Performance Management Company Blog

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

Month: June 2014

Thoughts on Change and Choice – a Square Wheels LEGO cartoon

I was thinking about a discussion about climate change and decision-making and “considered alternatives” and things like that and I just happened to see one of the illustrations I did for my Susan and Courage slideshare package the other day.

And the whole idea of decision-making and information gathering popped into my head so I adjusted that original cartoon to look like this:

LEGO Politics Brain in a Box

You can see lots more cartoons on my poems blog – click the image!

My thought is that you need to at least get people to STOP doing what they have always done in order to look for possibilities for improvement or change. Ideas are just not implemented, they first need consideration…

If you have not seen these before, my main cartoon in LEGO that sets up the above theme looks like this one:

How things really work in most organizations...

And the above is based on the Square Wheels illustrations that we have been selling in a variety of toolkits that anchor to these line-art drawings, this one with one of my poems embedded into the main idea:

Square Wheels One poem Always Do Pretty Rotten

Square Wheels represent the things that work, but that do not work smoothly. Round Wheels are already IN the wagon, but getting the leadership and the team to consider these as possibilities for improvement represents the real challenge. From there, implementation of these ideas is often pretty straightforward. We KNOW how to implement things; choosing to do so is often the real issue of teams, organizations, and societies.

You can find lots of articles within the blog posts on this blog — there are over 400 of them now and searching is pretty easy since I keyword them. Click here to go to the main home page.

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.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

 

Some Leadership and Training Jokes and Haiku

Occasionally, I go off on a tangent and this is certainly one of those times. In an email, someone asked me for an anchor point and I remembered all these jokes and one-liners I have in my other website (www.SquareWheels.com) and going there reminded me of just how many of those things I posted years ago…

Click on image to go to Jokes Page

Click image to go to Jokes Page

Here are a couple from that one page and note that there are 9 pages of jokes on the Square Wheels website.

This is a good one on communications in general. You might actually do this as an exercise in the classroom:

An English professor wrote the words, “a woman without her man is nothing” on the blackboard and directed the students to punctuate it correctly.
The men wrote: “A woman, without her man, is nothing.”
The women wrote: “A woman: without her, man is nothing.”
Perspective is everything!

On customer service:

A husband and wife are traveling by car from Atlanta to New York. After almost twenty-four hours on the road, they’re too tired to continue, and they decide to stop for a rest. They stop at a nice hotel and take a room, but they only plan to sleep for four hours and then get back on the road.

When they check out four hours later, the desk clerk hands them a bill for $350. The man explodes and demands to know why the charge is so high. He tells the clerk although it’s a nice hotel, the rooms certainly aren’t worth $350. When the clerk tells him $350 is the standard rate, the man insists on speaking to the manager.

The manager listens to the man and then explains the hotel has an Olympic-sized pool and a huge conference center that were available for the husband and wife to use. He also explains they could have taken in one of the shows for which the hotel is famous. “The best entertainers from New York, Hollywood and Las Vegas perform here,” explains the manager.

No matter what facility the manager mentions, the man replies, “But we didn’t use it!” The manager is unmoved and eventually the man gives up and agrees to pay. He writes a check and gives it to the manager. The manager is surprised when he looks at the check. “But sir,” he says, “this check is only made out for $100.”

“That’s right,” says the man. “I charged you $250 for sleeping with my wife.”

“But I didn’t!” exclaims the manager.

“Well,” the man replies, “she was here, and you could have.”

I LOVE MY JOB!
**Contributed by Bob Laurie, Juneau, Alaska, from the Lost Dr. Seuss Book**

I love my Job, I love the Pay!
I love it more and more each day.
I love my Boss; he’s the best!
I love his boss and all the rest.

I love my Office and its location –
I hate to have to go on vacation.
I love my furniture, drab and gray,
and the paper that piles up every day!

I love my chair in my padded Cell!
There’s nothing else I love so well.
I love to work among my Peers –
I love their leers and jeers and sneers.

I love my Computer and all its Software;
I hug it often though it doesn’t care…
I love each Program and every File,
I try to understand once in a while!!

I’m happy to be here, I am I am;
I’m the happiest Slave of my Uncle Sam.
I love this Work: I love these Chores.
I love the Meetings with deadly Bores.

I love my Job – I’ll say it again –
I even love these friendly Men –
These men who’ve come to visit today
In lovely white coats to take me away!!!

 

On Promotion and Marketing:

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying “Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday,” that’s advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk him into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s publicity. If you can get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations.

And if you planned the elephant’s walk, that’s marketing.”

Murphy’s Technology Laws –

Murphy’s Technology Law #1:
You can never tell which way the train went by looking at the track.

Murphy’s Technology Law #2:
Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.

Murphy’s Technology Law #3:
Technology is dominated by those who manage what they do not understand.

Murphy’s Technology Law #4:
If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.

Murphy’s Technology Law #5:
An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he/she knows absolutely everything about nothing.

Murphy’s Technology Law #6:
Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe, and he’ll believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint on it, and he’ll have to touch to be sure.

Murphy’s Technology Law #7:
All great discoveries are made by mistake.

Murphy’s Technology Law #8:
Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.

Murphy’s Technology Law #9:
All’s well that ends… period.

Murphy’s Technology Law #10:
A meeting is an event at which minutes are kept and hours are lost.

Murphy’s Technology Law #11:
The first myth of management is that it exists.

Murphy’s Technology Law #12:
A failure will not appear until a unit has passed final inspection.

Murphy’s Technology Law #13:
New systems generate new problems.

Murphy’s Technology Law #14:
To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.

Murphy’s Technology Law #15:
We don’t know one-millionth of one percent about anything.

Murphy’s Technology Law #16:
Any given program, when running, is obsolete.

Murphy’s Technology Law #17:
A computer makes as many mistakes in two seconds as 20 men working 20 years make.

 

This story below has been a favorite storyline of mine for a long time. But read my added comments at the end:

How Standards are set

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

Why did ‘they’ use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe (and England) were built by Imperial Rome for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts? Roman war chariots first made the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels and wagons. Since the chariots were made for, or by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

Thus, we have the answer to the original question. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot.

Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder which horse’s rear came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war-horses.

And now, the twist to the story…

There’s an interesting extension to the story about railroad gauges and horses’ behinds. When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. Thiokol makes the SRBs at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horses behinds.

So, the major design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined by the width of a Horse’s [rear]!

A check of the above on Snopes finds the storyline to not be true. (See http://www.snopes.com/history/american/gauge.asp) – in part, it says:

The eventual standardization of railroad gauge in the U.S. was due far less to a slavish devotion to a gauge inherited from England than to the simple fact that the North won the Civil War and, in the process, rebuilt much of the Southern railway system to match its own:

Still, the above does make for a great story!

—————-

On the value of good help!

A salesman is lost in a rural area and stops at a farm to get directions. As he is talking to the farmer he notices a pig with a wooden leg. “How did the pig get a wooden leg?”, he asks the farmer.

“Well”, says the farmer, “that is a very special pig. One night not too long ago we had a fire start in the barn. Well, sir, that pig set up a great squealing that woke everyone, and by the time we got there he had herded all the other animals out of the barn and saved everyone of them.”

“And that was when he hurt his leg?” asked the salesman. “Oh no” says the farmer. “He was fine after that. Though a while later I was in the woods out back and a bear attacked me. Well, sir, that pig was near by and he came running and set on that bear and chased him off. Saved me for sure.” “So the bear injured his leg then.” says the salesman.

“Oh no. He came away without a scratch from that. Though a few days later my tractor turned over in a ditch and I was knocked unconscious. Well, that pig dove into the ditch and pulled me out before I drown.” “So he hurt his leg then?” asks the salesman. “Oh no,” says the farmer. “So how did he get the wooden leg?” the salesman asks.

“Well”, the farmer tells him, “A pig like that, you don’t want to eat all at once.”

 

If They Wrote Computer Error Messages in Haiku

Some computer messages, done poetically in Haiku

First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
so beautifully.

With searching comes loss
and the presence of absence:
“My Novel” not found.

The Tao that is seen
is not the true Tao, until
you bring fresh toner.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

Three things are certain:
death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

A file that big?
It might be very useful,
but now it is gone.

Errors have occurred.
We won’t tell you where or why.
Lazy programmers.

Seeing my great fault
through darkening blue windows,
I begin again

The code was willing.
It considered your request,
but the chips were weak.

Printer not ready.
Could be a fatal error.
Have a camera?

Server’s poor response
not quick enough for browser.
Timed out, plum blossom.

Login incorrect.
Only perfect spellers may
enter this system.

This site has 404’d.
We’d tell you where, but then we’d
have to delete you.

Wind catches lily
scatt’ring petals to the wind.
Segmentation fault.

ABORTED effort:
Close all that you have.
You ask much too much.

The Web site you seek
cannot be located so
find endless others.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
Find your network down.

A crash reduces
your expensive computer
to a paperweight.

A chasm exists
of carbon and silicon
the software can’t bridge.

To have no errors
would be life without meaning.
No struggle, no joy.

You step in the stream,
but the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

Having been erased,
the document you’re seeking
must now be retyped.

Rather than a beep
or a rude error message,
simply: “File not found.”

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

 

On Thoughts and Thinking

Question:
Despite my vast (nay, encyclopedic) knowledge and understanding of all aspects of the Internet, one thing puzzles me. That is how I can send a message to a group and have it appear literally within seconds, and then send another which will take more than 24 hours to appear.

(Signed)Puzzled Los Gatos Sociologist

Response
Ah. I’m happy to report that you have come to the right place for the answer to this deep question.

Before I reveal the cause of the common phenomenon you’re wondering about, though, I’d like to point out some other quirky behaviors that you may have noticed.

.. Some days your car starts on the first turn of the starter. Some days it doesn’t start at all.

.. Some recent nights have been brilliantly lighted by the full moon. Tonight I’ve waited and waited, but all I got was wet.

These have nothing to do with why one message is transmitted immediately while another takes 24 hours.

The reason is complex, and we technologists don’t often expect even to hear such sophisticated questions from those outside the inner circle, and many of us are loathe to reveal the hidden cause.

But you seem trustworthy, so…

Look at your keyboard. Notice how the keys are all out of order? You’d think they’d be in alphabetical order, wouldn’t you? But no, they are arranged in an odd pattern called QWERTY, originally devised by a typewriter manufacturer to slow typists down to the point where his machines wouldn’t jam. Imagine, now, when you send a message down the wires, how differently the many routers and interfaces that the message goes through are affected by different juxtapositions of letters in your message. Just as a modest change in the original position of a chess problem has a dramatic effect on the time required to solve it, the tiniest change in the arrangement of letters in your message – often not even noticeable to any but the expert eye, and even then only with complex measurement equipment – can wreak havoc with every interface the message must pass through.

Imagine you had a car wider than the normal freeway lane. Going through interchanges would be a particular trial; how quickly you could pass through would depend on the amount of other traffic, the number of odd-shaped oncoming cars, and many other factors — much too complex to summarize quickly. But I’m sure you get the idea. And just as if you drove through many interchanges in your odd-shaped car you could be delayed dramatically, changes in the letter composition of your message slow it down every time it goes through a router, the internet’s interchange.

The letters W and M are particularly noxious in this way. If they happen to fall within the same word, as in women, or if multiples of them fall within a word, as in mammal, or wow, their retardant effect is in fact squared; this was first proved by Von Neumann in 1944, although certain notes of Ada Lovelace in 1861 indicate that she, too, had the basic idea.

The vowels, on the other hand, particularly I and O, are quite slippery and can speed up the trip of your message through a router; in fact, an I almost cancels an M, and words with many Is and Os, such as oil, lion, noise, and onion, can have a remarkable accelerating effect.

These are only the extreme cases. Each letter, and in fact each key, has its own lexical friction coefficient (LFC), which often depends on the relationship of the letter to other letters in the word and to other words in the message. LFC tables were originally compiled by Hollerith in 1901, for use in his famous Census-tabulating work, but were not made available to the general public until IBM brought out the 407 tabulating machine in the mid-thirties, and published a full set of lexical friction data in the documentation that was issued with the machine. Later, in 1962, when IBM first produced the Selectric typewriter, new LFC tables had to be constructed; these were made available in technical libraries.

Depending on the net lexical friction of a message, the transit time of a message through a router can differ by as much as a factor of fifty. This in itself is hardly sufficient to explain the difference between instant delivery and 24-hour delivery, however. The biggest part of the effect is a second-order result of high-LFC messages passing through routers. Just as when a stream slows down it deposits much more silt and other sediment on its bed, a high-lfc message, traveling slowly through a router, leaves what amounts to arterial plaque in the routers optical fiber connections. Optical fiber builds up LFC-related plaque anyway, but normally so slowly that fibers don’t have to be cleaned or changed for years. However, a chance confluence of many high-LFC message can deposit so much LFC plaque in the fiber connections of a router that the router can be totally disabled. Even if the router is not put completely out of service by fiber plaque, it can transmit messages so slowly that many recipient protocol managers conclude correctly that their correspondents have failed, and request retransmission. Thus high-LFC messages not only move more slowly through the internet, but actually raise the internet’s traffic load while they do so.

This issue has been studied in great detail by my erstwhile employer, whose interest in fiber plaque, LFC aggregation, and the resulting internet congestion is so high that it has formed a special task force to study the matter and recommend solutions within a year. I fully expect, however, that since the matter is dependent on keyboard design originally, these studies will probably result in little improvement, and once again we will be left anxiously awaiting the next-faster generation of optics, routers, and computers, meanwhile helplessly floundering in a stew of such technical complexity that only the few can comprehend it.

I would suggest that to improve your transmission times you should begin by tabulating the letter counts in your messages, and correlate them with message delivery delays. This technique is crude, but should give you a rough idea of what to expect. If your needs go beyond manual counting, you can find any number of lexical friction coefficient analysis programs in the commercial world, replete with graphic interfaces and LCF-optimization capabilities.

I’m glad to have been of service in this matter, and will make myself available for further questions as they occur to you.

Received from Teresa’s Jokers

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.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

 

catching and herding frogs

You CAN herd frogs! Thoughts on Strategy Implementation

A key role in leadership is one of implementing change and implementing strategy initiatives. And there is a lot of evidence that this is not done very well in many organizations. Research by thought leaders like Robin Speculand tend to show that most initiatives are unsuccessful when viewed objectively. The video on his site today is by Chris Skinner and is about why implementation fails in banking. (click on the names to go to the sites)

This simply reminded me that:

Getting things done around here is a lot like herding cats.That old EDS commercial about the satisfaction gained from successfully herding cats was just a hoot, where the cat herders talk about their accomplishment in a 1-minute video you can access by clicking the image below:

Herding Cats - EDS Commercial

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

My British friend and associate, Barry Howell, used the phrase “herding frogs” in a conversation we had, so I played with that in a previous blog you can see by clicking on the image below. I thought the notion of herding frogs was pretty funny, but NOW, I am convinced that there is a Leadership Lesson here.

 

Frogs

Before I get to the Leadership Lesson and Team Building Exercise I will share, let me first say that animals can be herded, just not all of them. View the following video for 30 seconds or so before I make my point below:

Stampeding Ducks

Stampeding the herded team of ducks.  This is obviously a common event at this location. And that first team of ducks sure had their act together. But it you watch it longer, you might have seen that not all the duck teams were very effective. In some cases, hundreds of the ducks were just standing there or muddling around, seemingly without a clue. (Yeah, that happens in organizations, too.)

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

So, here is your training activity, as promised.

Barry sent me this link to a video of people who seem to have the task of “Herding Frogs.” Obviously, that is not an easy one and the people are seen to fumble and stumble a bit. They also have to deal with the mud, which is something that certainly happens in most organizations as I show in my old Square Wheels Jeep Mud cartoon from our team building game on optimizing collaboration:

Jeep alligator and mud poem

So, here is what you do:

Show this video on The Great Frog Roundup to groups of 5-6 people at a table — note that there can be any number of tables.

The Great Frog Roundup

After watching the 3-minute video, ask them a few questions and allow them to discuss the issues of implementing the strategy of herding frogs along these lines:

  • What were these people trying to accomplish?
  • How would they know if they were successful?
  • How would you define success?
  • Were these people motivated to succeed and how would you increase motivation if that were necessary?
  • Were these people involved and engaged in the activity and how would you increase engagement if that were necessary?
  • Were there opportunities to improve their strategy and tactics to improve their efficiency and optimize results?
  • How would you coach this team around improving results?

My take is that the overall goals were to catch some frogs, but what was the purpose? It appeared that they did have some kind of net on the beach but that they could have used more boards and maybe even built a funnel to move more frogs into the same area for capture. Using buckets might not have been the best idea, since they could actually suffocate frogs if filled too high.And so forth.

Lastly, what IS it about frogs and ducks in outrageous numbers, anyway?

And those kinds of things that would help people to understand that while herding frogs is a difficult task, it CAN be accomplished and results can be improved.

 

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 LEGO Square Wheels Posters on Trust

Barbara Kimmel and I are discussing the placement of some simple “Poster Training Illustrations” into a new magazine that will be published by her organization, Trust Across America. So, I am playing with some ideas and looking for feedback and inspiration.

Here are the first three of a series of images and quotes that I am developing around the theme of building trust and engaging and aligning people for workplace improvement. We need to do this, simply because we should be doing this.

LEGO POSTER - TRUST You Have to Believe

and then there is this one:

LEGO POSTER ISOLATION and TRUST

The most recent one is something developed from my friend Frank Navran’s great quote,

Trust is the residue of promised fulfilled.

It looks like this:

LEGO POSTER TRUST RESIDUE

With this third one, I generated my first bit of “Poster Training,” some text to accompany the illustration in Barbara’s magazine and a format to follow as this moves forward. The text might look like this:

An idea for engagement and trust building:

A key issue in most organizations is the simple idea of communications. In many, as shown in the illustration, there is a functional distance between the wagon pushers and the wagon puller that makes building trust somewhat difficult.

Use the illustration in the poster as a printed handout and have a conversation with your wagon pushers about what might be considered a Square Wheel and what some Round Wheel ideas might be.

You can find the image at poemsontheworkplace.com, courtesy of Scott Simmerman at Performance Management Company.

My thought was to keep this really straightforward and simple. I think most of your readers are capable of having such conversations without a lot of facilitation skills or brainstorming training…  The anchor point of the cartoon should make the discussion straightforward.

Your thoughts?

And if you want high resolution images of these to play with, email me and let’s discuss.

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.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

 

The Reality of Change, Innovation and Employee Engagement

Change is a constant in the workplace: there is always something…

Sometimes change appears to be happening too fast and sometimes it seems much too slow, given the business needs. Sometimes we are looking to make changes and sometimes we simply must make change to keep moving forward.

On my poems blog, I just posted up this illustration poster:

LEGO POSTER REALITY OF CHANGE

The simple idea is that the wagon wheel has broken, the team needs to get moving again, but the wheel needs to be replaced. With Round Wheels literally “at hand”, we put on a new Square Wheel simply because that is what we have always done. We roll on Square Wheels!

My “regular” line-art cartoons that we use in our toolkit on change, look like this:

SWs Reality of Change © yellow words

The related image that shows some improvement looks like this:

SWs Reality of Change 2 ROUND © yellow

Note the difference — the woman is now installing one of the ROUND wheels.

In the cartoons, overall, we see three people and some note the reluctance of the wagon puller to let go of the rope. Some viewers might comment that the guy at the far left is just lazy and not helping out. But you might also note that the wagon is up on the points of the Square Wheels, making it easier to install a new wheel but much harder to balance, which is the job of those two people.

One guy is lifting — we all know of those people who really put out the effort to help teams succeed.

Lastly. Many people simply miss the HORSE. The horse represents a completely different way to address the reality of moving the wagon. It is surprising how many people miss that aspect of the situation as they focus on the broken wheel. Heck, even the characters in the cartoon seem to have missed that!

What I have been doing for 20+ years is involving and engaging people to see things differently and teaching a VERY simple yet actionable model for understanding change, identifying leverage points and action plans and facilitating the process in such a way that the participants can identify things that they can do differently as well as engage others.

The key is to focus on employee engagement and ownership. If people are involved, they are more likely to be engaged and feel some sense of commitment to getting things done.

I use a simple tool, my Square Wheels illustrations and metaphor to set things up.

SWs One WHY USE © 2014 green
The wagon rolls on a set of wooden Square Wheels carrying a cargo of round rubber tires. The process continues this way because of a few different factors, such as the square wheels actually working (just like they always have), and the lack of perspective (“Don’t just DO something, Stand There!). 

The reality is that stopping the process and implementing improvement takes time and is not always successful. Plus, the round wheels of today will invariably become the Square Wheels of tomorrow.

The intent of this facilitation is to involve people in stepping back from the wagon and seeing the obvious – the round wheels already exist and should be implemented to make long-term progress and not simply to meet the goals for today.

Sometimes, I introduce the concept of Mud, the glop that gets in the way of moving forward. This can include organizational restraints (perceived and real), politics, culture or simply the difficulty in changing. I then show the wagon and the people up to their “axles” in this mess and how hard it is to make progress. For me, “mud” is a great metaphor and I use it with the theme, “Get out of the ditch and up on the road” to introduce the issue of choice and choices. We choose what we do. Deal with it. (“If it is to be, it is up to me!”)

(“Mud” can also be grinding paste, cement, and other things. On my website at www.squarewheels.com, you can also find recipes for making Gack out of things like Elmer’s Glue and borax – Gack is a gooey mess — a “colloidal suspension.”)

“The best “Mud Managers” do things differently. What is it they do?”

This is a great question to ask, since it generates alternative behaviors and alternative thinking in their discussions, often anchored on best practices of the exemplary performers in the room at that time. (Peer coaching!)

At some point in the design, we will move toward my model of change, involving the current level of discomfort with the way things are now, the attractiveness of the vision of the future, the individual or groups’ previous history with change and the peer support for improvement.


All four things are actionable and under control of the manager. Change can involve teamwork or simply group process techniques for identifying issues and opportunities. But once something (a process, generally) is anchored as a Square Wheel, it almost always generates an implementable round one — this nicely taps into the cognitive dissonance model of Festinger.

Change does not have to be done TO people and is best done WITH them, having them involved in the different aspects of environmental and social support. This is why the illustrations work. We get people actively involved.

If you want to read more about this, you’ll find my article that includes these ideas, “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly” at:

http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/articles

Plus, if you’d like to make any comment or discuss any of this, it would be most welcome.

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.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

Elephants, Line Managers and Workplace Engagement

More and more, I am convinced that the key training people in organizations do not reside in HR / Training Departments but exist in the ranks of the line managers. The complexity of their job roles, however, can block their efforts to involve and engage their people to implement change and improvement. We need to look at that reality. Here are some thoughts and ideas.

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Managers are responsible for performance. Managers are responsible for quality and service. Managers are responsible for productivity and results. Managers do reports and attend meetings. And, more and more, we are driven away from the simple act of focusing on skills needed to motivate and retain people (including the managers!).

Yet these same managers are the only ones who have the direct influence on the workers to understand issues and generate changes.

The reality of the supervisors and managers will probably look something like this when it comes to opportunities to involve and engage their people:

Engagement Elephant Birth Process

So, what are we doing to provide managers with the tools they need to function as organizational performance improvement consultants, coaches for identifying best practices and communicating and implementing changes and improvements? Are we giving them the time they need and freeing up worker time for them to be asking, listening and considering?

Are managers involving and engaging their people or are we just wasting time and energy thinking that they might?

This could be brainstorming and an action to involve and engage people in workplace improvement. Or, this might represent another “Yell and Tell” training session.

In most workplaces, people are NOT involved and engaged — sure, the BEST Bosses are good at leading people forward, building ownership and engaging people in teamwork and process improvement. But in most organizations, BOSS spelled backwards is self-explanatory (email me and I will explain privately, if this euphemism is not immediately understood!) and people are not being engaged — the boss is too busy, as in the haiku below:

LEGO SWs One Business Haiku Talk and Trust

What do our managers need to do to shift the energy of these meetings and discussions from negative to positive? One solution is to use better tools and an approach that is facilitative rather than confrontational. This simply requires the right tools and some simple, self-taught facilitation training.

Asking is a much better approach than Telling. Engaging is a much better approach than generating resistance to change. Generate SMILES, not frowns.

For the past 20 years, I have been developing simple but powerful tools for involving and engaging people and generating ownership and performance improvement.

My view is that the solution to the work situation looks something like this:

LEGO POSTER - WORKPLACE HAPPINESS at hand

And we need to allow the team and the managers the time to consider possibilities and plan actions.

If you have any questions about how your organization might accomplish more of this, drift around randomly through the PMC website and generate your own thoughts on how people can be more intrinsically motivated and build a better sense of team and “US.”

SWs - Why use SWs RWs

People have ideas for improvement and supervisors can do a better job of asking and engaging and implementing, don’t you think? Could people simply choose to do things better and more efficiently?

 

For the FUN of It!
Scott small picDr. 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.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

Reflection and Innovation: Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There

This statement,

Don’t Just DO Something,
Stand There!

describes the action that we have been teaching as a basic tool of innovation and change since the early 90s. Only by looking at a situation from a dissociated perspective can one even possibly see that new ideas might exist.

Too often, we are so busy pushing and pulling the wagon, just like we have always pushed and pulled, that we seldom have the opportunity to step back and look at things from a displaced perspective. Once we do, we can often see that things are rolling on Square Wheels while the cargo of the wagon — round rubber tires — represent ideas for improvement.

A Square Wheels image from the tools of Dr. Scott Simmerman

Consider taking things apart to look for new ideas

The act of dis-assembly can identify issues as well as build teams. And new ideas will spring from that effort, along with improved teamwork.

Very often, people who perform better than others — the exemplary performers of any organization — will already be doing things differently than the others and can add those ideas to the mix. The round wheels in so many situations are already identified and tested and implemented and refined.

One of the series of Square Wheels images of Dr. Scott Simmerman

The more they play, the better it gets

(Note that the majority of the people, and especially the poor performers, just keep on keeping on and doing what they have always done and their Square Wheels remain in place. They need to get involved with new ideas.)

Innovations can occur quite naturally. Some of us are nearly always looking for ways to do things differently so that it is easier. Tom Gilbert expanded on a framework of “laziness” back in the late 70s in his book, Human Competence. I have always liked that concept: Because we are naturally lazy, we will always be looking for the easiest and most efficient way to do things.

Why not look for the downhill route instead of pushing and pulling the wagon uphill (and sometimes through the mud)?

By involving and engaging people in the identification of the things not working smoothly and through the sharing of best practices and round wheels, we do a better job of engaging and involving the workforce. Engagement is a key to motivation and sustaining high performance. Or, putting the Round Wheels to use!

People like to play with ideas and do things differently, if they feel that the team is behind them and the risk is low. It has all kinds of positive impacts and ramifications for continuous continuous workplace improvement.

LEGO Celebration of Changes Team

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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.

Workplace Happiness – Why are so many unhappy?

I sure wish I had a silver bullet on this issue of the workplace and how to make it better. There are so many good writings out there, like this one on leadership and engagement by Christina Lattimer that shared a checklist of situations which might suggest that you step back and take a look at how things are working.

  1. There is a “them and us” attitude.
  2. Your organisation ethos is that employees ought to be grateful for a job
  3. Culturally it is ok to blame individuals or teams for what goes wrong.
  4. People are scared to say what they think, and you never ask them anyway
  5. You think you know better
  6. There is a culture of complaining and negativity
  7. There is a “business like” culture which squeezes out basic caring of people in the organisation and beyond
  8. Profit is king, values will be breached if the profit margin is threatened
  9. Policies and procedures do not take into account that people have lives
  10. Employees are not encouraged to learn and grow

It seems like a solid list, one that has a lot of things commonly found if you ask the workers. In my mode of Keeping It Stupidly Simple, I offer up this illustration as a general idea about possibilities and accountability:

LEGO POSTER - WORKPLACE HAPPINESS at hand

Isn’t this whole issue mostly one of worker / supervisor relationships, trust and engagement that is influenced by a larger context of organizational culture? Can’t most things be addressed “locally” through a combination of communications and agreements, asking and listening, acting congruently with the values and things like that?

Why is this stuff so hard? And is it really that difficult to accomplish if we simply made different choices?

Your thoughts? Or, better yet, your commitment to do things differently?

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.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

Why do teams choose to compete rather than collaborate?

People continually make choices, selecting responses from their existing set of “behavioral alternatives” and often simply choosing to do what they have done before. The book, Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman does an excellent job of sharing the research on decision making and thinking. (I share a little of this in my article on Square Wheels and decision-making.)

LDGM Why do teams choose to compete wordsWhy DO teams choose to compete?

Teams and teamwork are simply about choice and choices. Teams will often choose NOT to collaborate if they feel that competition offers them more positive benefits and impacts and this is especially true if they have competed in the past — it is the fast decision that does not require much thinking and consideration. Competition may also simply be More Fun!

But does competition really do much to support overall organizational results? Does competition really make results better when you look at the overall impact? Does competition between sales and operations really help things?

More often than not, the answer is that competition measurably sub-optimizes organizational results. Clearly. This is grounded in my work in implementing performance improvement and customer service as well as in a variety of other contexts — it is much easier to generate inter-organizational competition than it is to develop real trust and collaboration.

I tried to collect some of the key articles around performance and teamwork in this annotated blog of my best posts on our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. You can see some of these sources by clicking on the image below:

LD MAIN Goal is to Mine

We often ask tabletops to discuss various real world perceptions after playing this team building exercise. Below are some thoughts of participants after playing The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses directly on issues of inter-table collaboration and communications:

As you will see from these responses, there are a lot of systemic issues that block teamwork and there are also lots of experiences in “playing the game of working” that will get in the way of simply choosing to do things differently. Breaking the patterns is why an exercise like Dutchman works – people play, make choices, and see the impacts of their behavior on the play of others and in the overall sub-optimization of results.

Why do teams compete when collaboration obviously offers more impacts and benefits?

  • Evaluation and Reward Systems do not support it
  • Organizational objectives are unclear
  • Human Nature – we are competitive
  • Past Experience precludes collaboration and has rewarded competition
  • Lack of a Trust or Relationship with others
  • It takes extra time and effort to do it
  • Benefits of collaboration not supported by leaders
  • Impacts and payoffs are not obvious
  • Conflict may generate discussion of realities and produce creativity
  • Teams do not have a history or experience with doing collaboration or generating better impacts by it

What did you learn about teamwork and communications from playing the exercise?

  • There is a need for networking
  • Small teams work better than committees / larger teams
  • Someone needs to take on the role of team leader
  • We must compromise individually and collaborate collectively to succeed
  • Don’t dominate – listen to others views
  • THINK COLLABORATION and Trust
  • Share a common goal
  • Share Ideas and Information
  • Plan before Acting
  • Have a division of labor and roles and think creatively
  • Initiate support from others
  • Have Empathy for others
  • Identify others’ needs
  • Be Creative
  • Be a good listener
  • Build on others’ ideas
  • Recognize Interdependence
  • Move quickly, take some risks
  • We probably have sufficient resources – use them wisely

In this game, most people do NOT ask for help, which also happens in the workplace. Why don’t most teams ask for or get the active leadership of their managers?

  • We are conditioned by education, bad experiences and culture
  • Personality (we’re not proactive but quiet)
  • We’re too involved in our own work and forget the existence of the “Expedition Leaders”
  • We’re afraid of losing time, thus we suboptimize results
  • We are really not clear of our roles or the Leader’s role
  • There is a fear of losing Face (ego, insecurity)
  • There is an assumption that not asking means we get all of the     praise and recognition for our good performance / ability
  • “Us and Them” mentality — Leader is not part of team
  • No access to them – can’t get their time so why ask
  • It’s not part of the rules of how we play
  • Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled

Some Key Learning Points for engaging and involving people in performance improvement:

  • Visions are critical for motivation
  • Motivation occurs when people share risks, goals and objectives
  • Teams are “naturally” competitive and processes must actively drive collaboration and cooperation
  • Teams only reluctantly ask Expedition Leaders for advice.
  • Leadership must clearly communicate with directness and honesty.  They need to be perceived as supportive.
  • Justify the need for collaboration as it influences corporate profitability and improvements in systems and practices.
  • Identify the mud that is bogging teams down and wasting resources.
  • Insure that each participant knows his or her role on the team and their importance to the overall results — make sure each team member feels that their efforts are of value.

How does this exercise and debriefing link to improving organizational results?

  • Collaborative, overall effort is needed to achieve Company Goals
  • Plan – Do – Check – Action
  • Collaboration is essential
  • Manage your processes with effective allocation of resources
  • Do It Right The First Time – there are few second chances in reality
  • Highlight the internal customer concept – we depend on each other
  • All of us is better than Some of US!

The competitive aspect of the game:
How might it be harmful in an organization?

  • Not sharing information for personal reasons will sub-optimize overall results
  • Damaging relationships and trust
  • Duplication of efforts
  • Not utilizing resources in best or optimal way
  • Sub-optimization — Not seeing whole picture
  • Undermining the efforts of others

Overall, competition is harmful because it is not maximizing company results nor the performance by the largest number of people. Competition works for the competitive and not for everyone. Discussing these issues and opportunities in the context of collaboration and communications offers the chance that people may choose to behave differently, or at least be more aware of how they are influencing others in their workplace.

So, a key to organizational improvement comes directly out of debriefing on ideas and reflecting on choices so that different choices can be made in the future that would allow for a culture shift of some kind.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine is a fun and powerful way to learn more about teambuilding and collaboration

Find our articles on organizations and performance

We support all kinds of innovation, motivation, engagement, team building and other aspects of people and performance through the sale of our simple tools for facilitating change and improvement. You can find out more about these by clicking on the link below:

Performance Management Company website for team building

For the FUN of It!

Scott 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.

 

KISS – Keeping It Stupidly Simple – A Square Wheels Poster on Collaboration

Complex, convoluted and risky. That is today’s workplace for most people.

Nothing seems simple today and, frankly, the more complex and detailed the design, the more opportunities there are for failure and non-compliance, two words not totally appreciated in the workspace of today’s managers. Avoiding risk is a key issue and many a good training program is being met with a lot of talk but not a lot of change or improvement.

Engagement continues to be a main theme of workplace improvement and the reality is that few people are all that engaged. Those that are feel a strong sense of ownership and involvement, feel appreciated and supported, and will often generate those higher levels of performance that are so desired.

As it is my intention to put up a number of posts and illustrations and posters reinforcing the theme that we need to start looking for some SIMPLE solutions instead of increasing the increasingly complex. I wanted to add this simple notion of collaboration. The Big Idea is that we need to START working on trying to collaborate, take a simple look around to see if any new ideas or improvements might exist, and then implement those ideas.

LEGO POSTER - COLLABORATION really working together

Looking at the above as a representation of how a group of people is working together to make progress, doesn’t it seem obvious that some solutions are at hand and that the situation simply needs conversation and agreement about issues and opportunities? And doesn’t the above illustration really represent how things work in most organizations?

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I added another related cartoon to my poems blog – you can see the text of ideas if you click on the image of it below:

SWs LEGO Boss Gang with Skis and RWs 2 90How hard would it be to really generate some collaboration?

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If you want to  gain some simple ideas and access some bombproof simple tools for improving intrinsic motivation and involving and engaging people for collaborative workplace improvement, clicking below will share some of my posts on stupidly simple themes of COLLABORATION and TEAMWORK:

•Posssible Sideways GAMES link for homepage

At Performance Management Company, we sell simple tools and recommend simple approaches to generating collaboration, involvement and motivation for continuous workplace 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.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

 

Progress – The Paradox of Making It

This post is subtitled,

There are just some things you cannot build with LEGO

and it is about celebrating successful change in the paradox of organizational reality.

—————————-

The past two days have had me posting up around the themes of change and why implementing change and generating new behaviors around leadership or trust are just so difficult. It is easy to talk about behavior change, somewhat easy to design training interventions to generate classroom change, and really really hard to generate real changes in workplace behavior. People make choices and you have only so much influence.

An article about sales and the brain focused on the issue of RISK as the main informational sort that occurs, that if perceived risk of doing something is too high, then the desired behavior just will not occur. Risk is the first sorting pattern, while IMPORTANCE is second.

If the desired new behavior is judged to be risky, it will just not occur.

People, at least most people, tend to avoid situations that they perceive as risky to them personally. While risk can be an adventure, many simply choose not to be all that adventurous in something as important as their worklives.

That thinking got me to remember an old cartoon I did of the theme on the paradox of organizational reality. So, I made up a little poster:

POSTER - Progress Up - not simply one foot ahead

Making real progress is not a simple task. There are corners to turn and steps to climb and wheels to improve on the wagon and it will be a continuous process, for sure. A wrong step will be a disaster and some wrong steps offer no recovery. Trust is implied because the wagon pushers cannot really see where they are headed, only the dangers on the sides.

I think this represents a lot of organizations pretty well and it implies what is required for behavioral training interventions to succeed. People need to see the goals, understand the importance and have a reasonable chance of succeeding and not falling off.

While I was at it, I also generated up this poster:

LEGO SWs Progress UP yellow reality everything

You cannot get into someone’s comprehension of the issues surrounding their behavioral choices, since that thinking and those considerations are pretty personal and internal. You can create a supportive climate and context, knowing that peer support and success can be good motivators of behavioral change. But it is really about their personal choice and considered alternative choices. Training can expand the latter and the environment and culture can influence the former.

A key IS to celebrate that successful change:

LEGO Celebration of Changes Team

People need to put the round wheels on the wagon and feel the positive support of their teammates in order to generate that continuous continuous improvement that today’s workplace requires.

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.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

 

KISS – Keeping It Stupidly Simple – A Square Wheels Poster on Team Perspective

Conversations keep reinforcing the idea that everything is getting increasingly complicated these days. We have the paradox of training programs and assessments and similar tools being more and more complex and nuanced while, at the same time, none of us have much time to learn anything new. Where we used to be able to find three days for an off-site training program to learn and practice new skills, these kinds of development activities are now done online in 2 hours.

As I capture with some data and supporting materials in a blog linked to the icon below, managers are most definitely working increasing hours because of our continuous electronic connection to the workplace. Realize that almost half of us check email going to bed or at the dinner table.

working while not working

So, it is my intention to put up a number of posts and illustrations and posters reinforcing the theme that we need to start looking for some SIMPLE solutions instead of increasing the increasingly complexity. So here is a simple idea on the need to STOP working and take a simple look around to see if any new ideas or improvements might exist.

LEGO POSTER - Team Perspective with SWs

If you want to see some ideas and access some bombproof simple tools for improving intrinsic motivation and involving and engaging people in the workplace, clicking here will share some of my posts on the stupidly simple theme of Dis-Un-Engagement:

dis-un-engagement

At Performance Management Company, we continue to sell simple tools and recommending simple approaches to generating involvement and motivation for continuous improvement in the workplace.

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.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company

 LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

 

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