It’s not in the KPI or LTI but the MRI
The assumption of behaviourist psychology that people are the sum of inputs and outputs is the greatest weakness of BBS philosophy. There is plenty of evidence to show that people don’t respond to stimulus either in self interest or in ways that make rationalist sense. Understating motivation is about much more than just intrinsic and extrinsic reward. This is why BBS ideology is remarkably unsuccessful but also attractive to black and white thinking. The behaviourist paradigm when attributed to context understands the world as this sum of inputs and outputs. The behaviourist paradigm views the human as simple and machine-like. This works well with safety that wants to believe that humans are either rational or irrational, stupid or smart, common-sensible or silly.
A classic social psychology experiment by Festinger and Carlsmith shows that money doesn’t motivate. In this experiment participants were given a very boring repetitive task under the guise of seeking measurement in performance. The task consisted of putting 12 spools onto a tray in 30 minutes, emptying the tray, refilling it with spools, and so on, using one hand only. Then a second half-hour was spent turning 48 square pegs mounted on a board by clockwise quarter-turns. The participant was to again use one hand only, to work at their own pace, and to begin again the process of turning peg 1 when peg 48 had been reached.
Then the experimenter debriefs the participant after a questionnaire which requires the participant to register level of interest and enjoyment. Not surprisingly, everyone rated the task as dull, tedious and meaningless. They were convinced that the task was about expectations and performance.
A second batch of participants were selected for exactly the same task except this time at the end they were told that some others had not turned up and the presenter acted embarrassed because he had to leave. He then asked the participants if they would undertake the task with the late comers (group three) for $1 and if they would stay and help out. He then asked if they could all frame the task to the third group as a task that was enjoyable, interesting and exciting. They are thanked and given the questionnaire. Surprisingly, their questionnaire is far more positive than group one and the reward was only $1. The experimenters found out more, when they paid the participants more money participants returned back the same analysis as dull and boring. Then when the third group were finally told their presenters were paid, they thought those paid more were lying and those paid less were telling the truth.
The more you earn, the less people need to enquire about your motive. This is the behaviorist delusion about motivation. The idea that people perform better for KPIs and money is not supported by the evidence. Similarly, other measure like LTIs and KPIs attached to LTIs (illegally) maintain the delusion that people respond best to measures and quantity. Research by Higgins and others (Deci etc) show that people really work for meaning, purpose, control effectiveness and power effectiveness. These are sometimes connect to financial reward but of themselves, they are not motivational. The real things that motivate us are meaning and relationships or the Meaning Relationship Index. This index is not a measure but rather a way of being, and if you try to turn it into a measure, you ruin its effectiveness. It is why I don’t measure’ the relationships I have with my family or friends, if I have to measure it, I also want to control it. And, if I want to control it, I don’t understand its meaning.