Nothing works like competition and deadlines

SONY DSCCompetition is good. Competition combined with deadline is even better. How do I know? I just experienced the amazing power of competition combined with deadline today. For a year now, we have been trying to encourage our employees to generate process improvement ideas and guess what we got…just four ideas for the entire year. We tried to conduct multiple sessions on the importance of generating ideas, it didn’t work. We tried adding idea generation as a goal for the employees, it didn’t work. We tried giving rewards for best idea, it didn’t work. Our region scored the least number of ideas generated in the entire department. Nothing worked till two weeks back and then things changed. Suddenly we generated 150 ideas in just two weeks. How?

We initiated a two-week drive to generate new ideas. We called all employees, grouped them into different groups, we gave them crazy team names, a logo and a SPOC. We told them that they have two weeks to generate as many ideas as they can and the winning team will get recognized by the senior management and person with the most number of approved improvement ideas will get a reward. Then the magic happened. Employees became attached to the team they are assigned to and the competitive spirit started to kick in. They started checking how many ideas each team has generated and started to generate their own ideas. We started publishing a dashboard everyday with the number of improvement ideas generated by each team. We sat back and they started working. In two weeks the teams generated close about 150 ideas. How did this happen. Simple, three things: Competition (Teams), deadline (two weeks) and recognition (awards).

Competition is a natural state of us. We got into the race even when we were just a sperm, we competed with millions to win the competition and we won hence we are here. Rushing to meet deadlines is also a natural state. Have you observed that most of the previous meeting action items get completed only just before the deadline of the next meeting. We study just before the exam day. We submit our application forms only on the last day. We renew our passport just a week before it gets expired. We go to the doctor only when we have 110 degree fever until then we thought self medication is the best medication. All things are done just before the deadline. Lot of times I think that things just don’t get done if not for deadlines. Of course rewards always motivates us. a good learning in this is that people will do amazing stuff sometimes surprise us with their potential if they are put in a competitive environment under time pressure with a reward for good results. Everybody is brilliant and has great potential however it does not come out naturally unless they are cornered under pressure to win. We are all born to compete.

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