re: Innovation Stalled? Bad Culture Defeats Good Strategy
Incentives are nice and I certainly enjoy them too. However, does that really mean there's a better product or more satisfied customers?
Consider the incentive for a highway contractor to finish a job early. Do we really get a better road if they "hurry" and perhaps cut a few corners here and there to get it done before the deadline (like perhaps pouring concrete when the temperature is not optimal)? A recent project in my state comes to mind where a new bridge was built. Instead of being a seamless ribbon of concrete, driving on the bridge it's incredibly rough. When called out by the local media, the state DOT claims the bridge is within their specifications. 10 years later the bridge is a quilt of patch work across its entire span. Remember, the contractor was rewarded for this behavior!
Now consider a sales associate that is rewarded based on the sale. They are motivated to make the sale and far too often imply or even verbally promise things the organization cannot deliver. They get their incentive and proceed to the next sale. The customer ends up angry and disappointed.
Finally consider IT. Time and time again I've witnessed things that could be fixed relatively easy but as with all things, there was some risk that they were bigger and more disruptive than their surface suggested. Despite a judgment call by someone with 30 years of experience in IT, the PM and manager didn't want to even engage the discussion with the business. They had already told the business its out of scope and that it would have to be prioritized later. Meanwhile the CURRENT product isn't meeting expectations and the business could care less about the next feature that's coming. They want the NOW to work properly. However, addressing the issue would have delayed delivery of new features and PMs and managers have incentives that measure on-time delivery.
Hopefully you see a pattern. Incentives require goals. Goals require measurements. The measurements then become paramount.
We've also seen these examples in education where aptitude scores are the measure and folks study to make great scores regardless of true learning.
While I realize incentives, goals and measurements are important because we cannot just wander around behind the little animals as in Jim Stafford's famous song. However, they are not a cure all. That's why it's important to have a culture that is enabled and rewarded to do the right thing even when it's counter to those "measurements".