“I have a quality problem,” Francis explained. “My team was falling short on unit output, so I put a spiff out there, some restaurant cards if we met our weekly output targets.”
“And, the unintended consequences of this little spiff?” I asked.
“We met the weekly output target, but my reject rate went up. My team began to cut corners, so I had to double-down on my inspection samples. For parts that passed inspection, our output was actually lower than before.”
“So, you were expecting an incentive to replace something you should have done?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” Francis objected. “I expected them to work harder, pay more attention. Didn’t turn out that way.”
“Let’s pretend, for a moment, that your team was already working as hard as they could, with focused attention. And that, to reach the target, you, as the manager had to make a change. What change would that be?”
Francis hesitated, looking to abandon responsibility for output. “You mean, I can’t give out restaurant cards?”
“No, what could you have done differently, as the manager? Remember, you control the variables in which your team works. What could you have done, as the manager?”
“I’m stumped,” Francis replied, eyebrows lifted.
“If you are stumped, then who could you ask for ideas?”
Francis grimaced, “You are thinking my team, aren’t you?”
I nodded. “In what way could we increase our production output, while maintaining the same quality standard? Sounds like a reasonable question for any manager to ask of the team. My guess, the response will have little to do with restaurant cards.”