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13 Responses to “The Best Little Auto Shop in Maryland”

  1. Tim Patterson says:

    Very interesting, Mike. I’ll be pondering these things so more.

  2. George Hepburn says:

    Purpose trumps over Mission. But Mission leads to fulfilling Purpose since without the Mission accomplished, the pupose has no energy behind it.
    At some point, having the individual think of their next fitting( in Dynasplint’s case) as having helped the person as opposed to that fitting representing the next level bonus is what we want the mindset to be.

    Our comp plans do not necessarily reflect that posture but in the end, it is hard to imagine the more productive Sales Consultants not making the most money.

    I think it is like a war. The people on the front line ( sales ) just have to do what they’re told. The generals have to see to it that the war ends when the purpose is fulfilled and that every battle that the foot soldiers enter is in line with the purpose of why they are fighting the war in the first place. So in the end, it doesn’t matter if the soldiers buy into the purpose as long as they follow the commands of the upper crust, who better be mindful of the purpose. Otherwise the war takes on no meaning and will end in a disaster.

  3. John Taylor says:

    We’ve wrestled for years with how to reward our plumbers without inadvertently incenting them to cheat our customers. We never came up with a good way. After reading this, maybe I’ll just stop trying.

  4. Larry Taylor says:

    Great piece, Mike! It explains why our US economy is in the shape it is. We’ve already seen the banking industry ‘shoe’ drop as a result of mission trumping purpose vis à vis sub-prime lending. And the next shoe to drop will undoubtedly be an enormous number of companies going under because of a similar phenomenon with business buy-outs over the past few years. When banks and other lending institutions lost the handle on purpose and what ‘ought’ to be, purposed morphed into mission and the number one question became, “What’s in it for me?” rather than, “What’s best for the communities we serve?”

    I’m reminded of your November 23 article titled, “Repacking the Bearings.” In part, it was about pain and its importance to health. Just like the welders whose production initially fell after they felt some ‘pain’ when incentives were removed, yet later rebounded; there will likely be more economic pain before our economy becomes healthy again…assuming we can learn from our past mistakes. Here’s hoping we will!

    To George’s comment, I’d like to say that foot soldiers are not drones. It is clear from Civil War letters written by soldiers on both sides that they not only understood the purpose for which they were fighting, but they also embraced it. The generals could have only reinforced what was a shared purpose to begin with.

    The problem(s) that brought us to the worst recession since the great depression happened because every man was doing what was right in his own eyes, having lost a shared purpose for the way things ‘ought’ to be. Generals may be able to tell the foot soldiers when the purpose has been fulfilled, but if the foot soldiers have no other purpose than their own, purpose will quickly morph into mission as Mike has illustrated so well. Wish I lived closer to your auto repair shop, Mike!

  5. Ray Saunders says:

    1. How about the name of the repair shop?

    2. I think it is an over-generalization to say financial incentives are bad – how about rewarding something that doesn’t closely match the organization’s purpose is bad? The welders, the mechanics at your auto shop, they have a proper incentive – do the best work you can, and you get to keep working here. They know that the pride they take in doing their jobs well is respected and valued by their company, and presumably want to continue to work there.

  6. David Greusel says:

    Very interesting and provocative piece, Mike. Thanks for making my head hurt. I’m wondering if some work (picking up the garbage, say) requires extrinsic rewards because it’s kind of hard to see the higher purpose?
    I also wonder if a distinction should be made (perhaps in a longer article) between financial rewards that are socialized (i.e., everybody in the company gets an extra $500 because we had a good year) versus rewards that accrue to individuals (sales bonus, stock options). It seems to me that it is the latter that tend to be counterproductive. In some organizations, competition for bonuses can lead to people sabotaging co-workers or withholding information to pump up their own performance, in direct opposition to the organization’s purpose.

  7. MH says:

    Most incentive programs do not properly align the individual’s goals with the firm’s goals. So the worker does whatever they can do to get the reward, even if getting the reward doesn’t contribute to company success. Basically: gaming the system.

    The NBA comes to mind where the richest players are the ones who promote themselves the most, take the most shots, etc. Often these behaviors don’t contribute to the team success, but they bring a big payoff to the individual. What is the answer? If I had those skills, I would do the same thing!

    “If you love your job, you never work a day in your life,” sounds like what you are saying in your examples. I feel like these are just anecdotes, can we really generalize those principles? Can everyone love their job, and be satisfied without financial incentives? Are all managers good enough motivators to not need the financial incentive?

  8. Marc Horton says:

    When I started work at a large company I would have done the work for free (not really!) because it was so rewarding. The big purpose was to provide medicines for a healthier world, and the immediate purpose of my work was help defend the company from lawsuits. Later, the company became embroiled in organizational churn, adapting to “globalization,” endless reorganizations, and skillfully articulated “purpose” rang hollow in the face of the ruthless pursuit of profits. Morale hit bottom, and only declining economic conditions kept remaining people at their jobs.

    Personal fulfillment and meaningful purpose were shown to be far greater motivators. Annual incentives were positive in that they were tangible recognition, but negative for most, who were not in sales, and only received a pitance.

  9. John Seel says:

    I fly a great deal, often as much as 20 days a month. I’ve become partial to jetBlue. I consider them the W Hotel of air travel. The other day I shared my enthusiasm for the airline with a jetBlue ticket agent as I was checking in. To my surprise, she wouldn’t accept the compliment. “I don’t think we’re any different from Northwest Airline,” she said. “Where I worked for most of my career.” Northwest is the airline that has created a marketing nightmare for Delta, it’s new owner, when two of its pilots overshot their runway. What was apparent was that the person most in contact with the customer, in this case the ticket agent, was not aligned to the jetBlue’s purpose. It takes more than the generals to be committed to purpose. In the end, it is the foot soldier’s commitment that makes that lasting difference.

  10. Brad McDonald says:

    I train businesses in their sales, business development, and management practices. People often ask me if I can just come into their business and motivate their people. They say they are not interested in long term training; “I just need you to motivate these folks….” I have always maintained that nobody can really motivate anybody else, at least not in the long term, to perform at a higher level, that must come from within. Now I know why!
    I talk about external motivation – positive (the carrot) and negative (the stick). Neither works well in the long term. In the case of the carrot – once the need is met and the subject is “full” the desire to strive for the carrot goes away until hunger sets in again. In the case of the stick – most people won’t hang out very long when they’re subect to beatings and if they do then they eventually become numb to the pain and revert to their old ways.
    The best motivation I’ve found comes from setting realistic goals that have a purpose beyond myself. E.g. I want to make $500K next year because I can use a lot of that money to support a mission in Mexico, a place where I’ve seen lives changed for the better for 25 years now. The WHAT is the $500K and the WHY behind it is to make great things happen for a group of people who need some help in life to get educated and become self sufficient. When I see 3 folks who 15 years ago lived out of a city dump in Mexico and now they are an accountant, a nurse, and an auto mechanic and they’re lives are productive and they have self worth and a sense of purpose – THAT MOTIVATES ME!
    So, I agree with you, Mike, but also think that money is a great motivator for me, as long as it is a means to greater things.
    Thanks,
    Brad McDonald

  11. George Hepburn says:

    Great dialogue.

    I agree that the very best way to get a company restoring people , business and life the way it ought to be ( which is Dynasplint’s purpose ) is to get the entire work force to be aligned with its purpose. At Dynasplint, we spend all the time we possible beleive we have to get everyone lined up to our purpose. But the reality is, that when you have 700 people in a business that has been around for 28 years , there will be mixed attitudes and other drivers to what each person responds to.
    The key influencers must constantly engage the rest of the work force in ways to get them to see the virtue in fulfilling the purpose. All incentives ought to be aligned to encouraging conversion to having a mindset that helps fulfills the company’s purpose. Those incentives include selling the business’s products and services to only those who can benefit from them and providing them the way they ought to be done.

    But without measurement, you will have a miserable ” job” ( I hate that word) . And measurement lends itself to reward, which has to lead to bonuses for more work . If you raise the salary for more work it is the same thing—just disguised . Otherwise it’s unions and communism—everybody gets the same money no matter what you do . That fails.

    The key is what is at the heart of the person. If the foot soldiers ( sales people) are primarily interested in money, then that sets them on a path to destruction, much like the business failings our cheaters in the economic collapse we have just felt. But if the foot soldiers, either follow the commands given from the generals( who only command through the eyes of the purpose) or have the purpose engrained in their hearts, then the mistakes made driven by greed and avarice will result far less often . But to not pay more to those who are the most productive will fail just the same. Money ought to follow more productive individuals but that productivity has to top be in a manner that lines up with the purpose of the company, hopefully through the changed hearts of the foot soldiers after all the time spent on them just following orders and then seeing the greater purpose of their mission.Try to get them to see the purpose first, but if they do not, then make sure they follow orders well.

  12. Hank says:

    “From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need”

    One’s performance in the military, whether a “foot soldier” or a general is tied to longevity and promotion, not performance.

    Some argue that promotion is tied to performance – it is really tied back to longevity, plus conformity, & risk aversion.

    Indeed a higher purposes motivates many in the military service but this is muddled by a system that discourages creativity and initiative.

    The general is more likely the practiced conformist – the “foot soldier” more often a purposeful risk taker.

    Tying compensation to performance does not exclude serving a higher purpose & vice versa. A combination of both would be optimum.

  13. Hank says:

    Correction: 2nd Paragraph: “One’s compensation in the military, whether a “foot soldier” or a general is tied to longevity and promotion, not performance”.

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