Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Law of the Hog

"How do you respond when there's a conflict with your supervisor?" one of the consultants asked.
After a while, one of the hourly team members responded, "We feed the hog."
"What's that?"
Another member spoke up, "The Hog is the machine where we throw all the scrap board and lumber and it grinds them into sawdust."
"So when you're mad at him, you feed the hog?" momentarily envisioning murderous intent on their faces.
"Yeah, we take perfectly good plywood and throw it into the hog. It ruins his productivity number, costs and affects his bonus. We feed the Hog."

I heard a new phrasing of a business axiom yesterday: the law of the hog. It comes from Maxfield et. al., authors of Crucial Accountability. In a video clip, Maxfield related the dialogue above. The experience started when his group showed up at the wood processing plant to find an ambulance. That particular supervisor had KO'd an employee who disagreed with him.

This is a graphic way to describe what happens in all of our organizations when we resort to positional authority to motivate our employees. They will respond by wasting good time, effort, product, customer relations, etc. to give themselves some modicum of control over the situation. They'll talk with other employees; they'll respond slowly to customer requests. And so on. The Law of the Hog.

Instead help point out natural and personal consequences (not imposed consequences from you or anyone else) due to gaps in performance. Add how it affects others inside and outside the organization. Connect the inadequate performance with current set of "carrot and sticks". Assuming you have or have rebuilt some trust and if they don't find a way to motivate themselves, it may be time for a new team member. They just don't care and don't want to be there.

Remember there are other ways to keep a team engaged through Kohn's Choice, Content and Collaboration or Pink's similarly constructed Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose and assisting them in achieving opportunities for progress in their work.

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