Performance Management Company Blog

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

Month: May 2015

Simple thoughts on Rewards and Performance

I thought to weigh in here with a few thoughts on reinforcement and performance. I am going to keep things really simple and straightforward and try to address a few misconceptions.

As background, a doctorate in behavioral neuropsychology and many years of working on animal behavior and rewards, plus 10 years of doing “behavioral consulting for organizational performance kinds of things,” both external and internal with small and big organizations. Add to that about 40 years of reflecting on organizational cultures and performance.

I view the issue in a very simple way: square wheels lego by scott simmerman

Simple Thoughts:

  • That which gets rewarded gets repeated.
  • Behavior is modified with things that are perceived as rewarding, be they rewards or simply feedback related to behavior.
  • Immediate rewards are far more effective than delayed rewards.
  • Most performance feedback is delayed and relatively ineffective – see these 3 posts (articlearticlearticle)
  • Contingent rewards are those that can be directly related back to behavior by the performer.
  • Extrinsic rewards are ineffective for most people in the workforce. What is an effective extrinsic reward varies greatly among individuals.
  • Punishment generates a wide variety of unanticipated (but expected) negative behaviors (including sabotage)
  • Like Punishment, extrinsic rewards can generate all kinds of unanticipated and negative behaviors among the body of the workforce, sometimes called Superstitious Behavior.
  • Negative Reinforcement is the removal of a negative stimulus — it is NOT at all the same as Punishment. (You behave and I get off your back is a negative reinforcement situation. You behave and I get on your back is punishment.)
  • The existence of other people in the workplace tends to complicate the simplicity – peer support is very powerful and maybe the most powerful reward system in place in the workplace.

People sometimes perform in the hopes that they will get recognized by the boss. In so many situations, that is superstitious behavior, like blowing on dice before throwing them or saying some kind of “okay baby” kind of verbalization which you link to the behavior.

What we know from 50 years of research is that intrinsic rewards are much more effective than any possible extrinsic ones. People do things mostly for their own reasons and all we can do is impact those things in some modest ways — they behave because of their values and expectations more than rewards, for the most part. We even know that small rewards are much better than large ones if they are extrinsic.

In so many workplaces, things are so bad that some managers think an annual appraisal of performance might be an effective motivator of specific desired behavior on a daily basis.

We also know that such formal appraisals rarely change actual performance; what is effective is the goal setting for the self-attainment of the individual and the issues around clarifying expectations and generating alignment to shared goals.

A post today shared the tweet that recognition should happen with 24 hours of someone accomplishing something. Sure, that is better than none or something a week later, but even 24 hours is not very good. Imagine learning to play the piano if you could not hear the notes for even 2 minutes!

Yes, something is better than nothing, but delayed reinforcement is hardly effective in any real sense, at least to reward some specific behavioral result.

What can happen is that people imagine that they will get some management or peer recognition, and that predicted result can be modestly rewarding. When that does NOT occur, though, expectations are reduced and the next occurrence will have less effect.

Far better than an extrinsic reward system is a solidly designed and implemented performance feedback system. Take a look at the simple feedback analysis that should generate some ideas about possible changes in performance management in the workplace. Changing the actual feedback in an effective way is a wonderful motivator for self-improvement and change.

Some Simple Ways to Motivate:

  • Involve and engage them in team-based organizational improvement initiatives or innovation initiatives where they have no fear of failure and get regular positive attention from the management team as well as each other.
  • Allow people to get actively involved and develop a sense of ownership in some aspect of their work that is important to them.
  • Be careful of not telling too much, Few people like to be told what to do – give them some framework and ask them for how to best approach things. Coach more than manage / manipulate. Nobody ever washes a rental car. Do things with them more than to them. People resist when pushed.
  • Clarify their roles and align them to shared goals and visions and help them to have clear expectations as to what is desired and feedback about how well they do on a constant basis.
  • Make them feel as if they are valued contributors to the work effort and have a positive impact on group results. Remember that 50% of the people in any workgroup will be above the group average but that 50% will also be below that average; note that ALL people contribute to results.
  • Look for ways to allow individual growth and skill improvement. People like to improve their competencies and performance. Support personal growth and allow for differences.

None of this is rocket science. Remember that YOU probably got promoted to management because you responded well to extrinsic motivators, which is the most common way organizations structure work environments. But also remember that not everyone likes extrinsic rewards in the same way. Extrinsic rewards are most likely NOT motivating many of those people in the lower half of the workgroup. (See more on extrinsic motivation here and here.)

These are my thoughts on the issues around motivating people and improving workplace performance results. Results differ based on any number of factors, but these are the basics. I hope that you got ONE good idea from going through these learning points.

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

 

We sell a variety of simple Square Wheels® tools for improving engagement and communications.  Square Wheels Icebreaker is simple to use

 

Learning Skills, Note Taking, and Improving Performance

I will admit that I was never much of a student when in school. It was an 82 average in high school and a 2.23 in college and all that. On the other hand, my performance in classes and my effectiveness in research and my overall engagement in the things I was interested in was the flip-side of all this. I got into one of the finest educational institutions in the world for my doctoral work on behavioral neurophysiology because of my research publications, high SAT scores and my experiences in presenting at international conferences (as an undergraduate!). It was not because of classroom performance!

The key point I wanted to share is that I only learned how to learn about 10 years after graduating. No one ever pointed me to any sort of learning technology or job aids into how the brain stores and retrieves information. Only when taking courses in NLP from Jon Linder did this stuff really come together.

We knew a lot back then but we just did not share it with the students! Now, I would think we could be doing things differently to help our students as well as the workforce.

Sarwan Singh put out a pretty good slideshare on note taking and study techniques I thought to share. I would have added the mind-mapping visual tool to the set but it is what it is.

Take a walk through the ideas and see if there is anything that you might find useful:

Note Taking Cover of Sarwan Sing Slideshare

You can also find a lot of blogs out there that review mind mapping tools, which is an approach I use a lot when motivated to capture ideas or plan a presentation.

If we want to make our organization more of a learning organization, and improve the performance of our people, we should probably give the trainees some access and some experience about learning how to learn and how they can improve retention and memory. The above is a place to start,

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.

 

Poem on Team Innovation and Motivation

Most of the time, I blog up my poems (and posters and quips) on my other blog, www.poemsontheworkplace.com. But, I thought to pop two up about motivation in here, since they impact on a lot of organizational realities of people and performance and to demonstrate my poetic genius. (grin)

My hat is off to the cat in the hat guy, who serves as a positive inspiration to a lot of us who don’t get iambic pentathlon and that other allegorical alliteration allusion stuff. Just keeping it simple and fun here, folks…

So here goes:

Square wheels image in LEGO by Scott Simmermanand, one of my favorites about the perceptions surrounding management and leadership:

square wheels poem by Scott Simmerman

If you are looking for some really easy to use tools to improve your communications, check out this $20 toolkit using the Square Wheels One image:

Square Wheels image Icebreaker icon

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

 

Square Wheels® a registered trademark again

We had let our original registration slip, so we went back and re-upped “Square Wheels” and just got the registration to make it all official again. Wheeeeeeeee.

Square Wheels® is registered and protected for “Educational services, namely, providing classes, classroom instruction, seminars, tutoring, mentoring, and workshops in the field of professional organizational development and professional leadership training.”

And, with the shift from our original line-art representations of the idea to the newer LEGO® based ones, it is time to roll forward again.

Square wheels One Line art image and Square Wheels Lego short

We continue to look for ways to incorporate these engaging tools into organizational improvement toolkits. They are easy to use and bombproof in regards to how they can help build better involvement and generate workplace improvement implementation.

You can find some expanded ideas on how they work on this overview blog post. Click on the image to flip over there:

Square Wheels Poster Image Improvement

If you would like to see more about how we package these images into useful toolkits, check out our $20 icebreaker / communications tool:

Square Wheels image Icebreaker icon

And if you want to get the new Facilitator’s Toolkit, with a bunch of expanded tools and delivery frameworks, purchase the old one below and I will update you with the new materials. As an alternative, and for being a careful reader of the blog, you can send me an email and I can send you the beta-version of the materials, asking for your feedback and promising to update when the final one is completed.

You can get the materials into immediate play by purchasing the old version:

Square Wheels image for facilitation and engagement

We’ve been having effective fun with this approach for over 20 years and will guarantee that it will work for you, seamlessly,

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

Square Wheels – A Great Engagement Tool

Recent discussions about including Square Wheels into a leadership development eLearning course got me thinking that I have not really explained the underlying rationale for why these images and approaches work so well to involve and engage participants in learning and development situations. After all, they are just cartoons, right?

Well, playing with these images and ideas in 38 countries over the past 22 years has generated a bit of understanding about why these learning tools work so well. Audiences of all kinds get very involved and engaged in discussing issues and ideas about their workplace, the world at large, and even about their personal development, and there are a number of solid psychological underpinnings as to why.

My goal here is not to get into the neurophysiology and behavioral psychology * of how all this works within the brain, but to try to offer some simple thoughts on different aspects of learning and behavior.

As some people know, we first used the line-art versions of these illustrations. Here is the original Square Wheels One illustration, used back in 1993:

square wheels one 1993

More recently, I have been working to add a more colorful and interactive approach, using LEGO blocks and building on the above theme:

Square Wheels image using LEGO by Scott Simmerman

Fundamentally, the Square Wheels images work in a way similar to a Rorschach Test (or Inkblot Test), where individuals are shown images and asked to respond to them. These images are called “projective psychological tools” because people will project their beliefs onto the images, which have no reality in their construction. A typical inkblot might look something like this:

typical Rorschach inkblot imageDifferent people see different things. Their personal history comes into play.

With the Square Wheels tools, we focus more on organizational issues and opportunities, working on themes of teamwork and continuous improvement and other workplace themes.

The approach is very simple: we encourage a group of people to consider the image individually and generate their thoughts on, “How might this represent how things really work?”

After some silent contemplation, we then engage the tabletops to share their different perspectives and ideas, so we generate both an active involvement by the individual as well as a collective group consensus as to what the image represents. If there are more than 6 people in the group, we will engage them in small groups and there are approaches for actively involving and engaging even VERY large groups of 100s of people in highly interactive participative ways.

The anchor points are simple:

  • Square Wheels represent things that work, but that do not work smoothly
  • Round Wheels represent ideas for improvement that already exist and that could be implemented

Simply put, we will generate Cognitive Dissonance between the way that things are right now (as perceived by individuals or small groups) as well as potential solutions to close that gap. People are motivated to close the gap and we have developed some team / tabletop support for working to address that issue. Some of the overall impacts are as follows:

  1. We get people actively involved in generating ideas for improvement that can be anchored to organizational development or quality / process improvement.
  2. We get individual as well as collective tabletop ideas about issues and opportunities.
  3. We generate discussions about what might be done differently, giving participants an active involvement that generates engagement and ownership.
  4. We generate a collective broadly-based set of perspectives on issues impacting performance.
  5. We generate individual ideas, anchored to best practices, for what they might do differently to make improvements.
  6. We get a collective discussion and generate peer support around certain ideas that have “weight,” that are substantially impactful and the deserve to be addressed and implemented.
  7. People LIKE being involved and engaged in generating team-based ideas for improvement, much more so than they like being simply told what to do. Change is often resisted when forced on people, while active involvement generates motivation and engagement.

We can readily link the issues of Square Wheels back to the organizational or work group mission and vision, helping to readily impact the peer support for alignment and generating discussions as to where expectations and measurement / feedback systems do not align. You can read a short article on assessing feedback systems by clicking here.

We can open up discussions of best practices by sharing ideas for Round Wheels. And by requesting that 3 Round Wheel ideas be generated for each selected Square Wheel to be addressed, we can force more creative thinking for solutions to common problems.

Are these illustrations too silly or too simple? My thought is that they ARE simple and that is one of the reasons that they are so engaging. You will look at the illustration and have only a few thoughts, but once the ideas begin to be shared with others at the tabletops, the ideas will flow and the perspectives will shift significantly.

At that point, the general cartoon of issues is often transitioned back to the actual workplace, as people begin to see the issues they face in the context of the image. Problems take on a Square Wheels label, and once something is labeled a Square Wheel, it will always exist as something that NEEDS to be addressed and solved; after all, the Round Wheels already exist.

The simple concept and image is a powerful tool for brainstorming and creative problem solving, also, since it detaches the issues of ownership and politics from the issues of performance. Calling something a Square Wheel is not viewed as a personal attack on the person or originating department; it is merely something to address and improve.

It also links beautifully to ownership engagement for problem resolution. A reality is that:

Nobody ever washes a rental car

and that active involvement generated by the process links neatly to the issues of active workplace engagement.

Square Wheels Poster Image Improvement

Let this blog represent a starting point for addressing why Square Wheels images work so well in situations to generate active learning, active involvement, teamwork and pragmatic ideas for organizational improvement. Performance improvement is a difficult thing to accomplish, in so many situations, and these very simple tools and a simple approach to involving and engaging people works seamlessly and elegantly.

What are YOUR thoughts on why this works or some thinking
about the issues that using it might generate?

You can find out more if you purchase my simple “Icebreaker” toolkit. Cheap! And I am completing a full-blown Facilitator’s Toolkit focused on sharing more of the tools and approach for workplace performance improvement.

Square Wheels image Icebreaker icon

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

 * Please note that I actually have a doctorate in behavioral neuropsychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and have completed NLP Master Practitioner certification, along with being a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) from the International Association of Facilitators and a Certified Professional Trainer (CPT) from the International Association for People and Performance. So, I do have both an educational background for understanding the neurophysiology of learning as well as the professional experienced in changing organizational behavior.

Lost Dutchman Team Building Tips – Delivery Nuances

We’ve been selling and supporting The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a powerful teambuilding exercises with anchors to collaboration, leadership and motivation, since 1993. We have owners and users of the LDGM game worldwide, so I thought I would do two things to improve that ownership experience and expand on the issues and opportunities that we support with this exercise:

1 – Continue to publish articles with ideas to improve organizational performance and link to issues of corporate team building opportunities like this blog post.

2 – Go back and add the category, Dutchman Delivery Tips, to the relevant previous posts in this blog to improve the sorting of these particular articles. You can now search that Category for ideas about improving the link of team building simulations like LDGM to your development frameworks.

Most often, people just purchase the Dutchman team building exercise and play it with their group. It is pretty bombproof and users see that it goes really well without understanding the thinking under the design and those little things that make everything pretty congruent.They get a good outcome and they are then satisfied with the way things work and are not looking for different ways to play.

LDGM Testimonial bubble Advantage Bank 100

It is surprising how seldom we get into dialogs and interchanges about other features of the design, however, even though many options are detailed in our Professional Edition of the exercise or appear in different posts of mine. And the reality is that there are any number of different nuances that can be integrated into a program to improve its connection to desired outcomes.

Let me share three different delivery frameworks:

One:  I had forgotten ALL the cards for a program up in Gaffney. SC and had an hour over lunch between the morning Square Wheels and the afternoon Dutchman delivery. Immediate panic. The creative solution to that problem became the Inventory Management Delivery Option, where I gave teams their starting inventory and we simply kept track of consumption on an inventory form (me at the Trading Post and the Supply Expert at each tabletop).

What I discovered with this delivery was that knowing exactly what resources a team had helped me manage the game immensely — I could see which team had what resources precisely and then coach teams to share resources like trading surplus Supplies for Fuel between them. You cannot really do that in the normal way the exercise played…

Two: An old friend and consulting buddy told me the game was TOO collaborative; he worked with real estate people. SO, I designed the Single Turbo version of the Tortilla Flat Video. It does not have the three Turbochargers in the Video but merely the one, thus not allowing research sharing. (It rewards strategic planning and not collaboration. Neatly.)

Three: Someone asked me, “How can we mine even more gold each day?”

That was a really really excellent question, causing me to rethink the overall design… It is awesome that questions become new ideas.

one of the game pieces of the LDGM exerciseWhat I did was to repack The Mine Video to have 16 Cave Cards (instead of 12) and I changed the instructions to tell players that by using a Cave Card, they could mine 11 ounces of gold each day. The extra Caves I include can be shared freely with other teams and each one used would generate an extra ounce of gold. We call this The Assay Office Version, since the Trader can report to another person (at The Assay Office) to track the gold mined over the days (leaving the Provisioner to simply bank the game).

You can purchase this complete tool, with instructions and delivery options, at this location on our website. It is about optimizing overall profitability and it adds another collaboration element to the play and discussion.

You can actually see when the collaboration between the teams starts and you can count the unused Cave Cards and you can add the number of extra ounces produced by the planning — getting the Mine Video. Each unused Cave Card loses $250 in results. Measurement of results adds more impact in your debriefing and linking back to the reality of the workplace!

(And, yeah, I can do all that / any of that by myself when I deliver the exercise for groups of 5 tables or less, although it IS a bit chaotic!)

None of this appears in the LD3, 4 and 6 games but this and more is in the Pro Version (but not mentioned directly in the Rental stuff, simply because it is too nuanced for a single use in a large group… But these kinds of enhancements can be integrated into all the LDGM game deliveries.

We believe that the Lost Dutchman’s teambuilding exercise remains as one of the absolute best simulations in the global marketplace for collaboration and leadership development games. If you are interested in a solid corporate team building simulation, drop me an email,

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.

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