Means, motive, opportunity then crime

People act in a certain way mostly due to the drive from a certain motive.

Systems Think Sam Hlabati

The definition of a motive is “a reason for doing something”. We often read about investigations in cases where it may be said that the police were unable to establish a motive for a murder.

In criminal law circles, the phrase “means, motive, and opportunity” is a popular for its summation of the three aspects of a crime that must be established before a verdict about one being guilty can be determined in a criminal proceeding. These aspects refer to (1) – the ability of the defendant to commit the crime (means), (2) – the reason the defendant felt the need to commit the crime (motive), and (3) – whether or not the defendant had the chance to commit the crime (opportunity).

Leadership thought leaders have over the years defined motivation as the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. The classical discussions have been about extrinsic motivation arising from outside of the individual and often involving rewards such as trophies, money, social recognition or praise and intrinsic motivation arising from within the individual.

An everyday example of intrinsic motivation would be doing a complicated cross-word puzzle purely for the personal gratification of solving a problem.

Is it not amazing that crime gets committed all the time in our society even when the reality of incarceration will be staring in the face of the perpetrator. The very same people who commit crimes are supposed to be able to perform their required organisational duties only when they have been motivated. We shall attempt to get into the heads of common criminals to try and understand why they are committed to committing crimes irrespective of the possibility of the disincentive at the end of the day; the day they get caught.

We will endeavour to understand why employees in your organisation fail to perform even when there is the possibility of an incentive at the end of the day. Are you thinking like I am at the moment. I am contemplating rounding up all the criminal, pick-pockets, burglars, smash and grabbers, fraudsters, drug lords, war lords and the rest of them nasty minds and place them in organisations, unfortunately I have to wait till they get rehabilitated.

I wish I could just turn their felonious minds to make positive contributions to the society; channelling their energy and enthusiasm into great legitimate organisational performance.

Can you see irony that a prison could be full to the bream with men and women who were committed to commit crimes yet the prison authorities could be battling with prison wardens who would not committed to what they should do in their duties?

By focusing on the “means”, we mean that a criminal should have the ability to commit the crime. Without the physical ability and any required tools, a criminal would not be able to commit a crime. When compared to the employee who is required to perform a given task, the need for the existence of capability is vital. Criminals have been known to be recruited into crime rings because of their unique capabilities; such as being good with a gun. Those without capabilities are given the necessary skills through on-the-job-training by the “bad boys and girls” in the gang.

A Mafia boss would not take the risk of letting any key crime execution process to be executed by a novice. The obsession with perfection and proper execution is what makes it difficult for crime syndicates to be busted by the law enforcers. Equally, the leader of a team in a business organisation should be obsessed with desire for quality of execution.

That execution can only be achieved by ensuring that there are no novices doing the job at hand, and if they are there, then they should be capacitated to ensure that there is execution that is a flawless; just as is expected of a gang that is tasked with a major heist.

A criminal needs a compelling reason to commit a crime. The crime boss will engage in crime due to the motive to access the economic and other gains that will accrue in the process.

The drivers of motive for an employee to want to perform are not typically confined to economic benefits; the leader has to cultivate a passion for execution of the duties in the employee.

There are criminals who have been known to perform criminal acts for the sake of enjoying the acts, thus without the prospects of any gains. For example, a serial killer who continues to kill without being on anyone’s payroll for his acts.

Such an individual’s motive is intrinsic motivation which entails engaging in an act because it is personally rewarding; essentially, thus performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward. The onus on the organisation is to make the work at hand enjoyable so that individuals would do what they are supposed to do because they like their jobs.

A crime will ultimately be committed when the criminal gets the opportunity to execute the deed. When there are hindrances to execution, a criminal will not be able to commit their crime, despite having the means and the motive.

In the organised crime circles, heists get called off or are postponed if the right opportunity fails to prevail at any given time. The opportunity has to be an unencumbered chance.

Similarly, team members in an organisation will only be able to perform the tasks they are motivated to executive for which they have the capabilities and necessary tool only if they are given an unhindered opportunity to perform.

Performance hindrance, in the context of the presence of capability and motivation is ordinarily due to restrictive controls and hierarchies that require unnecessary signoffs; could be regarded as red-tape.

A crime boss will not be able to personally supervise the execution of dangerous activities such as heists and drug trafficking. They cannot afford to micro-manage the processes, yet they get the results they desire. These results are achieved in the face of the adversity of the law enforcers.

Leaders in organisations believe they have to micro manage the small things in their organisations to get people to execute tasks efficiently. They miss the point that they have to enable the existence of the means, motive and opportunity and then performance becomes flawless.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, (29 June 1900 – 31 July 1944, Mort pour la France was a French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator who became a laureate of several of France’s highest literary awards and also won the U.S. National Book Award, once said “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Leaders should tell a compelling story; like De Saint – de Saint-Exupéry could have said, “Imagine conquering the seas, sailing in a vessel that can withstand the waves and the storms. Can you smell the freshness of the breeze on the shores of the inhabited lands that you will discover and have the right to name after yourselves, imagine …”.

I can imagine some of my comrades becoming restless already at the thought of getting land with no expropriation involved, no toyi toying! I am Laughing Out Loud! Oh I can see them running around to get the tools to build the vessel.

Dear Leader, tell a story that will create the motive, provide the means and avail the opportunity and all the performance you desire shall be executed for you.

Hlabati is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR®), a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP®) and a Global Remuneration Professional (GRP®).

samhlabati@gmail.com; Twitter handle: @samhlabati