Friday, September 10, 2010

Step Six: Design the Training and Tasks to Employ the Helpful Motivations You Want to Use to Encourage Near-Perfect Performance

These things command and teach.

— 1 Timothy 4:11 (NKJV)

While designing the training and tasks to achieve
various purposes will be different from instance to
instance, let me focus on some of the issues and
opportunities that are most likely to arise. To start
with, I have observed that many training and task
designers take shortcuts that cause them to miss
touching some of the important bases for achieving
success. Much like the rules of baseball dictate that
a player who hits the ball over the stadium fence
won’t score if he or she skips a base before arriving
at home plate, the designers of training and tasks
will not accomplish all that is possible when they
haven’t touched important motivational bases.

Let me be sure I haven’t misled you by focusing in
Step Five of this blueprint on identifying the
motivations that work for almost everyone:
Motivations that aren’t on that list are still going to
be important. Don’t miss the chance to employ the
power of those other motivations as well, just so long
as these motivating factors don’t discourage anyone.
You can avoid reducing motivation by simply asking
those who will be doing the tasks if any of the factors
discourage them.

Let me talk about what some of these common, but not
nearly universal, supporting motivations are. As we saw
in many of the group examples of perfect and near-
perfect performance, many people will perform the right
way because they want to fit in or seek approval from
others. Those motivations are most likely to occur when
the people doing the tasks know and like those they do
the activities with or for. As a result, there’s an
important opportunity to build long-term motivation by
designing training and tasks so that those who are doing
them get to know and like one another. While that
suggestion of encouraging camaraderie may seem like
an obvious point, many workers will tell you that they
don’t know very much about some of the people they
work with … and don’t like many of the people they
come into contact with every day at work. In fact, some
bosses encourage hostility among coworkers to make
them easier to control.

Another strong influence is for people to model their
behavior on what everyone else does. Here again, the
influence works best if people have a lot of respect and
appreciation for those they are modeling. As a result,
training and recognition activities can help identify those
who are the models who should be followed. Otherwise,
people will often emulate those who are most physically
attractive and pleasantly spoken, even if they don’t
perform properly.

Most people lack some amount of healthy self-esteem
and will enjoy gaining better self-appreciation when they
develop skill and effectiveness in the needed tasks. An
excellent way to increase the pleasure from building
self-esteem is by letting others know about a person’s
progress. To do so might mean holding an awards
ceremony where friends and family are encouraged to
attend for a fun time or by providing a gift certificate
to take friends and family out to dinner.

Boredom and indifference can be enemies of perfect
and near-perfect performance. I remember taking tap
dancing lessons as a youngster with a partner who was
much younger than me and who had trouble
remembering the steps. Since we did each step
together, a mistake by either of us required that we
repeat what we had just done. If my partner made the
same mistakes time after time, I would become so
bored that after awhile I couldn’t do my part either,
even if I knew it quite well. To help people stay fresh in
appreciating the situation and to be happily focused on
what they are doing, it’s valuable to include frequent
novelty into what’s being done. However, in providing
these novelties, it’s important not to let them become
distractions. Novelties should just be a sideshow and not
be confused with the main event.

People also like to feel connected to something
important. Disney and Ritz-Carlton have worked hard
to supply this motivation by providing their employees
with a deep understanding of what the companies stand
for. Disney, for example, requires new employees to
spend two weeks learning about the company’s
entertainment heritage in supporting families before
they begin any job-specific training.

During those two weeks, many new employees realize
that they don’t feel comfortable representing that
heritage and resign. That’s a much better time to
identify people with motivational mismatches than after
someone has started on the job or volunteer activity. If
your organization has a rich heritage that will motivate
some to want to do a better job and to stay more alert,
be sure that heritage is explained and appreciated by
those who will be doing the tasks.

Disney and Ritz-Carlton do something else that you
should consider: The companies encourage people doing
any task to feel they are essential to the organization’s
success. Disney employees are told that they are “cast
members,” people who are performing in ways that will
influence the experiences and enjoyment of the
potentially engaged and enthusiastic audience, the
customers. Ritz-Carlton employees are told that they
are “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and
Gentlemen.” Who wouldn’t enjoy doing that? By
creating such a special role for each person, those
with tasks to do are more likely to be looking for
opportunities to solve problems, to make life better
for customers, and to serve others rather than
trying to make the situation better only for

People are also interested in understanding the
impact of what they do. Take time to measure their
performance and its effects on others, and let them
regularly see the results. By showing where
improvements are possible, more attention will be
placed on those areas: This is an important lesson that
we can learn from applying the second step in the
2,000 percent solution process (Decide What to

Take task doers to observe the impact of their activities
on customers and other stakeholders whom they don’t
normally see, and you can have an even bigger
motivational impact. Being given this opportunity makes
people feel that they are being invested in, seeing
themselves more as someone the organization cares
about. Observing the consequences of mistakes and
perfect performance can also provide strong ongoing
motivation to avoid errors, particularly when the cost of
errors is high to those who are affected.

Almost everyone who starts a new job is excited about
the opportunity, looking forward to doing a good job
and to making career progress with the organization. If
you come back a few months later, most new employees
will tell you that they don’t have the tools they need to
do a good job, the organization doesn’t properly support
their efforts, and their boss doesn’t care about them.
What a waste of motivation! A better approach is to
design tasks so that those who do the work have better
tools than what they expect, more support than
they had hoped for, and more caring interactions with
their bosses than they have experienced before. To
accomplish these things simply requires finding out
what the beliefs and expectations are of those who
will be asked to do the tasks and then to design the
training, tasks, and organizational support to provide
high levels of these kinds of encouragement. In
particular, a lot can be accomplished by having
supervisors and colleagues show appreciation for
learning, for good results, and for going beyond what is
normally expected. On a regular basis, someone should
sit down with each person to help plan future career
steps, so that the people doing the tasks understand how
this work ultimately fits into what the organization hopes
they will accomplish. Connecting tasks to career progress
engages more of a person’s motivations that are based on

Testing is essential to finding mistakes before making
permanent any training or task method. Most
organizations plan either no testing or far too little. A
better approach is to plan to continually experiment
with ways to improve motivation and performance
while making it clear to those involved that there are
bound to be flaws that need to be identified and to be
removed. In this way, those who do the work can be
helped to understand that they should provide and
encourage improvements. If the organization also helps
people learn how to analyze and develop solutions, the
results will be even better.

Copyright 2010 Donald W. Mitchell, All Rights Reserved

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