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Final Project

You have been named the manager of a task force charged with conducting a critical but challenging change within your workplace. This change is likely to be met with some opposition. You will manage the task force and accomplish this change in just three months. So, you have a very short timeline in which to motivate your organization’s workforce to cooperate with your team and embrace the change it is implementing.

Use a current or past workplace as your hypothetical organization. Choose from one of the following changes to accomplish in the three-month timeframe:

  • Move your office location to a smaller workspace.
  • Reconfigure your workspace (cubicles) to a design with reduced privacy.
  • Merge two salesforce offices into one location, which requires a 10% reduction of your team.
  • Due to reduced sales, reduce your organization’s work week (and employee pay) by one full work day.
  • A proposed change of your choosing. You must obtain your instructor’s approval before completing your plan.

Refer to Chapter 5 of Managing Motivation on how to plan a motivation improvement project. Using the four steps, create a comprehensive plan to motivate your workforce to cooperate, and even support, this difficult change. Be sure to include:

  • A description of your hypothetical organization and the change associated with that organization.
  • A description of how you will plan the proposed change.
  • An investigation of the strength of each connection and possible causes of weak connections.
  • Identify appropriate solutions with thorough explanations to help generate employee buy-in and support.
  • Explain the results measurement process, including an employee feedback component.

Writing the Final Project
The Final Project:

  • Must be six to eight double-spaced pages in length (not including title and reference pages), and formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.
  • Must include a title page with the following:
    • Title of paper
    • Student’s name
    • Course name and number
    • Instructor’s name
    • Date submitted
  • Must begin with an introductory paragraph that has a succinct thesis statement.
  • Must address the topic of the paper with critical thought.
  • Must end with a conclusion that reaffirms your thesis.
  • Must use at least five scholarly sources, including a minimum of two from the Ashford Online Library.
  • Must document all sources in APA style, as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.
  • Must include a separate reference page, formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.
    “How can a manager, a consultant, or an individual begin to improve motivation? Using what we understand about motivation, we first diagnose problems and opportunities in the current situation and then determine appropriate solutions. We can do this for a work group or for a single individual. Unlike the car analogy where very little is known about why the car won’t start, we have now learned quite a bit about how the motivation process works and can identify the likely source of a problem.

Motivation can be diagnosed and improved informally, or you may need to organize a larger scale effort to achieve your goals. A suggested approach is to define the project in four steps:

  1. Plan the project.
  2. Investigate the strength of each connection and possible causes of low connections.
  3. Identify appropriate solutions.
  4. Decide which problem and solution to tackle and measure results.

Step 1: Plan the Project

Before starting the diagnosis, you will need to answer some initial questions. The answers to these questions will guide the rest of the effort.

Unit Size

The first question is the size of the organizational unit to diagnose. Trying to diagnose the motivation of the whole organization is not typically practical or meaningful. Because so much of motivation is under the control of the immediate supervisor, there will usually be large differences in the motivation of different units. So trying to get an overall picture of motivation both is difficult and obscures important variations in different work units.

The best approach is usually to focus on one unit at a time. A “unit” here means a group with a common mission, with one—or at the most two—levels of supervision, and where unit members have direct contact with one another on a regular basis. This would be the lowest level box on an organization chart and usually ranges from 5 to 50 people.

Diagnose the Group, Individuals, or Both?

The next question is whether the diagnosis will be done for everyone in the unit as a whole, for each person individually, for only specific individuals, or for any combination of these. If the overall level of motivation is high and only a few subordinates show low motivation, it might be better to focus on just those individuals. If the unit as a whole shows low motivation, diagnosing the unit as a whole is the best strategy to start with, possibly supplementing with individual diagnoses at a later time.

It is also quite common for the manager not to have an accurate understanding of the level of motivation in the unit. If you don’t have other units with which to compare, it is hard to get a sense of the level of motivation. In this case, start with the diagnosis of the whole unit.

Another situation where the unit level diagnosis is useful is where things are going well, but the manager wants to see where there might be room for improvement. If this is the goal, start with the diagnosis of the whole unit.

Current Level of Motivation

Another issue to consider before starting the diagnosis is the current level of motivation. As noted above, it is sometimes difficult to make that judgment. As an aid to doing this, go back to the questionnaire showing symptoms of low motivation we presented at the end of chapter 1 (Table 1.1).

The symptoms of high motivation are the opposite of these. Clues to low motivation surface in ways other than just low effort. Signs of low motivation include resistance to new ideas, negative attitudes, stress symptoms, and uncooperative behaviors.

When assessing overall motivation, the accuracy of the assessment depends on the quality of the information used. It is not uncommon for individuals or groups to get a reputation for the negative or positive motivation characteristics on the list. Sometimes this reputation is justified; other times it is not. Make sure you are using accurate information to make the overall assessment, not just reputation or rumor. Identifying the overall level of motivation will provide insight into the relative difficulty of the assessment and the potential for change.

Value of the Diagnosis

To assess the potential value of making improvements, ask yourself:

  • What are the important outputs (results) of the group/individual’s work?
  • How much of this output is currently being produced?
  • How good is that amount of output compared with target performance?
  • How much more valuable would a larger amount of output be?
  • What is the cost of not performing to target?

The answers to these questions will provide the data to help justify the time and resources spent addressing motivation. Check your analysis with others—particularly with your boss and other work groups that rely on your group’s output. You should now have a business case that you can use to communicate the rationale for the project, as well as at least one way to consider measuring the success of any changes that occur.

Set Timeline Expectations

As you will see in the following chapters, making a good diagnosis is a complex process. It will take some time to do it all. Spreading the effort over time allows for reflection, absorption of new ideas, and more buy-in to eventual changes. Moving forward faster than the group can absorb will make the process less accurate and less effective.

Step 2: Investigate the Strength of Each Connection and Possible Causes

Motivation diagnosis focuses primarily on the connections in the model. To do this, we will look at each connection in the following four chapters. The manager or consultant will observe, think about, and talk with the individuals involved to evaluate the strength of the connection and explore why the connection is strong or weak. Each chapter features:

  • Examples that illustrate common situations.
  • An explanation of determinants, the factors that are the reason for the strength of a connection.
  • Additional diagnosis considerations including techniques and issues particular to each connection.
  • A table that provides a roadmap for diagnosis.

Gathering Data

The two methods used in the motivation diagnosis are (1) observing and (2) gathering information from or with others.

Observing means first paying attention to what is happening. This means watching what people do, what they say, and how they act. Approach this with an open mind and simply observe. The material in the next chapters will tell you what to look for, but the attitude you have when you start this observation process is important. It is all too easy to have preconceived views of how things are or of what subordinates think. Many of these views may be accurate, but some important ones may be wrong.

This leads to the second method: gathering information from or with others. This could be through some sort of questionnaire, but more commonly it is simple face-to-face discussions. You can gather some very useful information by observation, but it is critical to verify it in discussions with subordinates and others with whom they interact. Having these diagnostic discussions is somewhat of an art. To do it in a way that produces useful information is not always easy.

Diagnosis requires a combination of observation and discussion with others.

The biggest issue is usually reluctance on the part of subordinates. Asking questions about motivation is a loaded issue. It can easily come across as a threat to subordinates. It can sound like you are criticizing them for not being more motivated and demanding that they work harder or change in some other way. This will not go over well. Subordinates will respond with defensiveness, resentment, and anger and will usually be very hesitant to give useful information. If they do get defensive, they will also try to convince you they are highly motivated and will tend to put the blame for any problems on someone or something other than themselves.

Another problem in getting good information is that many motivation problems can be attributed to how the supervisor treats his or her people. If you are the supervisor, it will often be difficult for subordinates to tell you where they have problems with your supervision. In this situation, a questionnaire or a person outside the unit can be helpful to add to the diagnosis.

Therefore, one approach to making the diagnosis is using outside help. The process we (the authors) use to diagnose motivational issues is described in appendix 1.

An example of using outside help to diagnose motivation is shown in Appendix 1.

Introducing the Project to a Group or Individual

Properly introducing the project will go a long way toward a successful result.

  1. Communicate the value of the motivation analysis by explaining why it is worth doing. What are the advantages of high motivation to both the people in the unit and to the organization?
  2. Emphasize that the purpose is to improve, not to punish.
  3. Emphasize that people in the unit will be participating throughout the project.
  4. Specify how the information collected will be used in each part of the project.
  5. Highlight the potential benefits of the analysis to the individuals involved: the “What’s in It for Me.” Focus especially on how painful it is to work in a situation of low motivation.

Remember the basic principles about people we presented early in the book, especially that people want to be respected, to have control, and to be appreciated. Try to make this diagnosis a joint effort done with the people in the unit having the dual goals of removing roadblocks to high performance and making a better place to work.

Finally, people want to do a good job. There is an innate, natural desire to be effective at what we do. This desire to do a good job is frequently driven out of people by how they are treated at work. Your job is to collaborate with the people you manage to identify and then change the factors that can bring back that natural desire.

Step 3: Identify Appropriate Solutions

Appropriate solutions use the fewest resources necessary to address the issue and avoid creating other issues. Chapter 10 deals with identified motivation problems and possible solutions.

Step 4: Decide Which Problem and Solution to Tackle and Measure Results

Change requires time, energy, and other scarce resources. One strategy is to pick a change that is likely to make the biggest difference. Another strategy is to start on one or two very small changes that will be easy to make. In both cases, success will create more enthusiasm for making more improvements.

Measurement should include:

  1. Evidence of the problem before beginning the diagnosis
  2. Status immediately after implementing a solution
  3. Status a period of time after implementation
  4. Re-evaluation one year later

Key Points

  • A well-planned motivation improvement project will give you the highest chance of successfully improving motivation.
  • Whether you choose to do a formal project or an informal one, there are key decisions to be made about the scope of the diagnosis including decisions on unit size, group or individual focus, current level of motivation, value of the diagnosis, and setting timelines.
  • How you introduce the project to the unit is critical for success.
  • Diagnosis focuses on connections and determinants of the connections.
  • Appropriate solutions take difficulty level, resource limits, and unintended impacts into account.
  • Plans should include measurement of success and re-evaluation.

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