When I reflect back on my career, and think of significant turning points, this true situation/story always comes to mind.
I was working for a very successful electronics manufacturing company in New York, helping them achieve ISO 9000 certification. They had several automated PC board lines laid out in parallel in the plant. Each assembly line could be configured to build any product. They were operated and monitored by predominantly 20-something single guys. The defect rate on their assembly lines was unacceptably high. Management wanted to give them more training, “they must not know how to do their jobs!” To paraphrase Robert Mager, “If you put a gun to their heads, can they do the job? If the answer is yes, training is not the answer.” I spent quite a bit of time with them, and was convinced that more training was not going to change anything – they clearly were capable of doing their jobs well.
But what was the problem then?
The teams on adjacent assembly lines spent a great deal of time interacting. everything from talking sports to the proverbial “grab-assing around.” In fact, they seemed to place greater priority on the social interaction than the job at hand.
Sure enough – just as Maslow theorized – the need for friendship, social acceptance, and the sense of “belonging” was being fulifilled first while the task at hand was being neglected. No core human need was being fulfilled.
After making a case to management, each assembly line was given ownership of specific product lines. The defect rates for each product line were posted prominantly, and an incentive plan was put in place. Soon the social interaction was re-focused within the team. Maslow’s social needs were still being met, but now the teams moved up the pyramid! The sense of competition quickly resulted in realization of achievement and self-esteem needs which became very powerful motivators.
Take a look at the site in the link below
Lots of perspective on Maslow’s needs. Very relevant to change management! Great stuff. As a colorful reminder – I borrowed this graphic from the linked post – just go to it!