Monday, August 31, 2020

Lean Roundup #135 – August 2020



A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of August 2020.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Craftsmanship, not Kaizen? – Dan Markovitz says perhaps focusing on “craftsmanship” will increase awareness and practice of improvement.

An Ode to a Frontline Supervisor – Bruce Hamilton discusses respect for every employee and supervision using popular “I love Lucy” episode.

Let Them Move the Table – Derek Korn talks about Paul Aker’s fix what bugs you mantra and connection to movie Men In Black.

TPS and Agile – Pascal Dennis discusses that TQM, TOC, BPR and Agile are all congruent with TPS.

Difference between Hansei and a Post-mortem – Al Noral explains the differences in a post-mortem exercise and hansei learning.

I Learned a New Word for Our Continuous Improvement Vocabulary — Maybe – Mark Graban discusses why improvement don’t follow a linear way but rather follow the cycle of Plan, Do, Study, Adjust.

Leading Lean versus Lean Leadership – Andy Carlo explains the difference between providing support and resources for lean leadership and creating experiences that cause organizations to learn and practice lean.

Want To Be On The Leading Edge? Forget About It. – Dan Markovitz shares three problems—lack of clarity; people in the wrong seat; misaligned decision rights— that create significant organizational drag that slow you down.

Throw Away Your Favorite Lean Tool – Jamie Flinchbaugh explains how to make you improvement efforts more effective and efficient by picking the right tool for the job.

Where to Start with the Daily Management System?- Jon Miller says while there is no single best way to roll out a Daily Management System, it usually makes sense to start with the foundation, which is the Daily Accountability Process, and tier meetings.

What is a Lean Daily Management System? – Ron Pereira discusses all things daily management and sharing a nice infographic.

Leveraging the Solitude of Leadership – Kevin Meyer says to embrace the loneliness, the solitude, of leadership and leverage it to reflect on your values, your life and organization, and to formulate your own unique ideas.

The Awesomeness of Lean – Bob Emiliani says inherent goodness in Lean management creates the illusion that for many people Lean is beyond critique.

Why You Should Link Hoshin Kanri with A3 Problem-Solving - Mark Reich discusses the relationship of Hoshin Kanri and A3 problem-solving.

Ask Art: Why Implement Lean During A Pandemic? – Art Byrne explains why best time to make the lean conversion is when times are tough.

When the Toyota Way Meets Industry 4.0 – Jeffery Liker discusses the possibility of combining the best of the new technology with the creativity of thinking people.

 


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Friday, August 28, 2020

Lean Quote: Keep Going

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.


"Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.  — Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

We all have days when we want to run away and relax on a tropical beach. But, unless you’re actually going to drop everything and become a travel writer, it’s probably not a realistic escape plan. A better one is to look at how you motivate yourself.

Sometimes it’s really easy to persevere. However, motivation can all too easily slip away. Especially if we fail at something.

Failing is not a bad thing in itself, if you learn from your mistakes. But there’s a difference between trying and learning, and just throwing in the towel as soon as things get tough or scary.

Here are 6 tactics to help you keep the faith and moving forward when you're on the verge of giving up.

See Doubt as a Positive

Doubt and skepticism don't have to result in paralysis. Instead, a healthy dose of skepticism forces us to confront and validate our beliefs, ideas and choices over and over. It's a gut check that helps ensure you that you are on the right track.

Find Your “Whys”

Find the value in what you’re doing, to identify why you want to keep going. Is it helping you to reach a larger goal, or benefiting others in some way? You’ll feel more invested and enthusiastic when you can see the benefits and the meaning of a task.

Contraction Leads to Expansion

Opportunity follows disappointment and expansion follows contraction. In my experience, as long as I keep my faith and stay focused on the goal, the dips always lead to my greatest expansion and achievement.

Stick to Your Convictions

What do you believe in? Knowing the answer to this question and being truly committed to your values will help you stay focused on the big picture. Let your convictions be your guide and sustain you through tough times.

Make a Schedule and Stick to It

Staying motivated doesn’t just happen. We have to set our intentions and choose behaviors that will keep us on the right track. They provide a vital structure that will keep us going, regardless of how we’re thinking or feeling on any given day – almost automating the difficult thing we have to do.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do,” so set dedicated times to work on your goals. Put them in your calendar, and don’t book anything else in for those times.

Find the Good in Experiences

Every experience is an opportunity to learn. Victories are exciting, but there is also something to learn from challenges and mistakes. When you find yourself frustrated, ask yourself, what is there for me to learn from this experience? How does this experience serve me?

We all have days when we lose motivation, but don’t be too hard on yourself when they happen.

It can be difficult sometimes to judge whether we need to push a bit harder, or are just banging our head against a wall. Check your purpose, your chances of success, whether you really have to do it all yourself, and what you’re going to get out of it.

You don’t have to wait for motivation to hit you. But you do have to work to stay on track – take action, organize your goals, and be diligent with your routine. And be flexible: we often give up on goals because we’re unwilling to compromise our original expectations. Always think about your “whys” and what you’re learning. And when something’s not right, feel free to change direction.

 

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Lean Tips Edition #159 (#2596-#2610)

For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call Lean Tips.  It is meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledge tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.


Here is the next addition of tips from the Facebook page:

Lean Tip #2596 - Push Employees To Their Attainable Limits.

Although you don’t want to overwhelm employees, you should push them to the edge of their comfort zone. Bored employees are much more likely to disengage—they need to be challenged to grow. Identify each employee’s experience and skillset, and have them take on new tasks or assignments that help them expand. Be available and willing to help when questions arise.

Lean Tip #2597 - Encourage Employees to Learn From Others.

No two employees are exactly alike. They come from different backgrounds and have varying personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. Have them interact frequently so they teach each other new skills or approaches. Simply connecting employees with their peers opens new possibilities and creates a more connected workplace.

Lean Tip #2598 - Don't Do Employees' Work For Them.

When you notice an assignment is proceeding slowly or heading in the wrong direction, you might be tempted to take it into your own hands and simply complete it yourself. This might be beneficial in the short term, but employees need to learn through trial and error. Instead of taking the task off their hands, teach them how to handle the situation by offering guidance.

As you coach employees and provide feedback, it’s critical that you instill them with confidence. Look for opportunities to recognize employees for strong performance and extra effort. Acknowledging employees’ contributions boosts their confidence and sets them up for success. 

Lean Tip #2599 - Tolerate Occasional Failure.

Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. Mistakes will be made and deals will fall through – it’s just a part of work. But how you respond is what really matters. Don’t accept failure and move on, because this can create a lower standard for performance expectations. At the same time, don’t crush employees for their mistakes. Instead, have them explain what went wrong and explain how they could have executed better. Remain positive and solution-oriented. 

Lean Tip #2600 - Ask How You Can Help.

Good coaches don’t just throw their players into a competition and say, “figure it out.” They’re actively encouraging and searching for solutions to help athletes succeed. Let your employees know they can come to you with questions or concerns. You’re there to help them, and they should feel comfortable asking for advice and or assistance.

If you hope to get everyone pushing in the same direction, you need to show them where to go. Goals are the most clear and effective way to do so. Sit down with employees to create personal goals that help them develop and further their careers, as well as goals that will contribute to the benchmarks of the team and the organization as a whole. 

Lean Tip #2601 - Ask Guiding Questions When Coaching

Open-ended, guiding questions lead to more detailed and thoughtful answers, which lead to more productive coaching conversations. As a manager or leader, it is critical that you develop strong relationships with your employees. This will help you determine if your employees are curious, have the capacity to perform and improve, and what kind of attitude they have towards their work.

This is where communication skills and emotional intelligence really come into play. Managers must guide conversations both by asking questions and listening, not by giving directives. Employees learn and grow the most when they uncover the answers themselves.

Lean Tip #2602 - Recognize What’s Going Well

Coaching well requires a balance of criticism and praise. If your coaching conversations are completely focused on what’s not working and what the employee has to do to change, that’s not motivating, it’s demoralizing.

Your recognition of the things your employee is doing well can be a springboard into how they can build from that to improve. We’re not talking about the compliment sandwich here, though, because that coaching technique often devolves into shallow praise that comes off as insincere.

Giving compliments that you don’t actually mean can have a worse effect than not giving any at all, so take the time to think about specific things that are going well, and let your employees know that you see and appreciate them!

Lean Tip #2603 - Listen and Empower Employees

Coaching requires both encouragement and empowerment. As a manager and a leader, your job is to build one-on-one relationships with employees that result in improved performance.

Your employees are likely to have a lot of input, questions, and feedback. It’s important for them to know you care enough to listen to what they have to say, so encourage them to share their opinions.

Some employees will have no problem speaking their mind, while others will need a LOT of encouragement before they share an opinion with you openly. Once they do open up, be sure to respect those opinions by discussing them, rather than dismissing them.

Lean Tip #2604 - Coach in the Moment

If an employee comes to you with a question about a process or protocol, use this opportunity to teach them something new. If you’re not able to stop what you’re doing right away, schedule time with them as soon as possible to go over it.

Better yet, keep a weekly one-on-one meeting scheduled with each employee so you can go over questions and issues regularly, while maintaining productivity. Coaching employees with a goal of improving performance means making them a priority each week!

Lean Tip #2605 - Commit to Continuous Learning

Make a commitment to improve your own skills and competencies. If you’re not continuously learning, why should your employees? Lead by example and your team will follow.

Show that you are interested in their success (why wouldn’t you be?). Ask questions about where they see their career going, or how they see their role evolving in the company. Even if they don’t have a plan laid out yet, these questions will make them think about their career and what they want to accomplish within the organization.

Show your employees that you don’t just want them to do better so you look better, but that you’re actively interested in their career, accomplishments, and professional success.

Lean Tip #2606 – Empathy is Essential for Leaders

For leaders of the current workforce, empathy is essential. Here are three key reasons why empathy is so important for leaders: 1) the increase in the use of teams 2) the rapid pace of globalization with increased cross cultural communication and 3) the growing need to retain talent. Empathy also enables leaders to create environments of open communication and feedback, understand and navigate the problems employees face, validate what their employees are going through, and anticipate the needs of teams.

Lean Tip #2607 – Put Yourself in the Person’s Shoes.

It’s easy for us to comment and judge. We can say “This is no big deal” or “I don’t see why you feel this way” or “You’re over-reacting.” However, put yourself in the person’s shoes and walk a mile. Maybe they are undergoing great pain and difficulty. Maybe they are experiencing deep problems from other areas of their life. Maybe there are little issues that led them to behave this way. Without knowing the full details of a person’s problem, how can we make a conclusion? Imagine you are the person. Imagine going through this problem right now, and try to understand things from their perspective. This will allow you to connect with their emotions and perspective better.

Lean Tip #2608 – Acknowledge the Person’s Feelings.

One of the biggest problems I find in communication is that many people don’t acknowledge the other person’s feelings. Acknowledging means to recognize the importance of something. So for example, someone says “I feel so frustrated with X.” Acknowledging this feeling means saying, “Why are you frustrated?” or “I’m sorry to hear that. What happened? “On the other hand, when you brush off or dismiss that emotion (e.g. “Relax,” “What’s the big deal?”), or you try to avoid the topic or say something irrelevant, you are not acknowledging — or respecting — their feelings. Think about emotions as the connecting point in a conversation. How you respond to an emotion is central to whether the person continues to share or closes off. When someone expresses an emotion, like “I’m sad,” “I’m angry,” or “I’m frustrated,” acknowledge the emotion. For example: “I’m so sorry that you are feeling this,” “This must be really frustrating,” or “What happened?”

Lean Tip #2609 – Master the Art of Asking Questions

Exercising empathy for coworkers means not only being a good listener but also asking the right questions to get to the root of your colleagues’ problems.

When you ask thoughtful questions of your coworkers, you’re basically saying, “Okay, I hear you. What can I do to help? How are we going to take care of this?”

Questions asked of your employees should be specific rather a blanket, one-size-fits-all response. Workers deserve to have their concerns heard and understood.

Lean Tip #2610 – Accept That Empathy Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Your quest for a more empathetic workplace is a marathon, not a sprint.

Learning how to develop empathy skills such as patience, keen listening, and asking thoughtful questions takes time. The more you interact and become comfortable with your team, the easier it becomes to show them compassion.

Don’t let one bad experience or toxic coworker wreck your otherwise positive outlook, either. Consistently showing up and responding to coworkers’ concerns will ultimately lead to empathy, influence and respect. Once you’ve kindled positive relationships with your coworkers, everyone else in the office will be more likely to return the favor.

The end result? A connected, compassionate workplace.


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Monday, August 24, 2020

Book Review: Lean Life


Paul Akers has written several books on how he has applied Lean thinking in business and at home. In his 4th book Lean Life, he applies the key "Lean" business elements he discussed in 2 Second Lean to our personal lives and relationships. It's the simple and practical shop floor wisdom of stopping our personal assembly line of defects and mistakes to come up with new and improved solutions.

Paul believes we think we know what we want in life and the relationships that are important to us, but in fact, most of us are simply clueless. The question is why? Because we don't know our most important customer...ourselves.

My Favorite Words of Wisdom (Quotes):
  • You must slow down to go fast.
  • Be happy when problems are in front of you. They are the opportunity for you to grow.
  • The small act of being totally present when you are with the one you love is the gateway to a life of love and success.
  • Simplicity attracts people; complexity repels them.
  • The real sign of wealth are individuals with deeply engaged minds and physically fit bodies.
  • Things own you and the more things you have, the bigger slave you become.
  • If we have abundance, we will choose to buy something rather than use our creativity. We become lazy and miss the very essence of life: hard work, discovery, and resourcefulness.
  • Life is all about what you give, but you can’t give what you don’t have. A strong self, with a clarity of purpose and a clear process to achieve it, will allow you to give more abundantly to everyone around you.
  • Have the courage to surround yourself with high-quality people who love to improve and take full responsibility for their position in life.
  • The daily pursuit of discovering solutions and learning from people will enrich your life beyond anything you ever imagined.
Here are the absolute non-negotiables and most important concepts of this book wrapped into six pithy bullet points.

1. Life is short.
Life is short and the meaning of this book will elude anyone who does not approach it from this critical vantage point. Life is not a rehearsal, it is for living right now. It is a gift that has been given to each of us. Life must be cherished and lived in a deliberate and thoughtful manner.

2. Life should be amazing.
Life should be remarkable, exciting, and forever improving in three critical areas: your work, your health, and your relationships. Remember, every element of life should be remarkable, settle for nothing but excellence and build a remarkable life!

3. Use your brain.
Every life experience gives you the opportunity to gain wisdom. Wisdom is essentially a crystal ball that gives you the ability to look into the future and be a better predictor of outcomes. If nothing is changing or getting better, it’s because you are not gaining wisdom from experiences.

4. Brutal truth equals courage.
Everything of significances starts with a single action…courage. Most people will not muster the courage to step definitively outside their comfort zone.

5. High-quality people.
Have the courage to surround yourself with high-quality people, who love to improve and take full responsibility for their position in life. What I do hope to achieve is to make a lasting and substantive effect on others. What I have learned is when people respect you, they will love you, and that’s a much higher and significant pursuit and infinitely more satisfying.

6. Fall in love with lean.
Falling in love with Lean will enrich your life. The daily pursuit of discovering solutions and learning from people will enrich your life beyond anything you ever imagined. Banish Sloppiness and Fall in Love with Precision. Love the idea of being precise and getting it right. Live your life in a deliberate fashion so every process serves you. This intense desire to refine all of life’s processes will energize you and deliver joy.

Lean thinkers who like to learn about the application of lean in non-traditional settings will enjoy this book. If you have a modicum of curiosity and you want to see how to do life better, then Lean Life is the right book for you.

Paul Akers has all of his books available for free in several formats here. Visit the Lean Life page for a free copy of the book and resources by chapter.

 

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Friday, August 21, 2020

Lean Quote: Leaders Need to Slow Down to Speed Up

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.


"It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.  — Rollo May

I think it makes more sense to walk slower and use our eyes and brains in those moments.

It has never been more important for leaders to learn from and respond quickly to economic, political, and competitive changes. In a world where change is constant, that response must be rapid and inspiring.

To lead effectively, one must simultaneously maintain visibility of both the details and the Big Picture. Leaders must constantly find ways to optimize their own efforts, as well as those of their teams. This is easier said than done, and unfortunately, many leaders get caught in cycles of working harder…not necessarily smarter.

Slowing down and putting the right systems in place will mean you later go faster than you could ever have imagined. Being organized makes you go fast. Running around trying to do 100 things at once does not make you go fast.

The idea of going slow…to go fast has been around for ages. The core struggle comes from the dichotomy between “Knowing” and “Doing.”

Intellectually knowing something is one thing. Actually, doing something about it is a completely different beast. Knowing requires wrapping your head around something, which most of us can do relatively easily. Doing requires a shift in behavior to act in new and unique ways. Often it takes leaders some time to build new habits around slowing down, and coaching tends to expedite the process and learning curve. This notion of going slow to go fast is critically important for leaders (and businesses) to understand and leverage though.

Business leaders should pause to focus on strategy refinement and iteration across the company. Working together with the management and finance teams, companies should identify its current strengths, understand and fix any potential problems, evaluate various opportunities for growth, and forecast any threats in current and potential markets. It’s also critically important to build in time to listen to customer and employee feedback: Does your company know who its most important customers are? Are your employees aligned with the company’s mission and goals?

By deliberately slowing down and taking time to reflect, think, plan, focus, and refine, businesses can avoid the pitfalls of moving too fast and enjoy long-term sustainable growth.


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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

How Happy Employees Make Your Venture More Productive


Happiness does have a significant impact on the productivity of your employees. It’s not just an empty claim. Science says so.

In collaboration with British Telecom, Oxford University’s Saïd School of Business researched the influence of happiness on productivity in employees.

The researchers have found that when employees felt happier, they did their work faster, made more phone calls per hour, and converted more calls into sales. As a result, researchers reported a 13% increase in productivity.

Work Environment Is a Large Contributor to Employee Happiness

The above-mentioned study proves that the components of employee happiness are not entirely connected to personal life or any other outside-of-work factors. The researchers from Oxford even took into consideration the possible impact of good and bad weather on employee happiness and found no connection.

Thus, the Oxford University study proves that employers should not send their employees seeking for happiness and satisfaction somewhere outside of their workplace.

The workplace environment and personal life of the employees are not mutually exclusive and have a significant impact on each other. While low job satisfaction can have a negative impact on an employee’s personal life, a positive work environment can also significantly improve employee’s health and well-being, thus, contributing to their overall happiness.

Exploring the Connection Between Employee Happiness and Job Productivity

We now know that the work environment has an effect as significant as personal life on an employee’s productivity.

But what does low happiness and satisfaction levels can cost your company?

Harvard Business Review referenced to a study by Queens School of Business and Gallup Organization, which found that disengaged workers had:

       37% higher absenteeism

       49% more work-related accidents

       60% more errors

As a result, the organizations, where these employees worked, after some time had:

       18% lower overall productivity

       16% lower profitability

       37% lower job growth

       65% lower share price

According to this study, surveyed companies, depending on the size, lost from $100,000 to millions of dollars annually on average from low employee happiness and satisfaction levels.

So, what lies behind employee happiness? What should you do as an employer to contribute to employee happiness?

Let’s take a look.

1. Foster the Atmosphere of Respect

Communication at work is the first thing that you need to take into consideration when it comes to employee happiness.

Unfortunately, whenever there is a disagreement between a supervisor and an employee and among employees as well, people tend to use a passive-aggressive approach to dealing with conflict.

Passive-aggressive communication at work can manifest itself in a variety of ways:

       ignoring proper direct channels of communication (spreading rumors, using back-handed compliments and other passive-aggressive comments)

       sabotaging collaboration and healthy communication

       silent treatment as well as harsh unnecessary criticism, nitpicking

       complete refusal to praise employees

Furthermore, praise can also be used in a passive-aggressive context. For instance, a supervisor can use the achievements of one employee to shame another employee and their lack of initiative.

That is why the first step on your way to the happiness of your employees would be getting read of passive-aggressive communication and focusing more on a respectful attitude. And in case you need to give a negative comment, do it in a constructive way and offer your solution to the problem.

2.  Take Care of Your Employee’s Safety

The second contributing factor is making sure that your employees feel safe at work. You might think about the physical safety of your employees right now, but we refer more to safe communication.

While eliminating passive-aggressive attitudes at a workplace is the first step to communication, based on trust, it still isn’t enough to get your employees to feel comfortable enough to share, and this is your end goal.

Trust in a leader is one of the components of employee happiness and job satisfaction. When a leader has their employees’ best interest at heart, it motivates the workers to contribute more.

The research published in the Organization Science journal showed that employees that trusted their leader and safely communicated their issues directly, learned faster, and had better performance.

That’s why trust should be incorporated in the corporate culture and nurtured from the very beginning. Whenever there is a newcomer in your company, you should notify them that your workplace environment should foster empathy and interpersonal kindness, rather than a passive-aggressive attitude and disregard of others.

3. Don’t Encourage Working Overtime

The last tip is concerned more with work ethic than with communication, however, it has a great impact on employee happiness.

There are many companies across the U.S. that have high turnover. While high turnover is not necessarily a bad thing and can be connected to seasonal work and high competition in the industry, in most cases it is caused by overworking and workplace-related stress.

There is a number of high-stress jobs, from insurance advisors to marketers. “After our first marketing campaign, we had a high turnover, which prompted us to hire freelance marketers to help our team cope with large amounts of work,” says Estelle Liotard, senior editor and the head of content marketing at BestWritingAdvisor, a writing services review site, sharing her company’s experience dealing with high turnover.

To help your employees cope with all their tasks within working hours, you can:

       Reduce the number of daily meetings. Project status updates, for instance, can be unnecessary, if you use project management software, available to all your employees.

       Introduce flexible work schedules. Different people have different high-performance and low-performance times. Some people work well early in the morning, while others have a performance boost after 4 p.m.

       Establish an overtime policy. Overtime work should be an exception rather than a rule. Forcing your employees to work overtime almost every day can lead to burnout, which inevitably will have a negative impact on the productivity of your venture.

Your employees may also be forced to work overtime because they don’t have the right tools and resources to complete their tasks within working hours. Encourage your employees to share, which tools they require to do their job best and equip them with everything they need to do their work efficiently.

Wrapping Up

Science confirms that a happy employee is a productive employee. Moreover, it is your task as an employer to contribute to their happiness.

Help your employees work smart, not hard, and encourage open communication in the company, where there is no place for a passive-aggressive attitude. Nurture honesty and interpersonal kindness, and you will see, how the productivity of your employees rises through the roof, making your venture a dream place to work at.

Author bio: Melanie Sovann is a professional writer, a blogger, and editor at EssaySupply, the site which provides best research papers online. She also loves writing about smart business models and facilitating a healthy work environment. 



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Monday, August 17, 2020

Motivating Employees Is Not About Carrots or Sticks

The "carrot and stick" approach is an idiom that refers to a policy of offering a combination of reward and punishment to induce good behavior. It is named in reference to a cart driver dangling a carrot in front of a mule and holding a stick behind it. The mule would move towards the carrot because it wants the reward of food, while also moving away from the stick behind it, since it does not want the punishment of pain, thus drawing the cart.

Thus, an individual is given carrot i.e. reward when he performs efficiently and is jabbed with a stick or is given a punishment in case of non-performance.

Leaders are encouraged to rely on the carrot versus stick approach for motivation, where the carrot is a reward for compliance and the stick is a consequence for noncompliance. But when our sole task as leaders becomes compliance, trying to compel others to do something, chances are we’re the only ones who will be motivated.

Are people and donkeys the same? Do rewards and punishments work at work?

Research shows REWARDS work best to harness ACTION. 

In the September 27, 2017 Harvard Business Review, Tali Sharot, an associate professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University College London, shares how the reward of praise was more effective to increase hospital employees’ hand sanitizing efforts than the threat of disease (and obvious punishment). In fact, cameras monitoring employees washing or not washing their hands showed an increase from 10% compliance when warning signs about disease were used to motivate employees’ actions versus almost 90% compliance when an electronic board displayed a positive message (“Good job!”) to reward hand washing. Bottom line: immediate positive feedback is very effective when it comes to changing actions. Sharot explains that our brains have evolved over time to be wired such that we think “if reward, then action needed.”

Research shows PUNISHMENTS work best to harness INACTION 

On the flip side, our brains have also evolved to avoid negative consequences (such as drowning, poison, or dangerous areas) by inaction or staying where we are. Most people have experienced the phenomena of freezing in place in a potentially dangerous situation. Sharot believes that “when we anticipate something bad, our brain triggers a ‘no go’ signal.” For this reason, punishments (like getting fired or being legally prosecuted) may be most effective to discourage people from acting in certain ways (like stealing from the company or sharing trade secrets).

Motivating people to do their best work, consistently, has been an enduring challenge for executives and managers. Even understanding  what constitutes human motivation has been a centuries-old puzzle, addressed as far back as Aristotle.

The things that make people satisfied and motivated on the job are different in kind from the things that make them dissatisfied. Ask workers what makes them unhappy at work, and you’ll hear them talk about insufficient pay or an uncomfortable work environment, or “stupid” regulations and policies that are restraining or the lack of job flexibility and freedom. Environmental factors can be demotivating, but even if managed brilliantly, fixing these factors won’t motivate people to work harder or smarter.

It turns out that people are motivated by interesting work, challenge, and increasing responsibility — intrinsic factors. People have a deep-seated need for growth and achievement.

The better employees feel about their work, the more motivated they remain over time. When we step away from the traditional carrot or stick to motivate employees, we can engage in a new and meaningful dialogue about the work instead.

In Drive, Daniel Pink, describes “the surprising truth” about what motivates us. Pink concludes that extrinsic motivators work only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances; rewards often destroy creativity and employee performance; and the secret to high performance isn’t reward and punishment but that unseen intrinsic drive to do something because it’s meaningful.

True motivation boils down to three elements: Autonomy, the desire to direct our own lives; mastery, the desire to continually improve at something that matters to us; and purpose, the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves, Pink says. Joining a chorus of many, he warns that the traditional “command-and-control” management methods in which organizations use money as a contingent reward for a task, are not only ineffective as motivators, but are actually harmful.

The carrot-and-stick approach worked well for typical tasks of the early 20th century – routine, unchallenging and highly controlled. For tasks where the process is straightforward and lateral thinking is not required, rewards can provide a small motivation without harmful side effects.

However, jobs in the 21st century have become more complex, more interesting and more self-directed, and this is where the carrot-and-stick approach has become unstuck. The implications for leaders are significant. They must both be cognizant of the latest research on motivation, and take action to make those organizational and relationship changes.


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