Performance Management Company Blog

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

Month: May 2014

Square Wheels LEGO Poster on CONFIDENCE

I got the idea to do a number of illustrating posters on keyword themes, so the first one that goes up is a spoof on Confidence.

Your thoughts?

LEGO POSTER - Confidence with SWs One

The Big Idea is to illustrate the ideas and concepts underlying our engagement and involvement approach of using the Square Wheels tools with some of our LEGO images, since the colors are more engaging.

The fun continues,

For the FUN of It!

Scott hat butt blue smallDr. 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 trademark of the The LEGO Group

Debriefing Team Building Games – Some Ideas and Reactions

A few weeks ago, I posted up a 35-slide Slideshare compendium of some of the main debriefing themes we use, anchored to our teambuilding exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. The goal was to share how the exercise connects to organizational development issues and opportunities as well as to illustrate how we feel team building exercises of ALL kinds should work.

LD Slideshare Debrief cover

Dutchman focuses on aligning teams and players to shared goals and on generating collaboration between the tabletops as some of its unique competencies. It also links to leadership, motivation, strategic planning and project management themes.

Once I uploaded that file to Slideshare, I sent the link out to some of our existing consultant and trainer users of the exercise for their comments and reactions. All were positive and a couple of people offered up some good frameworks. Raju Madhaven, who used the game to train thousands of people when he was with Wipro in India (and who is now out consulting and training with his purchase of it) shared some good comments that stimulated me to blog about this:

  1. You can consider including the Tuckman model of Teaming – Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing (slide 21/22)
  2. Asking the question – Does your organization reward collaborative thinking? What are the ways in which it can reward? (slide 20 & 26)
  3. Slide 23 – While the poem is great- I wish the readers don’t misinterpret the visual! (it shows a driver and his vehicle on a mountain flat with no way to go up/down!
  4. I use the text in slide 33 a lot- very effective

So, let me embellish his comments with some of my own:

1. The Tuckman Model of Teaming is a very simple expressive model of four stages of team development: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. It is often useful in describing how people feel when they are challenged as a group to make a decision but it is not a tight model nor one that has proven itself as an organizational tool.

In referencing that model, Raju was referring to the slides that I use to express the common reactions of teams to the challenge and the need to go from differing ideas to a shared consensus in order for the team to operate efficiently and effectively:

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 21 and 22 60

The tabletops do move from discord and disagreement to a readiness to operate, and they accomplish this in the 15 minutes of allotted Planning Time before the start of the game. That simply demonstrates that people CAN reach a decision and work as a team under time pressures, if the goals and objectives are shared and the mechanics of how to operate are known.

2. Collaboration – Raju likes to ask questions about how organizations deal with the culture of collaboration — is it supported or is the culture more competitive. Much of the Dutchman game design supports the measured benefit of collaboration, since we can track how sharing information and resources helps to optimize overall results.

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 20 and 26 60

The issue of rewarding collaboration is a difficult one, I think, since the addition of extrinsic rewards generally increases complexity of the interactions (do you reward all team members for the extra efforts of a few of them or do you reward all the teams participating in an organizational improvement initiative when only some of them were major contributors and some may have faced legitimate roadblocks like a lack of funding for their work. I am a Big Believer in using intrinsic reward and self-satisfaction to push behavior rather than the extrinsic rewards to recognize success. Some balance is certainly needed!

Collaboration is an obvious benefit to organizations, but the way that we often structure measurement and feedback systems is to generate competition rather than teamwork. In many cases, the term “Interdepartmental Collaboration” represents an oxymoron (words that do not go together) and we even call different operating units “Divisions” in many large organizations, somehow expecting divided organizations to function together.

The consulting and alignment and leadership development of these aspects of organizational structure are a difficult issue to address in many organizational cultures, simply because they have always been competitive in their orientation. Dutchman accomplishes this better than anything we are aware of…

We have a number of consultant users framing the Dutchman exercise into one for strategy implementation and restructuring and similar massive organizational change initiatives.

3. Intrinsic Motivation – I have long used this illustration, along with a body language physical exercise, to stress the important feeling of success that comes from accomplishment.

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 23

So, I am using the concept of pinnacle or reaching the top as the anchor point for the image, not the fact that they are “stuck” or any such thing.

In my trainings, I sometimes have people stand up and then raise their arms over their heads. I ask them how that feels and responses are uniformly positive. Then, I have them droop their arms down and round their shoulders forward and put their heads to look down and I ask them how that feels. Routinely, they will say things like “low energy” or “depressing” or “heavy.” Then, I repeat the arms over their head, have them cheer or jump up and down or similar and then tell them that they always have a choice in terms of how to react to situations!

So, for me, the cartoon illustrates a success state, a state of accomplishment, and I discuss things from that perspective.

I am not thinking that anyone would not see that from the way I debrief that slide! You can use that kind of framing in most any training, I would guess. You might also note that the vehicle in the image has round wheels, but that is a whole different conversation!

4. My two simple ending or closing statements:

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 32 and 33 60

I like to anchor my sessions in the concept of choice and choices. We all get to choose our reactions to things and having a more diversified set of choices or considered alternatives helps us to choose better.  Ownership is important, since

Nobody ever washes a rental car

Click on above to read Scott’s blog on ownership involvement

All of our games and toolkits are designed to generate active involvement, a sense of ownership and commitment from the resulting discussions, and a set of considered alternative choices for future decisions.

I hope that you have found this framework useful and that maybe a new idea has been generated about improving the impact of your training and organizational development initiatives,

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.

 

 

 

 

A Dance of Change – something new?

It was funny to read a little blurb in the ASTD Training & Development magazine about an article to appear next month. The abstract said that 70% of change initiatives continue to fail (which is on par with how many strategy improvement initiatives are not really successful) and that the existing change models are all pretty good.

What is suggested is that The Missing Component is now Emotional Intelligence, and that thoughts and feelings that emerge from the understanding for the need to change are all that needs to be changed. “When emotional intelligence is applied to change, we can think of it as change intelligence.”

I won’t mention the author of this, since I am basically panning this solution — Emotional Intelligence is not an easy thing to grasp, much less implement since it has so much to do with personal growth and personality. We’ve been fooling with EI concepts for 20+ years, just like we’ve been proposing 7 Habits and all sorts of other silver bullets to solve the problems of organizational improvement.

I’m one who very strongly feels that we just need to forget about so many complicated models of how things work and how things need to have some new Training Solution proposed by a cadre of consultants who will retire on these efforts.

The DATA say that not much has improved on the basic issue of employee engagement. The DATA say that lots of things are supposedly important, like Innovation (rated important 98% of survey respondents in another ASTD article (Patty Gaul, April 2014) while also finding that only 33% of organizations currently focus their innovation on small improvements and change. That article predicts a BIG shift toward radical changes / innovation — 66% in the future. (Right… Remind me to look back in 10 years… )

People suggest that we do all kinds of expensive and complex kinds of training on emotional intelligence or on innovation and creative thinking skills but I STILL think that the basic organization works like this:

Square Wheels represent how things really work in most organizations...

How things really work in most organizations…

and that what are needed are really simply solutions. Here are my 10 steps for improving motivation and organizational performance results:

ask

How do you implement change? Identify the Square Wheels and ask for some Round Wheel solutions. Do this in the context of moving from where we are now to where we want to go (in the near or far future). Celebrate small successes to generate continuous continuous improvement and allow people to work together in simple teams (with necessary resources of time and funding) to actually implement such changes and improvements.

Four Simple Factors for Implementing Change

Four Simple Factors for Implementing Change

The actual end result is also pretty simple to conceptualize:

Square Wheels and Intrinsic Motivation Celebration LEGO business image RW

I mean, this whole thing about involving and engaging people in workplace improvement is really the simple task of involving and engaging them in workplace improvement. Where is the rocket science in all this? Why do we keep adding so much complexity — other than for profit motives and self-aggrandizement — when the reality is really easy to accomplish.

The other key is also simple:

Square Wheels image of Ownership Rental Nobody Toolkit icon 2

This concept is also simple: Everybody needs to feel like they have an ownership stake in the ideas and the outcomes, even the management team.

So. Keep it Simple. And Just DO it!

We sell simple tools for involving and engaging people for performance improvement. Give the icon a click and check us out,

Performance Management Company and Scott Simmerman

For the FUN of It!

Elegant SolutionsDr. 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 trademark of the The LEGO Group

 

 

LEGO, Square Wheels, and Teamwork – Celebrating Success

Let me illustrate my thinking on issues of corporate performance, innovation, teamwork and the basic issue of alignment, since I think that some people get this wrong. And, as usual, I will try to keep this as simple as possible!

Let me take a really simple approach using some stuff out of the attic and constructing some ideas on teamwork:

First, there is the issue of how things normally work, people-wise, within an organization:

LEGO Chaos of People

The Chaos of Un-Aligned People

Then there is the issue of teamwork, getting people going in the same direction and in alignment to collaborate and push forward together:

The team, facing forward and ready to go.

The team, facing forward and ready to go.

And then there is the rigid alignment that some people think is positive, with people in lockstep and overly aligned:

We can be TOO aligned and rigidly structured.

We can be TOO aligned and rigidly structured.

If there is too much rigidity and structure in the system, people will spend more time keeping people in line and maintaining control and the innovative and collective collaboration of the group will suffer. Keeping a balance between alignment and chaos is where we are likely to find the highest levels of motivation and engagement and the sharing of ideas. Control will limit intellectual collectivity; some level of chaos will help generate innovation.

Since I got that old box of LEGO® out of the attic, I might as well start messing around and creating some stuff. I’ve now taken about 150 pictures to use these LEGO to illustrate some of the Square Wheels concepts in a slightly different way, visually. Expect to see many more in here…

You can see some of my colleague Hakan Forss’ work at http://hakanforss.wordpress.com/too-busy-to-improve/

Please also note that I have a whole big bunch of LEGO based exercises — free — on my other website. You can go to that page of game designs by clicking here:

Some LEGO-based exercises

Some LEGO-based exercises

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, Surprised

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.

LEGO® is a registered trademark of The LEGO Group

Working while Not Working – The Problem of Overconnectedness

I wrote a blog up a year ago about statistics on work and working and the interconnection with vacation time. I thought I would also update that, since I just read an article in Mother Jones magazine about the issues and problems of always being connected to the business life. Pretty scary stuff, all in all. And it points out research that shows disconnecting can be really beneficial.

—————-

Addendum:

We ARE in need of some brain freeing vacation time. An Intercall survey of American employees showed that people are simply NOT paying attention during conference calls.

  • 65% said they did other work at the same time as pretending to participate
  • 55% that they prepared or ate food
  • 47% that they went to the bathroom
  • 25% that they played video games
  • 27% confessed to falling asleep at least once during a call, and
  • 5% said they’d had a friend POSE as themselves in order to skip it completely.

People are simply disengaged, over-meeting’d and in need of a break from work to put humpty dumpty back together. You can find a more expansive article clicking on this link. The rest of this blog gets into that data.

—————-

As background and perspective, I am now well into my 30th year of running Performance Management Company, which started as a consulting business working in people and performance areas, with a shift to customer service quality and then to change management and now to themes of workplace involvement and engagement. The shift to selling materials has been a good one and the pressures of the day=to-day have shifted as I enter my 66th year of being in the business of living.

As a small business, I can affirm that one is almost always thinking about the business — it is impossible to get away. And I used to joke about spending 50% of my time marketing, 50% of my time developing materials and 50% of my time actually doing things to make money. Only the reality is that 50% + 50% + 50% is actually 100% small business reality…

(One of the very best articles ever about the issues of running a small business is Wilson Harrell’s 1987 article, Entrepreneurial Terror that appeared in Inc, Magazine. Heck, I still give out photocopies of that to people every so often…)

A Harris / Adweek poll two years ago said that 52% of Americans will work during their summer vacation this year. The survey showed that working people are expecting to perform a variety of tasks, including:

  • Reading work-related emails – 30%
  • Receiving work-related phone calls – 23%
  • Accessing documents on home computer – 19%
  • Receiving work-related text messages – 18%
  • Accessing documents on work computer – 13%
  • Asked to do work by a boss, client or colleague – 13%

Clive Thompson, writing in Mother Jones magazine, shared a good bit of interesting information on the issue of being plugged in all the time and why we need to unplug. View that actual article here.

He shared data from the Center for Creative Leadership finding that 60% of smartphone-using professionals were work-connected for a full 13+ hours a day and that they spent another 5 hours playing with emails on weekends. That adds up to 72 hours a week of job-related content — with pay for 40 hours!

Another study by Good Technology found that 68% of people checked work email before work — before 0800 — and that 50% checked it while in bed before going to sleep! Almost 40% check email at the dinner table! And the APA reports that one in ten check email hourly – when on vacation!

It would seem that the entrepreneurial issue of always feeling that one had to be connected is now everyone’s problem. And there is that scene from “Deal of The Century” (Chevy Chase) where Harold (Wallace Shawn) is waiting for the phone call and cannot leave his room. (Watch it here – 4 minutes and very well done!)– Chevy does a coaching / inspirational talk about making the sale.

Deal

Pressure. Pressure to make the sale. Pressure to complete a project. Pressure from the team. Pressure from the boss. Pressures of all kinds from working.

WITH our connectedness and other electronic support and unpaid work time, corporate productivity is up 23% since 2000. Inflation-adjusted wages and benefits are up 4% for these same jobs. (Data from Economic Policy Institute) And, Clive Thompson wrote, the marketing research firm Radicati Group reports that we can expect to receive 22% more business email by 2015 than we did 3 years ago. Managers get about 300 emails a day, from what I read, so when do we actually find any time to think, to innovate, to build trust in our relationships, or to even relax?

We are being multi-tasked and over-managed, we are being spread thinner and thinner, expected to know more about more things but also unable to get the training time or even understand how things work in many of our jobs.

And the research supports that reality that some play and relaxation and free time to reflect and refocus does an awful lot to rebuild motivation and morale.

Pin Balloon Play Performance poem

PMC sells Square Wheels illustrations and performance-based team building exercises to help put more play into performance improvement initiatives. Click on the icon below to see more information on our website:

THE+Games for Teambuilding PMC Home Page icon 1

Have some FUN out there! (Yeah, me, too.)

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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Brainstorming and Implementation – That DOES work…

In the past year or so, there have been a number of articles and writings on the theme that brainstorming is no more effective than simple idea generation by individuals. I’ve seen the research but not really evaluated it insofar as the reality of how it works.

Frankly, I find that brainstorming actually does work really well to generate LOTS of ideas and to help frame up a few of those ideas for implementation.

My process is simple. I show an image and ask:

Square Wheels One Main Question How might this represent

The idea is simple: to let the participants consider the image, project their ideas onto it and then share them as a tabletop. It uses simple and standard brainstorming practices but anchors thinking to some simple metaphors about people and performance. What it also does is generate shared ownership and teamwork when these initial ideas are then fleshed out into discussions about generating workplace Square Wheels™ as well as generating some specific round wheels potential solutions.

Where I differ greatly with those thoughts that brainstorming is equally effective to other approaches for idea generation and creativity is in that interactivity, the reality that one idea from one person can stimulate a related or tangential or even opposite idea from someone else. PLUS, that reality that:

Square Wheels image of Ownership Rental Nobody Toolkit icon 2

It is often the case that someone who is not involved in the development of an idea might feel the pressure from a perceived risk or will simply reject a different way of doing things because the initial idea was not their idea! This can be subtle and be seen as passive resistance to change or it can be obvious, as a rejection of the idea in a meeting about performance improvement. We have all seen these kinds of things occur.

So, my thought is a simple one:

Drawing Board Brainstorming Ownership words

You simply cannot generate a team-based process that generates active ownership involvement by simply collecting individual ideas from individual people. The group dynamic is simply missing.

You agree? You can find our toolkits by clicking on the image below:

•GAMES link for homepage

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.

 

 

We CANNOT expect involvement and engagement if we play the Blame Frame Game

How can we motivate people when we make them defensive? How can we expect innovation and process improvement if we are not actually encouraging people to share their thoughts and try new things?

Attack creates defensiveness; and appraisal and constructive criticism can certainly represent an attack in the perception of the workers:

Defense with © Square Wheels Image

If we ask managers how they manage, they tend to give all the right answers. But is that really their tendency to act and perform in reality?

Maybe. In the “Keeping Things Simple – Involving and Engaging” blog, I shared this cartoon that we call, “Trial and Error”.

square wheels image of Trial and Error

When we ask them to comment on the illustration, they tend to focus on what is wrong, rather than what else might be done, The ratio of negative to positive is about 8 : 1 and, if anything, the peer support appears more clearly in reactions to the different negative themes.

In other words, eight comments focused on the negative and what they did wrong for every one good thing the managers might spot, such as they are stepping back and looking for more improvements and that the horse, will in reality push a wagon.

Mothers usually call this “constructive criticism,” but I am not sure what good purpose it serves to continually point out what people are doing wrong, “even if it is for your own good.” as we so often hear as kids and teenagers (and workers, in so many instances!).

What the managers tend to do looks like this:

and this will not serve to improve motivation or make things better. If anything, this blame frame will make innovation harder and decrease the likelihood of people trying to be involved and engaged.

Note they this work team added a horse to the situation — more horsepower, as it were — and a definite paradigm shift. And YOU probably have not considered whether this might actually work. What if the next step simply looked like this:

ALL of us need to focus more on the innovative steps to improvement and the reality that change is a requirement in the workplace. So is support and encouragement — every book on leadership will comment on that but that is not congruent with the behavior of many managers.

Improvement is a continuous process, one that requires celebration of what is accomplished and continued reflection on possibilities and potential shifts in resource utilization. One might think that there is a train in their future?

Note – clicking on the images will take you to some different, related posts.

For the FUN of It!

Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

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Getting Things Done – Herding Frogs and Herding Cats

A couple of really good discussions on facilitation and implementation reminded me of The Theme of Workplace Reality:

Getting things done around here is a lot like herding cats.

For that phrase, I am always reminded of the old EDS commercial about the satisfaction gained from successfully herding cats:

Herding Cats - EDS Commercial

“Herding cats. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy…”
“I’m living a dream…”

Funny stuff, for sure and worth watching!
(Clicking on the image above will open up that 1 minute video in Youtube.)

So, in chatting with my British friend, Barry Howell, he used the phrase “herding frogs,” which I guess is a more common one there since they aren’t so much into herding cattle as an English culture. I thought it pretty funny, and it anchors to the same issue of trying to manage the less than manageable.

Frogs

I love using those kinds of very visual, kinesthetic phrases to anchor reality.

Today, I saw a link to an absolutely wild short video about stampeding ducks. Seriously. Looks like Thailand but I am not sure. Anyway. click on the image below to see that video. Unreal

Stampeding Ducks

Trying to implement things is not an easy task, as shown in these examples. And while ducks will be imprinted to follow an individual or other ducks, with people it is not quite so easy.

And then there is my graphic also speaks to getting things done:

Baby Elephant Teamwork Quote words

Cats, frogs and elephants.

Will Zombies be next?

(Actually, the answer is YES, since my colleagues in Hong Kong and Tokyo both wish me to get my Zombie Strategy Implementation Game into beta so they can mess with it. Wheeeeeeeee.)

We share some simple tools for involving and engaging people for improving workplace performance at The Square Wheels Project. Using our Square Wheels images, you can generate alignment to shared missions and visions, ask about issues and opportunities and define strategies to implement and manage change. Check it out!

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

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.

 

Two new testimonials about The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding exercise

Most of my posts try to be informational and instructive and I love adding cartoons and poems and haiku and all that for spice. But occasionally, it is simply useful to me to post up some good testimonials that I can offer up to people who are interested in our products and services.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is our flagship exercise for building teamwork and inter-organizational collaboration. It works great at every level of an organization as a tool for leadership development and organizational alignment or even for implementing strategy and change. It is easy to deliver, inexpensive, reusable, and very effective.

Below are two testimonials, one from a long-term consultant user of the exercise and one from a client.  Clicking on the LDGM testimonial images will take you to different slideshare overviews of the exercise and its impacts – the top one is about pricing options and the second shows links to issues of organizational development and how the exercise can be debriefed.

Speculand Testimonial LDGM 100

and

TF Testimonial LDGM Helal 100

I will add this one, from a senior line manager who rented the LDGM exercise from us and who chose to rent it again after she changed jobs and had 50 new reports — she wanted to involve and engage with her in a session on alignment, one designed to demonstrate her leadership style and her organizational goals in a fun and engaging way:

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

We are really proud of how well the Lost Dutchman exercise works for organizational development and alignment issues. Please contact me if I can offer any additional information or assistance,

For the FUN of It!

Facilitation tools and engagementDr. 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.

 

 

The Actual Impossibility of Engagement – An Organizational Reality

Check me on this if you can, but we keep talking about improving workplace performance by the active involvement and engagement of people doing their jobs. There are lots of reasons as well as lots of data that support this as a REALLY good idea because of the widespread impacts on results.

Just back from ASTD and after conversations with colleagues, both there as well as in a variety of email connections, it seems that this engagement idea is a non-starter and doomed for failure in so many organizations. In a simple illustration, let me anchor down my thoughts:

Square Wheels Supervisor leads teams forward Rat Cage words

Does anyone really think that HR is going to be able to do some kind of training event or lead some kind of organizational improvement initiative to involve and engage all the workers? Maybe, and I can think of a couple of organizations that have the culture to pull that off. But the day-to-day reality of the supervisory environment would suggest that improvement generated by active involvement and participation is a high-risk activity for most supervisors in most organizations.

After all, are they not already busy right now? Are they not up to their eyeballs in tasks and reports and meetings and reports and tasks? Do we simply expect that they would be motivated to do some “public speaking” and set up meetings where they involve people to share ideas about workplace issues and problems (and then expect some resolution and improvement) or is it a lot safer just to continue to do things the same way.

What is the Reality of this (from their perspective)?

Lee Ellis popped up a nice blog post here that I summarize:

Three strong indicators of an unhealthy organization are:

• A lack of trust leading to poor teamwork and alignment.
• A lack of clarity about mission, vision, and values.
• A fear of conflict. People are not allowed to say what they really think.

A healthy organization, alternatively, has management who:

1. Build Trust
2. Clarify and Over-Communicate
3. Create a Safe Environment and Encourage Debate
4. Are Courageous

All this stuff is fine, well and good, but anecdotal conversations continue to support the very basic idea that supervisors are incredibly busy with what is already expected of them (they do not even take all their earned vacation days, it seems and they work while they are off the job with emails and calls, etc.).

So, can we really expect them to add the risky activity of asking about the problems that their people feel exist and be expected to implement some solutions? Sure, they could implement teamwork, but that is a whole different set of worms…

Do most of them really want to start up performance improvement teams and use up even more of their time and the time of their people? And, a lot of supervisors are fearful of teams because of the potential loss of control that they perceive might occur. Plus, they often need the support of their managers and maybe even HR.

So, is engagement of people for workplace improvement even a reality for most organizations doing things the same way and expecting things to change and improve?

I think that there are good possibilities for change and improvement and we sell some very simple tools to generate ideas in a pretty safe and effective manner with our Square Wheels toolkits. This one on basic facilitation is cheap and easily used.

An organizational motivational reality might look like this:

Square Wheels One poem Always Do Pretty Rotten

And thus, my basic suggestion is pretty simple:

Square Wheels One Don't Just DO Stand red border

Make things happen. Your choice.

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.

We also sell a powerful team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. You can view a slideshare overview of the exercise here:

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine prices

Moron ENGAGEMENT, is it even possible today

The conversations about time availability for coaching and team building by supervisors continue to get interesting. There is an interesting article at the Washington Post called, “How a company weekly meeting winds up consuming 300,000 hours per year” and written by Fred Barbash.

He cites the authors at Bain, who said:

“As astonishing” as the figures are, say the authors, “300,000 person hours supporting one weekly excom meeting — it’s important to remember that it doesn’t include the work time [not in meetings] preparing for meetings. Research shows that 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings — a percentage that has increased every year since 2008. No amount of money can buy back that time….”

Go to the link above to find out more about his article and the original research.

My friend Steve Davis also writes about some of these same issues, but from a personal perspective related to values and goals. Life is not simply about how busy you are or how you want to appear. Read Steve’s perspective here.

These conversations and data from corporate research like the above simply seem to confirm that “meeting with people on engagement” does not seem to be one of the critical values of large organizations and thus we really cannot expect the supervisors to simply want to do that with what little time they have.

So, I guess things are simply supposed to look like this:

Square Wheels Rat Cage Haiku work hard

Or maybe more like this:

Square Wheels Rat Cage Haiku Poem Winter of despair

We have a need to Spring Forward and really make a difference with the workers in most organizations. They have ideas for improvement and we can dramatically impact intrinsic motivation if people felt like they were on the team and that management really cared.

That’s my view, and I am sticking to it.

Presently, supervisors probably do not have the time nor the inclination to rattle the cages and ask for ideas about workplace improvement. They are not empowered to form teams nor do any of these people have much “release time” in which to fine-tune and implement things.

You can find some more of my thinking at the blog I posted up yesterday:

Square Wheels One - if you always do done

Hopefully, we can find some ways to give supervisors more time and motivation and tools to better involve and engage their people in all aspects of workplace 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.

 

 

Is ENGAGEMENT even possible, today?

For all the statistics showing that employee engagement is really low and the surveys showing 2/3 of employees have the opportunity to improve their level of involvement, for all the studies about impacts for involving people from the motivational / ownership side of things to the impacts on innovation and creativity, I am thinking that believing that we can engage people in the workplace is simply wishful thinking.

My thoughts are anchored to this illustration:

Square Wheels One - if you always do done

A reality in organizations is that we cannot expect things to change if we do not do anything differently and I think that the average supervisor or manager is simply UNABLE to get the time to stop pulling and sit down with people.

A consultant friend said it this way:

We have a ton of anecdotal information capturing what supervisors actually do. This is far different from what supervisors “should” do theoretically. The reality in the workplace is that since 2008 supervisors have been charged with “supervising and doing task oriented staff work”. In other words, supervisors are now “working supervisors” doing tasks that staff would do except we don’t have a staff person or even a position on the books to place anyone. So supervisors are strapped to help complete the work of their unit and supervise, too.

That matches with my perception of reality. They are trapped with too much to do. They are simply not given the opportunity to have alignment and idea meetings with their direct reports, since everyone is measured continually on their production and there is simply not the time.

I think of it more like this:

Square Wheels One Seuss supervisor break out the time

If you have seen any statistics on all this, please add a comment. The old Mintzberg kinds of research on time and motion do not begin to capture the realities of the modern workplace. And all sorts of different data point to the fact that “productivity” has had continuous massive jumps while the numbers of people who would like to quit their current jobs is very high, including managers as well as workers.

I’ll quit with this little graphic I just created, based on my cartoon called, “Chain of Command“:

Chain of Command one-liners

It would be most excellent if senior managers would understand that there is a lot of headroom for performance improvement if we can simply step back from the wagon a bit and look for and allow people to improve.

There is an old quote from the training literature that goes,

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

The round wheels are already in the wagon. We need to look at our supervisors and really understand if they have the time and resources to ask for and implement ideas for workplace performance improvement. There would be a LOT of positive impacts throughout the organization, for sure.

I added a few more thoughts on this in another blog post so click on the image below:

Square Wheels Rat Cage Haiku work hard

And you can find more about our thinking on the bigger picture of employee involvement and engagement by clicking on this link to another article on my blog or by heading to my website,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and tools

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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