A sales manager at a local insurance agency was trying to motivate the agency sales staff into selling more personal auto policies. What he did: “The person with the most auto policy applications by friday gets a $250 bonus.”
A development manager tries to motivate his programming staff by giving them a bonus if they close X number of problem tickets by the end of the month.
A plant manager offers additional paid time off to employees if they exceed production quotas by 10%.
What do all of these extrinsically motivational things have in common? They ignore quality.
Your actions cause latent and manifest effects to what you choose to measure. Manifest effects are the direct effects–you offer a bonus to increase production causing a manifest effect of higher production. The latent effects are a decrease in product quality, employee safety and burnout because of the sacrifices your workforce makes to meet the goals.
In the case of the sales manager at the agency he ended up with risks that weren’t the business he normally wanted. He got a lot of liability only policies from people with bad driving records. A large percentage of the sales were for people that didn’t meet basic underwriting criteria and were rejected by the company the next week–after the $250 bonus was paid.
In the case of the development manager, problem tickets were closed without the problem being resolved because the problem “couldn’t be duplicated” or the problem “wasn’t likely to happen in the real world” or “a training issue.”
In the case of the plant manager they had their first production line injury in over 5 years when someone continued working without protective goggles and got solvent in one of their eyes. The employee recovered, but lesson learned.
There’s no excuse for jeopardizing a worker’s health and well being for the sake of money. I’ve no solution for that behavior other than find another job.
For quality there’s no substitute for intrinsic motivation–people have to actually care beyond the size of their paychecks about what they produce. If you foster an environment for this class of employee to thrive in you won’t have to worry as much about quality. It’s a cultural expectation of the position at your company; not an optional task.
If you do have a bonus system setup include subtractions for lapses in quality. For instance, if you make the unwise decision to set a deadline for X number of features in your product and give a bonus for delivering your product on time, hold back the bonus until you can see how the product performs in the market place. Always weight the penalties heavier than the benchmarks so that there’s always an incentive to favor product quality over meeting deadlines. Your brand is damaged far more by an on-time mistake than a delayed delivery of a useful product.
Remember all metrics can and will be gamed to favor the measured. If you’re measuring quality by defect counts, the definition of a defect will morph into something that doesn’t measure as many problems to lower the count. If you’re measuring production by how many customer complaints were resolved, I guarantee you’ll see an increase in resolved complaints that were never verified as solved with the customer.
If you judge success by whether or not a project was “done” by a deadline, I promise you the word “done” will, the day of the deadline, not mean what it did when the project was started.