Behavioural Model for Creating Incompetence

1 Withhold information.

Don't let people know how well they are performing.

Give people misleading information about how well they are performing

Hide from people what is expected of them.

Give people little or no guidance about how to perform well.

2 Don't involve people in selecting the instruments of work.

Design the tools of work without ever consulting the people who will use them.

Keep the engineers away from the people who will use the tools.

3 Don't provide incentives for good performance.

Make sure that poor performance gets paid as well as good performers

See that good performance gets punished in some way.

Don't make use of non-monetary incentives.

4 Don't help people improve their skills.

Leave training to chance.

Put training in the hands of supervisors who are not trained instructors.

Make training unnecessarily difficult.

Make training irrelevant to the staff's needs.

5 Ignore the individual's capacity.

Schedule performance for times when people are not at their sharpest.

Select people for tasks they have intrinsic difficulties in performing.

Do not provide response aids (eg, magnification of difficult visual stimuli).

6 Ignore the individual's motives.

Design the job so that it has no future.

Avoid arranging working conditions that employees would find more pleasant.

Give pep talks rather than incentives to promote performance in punished situations.

(sources: Thomas F. Gilbert, 1978 as quoted by Joseph Boyett et al, 1998)

. In using this model, it is suggested that

- no person or environment is ever perfectly suited for the job we wish to have performed. There is always room for improvement in at least one of the 6 elements of the model.

- the important question is Where is the greatest leverage? Which strategies will yield the most worthy results or the greatest improvement in accomplishment with the least cost of behaviour?

. The 2 main causes of poor performance most commonly espoused are motives ("they don't care") and capacity ("they're too dumb"). But these are usually the last 2 places one should look for causes of incompetence, simply because they rarely are the substantive problem. Most people generally care a great deal about how they perform. Most people have both sufficient motive and capacity for exemplary performance in almost all circumstances of work. So, we should look to these variables (capacity and motives) only when we have exhausted other remedies. If you have done a good job in correcting defects of information, tools, incentives, and training and you still have not achieved exemplary performance ‐ and if the performance improvement potential is still economically significant ‐ then you can sensibly worry about the section of people who have greater motives or capacity.

. If you truly want to help people improve their performance, forget about most of what they bring to the job (their repertoire of behaviour) and focus instead on the environment you create for them. The diagram below shows the steps that are needed to create a good work environment.

organisational development change management

Step 1 - ascertain people have sufficient and reliable information to tell them how they should perform and how well they are performing. It is claimed that improper guidance and feedback are the single largest contributors to incompetence in the world of work

Step 2 - examine the tools, techniques, methods and technology people must use to perform the work. For example, have the people who must use the instruments been involved in their design and development?

Step 3 - check out the monetary and non-monetary incentives that you are offering. Are the incentives sufficient to encourage superior performance? What is in it for the people who must perform?

Step 4 - check to see if people lack some skills and need training. Training is often a powerful but expensive strategy for improving performance. By correcting deficiencies in information, instruments, and incentives first, you make sure that training occurs in the most needed and effective areas.

. It is easier to criticize people and condemn them than to understand the other person's point of view, especially if you are displeased and/or tired

" is frequently easier to find fault than to find praise..."

Dale Carnegie, 2003

(sources: Joseph Boyett et al, 1998; Dale Carnegie, 2003)


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