Performance Management Company Blog

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

Month: August 2013

Tribal Wisdom and Organizational Improvement – Thoughts on dealing with a dead horse

Organizational engagement, workplace involvement, and leadership facilitation are all parts of an organizational alignment strategy. And while much has been written on the issue, we need to remember that many of the old strategies and tactics taken to resolve organizational issues are not new ones.

The Navajo nation is said to have a saying that rings true when one thinks of so many people in so many workplaces:

Navajo Not possible to awaken

HR can do all it wants to, but if the people at their desks are choosing not to be involved or engaged or high-performing, no amount of spending will make any difference.

Let me illustrate with a different tribe and a different perspective. If one looks at employment practices in many places, they may appear to be designed to not generate involvement or engagement. I am reminded of Samuel Goldwyn and his reported,

“When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”

NOT engaging people kinda reminds me about that Dakota Indian tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, in business we often try other strategies with dead horses and unengaged people, including the following:

  •   Buying a stronger whip or whips.
  •   Changing riders or changing the leadership team.
  •   Restructuring around the issue: “This is the way we always have ridden this horse.”
  •   Appointing a committee to study the horse, riding, training and support systems.
  •   Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
  •   Increasing the standards for riding dead horses to exclude poor performers.
  •   Appointing a tiger team to revive the dead horse.
  •   Creating a training session with the desired outcome of increasing riding ability / best practices.
  •   Comparing the state of dead horses in today’s environment.
  •  Change the requirements declaring that “This horse is not dead.”
  •  Hire contractors to ride the dead horse.
  •  Harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed.
  •  Declaring simply that “No horse is too dead to beat.”
  •  Providing additional funding to increase the horse’s performance.
  •  Do a Case Study to see if contractors can ride it cheaper.
  •  Purchase a product from a TV vendor to make dead horses run faster.
  •  Declare the horse is “better, faster and cheaper” dead than alive when stored on a bullet train.
  •  Form a quality circle to find uses for dead horses.
  •  Revisit the performance requirements for horses.
  •  Say this horse was procured with cost as an independent variable to test financial system strength.
  •  Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position (again).

Please note: I am not picking on dead horses. I am just relating to Dakota Indian tribal wisdom, and using the metaphor of a dead horse, apparently. You can substitute your own animal or inanimate object like a desk or supervisor in the above explanation.

We make choices all the time. We ought to be choosing to better involve and engage people for workplace improvement and performance.

As Scott Adams said in The Dilbert Principles,

Mission - all good companies have one

 

and as Max DePree said in his neat little book, Leadership is an Art:

Max DePree - cannot become

 

Let’s do more to awaken our people and to help them work together more effectively. Let’s look for ways to improve engagement and increase intrinsic motivation for workplace improvement. The potential is out there!

Performance Management Company sells simple tools for involving and engaging people in workplace performance, including management team building exercises like The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and our series of Square Wheels toolkits.

Check them out, sign up for our blog, and have some fun out there, too.

 

scott tiny casual

 

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.

 

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Motivating People and Performance – Three Simple Ideas

A lot has been written about generating higher levels of performance to produce better results. And a lot has been written about improving engagement and involvement to improve innovation and employee retention. A further lot has been written about improving teamwork among employees and management.

None of this is rocket science and none of this actually requires much of a budget or the involvement of the training department or human resources. None of this even really requires any support of senior management, although that should be an expected occurrence in organizations trying to implement improvements. What it does clearly involve is the active engagement of line managers.

Here are actually Three Big Simple Ideas.

  1. Build involvement and engagement by facilitating a series of meetings on visions, missions, goals, expectations and feedback. (also known as Alignment.)
  2. Create some teams and allow them to accomplish things related to that alignment.
  3. Improve facilitation skills and use involvement to generate participation.

Let me briefly expand and explain how you can take your people to a higher level of performance. And this will not cost anything. If you email me by clicking on this link, I will send you the free Square Wheels tool that you can try, with no obligation. But remind me of the offer from your reading this blog!

square wheels image

1 – Build involvement and engagement by facilitating a series of meetings on visions, missions, goals, expectations and feedback.

The statistics are clear: Some or most people in many or most organizations do NOT really understand the overall goals and objectives of the organization – at best, this is 4 of 5 people but it is generally not that high. Data are clear on this, even though most managers would say that it is not likely in their organization. Your people might know their jobs, but they often do not understand how what they do fits into the bigger picture. Thus, we often see departmental squabbles when the customer is the one who is really impacted, which indicates an alignment issue.

Let’s say that your company is implementing a new strategy and your group is part of that process of making some changes to better align with these new goals. What are reasonable expectations? My friend Robin Speculand at Bridges Consultancy in Singapore has some global statistics that are numbing:

  • 90% of strategies fail to deliver even 50% of their objectives.
  • Only 5% of employees have a basic understanding of the company strategy
  • Only 2% of managers are confident that they will achieve 80% or more of their strategy’s defined objectives.

So much about the success of such initiatives are simply about facilitation and communications of visions, missions, goals, and expectations and changes in feedback and measurement systems.

This alignment process is not a difficult one, but it is something that really needs to be accomplished. And, you should do this through questions and tabletop discussions and not

2 – Create some teams and allow them to accomplish things related to the above.

You’ve got to have a problem that you want to solve;
a wrong that you want to right.

Steve Jobs

It has got to be something that you’re passionate about because otherwise you won’t have the perseverance to see it through.
Steve Jobs

There are dozens of ways to build teams. Basically, they need to have some kind of challenge that they want to address and some kind of organizational support that they feel will allow them to address the issue. We use the simple process of facilitating Square Wheels One to both involve them creatively as well as get them to share and agree on some specific Square Wheels that are operating.

This produces cognitive dissonance, a motivation to close the gap between the Square Wheel and some possible Round Wheels. One of the keys is their perceived likelihood of getting the support needed to address that implementation. Cultural and company cultural differences will lead to different strategies and tactics to address this opportunity. And I have written extensively around issues of implementation throughout the nearly 300 posts in this blog.

Teams will form naturally in most workplaces if they are allowed. And there are all sorts of models that can be overlaid for the long-term, like Kaizen or Lean. Find one that works already in your organization — no sense reinventing that particular wheel!

3 – Improve facilitation skills and use involvement to generate participation.

The issue is generally not one of compensation or similar cultural roadblocks to performance. The Kelly Global Workforce Index from in June, 2013 said:

  • 45% of workers in The Americas agreed that they receive equitable compensation for their work.
  • 44% say they would perform at a higher level if compensation were tied to performance / productivity.
  • Reframing that, 55% of the workers feel that they do not receive equitable compensation (one can assume most feel undercompensated) and 56% of them are saying that they could accomplish more if they were better motivated.

If you are interested in more statistics on these kinds of issues, Part IV of my post on managing and leading change summarizes a lot of data about people and performance. You can find Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly – Part 4 here.

The issue is relatively simple. You have to stop TELLING them things and begin to ASK them more about their understandings and their ideas. You can save time by lecturing, but you lose all the energy that arises from involvement and ownership.

Lastly, remember that a transfer of ownership involvement is a key step in getting the people involved and the momentum for change. Make this improvement opportunity theirs, since:

Nobody ever washes a rental car!

I’ve said it a zillion times: People do not take care of things when they feel no ownership involvement. If it is their idea, they own it. If they talk in defense of a position, they own it. If you can get them sharing ideas and deciding to do things differently, they own it. And all you need to do is provide the support and resources to help them get things done.

square wheels author

 

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.

 

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Training and Development spins downhill, it seems. Confidence Drops.

eLearning News had a short article on the dropping level of confidence among those people responsible for training and development in their organizations, reporting on a new study by  the American Society for Training & Development. I will reframe the information as,

It is not all bad, but not much is expected to change for the better.

Since learning and development are key motivators for most people in most workplaces, the feelings of those in charge of training does not portend well for much improvement in engagement and motivation. A motivated workforce absolutely contributes to long term organizational success — so much data shows that clearly. The data say that maybe things will continue, as if that means that things will be okay; it does not seem okay in so many ways…

After all, these guys probably have opinions and reflections on how things are working out for the average people in most workplaces…

Demotivated and dis-engaged people wishing things were different

The optimism and confidence about the long-term business outlook and performance impact expectations for training fell significantly in the second quarter of 2013, according to American Society for Training & Development (ASTD).

ASTD’s Learning Executive Confidence Index (LXCI) surveyed 350+ learning executives about their expectations:

  • ability to meet learning needs;
  • perception of the value of learning; and
  • availability of resources.

The 2013 Index for the second quarter was 65.3, down from 68.1 on a 100-point scale, in the first quarter. The second quarter drop is a trend. First quarter index measures in 2011 and 2012 also were high (67.3 for both) with dropping numbers in later quarters.

The report notes that by the second quarter of the year, organizations and learning leaders see a clearer picture of the year’s opportunities and budget. The outlook for people and performance just gets bleaker as the year goes on. And, as I have written elsewhere, there are all sorts of issues on people and performance that are driven by motivational factors like training and personal development. Many simply hold low expectations…

Good Old Days in the South

Key findings from the index for the second quarter of 2013 include

  • Expectations from Q1 to Q2 2013 declined, but optimism remains okay. The Q2 2013 LXC Index score of 65 is the same as the score the industry reported a year ago. One wonders what might drive it higher, like C-Suite commitment to people and performance, maybe?
  • The impact of corporate performance and the perception of the value of learning continue to be positive indicators, with 69.8% and 68.8% (respectively) believing that it will be moderately or substantially better in the next 6 months, a result that seems unlikely given many other economic factors.
  • Availability of resources needed to meet learning needs is the lowest index, with 57.0% of learning execs believing it would be the same or worse in the next six months.
  • More leaders believe that the perceived value and impact of learning in the organization will stay the same, and fewer believe that it will be moderately or substantially better. (Remember the excitement around Senge’s Learning Organization works? What the heck happened?)
  • Nearly one-third (30.5%) of learning executives predict that the impact of learning on corporate performance over the next 6 months will stay the same. Note that “the same” is different than, “better.”
  • Slightly more than half of learning executives believe that there will be an increase in workplace learning and development funding levels in the next 18 months and later (a 16% increase from Q1 2013). Time will tell on that, but it is good that they are at least optimistic for that.

Personally, I think that all of the data simply means that things will have to get done by the management without the help of any of the training and development organizations in their companies. The funding and access to training seems undependable. Mentoring and coaching must be LINE functions and not dependent on HR. And there are some simple tools available (click on the image below to see our $20 toolkit)

square wheels image of improvement

We know that many managers are actually quite good at developing their people. We need to have more of the managers doing those best practices and pushing their people toward higher achievement levels. We need more personal growth and development all around.

I THINK that managers can make better decisions to do things more effectively and really take hold of their people development, rather than depending on HR or some other department to get things done. There are too many examples of supervisors with involved and engaged people to think this is not possible.

If you are looking for a most excellent tool to re-energize and re-focus people on the issues of organizational alignment and collaboration, take a look at our flagship team building product,

Lost Dutchman Gold Mine Logo with three icons

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

Visit www.astd.org/Publications/Research-Reports/2013/2013-LXCI2013Q2 to read the full report.

Scott's Most Excellent Presentation Quotes and Quips

Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly

and other Square Wheels Workshop Quips and Quotes by Dr. Scott Simmerman, managing partner of Performance Management Company and author of the Square Wheels tools for improvement.

What follows are the main quotes and one-liners that I use in my presentations, with many of them linked to specific illustrations or serving as the names of the illustrations in the Square Wheels series. We also started up a new blog of illustrations and quotes and poems and similar that you might find interesting if you find these quotes of interest. We are calling that, “Poems and Quips on Workplace Performance” and want to make that a fun and interesting destination.

Any unattributed quotes in this list would be mine if you choose to requote it –don’t we all have some of these in our mind! And feel free to share some of yours in the comments.

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!
Get perspective and reflect rather than just continuing to do the same thing – this is usually linked with Square Wheels One:

SWs One green watermark

Put a good person in a bad system and the bad system wins, no contest.
W. Edwards Deming

Get out of the ditch and up on the road.
Jon Linder – we link this to our mud illustrations in both SWs and with our Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding game

LD Mud Jeep yellow

It’s relatively simple. If we’re not getting more, better faster than they are getting more, better faster, than we’re getting less better or more worse.
supposedly by Tom Peters

One wheely good idea can lead to more wheely good ideas.

How long can we go mean and lean before we become gaunt and dead.

It’s all about Continuous Continuous Improvement.

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.
adapted from John Le Carre

We have a few illustrations that link to this concept. But it is basically about not being clear on what is happening or even having a bad idea:

desk is dangerous female yellow

Your brain works faster than you think.
source unknown

What you see depends on what you thought before you looked.
Eugene Taurman

We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.
Max DePree, Leadership is an Art

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.
source unknown

When you go from being a caterpillar to becoming a butterfly, you’re nothing more than a yellow gooey sticky mess.
Ted Forbes

If caterpillars were meant to fly, God would have given them wings.
anonymous Spectator Sheep

Nothing is ever as dangerous as having THE Answer.*
*That is THE as in DUH!

If things seem really under control, you’re not going fast enough.
Mario Andretti

A mission statement is defined as “a long awkward sentence that demonstrates management’s inability to think clearly.” All good companies have one.
From The Dilbert Principle, 1996

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, God calls a butterfly!
Diane Mashia

Even caterpillars can fly if they would just lighten up.

Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.
The Eagles, Take it Easy

We could be standing at the top of the world instead of sinking further down in the mud.
Meatloaf, from the song “All Dressed Up and No Place to Go.”

It’s a lot like throwing mud at the wire fence. The key is throwing lots of mud and paying attention to what sticks where. Expect some rain.

The Yankees are only interested in one thing. And I don’t know what that is.
Luis Polonia

Boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory 
(note – This is a US euphemism. Contact an American for further explanation!)

Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled.
Frank Navran

This may be a perfect opportunity to use common sense!
Bob Pike

Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple stupid behavior.
Dee Hock

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
Abraham Lincoln

Swedish Proverb*: God gives every bird his worm, but he does not throw it into the nest.

* Apparently not yet recognized in Sweden, based on workshop comments!

“It’s hard to care for customers if you don’t think the Boss cares for you. Boss spelled backwards is also self-explanatory in many cases.”

Hope you found these interesting. For more quips and quotes, view our blog on poems and quips on performance

SWs One - brain in your head border 2

 

You or check out the Resources page on our old Square Wheels website. That has tons of articles, jokes and other stuff.

I hope that you find these of benefit and possible use. DO have fun out there and keep people energized and the work more engaging.

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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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X-Teams and Improving Team Performance

Some thoughts on optimizing collaboration, building leadership and clarifying Visions through alignment and team building.

(You can print out this article at www.squarewheels.com/articles3/X-Teams_and_Lost_Dutchman.pdf and you can find a variety of other articles and tools at www.squarewheels.com/resources/resourcesandinfo.html )

Ancona and Bresman’s book on X-teams (2007) generated some interesting thoughts as I considered the components they discussed. Basically, they talked about improving the external focus of teams and how that could be so beneficial to overall organizational collaboration.

Maximum team effectiveness comes from aligning people to work together on shared common goals and providing them with the information and resources to get things done. And today’s organizational complexities generally mean that only people working together and across departments will generate optimal results on critical improvement issues. Complexity makes 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.

Drawing Board Two green

Caption:  Working together to put new ideas into place and test how things really work. All of us know more than any of us and this is a great time to step back from the wagon to look for new ideas. Don’t just do something, stand there and take an analytical look for new ideas and opportunities across the organization.

Developing strong and effective teams and generating focus on key issues and opportunities can have extensive positive impacts of many kinds and there are compelling reasons to use teams to implement improvements. And while improvement goals often seem clear at the top, those same goals are often muddled in the middle and fuzzy at the bottom back of most organizations.

In The Dilbert Principles, Scott Adams wrote:

A Mission Statement is defined as “a long awkward sentence
that demonstrates management’s inability to think clearly.”

 All good companies have one.

And I remember an old story about Visions and Implementation:

In the Beginning was The Vision

And then came the Assumptions, but the Assumptions were without
Form and the Vision without substance. And Darkness was upon
the faces of the Workers as they Spoke amongst themselves, saying:
“It is a Crock of Crap, and it Stinketh.”

And the Workers went to their 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 very Strong,
such 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 Powerful.”

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

And the President looked upon the Vision and saw it was good.
And the Vision became The Reality.

Author unknown

A clear sense of vision and purpose is essential, and clear communications are critical in getting things started. But there is also a need to allow at least some of the participants to be hands-on kind of people who know specifically what is thumping and bumping along. In many organizations, there are tops-down directives that may limit how the teams operate or that direct them toward very specific outcomes. Isolation from the actual work being done does not lead to effective solutions for most workplace problems.

As John LeCarre once clearly said,

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

Okay. So what do we DO about this?

One key for optimizing effectiveness is to understand the choices and possibilities that exist around the improvement initiative. The choices teammates make need to align well with the overall context of their business as well as the specific issue(s) on which they are focused. But generating such a team focus is problematic in many organizations. There is a lot of literature and anecdotal experiences that focus on problems with teams and teamwork. For many, the words “cross-functional teamwork” or “interdepartmental collaboration” are oxymorons – words that do not fit together like “jumbo shrimp” or “live recording.”

An article in the International Management Review back in the 1990s still stands out for me. It was entitled, “The Trouble with Teams.” In it, Jack Gordon takes the position that, “Teams may be the antidote to bureaucracy, but do we really know the antidotes for wayward teams?” There are proven benefits for organizations to use teams and teamwork to identify and implement ideas for improvement but also problems with delegating authority to teams. Identifying effective team leaders and giving them the tools they need is one of the critical ones. He expands on the common issues most organizations using teams discover and offers some logical solutions and perspective on ideas and options for maximizing impact.

Patrick Lenconi’s 2002 book, in novel form like Goldratt’s The Goal, gets into how teams work and how they could work better. His book (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team) works through a pyramidal model of team dysfunctions including issues of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, low accountability and inattention to actual results. In conclusion, he contrasts how dysfunctional teams behave by comparing them to a cohesive team in the case of each of these dysfunctions and provides suggestions and insights.

Part of this difficulty with generating teamwork reflects the changing business environment. In the good old days before the year 2000, being a good teammate meant being able to work with others because the focus was on “team dynamics.” Billions of dollars were spent on the personality inventories (MBTI, DISC and hundreds of similar tools) because organizations believed that a focus on The Team was where the energy needed to be spent and individuals would improve if they simply knew more about themselves and each other. Workplaces became more diverse and Consensus decision-making, group dynamics, styles and preferences were what was taught and hopefully learned. (Billions are still spent on personality inventories!)

Belbin Hats green

Different folks need different strokes. And all of us know more than any of us!

But things changed. Working together as a team no longer meant co-location and collegial relations. Team player became a less important value than team contributor and rapid change became the norm. More and more, initiatives like Lean Manufacturing, value-chain improvements and globalization meant that these old successful team-based approaches no longer applied. There was more pressure for performance and productivity. Technology allowed for more dispersion of people while organizations downsized. Older employees with a breadth of experience, knowledge and perspective retired. And, more significant payoffs were found with larger multi-departmental, inter-organizational or supply-chain kinds of cross-functional improvements.

Many of the low hanging fruit have already been plucked from the branches as the focus on efficiencies with initiatives like quality improvement and lean manufacturing made dynamic inroads and taught tools and approaches to different kinds of improvement initiatives. At the same time, computers caused work to become more dynamic and complex and speed gained leverage. Rapid change became the norm and individual and organizational survival was a real issue. And these factors came to a head to stall a great deal of improvement today.

Ancona and Bresman’s X-Teams book (2007) offers some excellent insights into why some teams perform at very high levels and why others fail to generate desired results. Essentially, the authors believe that teams that focus more externally get better and faster information and operate more effectively than teams internally focused, a belief that is at odds with how most teams in the past were trained and supported.

The book offered many examples of high team performances and its link to issues of communications, organizational improvement and leadership development. It takes a straightforward approach to suggesting how a refocusing of effort from within the team members to a more collaborative and broader organizational focus can deliver higher impacts.

Simply stated, the “X” in the X-team concept means being externally oriented, with people working both inside and outside the boundaries. “While managing internally is necessary, it is managing externally that enables teams to lead, innovate, and succeed in a rapidly changing environment.” This is the differentiating driving force for maximum success.

An X-team finds it necessary to go outside the team to create effective goals, plans and designs. The team must have high levels of such external focus as opposed to simply a focus on the people and the processes. That focus can be on the customer and their expectations, for example, with the realization that these expectations and needs are often changing continuously. A team not focused broadly will find it working on outputs that may not be as relevant or impactful for the organization over time. So, X-teams combine productive external activity with extreme execution within the team, developing processes that enable a high degree of coordination and effective execution. Some examples used were meetings and presentations to and discussions with senior managers of their organization, combined with feedback to all members of the team about reactions and necessary changes. Not continually looking for such support was detrimental to outcomes.

Managing change was a primary success factor; business situations would change and the team would need to change with it seamlessly and quickly, a characteristic of effectiveness. This was not the case with a lot of internally-focused teams who never saw the handwriting on the wall. So, a major quality of the X-teams was that they were also flexible in their approach, engaging in exploration, exploitation of talents and information, and exportation where they transferred their learning and experiences to other teams. (Yes, the authors did get crazy with their Xs!).

Together, these 3 elements of external focus and activity, extreme execution and flexibility form the principles by which such teams guide themselves – and they do take a significant amount of autonomy in how they approach and attain their desired outcomes. The key here is recognizing that the continued external focus and exploration of the environment were important for the teams to adjust and succeed.

Of course, three “X-factors” provide the structure and support such teams need to operate effectively. These include extensive ties to useful outsiders, expandable resources of people and information (involved as needed by the core team) and exchangeable membership–the ability to add new people who come into and who leave the team as warranted by the situation. The authors liken the effective teams to externally focused operational groups who work together, cross boundaries and get access to the people and resources they need to be successful.

So, how does an organization generate higher levels of awareness of these issues and opportunities for improvement and generate changes in focus and more successful implementation? A first step is to create awareness of these issues and opportunities and to give teams a chance to discuss and focus on strategies and tactics to focus more externally. We should also know that simply talking about these issues will not lead to much change and improvement, while a more experiential, active-learning approach offers more impact.

My personal belief, backed up by a lot of testimonials from users, is that our interactive team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, offers many benefits to an organization looking to readily impact people and generate the motivation needed for workplace improvement. This is PMC’s flagship team development exercise that focuses on inter-team collaboration and the optimization of results, a game generating a fun and unique fast-paced learning environment that allows direct linkage of game behaviors back to the issue of optimizing inter-organizational results.

In Dutchman, the Expedition Leader charters each team with the goal of managing limited resources and time to, “Mine as much Gold as we can.” Teams are given a clear goal with a measurable outcome and a deadline for getting this project accomplished. Teams can access additional information but this requires them to not take immediate action but to first plan the journey – we find that the impetus to get started generally overweighs the (charter) of gathering information external to the team. Teams can talk to other teams that have additional information, but the reality is that teams with this information may choose not to share it freely, keeping it for their own competitive advantage.

The participants should view leadership, in any improvement initiative, as supportive, but this is often not the case because of trust and other issues. In Dutchman, that message is repeated within the instructions and the behaviors of the delivery team are congruent with support and help. “The role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful and maximize ROI” (return on investment).

Observation of team behavior however shows a consistent tendency for the teams to behave independently of outside help, often to actively exclude knowledgeable others in their planning and execution. Even though these people can provide additional perspective as well as other resources of information and value, teams tend to go into a “My Team, My Team, My Team” mode of operation – one at odds with the X-Teams findings of continually looking outside the team for information and resources.

my team color 2

Teams appear to want to avoid any semblance of “Command and Control” from the outside, and thus put the Expedition Leadership people at arms length rather than including them in the team activity. This distributed leadership requires some additional dialog and possible realignment caused by new information and thus might appear to be in conflict with what the team already knows and wants to do, therefore, causing that outsider to be rejected, even when they can add great value to the task.

Good teams can fail when they are not aware of all the information available and when they reject the support offered by or available from outsiders to their team. “My Team, My Team, My Team” is a powerful motivator of peer support, teamwork, good performance and member camaraderie, but it is not the strategy that high-performing teams need to survive and prosper in today’s rapidly changing performance-based landscape.

The key here is that the debriefing activity will focus the discussion on the behavior of the teams, behaviors that are often self-limiting and non-optimizing in the context of overall group effectiveness. Teams make choices in narrow ways and their awareness of the impact of focusing on collaboration is often overshadowed by the energy resulting from a competition with other groups. It is this paradox that we address, the desire to compete and succeed balanced with the contribution that collaboration will have on the organization overall. Competition cannot be the primary motivator.

(A great discussion on the negative impacts of competition on individuals and organizations comes from Alfie Kohn in his book, “Punished by Rewards” and his other writings. Consider that having one “winner” also generates a number of “losers.” Some people tire of losing and simply choose not to participate, a deadly situation in most organizations and something often not recognized.)

It is an issue of shared missions and community goals – the focus must be on the Big Picture and the contribution of individuals and teams to the overall organization rather than their focus on simply succeeding in a more circumcised and limited way.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a great tool to generate the process and discussion of these issues and the possibilities for improvement. It is guaranteed to be effective and memorable and to generate real discussion of alternatives to current team behaviors to move toward a more successful future.

(You can print out this article at www.squarewheels.com/articles3/X-Teams_and_Lost_Dutchman.pdf and you can find a variety of tools at www.squarewheels.com/resources/resourcesandinfo.html )

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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Annotated Abstracts of Management Team Building articles

Many of my posts are descriptive of ideas for business management team building exercises and posts on how to use training events to impact engagement and involvement for workplace improvement. This seems especially true for those focused on executive development, since the actions at the top have so many impacts as they cascade down through the organization.

One of my basic beliefs on these kinds of motivational team building exercises is that these events can be fun but that they can also be inexpensive and tightly linked to specific organizational objectives. One of the things we do is to deliver such sessions and then sell the client the simulation to run themselves through training or other kinds of developmental initiatives. They are really good when bundled into a strategy rollout kind of strategy.

What I did for this blog was simple: I searched my posts on “Motivational Team Building” and came up with about 20 different articles among the 275 in the blog. Then, I selected 5 that seemed most relevant to someone searching for that kind of information.

LDGM 1 80

1 – In Lessons from The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a game on teamwork and collaboration, we focus on some of the key learning points in our teambuilding exercise. One is that collaboration, even when it is encouraged, is really hard to generate. People choose more often to compete even when it sub-optimizes results. It is also easy to see that the three most important resources are Time, Information and Each Other. We also then talk about the issues of My Team, My Team, My Team and how we can help organizations improve overall collaboration and engagement.

My Team My Team haiku

2 – The post, “Maximizing Team Building Impacts with Senior Managers,” addresses how to involve and engage the top managers of an organization with the goal of cascading the teamwork and alignment down. In many organizations, the phrase interdepartmental collaboration is an oxymoron, and it exists because of exclusive measurement systems and the competition between leadership – causing the silos. This article focuses on working with senior management and shares some thinking about how to implement this initiative throughout an organization.

3 – Innovation, Strategy and Motivation is focused on my thinking about the overall effectiveness of a program I did in Mumbai, India for a group of very senior managers. It was focused on my friend Robin Speculand’s approach to strategy implementation and wrapped around my Square Wheels illustrations as tools for generating alignment and engagement. I include links to Dan Pink’s materials on intrinsic motivation and also relate to other resources for impacting people and productivity.

Rat Cage More Better Faster

4 – Does Teamwork Work? Issues and Ideas for Improvement is about the basic design of team building programs and their linking to organizational improvement. There are a lot of activities out there representing themselves as team building that may or may not be truly effective in linking to real organizational improvement initiatives and business process improvement. Many might have aspects of collaboration or team thinking involved, but are they really designed to facilitate a powerful debriefing? Dutchman was designed to link to issues of optimizing performance results.

5 – In Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…“, there is a solid review of the data and statistics on workplace motivation, which anchors really well to what we can do differently to better involve and engage individuals and teams for performance improvement. The data show that there are just so many people going through the motions of working, and that they could accomplish a lot more if the workplace was more situationally engaging. People can do more, and they will if you allow them. It is a lot about Intrinsic Motivation.

These are a few of almost 300 articles in my blog, ON PERFORMANCE. I hope that you find some of these ideas of use and benefit as you move things forward in your organization or for your clients.

Plus, I am just starting up a blog of poems, quips, one-liners and other illustrated cartoons with captions and slogans. You can check it out at http://poemsontheworkplace.wordpress.com/

SWs One - things you will see border copy 2

We believe that we have some of the most useful tools for communications and organizational development that exist. Our team building games are simple and effective and our Square Wheels toolkits easily involve and engage people to share and implement their ideas for improvements.

Have FUN out there!

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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An interview on leadership and engagement with Dr. Scott Simmerman

In the published interview discussion below, Dr. Scott Simmerman, managing partner of Performance Management Company speaks with Joel Groover about his leadership philosophy and teaching approach.


Q: You’ve had a wide variety of experiences with people and organizations worldwide. And feedback indicates some very positive reactions to your thinking about how organizations work and what improvements can be made. Can you share a brief explanation of your model?

Joel, first of all, I really like statistician George Box’s framework: “All models are wrong; some models are useful.” More than anything else, I am interested in usefulness and practicality. My approach is to share a very simple and general set of tools to help in understanding organizational behavior.

I generally start by presenting Square Wheels One as, “a model of how most organizations really work” and soliciting the groups’ reactions about what they see and think:

SWs One green color thin

In this cartoon, the leader pulls the wagon forward with a rope, an efficient way to pull. It also offers good clarity of vision about the journey forward. But the rope also insulates and isolates the puller from the wagon. Note that changing directions is also difficult.

The wagon itself is also okay, capable of handling the task at hand. And the Square Wheels do work, although there are some obvious improvements possible.

The people at the back, who are effectively pushing, have a limited view of where they are going. But the nature of the job, including the wagon, and the rope, and the need to push and pull will make communications difficult.

By using this illustration, we can engage people in tabletop discussions about common themes in their organization and can link their thoughts from the illustration to reality. The critical message is pretty simple,

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

Take the time to stop pulling the wagon and go find some round wheels!


Q: In Square Wheels, you note that communications between leadership and support people often can be improved. Do you have any specific tips on helping leaders communicate more effectively?

One thought is that leadership needs to understand the need to keep perspective on the journey. One of the things leaders must do is take the time to stop pulling the wagon and go find some round wheels!Generally, they are already in the wagon.

It is my experience that the wagon pushers know more about the thumps and bumps of what is going on and what is not working smoothly. But they need to have the puller’s perspective and support in order to start discussing the round wheel possibilities. There are always better ways of doing things and they need to be considered.

And from a motivational standpoint, it makes sense to get people involved in implementing these best practices, since we then begin to do things with them rather than to them.

By asking What are the Square Wheels?,” leaders can generate involvement, gain support for any changes and start a process of continuous continuous* improvement; after all, the Round Wheels of today will surely be the Square Wheels of tomorrow.

 

* from the Department of Redundancy Department

Most front line workers understand that many managers do not have a real understanding of what the workers do and what it takes to get the job done right. This illustration provides a simple tool for communications about the issues and opportunities in the workplace and builds connections between pushers and pullers. It can also generate the sense that someone is listening to them.

The other thing it accomplishes is that it closes the gap between the beautiful view of the journey at the front and the reality of the view at the back (boards and hands!). If people have a better sense of the journey, it is logical to expect them to be more motivated.

So, those are some of the links between the illustrations and the themes of communications within an organization.


Q: Another Square Wheels theme is that most systems and processes do not operate at maximum efficiency, and that bumps along the road are to be expected. Many leaders are, by their very nature, perfectionists. Is it possible to balance a desire to make things perfect with a more pragmatic approach?

Things generally do not work smoothly and there are bumps in the road. It is how we handle this reality, I guess.

One paradox of leadership is that the current expectations and goals are often based on Square Wheels. The goals are set based on an imperfect set of systems and processes (just ask the customers and the front line workers!). Thus perfection is an attempt to make a marginal situation perfect. And the challenge is that increasingly difficult goals are often met by working harder and reflecting less. This results in less time available to make improvements!

I think this is one of the reasons that so many people in so many organizations are frustrated. The isolation of leadership makes them less aware of the realities and the pushers wonder why no one seems interested in making things better. The further up one goes in the organization, the longer the rope.

If one considers that the round wheels are already being used by the exemplary performers — in other words, the proven ideas already exist in the organization — then the solutions are less a matter of invention and more a matter of communications and implementation. This is the criticality of my leadership model, taking the time to stop pushing and pulling and reflect on reality and opportunities.

Again, I do not think that this model is perfect, but there are plenty of round wheels right at hand in most of the organizations I have visited over the past 22 years. The workers know what needs improvement and often develop workarounds in many cases. It’s also why an outsider or new employee can see things that the management team might have missed…

Saying that leaders are perfectionists misses the key point, to some degree. Leaders want things to work smoothly, of course. But they ARE isolated from the “hands on reality.” I find that leaders suffer from the problem that they THINK that they know how things work. And since the rope isolates them a good bit, it makes it hard for them to “get a grip.”

From a slightly different angle, consider that:

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

The world is full of Square Wheels. And I keep trying to identify them in my business and I keep looking for Round Wheels to implement. Problems are a natural part of any business. Focusing on the system and processes is much more productive than blaming people. Deming, Peters and so many other great thinkers in leadership development have continually and elegantly pointed this out. I just use cartoons!

It is the wagon pushers, I think, that have the vast majority of the knowledge about what needs fixing and what is not working well. The challenge is to give them more of an understanding of the mechanics of the journey itself. They don’t always see the big picture…


Q: As opposed to merely making a speech, you strive to involve your audiences and make your workshops interactive. How does getting audiences involved in this way help convey the message?

Excellent question. One of my basic beliefs in human nature is that “Nobody ever washes a rental car.” People need a sense of ownership in order to take care of things. I try to make this point by doing it in my sessions.

Now I know that “Nobody” really isn’t an absolute. But it is a common observation. And I think that any presentation must involve VAK in order for it to be remembered. V for Visual, A for Auditory and K for kinesthetic. So, I try to engage all the senses and give participants a stake in the outcomes.

I’m not sure about the readers, but how many sessions have you ever attended (school and professional) and how many do you remember? I thought about that one day a decade ago and the answer was pitiful.

Then, I thought about those I did remember and what things they had in common. In almost every case, I was somehow actively involved and there were memorable visible images and metaphors. Often, I participated in an activity as opposed to being lectured to. So, I try to do that with every presentation I do, even if it’s only a 15 minute program — I don’t make speeches!

And let me take this ownership theme a step further and illustrate with a cartoon. I think that most programs fail for a simple reason that I illustrate below:

Nobody red color

Most programs fail when leaders feel the pressure at their backs and they resist the pressure. This most often occurs when the wagons start rolling downhill faster than before, when a team of people reinvent how things get done. Because most managers are passive participants, they find that the rope goes slack and the old management strategies don’t work anymore. Thus the pressure.

It makes sense to do things that involve and engage people actively, and the cartoons are a simple way to involve and engage them, identify some potential issues to address, and to allow them to help you fix them. And I encourage the managers in my sessions to do the same things modeled in the session with their people so I give them access to the main cartoon for free, and all the help I can personally provide.

I’m trying to change things one wheel at a time, I guess. And in a memorable way. And I have had people tell me about some session they attended of mine more than 20 years ago! I guess that the cartoons and involvement helped their memory, for sure.


Q: Another of your themes is that different individuals bring different perspectives to the organization — including resistance that can hinder progress. Do you have any tips for contemporary leaders who want to get the most from their team?

There are always differences in perceptions and this is the source of a good bit of innovation and creativity. But I am not a big believer in resistance. Resistance more often occurs when things are being done TO people rather than WITH them.

My suggestion is to get people involved, give them perspective and support, help them with roadblocks, and encourage them to make as many improvements as they can in addition to focusing on their own personal improvement.

Teamwork is something that builds up over time. It’s built on trust. And trust is the residue of promises fulfilled.

Resistance is the result of pressure. Continuous pressure causes defense, and this makes it even harder to make change occur because people tend to defend positions.


Q: Could you summarize your approach to continuous improvement and the roles that you think leaders should play in that process?

Gosh, haven’t we been covering that?  3smiley

I use the phrase continuous continuous improvement in the recognition that many people think that they have already completed their initial continuous improvement project. And note the past tense of this. In my thinking, round wheels will become square and it is critical that we recognize that reality.

It’s like the thought that “we just completed a change program.” The only reality these days is that change is continuous, thus it is never completed and always ongoing. So we need to restructure organizations into teams focused on the definition of new possibilities and continuous process improvement.

I find that the resistance is more often IN the leadership roles. From a mid-manager’s perspective, once I am meeting my goals, why would I want to change the measurement system? It’s a reality. Ego and fear get in the way, as does success. It’s another of those paradoxes. Remember that many people in the middle of an organization were promoted for successfully implementing a round wheel — and that many of these may be a bit square at the moment.

Again, we need to make sure that people at all levels of the organization feel ownership and see a positive stake in the outcome of continuous improvement.


Q: As you travel and speak, what are some of the common challenges that today’s leaders ask you to help them with?

One of the questions that is often asked of me goes something like this: “How can I empower my people to get more done?”

This relates to a lot of my normal presentation content and is a good question. And my response generally results in a laugh and then some consideration.

I don’t think we can empower anyone except ourselves. And while the concept of giving people power is generally good, it is often not a reality in the workplace as we discussed in regards as to why programs fail.

I think managers need to focus on something that they CAN do and relatively easily — I call it Dis-Un-Empowerment.

Most average workers are un-empowered. They have a variety of things that get in the way of them doing what they could do. Paradoxically, the top performers in the same workplace are not un-empowered and know how to manage around the roadblocks (actual and mental) and know how to get things done.

So, one of the things that managers can do differently is work to share these best practices, which are often little things and mental models as much as dramatic new solutions.

There is so much performance improvement available in the average workplace. People CAN get so much more done if they are involved in the improvements and feel like their efforts are recognized. And most of the survey results would lend support to the concept that workers are generally frustrated with the way things are now.


Q: How many presentations do you give in a particular month, and what are some of the programs you offer? In addition, what are some of the materials that you have available for purchase on your Web site?

My main focus over the past twenty years has been to move away from doing a lot of workshops to packaging and marketing useful materials that people can pick up and use. Most of the presentations I do these days are on team building or focused on managing and leading change. You can see a few testimonials about how this works on the links I just shared.

The good news is that the leadership understands my goal of training managers as facilitators — they let me build that simple piece in as part of the design. We then have the expectation that at least some of the managers will go away and actually deliver a simple Square Wheels session with their people.

Thus, my interactive presentation will at least have some impact and not simply be another in a continuing series of interesting speeches.

The bad news is that more organizations tend to rely on trainers to do the development and do not share the view of “managers as facilitators.” In my view, this looks something like this:

Companies need to invest in employee development

Companies need to invest in employee development

where we are focused on building strengths and human resources, but generates a result that looks like this:

Even with improved training-related strengths, failures to improve the workplace and involve and engage workers will not lead to great improvements in performance

Even with improved training-related strengths, failures to improve the workplace and involve and engage workers will not lead to improvements in performance

Granted that this is a bit of a joke, but the reality is that it is hard for even the best trainers to have much real impact on the workplace, especially the systems and processes.

My business is basically selling our Square Wheels Toolkits (bundles of powerpoint illustrations, guides and worksheets) as well as our team building simulations, of which there are many – the flagship being The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We are doing some customization of products for end-users, as well as some eLearning development using our illustrations, and a fair number of large group presentations.

I like to present, but I also want these sessions to be remembered, so they are generally pretty interactive.

Joel, thanks for letting me share these ideas. I hope that your readership finds them to be of interest.

And have FUN out There!

Muscles slide in background

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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Team Building and Poems on Performance – Cute Visuals on Collaboration and Goal Setting

Teambuilding is about generating alignment to shared goals and visions and also about involving and engaging people in collaborating for optimized results. The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is our tool to teach along the lines of competition and collaboration as well as planning and doing. Basic to its unique design is that sharing information and resources helps tabletops to optimize overall results for the group.

To set the stage, understand that the goal is to mine as much as WE can and optimize the Expedition Leader’s Return on Investment (ROI). The role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful. We feel that these two factors model the desired outcomes of most leaders operating in most organizations. The reality is that teams more often choose to compete rather than collaborate and that they seldom ask the leadership for help, advice or even resources to generate maximum results.

LD 2 slides - We Can and Help teams

So, with this as a basic entry point, here are some poems and illustrations that help to illustrate the issues and opportunities. Teams can make better choices in a variety of different ways. So, here goes…

1

expedition leaders lead expeditions

collaboration is a key to decision making

So, the planning now completed, teams begin to play the game and see the results of their planning and their choices. The goal is to mine as much gold as we can.

strategic planning lends itself to performance

teamwork is essential to optimized results

teamwork policies and procedures

Now, the play is almost done and teams are looking about and making comparisons about their performance to the performance of other tabletops. Some chose to collaborate, some chose to get advice from that Expedition Leader and some might have even asked for some resources to help optimize ROI for the table and for the group.

intrinsic motivation is about succeeding

my team, my team, my team

LD Celebration is key poem

So, now we can take the time to reflect on things and turn the game into a powerful learning event where we discuss past choices for the game and future choices for the organization. It lends itself to reflect on things that are done well and things that need to be improved. It is a chance to reaffirm the goals and directions, share the visions and to pull things together.

reflection on choices

challenge is to mine gold

what did you learn from your experience

Have FUN out There!

celebrating success and results

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/

Maximizing Team Building Impacts with Senior Managers

A prospect engaged me in a discussion of the potential of using The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine with a large group of senior managers to accomplish some management team building. So, this blog post resulted as I framed up some of their issues into possibilities for improvement. We had the whole global senior management group in our Dutchman kickoff to their 3-day strategy session (mfg, sales, corporate, marketing, research, etc.)

One neat aspect is that their Most Senior Manager, the division GM, wanted to play an active role in the event and focus on identifying things that these executive managers could and would do to improve customer service (internal and external), reduce costs, improve innovation and other impacts through improved inter-departmental collaboration and teamwork.

(That is a really neat fit to our basic game design for Dutchman. Testimonials say that it is one of the best of all the motivational team building exercises.)

What really helped in my thinking was her very clear framing of the key desired outcomes for the session (along with very solid framing of how this kick-off activity should align to the overall goals and objectives of the gathering). She had several planning meetings with the GM and thus a quite clear idea about wanting to

  1. Offer the participants a fun and interactive team building activity
  2. Give people an opportunity to interact with others whom they may not know very well
  3. Offer something that will be useful to participants when they return home – a new insight, learning, awareness, etc.
  4. Have the activity help us understand how we can work better as a team so that we can better serve our customers
  5. Make this the first activity in a two day meeting, that should set the stage for what we’re going to be discussing for the rest of the meeting

 Nice. Actionable, too. So here are some thoughts on optimizing impact and generating the maximum amount of alignment possible.

Specifically addressing the above Desired Outcome session bullets, I had the following thoughts and ideas:

1 – Dutchman will be fun and very interactive between players. There is a lot of interaction between the tabletops / teams and the focus of the game is on optimizing overall results. Our goal is to mine as much gold as WE can. This is clearly and repeatedly stated in the Introduction. Teams are working under the direction of the Expedition Leader and expected to generate a maximum return on the investment in them (map, vehicle, grub stake of resources, information, leader assistance, etc.) as communicated through slides like these:

Triad One

This is a business simulation, designed with a fun and engaging framework. It is an exercise intended to generate a serious debriefing on defined issues and opportunities. It is not designed to simply be fun – it is work, it takes planning and analysis and it is stressful, with pressures of time and decisions to get measurable outcomes. In this way, it differs from a lot of the other kinds of fluffy things out there in the “team building activity” marketplace.

2 – On interacting: Most of the actions will be at the tabletops, so I might suggest that tables be arranged with seating assignments so that there would be a good mix of a most senior person with other players done in a way that made sense.  This will allow them to work as a team and bond together on shared goals and mission.

The Most Senior Manager at each table should be the team’s Trader; the role of the Trader is to move between the tabletop and the Trading Post, exchanging resource cards each day. In that way, Traders get somewhat isolated from the team and its continuing decision-making, The Trader role is the game’s version of the customer service rep, who is not always clued in on what is happening. The funny part of this is that the role is presented thusly: “The Bad News is that the Trader is the ONLY person at the tabletop who is accountable for anything!”

This exercise will not allow everyone to interact with everyone and some people will interact more than others due to a variety of factors and personal styles. Some people get up and go around while others choose to stay put at the table. There are some other possibilities to design something like Fast Networks into other program content to generate more interactions. (See some thoughts about Dot Voting and Fast Networks in this blog post.)

Each team’s Collaborator, for example, is chosen for their role of finding out the best practices and ideas of the other teams – they are particularly challenged to go about and find out what goes on with the other tables. Sometimes they are quickly labeled “Spies” and told to go away – sometimes they gain valuable information that will help their own team optimize results. Sometimes, they can share their good information with other teams and sometimes they are not trusted and thus shunned.

3 – Being useful afterwards: Directly in the game, there are many great metaphors that link to a wide variety of leadership and organizational behaviors and possibilities. Our debriefing will present some key ideas and allow the tabletops to discuss the choices made and the impacts of those choices as they affect the organization in reality. Other event content can easily link back to situations from the play or the debriefing.

In the game, for example, the teams can make the decision to spend an extra day at Apache Junction and gain additional information before departing on Day 2 or 3. They can get a “video” of Tortilla Flat that gives them 3 Turbochargers; One Turbo enables them to go two blocks a day for the whole game, rather than one; It is a metaphor of a Best Practice. They acquire two extra Turbos and might give or trade one or both extra Turbos with another team, allowing them to also go twice as fast. Or not — it is a choice that they can make.

How do teams choose to balance collaboration and sharing with competition and winning? How do they, as a group, reach that decision and what might influence that same kind of decision back when they are leading their teams to improve collaboration and alignment? How do they balance these and other things in the play? That is the purpose of the debriefing, to discuss choices and alignment and collaboration to optimize overall results in the game and in the business.

The lessons learned are quite solid and memorable and can be readily linked tightly to the GM’s actual goals and program agenda. That is easily fine-tuned.

This suggestion represents a different choice and a lot more leverage for these players and builds directly into desired followup actions:

Assuming that these same issues exist within each of the operational units, it would be quite easy to roll the game out to those units locally. A Director and his VP could easily deliver the exercise to the senior local management team — Dutchman is very easy to deliver and operate and really bombproof; most of our purchasers of the exercise have never actually seen the game played, much less been a participant in it. The session participants could easily roll this out at their locations, generating a much higher level of alignment and collaboration at a half-day management retreat delivered within a few weeks of our session. Easy!

Plus, they could have the support of the local Training and Development people who operate on site and this could be integrated into an organizational development framework for ongoing training and for new-hire orientation.

How often is it that a senior manager of a manufacturing plant would feel comfortable leading an organizational development team building session with himself setting the stage for more collaboration and alignment to the goals of the organization. And, to have a very powerful tool for accomplishing his or her goals?

The exercise could be delivered by teams of senior managers that were participants with the possible support of someone from training at each location. (We have had secretaries deliver the game for their boss’ senior manager groups in the past! It is quite bombproof, to be sure.)

4 – The exercise is all about choices and service. Dutchman has a nice strategic planning / project management spin and directly relates to collaboration to optimize team and group performance. Teams make a lot of assumptions or make decisions without obtaining all the available information, which relates nicely to many common service quality issues.

Teams also do not ask many questions of the Expedition Leader, who is in fact a customer in the sense that he / “me” is depending on them to perform to deliver results to me. I am looking for results and investing my time and money in them to deliver. By asking questions and even asking for help, teams can get more support in their quest to mine more gold.

LD Goal is to mine gold

The Provisioner who manages the Trading Post is also a customer, requiring the Traders to perform their jobs accurately, completely and in a timely manner. The whole group is delayed when ONE of the teams is slow to respond to the end of a Day.

5 – Insofar as kicking off the event and setting the stage for the other session events and content, this will be superb. It is fun, but it is serious. People will make choices. They may make friends with people they do not know and help them out, or they may make “enemies” in the choices they make (like demanding two golds for one Turbo) and laugh about that stuff afterwards. It is serious fun and nicely interactive.

Overall reinforcement of desired behavior – The Celebrations

We can both recognize and reinforce what has been done in recent past in the improvement of overall customer service as well as link neatly to the choices that they can make about the improvement of internal service quality or supply chain kinds of things. This can be accomplished in the debriefing and casual discussions afterwards. That is quite straightforward.

If people are pre-assigned to teams, that works okay and you might consider all sorts of factors in that assignment, like how well they know the other people, how much they NEED to know those other people, etc. The session planners can also name the teams, giving some special recognition to certain groups for overall, long-term accomplishments. The “Finnish Express” might be led by the plant manager of the Finland plant that implemented the best service quality improvement plan. Thus, when making assignments to tabletops, you can assign the Team Leader to be a particular individual. The rest of the tabletop will align with that “glow” and team name.

Perfect Play:

Each table is an “operating unit” but they do benefit by collaborating across the tabletops. It is NOT essential that teams collaborate, especially if they have a good plan of action, but it pays dividends overall.

There IS a perfect play scenario that occurs when 3 teams work together, sharing Turbos and Cave Cards and resources. Whereas the average team will mine about 7 days of gold and return to the start, these collaborating teams can mine 11, 10 and 10 gold among themselves with no additional costs or resources – well, actually, they must borrow $50 from the Expedition Leader!

Perfect Play slide pair

There can also be a lot of learning and development takeaways from this exercise. It is, after all, all about team performance and communications as well as to alignment to a shared mission and vision.  We use these magnets as take-away’s and a simple reminder:

The Goal of the game is to COLLABORATE and optimize results...

Recognizing and rewarding performance

I want the GM to play the game as a regular player. We will set him up as the Trader for his tabletop and he will not be privy to any secret information about the game design. He will play like everyone else. After I get into the debriefing of the play and some discussions of the key learning points, I will set the stage for him to lead the closing discussion.

We will present the tabletops with this question:

LD - to mine more gold what do we do

This is framed as, “What can we do to generate more gold for our organization? What things can we choose to do differently to improve results? What things can we get our people to do differently? Please discuss this at your tabletops and be prepared to offer your ideas to the group.” The GM leads this discussion and the supporting people all take notes. This should directly set the stage for the work of the next two days.

Even though the game is not about winning and losing, people like recognition and everyone needs to feel like they were part of the winning team, because they are. So, we work hard to focus on the overall group as the team and not that individual tabletop that happened to mine more gold than the others.

My Team My Team color

For recognition of everyone, I might suggest that we manufacture some simple trophies that use blocks of wood, a large chunk of Iron Pyrite, and a small plaque commemorating their involvement and participation in the program. Each would say, “Number One Team.”

Gold Trophy

We can also structure an awards ceremony where they are all recognized with The White Hat Award, for their overall contributions to the performance and profits of the organization. Both the trophy and the hat would symbolize their membership of the bigger team and the need for collaboration to optimize results.

As to the debriefing, we have a great deal of flexibility in choosing the key themes and how to generate some discussion and ownership. We have over 150 different slides that we have used over the years. Here are just a few of them:

Debriefing - 155 slides

And we can illustrate some key learning points to make them more memorable:

LD General debrefing Scott's slide minis

There are just so many different ways that this exercise can support those kinds of desired outcomes. My apologies for such a long post, but it sure is fun to develop these ideas and present them in an integrated way.

Please note that a sister article to this, entitled, “Thoughts on Teambuilding and Aligning an International Business Group” can be found be found by clicking on the title.

 

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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

 

Thoughts on assigning players to tabletops in team building exercises

How do you put teams together and meet your goals for a meeting?

We’ve been playing team building games for large groups for 20+ years now and repeatedly bump into the issue of how to assign people to tabletops or teams. Even if that is desired, there is no simple solution to it, but here are some thoughts and ideas that seem to help us reach decisions about what to do and how to do it.

You might, for example, want your session to do some of the following:

  • allow people to meet each other who would not normally meet
  • push people to mix up and solve shared problems with different perspectives
  • get teams to improve their inter-team collaboration after the event
  • build on innovation and process improvement through collaboration
  • accomplish some bonding with small groups of natural co-workers
  • get a diverse audience to share ideas about what could be done differently to improve how things work
  • to mix exemplary performers in with average performers to generate a shared set of new behaviors and best practices
  • to solve interorganizational problems
  • to do some organizational team bonding and building peer support

Let me first of all suggest that you DO use round tables, since so much research exists to support the reality that those work best for generating ideas as well as participation. Square tables have “best seats” and “worst seats” and anything other than tables generally does not allow people to take notes. Sitting “classroom style” is pretty much guaranteed NOT to generate much participation and engagement and most information delivered in this lecture-style will not be retained. Ugh.

I am going to assume that we have 60 people and 10 tabletops, thus you have a somewhat larger group since things are a lot harder with 60 people than they are with 15.

Some observations, ideas and frameworks:

For a variety of reasons, having 5 to 6 people at a table is the optimal size for generating involvement of all of the participants. It is hard to hide and hard to dominate. With smaller tabletops, one person might take over discussions and with larger ones, some people will simply not choose to participate much.

DSC08021

We discuss some research and general factors in this blog; I wanted to take a somewhat different approach for this post and get into more of the politics and problems, plus share a few tips on how to accomplish different group realities.

The standard technique is to put a senior manager with some of their direct reports. That is okay for small spans of control, but if there are 8 or 9 direct reports, not all of them can work with their boss in an efficient way without it being a committee-meeting. How do you choose who is in and who is out, and do you need to explain this to everyone? Why are these 5 in and those 5 not included, or does the senior manager need to work with both tabletops? Again, a table of more than 6 people tends to become a committee and all the direct reports being together can get “political” as each fights for attention as the group expands in size.

You can make seating random, but then there is often no randomness because people will generally choose to sit with people they know. The more senior managers are more likely to be together, the engineers will all go off by themselves and the salespeople will mingle with any and all;  many of the more junior people might select themselves out that way also.

As a room fills up, seat selection becomes more difficult, so the experienced people tend to get there early to stake out their seat at the back of the room (of if the president is speaking, at the table in the front!).

If you do the old “Name Tent” approach, there has to be some pre-selection of who / where and some degree of analysis and planning. Having sheets of seating and numbered tables and names requires a good bit of effort and arrangement, also. This gets pretty unmanageable when you get more than 60 people in the room and we sometimes run interactive sessions for 300 or more people.

saint 2

Sometimes, I will just let the people enter the room and take a seat. I will leave the door open and just allow people to sit where they want. This is most true when there is food in the room, and people are showing up early to get fed and get comfortable. People do tend to sit with people they know. And they will move your carefully arranged chairs around which messes up your tabletop numbers…

Sometimes, we will keep the outer doors closed until it is time to begin and allow the rush to happen. My guess is that friends link up outside and then head off together to find a table. But there is some randomness as late arrivals struggle to find the remaining available seats and not that many chairs get moved.

DSC06313

If we really want random because we do want people to meet and work with other people, I will often do a simple re-shuffle. I will ask them to use The Point System to select a “Table Monitor.” The Point System is where they point in the air and, on the count of three, point to their selected person. It does not take long to do and it does add a bit of fun and laughter.

saint selecting

That Table Monitor is then told that their role is to not allow any of the people currently at their table to be at that table in 3 minutes. At the same time, we tell the people at the table to study those faces there and say goodbye, since they will not be allowed to be with each other in 3 minutes and that they should find different tables.

Then, we do the Point System and people ramble around looking for another seat. The minimal amount of time they have tends to all but eliminate a lot of old friends from sitting together or for them to collaborate and save seats or anything like that. We then give them a minute to introduce themselves to their new teammates.

If we are playing with different colored bandannas, you can give them to people as they arrive in the room or you can put them out on the tabletops. You can then ask the participants to form teams with people with the same colored bandannas or to form teams so that each player has a different colored bandanna (that is harder and some trading can be expected to occur for people to buddy-up). This same kind of thing can be done with colored dots on their name badges or different stickers or other things. You can also put stickies under the chairs they sit in, but that is a LOT more work!

With smaller groups, you can have people assemble according to height or age and then count off to the number of tables available, with everyone with a 1 going to Table 1 and everyone with a 5 going to Table 5. There are a lot of different ways to sort and rearrange, some taking more time than others…

My preferred way for very large groups is the Point System Re-arrangement Technique, since that takes only a couple of minutes even for 300 people. It gives a pretty good random mixing and you can do it for most kinds of assemblies. It simply requires that all participants have been seated first. (It does generate the risk that some might take things from their first table to their second, like a bandanna that they have already put around their necks, but that is relatively easy to address by planning to have some extra bandannas).

So, there is no one best way to do seating and you can go with the flow of things or you can adapt and adjust to get a “more better solution” that works but does not become intrusive.

Recognize that in the “more paranoid” cultures, people will also tend to question most everything that happens to them, from why they had to sit with those particular people to why they are not sitting with other people. That can be pretty funny to observe, if you are not in that group!

Hope this helps some.

For the FUN of It!

Scott at work 2

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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Murphy's Law, Reframed

Murphy’s Law is pretty basic and to the point:

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

As to its origins go back to Capt. Edward Murphy and his work at Edwards Air Force Base back in 1949. (You can read more about this on another post of mine.) The story goes that one day, after finding that an electronics component was wired wrong, he cursed the technician responsible and said, “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.”  The contractor’s project manager who was keeping a list of similar “laws” added that one to his list, which he called Murphy’s Law. It then appeared in that contractor’s advertisement and the rest is history.

We’ve been playing with this basic concept for 20+ years, but just in a slightly different and more actionable context. It looks like this:

SWs One - Murphy and RWs

Recently, I posted up a couple of cartoons and one in particular merited a bit of discussion, I think, since it links up so well to the real world application of Murphy’s Law and how it impacts people and performance in the workplace.

Consider this illustration and caption for a moment:

Trial and Error Murphy's Law words

Note that I said Maybe. And DO think about the illustration itself for more than a minute – otherwise you will miss the key learning point.

The illustration is one that I call, “Trial and Error” and I have written extensively on the issues surrounding the common view of this by most managers and organizational leadership. You can find more on this theme here.

Murphy’s Law states that things will go wrong. That seems to be a pretty common occurrence. Tightly linked corollaries to The Law include:

  • Nothing is as easy as it looks.
  • Everything takes longer than you think.
  • If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.
  • Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
  • Nothing is ever so bad that it cannot get worse.
  • Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.

Viewed in the context of the above, many people looking at the illustration above will see all the problems and issues. They will point out the negative and what should have been done differently. But there is most certainly another side of this. There is the issue of continuous continuous improvement and the reality of how innovation really works.

Sure, the team might have done things perfectly the first time. And we can probably generate another four or five things that they could have accomplished in this iteration of the problem solving. They could have already put on some Round Wheels and they probably could have put the horse at the front. But consider the reality that they are now using a horse and that they have stepped back far enough from their wagon to see that the Round Wheels do already exist!

Now, they need to invent some device or some approach to actually mount those round wheels and maybe fill them with air and maybe adapt the axles to the tire rims. The Reality of Change is not that simple and elegant model that you think might work; change tends to actually operate more like this:

Reality of Change round yellow

Maybe they can find a different way to involve the horse and they can implement a way to thus steer the direction that the wagon goes. One broken Square Wheel can find one Round Wheel as a replacement and that may lead to other things as time goes on. Heck, maybe they can eventually hook up another wagon to the back and invent the train!

Innovation and invention is full of Trial and Error and probably many cycles of it. Understand that some people put a LOT of effort into helping to try or implement new things and make workplace changes and improvement. In many organizations, though, the reality of change is one of risk-taking and opening oneself up to criticism, disdain and derision.

Note that two other Murphy’s Law Corollaries are:

  • Any  problem can be overcome given enough time and money. But you are never given enough time or money.
  • All truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, then violently opposed and eventually, accepted as self-evident. (Schopenhauer)

Improvement is about perspective, continuous ideation, constant trial and re-invention. It is about team support and celebration. It is also about getting the support of leadership, which often really requires money and time. It is about the celebration of all of the improvements made to generate momentum for future improvements.

Celebration key to involving me

So, that simple cartoon that we started with is chock full of a wide variety of different themes and messages. I’ll end with an old quote from the NLP literature:

If we always do what we have always done,
we will always get what we have always gotten.

As leaders, parents and managers, we need to support innovation and improvement, and sometimes that just happens when things break and we are forced to do things differently. It is much easier to criticise new ideas because we are sure that the old way works pretty much okay. And a desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world!

3smiley

For the FUN of It!

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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Murphy's Laws and why nothing ever actually succeeds

Some of us old guys are well aware of Murphy’s Laws, but I was kind of shocked the other day when two different “younger people” said that they had never heard of “Murphy’s Law” or even the corollaries. So, in the essence of contributing the the management education of countless millions of our younger managers and leaders, let me share a few of the best ones and the general context of their origin.

Aw, the responsibilities of the older generation…  3smiley

The BASIC Murphy’s Law is expressed this way:

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

As to its origins, I found the following many years ago:

The following was adapted from USAF publication, The Desert Wings  – March 3, 1978:

Murphy’s Law was started at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949.  It was named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on Air Force research project designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash. One day, after finding that a transducer was wired wrong, he cursed the technician responsible and said, “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.”  The contractor’s project manager who was keeping a list of similar “laws” added this one, which he called Murphy’s Law.

Shortly afterwards, Dr. John Paul Stapp, an Air Force doctor who rode a sled and pulled 40 Gs on the deceleration track to a stop, gave a press conference and said that their good safety record on the project was due to a firm belief in Murphy’s Law and in the necessity to try and circumvent it.

The doctor also had a paradox: Stapp’s Ironical Paradox, which says, “The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle.” 

There are literally hundreds of spin-offs from this basic law which are called corollaries and paradoxes. Some of my favorite ones are these:

  • Nothing is as easy as it looks.
  • Everything takes longer than you think.
  • If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong. Corollary: If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.
  • If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will anyway.
  • Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
  • Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.
  • Nothing is ever so bad that it cannot get worse.
  • It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
  • Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.
  • If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.
  • If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which something can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop.

Then there are the parables like these:

Murphy’s Law of the Open Road:  When there is a very long road upon which there is a one-way bridge placed at random, and there are only two cars on that road, it follows that: (1) the two cars are going in opposite directions, and (2) they will always meet at the bridge.

Murphy’s Law of Thermodynamics:  Things get worse under pressure.

The Murphy Philosophy:  Smile Today… Tomorrow will be worse.

Quantization Revision of Murphy: Everything goes wrong all at once.

Murphy’s Constant: Matter will be damaged in direct proportion to its value.

Lastly, there are some corollaries of Murphy’s law

  • The chance of a piece of bread falling with the buttered side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.
  • Of two possible events, only the undesired one will occur.
  • Almost anything is easier to get into than out of.
  • The other line always moves faster.
  • Eat a live toad the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
  • In order for something to become clean, something else must become dirty. But you can get everything dirty without getting anything clean.
  • You can always find what you’re not looking for.
  • Serving coffee on aircraft causes turbulence.
  • The key ring was invented as a device for losing all your keys at once.
  • Wrong telephone numbers are never busy.
  • Amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic.
  • Only someone who understands something absolutely can explain it so no one else could possibly understand it.
  • Any  problem can be overcome given enough time and money. But you are never given enough time or money.
  • All truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, then violently opposed and eventually, accepted as self-evident. (Schopenhauer)
  • One thing that’s good about procrastination is that you always have something planned for tomorrow.

These things are fun.

And my thinking always relates to my “cartoon reality of how things work,” making it come together as something like this:

SWs One Murphy's Law words

or maybe this one:

Trial and Error Murphy's Law words

Consider “Liking” this post if you actually like this post and I would love to know which of the two illustrations above you think is better. And there are more of these where these came from. So, let me know if you think more of these are useful and interesting.

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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The Illusions of Management and Leadership

Over the years, I have led many sessions on involving and engaging people and I have had a continued interest in brain function and thus the whole issue of illusions and how they work.

Illusions are interesting and they take many forms and operate in a variety of ways. Some simply trick the brain into looking for common and obvious patterns or they hide patterns in the background noise. The brain is wired to find meaning in things:

dog spot

and the brain makes assumptions that can change:

Good Evil

We also get the brain’s visual centers involved, those areas that process information. Those can be fooled because of “eye fatigue” and such to create motion from stationary images. You can find a lot of these online:

worms

If you stare at any of these long enough, there appears to real movement, which we might think of as progress… (If you do not see movement, move closer or farther away and the illusion will start.)

spinner

smiley spinner

All of these lead me to my Learning Point. A lot of organizational behavior can simply appear to be an illusion. We might think that progress is being made, or that people understand our thinking. We might think that people are involved and engaged or that they do not need any training or that they are not interested in personal development or leadership training for their futures.

Consider this next image as a possibility:

SWs One Illusion of Workplace Improvement

Yep. Illusions are not real.

So here are 8 ideas about what you might choose to do differently:

SWs One - Things I need to do more celebrate 100

We have toolkits that can support your organizational improvement initiatives, things that are simple to use and really effective for you in involving and engaging people for improved work performance.

Have more fun out there!

scott tiny casual

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/

 Note on copyright: I got these illustrations off a Bing search of optical illusions. They were not attributed. I do not assume “public domain” on these so if they are yours, please let me know and I will add the attribution or remove them if you prefer. Thanks. Good stuff!

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