Performance Management Company Blog

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

Month: June 2012

Moron Outdoor Training

I have posted up some thoughts before about my views on Outdoor Training and how, personally, I’ve not had much insight or success from those kinds of events both as a participant and observer and from personal experiences when involved in the leadership team delivering such programs.

It is not that I don’t think that outdoor training events can be effective, it’s just from my own personal experiences that I haven’t found them to be so. Paintball, for instance, is a bit too aggressive a message for these times, I feel, and when so many companies are somewhat adversarial in their relationships among people and departments. Right after a layoff, there IS what is usually termed “Survivors Guilt” and there can be some similar sub-conscious things operating that some outdoor kinds of activities can inflame. Juggling balls and discovering how to solve problems like Acid River are just not all that real, in my opinion.

Plus there is the lack of control over the weather. Remember the A-Team TV show when Mr. T as Clubber Lane (Rocky 3)  says “I pity the fool…” (he also predicts the outcome of the fight as “pain” – that sound like training to you?) You can see the clip here.

Well, I had those “I pity the fool” and “pain” reactions yesterday when I was thinking about outdoor training and then saw a weather pattern for the United States for Friday, June 29, that I insert below:

The heat of team building and outdoor training

Yeah, I pity the fool who may have been outside attending a “training program” with the company paying $100 to $300 for them to learn something about something. One wonders how much of the attendees’ full attention would be focused on organizational improvement initiatives or on improving interpersonal relations or on bettering their teamwork with weather that was 100 F (40 C). Me, I would have been focused on, “when will this torture end?” as I was at the Texas outside team building event where the guy got stung by the scorpion — at least he got to ride in an air-conditioned ambulance!

I would rather deliver or participate in an interactive and engaging program like Square Wheels focused on change or motivation or to engage in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building game that could be debriefed around communications or teamwork or collaboration or ideas for motivating and engaging people. All comfortably done indoors.

You can read more of my writings on the issues I have with Outdoor Training by clicking on this link.

I am not against any training if it is solid, links to organizational improvement initiatives or desired outcomes and if it is supportive of all the participants. I do not like initiatives or games where people “die” metaphorically or even where they are embarrassed by their weight or health conditions or any other such impediment. That woman who just had the baby might not really enjoy climbing around in a ropes course or that person with the poor eyesight might not really like crawling through the woods shooting paintballs at other people. The person with the heart condition just might not benefit from running around two different rooms putting balls in different circles.

There are so many good activities that are engaging and thought-provoking that I wonder why we have to do icebreakers that are unrelated to any business purpose or similar. (Yes, I also wrote up my thoughts on that a while ago… link )

Have fun out there and be safe. And if you are playing outside, do drink lots of water.

And this is pretty damn funny:

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click on the image to see the blog post

 

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 blog on People and Performance is here.

 

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Dis-Un-Engagement – thoughts for impacting employee engagement in the workplace

A series of different LinkedIn posts in my lists have focused on the general theme of “employee engagement.” Some focus on asking about reactions to definitions of engagement, some focus on the relevancy of focusing on improvements and their relation to profitability and results, while others seem to just be information or publicity-focused and do not seem to add much value to people reading the post.

I saw one post today and two yesterday that I responded to and thought, well, what the heck, post something up in here. SO, here we go with Dis-Un-Engagement. I think it looks something like the illustration below:

Some people know that I have used a concept of Dis-Un-Empowerment for many years and I am thinking now that it actually has many of the same general applications to many aspects of improving workplace engagement.

We talk about and see a lot of data on engagement but most people are un-engaged.The statistics and surveys show that they are not actively nor emotionally nor behaviorally involved in the workplace on a regular basis. They are un-hooked and un-involved and seem to choose to be so. It is not like they have no opportunities because the same surveys show that some of the people in that workplace ARE involved and engaged. That difference is informative, actually.

No amount of banter will change their choices and a LOT of their behavior to become engaged may actually get punished or otherwise emotionally isolated by the management team in the way that ideas are put down or jokes are made about some people’s “contributions” and in SO MANY other ways in the workplace. Many people grew up being bullied or simply being average and our schools do not always do a great job of building the self-esteem of students. Then, they come to the workplace…

You cannot engage me just like you cannot empower me. I mean, go ahead and try; I will wait…

Okay, never mind. But please accept the reality that you cannot do something TO me that empowers me — it is about the choices that I want to make — internal stuff as much as the external stuff.

What we need to do is identify the things that are BLOCKING engagement and do things to remove them. A “non-ever-meeting-responder” might be asked directly for their thoughts and ideas on fixing a problem in a team meeting, for example. I do not have to generate that list for you. There are a zillion ways to get people MORE involved and some additional involvement will generally translate into a bit more engagement.

If you read the literature, such as the survey results from the Big Consulting Companies, there are some VERY Expensive ($$$$$) Tools and Techniques you can get from them to improve things measurably. If you read the Big Consultants’ sales materials, you will need to spend money hiring them to come in and evaluate the results of your corporate Engagement and Involvement Program and then do regular surveys to insure that you are making progress (I am not big on acronyms but should probably take the time to make up some funny ones like “Corporate Response Activity Program” or some such thing.)

OR, your company could choose to do something completely silly like ask the managers to ask the people for ideas for improvement and ask that each employee generate at least one idea about what might be done differently and do this in meetings as well as using some back-of-the-door posters in the bathrooms to collect those anonymous comments.

Yeah, this would improve engagement if it is done honestly. And yes, some disgruntled employees might share some ideas that show that they are disgruntled. But at least they would be engaged in sharing those ideas!!

This stuff all adds up over time. Ask and Ye Shall Receive (more engagement than you had before).

Then, work on the “Dis” part of the above and do things to remove the roadblocks and improve the choices…

That’s my 2 cents worth of stuff… I have written a good bit on dis-un-empowerment over the years so you can google that to see more on this general line of thinking along with some specific ideas for what you can actually do cheap ($).

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The Most Contaminated Surfaces in your Traveling

I was reading an interesting article about hotel rooms, that I will duplicate below, and it reminded me of airplanes and since many of my readers travel a good bit, it was my thought to post up some reminders / travel tips.

These days, I am flying with a baggie or baggies of the Clorox-type of disinfectant wipes. These are really multipurpose kinds of things and I will often take a few extras for seat-mates who get into a discussion with me and then get a bit paranoid about touching anything.

Basically, the AIR in airplanes is pretty good. They have improved their filtering and recycling times a lot in the last few years so that the contamination is reduced. This does not mean that all is good, since a sneeze directed at you is, well, directed AT you. Amazing how many people do not cover up. But the real dangers are other places — most notable is the tray table.

I guess the airlines clean them up once in a while, but disinfecting them does not appear high on their list of things to clean up and clean. Same with the top of the seat in front of you (where lots of people put their hands) and the armrests and seat belt buckles. So, I take a few seconds and wipe things down.

| posted up “Most contaminated surfaces in hotel rooms” at http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/rethinking-healthcare/most-contaminated-surfaces-in-hotel-rooms/9252 — which got me thinking about this in the first place. I reproduce parts of it below and suggest you trip over there and check it out.

This isn’t meant to freak travelers out. You see, during every 8-hour shift, housekeepers clean 14-16 rooms, spending about half an hour on each room…And identifying high-risk items in a hotel room would allow managers to strategically design cleaning practices, allocating time to efficiently reduce potential health risks posed by microbial contamination, according to researcher Katie Kirsch at the University of Houston. They sampled nearly 20 different surfaces from hotel rooms in Texas, Indiana, and South Carolina. And then tested the levels of total aerobic and coliform (fecal) bacterial contamination on each of the surfaces.About 81% of hotel room surfaces sampled held at least some fecal bacteria.

The most heavily bacteria-laden:

  • TV remote
  • bedside lamp switch
  • telephone
  • carpet
  • toilet and the bathroom sink
  • items from the housekeepers’ carts, including sponges and mops, which pose a risk for cross-contamination of rooms

Surfaces with the lowest contamination:

  • headboard on the bed
  • curtain rods
  • bathroom door handle

The researchers can’t say whether or not the bacteria detected can cause disease, however, the contamination levels are a reliable indicator of overall cleanliness. And many could pose a threat to those with compromised immune systems.

The findings were presented at the meeting of the American Society for Microbiology this week.

Visual assessment cannot tell if things are contaminated. Me, I am going to pack a few more of the disinfecting wipes! And give them to my seatmates.

Nothing Made Sense… Who cares!

There was a post up in one of my LinkedIn groups about the fact that there is another definition of employee engagement and that people are getting more and more confused — essentially, the distinction is as follows:

Research from the CIPD and Kingston Business School’s Centre for Research in Employment Skills and Society (CRESS) proposes two new levels of employee engagement – the ‘transactional’ and the ‘emotional’.

And there were a few comments on the site.

So, of course, I added MY thoughts to this concept, and I thought to repost them here. Engagement is an important area of my general thinking about organizational performance improvement and I am not one that generally spends my time, “Picking fly specks out of the pepper.”

Here is what I wrote:

One of my favorite quotes is, “Nothing made sense, and neither did anything else.” I thought I read that in Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, but a re-read failed to pick it up again. And that is my reaction to a lot of this nonsense about employee engagement not being important.

Crap.

Okay, some people DO work for the money and only for the money. Think about those people who worked for MGM under Samuel Goldwyn, who was quoted as saying, “When I want your opinion, I will give it to you.” Okay, one would not expect a whole lot of job satisfaction from THAT employer.

But the numbers that these accountant guys collect clearly show that an engaged workforce is a more productive workforce and that this impacts the financials as well as things like customer retention. New customers come expensively — take all the advertising and divide by the number of NEW customers and the numbers are pretty shocking. OLD customers are retained and leave for price and dissatisfaction.

Same with New Employees. They come because there are jobs and stay because there are benefits. And the costs of training a new employee up to above average performance is pretty high, since only half could even be expected to achieve above-average performance results!

So, when the good, high-performers choose to leave, the holes that need to be filled are pretty large ones. And expensive black holes for revenues…

Another definition? Who cares! Those just reflect words and I never did understand the meaningful difference between Missions and Visions and THAT argument has been going on for 40 years…

For me, it all boils down to one simple thought:

“Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car.”

If people do not share a sense of ownership, if they do not have a sense of involvement and engagement, they can be expected NOT to care about the organization and the job. Their days are numbered and the countdown has begun.

The Pin will hit The Balloon, the blowup will occur, and the costs of hiring and training and all that will begin, again.

The Pin hits the Balloon and people do get upset with things…

Nothing made sense… The cost of actually engaging someone is really pretty darn low and I can describe it in three words:

ASK — ASK — ASK
   (and ye shall receive!)

Generating LESS Collaboration? Really?? And how about even MORE Collaboration!

I am sitting in a restaurant with a not-to-be-named old friend and customer and we are talking about why he sometimes uses a competitive product in his team building trainings. His comment is basically that, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine generates TOO MUCH collaboration among the players and between the tabletops.”

And my response was basically, “Really? How can one have too much collaboration among people in the workplace?”

It turns out that I did get his point. Basically, Lost Dutchman sets up measurable improvements when players work together and share information as well as resources across the tabletops. They need a good plan of action and an overall solid strategic plan to manage their own resources, so the game rewards that. But the game also makes extra resources available to a team even though there is no additional benefit to them. Those same resources could be shared and would have great benefits to another team, however.

What we are talking about is a Turbocharger. A team acquiring this resource can move two blocks a day instead of one block, thus going twice as fast as normal. If the team acquires the information about the Turbochargers, they get THREE of them, instead of the single one that they can use. Thus, they gather two extra ones that are not usable and that have no intrinsic value.

ImageImageImage

But my friend did a lot of work with sales organizations whereby the other salesmen were NOT normally collaborating with others. They were not competing, precisely, but they did share common territories and had some overlap in customers. Think of the sales people in a car dealership, for example, who represent the same company and products but who have their own base of customers / prospects and where “sniping” is not a positive outcome.

So, he was using Gold of The Desert Kings, which had some of the same kinds of game dynamics but where teams were more obviously in competition to beat each other and where the overall success of all the teams was less emphasized. Heck, teams that planned badly even died, which might have some relevance to certain workplaces. He used GDK even though he knew that Dutchman was a better exercise for the group. He wanted something that did not reward inter-team collaboration so heavily, since that was not the norm for some of his training sessions.

And he also liked Dutchman more because it was faster to play and easier to debrief. But it was just too collaborative in design…  He was clearly conflicted.

But a moment later, the solution appeared: “Why don’t we design it with only ONE Turbo, so that we reward strategic planning and they can still mine more gold as a team, but it doesn’t set up that much inter-team collaboration as a game dynamic?”

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Seemed like a simple idea then and it remains a simple idea now.

It is just one more of the examples of how we can make slight modifications to The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to make the game more in line with desired outcomes. Instructions for creating these single-Turbo versions are included with the game materials,

For the FUN of It!

How does Lost Dutchman compare to other team building exercises?

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a unique teambuilding exercise in the global marketplace for training and organizational development tools. Unlike many competing products, it offers what we think are an excellent blend of unusual benefits and features as well as our overall sales philosophy that is supportive and simple.

THe Search for The Lost Dutchman Team Building Exercise

Unlike a lot of products, Lost Dutchman has many direct links to business improvement and it can help groups of people focus on how working together will improve profitability and ROI. While this seems like a no-brainer, most organizations find “interdepartmental collaboration” to be an oxymoron and that “interdepartmental competition” is much more the norm. Dutchman is a business simulation wrapped into an experiential, fun, engaging exercise that brings the sub-optimizing aspects of competition to the forefront and clearly shows why collaboration is a big benefit. We have LOTS of users who comment about the excellence of this game for this purpose — making it unique in that focus, we find.

Dutchman also focuses on success! The game design makes it hard for teams to make big errors and die from those decisions, which is common in many other exercises where the focus is more on avoiding failure. (I have facilitators who use my game and some other games who say, “What is so bad about a team dying?” and “I can usually work that point into the debriefing.” On the other hand, they will also say that those teams sometimes disengage badly–like leaving the room or even being very challenging and adversarial in the debriefing discussions– and they will generally agree with my position that dying is not necessarily a good component of the learning process, so why even let it occur?)

In Dutchman, every team is successful, but the ones that do better planning and collaborating are more successful than the others, and can even choose to help the other teams.

We also made a real effort to keep the packaging inexpensive — it is nothing fancy — and to design it so that certification and all those other expensive things like per-participant fees and the like are not included. It was my personal experience in the earlier days when I used another organization’s team building game, that those added restrictions and other kinds of limitations caused a lot of problems in the maintenance of a collaborative business arrangement between me and that other company. So, if I did not like those restrictive and expensive “features.” why would they be included in my business framework.

My game design goals were:

  • to design the best exercise possible for a global audience of workers up to senior managers;
  • to make it link tightly to the actual behaviors we see in organizations and between departments and often work groups in organizations;
  • to make it inexpensive to use and thus generate high value for consultants and trainers to use repeatedly;
  • to make it flexible and useful in a wide variety of different kinds of organizations and developmental situations;
  • to be useful for trainers using it occasionally or for them to be able to blend it into more broadly-based leadership programs than simply team-building events;
  • to design it so a consultant or company could build a business around the exercise and use it with different clients in lots of situations.

The design thinking around Lost Dutchman included avoiding  issues present in some of the other, competitive products in the marketplace. We find that those structures or designs interfere with effectiveness and impact in a variety of ways and simply make the game less of a good value for the customer. Essentially, we felt that:

  • Many of our competitors’ exercises are simply way too expensive. Benefits are not in line with costs, especially when it was a one-time use for a small number of people.
  • Per-Participant Costs are a lousy way to build trust and develop an honest and open relationship between the game agent and the customer. They generate too much friction and administrative burden.
  • Many exercises simply take too long to play and often don’t allow time to adequately debrief the outcomes nor provide time for valuable interactive discussions. Lecturing on an experiential exercise is not an effective learning paradigm.
  • Game leadership often creates intrinsic competition because of the inherent design of the exercise or the role defined for the facilitator. Many designs do not allow for a collaborative leadership delivery style or have restrictive design features. If you are delivering the game, one should be modeling an effective style of engagement, collaboration and facilitation, not being an adversary.
  • Results should be measurable, since organizational behavior is measurable. In Lost Dutchman, for example, we can measure positive results in addition to the sub-optimized costs of teams making decisions not to collaborate and plan and share information among other teams. We do this just as we measure organizational results and outcomes, making the swing from debriefing the game to linking to organizational change quite easy:  “What does Mining Gold mean to us as an organization?”
  • Some of the games have mixed metaphors or design features that make the game very difficult to debrief or they have superfluous content that is too hard to link to other organizational development issues. Team building games should not be supporting competition in our thinking — there is enough of that already in most organizations!
  • Games and supporting products should not require expensive certification training and the costs of travel to training venues. It makes it too expensive to add new facilitators and the tendency would be to cheat the system to get the game in play. It was our goal to make the exercise bombproof and effective while NOT requiring expensive certification or training time.

Our experiences with The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine have taught us a lot about game design and the use of metaphor in generating involvement and engagement during play and debriefing. It is our goal to have an exercise that generates the perceived need to change behavior within an organization to optimize results. Feedback by users says that we have elegantly and effectively accomplished our goals.

You can check out some of our testimonials and learn more about other perspectives by clicking here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, wearing his Coaching Hat and preparing for Lost Dutchman

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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