Introduction to Industrial Engineering

By Jane M. Fraser

Chapter 9


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9.5 Motivation and leadership

The second great lesson of the war [after mass production] was that it is really not true that the worker is happy and contented if he gets nothing out of his work except the pay check, or that he is not interested in his work and in his product. On the contrary, he yearns for a chance to know and to understand as much as possible about his work, his product, his plant, and his job. Plant management was forced to use its imagination to establish a relationship between the war worker and his product, not out of humanitarian reasons but for the sake of greater efficiency. The result of such attempts was everywhere an increase in efficiency and productivity, as well as in worker morale and satisfaction. (Drucker, page 157).

Achieving the goals of an organization is easier if each member of the organization wants to achieve and tries hard to achieve the goals of the organization. A similar statement can be made about each member of the organization trying hard to achieve efficiency, quality, and safety. The IE who works in a line position (as plant manager, for example) plays a large role in motivating workers. The IE who works in a staff position is less directly responsible for the motivation of workers, but still will need to consider how to motivate workers to do their best. Leadership is linked with motivation; leaders motivate others to strive to do their best.

The starting point for any discussion of motivation in organizations is the 1960 book The Human Side of Work by Douglas McGregor, who described two theories of motivation, Theory X and Theory Y. This web page has an excellent summary of the two theories. "Essentially, Theory X assumes that people work only for money and security" while Theory Y assumes that people work for "the higher-level needs of esteem and self-actualization." William G. Ouchi says:

A Theory X manager assumes that people are fundamentally lazy, irresponsible, and need constantly to be watched. A Theory Y manager assumes that people are fundamentally hard-working, responsible, and need only to be supported and encouraged. (Ouchi, page 69)

A typical Theory X approach to motivation is incentive pay, especially piecework rates in which an individual worker's pay is based on that worker's output. Inspection is used to ensure quality. A Theory X leader uses command and control. Deming's 14 points demonstrate a Theory Y approach to leadership. His point 12a states:

Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship

The Theory Y leader makes sure that workers have clear instructions, good tools, and the support they need to do their jobs well.

Theory X and Theory Y are convenient summaries, but no worker and no leader is probably completely described by either theory. Motivation is clearly a difficult subject. Some industrial engineering programs require students to take a course in psychology, at least partly to have better understanding of motivation.

Students in this class have sometimes summarized our discussions on motivation by saying "happy workers are good workers." Obviously, that summary is simplistic, but has some truth. Many organizations have found that treating workers well results in positive impact on profits.

For example, keeping wages low may seem to be an obvious way to keep costs low, but many companies do not realize that turnover caused by low pay or poor treatment of workers is very costly. Godfrey (Quality Digest, March 2004) described the findings of a group of his students who analyzed checkout times at a local grocery store.

The root cause for long lines became obvious when the data were analyzed. Clerks new to the cash registers took far longer than those with more experience. Throughput could actually improve using fewer registers and clerks. However, the store’s high turnover of clerks meant that most registers were staffed with inexperienced employees. The reason for the high turnover was also easy to discover -- low wages. The math was simple: Increase wages, lower turnover, reduce staff and increase profits. It seem so obvious. But the store manager was unimpressed by the numbers. His supervisors were more concerned with keeping salaries low, so he was, too: improving profitability by raising wages wasn’t important to them.

Susan Heathfield cited the Wall Street Journal for this information:

Gallup found 19 percent of 1,000 people interviewed "actively disengaged" at work. These workers complain that they don't have the tools they need to do their jobs. They don't know what is expected of them. Their bosses don't listen to them. Based on these interviews and survey data from its consulting practice, Gallup says actively disengaged workers cost employers $292 billion to $355 billion a year. Furthermore, Gallup concluded that disengaged workers miss more days of work and are less loyal to employers.

Widely accepted motivational programs may need to be carefully examined. McManus (Sept 2003) gives reasons not to use four traditional approaches to motivation: suggestion systems, employee of the month awards, performance appraisal systems, and sales commissions. Instead, he recommends a “well deployed annual planning process that involves all employees to some degree,” regular recognition of “every employee who meets or exceeds performance standards,” “personal development plans”, and “profit sharing as a compensation approach.”

Parkview Hospital in Pueblo was one of the first hospitals in the country to implement ideas from quality, especially Deming's 14 points. In class we will watch a video describing the changes they implemented. Deming's point 12b calls for abolishing the annual or merit review and Parkview has done that, replacing the annual review with the APOP, which stands for Annual Piece of Paper. I think that the crucial discussion point in that document is:

Discuss barriers to effectiveness of work and with job satisfaction.

I believe that the fundamental facts of motivation are:

Motivation is clearly a difficult subject. I think you should, over your career, spend quite a bit of time thinking about your own motivation and the motivation of people who work with you.