Performance Management Company Blog

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

Month: March 2014

Large Group, Off-Site Team Building Event Ideas

Team building events offer companies ways to align people to shared missions and goals and to generate motivation for improvement and collaboration across organizational lines. And business improvement focused events can be used as tools for strategy rollout and initiating change. After all, for most such events,

The Goal - Gold Hand gold

The focus of this post is to share some ideas that go well beyond the team bonding kinds of events that are fun and engaging but that do little to impact operational results. While fun, they are hard to tie to the real behavioral changes needed to improve interdepartmental collaboration or to break down the barriers to real improvements.

Playing with strings and balls and boards may be fun and interesting, but the metaphors linking back toward behavior change in the workplace are unclear and ineffective. Learning to juggle can be fun, but is it really connected to the fine art of motivating employees or sharing the common goal of improving customer service? Playing paintball is a great outdoor adventure, but do we really want our own people shooting guns and hard projectiles at our own people? Seriously? Do we gain something from violence against one another? Heck, it might be cheaper just to go into a room and call each other names!

In my work and the work of my associates on organizational improvement, it is common that a significant roadblock to improvement is the issue of senior management alignment and commitment. This can take the form of interdepartmental conflict or issues when it comes to strategy implementation or many other things that require a cohesive kind of organizational response.

Most of our management people are already pretty loaded-up with things to do and most improvement initiatives are simply seen as: More Work combined with potential personal risk. Plus, new initiatives are often associated with more chaos and confusion. Frankly, it is sometimes easier to nod one’s head in a yes-motion than it is to actually generate new behaviors and any actual commitment to doing something differently. After all, what will you have to stop doing to do this new thing?

Organizational Alignment:

GeeseV

A critical issue for organizational improvement is the one on alignment and impact: Will this new initiative have direct positive impacts on me? Since it is common that nobody ever washes a rental car, it seems essential that the senior manager must share some sense of ownership involvement and also feel that the program for improvement will be a positive benefit for them.

In Implementing Changes after Team Building Events, I focus on issues of team building simulations and the kinds of followup needed to generate real behavioral change weeks after the event. The Lost Dutchman team building exercise focuses on mining as much gold as we can and on the issue of collaborating between tabletops to share resources that help optimize results.

In this post on Large Group Team Building Events, we discuss how we present and debrief exercises to optimize discussions and decisions about choices made and about how to engage the most senior management people in behaving to support teams and teamwork. In this other post in a similar vein, I discuss some ideas about some of the more misaligned kinds of things that organizations do in the name of team building and organizational improvement.

It seems critical that our group event has an optimized shared overall desired outcome, rather than a focus on one team winning (and the others all losing)… Too often, we structure events so there are the winners and the glory and then all the others. While this might reflect the actual organizational politics that are in play, it is not an effective strategy for generating teamwork and collaboration.

People will hold back. People will resist change and changing behavior. People will fault-find and nit-pick rather than look for more possibilities and things to try to do differently. We need to focus on the positives and get the group focused on the possibilities. Innovation will come more from collaboration than competition.

I’ll not go into the more typical large group event of sit and watch and listen versus Commentator from Corporate. I think all of us have attended those dog and pony powerpoint show and tell lectures and I will also guess that few of us can really remember much about them. My position is that if something can be elegantly done as a screencast audio slideshow, it should  be done as a screencast audio slideshow! Bring on the podcasts and keep my butt out of some meeting room padded chair! Group face-to-face time is too valuable for a lecture.

Large group events should be delivered as engaging, memorable activities that have some shared goals and purposes. They should appeal to all learning styles and be delivered in a way that helps generate behavior change, not just consideration. Large group events can be engaging team building events. Large group events can be interactive, collaborative and focused on problem solving to benefit organizational results.

And, large group events should set the stage for continued organizational improvement,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

 

Debriefing Teams for Optimizing Impact – some thoughts on facilitation, planning and debriefing

I have been supporting the use of my team building board-game simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine since I started selling it to consultants and trainers back in 1994. Because I am so familiar with how it works and because I have done it so many times, I simply forget about the learning curve and the challenges faced by a new facilitator. So, I thought to share some ideas on keeping things simple and bombproof.

The exercise comes with a variety of instructional supporting materials plus the oft-repeated notion that the user can readily contact me by phone, email or Skype or whatever. But I would guess I actually hear from maybe 15% of the new users. More often, I tend to hear from the experienced users looking to spin the game off into a different direction or that have some delivery constraint they would like to solve. You can find some ideas around those issues in other places in the blog.

• Read about some general key learning points about team building and collaboration on the blog that is found here (Learning Lessons from Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.)

• You can find some ideas about how to run large group team building events here. (This is focused on Dutchman but applies somewhat generally.)

• Here are some thoughts and ideas about delivering cross-cultural kinds of learning and team building events. (See more about cross-cultural frameworks for leadership development using Lost Dutchman here.)

• Here are some thoughts about getting through Day 1 of the exercise, when you are going to have a crash course in banking the game and also teach the Team Traders their role. (Find the blog about Surviving Day One here.)

• You can find some ideas for operating The Trading Post here. This is about how to “bank” the exercise. (Click here for Provisioner Training blog)

Generally, if you will search the blog with the search term “Dutchman,” you can find a variety of abstracts about many different articles on delivery.

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine THE Games for Teambuilding PMC Home Page icon 2

I recently got a most excellent email from a new user, a person who I think is relatively junior in his organization of team building experts but one of the few who speak English. They purchased the Pro Version of the game and that game comes with a huge variety of play and debriefing possibilities. So, he asked me some questions:

Opening to my email reply:

Basically, I do what the client needs me to do to generate the desired outcomes they want. From their goals and objectives, I “automatically” adjust many of my leadership behaviors to align with their goals.

Please do understand that there are a few different aspects to all things about Dutchman, from small ideas that can be stressed in some client situations and not in others as well as differences in how the exercise is functionally facilitated. One can deliver the game and make people stick tightly to the rules and timelines or one can allow tabletops some flexibility.

Like cooking a meal, there are various ways to put it together. I do NOT play tight with the Beacon Card, for example. I do NOT take half of the gold from the team if they ask for help. That would embarrass them, in my opinion. So, the Beacon Card is simply a relief valve for the stress of planning and playing = they can always get help if they mess up and it takes the fear of “death” out of the play. I simply use that process to ask the players at the tabletop what choices they made and what they might have done differently and I relate it to their business practices if I can.

I try to go out of my way to explain how the exercise works and how to frame the game to optimize outcomes. Here is a post I did a while back as a specific reply to some questions about linking the play of the game to some issues for a large global senior manager meeting. (That delivery went extremely well!) My goal is to share the best ideas I can with my user-customers.

•GAMES link for homepage

On Mar 28, 2014, (new customer) Robert wrote:

Please give us a feedback on the Debriefing: – There are many debriefing formats. Is there any order to which we can review them?

There are many dozens of ideas and discussion topics in the combined debriefing slide files. And there are many different styles for debriefing — I would guess that every facilitator using the game has evolved into doing things in their own unique way based on their personal style, their experience, and the audience.

This is over-viewed and discussed in some new video recordings I made available and I have included the links to these. When you get to the debriefing, there are all sorts of possibilities. I generally start my debriefings with the use of a series of cartoons, which allows me to comment visually on some of the key observations and make connections to desired outcomes.

MY style tends to show a question that I know is directly relevant to the client’s goals and outcomes. It is a high priority slide both in discussion time required and in its intended impact, for example. I show the slide, ask the question and then allow time for each table to discuss the issue. I will often move around through the group, listening to ideas they are discussion and possibly commenting or supporting or suggesting that they mention that to the larger group (when I allow the more public individual comments during the group discussion time on that question.)

My selection of which slide to use is also a fairly complex decision process, since I will never have all the time I would like for debriefing.

Plus, if we were doing a general debriefing after the session and returning back in the afternoon for a WORK session to define specific ideas to be implemented and to form work teams interested in implementing those ideas, my two debriefings would be somewhat different.

There is NO “Best Debriefing” and no ONE Debriefing. That is why so many different debriefing slides are included with the exercise.

Personally, I think I do a good job with my facilitation of the debriefing. But Thiagi would do something totally different, as would other users like Jeff Taylor or Gregg Baron. Each of us has our own style and every client is different. AND NO ONE WOULD DO IT THE WAY I TOLD THEM TO, ANYWAY!!! (grin)

There is a kind of script with that video link that I mentioned above but even that is not a fixed script. I simply talk about what I saw in the context of what the client wanted in the flow of the cartoon series. Some things are somewhat constant and consistent while some other slides generate wildly different comments from me.

I do have some notes included within the comment sections of some of the slides and there are some written discussion debriefing ideas in various places.

If you are debriefing a game focused on generating ideas about how to improve your personal facilitation of the game, you would do a much different debriefing than if you were running a session for the most senior managers of Samsung who were interested in the implementing of a new strategy, right?

The funny thing about your questions to me is that you are providing me with no real context other than “debriefing.” If I do not know what you are trying to accomplish with the debriefing itself, it is really hard to help. That is why I engage the client in clearly defining their desired outcomes; it helps me focus all things toward those goals.

I do not use the formal paper debriefing handouts that are included in different versions in your toolkit. Others might. It depends on the use of the handouts and what they are to accomplish. If people feel that they will be collected and analyzed and that they are personally responsible and accountable for what they write, you would get a much different outcome than if they were told that they were just simple worksheets on which they might capture their ideas.

There is no one way to cook a meal. And, since you are in Korea, there are many styles of kimchi with every chef doing things differently.

Basically, we are not some solution looking for a problem, but a tool that can be skillfully used to generate behavior and discussions of choices and the planning for different desired outcomes. These are two very different frameworks.

My approach to delivery is as a Facilitator, not a lecturer. My goal is to generate thinking and considered alternatives.

But this is all a result of facilitating organizational improvement initiatives since 1978. I am still learning…

For the FUN of It!

 Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman DebriefDr. 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.

Innovation and Fear of Failure – a blog by Russ Linden

Every so often, I get a blog post that merits a re-posting and Russ Linden is often the author. I simply like the way he thinks and he writes well about issues of government and management, things we should all find of interest since we are all paying for it.

In this particular post, he talks about governmental fear of failure, something that stops innovation and improvement and which is something behind the progress of every community, county, state and regional governmental agency that impact all of us in so many ways.

russ lindenYou can read the whole blog by clicking on Russ’ image at left or going to:  http://russlinden.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/innovation-and-governments-fear-of-failure

 

Here are the key learning points he makes:

What to do? How can public-sector leaders overcome risk aversion and gain support for their innovative projects? Here are some strategies to consider:

  • “Sell” the problem. “The cost is high, other (traditional) approaches fell short. Avoiding the problem is irresponsible.”
  • Manage expectations. Don’t promise the world. Call it a pilot, start small, focus on learning.
  • Be realistic about risk. Describe where this approach has been tried, and the results.
  • Partner wisely. If working with a private firm is appropriate to the task, find a respected company that has experience with the approach.
  • Develop a constituency. Seek backing from well-respected individuals in the community who have no self-interest in the program and believe it’s a legitimate role for government.
  • Compare what you want to do with other programs: The U.S. government, for example, has been funding cancer research since the late 1960s. We haven’t found the cure, but the need is huge and the public supports ongoing research.
  • Play to pride: “This is America. We don’t back away from the tough ones. We’re a can-do people.”

And perhaps the most important strategy is patience. Take the long view. It may take years to get the needed support to launch an initiative, guide it through the inevitable failures and setbacks, and finally see results. That’s a cost innovators learn to pay. And it’s often well worth it.

Yeah, I think Patience and also Trust are key elements to innovation and change of all kinds. We need to trust that people are working for us / with us — and I do see this as a big issue as people with specific agendas are elected into government positions of power to push certain key elements and not do what is right for society.

And fear stops things, as from the Dune books of Frank Herbert:

Fear is the mindkiller

Fear. I see the Vote Restriction Laws being passed by so many states under the guise of “fraud prevention” because of people being afraid of a changing demographic in our society, and I see States choosing not to open expanded Medicaid to its citizens simply because the governors and legislatures do not like President Obama or the Democratic Party and fear that these health care improvements will cause political problems for them long-term.

Take a look at Russ’s article on his blog, since he takes a pretty distinguished view on these things. And I am reminded of this poster image below
(source unknown but I will attribute if someone can identify the copyright – I cannot read the top info):

(source unknown)

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. 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.

 

Some Square Wheels Illustrated Quotes

There are a few main “one-liners” and memorable quotes that I use regularly in my articles and presentations and that I sometimes use as anchors in various posts on LinkedIn and elsewhere. And I inconsistently post them up into my other blog that is generally loaded up with poems and haiku and other thoughts that I post up as singles.

Since my readership is different, I thought to share a few of my Business Thoughts herein for your enjoyment and edification. If you want to see more, pop over to http://poemsontheworkplace.com/

An illustrated Square Wheels quote: Mahatma Ghandi

Square Wheels illustrated quote on business

Nothing Made Sense, and neither did anything else illustrated quote by scott simmerman

Teamwork - the Square Wheels about how things really work

We sell simple toolkits that use different illustrations and themes to generate discussions about workplace improvement.

Performance Management Company website for team building

They work beautifully in training programs as well as in simple workplace discussions about issues and ideas, teamwork and collaboration, innovation and motivation. You can connect easily with me if I can provide direct support to your efforts to better involve and engage people in performance improvement,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. 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.

 

Which is Innovation Reality? You make the choice…

A cartoon of Håkan Forss generated a few reactions about which might better represent organizational reality. It is a good question so I thought to post up this “Discussion Blog” that is a bit different from my normal style of doing things. Your thoughts and comments would be most appreciated.

Take these two different illustrations on roughly the same thing:

Hakan's plus SWs One combined

In Håkan Forss’ illustration on the left, we have what I see as people simply rejecting the idea of a different wheel for the wagon. (click here to see an enlarged version of that illustration)

In Square Wheels One, we have people possibly unaware that different wheels exist.

•  In your experience, is the first situation more common than the second? Are people more commonly rejecting outside ideas or unaware of them?

•  Are outsiders to the team more commonly offering suggestions with the wheels from other team members who are not actively involved?

•  Are Round Wheels generally found within the wagon? Do the round wheels in an organization already exist or do they more commonly need invention?

•  Where does “disruptive innovation” appear in all this work?

•  Where are the Lean approaches operating in either or both of these situations?

•  Is leadership actively against change or are they simply unaware of a need for it?

I certainly have my views on things, which I will elaborate on Part Two of the blog, “The Square Wheels, LEGO Controversy: Thoughts on Leadership and Engagement.

What do you think about the reality of how things
generally work in most organizations?

Please add some thoughts and comments below,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

LEGO® is a registered trademark of LEGO A/S, a corporation incorporated under the laws of Denmark.

The Square Wheels, LEGO Controversy: Thoughts on Leadership and Engagement (Part One)

In the blog post of yesterday, I shared the LEGO image that was sent to me with  comments that I was either collaborating with the author or that he was infringing on my intellectual property. The reality now, for all sorts of good reasons, is COLLABORATING!!

After all, we do make choices and some choices are simply a lot better than other choices. As I think about this, I think wheels within wheels because there are so many levels to the situation along with so many issues and so many possibilities.

Håkan Forss saw a cartoon and decided to do it “in LEGO” as he had been doing to a lot of other ideas. It looked like this:

The square wheels metaphor of Scott Simmerman expressed in Lego

One issue that I had was that the cartoon made it seem as if the guys on the right pushing and pulling the wagon were actually choosing not to consider possibilities for improvement. My thought was that it might sometimes be the wagon puller that does that, simply because they are isolated from the hands on reality of the wagon pushers, but that the wagon pushers also know that things could be different and better.

Wagon pushers have different perspectives than wagon pullers.

My Square Wheels One situation sets things up like this:

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

Håkan then went back to find the original cartoon that he used as the framework for his expression in the top figure and I was surprised to see this work as his basis:

ToBusyToImproveI had never seen that cartoon. It also has no attribution as to copyright and there is no apparent information that I can find as to where it was published or who is the author. My thought, given that I have been using this theme of round wheels and square wheels since 1993, is that it is probably what is technically termed, a derivative product. And I DO need to know because we do not want the theme of “Square Wheels” to go into the public domain.

We literally have 300+ cartoons that have spun off that original idea, plus a few hundred other quotes, poems, haiku and one-liners that anchor to that theme and that are published in articles, blogs, training toolkits and other formats. Protecting the image called Square Wheels One is important to us.

report the author button

mailto:Scott@SquareWheels.com

In later posts along this same line, I will discuss some of the different aspects of our Square Wheels One illustration in comparison to Håkan Forss’ work and probably challenge him to illustrate a couple of those cartoons with his unique and interesting style of LEGO art.

And maybe Håkan and I can create some LEGO block interactive tools so you can have your workshop participants play with ideas for workplace improvement. After all, the round wheels are already in (my) wagon and the ideas for improvement already exist.

Don’t Just DO Something,
Stand There!

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

LEGO® is a registered trademark of LEGO A/S, a corporation incorporated under the laws of Denmark.

 

If you aren't leading and engaging, what ARE you doing?

If you aren’t leading, involving, engaging and motivating people, are you just taking up valuable organizational space? We need Leaders in so many workplaces today and managers need to make choices!

—–

A key issue in most teams in most sports is having leadership. It can occur everywhere. Sometimes, they wear a little “C” on their jerseys indicating to the officials that they are Captains and sometimes they walk to the middle of the playing field to watch the coin toss. Other times, they are simply the people on the field who the other look to for motivation or depend on for The Big Play.

This happens in every organization, too. Sometimes, people depend on one of their own to speak up at a meeting to express a common concern. Sometimes these are just those people who get others involved in what is going on, since every person in the tug-of-war lends something to the effort.

Paraphrasing on Henny Youngman standard one liner, the research by so many different organizational polling companies would suggest,

Take my Boss… Please.

Jim Clifton seemed to seriously suggest that the data from his Gallup polling would suggest a realistic situation were for about 7,000,000 managers to simply be fired because they repeatedly seem unable to lead, manage or get out of the way. So many workers complain that no one listens and no one cares and that engagement is a HUGE problem with most companies worldwide. (Find a link to some of his writings here.)

Organizations  tend to work like this, in the view of most people: Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

Wagon Pullers are seemingly isolated by the rope!

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2014 Survey showed that leadership was a critical issue, with 86% of respondents rating it “urgent” or “important”. It also showed that only 13% of organizations say they do an excellent job of developing leaders at all levels — yeah, that is kind of noticeable.

But leadership is a big wide thing, with there literally being thousands of books on the topic. Most of us regular people would simply suggest that being trustworthy, involving and engaging are pretty important skills to generate everyday motivation. Feeling aligned to the goals and expectations and feeling appreciated seem to be pretty straightforward and understandable parts, too.

These Big Survey Consulting Companies like Gallup and Deloitte tend to offer up Very Big Solutions (you can read that as complicated and expensive). Me, I am more of a continuous continuous improvement kind of guy who thinks that everyone can make some improvements every day without requiring the extensive involvement of HR and Training & Development organizations — you know, the ones that always get their funding cut first because they are seen as costly to most senior managers (who do not get their development from them anyway, relying on outside groups like the Universities and Center for Creative Leadership and similar…).

There are a number of writings in the PMC blog around the issues of generating engagement and motivation, all of it simple and straightforward and all of which can easily be accomplished by any supervisor simply looking to improve their skills in motivating people.

– Here are thoughts on the problems of involving and engaging people– Here are ideas on Dis-Un-Engagement and issues of facilitating– Here is a framework for involvement and workplace improvement

As so many others have framed things, I believe that only some of the problems of leadership are at the top levels of the organization — senior managers may not be leading well or implementing strategies effectively.

But as Jim Clifton and others have shown, the real issues of organizational leadership and day-to-day motivation and performance occur at the interface of worker and manager – there are zillions of those minute-to-minute, hourly and daily interactions that might allow so many more people to work “more better faster” and that would help to involve and engage and align people to the expectations and goals. That is where organizations are failing their people.

There are no Big Silver Bullets out there to solve these issues. But there are bazillions of the Square Wheels, those things that work but do not work smoothly and that generate less than optimal performance. These are “artificial hindrances” in the sense that The Round Wheels are already in the wagon! There are all sorts of motivational impacts to be achieved when our supervisors do a better job of involving and engaging their people and our managers do a better job of involving and engaging our supervisors.

So many Big Solutions have been tried and have seemed to fail over the past 50 years. Sometimes, that exceptional leader like a Steve Jobs can get a good grip on things and have that major impact, but those cases are really rare (which is why Steve Jobs got all that press!).

Maybe it is time to try somelittle solutions. Maybe it is time to simply allow a bit more individual development and initiative in the workplace of the managers and supervisors so that they can more effectively involve and motivate their people.

S

It does not take a whole big bunch of money or time to actually implement some of the ideas of the team that would make the workplace better in some ways. People generally want to make things better and will work toward doing that. And that little effort has a big and cascading impact on people and morale:

cartoon by Dr. Scott Simmerman

It is important to remember that Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car and that people want to have a sense of ownership involvement in things. Plus, it is also important to know that people do need to be involved and engaged in order to want to be involved:

Navajo Not possible to awaken

 

At PMC, we sell simple toolkits that allow a supervisor to generate actionable ideas from their people. We use these simple cartoons to get wheels rolling downhill, to show supervisors that involvement and engagement facilitation are not that difficult to accomplish and that these activities can be a part of their everyday life as a manager. It is easy to ask and to listen, to generate teamwork focused on implementing good ideas to make performance improvements.

People are creative and flexible. We can do simple things to remove or decrease frustration and deal with roadblocks to help motivate people. I call this process Engagimentation (or Dis-Un-Empowerment) and suggest that you consider taking such actions with your people to make some impacts on so many things. Let me know if we can help – we sell inexpensive and effective tools for communications.

Performance Management Company and Scott Simmerman

For the FUN of It!

square wheels authorDr. 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.

 

 

Teamwork: A poem on Alligators, Sharks and getting out of the mud!

A variety of casual conversations in the past few days have refocused me on the “soft” side of teamwork, with soft referring to the stuff you cannot get a grip on. Some things are hard, like measurements and results and systems and processes, and some things you cannot even observe.

Let me use three simple words to illustrate:

  • Bureaucracy
  • Politics
  • Culture

A new acquaintance in the UK brings his college students to the US each year to visit companies like Nordstrom’s and The Ritz-Carlton and Southwest Airlines to show how some cultures simply support  high levels of performance and quality. Since I consulted in this for decades back in the 1980s, the conversation was near and dear to my heart. Then, we shared a discussion along the lines of why so many companies just do not seem to get it.

Teamwork is certainly a factor, but the best teamwork will fail in an organizational culture that is not supportive. I often use the metaphor of alligators and sharks to talk about competition (with the sharks being the consultants, of course). But those same things can apply to organizational power politics, where somebody’s space or turf is being protected from incursions. (Think someone not in training doing training without HR buy-in or think someone working inter-departmentally with managers without the approval or oversight of their respective bosses…

So, since I was playing with the other cartoons in my Lost Dutchman series and doing some poems, I just now crafted up this little ditty:

Lost Dutchman Square Wheels Alligators Sharks blood mud poem

Click on the image to read more about
The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building exercise

It seems pretty common that people get “up to their axles in mud” and that making progress is often more difficult than it should be.

So this cartoon and poem are dedicated to the “soft stuff” that gets into the way of making progress.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman Debrief

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

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

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

 

 

 

Fear is The Mindkiller – Thoughts on Facilitation and Engagement

In writing about facilitation and how it seems that some people want to make this simple concept into a horribly complex pedagogical framework understood only by experts (like me, but certainly not approaching the issues like me!), I was reminded of a quip and then looked it up for the whole source.

I remember reading Dune (by Frank Herbert) while on a 9-month solo car camping trip around the US back in 1977. I was acting out the definition of footloose and fancy-free in those days, for sure, since I had no plans, no timeline, no specific destination. Just me and my car and my tent and camping gear. Awesome journey all over the US and reading a few books in the quiet evenings.

Herbert’s Dune Trilogy was an outstanding set of science fiction works, one that took the basic characters over time and across The Universe. It was a lot about personal strengths and leadership and dealing with adversity and politics. And one of the repeated phrase in the first book and in the trilogy was this one:

Fear is the mindkiller

The whole litany of the Bene Gesserit for building their personal strengths and resolve was actually,

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Pretty neat mantra, I think, and a really good thing to tell yourself when you are faced with a challenge or challenges. Allow the fear to pass over and through and then reflect on it to learn. Personal growth from managing fear effectively.

I am reminded of this as we talk about facilitation of workplace improvement and the obvious lack of real involvement and engagement in the workplace.

The concepts and understanding of the related issues are pretty clear and there are some strong Big Ideas about what should be done. Jim Cliffton, CEO at Gallup and the surveyor of millions of workers simply says that there are 7,000,000 bad bosses out there who should be fired because they cannot demonstrably manage people very well.

(This is not me talking for him — see this link for what he said and how he was framing this issue of leadership and management practices in everyday organizations.)

So, a solution? Yes. Mine is a simple one designed to get things rolling and change the language of improvement. Mine is an easy, bombproof way to get workers talking with supervisors about issues and opportunities for workplace improvement. Mine is one that anyone can do without a lot of training.

Have a meeting and use this simple illustration:

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

We suggest that you:

  • Show the Square Wheels One cartoon.
  • Play with the general ideas people think of and share.
  • Link the ideas and process to the organizational issues of the group
  • Play with listing organizational Square Wheels of the workplace
  • Break down and separate the list into least difficult and most difficult.
  • Break easier ones into less costly and more costly.
  • Ask for volunteers to work up the idea or to try to implement a solution or solutions.
  • Provide organizational resources as needed (time, money, support, power)
  • Repeat the cycle building on successes.

Facilitation is not rocket science, although rocket scientists certainly use facilitation when they are brainstorming new ideas or looking for issues or problems or trying to define different ways of accomplishing difficult tasks that need a team-based solution.

Remember the movie Apollo 13 with the issue of the square filter needing to fit into the round hole: (Watch this 90 second YouTube clip by clicking on Tom Hanks’ image below). Pretty cool scene, and a real and urgent problem solving situation faced by the response team:

Hanks - apollo 13

The facilitation is easy. Share the problem, share the tools and framework, and ask a group of people to put things together. In the case of YOUR people working in your organization, consider using our simple Square Wheels One illustration and cheap facilitation tools to create your Apollo 13 problem and ask your people how to help each other make things better.

Find my short screencast about how to use Square Wheels as a tool for improvement by clicking on the image below:

Square Wheels The Movie Logo Must DO

We help people make workplace improvements,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman

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

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

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

Facilitation? Me, a Facilitator? Me, a MOTIVATOR??

I haven’t checked lately, but 50 years of watching what people say they fear has kept

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz002

as the number ONE fear of most people, including most workers. Okay, so now we make a good worker into a Supervisor. Has much really changed? Are these new leaders actually good at involving and engaging their people? Or are they just trying to keep things moving forward?

Plus, we can add in other leadership fears such as fear of loss of control and fear of not having the best idea and all that other personal competency stuff and maybe, we can generate a list of reasons why so many people find it hard to:

Ask for Ideas

for ideas. This really is understandable. There are a lot of common fears about leading and involving and engaging…

At the same time, it is my consistent discovery that so many workplaces tend to look something like this:

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

The people are working hard, pushing and pulling the wagons, and it is the same thing, day after day and week after week. No wonder that Sirota Research found that 85% of new hires saying that their morale declined significantly after spending 6 months in their job and that employee engagement is actually falling – from 24% to 13% in the past two years (Mercer, 2012). We are seemingly not doing a lot of asking and seemingly doing a lot of telling!

So, I am guessing that the reality of how organizations is not so much like that shown in the above illustration but seemingly more like what we share in the one below:

Those who do have Those who lead missSo, what is really so hard about facilitating a group discussion? Not a whole lot, actually, speaking as someone who was a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) by the International Association of Facilitators and who has been leading organizational improvement workshops since 1978. Really, it is really simple, really. Seriously, it is really really simple.

  • Share an illustration with them that has printed on it, “How might this illustration represent how organizations really work?” And let them think about it and then discuss it in small groups.
  • Ask them to share their ideas.
  • Ask them to share how some of those same ideas might represent how things work in their work initiatives.
  • Ask them what we might try to do differently and if anyone is already doing something differently than everyone else.
  • Ask them if they could try to implement a change in how they do things or to recommend something that you might change to make things work better.

That, in a nutshell, is facilitation.

You can read lots more about facilitation, engagement and intrinsic motivation throughout my blog posts, since I often talk about these issues and opportunities as being straightforward. You can also read about Russian Poets and nutshells and Hamlet, if you want, since all this stuff does connect to motivating people and improving how things work. And, you can find a simple, free guide to facilitation by clicking below:

Elegant SolutionsFacilitating Engagement – an overview

The simple reality is that the Round Wheels already exist in the wagon but that people are seemingly too busy to stop and step back and identify issues and opportunities that are really visible and often relatively easy to fix.

So here is some really simple advice for supervisors and facilitators:

Square Wheels One - Things I need to do more celebrate 100

For The FUN of It!

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.

Decision Making, Creativity, and Implementation

Maybe the title should be, “Engagement, Creative Problem Solving, Designing Solutions and then Not Failing to Implement,” but that seems a bit long. It is probably more realistic, though, when we look at the overall context of implementing ideas.

The data on the engagement of employees is really pretty awful, it has been pretty awful and it will probably stay pretty awful. Some relevant links from some previous writings are below, with lots of data and lots of simple ideas for generating more involvement and engagement of people in workplace improvement:

Engagement is actually pretty simple to accomplish and here is the key concept behind making improvements in that area:

Ask for Ideas

People will share ideas. Basically, the ideas around implementing workplace improvement ideas are pretty straightforward. Many approaches will work and some approaches will work much better in cultures that can generate a positive history of workplace improvements and small successes. The acceptance level is simply higher in those organizational cultures.

It is that last thing, “Not failing to implement,” that is my focus. In reading Dan Rockwell’s blog today called, “How to Say Yes to New Ideas Without Going Nuts,” Dan shared 12 ways to say Yes and to help to generate improvement. These are:

  1. Don’t expect people who resist change to lead change. Resistance stabilizes organizations.
  2. Let people who love new ideas try them. Ask, “Who can try this?”
  3. Say, “Yes,” in small ways.
  4. Minimize disruption with pilot programs and trial runs. Ask, “How can we try this?”
  5. Evaluate risk. Ask, “What happens if we try this?”
  6. Limit resources and finances. Creativity finds a way when limitations exist.
  7. Validate before big commitments or disruptions.
  8. Align with vision. “How does this take us where we want to go?”
  9. Align with values. “How does this express who we want to become?”
  10. Ask, “What happens if we don’t try this?”
  11. Define the win. “What will be better if it works?”
  12. Check your gut. “On a scale of one to ten, is it worth a try?” What gut-check number is acceptable for you?

I filter all the above through the looking glass of active ownership involvement. If YOU own the idea and keep that ownership, you can pretty much expect to see resistance to that idea as you push it out to others. BOSS spelled backwards is self-explanatory and people do not like being pushed — you can expect push-back in some fashion in most cases, I think.

Alignment and vision are key, for sure. I frame things something like this:

Square Wheels image BELIEVE this is reality

For the most part, there is isolation of leadership and the support people cannot be expected to understand everything about the journey forward. But what they do understand is that things are not working smoothly and that there exist better ideas for improvement that are right at hand. A key is implementation!

New ideas might just represent continuous continuous improvement, in that a new idea builds logically on an old new idea and in that way is not radical. We also need to attend to the issues of “interdepartmental collaboration” in that a new idea may also have impacts on another group upstream or downstream that may simply resist those, “new ideas that we did not develop ourselves.”

Collaboration is not the most natural behavioral response when it comes to inter-team workplace improvement. Competition is much more likely:

Square Wheels Teamwork interdepartmental collaboration poem

That kind of interdepartmental collaboration competition thing also puts the old kibosh on a lot of ideas and implementation. The real keys are “ownership involvement” and in analysis of impact. If we do a good job of involving and engaging people in the shared idea and its implementation strategy, that ownership will make a difference. If we do a good job of involving them in looking at the idea from a variety of perspectives and being able to report a variety of positive impacts and minimal threats, we also improve the likelihood of implementation.

Funny, but I just wrote a consultant friend in Singapore asking him for what might be a pragmatic idea for a short series of blogs and then this one falls into my lap. These thoughts from Dan were most helpful in anchoring my thoughts on this subject. Implementation is a real key to any improvement.

And a followup telephone conversation with a rental customer for my Lost Dutchman team building game found that the competition between the tabletops at her senior management retreat were very predictable: they tended to not share information and to focus only on their small part of the big organization, actively working to block the sharing of ideas and information about how to optimize the results during play. The debriefing was great because they could talk about all these game behaviors and infer the similarities in play to the realities of daily efforts to impact their customers. People tend to compete rather than collaborate.

Square Wheels One - Judge ourselves intentions borderSo, my suggestions are to look for ways to involve and engage people and ask for their ideas but to also give them ownership involvement. Let them do the impact analyses and look at cost / benefits and let them design strategies to involve and engage other departments and make things roll forward more better faster.

Rental Car quote

and

Square Wheels One and TS Eliot Shadow

Both of the ideas above link to real issues of people and performance. Involving and engaging people to share their ideas and to interact in some kind of implementation team helps generate the intrinsic motivation to do things differently. There are all sorts of positive impacts that can be implemented locally in most organizations.

PMC sells great team building games as well as Square Wheels Toolkits for organizational performance.

Performance Management Company website for team building

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman

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

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

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

 

Teamwork and Square Wheels and Implementation

It was a nice surprise to have a customer put up a really nice blog about my Innovate and Implement team building exercise last summer; I just got the link today. Sure is nice to see the metaphors carry through from the design into the actual delivery and implementation. That is my operating goal, of course — effectiveness!

What they discuss is some of the key learning factors that they have observed in the exercise and how it links to organizational development initiatives.

I built the game to get players in the frame or mind to talk about the issues that they have found to get in the way of implementing workplace improvements, so the game has “pretend” problems that teams need to solve and sets up themes of roadblock management along with idea generation.

Innovate & Implement team building game board

Click on the icon above to read about the exercise from the view of a customer. And connect with me if you would like some discussion about what Innovate & Implement can do for you in your trainings. And you can read more about the game and its design here:

ii-check-it-out-words

I&I is a really solid team building, problem solving, collaborational game focused on process improvement and working more better faster. Seriously!

For the FUN of Learning about It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman

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

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

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

 

Herding Cats and The Moose Joke: Moving 50 feet further than last year…

It really IS like the EDS commercial years ago about Herding Cats!

And it is hard to maintain attention and do good follow through when you have zillions of distractions and tons of details.

A long time ago, I put together a slideshow that illustrated my Moose Joke. This is a session closing story that I have been using to end most of my workshops for the past 30 years. It is a really great story. And, as I do fewer and fewer executive team building sessions or workshops these days (by design!), I thought to use the internet, the website and the blogs to share the storyline.

So, I created a powerpoint and then finessed it into a slideshare program that I also used for a screencast, which I narrated and edited and put into YouTube.

You can find that video narrative here:

Moose Joke 50 feet yellow icon

The video is not me simply telling the joke but is designed to teach you how to USE the story to make your key learning points. You can also find the slideshare program that offers up a good bit of detail by clicking on the following image:

The Moose Joke Story for Closing Presentations

These are two solid resources that I hope you find interesting. I will simply say that I have not once ever seen a session close with anything as powerful as a metaphor. You make all your key learning points on your desired outcomes and you reinforce the reality of implementing change and the need to feel successful to keep things going. It is also about teamwork and commitment.

Have FUN out there!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman Debrief

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

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

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

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