The general approach for most managers is ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.
This always seems a great policy because it requires inaction and is justified by having more time (see The Complete Time Management package) to focus on those not doing such a great job.
What if you have someone who works great and is a high performer?
Under this system you leave well alone.
Good performers are often identified and given additional challenges.
What if the performance of the same individual begins to drop dramatically?
How will you identify the problem?
If no one has ever paid any attention to how this worker has been behaving they will not know if his behaviour has changed in a new role.
It is more than likely that behaviour has not changed and an alteration in circumstances has resulted in poor performance.
This could either be private changes in the worker’s situation or work environment related.
This sort of situation will be very common in results orientated companies where no one is overly worried about how they get the results provided they get them.
All organisations need results. However, if this philosophy is supported too vigorously people will look for short cuts to achieve results using inappropriate behaviour, for example, cheating and falsifying data.
If you wish to sustain good behaviour you must know what the behaviour was in the first place.
This assumes that the results you want are clear and precisely defined.
Companies are driven by vision (see The Complete Leadership package) which is then crystallised into long and short term objectives which are the corner stone of project management (see The Complete Project Management package). A vision is not defined by what it appears to be by what it does.
Visions improve motivation.
These same objectives will be eventually broken down into smaller tasks via work breakdown structures until packages of work are identified that must be carried out. These identified tasks will form the basis of the results required by an organisation.
If you identify that a toxicology test is required as a task then the result would be when it is completed.
However, you can not get a result without carrying out some sort of behaviour.
You want the correct behaviour that will lead to the desired result.
This approach is very similar to setting S.M.A.R.T targets.
Where we have :
Before you can identify the required behaviours you must identify the results.
So what results are you trying to achieve?
Woolly phrase like ‘improved morale’ and ‘lower errors’ are not results.
These are no good because they can’t be measured.
Once you identify a result that can be measured you can try out behaviours and check the response.
If you just assume that you know the necessary behaviour to get the result you will find it hard to modify your approach if results are not achieved.
This specifying of results and behaviour is known as ‘pinpointing’.
Being able to measure an activity is good for motivation.
Behaviour is not the same as attitude.
Trying to attach a label to someone such as ‘hard working’, ‘non team player’ or ‘work shy’ is not helpful.
These are a function of the personality of the individual and are the result of a complex set of behaviours.
Understanding personality is difficult and reflects what goes on in the mind of the individual.
This can’t be measured.
Referring to these attitudes may have some place in communication but serves to blame the individual with no attempt to identify the underlying behaviours that you may wish to change.
Behaviours (and results) are visible items that can be measured.
Therefore, the only way to change attitudes is to identify underlying behaviours and produce a strategy for modifying them.
We tend to know behaviours that we want to stop as we are usually telling people all the time ‘don’t do this and don’t do that’.
We rarely produce any ideas that may favour a behaviour to do the job properly we just don’t want people to do it wrong.
It is very easy for any worker to stop making mistakes and that is to do nothing.
This does not solve the problem.
This ‘negative’ approach fails to get to grips with identifying the underlying behaviours and deciding on the correct positive reinforcement to modify behaviour.
The more data you have the easier it will be to influence motivation.
You can not have a behaviour that says ‘you will produce furniture with less scratches’. This is not a behaviour.
Ogden Lindsley devised a Dead Man’s test that basically said that if a dead man can do it then it is not a behaviour.
Many of the results that are desired pass the Dead Man’s test.
No behaviour is required to reduce ‘scratches’ just don’t make any furniture.
Results themselves are not hard to spot if you can walk away from it it’s a result.
Certain items you can still take with you, for example, ‘improved communication’ can not be left behind, it is not concrete and therefore can not be a result.
In a similar vein to the S.M.A.R.T targets both results and behaviours need to be measurable, observable and reliable.
You must be able to see or hear the behaviour.
If a behaviour exists it can be measured in terms of either the rate or the frequency of its occurrence.
People view things differently.
If more than one person can verify the measurement it would be considered reliable.
A person can not modify his or her behaviour if it or the result is not under their control.
Total control is not usually the case but superior influence will be OK.
As control reduces so will motivation.
A close look at the data will tell you if the person has control.
Large or minimal variation in data might suggest lack of control.
A few simple things to consider will help distinguish a behaviour from a result.