From Davis Balestracci -- Another Deeply Hidden Lurking Cost

Published: Mon, 05/27/13

From Davis Balestracci -- Another Deeply Hidden Lurking Cost

[~ 775 words:  Take 4-6 minutes to read over a break or lunch -- and possibly 10 more minutes to take the attached survey (same as last newsletter)]

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A Hidden Treasure?

Hi, Folks,

When improvement initiatives don't yield the results promised, it is very tempting to have the knee-jerk reaction of blaming the workers for their poor attitudes and lack of work ethic.  But what if one took a counter-intuitive approach:   looking within one's business systems for the true causes for low motivation...and for their remedies?

I introduced you to my respected colleague Dean Spitzer in my 29 April newsletter on measurement.  I first encountered Dean's work in 1996 through his book Supermotivation, which I was asked to review.  I thought, "Oh, no.  Another empty, platitude-laden book with a catchy title and slick promises."  Was I ever wrong!  After reading it, I concluded that working on this concept was the best way to engage the front-line to make them buy into improvement efforts - sort of a quid pro quo ("something for something" - reciprocal mutual consideration.  "I'll do [this] for you if you'll do [this] for me.").

Demotivators are performance inhibitors unintentionally built into the way most of us do business.  They have a profound impact on performance, yet are often ignored because they stealthily and insidiously creep into an organization to become part of its normal operations - sort of what I described in my last newsletter with the help of Jim Clemmer's thoughts.

Dean:  "Too many managers underestimate the importance of what they consider minor irritations, not realizing how large these irritations loom in the subjective experience of employees.  To employees stuck in the middle, these demotivators are not minor at all."

Acknowledging them and dealing with them is pure gold currency to invest in any improvement effort.

The 21 Demotivators

The list of the 21 demotivators follows.  Dean has identified the first six as the most-troubling. 

Consider:  Even the perception by the culture that any of these exists means that the demotivator in essence exists!
  • Politics
  • Unclear expectations
  • Poorly designed work
  • Hypocrisy (not "walking the talk")
  • Being taken for granted
  • Being forced to do poor-quality work
  • Unnecessary rules
  • Unproductive meetings
  • Lack of follow-up
  • Constant change
  • Internal competition
  • Dishonesty (being lied to and perceptions of executive / HR "spin")
  • Withholding Information
  • Unfairness (perceived preferential treatment)
  • Discouraging responses (to ideas)
  • Criticism (atmosphere)
  • Capacity underutilization (of individuals)
  • Tolerating poor performance
  • Management invisibility
  • Overcontrol
  • Takeaways (of past entitlements / privileges)
A lot of the fear and anger rampant in organizations today (both expressed and repressed) are due to demotivators.  They can result in negative behavior by employees and even affect their health.  Some research has shown that 84% of workers say they could perform better if they wanted to and 50% of workers said they put forth only enough effort to hang onto their jobs.

Negative behaviors in reaction to demotivators cost American industry $250 billion a year through intentional slowdowns, procrastination, careless repeated mistakes, inattentiveness, unsafe behavior, absenteeism, tardiness, extended breaks, violence, and stealing (petty to major).  

Dean developed a formula to calculate the cost of demotivation in one's organization.  For example, three demotivators a day per person in an organization with 100 employees working 240 days a year would be losing $2.13 million a year

[Take the attached survey to determine your demotivator climate]

Part of a Continual Improvement Strategy?

It could be wise to consider ridding the workplace of demotivators a key strategy towards attaining a culture of continual improvement.  For many healthcare organizations, this could be easily integrated into Quint Studer's framework from his excellent book Hardwiring Excellence -- which many executives have already read when it was a "trendy" read.  Studer also has a non-healthcare version titled Results That Last.  What became clear to me is that his concept of "daily management walkaround" (and this includes executives) is the perfect process both to observe demotivators and solicit the culture's perceptions to intuit which may exist - and act on them immediately.

Many of you are no doubt asking yourselves, "Where are busy executives and managers going to get the time to do this?"  Simple:  by eradicating "silly meetings" where data INsanity prevails (and you did calculate how much those meetings are costing your organization, right?  So, what is the ultimate cost of (data INsanity + Demotivation)?).

Seven strategic steps for dealing with demotivators:
  1. Involve key players
  2. Set realistic expectations and a long term commitment
  3. Identify top priorities
  4. Set a strategy
  5. Make a step-by-step plan
  6. Communicate
  7. Recognize improvement.
The current pace of change in workplaces as well as society in general has become a fertile breeding ground for these demotivators.  Addressing them in an ad hoc fashion as in the past will no longer work.

How does one identify the most serious demotivators in an organization?  I'll take you back to data next time and show you an innovative statistical technique.  Until then...

Kind regards,

P.S. Want to chat with Dean Spitzer?

Dean would be delighted to talk to you about these issues (including his current passion, the innovative use of measurement) at the event that he, Dr. Rodney Dueck, and I are designing for October in Portland, Maine.  More on that soon, but our overall goal is a new, robust context for intense coaching  / dialogue on the real issues people bring with minimal didactic presentation.  It will include small group interactions with each of us individually.  You will go back with clear direction and specific plans -- not yet another three-ring binder of overwhelming information that will gather dust on a shelf.

Please contact me if you are interested. As we plan, we want to dialogue with you to design an experience that will take your success and respect for your role to the next level -- a quantum leap.

As always please also contact me if you're interested in:
Or just about any other reason!

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