Performance-based pay: alternative interpretations of the Portsmouth Block Mills’ Savings

Wilson, J. M. (2015) Performance-based pay: alternative interpretations of the Portsmouth Block Mills’ Savings. Journal of Management History, 22(3), pp. 269-297. (doi: 10.1108/jmh-04-2016-0019)

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Abstract Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyse a historic performance-based pay system used in 1803-1810 to reward Marc Isambard Brunel for his innovative engineering designs used in the Portsmouth Block Mills. This was used to ensure that Brunel would continue his work on the project once the design was complete to resolve any problems and make any desirable improvements to the machines and the system as a whole. Design/methodology/approach – This research analyses archived correspondence between the project’s initiators: the Navy Board and Samuel Bentham along with the Admiralty as well as Marc Brunel. Basic financial analyses are applied to the historic cost and investment data. Findings – The scheme was well designed and successfully kept Brunel involved in the implementation and operational phases of the project. However, there were numerous problems that delayed the project’s completion, thereby creating additional work for Brunel and also delaying and reducing his payments. Brunel was alienated by these developments. Research limitations/implications – This research has exploited the archived data as fully as possible, and although there are no known deficiencies in the records, it would be desirable to have more complete and detailed information on the investment in, and operations of, the factory. Practical implications – Reward systems should be designed and implemented so that events outside management’s and worker’s control should not disadvantage either group. Originality/value – Detailed information about the operations and financial performance of an early factory are analysed in depth. These reveal how management and an innovative engineer interacted regularly over several years with numerous insights on their day-to-day relations.

Item Type:Articles (Other)
Keywords:United Kingdom, innovation, manufacturing systems, work motivation, Marc Isambard Brunel, performance based pay.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wilson, Dr James
Authors: Wilson, J. M.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Journal Name:Journal of Management History
Journal Abbr.:JMH

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