In my last blog, Visual Management – What Makes it Tick?, I presented control theory as an underlying framework to explain why visual management is so helpful.  I alluded to motivating employees and mentioned that was a topic for another blog (this one).

One of the most fundamental questions regarding occupations and employment is, “What motivates people at their work or job?”  A significant amount of research has been devoted to understanding what drives people at work.  Whether based on research or personal experience, several common themes arise from the findings.

The list below is not intended to be exhaustive, but simply to highlight a few of the most important things that motivate people in their jobs, regardless of role, position or industry: 

  1. Control of my work: Everyone wants to feel like they have some control over what they do.
  2. Opportunity for growth and development: People want to learn new things and grow both personally and professionally.
  3. Opportunity to use my skills: Everyone wants the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they have to produce and deliver something of value.
  4. Believe what I’m doing is worthwhile: People want to know that what they’re doing serves some higher purpose, and that they are making a positive difference for others.
  5. Recognition for achievements and respect of others: People want to feel their contributions are valued by co-workers and customers.
  6. Pay and compensation: At some level, everyone works for money, which pays for the necessities of life:  housing, clothing, food, education, medical, leisure activities, etc.

LeanHealthcare_motivationOf course, these are situational and vary from person to person.  For someone just finishing school with lots of debt, money may be their driving motivational force.  But for those who are making enough money to pay their bills and live comfortably, they have progressed to higher needs that go beyond mere survival.  Think of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, from basics such as food and shelter to higher order needs, culminating in self-actualization.  The fact is most people move beyond satisfying their basic needs and ultimately want to lead fulfilling lives.

As I contemplate what motivates people at work, I can’t help but connect these factors to organizations with Lean leadership following Lean principles.  Since the essence of Lean organizations is to engage and empower staff, Lean management can help people achieve their higher order needs.  By setting clear goals linked to an overall strategy focused on serving customers, publicizing performance over time on key metrics and engaging staff in identifying waste and solving problems, Lean organizations shift control of work to staff at all levels, especially the front line.  Lean management thus empowers people and enriches their jobs.  Combined with education, training and opportunities to participate on improvement teams, Lean management gives people increased control over their work, the opportunity to learn new things, and the opportunity to apply what they know to ensure their efforts are focused on worthwhile pursuits.


Aaron Fausz, Director for Lean Healthcare and Process Improvement at HPPToday’s blog was written by Aaron Fausz, Ph.D., director at HPP.

Aaron has twenty years of experience helping organizations align and improve their personnel and technical systems to accomplish strategic business objectives.  He has consulted with leading healthcare organizations across the country and has proven success guiding organizations through strategically driven changes and enhancing business performance.  Aaron also has significant experience in needs assessment, best practice analysis, performance measurement, process improvement, and behavioral change management. 

Aaron holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee with a minor in Industrial Engineering.

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