Primal Management

Primal Management

Review in the Journal of Personnel Psychology:  

"The book is clearly written, strongly and convincingly argued, insightful, provocative, stimulating, and interesting to read."



screen shot of dashboard high quality

Here is a screen shot of The Horsepower System's™ leadership dashboard.  It gives every manager a quick diagnostic readout of the current survey scores for their department.  They can tell, at a glance, if the motivational engine is functioning optimally, or malfunctioning. 

Motivation is the master metric that drives everything else.  It therefore deserves a prominent position front-and-center on an organization's management dashboard. 

Learn more >

Paul's Blog

Are decisions really 80% emotional?
As some of you know, I'm a graduate of the University of Chicago, a very rational place where, according to legend, "Fun goes to die."  I expect to be tarred and feathered at the next U of C management conference  for this provocative and contrarian post.  
Advertisers, like Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, claim that the buying decision is 80% emotional and 20% rational.  According to Roberts, "Reason leads to conclusions.  Emotion leads to action."  What about other decisions, like the decision on the part of our employees to work hard?  Is this also 80% emotional?  What is going on here?  If emotions are so important in decision making, why was the word never uttered in any of my econ classes?
We Maintain Our Machines Better than We Maintain Our People PDF Print E-mail

According to Gallup, only 29% of employees in the U.S. care about their work. If this were a college exam, 29% would equate to an “F.” I can therefore state with some confidence that modern “best practices” earn failing grades in “Employee Motivation 101.”


Let’s compare how companies treat their manufacturing equipment to how they treat their employees—their human capital. The difference is enlightening.


Imagine that we are standing in a factory manager’s office. Now let’s ask the manager a basic question, “Is your machinery operating at its rated capacity or is it malfunctioning?” The manager would calmly turn to his computer, pull up a few graphs, and answer confidently, “Everything is functioning according to specifications.”

Now let’s ask the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of a service business the same question, “How Is your human-capital functioning?” The startled COO would answer, “Huh?” According to Gallup, the financial fallout from this oversight is measured in legions of disengaged employees and in trillions of dollars of lost productivity.


The factory manager has an advantage over the COO. Skilled technicians are assigned to monitor and maintain the plant’s machinery. The machines themselves are outfitted with sensors that track key operating parameters. These parameters are plotted second-by-second on control charts to monitor whether the machinery is operating as expected. Whenever these parameters drift outside of their normal ranges, the machines are stopped, and preventative maintenance is performed. The factory manager, in other words, has far more diagnostic information than the COO. 


Let’s dig a little deeper into this disparity between the way our manufacturing equipment is treated and the way our employees are treated, because it leads to a startling conclusion—modern corporations don’t understand human nature, don’t understand the motivational engine that drives high performance, fail to monitor the motivational engine, and fail to perform preventative-maintenance to keep employees operating at their best.




Human beings, just like factory machines, are equipped with sensors that measure our state-of-repair. The output signals from these sensors are motivating feelings of pleasure and pain. When we feel good, we are operating at our rated capacity, and when we feel bad, we are malfunctioning. I developed a simple survey to capture these pleasurable and painful feelings and summarize them as motivational horsepower. I recommend that companies measure their motivational horsepower monthly and plot the results on a control chart to determine whether their employees are functioning optimally or malfunctioning.


If the motivational horsepower is positive, it means that employees experience intrinsic pleasure in their work that is equivalent to a monetary bonus that enhances motivation and productivity. If the horsepower is negative, employees find it painful coming to work, which is equivalent to a reduction in their monetary pay. I propose that motivational horsepower is the single most important parameter a company can measure, yet nobody does so. If companies can get their horsepower to go up, I argue, then every other desirable operational, financial and HR metric should go up with it. The logic behind this bold statement is simple:  rewarding feelings drive behavior and behavior determines organizational success.   It all boils down to how rewarded people feel in their work.


At this point our hypothetical COO might protest, “I’m not as clueless as you suggest. I measure the horsepower of my motivational engine with a yearly employee-engagement survey.” To this I would respond, “Measuring motivation annually just doesn’t cut it. If your engine is malfunctioning, do you really want to wait a year to find out? Measuring motivation annually is like measuring cash-flow annually. It is downright un-businesslike.”

To be honest, we shouldn’t be too critical of our COO. Motivation is a murky and complex subject. Even the scientific community had a muddled understanding of the motivational engine until recently.  The bottom line however is clear—if you want to improve productivity and reduce costs, you need to tap into human nature’s pleasure-fueled engine.


I’ve been studying the motivational engine for 30 years.  I know what it looks like and how companies can tap into it. I’ve also developed a motivation-management tool called The Horsepower SystemTM that diagnoses the motivational engine monthly and provides leadership tips to get the score to go up.  This software is being distributed worldwide in English, Spanish and Japanese.  

About the Author

You can learn more about Paul Herr and his book, Primal Management, by visiting

If you’d like to test-drive his innovative leadership and management tool, The Horsepower SystemTM, enter the following URL into your browser and enter “guest” for the username and password.

If you'd like to contact the author, please call 608-833-9446.


avatar ashish
Great Article. Keep it up.
avatar Mark Nelson
I think this is main difference between successful company and huge company. you can become successful treating machines better than human But you want to become huge and popular, you need to have those crucial manpower.
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