External Motivation Theories

Taylor’s Scientific Management. Taylorism is the ultimate in external motivation. People come to work to make money—end of story. You motivate workers by giving them clear standards, teaching them the most efficient way to reach the standard, and then giving them bonuses when they exceed the standard. The standards are for quantity, not quality. In Standardized Tasks Are the Foundation for Continuous Improvement and Employee Empowerment, we discussed how Toyota’s system is also based on standardization, but workers have responsibility for improving standardized work. Basically, Toyota turned scientific management on its head and turned over control of standardization to work teams. While Taylor strictly focused on individual incentives for productivity, Toyota distributes work to teams. Groups, not individuals, take on responsibility. Performance measures are about how the group is doing.

Behavior Modification. Behavior modification is the more generalized approach of using rewards and punishments to motivate. In behavior modification, we recognize that there are many things that people find rewarding and punishing, that go beyond money. It could be praise from a supervisor or peer. It could be winning an award. The important point is that the positive or negative reinforcement comes as quickly as possible after the action.

Toyota’s system based on continuous flow and the andon system is ideal for powerful behavior modification. Feedback is very rapid. The best kind of negative feedback is impersonal and people find out how they are doing without a supervisor even telling them—by uncovering quality problems immediately. As for praise or reprimands from supervisors, the group leaders are right there on the floor in a perfect position to give immediate feedback to associates. In addition, they are trained to do it.

One example of a splashy reward system developed by Toyota in the United States is the perfect attendance award used in all U.S.-based manufacturing facilities. Attendance is critical within Toyota, because associates are very skilled and part of a team, and staffing is lean. The perfect attendance system rewards perfect attendance—zero unexcused absences in a year. Those who make the perfect attendance club are invited to a big banquet held at a major convention center. About a dozen brand-new Toyota vehicles are paraded on stage. A lottery picks winners who drive home the vehicles with taxes and fees all fully paid. About 60% to 70% of Toyota associates get into the perfect attendance club—not a single day of missed work or lateness. The total cost of this one-night extravaganza to Toyota for getting thousands of associates to come to work on time every day is peanuts.

Goal Setting. Put simply, people are motivated by challenging but attainable goals and measurement of progress toward those goals—like playing a game. Toyota’s visual management systems plus policy deployment mean that teams always know how they are doing and always are working toward stretch improvement targets.

Policy deployment sets challenging, stretch goals from the top to the bottom of the company. Careful measurements every day let work teams know how they are performing.