Performance Management Company Blog

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

Month: September 2014

Getting the Cows to the Barn; Thoughts on Alignment and Performance

I am NOT saying that employees are cows.

Just the opposite, actually. Well, guess I am not sure what the opposite of a cow would be, but I have always been focused on issues of people and performance and looking for ideas and approaches to generate improved alignment and results.

Square Wheels image of Lego Team

In a LinkedIn discussion about motivation and alignment, I remembered an analogy that old friend Ken Junkins used when we were talking about people and motivation, so I thought to share it in that discussion as well as pop it into the blog. Here is the rough storyline as to how I remember Ken using the story of herding cows back 30 years ago…

I am reminded of the herd of cows wandering aimlessly in the pasture. You, the manager, need to get them to the barn, so how do you do that?

Some managers will go out and get their supervisors to shoot guns and ride around the back with horses, yelling and screaming. That will get some of the cows to move away from them, (hopefully toward the barn). But, it will not be a successful enterprise unless you have lots of those herders and those herders are all sharing the same goal of moving the cows toward the barn within a certain amount of time.

Another approach is to get some sweet feed and sprinkle it out on the ground between the herd and the barn. Not many of the cows will know it is even there, but the ones that do will begin to move in your desired direction.

As those cows move, more of the others will wonder what is going on and begin to also move in that direction. With some gentle prodding from the management team, after the cows are beginning to go in the right direction, the herders at the back can begin to gently motivate the laggards, at least getting their attention that something is happening.

It is a slow process and not nearly as much fun as riding around fast and shooting guns and yelling and screaming. But you will have more contented cows and need a lot less management overhead to get them to where you want to go…

Ya think?

You can read more on my metaphors of herding here, with a pretty funny and well-linked article on herding cats and frogs. Click on the image to go there.

Herding Cats - EDS Commercial

Managing and motivating people is seen to be a difficult task. Some people believe that aversive control and punishment are the best rewards, most likely because they think that this approach is what motivates them. (That is probably not true, but it is a belief.) The research shows pretty clearly that intrinsic motivation generated through teamwork, alignment, good feedback systems and congruent values is much more effective that extrinsically-driven approached.

Extrinsic rewards may work, and they may work better for some people than for others, but they are not generally effective over the long term.  And the use of aversive control generates all sorts of problems. (See the article on sabotage and defense, aversive control and punishment by clicking on the icon below)

Defense with © Square Wheels Image

The two articles linked to the illustrations share a good bit of research data about motivating and aligning people toward workplace improvement. I trust that they may stimulate some thoughts about what you might try do to differently or that they will confirm some of the things you choose to do now.

Let me update this with one other video, not about herding cows but about herding sheep. With the proper environment and the right support (think of a few well-trained sheep dogs to keep things under control, as you might with a few well trained and supportive and aligned supervisors), you CAN move sheep seamlessly. This is an amazing and lovely video that Tim Whittaker allowed me to share:

Herding sheep video

So, we CAN generate alignment and communal performance. We can move organizations forward with proper planning and training (and maybe some hiring). We can generate innovation and improvement.

Please note that we sell some simple to use tools for generating engagement and alignment at the front lines or for use in strategy implementation frameworks.

Square Wheels images by Scott Simmerman

And you have some fun out there, too.

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.

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

 

A Few Stats on Workplace Fantasy Football

I thought that this was interesting data, so I report it here:

Fantasy Football’s cost to lost productivity will be more than $13 billion dollars this year (2014), since it will be played by more than 25 million people (with 4 of 5 being men) with an average weekly time investment of 8.7 hours per person.

Is this lost money for companies or does it have some benefits? It is hard to measure that or make one inference for so many different work cultures… Each of us has our own beliefs and observations and frameworks to evaluate the impacts.

Creating some workplace fun can have positive benefits.

BIG Square Wheels LEGO Fun image

Click on image to see, “Is work funny or what?” article

As to benefits, 54% of the players say that their participation increases camaraderie with fellow employees and that participation helps with the building of better rapport with their business contacts (16%). It is fun to be a fan and to share fandom and close interactions can have benefits to teamwork and collaboration.

And the reality is that it would be hard to actually block workplace participation in such an activity and attempts to repress it would probably be met with some resistance. While sharing a common adversary might improve teamwork, the dynamics of that might cause problems.

(Here is an article about workplace sabotage and some of the driving factors)

And it is about money. Wonder why you see so many advertisements for Fantasy Football leagues? Overall, fantasy sports shows the average player spending $111 and the industry raking in $1.1 billion dollars in 2013.

And workplace interruptions of all kinds consume about 3 to 5 hours of time a day with costs estimated to be over $580 billion a year, so fantasy football represents only a small part of of the cost of people and performance.

The question I would frame up is how much are we doing to involve and engage our people into the game of our organizations and use that shared mission and goal to help drive more desired behavior, innovation, involvement and ownership?

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 quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

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

(Statistics from newsletter of workforce.com and you can see a graphic overview of this data and a few more statistics and ideas at http://www.workforce.com/articles/20746-by-the-numbers-september-2014 and http://www.workforce.com/articles/20496-by-the-numbers-june-2014 )

The Future of Work, The Future of The Workplace

It’s dangerous for me to sit and read, sometimes, since my mind goes off into different dimensions. I was reading a couple of articles in Smithsonian and Mother Jones and it had me thinking about The Workplace and The Future and the reality that if we continue to do things the same way, we are going to find ourselves living in, as the ancient Chinese saying, “interesting times.”

I see a real paradox in business’ push for innovation and creativity meshed with how so many treat customers and employees. The ones that do treat the latter well tend to be demonstrably more innovative and profitable over the long term. All that data is very clear. Productivity is much higher: “Employees aren’t being asked to create a product, they are being asked to do the work previously done by four people in half the time it took just 10 years ago.” (Cliff Stevenson)

And a new client has just completed a company-wide survey showing all the many kinds of task-interferences getting directly in the way of actually demonstrating leadership skills among her managers. (She promised me the data, so more to come on that, for sure). We are demanding a LOT of people in the workplace, so much so that it is hard for them to do any workplace innovation or for managers and supervisors to do much to build collaboration and teamwork to make improvements in inter-departmental kinds of things.

SO, there I was with my mind spinning. And the thought was to try to illustrate a series of posters about the future of work and the future of the workplace…

Here is the first of them:

Square Wheels LEGO images are the works of Dr Scott Simmerman

The funny thing is that this really seems true, with lots of data to back it up. Companies and workgroups continue to do the same things, over and over, and expect improvements to occur. A few companies are doing things so differently and better than their competitors that they have significant, sustainable differences in operational data and in things like creativity and innovation.

After initially posting this up, I am back an hour later adding another to this series. This is also characteristic of a lot of workplaces:

A Square Wheels LEGO image of how things work - by Scott Simmerman

While some just plod along like they always have, thump thump thump thump.

AND LOOK AT ALL THE PROGRESS WE HAVE MADE!

But the reality is that the Round Wheels already exist and we can choose to do some things differently to make improvements. You can CHOOSE to do things more better faster. Innovative Ideas are at hand, if only you might step back from the wagon!

You might also find this slideshare to be of interest. It was suggested that I link to it. The focus is on making the office environment more worker-friendly and supporting through the use of lighting, furniture and design. Click on this textlink.

Check out our Square Wheels Icebreaker Toolkit – $20!=Square Wheels Icebreaker icon

(And pop back in here to see more in this series of thoughts. I will put them up individually in the poems blog and try to add more into this post.)

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 quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

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

 

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