Five Minute Facts  

How to Harness the Power of Direct Motivation in Your Plant

Michelle Henley | President, TMG Frontline Solutions

When it comes to implementing reliability improvement, it is important to remember that reliability happens out in the field, not in an office or a webinar. It is important to get everybody, particularly those closest to the work, involved in the process.

Let’s run through the P’s of direct motivation and the E’s of indirect motivation, and I will give you some questions that you should be asking back at your site to help you maximize the P’s and minimize the E’s.


What aspects of their daily job do frontline workers enjoy, and what can be done to encourage and enhance those aspects? Humans have a natural curiosity and a desire to experiment. How can we create a safe environment that encourages low-risk experimentation to help our plant improve?


What opportunities can be provided to frontline workers to “close the loop,” allowing them to witness the direct impact of their work on the company’s customers as well as on internal customers? How can we demonstrate that their work matters?

If you are asking operators to take vibration readings, which can be an aggravating addition to their workload, show them how the data they have collected helped the plant to find a problem and fix it in a proactive way instead of waiting for a catastrophic failure.


What future opportunities are frontline workers interested in, and what can be done to support those interests within the reliability improvement effort? If they are interested in certification, can we include that in our improvement program?


Remember, we are trying to minimize the E’s, particularly when asking workers to try something new and different. We need to create space so that it is emotionally safe for them to practice these new things. And if they experience a failure, they need to know it is no big deal and they can move on from it.

What can we do to provide the frontline workforce with the freedom needed to enjoy reliability improvement activities? How can we minimize emotional pressure?


What types of rewards could we offer that would NOT serve to bribe or control reliability improvement activities but instead signal a job well done and boost feelings of competence? How can we minimize economic pressure in the workplace?

We do not want the focus to shift from the work to a reward or potential punishment, but there are ways to use rewards to encourage people.


What can we do to encourage the frontline workforce to challenge old norms that may no longer be relevant? What inspiration can we provide to explain why NOW is the right time for change?

When trying to get people to participate in improvement activities, I highly encourage you to not just settle for the easy E’s of indirect motivation, but to harness the power of the P’s of direct motivation to get long-term change.

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About the Author

Michelle Henley President, TMG Frontline Solutions

Michelle Ledet Henley is President of TMG Frontline Solutions where she has spent the past 20 years helping hundreds of organizations navigate the difficult waters of organizational change using a game-based simulation.  Her enthusiastic facilitation style along with the innovative workshop design bring the workforce (even the most skeptical among them) energetically onboard with their site’s reliability improvement efforts.  Co-authoring  various articles and the book Level 5 – Leadership at Work, the sequel to the popular Don’t Just Fix It, Improve It, Michelle has become a thought leader on the emerging and often misunderstood topic of defect elimination.