Primed to Perform – Neel Doshi [Book Summary]

by Nick

Consultants Neil Doshi and Lindsay McGregor have collected in their book almost everything you need to know about engagement, motivation, and productivity.

The main idea of the book is this: the success of each company depends on what motives employees are guided by.

In total, the authors count six such motives: three lead to increased efficiency, three to its decrease. Moreover, negative motives include those that are traditional and, accordingly, the most common, which is why they are actively used in companies. The authors give detailed recommendations on how to properly motivate employees.

They reinforce each statement with facts, and the tips are illustrated with examples. Although there are repetitions in the book.

This book is available as:

Audiobook | eBookPrint

“Direct” and “Indirect” Motives

Neel says longer and more successful competitors are companies in which a culture of comprehensive, or “absolute,” motivation is built – those that have an important mission and in which internal motivation of employees is given more importance than the size of wages. Focusing on goals and meaning contributes to creativity and innovation, and this attracts not only employees but also customers.

“Organizations often rely on money as the main driver of staff activity. However, many people know from their own experience that motivation has a much more complex nature. ”

Employees respond best to “direct motives”: the game, the goal, and self-realization. The game is one of the most powerful incentives. It arises when the work itself gives the employee pleasure when he is passionate about it. The goal appears when the employee begins to appreciate the results of his work, even if the work is not to his liking. Self-realization is the ability to achieve something important for yourself through work.

“We treat people according to what kind of results we expect from them. A leader who believes in a member of his team creates the conditions for increasing his level of absolute motivation. ”

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Employees may have “indirect motives”. First of all, emotional pressure refers to them. It moves, for example, a child who learns to play the piano just to please his parents. Under emotional pressure, a person does what he does not want to do, but does it badly. Another “indirect motive” is economic pressure.

First of all, this is the size of wages, bonuses and other forms of encouragement, as well as fear of punishment. Working only in order to receive encouragement or to avoid punishment, employees, as a rule, show far from the best results. Like those who work only for recognition.

Of course, it is impossible to manage a team without resorting to economic incentives. But to increase productivity, these motives should be combined with others. The third “indirect motive” is inertia. The employee does not care what he does, he simply moves in the usual direction. And he does not change his place of work simply because he cannot gather strength and take this step.

From Lagging to Leading

If you achieve that the employee was driven primarily by “direct motives”, then from the worst employee he can turn into an editorial. A prime example is the General Motors (GM) factory in Fremont. In 1981, it was closed due to low productivity and poor product quality. Strikes and sabotage were not uncommon here. The team flourished negligence, alcoholism, drug addiction. All this was the result of indirect motivation, economic pressure – they worked at this plant only for the sake of money.

“We … do not spare energy and resources to hire the” right “people, and then underestimate the impact of the existing culture on newcomers.”

Three years later, the plant reopened, but as a joint venture with Toyota. At the request of the union, almost all of the former co-workers were hired. However, in two years the plant under the new management became the leader – GM’s best enterprise. A year later, he was already competing in performance with the best Toyota plant in Japan. This was made possible thanks to the introduction of Toyota’s corporate culture at the enterprise, which is based on comprehensive motivation. The main motives for employees were the game, the goal, and self-realization.

The Indicator of “Absolute Motivation”

In 2015, Fortune magazine published a list of companies that aroused people’s admiration. It includes Apple, Whole Foods, and Southwest Airlines. It is characteristic that these same companies have a very high “absolute motivation indicator”. This index is a tool for quantifying corporate culture; it can be calculated using special surveys. The more employees are guided by “direct motives,” the higher the “absolute motivation indicator” of the company and the more chances it has of success. And vice versa, the more “indirect motives” prevail (peer pressure, prestige, monetary reward, wealth, and so on), the less chance of success.

“You cannot predict exactly how your organization will exist at a certain point. She must adapt to reality constantly and at all levels. And culture helps. ”

Of course, a person can be forced to work using force methods. If the boss, threatened with dismissal, requires you to drag heavy boxes until late at night, then most likely you will obey. But such methods are effective only in the short term and in relation to mechanical, monotonous work. Most modern companies need stable performance, enthusiasm, and creativity.

“When an organization’s mission coincides with the values of its team and customers, the goal motive is included.”

Wherever a person works: in an office or workshop, a call center or an operating room, he must be prepared to solve unforeseen problems. Therefore, “adaptive efficiency” is very important. If “tactical efficiency” allows you to successfully complete the intended, then “adaptive” – to move away from the planned, to look for other ways. Workers will not be able to behave properly in the event of an emergency if their motivation is based solely on the desire to receive a reward or on the desire to avoid punishment. Under economic and emotional pressure, employees work more – but not more rationally and meaningfully.

Money Reduces Productivity

In one experiment, subjects who received rewards for doing simple mechanical work worked better than those who received more modest rewards. But when participants in the experiment were asked to perform more complex tasks, those who received great rewards were significantly behind the rest. Thoughts on rewards can reduce the productivity of even the most efficient employees. These thoughts suppress those motives that usually encourage high results.

“You are more likely to lose weight or achieve something else if the motive for your actions is the game.”

Having lost their positive motivation, working solely for the sake of money or in order to avoid punishment, employees direct their creative forces and mental energy to circumvent the system. Most organizations use the carrot and stick method to increase productivity. But workers usually very quickly find ways to get rewarded and avoid punishment.

For the company, this results in losses. For example, obeying the requirement to fulfill the quarterly plan, sales managers begin to offer huge discounts to customers, apply aggressive sales methods, give customers unrealizable promises, and so on. There is the so-called “cobra effect”. In the XIX century, the British tried to exterminate cobras in the vicinity of Delhi. The locals were offered a reward for every snake killed.

Do Not Tie Salaries to Results

Compensation based on the results in most cases leads to the fact that the level of motivation is reduced. The prospect of receiving bonuses and bonuses compels even employees with high moral standards to look for ways to deceive the system. Often this ends with the fact that they substitute their colleagues.

“An element of the game … should not be confused with ping pong or football during breaks.”

Before introducing a system of remuneration according to the results, analyze whether the tasks that you set are simple and similar, or complex and diverse. In the latter case, their implementation requires “adaptive efficiency” – but payment by the result does not contribute to its manifestation. If the success of your company depends on the effectiveness of teamwork or if you work in an area where the reputation of the company directly depends on the behavior of employees, consider alternative methods of remuneration.

You should not tie wages to the result in a situation where it is difficult to measure the actions that you would like to encourage or with which you would like to correlate wages. It is much more efficient to increase remuneration or to raise employees for acquiring new skills. Try to offer them new experiences as a reward – for example, pay them additional education or study visit. “Absolute motivation” cannot be implemented selectively or partially: use all the components, while not forgetting about continuous monitoring and improvement.

“The feeling of the game comes when you go about your business simply because you like it. The work itself becomes a reward for you. Scientists describe this kind of motivation as “internal.”

Recently, Microsoft has lagged far behind global trends. The reason for this is the employee performance evaluation system, in which managers make conclusions based on the reports of their subordinates. As a result, those employees who were able to complete the tasks receive bonuses. And those who could not cope are most often fired.

In such conditions, people stop thinking about work and think only about the system itself, that is, they are subject to psychological and economic pressure. Another drawback of this system is that Microsoft executives often intentionally take less competent job seekers into their team. Just to look good on their background.

Look for Flaws in the System

Companies with an adaptive culture are characterized by encouraging innovation, creativity, and flexibility. Employees have a sense of involvement in the fate of the organization. They exchange ideas, help each other, improve processes and strive for a common goal. They regard the success of the organization as their own.

“Absolute motivation is completely ordinary magic present in organizations that we admire. ”

The life cycle of corporate culture begins with the stage of openness and ends with the stage of self-isolation and protectionism, which leads to the death of the company. To avoid this, it is necessary to create a team of “guardians of the fire”, which will constantly assess the state of corporate culture and take measures to preserve and maintain it.

“When the absolute motivation of a person is at a very low level, he seeks the shortest way to free himself from psychological stress.”

Leaders often use “indirect motives” – this requires minimal effort from them and allows for a short time to increase productivity. Even those who consider workers to be the most valuable asset, with the first alarming signs, readily engage “indirect motives”. In case of failure, managers begin to look for the guilty: they accuse workers of incompetence, laziness, bad temper, and other sins.

“The strategy helps focus energy on several important goals. It is a tool of power. On the other hand, culture allows you to respond to the unpredictable. This is the ability to maneuver. ”

This is confirmed by an experiment conducted in an intensive training course for junior command personnel in the IDF. Researchers identified the potential of the cadets and provided this information to the officers. In fact, the potential was randomly ranked. However, those who allegedly had high potential really began to show good results, and those who allegedly had low potential – low.

It turned out that when the “excellent students” made mistakes, the officers blamed it on the imperfection of the system or their own bias. As for the rest of the cadets, the blame for the failures was assigned only to themselves. In order not to make this mistake, look for flaws in the system, not in people.

Create “Direct Motives”

Work on improving your corporate culture. Let employees take the survey, which will determine the indicator of their motivation. To improve it, teach leaders to develop “adaptive efficiency” in their teams. Create for each post “direct motives”, bring meaning to the work of subordinates. Try and watch how the indicators that interest you change depending on your actions.

“Promoting performance can interfere with a person’s natural tendency to play and reduce perseverance and perseverance.”

Managers who manage subordinates with a stick and a carrot provoke a decrease in the level of “absolute motivation”. But those who give subordinates complete freedom receive only slightly higher rates. The same result is achieved by those leaders who simultaneously use all the levers – both “direct” and “indirect”.

“Corporate culture cannot be created by chance. To form it, assemble a responsible team with the necessary powers. Create your own manifestos. And then light (at least figuratively) a fire! ”

Leaders who support only “direct motives” give subordinates the opportunity to experiment (like those bosses who let things go by themselves), but at the same time actively participate in the life of the team. They play the role of coaches, help overcome obstacles, provide feedback. Such leaders remind subordinates of their mission and ensure that each member of the team shares the goals of the company. They assign tasks according to personal goals and abilities of employees. In the team, they are trusted and respected because they set feasible tasks and follow the principles of honesty and transparency.

Create Different Career Ladders

Frederick Taylor, the founder of modern management science, insisted that workers follow clear, immutable algorithms. Only in this way, in his opinion, it was possible to achieve high labor productivity. But man is not a machine. And what the scientist suggested was the exact opposite of the idea of adaptability. Any person, whether a surgeon or an assembly line worker, works much more efficiently if he has a complete picture of production and understands the importance of his work for the common cause.

In most companies, promotion is on a competitive basis. Climbing the career ladder, a person is forced at every stage to compete with colleagues. Instead of thinking about how to do the job better, employees think about how to make a better impression than their neighbor. This interferes with their interaction.

To make matters worse, you can climb up only by becoming a leader. As a result, researchers, scientists, sales managers, and other specialists drop the business that they do best for the sake of work that they may not like or do not do well. Here the “Peter’s principle” comes into effect, according to which, while moving up the career ladder, specialists lose their skills and competencies.

The creation of several career ladders will help to avoid this. Let the specialists remain specialists: enter prestigious and highly paid posts, for example, for researchers, scientists. So, in the 1960s, IBM executives realized that the company was losing scientists and inventors who were moving into administrative positions.

Then it was decided to create a special program for them, thanks to which five IBM employees became Nobel laureates. Since the mid-1990s, the company has filed more patent applications than any other organization. For each career ladder in your company, you need to set clear rules. Each should end in a position no less attractive than the position of CEO.


  • The behavior of people at work is determined by six main motives. Three “direct motives” increase labor productivity, three “indirect” ones reduce it.
  • The motive of the game contributes best to high work results when the employee is simply passionate about his work.
  • Give subordinates the opportunity to experiment, create something new and find ways to work even better.
  • In each position and assignment, the purpose and mission of the organization must be present.
  • When a company sets strict rules for its employees, they begin to look for ways to circumvent these rules. And, naturally, they find it.
  • Watch out for inertia: this common motive is fraught with great danger. People continue to work for you only because they are not able to overcome their own apathy.
  • A good scientist can turn out to be a bad administrator. Create different career ladders for different specialists.
  • When employees work solely for the sake of money or increase, they demonstrate not too high labor rates.
  • It is better to reward employees for mastering new skills than for results, such as fulfilling a plan.
  • If an employee works for the sake of promotion, then he thinks mainly about how he is better to look at the background of colleagues, and not about his work.

Why You Should Read “Primed to Perform”

  • To raise the level of motivation in your company exponentially
  • To create a top-performing team of employees
  • To impose a friendly, goal-oriented environment in the working space

This book is available as:

Audiobook | eBookPrint