Pavlov's experiments related a single event, a stimuli, to a dog's reactions. The ringing bell, when implemented during feeding events, eventually was of itself sufficient to initiate the dog's salivary reactions.
Humans are a little more complex and can process multiple incentives, multiple stimuli, and multiple reactions. But sometimes we're not more intelligent. I hate to keep picking on yesterday's General Motors: I wouldn't if their atrocious management practices were isolated rather than just being more-publicized examples of broad practice.
In the old GM, a "performance measurement process" was instituted for each manager that filled a three-ring binder. Managers were measured in multiple ways, with many varied factors all under consideration. Each functional department injected their own performance measurement variable into the mix. When everything is important; nothing is important. General Motors managers had so many influence points they had no ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Creating meaningful incentives isn't really hard work; it is quite amazing that so many serious mistakes are made on this subject. General Motors was at one end of the spectrum; most of the U.S. financial institutions were at the other end. Their plans were too brief and too simple-minded; not too simple--too simple-minded. Ring the bell, Dr. Pavlov; just find the one or two most meaningful and correctly determined objectives for an organization and make those the incentive comp program. More next week.