Matt's Articles

Motivation

We all need a push. Sure, there are some things that we do out of enjoyment, but there is a reason why hunger is a painful feeling. Hunting and gathering food are painful activities, not to mention monotonous, without the pain of hunger we may just starve. 


Given our need for a push it is not a surprise that we do not consistently wake up every morning looking for improvement opportunities in our daily work for our employers. It requires us to access a more energy intensive part of our brain that instinctively we would prefer to allow rest. Finding that improvement requires a special attention to detail and meticulous observation that, without some degree of motivation, we just don’t do.  


This means that we need some external motivation to drive improvements and see change through to implementation. The best motivation for change comes from a sense of purpose to create a desired future state. This purpose is created by management and reinforced by management’s actions. It is not a one time activity; it has to be reinforced and refined over time. 


Motivation is the other pylon, next to mindset, underneath our CI Framework. Motivation across the organization creates the energy that drives individuals to see abnormalities, inefficiencies, errors and bring others together to take actions that eliminate these problems. Continuous improvement is iterative change. Motivation is our CI engine and the greater the engine the more drive we have towards improvement. 


I have a client, well a few actually, that complain that their millennial employees are not motivated. It is a common stereotype that I do not necessarily subscribe to. I have had many really great, highly motivated young employees. But I recognize that young people are not motivated the same way that “experienced” people are motivated. In fact, every person is motivated a bit differently. Creating motivation is tricky and requires a bit of trial and error. What I know for sure is that a sense of purpose to create a desired future state drives motivation for change.


The purpose is to create a desirable future state. This is why those missions, sometimes all too fluffy, are quite important. Do you want to help a company flip burgers faster or do you want to bring quick serve food options to people in a hurry with constrained means to sustain and elevate their lives. There is a significant emotional difference between those two statements. If you don’t buy that, read The Stonecutters Parable. As leaders we need to create engaging and exciting future states that people want to help create and we need to deliver the message of that future state with the passion that moves people. We have to be motivated towards that bigger and brighter future because the individual steps to get there are painful and sometimes monotonous.  


Motivation for change requires purpose. Purpose answers the question, “Why.” Why should I care that we continue to ship the wrong parts to our customer? Why should I spend extra time at work getting this order out the door or finishing that feature so we can launch the product on time? Purpose is a very personal thing. Each of us has a different purpose. The degree of personal motivation resulting from purpose will vary from person to person. Like I said, this is a tricky topic. What are the answers to the “why” question for our specific organization? Connecting people with that sense of purpose will allow them to feel like a valued craftsman constructing a cathedral instead of just a person with a hammer breaking stone. 


I like to look at time standards and ask leaders how much the standard varies between their motivated employees versus their unmotivated employees. Of course, no one can ever provide the answer, but they always intuitively tell me that it is significant. Given that motivation is so impactful, we better have some direct activities to both monitor and improve the motivation of our workforce. Without motivation, there will be no process improvement. 


This is the final component of the CI Framework: Mindset and Motivation, Roles and Responsibilities, Team Governance, WorkFlow Management, Performance Review, and Process Improvement. I developed this based on my 20+ years of Continuous Improvement work and I apply this framework today to every one of my client engagements. I hope you have gained some insights from my seven newsletters explaining the framework. If you would like to learn more about it or how I have applied it in practice please feel free to reach out to me.

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