Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management (Harvard Bus. School Press 2006) at 110-111 make the point that trying to increase a person’s motivation – say, with the carrot of a large bonus if some goal is achieved – can’t improve ability, only effort. Compensation schemes will fail if they “presume greater effort will bolster performance – without system redesign, information sharing, or upgrading people’s skills.” Just trying harder won’t make much difference.
Dangling money at the end of the year doesn’t have the targeted effectiveness general counsel want if the lawyers who chase the rabbit do so with no better training, tools or systems (See my posts of Jan. 20, 2006 on mandatory CLE; May 10, 2005 on reimbursement of CLE expenses; and May 1, 2005 on the obligation to disseminate CLE training.). Bonuses alone might push a lawyer to work harder, but not smarter.