Insights into why people do what they do and how to implement and sustain real change.

In our last article my good friend and colleague Tom Carr among other things, talked about putting pride back into the workplace. While we all agree that having the correct technical skills is important to Reliable Manufacturing those skills have no value, unless excited and motivated individuals or teams properly apply them. While training can address the technical skills; at the end of the day, it is often the motivational side that becomes a barrier to improvements in the area of Reliable Manufacturing. So how do we motivate people and change our culture?

First of all let’s define ‘culture’:

“Culture is the observable patterns of activity and dialogue in an organization that employees have learned as acceptable and have adapted to as a result of reinforcement over time”

The key part of the above definition is the last part…”adapted to as a result of reinforcement.” It is important to understand that poor culture is a learned behavior within your organization. It did not start with it. In our daily activities and interaction with others, we all reinforce and encourage behaviors in others. Human beings are a largely social species and are often highly influenced by the behavior of others; especially peers. If the reinforcement we give sends the wrong message, culture will change for the worse.

So how do we motivate people to change the culture?

Motivation is an inner force that compels behavior.

There are two types of motivation: Intrinsic and Extrinsic.

Intrinsic Motivation refers to motivation that comes from inside an individual rather than from any external or outside rewards, such as money or grades. This type of motivation comes from the internal pride one gets from performing the task itself.

Extrinsic Motivation refers to motivation that comes from outside such as money, rewards, punishment etc. It can be a very powerful influence on behavior.

While extrinsic motivation can, and often is utilized to modify behaviors, it typically only produces short term changes in behavior, and often is counterproductive for long term sustainable change.

Countless studies show that short-term extrinsic motivators such as formal bonuses, pay for performance schemes, etc., although sometimes effective in the short term, are not just ineffective in the long term, they are actually counterproductive and reduce motivation. Think about how we feel when the bonus is removed.

Extrinsic motivators are valuable when used correctly. Typically the best use of extrinsic

motivators, are informally on an ad-hoc basis rather than a formal process. The formal process becomes an expectation, and when removed is highly unmotivating.


One measure of how intrinsically motivated we are, is employee engagement and there are a myriad of consulting companies that will measure this. Here are some results of such a study. Of note here is that the industry with the highest engagement scores have

the least extrinsic motivators. Don’t get me wrong — compensation is important, but not in the way we think.

Studies show that compensation and benefits are attractors to a position, not maintainers. The science shows us that as long as we perceive our compensation to be fair and we are providing for our lifestyle, our performance at work is not related to compensation. An example of this thinking in action is looking at the performance of some sports stars the year before they get the big contract and the year after. Extrinsic motivation increases hugely and performance often drops!

Engagement can be significantly improved by the appropriate application of spontaneous extrinsic motivators. This can be as simple as a heartfelt thank-you from a senior leader, or some kind of public recognition (in some cases). The important characteristic is that the motivator should be spontaneous. As soon as it becomes expected, when removed, it becomes highly unmotivating.

We should also understand that we all have our own unique extrinsic motivators. This is why broad-brush generic extrinsic motivation schemes rarely work. Extrinsic motivators that are effective for some may be insulting to others.

It is up to the leader to get to know our people and apply the appropriate motivation.

In any event extrinsic motivation alone will not change culture.

The Science of Motivation

So what motivates us intrinsically instills that sense of pride and a job well done? As human beings to be intrinsically motivated, we need three things:


– A sense of being in control of one’s own destiny


– A sense of being good at something (job well done)

Common sense of purpose

– A feeling that everyone is in it together

Let’s take a look at how these things apply to a Reliable Manufacturing environment.


Everyone wants to feel as if they are in control of their own destiny, however in a maintenance or operations department, someone obviously has to be in charge and direct the effort. How can we do that without destroying the sense of autonomy?

At the start of the 20th century, a prominent industrial psychologist developed a management philosophy called scientific management. Its main purpose was to simplify and standardize the way tasks were performed. Using the much-hated time and motion studies, it was very widely adopted and led to among other things, the development of the production line. This did increase productivity at the time, but at what cost? The underlying principle was that workers were paid to do, not to think. This philosophy deliberately and systematically eliminated autonomy, and was highly unmotivating. The only reason the thinking survived as long as it did was that in that era, machines were simple and over designed, so little thought was necessary to operate and maintain them. Unfortunately, that culture has carried forward to today and is highly ineffective on the complex systems and machines in current industrial plants.

We need our crafts-people to think, not just do.

Autonomy’s Balancing Act

How do we balance the need for autonomy with the need to perform tasks consistently?

Consistent execution of well-planned work is one cornerstone of Reliable Manufacturing.

To achieve this, it is very tempting to just write a detailed procedure or job plan on how the job should be done, and hand it to the crafts person. Doing this would be a huge mistake as it completely destroys any sense of autonomy. Most experienced and skill crafts persons when presented with a detail procedure on how to align a machine or inspect a pump are going to probably feel a little insulted; ignore the procedure, and go about their business the way they always have. They behave that way because their autonomy was removed.

If the procedure was written in the form of a series of questions, both subjective and objective that in order to be answered the crafts person has to perform certain tasks, then autonomy is restored and the work gets executed in a consistent fashion.


In the maintenance environment, demonstrating mastery is very difficult. Most of our conventional measures of mastery, such as uptime, mean time between failure, reliability, etc. are longer term measures so cannot provide the immediate sense of mastery we need to be motivated. One way of promoting a sense of mastery is to require that the craftsmen themselves gather a set on performance measures before and after any work is done.

These measures could include vibration, temperature, energy consumption etc. The act of personally measuring, documenting and communicating these indicators, promotes the required sense of mastery. On the operations side, requiring operators to perform a simple RCPE (root cause problem elimination) as part of submitting the work request creates a sense of mastery of the understanding of the machine and its failures. This is an area where careful use of extrinsic motivators can be valuable. In some facilities, machines in a ‘precise state’ are tagged with a well-designed metal tag reading “rebuilt with pride and placed in a precise state by ‘name inserted'” for all to see. Recognition amongst your peers can be a powerful extrinsic motivator.

Common Sense of Purpose

The final motivating factor is a common sense of purpose. As humans, we are social animals and need to feel that we’re all in this together. Often a significant emotional event will rally disparate groups together for a common cause. For teams to achieve a common sense of purpose, we need to keep score. With a common way of measuring progress we can all work towards the same goal. One problem today is the measures in place do not support this common goal. For measures to be effective, there must be three levels of metric: Strategic, Tactical and Application. Strategic goals are the big picture overall goals and tend to be long term. The Tactical goals are developed to support the strategy, and the application level is the day-to-day work. All three levels need measures that are clearly defined and linked.

For example, a strategic goal that supports the business might be to achieve x reduction in downtime. One of several tactics to accomplish this might be Precision Maintenance. A tactical metric might be the number of machines in a precise state. At the application level, we know that one of the things needed to place a machine in precise state is a soft foot check. So, there could be an application metric around soft foot. This supports the precision maintenance goal, which in turn supports the downtime goal. By clearly communicating how the measures work together, we can develop a common sense of purpose.

We often hear about a lack of accountability, and what management can do to improve this. It is important to understand that the most effective form of accountability is peer to peer. By fostering the common sense of purpose, peer pressure will drive performance.


We conclude with two simple questions:

  1. As a Leader, what actions are you going to take today to promote Autonomy, Mastery, and a Common sense of purpose among your employees?
  2. As an employee, what actions are you going to take today to promote Autonomy, Mastery, and a Common sense of purpose among your peers?