Re: Incentives LO1072

Fred Reed (
Fri, 05 May 95 10:54:37 EST

Reply to LO1053

Egads! The post-moderns could have a field day deconstructing this
one! Such "loaded" terms! (e.g., "the people", "honor me with their
labor", "fairness")
More seriously, I think Tom's post is a well thought out and expressed
summary of the argument most modern managers have with the concept of no
incentive pay (and many of Deming's admonitions). Tom is correct in his
assessment of incentive pay *within the larger concept* (i.e. paradigm) he
places it in. (Which, by the way, I believe is still the predominent
one). He makes it perfectly clear that the central theme of this paradigm
is * control* -- getting "the people" (my management also loves to use
this phrase) to do what *he/management* wants. His argument should be
clear warning to anyone who thinks that these ideas, such as elimination
of incentive pay, can be successfully implemented piecemeal or without
considering the larger "system".
The level of change in this case is so fundemental (the motivation
word) that appropriate systems thinking must even go beyond the broadest
boundaries of the organization. The quote below from Deming I believe
came from a short paper Deming put together on what business schools ought
to be teaching (which may have been presented in Western Connecticut as
originally posted). On the same page was a graph showing how a person's
intrinsic motivation, diginity, etc. continually goes down from early
childhood, nearly hitting the "bottom" by the time they show up for their
first job. The result is what Tom sees: clockwatching whiners, people
that *need* to be controlled to produce anything of worth.
Now, would any good systems-thinking manager see this as a problem to
be most effectively addressed by eliminating incentive pay? I don't think
so. IMHO (and Deming's as well, I am almost sure) the answer lies in that
graph - it is always better to prevent a problem than fix up the damage
after it has occurred. In this case, don't rob children of their joy of
learning and intrinsic motivation, particularly through the process of
"education". Then, when these now young adults show up for work the issue
of incentive pay (and many of the "realities" Tom and other managers see)
would never even come up.
Talk about everything be connected to everything else! Could it be
education reform is the "answer" to the learning organization puzzle?
Interestingly, the business and industry trade group in my state (CT) *is*
pushing hard for "education reform". But the reforms they want include *
more* standardised tests, *more* detailed graduation requirements,
*longer* school years and days - the same kinds of "control" that they use
to "fix" their business problems. By my reckoning, Deming's curve is
about to take a nosedive if these reforms are put in place, ironically
making the business' problem even worse. Sounds like a destructive
positive feedback loop to me! (I don't have my Senge nearby or I would
give you the archetype name)
Of course, I think there are plenty of things people in organizations
can to do overcome and reverse this "damage" and create groups that work
on intrinsic motivation rather than control. (my personal solution to the
LO puzzle). I just wanted to reinforce the notion of just how deep this
puzzle is.

Fred Reed
Quotes from message below
Tom Burke wrote:


>One is born with intrinsic motivation, self-steem, dignity. He inherits
>joy in work, joy in learning. These attributes are high at the beginning
>of life but are gradually crushed by the forces of destruction...." Among
>other things, Deming included as forces of destruction grades in school,
>merit system, incentive pay, MBO, etc.
=alot of snipping=================================.
>For a summary of Kohn's work see *Why Incentive Plans Cannot Work* in the
>Sept./Oct. 1993 Harvard Business Review or his book referred to above.
===more snipping==============================

I have appreciated the threads about the disincentives of incentive pay.
It all sounds theory. While I would like to embrace the
concept, I am drawn to some real-time conflicts.


Some people produce more of what I want. Why is it
so wrong to pay people who do more of what I want more than those who do
not do what I want? Just because Dr. Deming said it, doesn't mean I
should accept it. In this I struggle. I find no reason to reward people
for doing more of what I want done.

What I want done, for better or worse, regardless of whether I arrived at
my want by intensive teamwork or my fiat, what I want counts. My business
should reflect my desires. I should listen, I should be teachable, I
should work to protect the dignity of those who honor me with their labor.


IMHO, the correct approach is to be
sure what one wants, let the people know clearly what that is, and let
them work within a fair system so that they can enjoy the fruits of their
better effort.

I recognize the heresy, I also recognize the people I pay and when they
enhance the system because of their efforts, I think there should be
something that recognizes that. I also think they should be able to know
clearly what is expected.

Tom Burke
Ramona, California