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如何驱动团队改进How to Motivate the Team to Improve

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When I was in Delhi, I, together with my German colleague B, were invited to visit the local entrepreneur A. B is the Head of Quality of group who reports directly to the board of directors. I always take a joke that he is on the first page of the organization chart for a giant group. After several cups of wines, we talk about the operation of companies.


Since we are the one of key clients of A and the volume of our business is increasing rapidly, A is very willing to meet our requirements.  Furthermore, A is such an open-minded entrepreneur that he is very interested in equipment quality as well as advanced technology of Germany to ensure the product quality. A mentioned that after we raised our requirements from last visit, he had already arranged for his team to carry out those requirements seriously. He apologized for any deficiencies we pointed out on the spot at this re-visit, and made it clear that he had showed his attitude to his Quality Manager clearly—this is the last chance. If our clients are not satisfied next time as they can find out numerous inadequacies on the spot, you had better find another job—when accompanying us to visit the scene. I indeed felt a little uncomfortable at that time, worrying about the job of a common quality employee and regretting that I had not ease the quality standard at that time. Meanwhile, A complained that it was difficult to monitor the factory, as the business didn’t increase. However, his quality manager was always complaining that more staffs should be acquired, yet A held that more staffs could be added only if the business increased—otherwise, it did nothing but increasing the cost. These words aroused my reflections: there is no difference in this aspect, since both Chinese and foreign entrepreneur face these same problems.


From the visitor’s perspective, B and I pointed out the deficiencies in the factory operation process, only taking the nature of work into the consideration, to motivate the factory to improve the product so that  better quality can be ensured, on-time delivery is guaranteed and costs can be controlled. Before B went to the factory in September, the factory had not made the delivery for Germany from April to May due to delays, and the cargos had been postponed for about 5 months. Similarly, the cargos for other subsidiaries have also been delayed to varying degrees, which aroused complaints from my German purchasing colleagues,” Is it that difficult to make delivery on time? It is not going to the moon.” While B spoke in jest, “I’ll leave the Moon to help you.” A attributed the delay to the rapid increase of orders and lack of labor from April to May, and proposed that they would increase capacity by adding more staffs and machine. However, we failed to discover standard production plan or daily production output summary and analysis—only records for the daily actual output existed. It is such a familiar and common scene in China: no plan and just go where you are able to go. If I go slowly today, I will run tomorrow. If I fail to produce sufficient products, I will work overtime at night—after all, no excessive overtime pay will be given, so that the pace of production is not stable. Since there was no daily production plan, let alone scheduled production per hour, the reasons for substandard or excessive production remain unknown. When analyzing problems, mixing all the questions is the most terrible. If you cannot reel silk from cocoons or figure out the problems, it will be hard to take further steps for improvement.

从质量经理的角度,在客户去之前,她一直觉得自己很努力,也很有成绩,因为老板也很少指出工作的不足,对于发生的一些质量问题,连老板也觉得“我们生产量这么大,偶尔出现几个残次品也不可避免”。因此她也向A提出要增加人手并增加工资。客户提出的一些疑问或者一些改进空间,她会觉得“我们一直都是这么做的,也没有出现过品质问题,也没有客户投诉”。比如说工厂的一根自制的直径约8mm, 长约50mm的通止规棒(Go/No-Go Pin Guage),我们通过观察,发现好像有些不是特别直,但是现场又没有精确的设备,因此我们把它放到玻璃上来演示并转动它,发现它并不是以完全的直线轨迹来运动,而是呈现弧形。这其实是一个改善点,原因是那根通止规没有穿孔挂起来,所以容易掉地上,其二那根通止规的材料没有经过硬化处理,因此一旦掉地上就容易出现撞弯的情形。其实如果即便是知道它有一点点弯但是不是特别明显,也足够满足工厂的精度要求,但是“好”总是不能代表“优秀”,何况变弯是一个过程,员工很难识别到哪个临界点的时候它已经弯到不能再用了。在提出这点疑问后,A也同意将材料加硬处理再重新加工通止规。

From the persepctive of quality manager, she always considers her diligent and accomplished before the arrival of clients, as seldom had the boss pointed out her deficiencies in work. For the quality issues, even the boss felt that it is unavoidable that several defective goods appear as the production quantity is too large. Thus, she also required more staffs and expected wage increace. When some clients raised questions or proposed methods for improvement, she felt that ”we always do it in this way without quality problems or customer compliants”. For example, we found that a homemade Go/No-Go Pin Gauge (with diameter of 8mm and length of 50mm) of the factory is not so straight under our observation, yet no superior equipment is available for accurate measurement, therefore, we put it on the glass and roll it. We found that it moved in a curve rather than a straight track. This is actually a point for improvement, as that gauge was not punched to be able for hanging, so that it was likely to drop down onto floor. Secondly, the material for that gauge had not been hardened. Thus, once it fell down, it would bend easily. In fact, even if we know that it did bend, although not obviously, it satisfied the accuracy requirement of the factory. Nevertheless, “good” cannot always represent “excellent”.  Moreover, becoming bent is a process, so that it is difficult for staffs to recognize when it becomes too bent to use. When we proposed this concern, A also agreed that the gauge would be reprocessed after the materials were hardened.

对于工厂而言,产品十分单一,就是一个部件,多种尺寸和形状,工序包含(开料 – 钻孔 – 攻牙 – 焊接 – 抛光 – 清洗),员工每天生产这些产品,以经验丰富自居,所有的尺寸了然于心。对于A 而言,好像品质也没有什么大问题,因为产品单一,所以每种产品需要多少原材料很容易知道,而结合生产的数,也很容易计算出应该消耗的原料数量,再跟实际消耗的原料数进行比对就可以得知整个环节的损耗情况,而对于这个数他也是满意的。而同时也是因为产品简单,品质相对稳定,没有更高的挑战性,好像整个团队失去了改进的动力,因此A对我们的到访是又恨又爱,因为我们要指出其工厂管理的不足,并通告给采购方的其他团队,所以A从心底还是有些“恨”的,但是基于他可以借助我们指出的问题点来驱动其团队的改进,因此又有些“爱”。

For that factory, products are very simple, as they are no more than components with various sizes and shapes. The production processes include cutting, drilling, tapping, welding, polishing and washing. Staffs produce these products every day, regarding themselves as experienced that they keep in mind all the sizes. For A, quality seems acceptable and good. Because the products are simple, the amount of raw materials required for each product can be known easily. Combining it with the quantity of production, the amount of raw materials that should be consumed can be easily calculated. Then compare this number with the actual amount of consumed raw materials, the wear and tear situation of the whole process can be known. He appeared to be satisfied with this figure. Meanwhile, since the product is simple, and the quality is relatively stable without higher challenges, the whole team lost its motives for improvement—therefore, A felt really contradictory for our visit. On one hand, as we had to point out its deficiencies regarding the management of factory and notify other teams from procurement function, A “hated” our visit from his heart. On the other hand, as he could propel his team to improve based on the issues we pointed out, he also “favored” our visit.


The whole enterprise remains stagnant in terms of continuous improvement. To propel the team to improve, I attribute the solutions to the following aspects:

  1. 上面有拉动力Pulling power ahead.


Cars can climb only if there is traction ahead, while cows can move forward if there is a stack of hay ahead. Pulling powers can be stemmed from clients, markets and bosses, or enterprises.

  • 客户要求的落实Implementation of clients’ requirements.客户提出的所有需求都应该先用耳朵听进去,但是同时要经过大脑过滤,再到心里去。经过过滤的目的是因为有些客户提出的需求虽然是好的,但是不一定符合当前的发展状况和需要。而把客户的要求听到心里去,才有动力落实下去,否则就只是停留在表面上说“好好好”,实际上客户一走就忘光了。而如果企业主对客户的要求也是敷衍了事,置若罔闻,下面的人也大概会是得过且过。在同A的交谈中,在会议室里当着下属的面,他一定是细细聆听客户的讲话,理解,然后再重复解释给质量经理(因为质量经理的英文水平有限,也或者是笔者的口语表达不清晰),上层对客户的要求重视,实施的人就不敢马虎。尽管私底下他也会对我说“你觉得这样真的做的到吗?”“好像很难!”“偶尔一次疏漏应该可以接受吧?”。而真正对客户的要求重视的企业,一定是笔记做的比客户说的还多的,而不仅仅是点头认同,回头忘。 We should take in all the requirements of clients, but at the same time, we should filter the information by our head first –despite that some requirements mentioned by clients are good, these requirements might not cater for the recent development situation and need. One can be motivated to implement these requirements only if he listen to his clients by heart. Otherwise, he can only say ”OK” on the surface and forget everything when the clients leave. If the boss just appears to be perfunctory to clients’ requirements as if he didn’t listen it at all, his subordinates would also muddle along. When A chat with us in front of his subordinates in the meeting room, he must listen to his clients carefully, understand them, and explain to his quality manager repeatedly (his quality manager is not good at English, or my expression is not clear enough). If the management pay attention to clients’ requirements, the executor will not be so careless, although the management would complain to me privately, “Do you think we can do it?” “It seems to be difficult.” “An occasional omission could be acceptable”. Enterprises that really attach importance to clients’ requirements are those whose notes are more than clients’ words, instead of those who just nod his head to agree but forget it later.


  • 市场及新产品的拓展The expansion of market and new products.人总是会有惰性,长时间一直重复做一件事情就容易失去新鲜感以及挑战感。对市场和新产品保持敏感度,更容易让企业贴近发展前沿和技术革新,保持一种居安思危的心境。就如同大家都在谈电子商务,网上贸易的时候,企业还是重复走传统的老路就容易落伍。百丽的创始人及首席执行官盛百椒就表示百丽未能成功转型的其中一个原因就是对市场的变化没有做出很好的预判,65岁的他不会用电脑,也没有微信。对员工而言,新市场,新客户和新产品会带来新的技术要求和挑战,才有机会去变更和优化现有的系统和方法。笔者见过不少的企业常年没有新产品开发,也没有新客户开发,只要是暂时不用的设备坏了也没有人去修,车间慢慢脏了也没有人去打扫,日子久了就只会生产那几种产品,但是旧产品终究是会被市场淘汰的。其中一家最近笔者拜访的企业,员工对着笔者拿出的一份产品标准笑说“这个我们见过,很多年前我们老板从日本有带回过”,要知道那只是一份早已经转过国内标准的文件,也早已经不是什么高科技,高标准了。流水不腐,户枢不蠹,永远接受新鲜空气才不至于让人容易生病,而每天有阳光照射才不会那么容易发腐。 People are always lazy, as they will easily lose the sense of fresh and challenge when doing something repeatedly for a long time. To keep a sense of sensitivity to market and product makes it easy for enterprises to get closer to development frontiers and technology renovation and prepare for danger in times of safety. An enterprise will lag behind easily if it insists on traditional ways at times when others are talking about e-commerce and online trade. The founder and CEO of Belle Baijiao Sheng mentioned that one of the reasons that Belle failed to transform is that they weren’t able to make perfect prediction on the changes of market. Since he is 65 years old, neither can he use the computers nor does he have WeChat an account. For employees, the new technological requirements and challenges brought by new customers and new products enable change and optimization of existing systems and ways. I have seen lots of enterprises without development of either new products or new customers, with nobody fixing its broken machine that is put away temporarily and nobody cleaning the increasingly dirty workshop. Over time, it can only produce limited products; yet old products are bound to be eliminated. In one of the enterprises that I visited recently, the employee laughed at the product standard I presented, “We have seen this one. Several years ago our boss took it from Japan.” It is worth mentioning that this document has already been transferred into Chinese standard, and it is no longer a higher standard with high technology.  Running water is never stale, and a door-hinge is never worm-eaten. Exposed to fresh air forever, one can be prevented from sick, while exposed to sunshine, everything can be prevented from decay.


  • 老板的苛刻要求Strict requirements from boss. 严师出高徒,寒门出贵子,强将手下无弱兵,如果没有客户的严格要求,新市场和新产品的开发力度也不大,那就需要领袖卓越的领导才干以及发展下属的能力了。父母培养幼小的子女,其实每天同TA讲未来的残酷竞争TA是没有什么概念的,而如何将TA培养成才,考验的却是父母的能力。三字经里有云“养不教,父之过。教不严,师之惰”,说明只有高标准,严要求才能培养出好子女,好下属。A strict teacher produces outstanding students, and a humble family produces talented children. There are no weak soldiers from strong generals. Without strict requirements from customers and strong efforts for developing new markets and products, leaders’ prominent leadership and capability of developing subordinates are rendered necessary. Suppose that parents are cultivating their young children. If they tell their children how cruel the future competition is, the children will not understand as they do not have such concepts. However, how to cultivate their children tests the parents’ ability. There’s a saying from The Three Character Classic, “It is the father’s fault that the children aren’t cultivated, and it is the teacher’s fault that the teaching is not strict.” It highlights that excellent children and subordinates can be cultivated only under high standard and strict requirements.
  1. 内部有向心力Centripetal force from inside


In organizational behavior theories, organizations are composed by teams, while teams are composed by individuals. If we compare every individual in enterprises to a single molecule, then centripetal force is a kind of combination between intensification and growing power inside a single molecule and cohesion among molecules. Good centripetal force indicates that a ball can roll on the glass surface without any forces, and it can roll eternally if exerted a little bit force.

  • 凝聚力Cohesion.凝聚力是指企业的文化创建,个体与个体之间,团队与团队之间良好的互动性,匹配性,协调性和兼容性。兼收才能并举,海阔才能相济,水被剖开马上又合上了。全员参与作为ISO9001质量管理里持续改善原则的其中一条,强调的就是基于凝聚力的团队合作,共赢。Cohesion indicates the establishment of culture within an enterprise, representing good interactivity, matchability, coordination and compatibility between individuals and individuals, and teams with teams. Integration of different things enables preservation of them, while wide seas enable confluence, as the water can join the flow immediately after separated.  As one of the principles for continuous improvement in ISO9001 quality management, involvement of all staffs highlights the team cooperation and win-win based on cohesion.

  • 自发力Self-discipline management. 自发力是一种自我有机发展的能力,通过自律和自省来控制自我膨胀。人有一个舒服圈,在这个圈子里久了就会觉得整个世界只有圈子这么大,如同井底之蛙,殊不知外面的世界很大。有个笑话说本科毕业生觉得自己无所不会,而研究生毕业生觉得自己会一点点,博士毕业生觉得自己很多东西都没学会。企业需要是一个学习型的组织才不会被知识的浪潮淘汰,而个体则需要对新知识,新技能保持一种好奇和饥渴才使动力永驻。Self-discipline is a kind of ability to develop oneself organically, controlling self-aggrandizement by self-discipline and self-reflection. Human has a comfortable zone, and if they stay in the zone for a long time, they will feel that the whole world is no larger than this zone, just like frogs in the bottom of a well, ignorant of the outside work. There is a joke that undergraduates feel that they know everything; postgraduates feel that they know a little; doctoral students feel that they know nearly nothing. Enterprises should be learning organizations so that they will not be obsoleted under the trend of knowledge. Meanwhile, individuals should always keep a sense of curiosity and hunger when facing new knowledge and skills so that the impetus can be maintained forever.

一万小时定律强调人重复一项技能达到足够的时间会成为专业人士,但是背后有一条逻辑是仅仅只是特定领域的专业人士。如果按照每天8小时,每年300个工作日计算,大概4年可以达到一万小时。也就是说一个人在一个固定的岗位干够3-5年,如果不保持持续的学习,TA的储备知识和技能会消耗殆尽,甚至会形成固化思维,对新事物和新变革产生抵触心理。这就是A对他的质量经理不满的地方 – 缺少学习的动力,靠吃老本来希望获取薪酬的增长。Ten thousand hours law stresses that if someone repeats his skills for enough time, he will become a professional. However, the logic beneath this law is that he can only become a professional in a specific limited field. If one works 8 hours per day, and works 300 days per year, the total working time can amount to ten thousand hours after 4 years. That is to say, if someone does a specific job for 3-5 years without consistent learning, his reserve of knowledge and skills will be entirely consumed. What’s more, it is likely for him to form a solidified thinking and resist new things and new revolutions. This is why A felt dissatisfied with his quality manager—his quality manager lacks motivation for study and hope to gain an increase in income by resting on his past experiences.

  1. 下面有推动力Pushing Power for the behind.

 推动力是一种驱动力,它来自于各方面的竞争和压力,然后化压力为动力。Pushing power is a kind of driving force that stemmed from competitions and stress from all aspects, and it can transform pressure into driving forces.

  • 供应商的促动Motivation from suppliers. 一个优秀的客户一定会带着供应商前进,而一个优秀的供应商也一定能激励客户前行。所以整个供应链的选择对采购方非常重要,如果供应链上各企业的管理水平不是很好,那么采购方一定会深受其害,因为采购方很容易陷入一种自满和自足,即便是希望通过改善来提高供应链的水平,但是改善也不是一朝一夕之事,在此期间组织很容易因为进度,效果不如人意而半途而废,丧失信心。在A的公司,直接物料供应商非常单一,就是钢材贸易商,而此类贸易商基本上都没有很特殊的管理模式,就是简单的低买高卖,因此基本上没有什么供应商能促动A的公司的提升。An excellent client must move forward with his suppliers together, while an excellent supplier must motivate his clients to forge ahead. Thus, the selection of the whole supply chain appears to be vital for buying organizations. If the enterprises on the supply chain are not so qualified in terms of management, then the purchasers must suffer from it, as the purchasers will fall into a sense of complacency and self-sufficiency. Even if they hope to raise the level of supply chains by improvement, the organization may give up half way and lose confidence because the progress or effect is not satisfying—after all, improvement cannot be accomplished within one day. In A’s company, the direct raw material suppliers are really simple—they are all steel merchants. Generally, this kind of merchants do not have any special management mode: just simple buy low and sell high. Therefore, there’s no suppliers on the whole can motivate A’s company to advance.


  • 同行间的竞争Competition among peers. 来自同行间的竞争能够让组织做到知己知彼,所以很多企业会通过各种形式去参展,加入协会,或者挖竞争对手的墙角来了解“敌情”,提升自己。但是同行间的竞争有它的局限性,很多的企业仅仅只是将竞争的范围局限在本土,甚至本地,时常听到的一句话是“我们当地的企业都是这么做的”,眼光过于狭窄,竞争局限在周边临近区域。我们把它归结于能比隔壁竞争对手超前一步,绝不超前两步,眼光只有两公里长。Competition among peers will make the organization know itself as well as the rivals . Therefore, many enterprises will participate in exhibitions, join in associations, or poach key employees of their competitors’ to understand their competitors as well as enhance themselves in various ways. However, the competition among peers is limited, as numerous enterprises limit their competition to mainland, even local. I can usually overhear that, “All of our local enterprise do this in this way.” Obviously, their horizon is so narrow that their competition is only limited to adjacent areas. We attribute it to a thinking that if we can take one step ahead our competitors, then we will never take two more steps. Their horizon, however, is only 2 miles long. 


  • 员工考核的压力Pressure from evaluation of employees’ performance.考核到底算是推动力还是拉动力,取决于如何设置这个激励机制。水没有烧开,怪材火加的不够,而材火说你水都没有开,我怎么再增加材火呢。考核大概分为 没有考核 – 传统考核 – 绩效管理 三个阶段。没有考核好理解,做的好不好全凭印象,整个周期都做的不好,但是客户来之前的那段时期做的特别好,或者临近考核期的时候表现特别积极,来赢得一个好印象。而且同时也容易产生晕轮效应,爱屋及乌,某方面做的好,容易造成错觉各方面都好,而同样某方面做的不好的,仿佛各方面都不好;传统的考核是给员工制定指标,胡萝卜加大棒政策,做的好有奖,做的不好受罚,这时就是推动力;绩效管理更关注员工绩效的发展以及能力同组织目前及未来发展需求的匹配度,而且同时化员工的被动管理为主动管理,每个人都是自己业务和命运的主宰,领导尽量少的干涉,仅仅在大方向上给予指导,这种状态下也是最容易激发员工自发力的时候,可以成为拉动力。Whether evaluation belongs to pushing forces or pulling forces depends on how to set up the incentive mechanism. The water doesn’t boil, the firewood is to blame as it is not enough, while the firewood says that it cannot add more firewood as the water doesn’t boil. Evaluation can be divided into three levels: no evaluations-traditional evaluations-performance management. No evaluation is easy to understand as the impression can judge whether you perform well or not. Sometimes the employee performs poorly in the whole cycle, but he/she performs well in the period before customers come, or they  appear to be active when the assessment period is about to come in order to win a positive impression. Meanwhile, the halo effect may appear, that is, love me and love my dog. If one does a good job on some specific aspects, then it is easy to arouse illusion that he performs well in every aspect.  Similarly, one appears to perform poorly in every aspect if he performs poorly in some aspects. Traditional evaluation aims to set targets for employees: carrots and sticks policy. If you do well, then you will be awarded; if you do not, however, you will be punished. At this time, evaluation seems to be the pushing force. Performance evaluation focuses more on the development of employees’ performance and the matching degree between ability and the needs for the current or future development of organizations.  Meanwhile, the passive management on employees could be transformed into the active one. Everyone can be the dominator of his or her own business and destiny, while the leaders interfere as less as possible and provide guidance only in terms of general orientation. Under this condition, it is the easiest to stimulate employee’s self-discipline ability, which can act as pulling force as well.

经过一番推杯换盏中推心置腹的讨论,A恍然意识到其公司在拉动力的创造,向心力的打造,以及推动力的建立上仍然还存在不少值得进一步去完善的地方。比如长期一直习惯于加工单一的产品,因此员工们觉得没有挑战性,但是有客户询一些特殊的新项目时,就觉得各方面的功底和准备情况不足,因此需要在技术和质量管理上进一步加大力度同国际要求和标准接轨。而在企业内部,没有归纳统计各工序的效率和良率来进行跟踪管理,因此在一些细节管理上缺少数据的支撑,主要凭印象,其次交期的延误也找不出根本原因何在。而员工则缺少充足的自觉性,认为老板让我做这个我就做这个,客户让我做这个我就做这个,不了解背后的原因和目的,基本上是“为别人而做”。同时因为缺少考核和绩效支撑,导致员工对绩效的自我感觉和评估同管理者的评估有较大偏差,从而造成沟通上的误会。After a pleasant and sincere discussion, A suddenly realized that his company still has a long way to go in terms of the creation of pulling power, forging of centripetal force and establishment of pushing power of his company. For example, as the factory got used to process single products, employees feel that it is not challenging. But if some clients inquire about some special new projects, they will feel that they lack foundations and are not well prepared for all aspects. Thus, technology and quality management should be enhanced to connect the international requirements and standards. Inside the enterprises, since the efficiency and yield of every process is not summarized and analyzed to conduct tracking management, some detailed management lacks support of statistics, and it mainly relies on impressions. Secondly, they fail to discover the root cause for the delayed delivery. In the meantime, employees lack sufficient discipline, keeping it in mind that they just do what their bosses and clients require to, ignorant of reasons and objectives behind—basically, they do things for others. Meanwhile, without the support of evaluation and performance, employees’ self-perception and assessment on performance may have relatively big deviation with that of managers’, giving rise to misunderstandings in communications.

分析清楚了现状,A信心满满,似有领悟的说仿佛未来更近了。After analyzing the current situation thoroughly, A was confident and he said with enlightenment that the future seems to become closer and closer.


Great Acknowledge given to Ms. Akiko Wang from Guangdong Universitiy of Foreign Studies for Translation.

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