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Behaviour failure

What are you meant to do?

We know that managers will treat people and machines completely differently.
If a machine goes awry the exact problem is ascertained and a solution is put into place.
There are obvious costs to not getting the repairs completed.
There are also costs attached to replacing staff if you decide you are unable to change their behaviours (see Limited By Attitude)

A lot of managers believe there is the ‘hard’ approach and there is the ‘soft’ approach with nothing in between.

When an individual is given a job they could do with knowing the following before they start:

  • What exactly do you need for me to do?
  • What leeway do I have in terms of responsibilities to get things done?
  • What level of quality do you want for the job?
  • What is the finishing criteria?
  • Can you tell me if things are not going to plan?

No one would start a project without setting goals or objectives with measurable criteria for success (see The Complete Project Management package).
Project control systems are usually in place but this is not the same as feedback on performance.
Normal project control systems appear as progress meetings and raising issues on a management by exception basis.

What’s required

The key question that needs an answer is ‘why do people not do what they are asked to do?’

The answer is not that they are lazy, incompetent, deaf or work shy.
The key reasons usually put forward by workers are:

  • No one has told them what they are supposed to do
  • They have no idea how to do what is asked
  • It’s unclear why they are doing it
  • As far as they are concerned they are doing it right
  • External things get in the way beyond their control

These are some of the major replies, and there are many others including:

  • They can’t physically carry out
  • There are personal issues
  • Frightened of the consequences it would bring
  • They have a better way to do it
  • It won’t work anyway
  • They have got better or more important things to do
  • There appears to be no personal benefit (positive consequence)
  • There is no penalty, punishment or negative consequence for not doing it.

Most of these problems with performance are due to inaction by management rather than something intrinsically wrong with the worker.

By far the most common reason is the first, that is

  • No one has told them what they are supposed to do

When someone isn’t performing correctly it is very rare for anyone to assume this may be the answer.
More than likely the ‘attitude’ of the individual is well know, for example, being ‘lazy’ and the label sticks.
Therefore, this is the reason for the poor performance.

Managers rarely look beyond results. It isn’t possible to manage a result you can only manage the behaviours leading to those results. You recruit people to carry out particular tasks. Once the task is finished you will have a result.
You can not influence it at this point only modify behaviour for the next time the task is carried out.

Lack of suitable consequence

If people are reluctant to carry out a behaviour it will be due to a lack of suitable consequence.
If a job is monotonous, lacks any need for thinking skills, there are more interesting things to do or no one appreciates what they do etc it is hardly surprising there is reluctance to do it.
Lack of motivation is the result.

Other reasons

External obstacles

External problems preventing good performance are very common.
A lack of raw material, incorrect data received, late reports etc. are often cited as reasons for poor performance.
There are many more.

Wrong assumptions

If you act on information that you believe is correct and it isn’t it can cause a lot of problems.
Let us say that you wish to purchase a piece of equipment to a certain specification and without it performance will be compromised. Unfortunately, the cost of this particular piece of equipment can not be justified in the budget so you have to settle for another. Performance drops. However, you made a wrong assumption concerning the budget as you thought there was a budget limit when in fact there wasn’t.
Check key assumptions.

The biggest wrong assumption is thinking that a person does not want to do the job.
In fact, it is much more likely they do want to do it, have the skill but alas motivation is low due to one of the above reasons holding them up.