Anybody that has read any recent articles on management, HR, strategy and leadership will know that you cannot use extrinsic rewards to motivate people extrinsically. Yet, in my daily experience of working between ordinary employees and management, in firms and in public institutions, it seems that this logic rules supreme.
The most acute form I find in South African universities, where journal articles are counted by everyone but the good lecturers and researchers. The good researchers and thinkers in our universities don’t need the recognition (nor the little research grant they are paid in South Africa). Our best lecturers and researchers are driven by an intrinsic motivation. They love teaching, they enjoy their work. They love the technology they get to work with. If they were driven by extrinsic rewards they would have been working in the private sector, or running their own company.
I find the same crazy logic in economic development. Except the extrinsic rewards is not so aimed at the individual, but a team or a programme. Perhaps it is not even a reward, it is a unspoken threat. However, our best practitioners out in the field don’t need specific measures (treated as targets), they know what resources they have, and what is not working as it should. Perhaps they don’t know exactly how to fix the complicated nest of interrelated problems, but they are intrinsically motivated to find solutions. To try and try again. Of course the extrinsic reward of a good income matters, but it is not the highest priority. I often think the targets and indicators set for development is a better indication of a lack of trust by donors in their employees (and their counterparts) than it is about making sure activities are leading in the right direction.