“The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines have ambitious plans to wean themselves from oil and gas and trim the $14.5 billion they pay for fuel every year. Reliance on fossil fuels is simply too much of a vulnerability for a military organizations to have …. [A] study last year showed that one Marine is killed or wounded for every 50 fuel and water convoys.” Sending in the Marines To Support Biofuels, Bloomberg Businessweek, Oct 31 — Nov 6, 2011, page 44.
Do we think the military would be as focused on making a change if the only reason was to save billions a year? I spent over 20 years in the military and I can tell you that just saving money is not a great motivation (sorry!). However, making sure combat units are not cut off from their lifeline of fuel and reducing lives lost in transporting supplies, those are great motivators.
While the commercial world is all about making money, the most successful companies usually have a mission or vision beyond just making money. In the beginning of the personal computer era, when everyone was trying to mass market these things called PCs, I recall at least one manufacturer saying that while the money was great, it really was just a way of keeping score. The real motivation, they said, came from the fact that so many people wanted what they were making.
Sam Walton’s wife Helen asked, after Sam already had many successful Wal-Mart stores, why he needed to open any more. “We have enough money” she reportedly said. But Sam’s motivation was not on the money. Instead it was on the belief that he could be the world’s best merchant and the success of his stores was the proof.
Steve Jobs was clearly motivated by producing a great product. I recall a quote where he said something similar to “It was never the money. At age 25 I was already worth $25 million.”
The lesson learned is not that we can’t be motivated by making or saving money. Making or saving money can be a great motivator. The lesson is that we need to have a motivation that … inspires everyone … to do the best job they can. So project improvement goals to save money, increase productivity, reduce waste, etc., may not excite many people. Instead, have a nobler goal or purpose that people can relate to (don’t make one up, find one people can get behind!). We are almost always in business (or government) for some purpose beyond making or saving (or spending) money. Make sure everyone knows that higher purpose and stays focused on it even as we coincidentally make money or reduce costs.
What is the noble motivating purpose behind your project?