Business Case on Motivation

Hierarchy of Needs, Acquired Needs, or Both?

A manufacturer of customized heavy vehicles and equipment, Excelsior Specialty Equipment Corporation, has undertaken an effort to improve productivity by evaluating the workplace environment. This evaluation includes consideration of workplace motivational factors, drawing primarily on the content theories of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and McClelland’s Acquired Needs Theory. These theories posit, respectively, that individuals have a sequence of needs that they seek to fulfill, and that these needs may be characterized as achievement, social affiliation, or power. An assumption that these three loci of motivation correspond respectively to sales, production, and administrative staffs is rejected as simplistic. Instead, a means is sought to integrate these theories, and provide maximal channels of motivation for workers in every functional division of the firm.

Excelsior Specialty Equipment Corporation is a manufacturer of customized vehicles and heavy equipment such as specialized trucks, cranes, and railcars for the construction, transportation, and related industries. Faced with a highly competitive and increasingly globalized market, Excelsior has placed an emphasis on maximizing production efficiency in order to reduce costs, while maintaining its historical reputation for quality products. In order to achieve these combined goals, management has undertaken an evaluation of work processes and the workplace environment.

Historically, theories of management have gone in cycles, beginning with Taylor’s mechanistic “Scientific Management” model in the late 19th century, then tending toward more psychological approaches associated with the Hawthorne studies in the 1920s. A shift back toward a more formalist approach was seen with Peter Drucker’s Management by Objective in the 1950s, then again toward psychological models such as Theory X and Theory Y. Most recently the tr…

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