Performance Management Company Blog

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

Month: December 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

Collaboration and Teamwork and dealing with Mud

People and Performance — Here are some simple poems and frameworks to get people thinking about issues and opportunities. The goal is to generate one good thought or insight into doing things differently.

Let’s start this with a simple poem to embellish the theme with a bit of my thinking about how things often work. So, here is an image / poem which stimulated the overall design of an illustrated article. Isn’t that how innovation really works for all of us? Anyway, here we go:

Mud Jeep yellow poemThis cartoon image comes from our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and is an integral part of our debriefing package. Players must deal with all sorts of mud to generate their successes.

In the game, mud on one of the selected routes to the mine causes teams to use extra resources and energy, just as it does in the real world. They know that it will cost that extra Fuel, but they are surprised by that nevertheless. Mud is the glop that people have to deal with so often in the workplace, taking the form of bureaucracy, politics, culture and the other things that do not support innovation and improvement. Mud simply bogs one down and costs extra energy to deal with it.

Mud also occurs when people choose to compete rather than collaborate, since one group will often create problems for another group that shares the same overall goal. This happens clearly in the Dutchman game. It also happens all the time in organizations — we call it Interdepartmental Collaboration! Mud is a pain to deal with — some might find it to be cement while others find it to work more like grinding paste, that grit that wears things out.

So, that first poem then got me working on the next few little ditties:

Alligators and sharks totally wired poem

They are out there too, like Spectator Sheep:

Spectator Sheep poem

So, things can then look something like this when it all comes together:

Mud Jeep RWs Alligator Sheep poemWe can make improvements. We must make improvements. Solutions abound. Ideas are everywhere. We just need people to consider other alternatives and choose to collaborate and cooperate and look to do things differently.

But progress forward requires employee engagement and involvement, leadership perspective and a team effort. We simply have to get the conversation rolling forward smoothly, along with shared goals and teamwork:

Spring of improvement and change poem

(Yeah, I do have fun with this stuff!)

For the FUN of It!

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 easily at scott@squarewheels.com

US and THEM – a poem about teamwork and collaboration

US and THEM - a poem about teamwork and collaboration

The lyrics of Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” are somewhat about teamwork and leadership — I love the tune (still humming it!). And I have used this cartoon of US being built up full of THEM for 20 years. In Lost Dutchman, a tabletop of people will choose to work together on the shared goal of, “Mining as much gold as we can,” and miss the them of “Mining as much gold as WE can,” which is the purpose of the game from the standpoint of the Expedition Leader. Each team’s success is important, but the overall success is more important, right?

That first lyric talkes about “US” being ordinary people. Ordinary men can do extraordinary things and it is all about the choice and choices people make. But we need to understand that Us is We and that They is Us. We’re all in this together and need to be more aligned, with better leadership.

They - 4 people Pointing

The song lyrics are below, and you can listen to it on YouTube here

Microsoft PowerPoint001

I think we need to remember that our workplaces are full of such “ordinary men” and that each of us has the potential to perform at high levels. What we need are good “Generals” who lead us boldly forward toward a shared vision of the future, but who also engage us and have a real sense of what is happening. After all, as I have written before,

Desk is danger red quote round

and what we need is something that looks like this from the back of the wagon:

View Front at Back with Mission

Have fun out there, and remember to involve and engage.

Muscles slide in backgroundDr. 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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New Square Wheels tools for improvement are on the way, focused on building teams and increasing employee engagement.

Thoughts on Organizational Improvement, Teamwork, Collaboration and Decision Making

We often think of disagreement as negative, which it can sometimes be. On the other hand, having some good discussions because we cannot agree can be quite useful, since the issues raised can be important ones that have not been considered. If we’re not talking about “issues,” how can we discuss “opportunities?” Plus, research shows that an optimal ratio of positive supportive comments to criticisms is 5.6:1 for motivating performance; some negative comments are useful to help balance overall context of performance improvement. I can do another blog on that if you want to see more…

Let me use, for example, my concept of Spectator Sheep as it relates to discussions and communications:

spectator sheep overlay color small

You know them because they are seen “standing around not contributing and voicing their opinions.” Naaaaaaaaa. Baaaaaaaaaa. We hear that kind of complaining all the time…

Well, in a way, good that you do. Because it simply represents people who are dissatisfied with the way things are now, which is one of the pre-requisites for change. If people were okay, they would be unlikely to do anything differently. Motivation comes from the desire to close the gap between the way things are and the way things could be. (See Leon Festinger’s easily accessed work on Cognitive Dissonance in Wikipedia or elsewhere. Here is my blog post on stress as a motivator.)

When we deliver our team building games, like The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we very often see the “forming, storming, norming and performing” stages happen quite quickly. Teams will reach a consensus and shared goal within the first 20 minutes, along with doing the risk management assessment, the provision planning, and developing their overall strategy for success.

But the reality is that teams NEED dissension to reach an optimum decision. If they are all in agreement at the start, or if one person dominates and simply drives their personal plan, the planning will be less good and the teamwork does not form and ownership of results will not occur. We must have some disagreement to optimize the decision quality. And we also need to reach a consensus before moving forward…

non-agreement bliss poem

So, our Spectator Sheep might take on a slightly more beneficial spin:

Spectator Sheep poem SWs One

Actually, I see Spectator Sheep more like this and have a very positive working experience base of engaging these people in performance improvement initiatives:

Spectator Sheep are Motivated Tigers if we get them going the right way

Spectator Sheep can be motivated tigers if we get them going the right way. Ideas that are against the norm are often very good ways to generate alternative perspectives and thus considered alternatives in our choices. And, in a number of organizational leadership development and thinking effectiveness programs, the concept of assigning one person to the role of Devil’s Advocate is often suggested. Those people are supposed to challenge ideas and take alternative, non-consensual viewpoints with the simple goal of improving the overall decisions.

Scott on CoachingYou can find some ideas in a 3-minute video about coaching for improved workplace performance and about involving and engaging the middle of the organizational curve into moving forward on my YouTube page. The link for this particular video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cohrhcYpDCk but we also share a variety of other short pieces on different aspects of overall performance improvement.

Me, I like to refocus Spectator Sheep toward our mission, visions and goals in order to re-energize them to help me get to my goals. Their ideas are useful and they can be realigned, if only we involve and better motivate them.

I Quit Article IconYou can find more ideas about motivating the average employees in another blog post of mine on Workplace Motivation by clicking on this image:

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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Chaos and Confusion – A Haiku Poem on Organizational Alignment

Ah, the playing around continues.

This illustration was the second one in a series about how organizations should be aligned to a shared goal and vision, but that the reality of that alignment was often not very good.

I’ll post that good one in a minute, but here is the one that became linked to my poem:

chaos confusion haiku

Here is the original illustration, which I would share and ask participants what it might represent.

View Top green color

The above would be good, but the first represents what seems to be a more common view of how their organizations feel.

Hope you like the poem.

 

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

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A Haiku Poem on Dealing with Organizational Politics

Sometimes, when you are up to your “axles” in the swamp, you forget that your original intention was to drain it. Sometimes, we get so “mucked up” that even making simple progress is difficult. So, a key to change is simple: Perspective.

Political cultural realities mud haiku

The “mud” in my cartoons might represent different things to different people. To some, it looks like water. To others, it is mud and difficult to deal with. I think that it can represent the things that make progress difficult, which might be:

  • organizational culture
  • organizational or departmental politics
  • regulatory issues and problems
  • systems and processes that do not work smoothly (like slow systems)
  • People and personalities

Basically, the mud represents the things that it is hard to get a grip on. But the key is learning how to deal with it and find ways to get out of the ditch and up on the road.

And a good way to accomplish that is to look at the behaviors of the exemplary performers — does it make sense that they are doing things differently and making different choices?

Scott SimmermanHave fun with this!

 

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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A Haiku poem on Management and Improvement

A Haiku poem on Management and Improvement

I continue to play around with the cartoons and the themes of innovation and improvement in the workplace, intrinsic motivation and engagement.

In this case, we can become so busy doing things that we will often fail to see obvious ideas for improvement.

Dreams. Thoughts of a better life.

Dreams. Thoughts of a better life.

My first attempt at an illustrated Haiku poem on people and performance.

Caterpillars can Fly, if they just lighten up!

“Caterpillars can fly, if they would just lighten up.”

I work a lot on the theme of change and improvement. Often, the leadership could do a lot less to improve things a lot more.

Butterflies make good wagon pullers

By less, I mean “lighten up” and thus allow their people a little more room in which to innovate and generate new and better ideas, or at least share ideas between people so that more people can use best practices.

Many surveys point to the reality that people do not feel like their ideas are valued or that they are contributing much to the organization.

Download an article on how to better engage the middle 50% of your organization here. It contains statistics on engagement and a variety of ideas about how to do things differently.

It’s Relatively Simple – An Illustration of More Better Faster

It's Relatively Simple - An Illustration of More Better Faster

Here are some simple thoughts on making workplace improvements. Perspective and motivation are key issues if we are to succeed against our business competition.

See our toolkits of cartoons at www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

 

A poem on Intrinsic Motivation and Continuous Continuous Improvement

I stated playing with some of the Square Wheels cartoons and doing some short poems over the past week or so. I guess it is kind of like taking a break, but I am also playing with my creative thinking and the like. Doing these “poems” has been fun, but will certainly not win me any awards!

One of the best of the cartoons in my series has always been one that I call, “Intrinsic Motivation,” since it seems to capture so much about improvement and self-generated motivation to succeed. As I played with this in workshops and generated a lot of conversations and comments, what stands out is the reality that implementing your ideas generates a lot of the right stuff. Ideas and themes about intrinsic motivation might include:

  • Making things work more smoothly, better or faster
  • Taking Pride in one’s accomplishments
  • Succeeding in the challenge of putting a round wheel on the wagon, probably not with a lot of support from the leadership
  • Doing something good even though it may not get noticed by others
  • Doing something for the right reason and for the Big Picture
  • Simply feeling good about oneself when you succeed at something you challenged yourself to do
  • Feeling positive about making an improvement that impacts others or that may lead to other impacts on people and an organization
  • Using a new idea successfully

The list actually goes on and on, but the above tend to be the main frames for why implementing a Round Wheel in a world full of Square Wheels is simply a good thing to do. Questions are often along the lines of, “Will that one wheel actually make any difference or be noticeable?” and my reactions have been along the lines of making any improvement is a positive action and while one wheel may make little overall impact, implementing the first one is a lot harder than implementing the second or the third.

One begins to change the culture, just a little, by having a success and feeling that you made a difference. Will the leadership know? Maybe not. Should they know? Of course. And they may figure out something has changed positively, eventually. Maybe it will simply take another person at the back of the wagon to do the same thing on the other side…

But making a difference IS making a difference. It has to start somewhere…

Thus, my little poem:

Intrinsic better and better poem

Innovation can occur anywhere, and implementing innovations is critical to long-term success for most organizations and workplaces. Improvements can be little things or big things, but building a culture willing to try to do something differently will have a variety of positive benefits. Consider the culture where any change or any improvement is not supported. Yeah, that can look something like this:

No Headway poem rat cageor this one:

Big Foot Smush

If we want to motivate people, we need to ask for their ideas and generate their engagement and involvement in workplace innovation. Just bring in “workers” to do the same constrained job, day after day, will get you what we seem to have already gotten in so many workplaces, the dis-engaged and the un-involved.

There are LOTS of ways to do things differently.

 

For the FUN of It!

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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A Satirical Post on Team Building and Employee Engagement

I really couldn’t help myself on this one, what with it being the day after the Mayan calendar ends and all the stuff on the end of things and it also being a Saturday morning. So, my brain was messing with my fingers and making me do this!

I had this idea of creating a new exercise, one that meshed with the current environment at this unusual and unique date. So, I created a new idea for a team building game that might pick up on some of the “holiday spirit” and current organizational happenings and be used to generate some employee engagement and involvement. Maybe.

(Based on how bad the general statistics look about engagement and the frustration of so many people with all the talk and none of the action to make things better, I just could not resist this. So, please understand that I am doing this as satire.)

My newest idea for a game that will resonate with so many employers and so many trainers and so many managers and nearly all the employees would be anchored in this concept:

The idea is that everyone can play like it IS the end of the world and that nothing matters. The teams can really be, “My Team, My Team, My Team” focused and not collaborate or work with anyone outside of their team. Selfishness and Survival could be taken to new levels!

"My Team, My Team, My Team" focus can cause more competition than collaboration

Each team would be encouraged and rewarded to “do its own thing” at the expense of all other teams and the overall organization. It is local-level teamwork and interdepartmental competition taken to its legitimate end. Like a rugby match where no one will pass on the ball, or a basketball game where one player hogs all the possessions…

That reminds me of the Duke basketball player, Alaa Abdelnaby. He actually made third team all acc one year, back in the late 1980s. Abdelnaby is perhaps best known for his infamous quote regarding Duke University’s academic requirements: “The only way I can make five A’s is when I sign my name.”

And, his nickname was, “The Black Hole.“If anyone ever passed him the ball, it never came back out. He would always shoot it. No passing, just give him the ball and that was it. I played in the Marquette gym with Jim Chones in 1979, and he was the same way. He would never — not once ever — pass the ball back to anyone if he got possession of it. (Both these turkeys played professionally, and they must have played differently to survive in the NBA!) With Chones, I quickly learned to never throw him the ball, even though he was by far the best player on my pick-up team. (And it was quite different to play with UNC players in the summer pick-up games since they played with teamwork.)

Anyway, I am thinking that we could develop a really selfishly-driven, para-psychopathic exercise that would reinforce sociopathic team behaviors for improving individual performance in the workplace.

What do you think?

Or might I have just missed my timing on this one? Or maybe my focus is just slightly off? I DO know of a team building game where teams are encouraged to compete — I have always thought that pretty weird and counter to the kinds of things I encourage. Read more here:  (comparison of Lost Dutchman to GDK)

There are just SO many things that we need to do to improve performance and creativity / innovation along with the basic working portion of so many people’s lives/ I wish for a great New Year in so many regards.

Have fun out there, all y’all. And let me know if I need to build this thing,

For the FUN of it!

Scott headshot greenscreen

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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News Release: Elves offer Santa a deal on Engagement and Implementation

This just off the presses:

Elves Santa News Release

Yes, the Elves see that process improvements can be accomplished and that Santa needs to stop doing what he is doing and listen to their ideas. A Strike was not discussed, but the Elves could certainly be happier, more engaged and involved, and more productive.

And it is NOT just listening to their ideas that they want — they want results, a concept they are calling Engagimentation.

Santa will, of course, listen, act and support. Christmas is near.

scott santa 2008Dr. 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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Training and Development cannot fix performance problems – Some Square Wheels

Companies spend money to improve results. They spend BILLIONS on doing surveys on organizational engagement and they spend BILLIONS on training and development classes. Often, they call these kinds of training “hard skills training” because they are focused on job-related skills and show immediate impacts.

Hard skills are often defined as those that produce immediate and tangible results – measurable stuff. The desired results are well-defined, visible, and instantly obvious and usually involve a human being gaining mastery over an inanimate object such as a machine or a computer system.

This as opposed to “soft skills” like leadership development or facilitation / engagement skills. You know, those “easy” things that may not have any impact. Team building or creativity / innovation might not be measurable, so it might have less value to an organization, seems to be the rationale…

The reality of most kinds of training, though, is that they focus on skills and not so much on how things really work. I can teach you some skill and improve your use of it. The idea is that you will immediately perform better or with more power. Let’s say, for example, that I do some weight training to improve one’s capacity to move our wagon forward. I will expect some measurable gains from that training and development and I can measure things like body mass or number of bench presses made possible.

Training builds personal strengths and capabilities

Training builds personal strengths and capabilities

The reality of that training, then, should be expected to look something like this:

T&D Before After square ©

(I think you can see where my thinking is headed.)

I believe we need to involve and engage the whole performance team in some discussions about issues and opportunities. The issue is one of Engagimentation, using soft skills focused on employee engagement and then focusing on removing roadblocks and aligning the organization to actually implement changes and improvements. It is this collective effort that will better impact results.

Training (and by definition, Human Resources) cannot really impact a lot of the realities of how organizations really work. All they can do is set the stage for improvement. It is the direct action of the management team to generate change and install those good ideas. You can read a bit more about this in another blog post you can find here.

Engagimentation

For the FUN of It!

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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Fancy Smancy – a thought on continuous improvement

I usually try to stay on topic on these blog posts but thought this was pretty cool so I then thought to take the idea and make it into an informative post.

I am NOT a tie guy, but I do have to dress up on occasion so I have the Hong Kong suits purchased from long ago (great material, great price and the MacClarry Brothers do a fabulous job in Kowloon) and I do have some nice ties. My favorite ties come from… wait for it… Denny’s Restaurants. There, years ago, they offered some “Save The Children” ties and those had pictures of vehicles with wheels on them. I thought they were “wheely nice” and even bought a red umbrella with the same images…

Wheel Ties

An image caught my eye the other day and I thought it was a significant improvement over the tie knotting that I have always done. Continuous improvement and all that. I mean, since age 15 or so, when I first taught myself how to do a hand-over kind of Windsor Knot for myself, I have always tied that exact same knot and never even considered doing something differently!

SO, I thought to show it as an “old dog, new trick” and a way to simply demonstrate that there ARE different ways of doing things. Heck, there is even an instructional video on youtube to show you how to do it — pretty easy, actually. Innovation and creativity. Neat!

Edredge Knot

It’s called the Eldridge Knot and it shows what can happen when people have too much time on their hands. But the YouTube video tells the story of its origination, too. Interesting.

Yeah, maybe some of the people who do “low ropes” kinds of team building training may go with doing this as their next Executive Icebreaker. Me, I will just continue to use my Square Wheels illustrations and games and the Lost Dutchman teambuilding program.

If one is looking for an icebreaker that actually does have some positive benefit to at least the men in attendance, you might teach them how to tie this knot. My guess is that most will resist doing it for a wide range of different excuses, mostly based  on fear of failure! We all know what you would hear. But then one wonders how many might actually try to do such a thing the next time they have to tie one on (so to speak…).

Next time I have to go somewhere special, I might give it a go,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, SurprisedDr. 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.

A Big Foot Smush – The poetry continues

Joan had some thoughts on my poem in the previous blog, one that was about what management can do to crush initiative. Her ideas were good, but she wanted to use “smoosh” as opposed to “smush.” So I considered it and played around a bit…

Joan, the poetry manager of PMC, wrote this:

Just when you thought your ideas were good
So that work would soon be more as you wish,
It seems your Boss most likely misunderstood
And crushed your initiative with a big smoosh!

But I like smush because it rhymes with mush, which seems to be what so many ideas turn into. Smoosh sound so much like whoosh and just isn’t as grabby…

So, I rewrote it to look like this:

Big Foot Smush

I do this to poke a bit of fun at the supervisors and managers who need a little bump now and then. I realize how hard it is to manage people, and to manage bosses, and with way too much to do in way too little time. That stat shows up in how people take vacations, something I blog about in

Working while Working – and while on Vacation, too?

Yet I also recognize that there are a lot more workers than managers who also feel many of these same kinds of pressures.

I think we can all do some things differently. And that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon. People can be better involved and engaged — it is a thing about reciprocity.

Our Square Wheels communications facilitation tools work great for involving and engaging people in sharing ideas and for engagimentation.

Have some fun out there!

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

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