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Process Theories Of Motivation – Why They Are Behind The 70% Failure Rate Of All Change Initiatives


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Process Theories Of Motivation – Why They Are Behind The 70% Failure Rate Of All Change Initiatives

Process theories of motivation are about the psychological and behavioural processes that motivate an individual.

Put simply, this is all about how people’s needs influence and drive their behaviour. People need to see what is in it for them and to sense that “fair play” is being exercised to all concerned. Clearly a basic understanding of this is foundational to the psychological underpinning of successful change management and the strategies for managing change that will deliver that.

The two main process theories of motivation are Expectancy Theory and Equity Theory.

Expectancy theory suggests that effort (a) is linked to the desire for a particular outcome, and (b) moderated by an evaluation of the likelihood of success.

This is a pragmatic perspective that assumes that as we are constantly trying to predict potential future outcomes, we attempt to create what we perceive to be as realistic expectations about future events.
Thus if things look reasonably likely and attractive, and if we know what to do in order to get there, and we believe we can actually do it, then this will motivate us to act to make this future come true.

According to this theory, individual motivation depends on three variables, which put simply are:

(1) What’s in it for me?
(2) How achievable is it?
(3) Can I do it?

The main conclusion that can be drawn from this theory is people will only act when they think that they have a good chance of getting what they want.

Equity Theory suggests that at a basic level, most people generally prefer to be in relationships where give and take are about equal. So if one person is getting too little from the relationship, then clearly they are going to be unhappy with this but it is also likely that the other person will also be feeling rather guilty about this imbalance. This is reinforced by strong social norms about fairness.

Equity theory states that in return for an input of skills, effort or production, the employee receives an outcome expressed in terms of any combination of salary, status and fringe benefits. This creates a relationship between input and outcome. Equity is achieved when the ratios are the same for everyone in the organisation.

Equity theory also looks at an individual’s perception of the fairness of an employment situation and finds that perceived inequalities can [unsurprisingly] lead to changes in work behaviour. When individuals believe that they have been treated unfairly in comparison with their co-workers, they are likely to work less effectively, ask for a pay rise or resign. So, in a nutshell, unequal treatment of staff leads to de-motivation.

These theories are not “rocket science” but they do serve as a useful reminder of the need to take full account of the impact of a change initiative on those people who are most affected by it. Failure to do this is a contributory factor of the 70% failure rate in all change initiatives.

For more on this: ” Process theories of motivation

Equip yourself to avoid the 70% failure rate of all change initiatives with the “Practitioners’ Masterclass – Leading your people through change, putting it all together and managing the whole messy business.”

Stephen Warrilow, based in Bristol, works with companies across the UK providing specialist support to directors delivery significant change initiatives. Stephen has 25 years cross sector experience with 100+ companies in mid range corporate, larger SME and corporate environments. Practical strategies for leading and managing change


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