Thursday, May 10, 2007

Those Pesky VA Bonuses

America's appetite for distorting extrinsic motivators remains as healthy as our morbidly obese children. One makes the individual unhealthy, the other attacks organizations. The Veterans Administration utilizes "performance bonuses" to motivate and reward its top dogs. These are currently under fire from our quick gun Congress. However the VA Chief quickly rode to the rescue, staunchly defending the bonuses.

"We recognize our shortcomings, they could be making tremendous money on the outside. But they're staying."

Did he just contradict himself by saying his people could make more money but stay as they're motivated by other factors, i.e. not money? If that's the case, why would bonuses help? Also, if the salary isn't competitive, why not raise it vs. instituting bonuses that cause people to focus on their pay vs. what's good for the organization or its customers? The news reported some concerns about the performance rewarded.

The bonuses, which ranged up to $33,000, were given to several top officials who devised a budget that investigators later found to be misleading and put veterans care at risk.

Since when are people rewarded on a budget, which is simply an operational and financial plan? Aren't people expected to execute the plan competently? Note the words "misleading" and "putting the customer at risk". This is not a rare happening when people optimize their pay schemes at the expense of the people served. Lying and cheating are all too common in our "pay for performance" world. Corporate CEO's cheated by the bucketload on the most pure form of incentive pay, stock options.

Congress showed their leadership ignorance as well. Rep. Bob Filner, the Democratic Committee Chair, said:

"I think people want bolder action. They don't want this process stuff."

I hate to tell you Bob, but the only way to improve the outcome, boldly or otherwise, is through process change. The Bush team may use the words but have no clue about process improvement. They repeatedly prove their inability to manage their way out of a wet paper bag.

So what's America's prognosis given the ignorance displayed above? According to the late Dr. Deming, "More heavy losses!"

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