Motivating With Numbers? or You Get What You Expect Parts 2 & 3

(See Part 1 May 30, 2014 blog entry)

What follows are two dialogues between the same two people about the same subject. I have chosen to present today’s story using this format because goals are good, and goals beget goal setting, begets goal checking, begets… well you’ll see for yourself. Both versions are created from reports of real conversations only modified to protect the participants’ identities.


Motivating With Numbers?
You Get What You Expect…Part 2:

The boss, AKA Goal Setter, approaches Goal Settee and behind a big smile says:
“Hi, I’m here to do a progress check.”
“Oh, hi, glad to see you.”
“Uh, huh, so let’s see, it says here on your goal sheet that your budget for this period is 10 widgets, is that right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Okay well, how many have you done so far?”
“We just finished widget number 12 – pretty good huh?”
“Okay…so, well hell! Look, this is too easy! We’re only two thirds through the period. You might do what, 17? Maybe even 20 this quarter, right? Probably without even breaking a sweat!”
“You know I see it now! Your goal should have been… 20 all along! That’s it, 20! 20 Units this quarter – that should be your goal, your, as they say, right-sized goal! So listen, here’s the deal, you need to give me 20 or more units by period end, no question about it!”
“What happened to the goal of 12?”
“I’ve already forgotten it! You need to do 20 or more… otherwise… well, that’s all you need to focus on, I want 20… or more! Boy am I ever glad we did this goal check! Hey, you better get it in gear, time’s-a-wasting!”

After Goal Setter leaves the area, Goal Settee says to no one in particular:
“20? Times a wasting? Give me a break! If I can make 20, he’ll be on me because I didn’t do 25. I stretch and work after hours to get 25 and he’ll act like I’m cheating him for not finishing 30. This is a really stupid game! It doesn’t matter how much I produce, he’ll never be satisfied! Heads he wins, tails I loose, that’s how this place works.”

Big sigh, then to himself:

“Okay. I get it. Here we go: 19 widgets or bust!
If he wants 30, he can get a robot!
And while he’s looking for one, I’ll find another place to work.”

Or an alternate conversation about the same topic:

Motivating With Numbers?
You Get What You Expect: Part 3:

The boss, AKA Goal Setter, approaches Goal Settee and behind a big smile says:
“Hello Jack, how’s the family?”
“Oh, Hi John, good thanks. What brings you down here?”
“Well we haven’t talked since the kick-off meeting a couple of months ago, and I just thought I’d check in and see how you’re doing with the new widget assembly. How is it going?”
“Better than we thought! Remember, we said we might get 10 of them done this quarter?”
“Yeah I do, that was the goal, wasn’t it?”
“Yup, well, we blew up the goal. We’re just putting the finishing touches on the twelfth one and we have a month to go yet. That new assembly process is going a heck of lot better than any of us expected, or predicted for that matter. Nice surprise, huh?”
“Wow, it sure is. Have any idea where we will be at the end of the quarter?”
“You know, we‘re still picking up speed, finding kinks and smoothing them out… I think we could see, ah, well, maybe 20, but that’s if we keep the team together, you know, maybe even add a couple more.”
“Great work! The donuts for coffee break are on me today and tomorrow too! Tell the team thanks from all of us. We can sell everything your team can make, Jack. Also tell them to keep it up Jack, but don’t slip on QC! We’re thrilled with the production, but we need both good production and flawless quality, you know that, right?”
“Yup, we do! I’ll let you know what the revised number looks like when we get closer to the end of the quarter.”
“Thanks Jack, please do, and again, good work!”

Jack, while moving back to the assembly area is thinking to himself: “I wonder if we could do 25? Can’t quite see it yet, but we are picking up speed, who knows? I think I’ll put it to the team, see what they think, it would be a really good challenge for all of us!”

Jack’s team built 29 widgets that quarter.

As a leader, either conversation is available to you.
(And if you’re wondering what the conversation might look like if Jack was well below budget when the leader comes by, stay tuned. We’ll cover that another time.)


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