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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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November 15, 2011

Managing For Motivation, The Simple Way

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Posted by Derek

I thought I'd pass on a little motivational managerial story, adapted from the version told in Kingsley Amis' Memoirs. Many of you may have experienced this advanced management technique yourselves, although perhaps in not such a refined form.

There was, the story goes, a pork-pie company over in England that was producing huge numbers of the things. Huge, that is, compared to their number of employees. In fact, on closer inspection, they were cranking out more pork pies than even seemed possible. This began to attract attention, and soon a team of managerial consultants had flown over from the US, eager to learn the secret.

"Do you have Pareto chart analysis?", they asked the owner of the firm. "No, no, nothing like that, he said. "Six-sigma black belt tiger teams?" asked another. "Speak English," said the owner, squinting at the consultant. "Multifactor quality control analysis, then?" came the next question, but that just got another impatient "No, no, never heard of it".

"Look now", said the factory owner, waving them all off, "I'll tell how things work here. Every so often, I just go over to that window there, the one that looks out over the floor, and I stick my head through, and I have a look around, and then I scream FASTER, YOU BASTAAAAARDS! And that's all there is to it."

Comments (19) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


1. You're Pfizered on November 15, 2011 11:08 AM writes...

Sounds like graduate school!

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2. pete on November 15, 2011 11:18 AM writes...

We've gotten more sophisticated. You just lay-off 10% and VIOLA! ==> similar result with no screaming required. Oh, and smaller payroll, too.

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3. bbooooooya on November 15, 2011 11:21 AM writes...

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4. luysii on November 15, 2011 12:01 PM writes...

The term decimation comes from the Roman practice of randomly killing 10% of the troops in a battle were not thought to have fought as vigorously as they might. Not sure if this included the commanding generals or not. This from an article by Taleb in the WSJ arguing that if bankers received just salary and no performance bonuses, there would be little impetus for them to bet the bank, firm, what have you, a la Jon Corzine.

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5. Kevin on November 15, 2011 12:22 PM writes...

Gosh, that sounds like my job.

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6. RB Woodweird on November 15, 2011 1:05 PM writes...

Like a week-old kitten, that story is cute but stupid. I hate the consultant-driven acronym crusade of the month as much as anyone, but some of them contain hard truths - though they may have been ginned up with a hard and impenetrable crust of bull crap. Way back when during training for Class A certification, whatever the hell that is, we were told that one rule of manufacturing is: no hot list. You can't run an efficient process if you are constantly stopping it so a product can jump the queue. Another is that a process settles into a natural speed over time, and the only way to efficiently increase the speed of the process is to change it, usually by simplification or material improvement. So just yelling at the workers on the plant floor cannot create a sustainable improvement in process speed.

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7. Dr. Manhattan on November 15, 2011 1:16 PM writes...

"I'll tell how things work here. Every so often, I just go over to that window there, the one that looks out over the floor, and I stick my head through, and I have a look around, and then I scream FASTER, YOU BASTAAAAARDS! And that's all there is to it."

Sounds as if he works in Pfizer management now.

BTW, heard from David Schlaes blog that Pfizer is already pulling the plug on its new antibiotic research unit in Shanghai. See:

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8. smurf on November 15, 2011 2:24 PM writes...

Yes, Wizer is pulling the plug. Finally.

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9. David Formerly Known as a Chemist on November 15, 2011 3:49 PM writes...

Such an approach would be refreshingly honest.

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10. McChemist on November 15, 2011 7:45 PM writes...

Hey, that kind of motivation works for the Navy, too!

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11. bbooooooya on November 15, 2011 10:46 PM writes...

" just yelling at the workers on the plant floor cannot create a sustainable improvement in process speed"

So you're suggesting that synergizing a firm's paradigms can? Maybe if they were rightsized? Garbage. I took the BS MBA course in buzzwords, and though it was fun (though it cut into pie chart time), there is no value in them. Sadly, despite the MBA affording me a much better job than I ever could have got as a mere chemistry PhD, it's a degree that has precious little value. It's really a pity that 25 year old idiots with MBAs working for BCG or McKinsey get paid hundreds of K more that chemists who actually add value to the world.

I guess, like democracy, we get what we vote for.

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12. Charles on November 16, 2011 1:13 AM writes...

@ bbooooooya (3), Many years ago (late 80's) in Business Week (IIRC) there was a comparison of US white collar workers and their European counter parts. According to the article the US workers came out on top because they made more money. The European workers worked less each week, had more vacation, more job security and better health care security. The next week a letter to the editor pointed out that he and many other US workers would gladly trade the small cash advantage for the upgrades in life style. I fully agree with the letter writer.

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13. Anon on November 16, 2011 6:56 AM writes...


care to comment on merck CEO ken frazier being hired to lead the sandusky investigation at PSU?

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14. Toad on November 16, 2011 8:41 AM writes...

I just realized, isn't this the same motivational technique used when management was presented with combinatorial/parallel chemistry early on: "MORE COMPOUNDS, YOU BASTAAAAARDS!"

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15. RB Woodweird on November 16, 2011 9:36 AM writes...

@11. bbooooooya
"So you're suggesting that synergizing a firm's paradigms can? Maybe if they were rightsized? Garbage."

WTF are you talking about? That MBA has destroyed the cognitive part of your brain. What I said is that the only way to improve a process is to cut out redundant steps or improve the technology. You can't improve a process by yelling at the guy doing the process.

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16. Vader on November 16, 2011 11:32 AM writes...

You can't improve a process by yelling at the guy doing the process.

Regularly yelling at the workers becomes part of the process, thereby changing it.

That it changes it in favor of greater productivity does seem implausible. I say that even though I'm usually in favor of finding new ways to motivate them.

But I think y'all are taking the story too seriously.

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17. CMCguy on November 16, 2011 1:09 PM writes...

#11 bboooooya & #15 RBW I might twist this differently as believe part of Deming Quality Philosophy involves identification and recommended resolution of problem areas directly by those workers closest to operations with minimal control by higher ups (whose main function becomes to provide resources needed to implement). Therefore if just yelling out the window comes with the freedom to determine how do do things better and faster without constant interference could indeed explain the output. In my experience Management like to talk about transfer of control as means to more effective process but typically fall very short when comes to actual relinquishment of anything of substance.

Maybe I am taking too seriously as of course on the other hand such lack of oversight and possible abuse of power could promote increased production by simply lowering quality/identity of what is in those "pork" pies?

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18. Hap on November 17, 2011 2:16 PM writes...

I don't think quality has been job 1 for quite some time - the reports from Deadly Feasts didn't evidence any concern for what might be in the meat people were selling, and that is probably with the "top-down" management style in control.

"If you're not cheating, you're not trying, and it's only cheating if you get caught." Jim Rome

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19. OmegaPaladin on November 27, 2011 7:23 AM writes...

Very familiar to me. The boss assumes you are lazy, and proceeds from there. Since you are lazy, you need to be persuaded to work harder. If you work harder, that is proof that you were lazy, therefore you are lazy, and must be persuaded to work harder. If you don't, you are obstinate and must be threatened or fired. The result is low morale, low motivation, poor QC, and rapid production of barely acceptable products.

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