Performance Management Company Blog

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

Month: October 2011

Ideas, Innovation and Strategy Implementation – Getting Things Done More Better Faster

I have loved this quote since I first heard it 15 years ago at a conference:

If we’re not getting more better faster
then they are getting more better faster,
then we’re getting less better
or more worse.

— Tom Peters

Ideas are simply that, “Ideas.” The key to success lies in effective implementation. It is the same with corporate strategy implementation.

Research by my old Singapore pal, Robin SPeculand, shows that 90% of all strategy implementation programs fail. It is an issue of identifying the strategy and then having the ability to implement it. BOTH are obvious requirements but not everyone is good at all things. And failures to successfully implement are quite costly, since they tend to move into “organizational memory,” making future efforts even more difficult. Awareness is important, but so is executive leadership behavior!

In most organizations, people find that their managers will put the NO in innovation, roadblocking their individual efforts to make improvements. Take this simple statistic as proof: A Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. (And, 2007 were the good old days when it came to employee engagement and morale, it appears. If anything, things have gotten much worse with initiatives such as “Job Enlargement” being more common these days.)

Take a look at this data from an article by Les Leopold:

US Actual Wages vs Productivity-Enhanced wages from Les Leopold

On the one hand, productivity is improving. On the other, the compensation has not been increasing and the pin seems to have hit the balloon in the American workplace as well as elsewhere.

The pin finally hits the balloon and people are angry

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.

And there are broad issues of employee engagement and morale operating in most organizations these days. So it would seem obvious that there are some positive leverage points in the workplace that we can use effectively to improve how things are working to improve performance and morale and take a competitive advantage with new business strategies.

The real key is the successful implementation of ideas, either from the view of the entrepreneur or the manager looking to improve performance. If the senior managers have good ideas, they can generate involvement and engagement from their management team on designing successful implementation strategies. This is a tool for employee engagement as well as a way to improve organizational performance and long-term competitiveness.

For almost 20 years, I have been using a simple cartoon to describe how organizations really work — it is an inkblot for leading discussions as well as a metaphor for how things tend to roll along.

Consider that we are using a wooden wagon. A leader is pulling with a rope and people are behind the wagon, pushing it forward. It is rolling along on wooden Square Wheels, but with a cargo of round rubber tires.

SWs One green color thin

Someone in a workshop once said, “Those who do have no clue. Those who lead miss the need.” I think that describes the reality – the view at the back of the wagon (boards and hands) is different than the view at the front. The hands-on people KNOW that things are not working smoothly but have no ability to make the changes. The wagon puller is focused on meeting current goals and there is little time to stop and chat.

The round wheels already exist. In most organizations, the exemplary performers are already doing things differently and their sharing of best practices would be beneficial, if only we had the chance to stop, step back from the wagon, and discuss issues and opportunities.

I successful entrepreneurial businesses, you can see that the good idea(s) are shared with the people and that there is an engaged and involved workforce working to make those ideas a reality. This is the essence of entrepreneurial leadership, IMHO. It is really hard to go it alone, even when your idea is “most fabulous.” You need others to share the vision (and perspective) and to have a sense of ownership and involvement to generate the motivation and peer support to succeed.

Last key point: Nobody ever washes a rental car.

Without a sense of ownership involvement, it is not likely that people will be motivated, and thus the many issues around implementation and rollout of those good ideas will be roadblocks instead of challenges.

The Round Wheels of Today, are the Square Wheels of Tomorrow.

There will always be opportunities for people to implement and sell better ways of getting things done and improving performance. It is really about wheels and about people…

so, “Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!”

Step back from your wagon, scan the issues, and look for things that could be done differently. Then, involve and engage others in discussions about how to do things differently and how to implement these ideas.

See more on this at http://www.SquareWheels.com and see toolkits of illustrations at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

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 atscott@squarewheels.com

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

On Brainstorming and workplace productivity improvement

I recently responded to a LinkedIn post on the theme of Brainstorming. And I am reminded about how some people are new at this while I have been facilitating performance improvement discussions for nearly 40 years (gee, can it really be that long?)

“Times fun when you are having flies.” (Kermit the Frog)

One of the keys to success in these kinds of activities is to generate some peer support for the ideas and “lightly” use the ground rules — but NOT to make the rules so tight that people feel that the rules are more important than the ideas. I have seen some “control freak facilitators” focus so much on the rules that people feel that NO comment can be made other than the sharing of an idea. I really feel that this serves only to limit contributions. The session CAN be a debate, if it is done with the intention of generating NEW ideas and different viewpoints.

I allow some divergent discussion, but I also will lightly use the Rule of 80 / 20, which simply says the obvious: “80% of the discussion will occur in the first 20% of the time and the remaining 20% will take 80% of the time. So, anyone can call “80/20″ and we can then move on to more ideas…” (That really works well, in my experience!)

It is MOST important, I think, that the ideas be anchored to some business improvement issue and that people have a chance to get their creativity juices flowing before the discussion gets going.

The tool I use is Square Wheels One, which is readily available on my website. One does not require a tool but this process of generating ideas through projection is certainly a solid one for creativity.

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

I present that as, “How most organizations really work,” so as to not make them defensive (the word “your” added in there is pretty much guaranteed to generate some resistance and defensiveness!). A KEY is to allow them, “One Minute of Silent Contemplation Time.” This enables the slower information processers to think about possibilities before getting swarmed by the faster ones. It also allows for divergent thinking to arise — different people will go off in different directions.

With tables of no more than 6 people — more will decrease collaboration and participation — you allow them to first think individually and then allow them to discuss their different issues and ideas. I let this run until the energy begins to dissipate and then move it to a group discussion. You can use easel pads for each table, dot-voting for best ideas and all sorts of other frameworks for getting everyone involved in all ideas.

THEN, you can begin to tighten the thinking and bring them closer toward focusing on key issues and ideas — we call this “funneling.”

Getting people involved helps generate better ideas as well as ownership involvement and engagement


If you build a sense of energy and involvement and peer support for ideas in your openings, and anchor the activities toward “business improvement paradigms,” I think you will find that your brainstorming will be much improved. If people feel safe in sharing their ideas about a funny wagon with obvious improvement opportunities, they are MUCH more likely to participate in the sharing of their ideas about specific business improvement concepts in the open discussions.

Everyone needs to participate, mainly because, “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and it is not so much about ideas as it is about the IMPLEMENTATION of those ideas afterwards for most organizations.

Between the idea and the reality,
Between the motion and the act,
Falls the Shadow.

T.S. Eliot

You can see more about Square Wheels at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

For the FUN of It!

(BTW, I am a certified professional facilitator by the IAF and have been facilitating and implementing ideas for workplace improvement since 1978. )

Motivating People, Motivating Teams

Extrinsic Reward Systems are Perpetuating Workplace Problems

There! I said it as clearly as I can. And my response was not my fault: I just read another one of those posts in LinkedIn about, “How to Motivate your employees.”

The typical answers tend to look like this, which is discouraging since we know it does not work in the real world of managing people and performance:

How to Motivate People red color

So, I popped into the comments section and added a few thoughts about how managers can be more effective and motivate more of the people within any workgroup..

The Dan Pink presentation at TED (search “Dan Pink RSA” for the most interesting version which I think is this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc ) and Dan’s book, “Drive,” and Alphie Kohn’s classic work, “Punished by Rewards,” all detail why our beliefs in how to use rewards is not working and is also somewhat reckless.

My personal belief on all this is a bit odd, but possibly correct. There is a lot of both research support as well as the personal comments of most people about reward systems that supports the view that extrinsic rewards are motivating, but what they actually motivate may be far different from the kinds of performance that people want in their work.

Here goes:

Those people who are Most Rewarded by the extrinsic reward systems installed by most organizations to reward most behaviors are the ones who are seen as Most Cooperative and Most Effective when viewed through the results and outcomes of those operating in those same reward systems. In other words, if we have a reward system and some people respond well to them, they are motivated by the rewards. We should also promote them to jobs in management, since they have measurably good performance.

SO, who else to promote than the people who respond best to extrinsic rewards in a system that operates on extrinsic rewards? We would obviously not even consider the average performer in such a system for a promotion, right? So, after a series of such decisions for promotions, what we generate is a selection of the top 10% of the performers being promoted, and the top 10% of those individuals being selected for promotion to the next level.

Remember that the boss’ boss’ bosss all respond to extrinsic rewards and are the ones who keep getting selected for upward mobility. The result is a pretty amazing uniform select population at the top that does not possibly come close to the average beliefs and frameworks of those average performers in the workplace. Top performers are seen as being,  “most like me,” when viewed by the boss.

Okay toss in a couple factors like: “Women in the Workplace.” Or some requirement for “diversity” and we create problems in symmetry.

Mighten these others be viewed as “Not Much Like Us,” when these extrinsic reward filters are used? Might there be a difference in how the different sexes and cultures and all those different people are viewed when results are filtered through these extrinsic reward systems that most companies use to reward “Good Performance” and desired results? Many average people are obviously NOT motivated by extrinsic rewards designed to motivate the average performers.

Dan Pink’s materials should get your attention. He shares research that shows that extrinsic rewards often DECREASE performance in many situations such as those we face in this country these days and when it comes to how the workplace really operates. It is interesting stuff and you can view a 10 minute video of a presentation here.

If one is picking grapes, rewards for bushels picked per day might make sense. People will be motivated to pick grapes. But you sure better put in some controls on quality, or you will wind up with rocks and stems and all sorts of non-grape things in there if you reward “weight” or numbers of grapes with no regard to other factors. And people that work fast may not work safely. And vines may be damaged, inducing long term negative impacts.

Engagement is one key to helping generate involvement and performance improvement. Effective leadership is another. Dis-Un-Empowerment will work. Improve the effectiveness of the performance feedback systems.

I have added two new blogs – one is about the issues of managers in the workplace and on statistics about what the bad managers may choose to do differently. It is based on Gallup research and ascribed to Jim Clifton, CEO of that organization. You can view that post at this link. Another post that might be of interest is my blog (and associated article) on how to engage and motivate the people in the middle of the organization. You can view that blog here.

Remember, “The Round Wheels are already in the Square Wheeled wagon!”

SWs One - How Things Work

It is a LOT easier to involve and engage and help motivate the people that are already trained and who already know how things work. They have ideas for improvement, so involve and engage them.

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 atscott@squarewheels.com

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

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Empowerment, disempowerment, un-empowerment, and Dis-UN-empowerment

I’ve been playing with the notion of empowerment for a long time. Heck, my first speech on this concept at an international conference was in 1995 or so… People talk about empowering others, like they could make the choice and pull people around on strings or something. Well, it just isn’t that easy.

Pulling the strings to empower someone

So, I learned how to do a simple thing with a really funny name that works pretty well. Let me explain…

Many if not most organizations have talked about “empowerment” as a motivator. They embed the word into their mission statements. They talk as if they can actually accomplish this and implement improvement and change simply by “empowering our people.”

Sorry, but most people are UN-empowered. Statistics show that maybe 30% of employees are actually engaged, defined as being actively and emotionally involved with their work and the company. It is obvious that the situation should be emproved (intentional spelling error).

(I posted up a solid article on ideas for engaging the unengaged here)

The good thing is that it is EASY to talk about empowering others. But go ahead– EMPOWER ME TO DO SOMETHING. ANYTHING. You just cannot do it. It is not your choice and you have no influence on me. One person cannot empower another. (Heck, I did have two teenagers years ago — I was going to say “different teenagers” but I realize that the phrase is redundant).

So, leaping toward the actionable and intuitively non-obvious reality, I proposed that one of the roles of any manager — and one of the things that they can do and that has a wide variety of positive impacts on people and performance — is to do something I call:

Dis-Un-Empowerment

If so many are un-empowered, what actions of a manager might serve to remove or modify that situation so as to remove those things that people think or choose to allow to get in the way of them acting empowered?

My approach is to focus on Roadblock Management. Identify the different kinds of roadblocks so as to enable people to use APPROPRIATE strategies to deal with them.

You can find a pretty simple explanation of my approach to this on my informational website: http://www.squarewheels.com/scottswriting/roadblocks.html

You can find a simple toolkit with the resources and powerpoints and all that at:
http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com

Have FUN out there, dis-un-engaging people and feeling the benefits of a more involved and engaged workplace.

 

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 atscott@squarewheels.com

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

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