What can we learn from Henry Ford about productivity?

Probably one of the most representative figures of the 20th century, Henry Ford was an example of vision, intelligence in planning & expectation but also of focusing on projects.

Born in a farmer’s family in Michigan, USA, since he was a little boy, Henry Ford was interested in how things worked, from clocks to different machines, which he dismantled in order to see how they work. In 1891 he became an engineer at Edison Illuminating Company, followed by his promotion as Chief engineer in 1893.

After several experiments of building an automobile, and several prototypes, in 1903 Ford established Ford Motor Company.

By far, his biggest success was the launch of Model T, a chief car which sold more than 15 million units. How did Ford manage to produce at a very low cost for that period? First, by focusing on workers productivity and development of the assembly line, which wasn’t used in the car manufacturing industry until then. This change leads to cost reduction and increase in daily production.

The side effect was that increase in productivity through the assembly line, increased the routine for workers. Thus, the number of workers decreased and the specialization needed for creating different tasks was slowed. By understanding these risks, Ford launched the famous “five-dollar workday”. The daily wage for workers increased from a daily of 2.34$/day to 5$/day. After the announcement about this decision, the next day, more than 10.000 people came at Ford’s factory gates the next day, in order to get a job.

What can we learn from Henry Ford about productivity?

That the motivation is essential when joining a new projects or job. If your motivation is an extrinsic one (stick & carrot), then you will be more productive when the reward is higher. If you will be pressed by deadlines, your motivation will be enough not to delay some tasks.

But, Ford thought us something else. That, everything is in the power of intrinsic motivation. This type of motivation comes from your vision and can lead to productivity but also to higher creativity. Without a certain link to receiving a reward, can lead to long-term results, just because it relates to the passion that’s hidden somewhere inside you.

What’s your motivation?