"You can't measure what I do!" It's a lament that I hear from managers, owners and of course you hear from your people. As discussed in my last blog, Pearson's Law - When it Doesn't Work measurement is not a panacea for success, although it's a step in the right direction.
Aubrey Daniels points out in Bringing Out the Best in People, that this comment is not an attempt to avoid measurement but rather an attempt to avoid punishment. If measurement has been used in the past to punish people, then people will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid being measured.
Human behavior is the most essential need for understanding, and too few us recognize the differences between positive and negative reinforcement. We need to fully understand the rules of behavior, and how it is a function of consequence. To examine more about human behavior go to OOPS - Contingency Shaped Or Rule Governed Behavior. You'll discover why a pat on the back can easily be a negative or positive depending upon the response it brings. If the person responds negatively performance decreases. You know then your pat on the back was actually a negative reinforcement rather than the positive you intended.
What can you do then to make sure that you can begin measuring performance and alter the aversion to measurement your people are feeling?
You need to recognize that a culture that's been developed over time isn't going to change overnight, so the two measures we suggest are not quick fixes. In fact get the idea of quick fixes for anything out of your head. They play little or no role in building a business that has strategic discipline and that begins to act in a manner that Jim Collins describes as Disciplined People, Disciplined Thought and Disciplined Action.
1. Increase the frequency of positive reinforcement
2. Pair reinforcement with existing measurements
Daniels suggests that if you do these two things you will begin to have a much easier time installing new measurement systems. Your people will see that your culture is changing. Positive reinforcement for desirable behaviors will ignite a lightened spirit. Suddenly your people will enjoy their work and interactions with others.
Have you ever entered a business and seen a beehive of activity, where people seem to be responding well to each other and despite the activities and deadlines of the day hardly anyone seems to get upset and everyone seems to enjoy working together? It's a good likelihood this business has sound principles for reinforcing positive behavior in their business. How much do you know about human behavior? My belief is there's a lot more we all have to learn. A good place to start is with Daniels' book or go to his blogs.
Next two blogs will be about how to measure and a personal journey on Strategic Discipline. Please provide any comments or questions you have on measurement and positive and negative reinforcement.