Motivation – Buy-In vs Write-Ups

By rmaher

After spinning our wheels for the last two months, myself and the other two Continuous Improvement Specialists went out to lunch with the Plant Manager and the Engineering Director, both of whom are very experienced in manufacturing management, and both very well versed in lean manufacturing and continuous improvement methods. What they told us really surprised me.

We talked mainly about how we can motivate the manufacturing techs (our frontline hourly employees) to accept and embrace the continuous improvement initiatives that we push. From my experience at a much more specialized environment at Honeywell my feelings were that we needed to do a better job “selling” the manufacturing techs (MT) the benefits of the CI procedures. I thought that we needed to get their buy in.

What the Plant Manager and Engineering Director said, basically in unison, was a very different outlook.

They both spoke about a historically dysfunctional motivation structure with the MTs. They both asked us what we thought motivated the MTs… why do they come to work? All three of us immediately blurted out MONEY! We were exactly right, but they mentioned that in no way is the MTs pay tied to their income other than the number of hours that it takes them to produce. And in that respect, it is inversely correlated – they make time and a half for every hour over forty per week. Also, in the past, we have provided monthly free pizza lunches for any cell which met their monthly production goal which is a surprisingly effective way to SPIKE their on the job moral. Thus, the MTs are directly motivated to exactly meet production goals after about 55 hours per week (a point where free time starts to become more valuable to the MTs).

Our two managers went on to explain that while there would be no profit sharing in the near future, one way that we could more effectively motivate the employees to participate in CI efforts (specifically, basic 5S efforts, TPM checks, and QCPC reviews) would be to start writing employees up for not participating. This, they explained, would tie their efforts to their paycheck – don’t participate, get written up… get written up too many times – either get no raises or get fired out right.

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After thinking this over for a week I have decided that there is definitely some validity in this outlook. However, I think in reality it just pushes the need for buy in up the line. If unit managers do not believe in the CI efforts, why would they write up their employees? Luckily I have cost of productivity (or lack there of) numbers ready to go for the discussion with my unit manager. It will be interesting to see if this will provide the needed spark.

Comments 3

  1. Yaron

    I agree with you and am not sure the "stick" is the right way to go about getting employees bought into your program. You’re basically saying you will be punished if you don’t do CI. Who reacts positively to that?

    Instead, your organization needs to focus on what drives employees. You mention money, and that may in fact be the major reason (for hourly employees). I’d suspect that a great deal of personal pride also plays into the game. Having cells compete against each other and getting "quality or CI bonuses" might do the trick. That way it comes from your budget, not from the manufacturing floor’s budget.

    I think keeping it positive is the way to go. Good luck.

  2. rickmaher

    I’m glad to see that I’m not alone in my opinions – as obvious as they are!

    And Jennifer, I think that you have hit the nail on the head in your questions on whether the employees see their managers participating in CI efforts and whether they have input on CI ideas. Both are definitely issues that need to be worked on!

    I think that my organization can learn a lot from Ms. Clark’s post about Six Sigma Pilot Implementations, especially with regards to organizationwide stakeholding/training.

  3. Jennifer Baughman

    I am also not sure if writing employees up for not doing CI is the right way to go. I do however think there needs to be some way to get the point across that CI is the priority. Ultimately this comes down to the supervisors and managers enforcing the write-ups. My question to you is…the employees that may be facing this situation see their managers and supervisors participating in CI? Have they had any input in the CI initiatives? Have their opinions been heard? Even the biggest question yet, is this the same CI initiative that was tried X number of years ago and wasn’t successful? Are we reinventing the wheel and why didn’t it work last time? How does this benefit the line employee? Can they see a direct tie in how they do their jobs? Don’t forget the motivator may be money, but there can be intense pride in doing a job better, especially if they have a hand in the improvement.

    We have made CI an important aspect of all employees’ year-end reviews, which are essentially quarterly reviews. It is impossible to have a ’good’ or even ’great’ review if you have not been actively involved in CI. There is no stick, but there is a clear priority towards participating in CI initiatives.

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