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Lean Manufacturing Articles

Intrinsic Motivation


The second type of motivation is intrinsic motivation. We say people are intrinsically motivated if the primary source of the effort is that they find the task itself inter­esting and challenging to do, and they get a sense of pride and accomplishment in doing it.


In a work setting, we say people are intrinsically mo­tivated when the principal reason for their effort at work is that they find the work itself exciting, challenging, fulfilling, interesting, and energizing. Further, they get feelings of pride, feelings of achievement, and feelings of accomplishment when working on these tasks.

Notice that with intrinsic motivation, the source of the motivation is the task itself, and invariably the in­trinsic outcomes we seek, such as feelings of pride, can­not be administered by anyone else. With intrinsic motivation, the motivation truly "comes from within."

Let me give you two examples of the nature and power of intrinsic motivation. These examples dramatize in­trinsic motivation in its purest form.


Example 1: Missed lunch. Many years ago, at the dawn of the personal computer age, I taught a two-day

workshop for human resource professionals entitled, "Lotus for Human Resource Managers." The reason for the course was to equip human resource professionals who were missing out on the emerging personal com­puter rave to use electronic spreadsheets in carrying out traditional human resource planning and report­ing activities.

We offered this course once a quarter in a wonderful computer lab room in the business school building at the University of South Carolina. We had space in this lab for 15 participants, and we were always full. The course was extremely practical. We taught participants how to turn on the machines, and then how to write simple programs to carry out job-related activities, such as recruitment yield analyses, affirmative action statis­tics, costs of absenteeism and tardiness, and cost-ben­efit analyses of various human resource interventions.

By early on the second day my formal teaching was over. At this point in the course everyone was working on exercises, and I simply made the rounds answering questions. At lunchtime on the second day I asked the participants to clear the room. We had to leave the room and lock the door so we could all ride the elevators down and walk across the street for an hour's lunch. Invari­ably, when I announced the lunch break, roughly half the people got up and left. The rest stayed in their seats and continued working. After five minutes, I announced again that we had to leave. A few more straggled out. Finally I said if we don't leave we will miss lunch. At that point there were always four or five that continued to work. They told me to go on to lunch. They were go­ing to stay and lock up. They'll come to lunch when they could.

Why? What is the source of this energy? Was it be­cause their companies paid them to attend the class? Was it because we offered a prize for the best solution? Was it because they would be punished if they didn't perform well?

No—these people were so interested and absorbed in the challenge of what they were doing that they didn't want to stop to eat. In other words, they were intrinsi­cally motivated.


Example 2: The cup of coffee. Several years ago I was touring one of the manufacturing plants of a shelving company with an executive of the firm. We came to a work area where the manufacturing team was proud of a recent production record they had set. Their presenta­tion to the executive was enthusiastic and full of obvi­ous pride. In the course of talking with the executive, one of the crew members happened to mention that they anticipated setting a new plateau (3,500 units per shift) within the next few weeks.

The response from the executive interested me. He disputed their claim, challenged them to be realistic, and vividly insisted that such a level would be difficult to reach and impossible to sustain over a period of time. The crew disagreed, saying they were sure they could

make it. Before leaving the work area, this executive threw down the gauntlet. He told the crew that if they made the plateau they were boasting about, and were able to hold it at that level for at least two weeks, he would fly back in and buy each of them a cup of coffee.

The crew members responded with glee, and were obviously delighted with the challenge. Over the next several weeks they worked hard toward their goal. The excitement of the task and the intensity of the problem were all-consuming. It took them two and a half months, but this crew eventually hit the production record and sustained it. True to his word, the executive flew back to the plant, and on a work break escorted the entire crew to the plant cafeteria, buying each person a cup of coffee!

Was the cup of coffee an extrinsic reward? Clearly it was the challenge of the task and not the value of a cup of coffee that was the spark to light the flame in this group. The pride and anticipated sense of accomplish­ment was the driver. It was challenging for the group to work together to figure out how they were going to pro­duce that many units in a shift. And it was the interest of this task that spurred the increased intensity of ef­fort. The attention paid by the executive was an added benefit, and the visit for the cup of coffee was a form of recognition and appreciation, and merely the "icing on the cake." To me this is another great example of pure intrinsic motivation.

To Be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:

Lean Manufacturing Articles and click on Series 14

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