assembly bays rather than straight assembly lines. In both the new Volvo plant and the re-organised Saab plant assembly cycle times rose from 2-3 minutes to 20-30 minutes.

Autonomous working groups can include single skill workers or incorporate features of job enlargement and job enrichment by taking responsibility for purchasing, quality control and absence management. There was usually less need for first line supervisors.

Teams were given the facilities to organise the work themselves, within limits. For example, at the Philips plant teams were allowed to decide how they assembled TV sets either in the traditional flow line method or each person assembling a whole set.

Sweden had a well-educated workforce and companies had high absence rates put down to boredom with the production lines. By the 1980s we were hearing that autonomous working groups had improved job satisfaction and helped to reduce absenteeism but not necessarily improved productivity.

Eventually new methods and approaches came along eg Quality Circles and the use of BPR, and autonomous working groups seemed to fade from the spotlight.

Drive – the secret of motivation?

I saw the video, then read the book. Drive by Daniel Pink is fascinating.

He takes us back to the work of Harlow (more famous for his surrogate monkey mother experiments), McGregor‘s “Theory X, theory Y”, and Type A/B theory.

He reports numerous studies showing that altruistic behaviour can be tainted by financial incentives and suggests that financial incentives only work for certain kinds of work and that even then over the long run they don’t  – remember Herzberg‘s 2-factor theory?

He asks why people contribute to Wikipedia and devote hours to work for which they receive no financial recompense. It’s not always about the money.

In fact he believes that it’s more about Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

He suggests that you can be a Type I or a Type X which he describes as:

Type I behavior: A way of thinking and an approach to life built around intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivators. It is powered by our innate need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Type X behavior: Behavior that is fuelled more by extrinsic desires than intrinsic ones and that concerns itself less with the inherent satisfaction of an activity and more with the external rewards to which that activity leads.

If you want to know which you are, go to his web-site and complete a free self-assessment questionnaire.

And if you haven’t seen the RSAnimate on Youtube it’s here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=US&v=u6XAPnuFjJc

Has Training evolved?

De-cluttering my archives, a sort-of  New Year resolution, I came across “The Best of the Training Journal. Key articles 1995-1999″. Unable to resist a peak at the recent past I put it in my to-read pile for a rainy day and wondered how relevant it would be today.

The topics for these articles were:

  • How to write training materials (March 1998) by Eddie Davis
  • A process for selecting training methods (December 1998) by Clive Shepherd
  • On-the-job Training (September 1997) by Mike Cannell
  • Emotional Intelligence: the new way forward (July 1999) an interview with Daniel Goleman
  • Running a successful learning centre (Jan/Feb 1999) by Karen Velasco
  • Herzberg – still a key to understanding motivation (July/August 1996) by Donald Cameron
  • Training and maintaining the virtual team (March 1999) by Shirley Pickering
  • Being appraised (May 1995) by Trevor Bentley
  • Influencing Skills (Jan/Feb 1996)  by Nick Heap

So has anything really changed over the last decade?

The article on writing training packages would stand up today in it’s general advice except that it doesn’t mention all the things we now take for granted. And the big difference is the internet. Creating e-books and PDF files or creating training packages for webinars or other interactive tools wasn’t a consideration in this article.

However in the second article. published the same year,we have a specialist in the use of IT and he produces cost comparisons between web-based, PC based, workbooks with video and audio support. and on-the-job and classroom instruction. So it seems that the use of technology was still considered a specialist area at the time.

The third article on on-the-job  (OTJ) training was written against a background of businesses cutting costs and reducing off the job training. The IPD (as the CIPD was then called) had published a report encouraging more OTJ training and this article was written by the author of that report.

The article on Emotional Intelligence (EI) is an interview with Daniel Goleman shortly after he published his second book “Working with Emotional Intelligence”. It’s basically a critique of traditional training methods but Goleman also concedes that EI is within the domain of personal or interpersonal skills. He argues that EI learning needs lots of repetition and practising models over several months otherwise it’s like “learning to play the piano in one lesson”. This is an interesting piece historically as Goleman talks about his collaboration with Richard Boyatzis and their work for the HAY group. Did we realise just how big the EI industry would get?

The fifth article on running learning centres is a good overview and a reminder of how they could and did contribute to employee development. I’ve seen learning centres in large companies but also seen them run down on cost grounds,  so that they become just drop-in centres where you can go on-line but without any personal. How many companies still provide learning centres?

The fifth article is about Herzberg’s two factor theory of motivation. The author is particularly keen to help managers understand the theory as he believes it helps them understand the links between loyalty and motivation. Do managers still learn about Herzberg (or Maslow)? What do managers and trainers understand about motivation?

The sixth article about training virtual teams is probably more relevant today with more globalisation. The author emphasises the need for soft skills as well as technical skills and recommends that training should begin in a traditional way and using psychometrics to help team members understand each other better. That’s certainly the approach I have used with virtual teams using MBTI Step 2 as pre-work. One thing the article doesn’t cover is cultural differences and that can be an interesting challenge!

Being appraised is what it says, a guide for people being appraised. and is a welcome change from the usual guides for managers and emphasises that appraisal should be for your benefit as well as the organisation. Still relevant today.

The last article is about influencing skills using a diagnostic model based on open systems theory. It covers interventions and transitions as well as contracting and I found it interesting and well worth a re-read.Whether organisations would invest in a 4-day skills course is a different matter in the current economic climate.

Overall an interesting dip into my archives and I could definitely still use some of the information and ideas. Technology has obviously moved on and the current economic situation has some influence although times were hard in the 90s too.