Performance Management Company Blog

Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Month: August 2011 (Page 1 of 2)

Speeding up Lost Dutchman – team building ideas

Over the years, I have come to deliver a detailed Introduction to our team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. 

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Basically, I found that it was best to give a detailed overview, with a good bit of redundancy, so as to maximize understanding. In this way, the players could make the best decisions possible to maximize the results and have the fewest mistakes. Heck, I even found that by adding “Most Common Questions” as a slide set at the end of the Intro to review the key points that I had already made saved me delivery time, since those were questions commonly asked of me that delayed getting started.

My thoughts were around optimizing play and minimizing the dumb mistakes and being detailed enough to enable players to get a good start in the 15 minutes of planning time given. It was also found that by shortening or deleting things, such as the time spent in generating the suggested Team Roles, the disorganization caused them to take even longer in getting started. Having roles enabled them to listen to the instructions more carefully and allowed them to get moving with the planning right away.

My associates in India asked how they could take the normally 45 minute Intro and set-up and reduce it to 15 minutes because their client had “a tight schedule.” The thinking was that shortening it would have no impact on subsequent planning and play. They had this schedule for an upcoming session of 140 people:

  • Intro and briefing – 15 minutes.
  • Planning – 15 minutes
  • Play– 50 minutes
  • Break – 20 minutes and
  • Debriefing – 50 minutes.

Well, I like challenges… So here are some thoughts about the dilemma:

Firstly: There are no really good, simple ideas on speeding things up. Generally, if you keep something out of the Intro, it either seems to generate a question that takes at least as long to answer or it creates a problem with misunderstanding.

My focus on delivery has been to generate an effective and efficient way to present the information so that players are clear at the start of planning. I have found it to be faster to go slower and be more redundant in the Introduction. That way, they make better decisions and play with better results and have fewer questions and run into less difficulty at the end.

My finding is that speeding up by shortening the Intro information can slow things down in different and unexpected ways or causes more mistakes and poorer play and all that…

Okay, some ideas:

Start on Time –

Demand that the session starts when scheduled and that everything is ready to go. Generally, this means doing it the very first thing in the morning. If there is breakfast, ensure that the hotel or center staff is there to help clear away the dishes and that there are stands around the room where plates can be taken. Have the tabletops all set up, including the tables for the Provisioner.

It is scary how often these “tight timing” sessions do not start on time. This is especially true if there is some manager that “needs to say a few things to the group before you get started.” I have lost 30 minutes or more from these “few minutes” while the content of that introduction could have been in an email to everyone.

If you are starting after lunch, be sure to have someone who works for you on the lunch floor pushing the timing so that people can come into the room. Make the room inviting, with music and a slide show of pictures or something similar. Get them in and KEEP them in until you are ready to go.

And, again, do not allow for a few minutes of “more introduction” by anyone other than a professional presenter who knows the meaning of “ending on time” for their part.

Do NOT play the game at night with alcoholic beverages. Those are disasters.

Team Roles
One idea might be to not assign roles during the Intro and let teams figure that out during the planning. That saves a bit of time, but the teams will be less organized. Thus, decisions might take longer if roles are not clear.

However, if you do that, DO stress the selection of the team Trader but maybe not the others. Having one person be accountable for bringing resource cards to the Trading Post is critical to efficient delivery.

Pods
And DO separate the groups into distinct pods for large groups. My guess is that pods of 6 teams will play faster than pods of 10, although I have no data on that. I think it would be easier for the Provisioner to spot a team that is having trouble with a smaller pod, and thus direct help toward that tabletop.

Team Size
In my experience, smaller teams play faster — if you can set up as groups of 4 players per table, the planning and the play will go faster. But that takes more support from your team of delivery people. It depends on how many support people you have but the more experienced help on the floor, the easier to solve problems.

(If you do that, use a different Team Roles Form than the one showing 6 job roles at the tables and in the slides.) Maybe have only the Leader, Trader, Analyst / Supply Expert and Collaborator…

Decisions of smaller tabletops will be faster and usually better — but they MUST understand all the rules and themes and issues.

For those of you with 24 people, having 6 teams of 4 will be faster than having 4 teams of 6, for example.

Floor Delivery Support
You can trade off SUPPORT PEOPLE ON THE FLOOR against covering things in powerpoint Intro. The less you talk about, the more questions and the longer the “15 minutes of planning time” will take. This is especially true in a large group as in this session of 140.

If you do shorten the Intro, be SURE to have knowledgeable co-Expedition Leaders on the floor for each 3 or 4 teams. It will change the dynamics some…

Breaks
My way of speeding things up is to have NO BREAK at the end of play – telling players that team play should allow individuals to take a break for bathroom or drinks during play. Cookies and coffee and the like can be in the room or even served to the tables by staff.

A “scheduled 20 minute break” (with 140 people) can run out to 30 minutes or more, which is very common with large groups. And it is probably the people last to arrive back that need the debriefing key learning points more than the others.

Large groups are much less manageable from a time perspective if they leave the room. Make them Break during the Play of the game, not afterwards. Make it impact their team, not you and the rest of the group!

Results
Minimize the review of results. Focus on the differences between the high and low teams and ask if the higher performing teams had resources that they could have shared that would have generated MORE RESULTS FOR YOU — not a winning score for one team…

Do NOT show the Perfect Play summary of woulda-shoulda, but do focus on the fact that there were 3 Turbos that could be shared so that 3 teams could have used the Turbo to return in 4 days, as opposed to less than 3 (look at total TF Videos to see the number of Turbos available versus the number actually used (get that off the Tracking Forms at the Trading Post). THAT is probably the most important number for the entire group — that plus the days back early because of resource mis-management and bad planning decisions.

The Turbos are the Best Practices that generate better results with the same effort and they represent the leverage generated by collaboration among teams in the workplace. There were sufficient resources, but a good plan of action with engaged and involved teammates helped maximize results for the team — why not for the group? What would they need to do differently in the workplace…

Debriefing
I deliver the game as a learning event, not as a fun activity. Thus, for me, “The play of the game is an excuse to do a debriefing on choices, behaviors and the issues of engagement and collaboration.” Thus, I will demand that I have the full time allotted to the play and that we start on time

And I try not to lecture nearly as much as I try to allow tabletops to discuss specific issues and opportunities. I facilitate the game much more than I “teach” from it – their thoughts are more congruent to their issues than any idea that the game Expedition Leader might have.

If possible, I try to coach the most senior manager to engage people in a discussion. This is sometimes dangerous since their preferred style is to talk at the people, not engage them. I have had to cut off such attempts at “training” more than a few times, generally with something such as, “Why don’t’ you spend 5 minutes and discuss that key learning point at your tabletop?” (And then take back the control of the debriefing…)

Turbos are best practices that can be shared – thus it begs the question, “What turbochargers are available that we could share with other groups within the company?”

Focus mostly on the dynamics of team interaction and behavior and debrief according to the desired outcomes for the event. I often end with tabletop discussions around, “What does mining (more) gold mean to us as an organization?”

Lastly, do all that you can do. You cannot do any more than that. Work as best as you can to meet the commitments that were set, but realize that you may not have all the control you need to make this optimal.

If you have any thoughts or ideas about improving the speed of delivery, we would love to hear from you. Anything we can do to increase the debriefing time is a worthwhile alteration, in my opinion. Many of the changes suggested above will have impacts on the dynamics of delivery, I think. SO be careful out there!

YOUR thoughts on all this would be Most Excellent!

For the FUN of It!

Scott

Games during Games – It is puzzling…

Puzzles and Games within Games

I was reading Dan Pink’s book Drive about the impacts and benefits of intrinsic motivation and the distinct advantages of intrinsic over extrinsic rewards for anything other than rote kinds of repetitive tasks. He mentions the fact that many people are motivated to simply solve problems. And I remembered a recent conversation with Thiagi as to how he uses some of his brief games to actually debrief his other games, and that got me thinking..

I was thinking about adding some woodA puzzle within a team building game focused on innovation and intrinsic motivationen puzzles like the classic 3-dimensional Soma Puzzle (of Piet Hein) and simply leaving them on the tabletops, only to ask during the debriefing if anyone solved the puzzle. Or, putting a dissembled one on the table (the one I bought from MonkeyPodGames comes in a nice square wooden box) and asking if someone at the table could put it back into the box before the end of the session…

My guess is that people would fiddle with the pieces (there are 240 possible combinations), and that if I left it on the table with the pieces apart, that someone would figure it out with no “management.”

The basic idea is that people are intrinsically motivated to solve problems and that they will put the mental time in on doing that without any “support” of management — that in the workplace, they will be intrinsically motivated to identify and solve issues and problems if we simply allow them to. It would be a most excellent learning point for the main activity.

Does anyone have information about having done this or any thoughts on how to optimize the learning point that we do not need to provide external rewards when we are simply trying to involve and engage people in “workplace activities,” like solving problems.

This could be done for SWs sessions or for tabletop team building games like Lost Dutchman and the Square Wheels games like Innovate & Implement. The fact that they did that (and maybe more than one time) would make for an added learning point in the debriefings. People will do things they want to do and they are motivated to fix things that need fixing…

People ARE driven to solve problams, which is one reason why labeling something a Square Wheel works so well to drive the suggestions and collections of Round Wheel ideas.

I&I gameboard 20

You can find out more about our Innovate & Implement Exercise Toolkit by clicking on this link. It is bundled with a complete set of tools that enable the identification of issues and ideas about innovation and problem solving, plus tools for implementing improvement.

People have FUN solving problems, so translate that into workplace improvement and intrinsic motivation.

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Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott atscott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Motivation, Collaboration, Engagement and Dis-Un-Empowerment*

Dis-un-empowerment: The removal of those performance-influencing factors (real or believed) that are thought to be un-empowering by the individual or individuals.

And we can define Motivation as the absence of de-motivating factors.

The concept of empowering people is really a difficult one – lots of things have been written about it over the years but it requires the active involvement of senior managers, a whole lot of trust between managers and employees, and often some significant changes in workplace culture.

Plus there is the reality that one cannot really empower someone else – try it with a teenager if you need any proof of this!

I posted my first article on this subject back in 2006 and got a lot of interesting feedback about this simple but effective approach to involving and engaging people in an activity to improve morale, motivation and real performance.

We take the simple and somewhat obvious position that most people are far from actually being empowered or more properly, acting empowered. There are tons of statistics that support this notion.

So what are we actually talking about here? Let me start with a few simple examples of engaged and motivated people:

1) At a major hotel chain, employees are wearing buttons that say, “Yes I can.” I ask the front-desk clerk if she could give me a button because I am speaking that next morning on customer service and she says, “No, I can’t.”

She really did want to give it to me, but she said wearing the button was required as management’s policy, that they were expected to have one on, the hotel didn’t have extras and that she would be yelled at by her boss for not having a button. Caught in a dilemma, she was not able to do what the company or customer wanted her to do. (I did persuade her to give me the button and I used it in my session, explaining the dilemma she faced. Heck, I even invited her boss to sit in for free (but he did not!)).

The paradox is that management is telling her to act one way while asking her to follow a policy that blocks this request.

2) At McGuffey’s Restaurants, employees and managers wore buttons saying, “The Answer is Yes.” Unlike the above, ask anyone for a button, and they’ll give you their very last one, knowing this response is the expectation of top management. The employees are simply trusted to act appropriately. This attitude infected all kinds of behaviors, with waitresses making a quick run to McDonalds to buy a customer’s kid a Big Mac, raising money for charities or driving to the grocery store to buy anchovies for my Caesar salad.

Top performers, the ones who build positive long-term relationships with customers, will often bend rules and make decisions for the long-term good of the customer relationship when necessary. They tend to retain customers and build loyalty. At the other end of the spectrum, many people will blindly follow policies, procedures, systems and all those constraints that they believe are imposed on them from all over the place, significantly impacting performance.

Many people in the workplace are un-empowered and thus un-responsive and roadblocked by their perceptions of what the organization wants. Or they are roadblocked by their own beliefs about their capabilities. Or, they simply do not know how to get things accomplished.

My answer to performance improvement is simple and straightforward – let’s remove those things that individuals and groups feel are blocking their responsiveness and performance. That is not to say that we change all the policies and procedures, but that we discuss the approach of the top performers in the context of the organization.

If people are un-empowered, then let’s remove the things that might be blocking performance. Let’s work to limit the perceived roadblocks and provide some useful strategies and tactics to work around things inhibiting better results, on an individual and group basis. Thus,

Improvement is all about people; people dis-un-empowered to make decisions to the benefit of the customer and the company. And we know from decades of behavioral research that peer support can work wonders on individual performance, if we allow or encourage it.

What is Dis-Un-Empowerment and how do we Implement?

There are two issues to dis-un-empowerment, the organizational ones and the personal ones. Personal dis-un-empowerment issues are sometimes less clear, while it is easy to get consensus on common organizational ones.

Astronaut Scott Carpenter gave a nice analogy about walking in space. Years of training, simulations, and practice in weightless conditions as well as hundreds of hours of discussion and preparation did not adequately prepare him for the reality of standing in the doorway of the spacecraft with black infinity in every direction. He thought he could do it, but he froze. Wouldn’t you? There are direct parallels to dis-un-empowering people.

The American Society for Quality Control reported that while two in three workers said they had been asked to become involved in workplace decision-making, only one in seven felt they had the power to make those decisions. And if they don’t feel dis-un-empowered to make decisions, they won’t make them. And a Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. 

Why don’t most people feel able to make improvements? Because they are uncomfortable doing things differently than they have done them before. Most people will resist change.

“The only change people like is the kind that jingles in their pockets.”
my friend, Jerry Brown

“Change is good. You go first.
Dilbert Principles

Note that almost every organization has a few top-performing employees doing exactly what is necessary to generate results. They are the people that have the highest productivity and profitability.

Exemplary performers manage roadblocks much more effectively and tend to have clearer perspectives and focus on what your customers require. They also tend to focus on doing the small things that truly make a difference in building a client relationship with the customer. But also recognize that they often bend the rules to do what is right — thus delivering the highest perceived value.

A few years ago, Frank Navran had the opportunity to observe the role that perception plays in people’s ability to manage obstacles. Frank was involved in a performance improvement project and asked to observe a work group to identify the behavioral, attitudinal and/or skills and knowledge differences between the exemplary performers, average performers and poor performers.

The intent was to identify those differences so that an intervention could be devised to make the average and poor performers more like their exemplary peers to raise overall unit performance levels.

What ensued was rather frustrating for the consultant and the client. Aside from the actual performance results there were no noticeable behavioral differences. The only apparent difference was the workers’ response to the question, “What is keeping you from performing at a higher level?

  • The exemplary performers said they had fewer than 3 perceived roadblocks to higher performance levels.
  • The average performers identified 6 roadblocks each.
  • The poor performers cited 12 or more reasons why they could not perform at a higher level.

Their significance was twofold:

1. As all employees worked under near identical conditions nothing differed except their perception of the number of obstacles to exemplary performance facing them.

2. The differences seemed to be more perceptual than real. This lead the consultant to the hypothesis that in this client’s organization the performance difference might be related to the employee’s perceptions about his or her own power to remove the roadblocks to higher level performance.

Further testing proved him right. In addition, the consultant observed that employee perceptions fell into four sets or categories that could be generalized and applied to other cases. These can be drawn as a Square, of course:

Category 1 – BRICK WALLs

Some roadblocks are truly unalterable. There are things in the real world facing people that inhibit their performance which they are not likely to change: the effectiveness of a foreign competitor’s product, the slumping national economy, the international exchange rate, the organizational structure at the organization, the funding and paperwork processes for new product development, etc. These are all factors which affect employee performance but are well beyond individual or collective control. Characterize these as brick walls: immovable and real.

Category 2 – PARTITIONs

The second category of roadblocks are those that can be managed through with effort, time, money and/or additional personnel, or other resources. The individual employee might make some degree of progress in overcoming this particular inhibitor to performance. Often a small group of employees can make even more progress collectively. And, most importantly, this type of roadblock can be managed in large part or totally, if supervision or management gets involved. This type of roadblock is characterized as a partition, since a partition, if pushed from the bottom, might move slightly, but if pushed from a higher level will often topple. These are real roadblocks which the employees require assistance to remove.

Category 3 – PAPER WALLs

The third category was reminiscent of a football game where the home team burst through a paper barrier to the cheers of the crowd at the start. Until tested, this roadblock often looks impenetrable. Workplace examples are common, and include the belief that the boss will not approve, that it won’t be supported by another department, that it is “policy” or the way things have always been done, etc.

But people discover that these beliefs aren’t true when they test these perceptions. Others have done things differently and are doing things differently. But, unless tested, this roadblock is just as effective in preventing performance as the first two. These are manageable, but also real.

Category 4 – MINDSETs

This type of roadblock is the most troubling to management. It represents the untested beliefs and perceptions. When people believe they can’t, they are correct. These roadblocks are de-actualizing and restrictive, yet arbitrarily so in that they really do not exist. Interestingly, these are generally the most common of all the different types and the ones that block the below average performers from improvement.

Using the Model

It is always fascinating to observe how different employees manage the different roadblocks they face. Top performers, as a group, are generally not impeded by many of the things that get in the way of average or poor performers. Their model of how things really work appears to be more proactive and behaviorally-oriented. They are generally more willing to test the roadblocks to see which are which and are often quick to refer the Category 1 and 2 roadblocks to management whereas they push through the 3s and 4s.

Average performers, on the other hand, are sometimes stymied by roadblocks in many cases. Some may stubbornly push the 1s and try to get them to move even though they do not have the power to do so. They may often spend a lot of individual time on the 2s, trying to generate change and feeling good when they manage to get past them; this behavior, while well-intentioned, may not be time and energy effective!

Poor performers can generate long lists of roadblocks that get in the way of getting things done. They face innumerable hurdles in their everyday job and can constantly point out the things that cause their performance levels to be low.

How to deliver the theme:

So, here’s an empowering exercise that you can easily do to help reshape the thinking of the poor performers and generate new alternative behaviors among the average ones.

Use a flip chart and masking tape and start a meeting with the question, “What are some of the roadblocks to getting things done around here?” or similar. Allow the group to brainstorm and write everything down.

(Note: You might want to set the Rules as, “All comments are okay, everything gets written down and we discuss the specifics of each idea when we complete the list. No negative reactions are allowed in this part of the meeting.”)

Capture all of the ideas without reframing or rewording, since changing wording might change the meaning or it may be perceived as a “put-down” to an employee with less than perfect language skills who might then not participate any longer. You can also ask for clarification after you write it down, making notes on the page.

Ask individuals, if necessary, to generate the participation of everyone, but expect more roadblocks to come from the average and poor performers. Write them all down. You may also prompt, when the going gets slow, by saying something as, “How about the interdepartmental things?”

Post up the sheets as they become filled and do not be surprised to get 10 or more pages (my personal record: 22 pages!). The more the better. Really!

Once the list is essentially complete, share the model of Roadblock Management with them, describing the categories and the general frameworks of each.

Now, go back through this list and have the group categorize, as best they can, the nature of each of the roadblocks. Let THEM do this — that way it is their list and not yours!

What you will discover is that 80% of the roadblocks will be 3s and 4s and that the top performers will often offer everyone suggestions as to how to manage the 2s more effectively. The Category 1 roadblocks are those that you should volunteer to escalate and some of the 2s might be addressed by a team of your people, including some of the poorer performers.

Celebrate any ideas for improvement and attempts to address specific problems. And be sure to get out of the way as the group and individuals now engage in some dis-un-empowerment.

© Performance Management Company, 1998 – 2010 All Rights Reserved.

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Thoughts on Teamwork and Engagement

This is about issues and opportunities around people and performance.

Maximum organizational effectiveness comes from aligning people to work together on shared common goals and providing them with the information and resources to get things done. In most cases, organizations function reasonably well within departments, with managers meeting goals and expectations. There are issues, but they are not departmental because shared goals and measurements as well as group expectations by management tend to give reasonably good levels of performance and innovation. People tend to be good problem solvers and will work together fairly well.

There are a variety of statistics clearly demonstrating that team-based behavior can offer a wide range of positive impacts on organizations of all kinds:

  • Globally, only 1 of 5 workers is giving full discretionary effort on the job. We often call these “exemplary performers” but they are simply engaged
  • Almost 4 of 10 workers are disenchanted or disengaged – they are not performing to their capability
  • In the US, only 3 in 10 feel engaged and the same number feel disenchanted or disengaged – they are not contributing much nor getting satisfaction in their jobs
  • Only 1 in 10 respondents agreed that senior leaders in their companies actually treat employees as vital corporate assets
  • The more engaged employees are more likely to stay with an organization, but 40% are “passive job seekers.”
  • Fully half of the disengaged have NO plans to leave the company nor are they even passively looking for other employment! (scary!)

There are strong connections of engagement to company results:

  • Companies with high employee engagement had a 19% increase in operating income and a 28% growth in earnings per share
  • Companies with low levels of engagement saw a drop in operating income of 32% and a decline of 11% in earnings per share  (from a TP one-year study of 50 companies)

Moreover,

  • Companies with high engagement had a 3.74% increase in operating margin and a 2.06 net profit margin
  • Companies with low engagement had a -2.01% decline in operating margin and a -1.38% net profit margin (from a TP study of 40 companies)

Can we hear a Thump Thump? Are we really making progress?

There are lots of statistics around clearly demonstrating why we need to improve. In other posts, I will share some ideas for making things improve. There are many things we can do.

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Thoughts on Teamwork and Engagement Part 2

This is about some ideas and solutions around people and performance and it is about Teamwork and Collaboration!

Typical recommendations about what to do tend to go along the same lines, like these Top 10 Drivers of Employee Engagement Globally (from TowersPerrin, 2009):

  1. Senior management sincerely interested in employee well-being
  2. Improved my skills and capabilities over the last year
  3. Organization’s reputation for social responsibility
  4. Input into decision making in my department
  5. Organization quickly resolves customer concerns
  6. Set high personal standards
  7. Have excellent career advancement opportunities
  8. Enjoy challenging work assignments that broaden skills
  9. Good relationship with supervisor
  10. Organization encourages innovative thinking

Note that the above says little about how teamworkand especially cross-functional or interdepartmental teamwork, can help involve and engage people in shared goals and missions.

Yet we know that people working together – actively engaging with others to focus on accomplishing an important result – is a very strong motivator of individual performance and something which generates collective engagement. Peer support is a powerful driver of accomplishment, so doing things to generate more acceptance and a shared mission among people can be really helpful. Corporate team building is a missing ingredient in many organizations work process improvement strategies.

What is surprising as well as disappointing is that 42% of US HR executives – today — still have “reducing headcount” as their top priority!  (from Deloitte’s Talent Pulse, July 2009) We hear this in reading about the lack of senior management support for recruitment efforts, for example. We see it in the way training for workplace improvement is budgeted.

“Improving organizational performance” was not even on the list of things to do! Yet 65% of these HR Execs are highly or very-highly concerned about losing high-potential performers in the year the recession ends and many see it now (26%) and many employers have done NOTHING to plan for when the economy recovers and few HR execs seem to understand the negative impacts! (Deloitte)

Companies are spending on new hire training to get them up to speed on systems and processes. Little is being spent on workplace improvements and little is being done to involve people in generating ideas for improvement. The former National Association of Suggestion Systems is now the Employee Involvement Association (http://www.eianet.org) and the website was copyright 2006 and no meetings were listed on their website. It still exists, but there does not appear to be a LOT of activity around involvement and improvement.


Collaboration generates better ideas as well as engagement 

Employers need to demonstrate to the workers that people are important in their organizations and that it is important that people feel part of the team. Pay and all those other attractors are important, but as attractors. To generate performance, people need to feel that their efforts are appreciated and recognized.

The real leverage comes from improving teamwork and collaboration between departments. That is where lots of improvements in overall effectiveness can be found, but capturing these opportunities and implementing change and improvement is difficult as well as political, in many cases.

Interdepartmental Collaboration is an oxymoron – two words that do not go together well.

Interdepartmental Collaboration color yellow

Interdepartmental Collaboration is an oxymoron in most organizations

Today’s organizational complexities make it very difficult for even highly effective leaders to motivate people and effectively implement improvements with team involvement. It takes team perspective and alignment to get things done in most cases. But pressures to produce will often lead to tops-down initiatives driven into the workplace – behaviors known to generate resistance and a variety of other negative impacts.

What to do? Here are a few ideas:

  • Discover some initiatives that support inter-disciplinary or cross-functional teamwork and engage people in a vision and focus on accomplishments.
  • Ask people to define what inter-departmental initiatives might have significant performance improvement impacts.
  • Identify the key steps in implementing results and develop some form of checklist of critical activities. A variety of these exist but the best will generally come from an analysis of the key steps taken in the most successful previous successes in your own organization. Each culture is different and there is no silver bullet in terms of how things get done within each company. The best predictor of future success is the successful past behavior.
  • Minimize the perceived risk of involvement and allow the activity to generate peer support and recognition
  • Provide for a variety of intrinsic motivators. Do not just rely on extrinsic ones.
  • Look for a myriad of ways that management can show support – both the managers of the group as well as the managers of the managers. Get lots of recognition for the activity of trying to improve.
  • Look to manage the roadblocks and anticipate the problems that they might have in implementing changes.
  • Find some budget for support. Don’t allow financial needs to delay movement forward, since momentum and enthusiasm will be lost.

What are YOUR ideas about making these improvements?

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Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Coaching and the Parallels to Running Whitewater Rapids

Some thoughts on the Rating of Difficulty of Coaching and Whitewater River Running

Some people feel that running whitewater rapids in a kayak is a lot like coaching difficult performers. Sometimes the rapid is an easy one that you can just float through without a lot of preparation or even much observation. In other cases, where the water and the “drop” is a bit more difficult, it may make sense to get out of the boat, walk along the shore and take a look at what you are about to encounter so that you can plan a route through with the highest likelihood of success.

In the case of very difficult whitewater, you may want to have a good deal of information about the situation available, have a plan for other observers to share their thoughts on how to succeed and even have a plan for someone to throw you a rope if things get really tight. And sometimes scouting that rapid is in order so that the difficulties can be avoided or responses can be planned.

So here is how rapids in a river are rated insofar as difficulty:

Class 1: Easy. 
Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few general obstructions exist and all obvious and readily missed. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.

Saluda

Class i – II Saluda River (SC)

Class 2: Novice. 
Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily avoided, if desired, by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and assistance, while possibly helpful, is seldom needed.

Class 3: Intermediate. 
Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open boat like a canoe or flip a kayak. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good control in tight passages is required; large waves may be present but may be avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable, especially for inexperienced participants. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims and water up your nose!

Class 4: Advanced. 
Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn into quiet waters may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require “must-make” moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting often necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills. A strong roll is highly recommended.

Class 5: Expert. 
Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids with drops that may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is recommended but even this may be difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is often difficult even for experts. A very reliable roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential.

Class 6: Extreme and Exploratory. 
These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. After a Class 6 rapid has been successfully navigated many times and routes and strategies become known, its rating may be downgraded to Class 5 and the difficulty is actually lessened and the required “moves” become known.

crystal

The Big Hole at Crystal Rapid on the Colorado River

In the next post that appears here, I will describe how coaching situations can be matched up to these ratings, and how the strategies for running white water rapids can be useful in planning and executing these coaching sessions.

 

Scott in Dancer

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Coaching and the Parallels to Running Whitewater Rapids, Part 2

The Whitewater of Coaching Improved Performance (Part Two.)

You can find Part One of this article by clicking here

Okay, so let’s talk about these as they relate to improving competence and results in the workplace as these ratings relate to coaching. Obviously, some situations are much easier and less risky than others, with the more difficult ones requiring more thought.

Class 1 situations are pretty simple and have a high likelihood of a positive outcome. You do not need much preparation and planning and you can get this done relatively easily – you can float through these types with little emotion or adrenaline. An example might be a new employee who you are coaching on how to use the software or a database they need for doing their job. Or, a new process is introduced and you are spot-checking quality or completeness of the work and have a few comments to one of your people about specific improvement. You will seldom find yourself “swimming.”

Some serious calm water - EASY!

Some serious calm water – EASY!

Class 2 situation might be one where the person has been doing the job for a while and thinks that they understand all sides of the situation and how fast they need to work, but the reality is a little different from your perspective. They might be at the old work standard rate while you need them to perform more efficiently.  You may not need to collect any information other than an example or two and there is not a lot of emotion or reaction predicted. This is the kind of discussion that you might want to have away from the workplace but not one of those held in a closed-door office.

But you definitely want to think things out first and not go in unprepared. You might want to check the information against other data or another person just to be sure. It is possible that you will have to move a bit out of your planned channel to get to the end of the situation.

Class 3 situation should not be your first coaching experience, since some degree of planning and preparation is generally helpful and you may want to rehearse your moves prior to floating into the river. You should have some skills in changing the direction of the conversation, since the rock (an excuse) might necessitate some maneuvering. You may find yourself out of the current (in an eddy) where making progress is not possible until you re-enter the main flow.

In these situation, you will want to scout the rapid first, maybe discover the kinds of previous discussions and difficulties management may have had with the individual as well as look at performance data, training histories and other materials. Once you’ve run these kinds of rapids a few times, your skill level increase generally is very helpful for keeping discussions on track, keeping emotions at a manageable level, and being prepared to “roll” back up should you find yourself upside down.

One can generally self-rescue from a Class 3 rapid but it may require a bit of swimming and life preservers and helmets are required! Just thinking about a Class 3 situation is enough to generate some level of adrenaline, but good planning and some solid skills are generally all that you need.

Class 4 coaching situations are best done when you have solid Class 3 skills. Redirecting in the heavy current of sideways distractions and some up and down boat movement, even a waterfall or two, is important to navigating successfully. You most definitely want to check out the rapid before paddling in – and it is often good to watch others run these kinds of situations in order to develop a set of strategies and tactics that will allow you to be upright at the bottom.

With a strong roll, you will be able to move from being upside down and back into a controlling mode when things go wrong but you will need to precisely handle yourself so that you do not flip over again right away. Self-rescue is most difficult and you should be able to stop the conversation, take a time out for getting your breath, before you reenter the fray. This takes both knowledge of when and how to pull out of the mainstream and into an eddy (slow moving calm place) as well as when to reenter the flow – skills not easily learned but that come with practice.

Liken a Class 4 Coaching Event to a performance improvement discussion with the workplace’s Union Rep or someone of similar perceived stature in your workplace. The situation is one that is manageable, but you do not do this as your first try after your training class. And you want to be sure that the risk and the reward are comparable in nature before venturing in. Getting water up your nose and bouncing your limbs off the rocks while cascading downstream is not the most pleasant situation. At the same time, looking back upstream after successfully negotiating a Class 4 Coaching Event is a for-sure confidence builder and proof that you have developed some fine skills.

Cautionary Note: Running the rapids is a workplace endeavor; do not try running these rapids with your spouse or children! They have a tendency to be able to move the rocks around while you are in the current, creating unexpected hazards that are difficult to manage.  

Classes 5 and 6 – Realize that these situations will exist in the workplace. An example might include coaching your boss’ boss about what they need to do differently or trying to initiate a major new process improvement amongst a group of long-term workers that may reduce their numbers. Generally, one can hear a Class 5 or Class 6 rapid from a long distance away by the roar it makes as water cascades in major falls, pouring over large rocks and creating large unpredictable waves.

Lava Falls or Crystal Rapid on the Colorado are runnable rapids that you can actually hear echoing through the canyon a mile away; they sound like a freight train without the whistle and you get goose bumps on your arms and the hair on the back of your neck starts to stand up long before you are close enough to even get out of your boat to go scout them. It is impossible for someone not to realize that they are there and that they represent a very special situation.

ONE of the big holes in Lava Falls on the Colorado River

ONE of the big holes in Lava Falls on the Colorado River

Like the big water surfers at the North Shore of Oahu during Pacific storms, there are people who LIKE to play in these monsters and deal with the ensuing chaos. But they are near-professional in their skill levels, real experts with many years of practice and often with great personal coaches in their own histories.

wave_large1Being in superb physical condition with good reflexes is also a great help in boating, and probably relates to how you need to be prepared for some of the more serious coaching situations. Consider training and planning for your improvement opportunities based on the difficulty of the predicted waves you will encounter.

Lastly, recognize that people do have fun running rivers!

SWs One - How Things Work

Square Wheels® One — Square Wheels® is a registered servicemark of
Performance Management Company © Performance Management Company, 2008

PMC sells a variety of simple to use but powerful training and development tools to trainers and consultants worldwide. Visit our websites for more information. One example is this illustration, which can be used for coaching because it sets up a conversation about “things that are not working smoothly” with the understanding that “Round Wheels are already in the wagon.” It avoids the emotionality and feeling of being attacked in a performance improvement discussion.

Note: Scott began rafting on the Chattooga River in 1975, shortly after the movie, Deliverance, (Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight) was filmed there. Progressing from rafts to canoes to kayaks over the next 20 years, he spent about 5 years in serious pursuit of big water and high adrenaline, running most of the big waters in California and elsewhere and having run the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River on 3 occasions. Scott fully understands the implications of, “The older we get, the faster we were” and therefore limits his whitewater to much more manageable levels these days. He is a skilled coach and occasionally teaches an effective course on confronting poor performance, a skill level past one of coaching – the real Class 5 and 6 stuff.

Scott in Dancer

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Issues of Ownership and Engagement

Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car

This is an overview of Square a Wheels  Newsletter 
on Issues of Ownership and Engagement

 
Do you wash your rental car?

Ownership is about active involvement and engagement and generating a sense of personal and team commitment. It clearly shows itself in Customer Care when the individual does more than you expect and positively surprises you – the behaviors that build customer loyalty. It shows up everywhere.

But, Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car!

Well, not precisely, because 5% will for various reasons. But the idea should stimulate thinking about engagement and involvement needed in every work place.

Ownership is a key factor in why unmotivated people often succeed after they quit and then become business owners running their own companies. It is also why some managers generate much higher workplace performance than others. Ownership is the magical process whereby workers turn from spectator sheep into motivated and engaged tigers — It is because they care about things.

It is not easy, since there can be a lot of issues of trust and clarity of mission and competition and alignment as well as interpersonal problems. But all of them can be addressed in a pretty straightforward manner, by giving people a stake in the action as well as gaining their active involvement. More thoughts in the newsletter.

“Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There.“

This statement, above, describes the action that we have been teaching as a basic tool of innovation and change since the early 90s. Too often, we are so busy pushing and pulling the wagon, just like always, that we do not step back and look at things from a displaced perspective. Once we do, we can see that things are rolling on Square Wheels while the cargo of the wagon are round rubber tires.

Very often, people who perform better than others — the exemplary performers of any organization — will already be doing things differently than the others. The round wheels in so many situations are already identified and tested and implemented and refined. But the majority of the people, and especially the poor performers, just keep on keeping on and doing what they have always done and their Square Wheels remain in place.

Innovations can occur quite naturally. Some of us are nearly always looking for ways to do things differently so that it is easier. Tom Gilbert expanded on a framework of “laziness” back in the late 70s in his book, Human Competence. I have always liked that concept: Because we are naturally lazy, we will always be looking for the easiest and most efficient way to do things.

Why not look for the downhill route instead of pushing and pulling the wagon uphill (and sometimes through the mud)?

By involving and engaging people in the identification of the things not working smoothly and through the sharing of best practices and round wheels, we do a better job of engaging and involving the workforce. Engagement is a key to motivation and sustaining high performance. Or, putting the Round Wheels to use!

Some simple thinking on innovation and involvement

Here is a surprise for you: Big Ideas don’t come from some special place, unless you consider the regular employees “special,” which seems to be an uncommon thing in most organizations.

Ideas are not invented out of the blue and they sure don’t come from the top – the best ideas come from hands on people who are dealing with issues of customer dissatisfaction or have hands-on the systems and processes that are thumping and bumping along. Good ideas might also come from the managers, who are listening to issues of the employees getting the work done and who can synthesize those ideas into actionable items for improvement.

If you are trying to make improvements an ongoing business strategy – doing what I call “continuous continuous improvement” – you need to set the expectation that the status quo isn’t set in concrete and the systems and processes need constant updating. It’s what we refer to simply as, “The Round Wheels of Today are the Square Wheels of Tomorrow.”

One has to manage the trust and expectations downward while pulling the ideas upward. Gravity is found in most organizations, where people sometimes see ideation as simply more work. It is easier not to bother than to try to push ideas through perceived communications barriers. That is why we need to add some lightness to the scene, to add some helium to the idea bubbles and not simply allow the pin to hit the balloon and burst motivation and trust (this won’t give you much in the way of positive impacts, by the way).

Most often, a simple concept operates: Ideas for improvement are meant to come from the top of the organization, where things are more clearly understood. We refer to this using a quote I will attribute to the novelist John le Carre – “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

Ideas from the top might be good, but they are often impractical and costly to implement from an actual dollar standpoint as well as from the point of the cost of human capital. Change pushed on people gets resisted and rejected.

If you want to actively engage and enlist people in improvement efforts, it is far simpler to simply ask them, in an ecological way, for their ideas. Employee engagement is simple to accomplish, if people know where they are going and feel that there is support for innovation.

Recognize that your exemplary performers are already doing things differently than everyone else.

There are no simple answers. And there are also a lot of ways to get this done. The key: simple, ongoing communications focused on listening to ideas to solving problems and improving the workplace.

Organizational Communications: The Mission — In The Beginning

I came across this “story” (below) many many years ago and thought it was pretty representative of how communications can get garbled as things move up the chain of command.

There is almost always a gap between the views of hands-on workers and the Most Senior Management. As I like to say, the “View from the Front” is different than the “View at the Back.”

Top management may think they know what is happening down in the organization but that is really a myth, unless they are doing things like MBWA (from Tom Peters, “Managing by Wandering Around”). Frankly, I have always liked that approach – talking to the people who are actually doing the work to see what they need to improve and to see how things are going.

So, the real issue is one of understanding the perspective of the employee and their view of the world and work. Engaging employees and enlisting their energies is very difficult if the level of understanding and trust is low. The gaps can be real!

So, here is a story about one way these gaps between organizational reality and the perspective of the workers can be shaped by management:

In the Beginning was The Vision
And then the Assumptions
But the Assumptions were without Form
And the Vision was without substance.

And Darkness was upon the faces of the Workers
As they Spoke amongst themselves, saying:
“It is a Crock of Shit, and it Stinketh, badly.”

So the Workers went to Supervisors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Pail of Dung, and none may abide the Odor thereof.”

And Supervisors went to Managers, and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Container of Excrement, and it is
so very Strong that none may abide it.”

And Managers went to Directors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a vessel of Fertilizer, and none may abide its Strength.”

And Directors went to Vice Presidents and sayeth:
“It contains that which aids plant Growth, and it is very Strong.”

And Vice Presidents went to Executives and sayeth unto them:
“It promoteth Growth, and it is very very Powerful.”

And Executives went to the President, and sayeth unto him:
“This powerful Vision will actively promote Growth and Efficiency of our departments and our company overall.”

And the President looked upon the Vision
and saw that it was good.

Thus the Vision became The Reality.

What we need to do is clarify the Visions for the hands-on workers to make it current and real:

This wording of “In The Beginning” is available as a pdf file from our website, done up in a cute font, in both A4 and 8.5 x 11 formats. The colored images are part of the toolkits we sell for organizational development and employee engagement. Our team building games are generally focused around these issues of collaboration and communications.

And we actually have a really great and recently updated Mission Statement Development Toolkit that is built around our Square Wheels illustrations and using the Fast Networks and Dot-Voting engagement techniques. You can check it out in the Square Wheels section of our organizational development tools. You can find a blog post on dot-voting (multi-voting) here.

See these tools at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

Elegant Solutions

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Improving Service Profitability by Engaging Employees

Service Sells. It is as simple as that.

A 2009 Gallup study found that organizations with engagement scores (top quartile) had 18% higher productivity and 16% higher profits. And there has been a lot of data since then that supports all of those conclusions.

While companies talk about engaging their customers and employees, many have taken cost-cutting measures or “job enhancement” initiatives that reduce employee morale, creating a demand for more work in less time. The number of “actively disengaged” workers has risen to as much as 24% in companies where layoffs have occurred. (Watson Wyatt’s Employee Engagement Index)

Every production of genius must be the production of enthusiasm. 
— Benjamin Disraeli —

Improving existing service quality demands a focus on meeting and even exceeding customer expectations. But it is nearly a universal truth that, “It’s hard to care for customers if you don’t feel the company cares for you.” A few employees will always go above the norm, but that is the exception.

One would logically assume that we know this. But there are issues of risk taking and perceived reward that come into play.

51% of executive respondents in a global survey occasionally or frequently bent organization rules to be more productive and 32% said they did so to make a quick decision, close a sale or retain a customer. (from Training magazine)

But recognize the flip side of these statistics. You wonder about the results from those who chose not to be responsive to customers or make decisions quickly!

It is important to create a strong and obviously committed management team along with a culture of engagement and involvement to recruit players for service quality improvement. Most people would rather just process and handle transactions than take the risk of making decisions that might result in their exceeding customer expectations.

When the economy improves, many studies indicate that a large percentage of current employees plan to leave – the grass does appear to be greener elsewhere for them. At this same time, companies may start to do things to retain existing customers as well as attract new ones. Expect workplace turmoil, as companies begin to expect new employees who have been conditioned by the old culture to keep their heads down.

Trust is the residue of fulfilled promises.

What to do (simple stuff, really):

  • Build trust and commitment – lots of ways to address this.
  • Clarify the missions and visions in real and honest frameworks, as these things affect employees.
  • Engage or re-engage existing employees and retain new-hire- enthusiasm for the job.
  • Create some sense of individual opportunity, but rely on intrinsic motivators as much as extrinsic ones.
  • Provide for training and for personal growth. Use job-enrichment techniques to give people a sense of meaningful work.
  • Communicate and encourage teamwork and collaboration. Build inter-organizational commitment to shared goals and objectives.
  • Create ownership involvement.

The tools for organizational improvement most likely already exist within the organization – it is not about inventing some new approach or doing some things that other people may have found successful.

The knowledge of what needs to be done can be found internally. People DO have shared, positive experiences and many managers have been and could be more engaging and involving. Allow the managers the freedom to involve and engage their people and to feel less exposure and risk for trying to make needed improvements. 

We often have these “sheep” going in the wrong direction and sounding like, “Naaaaa. Baaaaaa” in the workplace. It has been my experience that the ideas already exist but not everyone is listening or working together. If people only had the chance to share them and trust others to act appropriately, they might realign themselves to shared common goals and objectives.

Most organizations have a tremendous built-in base of knowledge. Get the people working with you. Focus on aligning people to the visions and goals and clarifying expectations.

For a bit more on managing expectations of customers, you might find this of interest – click on the image to see that blog:

The Service Maturity Model of Dr Scott Simmerman

And, lastly, remember that Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car, so a feeling of ownership is critical.

You can see more on these thoughts about service quality improvement here.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

© Performance Management Company, 1993 – 2015

 

Benefits of Experiential Exercises in Organizational Development

We sometimes have the opportunity to debrief managers and trainers on the themes of team building and how using experiential exercises can improve organizational performance. After playing, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we received these responses from some of these groups:

What are some benefits of experiential exercises in training and management development?
•  Gets team members involved and actively learning
•  Speeds Learning and generates perspective
•  Can directly apply to real-world situations
•  We can take others’ roles and share their feelings
•  Fun – and is thus much more memorable
•  Makes us more open to other people and their ideas
•  It improves communications
•  It is easy to see our behaviors in our play so it is easier to discuss our thinking and rationale
•  It produces shared experiences
•  It stimulates thinking and reflection
•  It is much more memorable and engaging than lecture
•  We DO things, and then we discuss our reasons and ideas
•  People see themselves in the mirror
•  It increases power and impact of the key ideas

What are the costs of poor teamwork to our organizations?
•  Company objectives cannot be achieved
•  Increased Staff costs (unnecessary politics, poor internal communication, increased turnover and recruiting costs, increased training costs, poor internal relations, decreased morale, decreased trust / increased mistrust)
•  Increased Production Costs (time, increased waste, decreased innovation and efficiency, reduced quality, reduced productivity)
•  Reduced Profitability (loss of customers and image)

There is nothing better than candid responses from line managers and front-line staff when talking about real work issues in the workplace.

See more information about our different team building exercises on our website.

Why do teams compete? Collaboration offers more positive benefits?

Teams and teamwork are a lot about choice and choices. Teams will often choose NOT to collaborate if they feel that competition offers them more benefits. But does competition really do much to support overall organizational results. More often than not, the answer is that competition measurably sub-optimizes organizational results. Clearly.

I tried to collect some of the key articles around performance and teamwork in this annotated blog of my best posts on our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. You can see them by clicking on the image below:

LD MAIN Goal is to Mine

We often ask tabletops to discuss various real world perceptions after playing our team building exercises. Here are some thoughts of participants after playing, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on issues of inter-table collaboration and communications:

Why do teams compete when collaboration obviously offers more impacts and benefits?

  • Evaluation and Reward Systems do not support it
  • Organizational objectives are unclear
  • Human Nature – we are competitive
  • Past Experience precludes collaboration and has rewarded competition
  • Lack of a Trust or Relationship with others
  • It takes extra time and effort to do it
  • Benefits of collaboration not supported by leaders
  • Impacts and payoffs are not obvious
  • Conflict may generate discussion of realities and produce creativity
  • Teams do not have a history or experience with doing collaboration or generating better impacts by it

What did you learn about teamwork and communications from playing the exercise?

  • There is a need for networking
  • Small teams work better than committees / larger teams
  • Someone needs to take on the role of team leader
  • We must compromise individually and collaborate collectively to succeed
  • Don’t dominate – listen to others views
  • THINK COLLABORATION and Trust
  • Share a common goal
  • Share Ideas and Information
  • Plan before Acting
  • Have a division of labor and roles and think creatively
  • Initiate support from others
  • Have Empathy for others
  • Identify others’ needs
  • Be Creative
  • Be a good listener
  • Build on others’ ideas
  • Recognize Interdependence
  • Move quickly, take some risks
  • We probably have sufficient resources – use them wisely

In this game, most people do not ask for help, which also happens in the workplace. Why don’t most teams ask for or get the active leadership of their managers?

  • We are conditioned by education, bad experiences and culture
  • Personality (we’re not proactive but quiet)
  • We’re too involved in our own work and forget the existence of the “Expedition Leaders”
  • We’re afraid of losing time, thus we suboptimize results
  • We are really not clear of our roles or the Leader’s role
  • There is a fear of losing Face (ego, insecurity)
  • There is an assumption that not asking means we get all of the     praise and recognition for our good performance / ability
  • “Us and Them” mentality — Leader is not part of team
  • No access to them – can’t get their time so why ask
  • It’s not part of the rules of how we play
  • Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled

Some Key Learning Points for engaging and involving people in performance improvement:

  • Visions are critical for motivation
  • Motivation occurs when people share risks, goals and objectives
  • Teams are “naturally” competitive and processes must actively drive collaboration and cooperation
  • Teams only reluctantly ask Expedition Leaders for advice.
  • Leadership must clearly communicate with directness and honesty.  They need to be perceived as supportive.
  • Justify the need for collaboration as it influences corporate profitability and improvements in systems and practices.
  • Identify the mud that is bogging teams down and wasting resources.
  • Insure that each participant knows his or her role on the team and their importance to the overall results — make sure each team member feels that their efforts are of value.

How does this exercise and debriefing link to improving organizational results?

  • Collaborative, overall effort is needed to achieve Company Goals
  • Plan – Do – Check – Action
  • Collaboration is essential
  • Manage your processes with effective allocation of resources
  • Do It Right The First Time – there are few second chances in reality
  • Highlight the internal customer concept – we depend on each other
  • All of us is better than Some of US!

The competitive aspect of the game:
How might it be harmful in an organization?

  • Not sharing information for personal reasons will sub-optimize overall results
  • Damaging relationships and trust
  • Duplication of efforts
  • Not utilizing resources in best or optimal way
  • Sub-optimization — Not seeing whole picture
  • Undermining the efforts of others

Overall, competition is harmful because it is not maximizing company results or the performance by the largest number of people. Competition works for the competitive and not for everyone. Discussing these issues and opportunities in the context of collaboration and communications offers the chance that people may choose to behave differently, or at least be more aware of how they are influencing others in their workplace.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine is a fun and powerful way to learn more about teambuilding and collaboration

Find our articles on organizations and performance

We support all kinds of innovation, motivation, engagement, team building and other aspects of people and performance through the sale of our simple tools for facilitating change and improvement. You can find out more about these by clicking on the link below:

Performance Management Company website for team building

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

Spectator Sheep – Engaging and Involving Poor Performers

I saw a post in one of my online training groups and it was talking about organizational deadwood. Granted, it is an issue in a lot of companies, but my take is to view it as an opportunity more than a problem. So, I started that conversation thusly:

First, remember that the deadwood was once a growing tree. Remind yourselves that a Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. And that is NOT an uncommon kind of statistic according to my friends in research/surveying companies.

So, envision a wooden wagon rolling along on wooden Square Wheels® and being pulled by a guy with a rope that both isolates him from the wagon itself and also functions as a shock absorber. The wagon is thumping and bumping along, as it always has. The people at the back of the wagon are pushing, and their hands-on activities are giving them “feedback on the journey forward.” But that is it; they cannot see where they are headed. Understand that the cargo of this wagon is round rubber tires.


Thump thump, thump thump, just like always.

But paradoxically, the work team will meet their performance goals because the goals were set on this paradigm. Okay, maybe they need to improve 5% this year, but maybe that is possible. The new guys always push the hardest anyway and it does not take a whole lot of skill to perform the job.

NOW, envision on the side of the hill, the Spectator Sheep. You know who they are: they are the ones not actively involved in this effort, the ones who stand around going, “Naaaaaaaaa. Baaaaaaa.” You know they are there and that they also express their opinions fairly regularly in meetings and on the job, right?

Spectator Sheep Yellow round borders(There are multiple causal factors that we do not need
to be concerned with at this point, either.)

MY view is that these Spectator Sheep actually DO care, but they are frustrated. They see things differently from Pushers and Pullers — their arms-length perspective keeps them asking, “Why are they doing this that way?” After a while, they give up with the discourse and specific suggestions and just drift into the Naaa Baaa framework – it’s more fun that way as well as less effort for them.

(These may be those people who are not engaged but who have no intention of leaving your employment. In some companies, this represents a significant number of employees, based on surveys.)

But I also see these guys as tigers under protective sheepskin coverings. They have the motivation, they just express it differently. AND, they are headed in the opposite direction. But they have a desire to change and they see a gap between what is happening and what is possible — these gaps are motivating (look up “cognitive dissonance”).


Ah, if we could only change their direction and get them going in the same way as the wagon is rolling now. If we might only engage and involve them in the process of improving the journey. If we might only use their energy to help implement change and improvement. If we could only get these (likely) below average employees to improve their performance up to the median of the rest of the participants.


Want leverage for innovation and performance improvement? LOTS of statistics support the reality that the poor performers can contribute more, a lot more, than one can get by continually demanding improvements at the top.

What we need to do is RE-engage that deadwood, since there is still life there. Easy, no. Trust is the Residue of Promises Fulfilled and there is probably a bit of history stored up in the tree rings that needs to be addressed. But these are still valuable and skilled employees, for the most part.

But I also realize that this is not typical thinking on the part of most managers. There are rings in those trees, too.

Remember those old Saturday Night Live skits that John Belushi performed, where he would do all this insightful stuff and then end it with “Naaaaaaa” and reject the whole stream of ideas? It reminds me of what happens in so many workplace meetings…  “Naaaaaaaaaa…..”

Anyway, Spectator Sheep are real, and we can do a much better job of involving them in workplace improvement. They DO have good ideas and a different perspective on things and some simple realignment is often all that is really required. Give them a sense of ownership involvement, too,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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