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Home > Blog > The Forum: Thought for the Day
Out of Our Minds
Monday, May 03, 2004 10:54 AM
The Forum: Thought for the Day
Anita Sharpe on Business

'. . .expending energy trying to motivate people is largely a waste of time. . .If you have the right people on the bus, they will be self-motivated.

'. . .the purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline -- a problem that largely goes away if you have the right people in the first place. Most companies build their bureaucratic rules to manage the small percentage of wrong people on the bus, which in turn drives away the right people on the bus, which then increases the wrong people on the bus, which increases the need for more bureaucracy to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline, which then further drives the right people away, and so forth.'


-- Jim Collins from Good to Great


4 comments

Curt Rosengren - 5/3/2004 6:13:38 PM
I think motivation falls in both extrinsic and intrinsic camps. Extrensic - carrot and stick motivation - can be effective, and certainly has its place. But if you want the motivation to be a perpetual motion machine, it's got to be intrinsic.

Think about it. The best, most effective, longest lasting motivation comes because we WANT to be doing the work we're doing. Because it feels good. Because we're passionate about it. Because what we are doing connects with who we are in a fundamental way.

I think the key phrase you quoted, Anita, is, 'if you have the right people on the bus.' The question, of course, is how do you get the right people on the bus in the first place? How about one of my favorite ideas - passion based hiring?

Passion is so much harder to put your finger on than skills and experience, it often gets left out of the equation. And yet passion can be just as important, if not more so, as skills and experience.

Here's an interesting paper on the passion based hiring idea.

Passion-based hiring: The recruitment, selection and retention process from a career developmentalist's perspective
http://www.life-role.com/passion.htm

It's a bit dry, ironically, but it has some good ideas. Here's a summary of the key points:

1. Determine the factors that make a job meaningful or satisfying.
2. When selecting employees, put as much or more emphasis on the applicants' values, beliefs, and interests as on competencies and credentials.
3. When recruiting, selecting, and maintaining employees, encourage career planning.
4. Determine career paths within the organization.
5. Determine career paths within the conglomerate (if relevant).
6. Provide information on external career paths.
7. Conduct specific 'passion-based' reference checks.
8. Conduct 'confirmation interviews' prior to employment.
9. Determine organization and employee training needs, and fill those needs with tailor-made programs.
10. Use descriptive rather than judgmental supervision and performance appraisal processes.
Kevin - 5/3/2004 1:37:05 PM
If this were true, then the only important function of business management would be HR. In my experience, HR exists in a parallel, alternate universe from the parent business' reality.

Unless I was on the wrong bus full of HR people... ;)
Dave J. - 5/3/2004 1:05:27 PM
Isn't a bureaucracy just a formalization of a great idea from the past? Doesn't making rules for successful processes allow us to spend our creative energy with what's next?
Johnnie Moore - 5/3/2004 11:57:44 AM
Both these statements make a lot of sense to me.

People often talk about motivation as if it's extrinsic - something done by one person to another, rather than intrinsic, coming from within. In that sense, we're always motivated, (even if we're motivated to sit at home doing nothing)

Likewise, rules tend to get written in response to failure and can easily stifle and replace the fuzziness that make human relationships exciting.

For myself, quite subtle things can affect the ways I operate so I would be wary of too rigidly labelling people wrong or right for any job.

We should be subtle in how we apply these insights. A lot of pointless distress is caused by labelling people instead of behaviours, and I've seen working relationships between apparently intractable adversaries transformed by a bit of emotional insight.

The 'right people on the bus' is a good concept but can go awry... Maggie Thatcher and many other leaders have got so transfixed with 'our kind of people' that they cut themselves off from reality. It's salutary that Jim Collins also talks about the importance of engaging with hard truths, a good thing to keep in mind when think about right or wrong people.

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