Performance Management Company Blog

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

Month: December 2016

2017 – A Year of Choices, Engagement and Innovation

We are at the cusp of a new year and this tends to be the time when people consider new possibilities and new thoughts on doing things differently. In that context, let me wish you a Happy Round Wheel New Year and hope that you can give your people the gift of engagement and workplace happiness.

Here, I am working up some new initiatives, and writing a Square Wheels novel around workplace innovation and implementation, one that uses the themes of involving and engaging people for their innovation ideas as well as building on Robin Speculand‘s upcoming book on excellence in execution.

My efforts will work on the bottoms-up side of motivating people for improvement while his focus is on strategy implementation from the tops down. Both will combine in the intrigue and challenge of implementing workplace change in a difficult environment, with the requisite Spectator Sheep continually voicing their opposition to anything new and the Mavericks looking to fight the systems and processes because they do not work smoothly.

The leverage point is that interface between Brad, the manager, and Paula, the consultant. Brad is frustrated, that typical motivator for change, and Paula has untried, simple, engaging approaches to involve and align work teams.

Wrapping it around two illustrations for this Happy Round Wheel New Year, it looks like this:

The Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott SimmermanThe Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott Simmerman

DO have fun out there, and DO step back from the wagon and ask for ideas. What you gain is priceless: the active involvement and teamwork of people focused on implementing their own workplace improvement ideas. Generating the intrinsic motivation for self-improvement and team innovation. Improving leadership and trust through increasing organizational alignment to shared missions and goals.

The Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott Simmerman

Make 2017 about continuous continuous improvement, since the round wheels of today will become the Square Wheels of tomorrow.

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 Round Wheel Happy New Year!

We had a Christmas Day brunch at one of the finer hotels here in Greenville and, to put it simply, things did not roll very smoothly. There were any number of service quality issues from beginning to end, starting with a “10 minute wait” that was 35 minutes (we sat outside where it was nice and not in the stuffy crowded lobby) to the food quality / timeliness issues to having our table swept when we went back to the buffet (even the silverware and glassware and I had to re-serve our water because there was no one there…) and to having to wait 20 minutes to get the check.

Giving specific feedback to the restaurant manager generated a nice conversation with the General Manager /Partner of the property. I expected nothing and was simply sharing information, but he sent me an email a bit ago inviting me to another event. It was both unexpected and unnecessary — maybe we will followup and do it. But getting something for free was not part of my effort to share information to enable better performance.

Anyway, I wanted to cheer things up a little and since the Square Wheels image was something he and I discussed, I thought to do up a Happy New Year Poster.

A HAPPY NEW YEAR Square Wheels poster about people and performanceThe key point is that people know what they could choose to do differently or #morebetterfaster if they simply had a better sense of why it is important. It does not take much effort for a team of people to implement better solutions and improve how things work. The idea of stepping back from the wagon (and also ignoring the Spectator Sheep) is important to get the overall perspective to find and implement some new ideas.

If YOU have some Square Wheels issues around people and performance, visit The Square Wheels Project and pick up some simple facilitation skills along with some simple tools to use. The Round Wheel solutions already exist; it is about identifying issues and implementing solutions,

The Square Wheels Project is about facilitating engagment and 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.

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

Bad Teambuilding, Good Teambuilding

I continue to be struck by how much team bonding is confused with team building. The latter has impacts on organizational behavior and performance improvements and links to improving results while the former is about having fun and doing things to build camaraderie. The issue is that people expect things to change with more workplace friendliness, but with no changes in measurements or feedback or actual consequences (rewards and punishers), why would anyone expect anything to change?

And why is it that so many exercises that consultants would use for front-line or middle managers, they would not remotely consider doing with senior executives? Does that CEO or CFO or CTO really benefit by having some cooking class event, doing some pot-luck lunch or, as I recently saw in Wired magazine, really benefit from having the comedians from Second City teach them improv? Will those activities REALLY translate to anything improving?

It is so bad that I just set up #BadTeambuilding as a twitter hashtag and I plan on noting some things called “team building” that aren’t and don’t. Maybe I will be seen as a troll, but the operational idea is that we cannot expect change if awareness does not shift and some sort of real enlightenment occurs, right? It will be hard to ignore retweets with the #badteambuilding and it will surely generate some responses and reactions — and at age 68, I don’t have a lot of years left to leave a footprint, right?

Badteambuilding is a theme of perception by Scott Simmerman of The Square Wheels Project

I hope I have earned the right to comment, having delivered exercises for organizational improvement over the past 25 years and working in a global marketplace for ideas for impact. In addition to the blogging and presentations, I sell and support a number of team development exercises, with one of mine being used extensively by a network of consultants and pretty much generating rave reviews.

A survey among people who have purchased The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding exercise, for example, generated feedback that anchored that the game as Most Excellent. And nearly all of them will confirm that the common team bonding fun “exercises” have little to do with improving the actual interdepartmental collaboration and alignment to shared visions that we can accomplish with the exercise. Most of our users are a highly experienced group, with 70% using 6 or more different team building exercises in their organizational development work.

You can download a full summary of results by clicking on the link below:
Dutchman Survey Results Summary

But it is amazing how many companies will choose to do something fun over something impactful, apparently feeling that since people are so pressured from working, that spending fun time at Dave and Busters or going go-kart racing will somehow make a difference. If that is true, I would love to see some actual data supporting that belief.

I am not a troll on things like this; it is just seeing that better alternatives to a lot of the choices being made about “doing some teambuilding” will not actually generate any results and actually set the stage for executives to believe that all teambuilding has no real impacts on results.

Here is Scott helping Mrs. Claus and the elves make improvements to Santa's wagon

My focus for years has been on people and performance, and everything I see says that we can improve teamwork and collaboration and that we can improve employee engagement and innovation and have all kinds of positive impacts on organizational results. We need to simply choose to make a difference and do something 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.

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

 

We believe that GOOD teambuilding can generate real change and improved results by making people more aware of their decision-making and their choices and collaborative behavior. Here are some additional thoughts and statistics from our survey of users about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine:

We asked a really tough T/F question:

LDGM is the best exercise I know of to work with senior managers on issues of strategy, alignment, and organizational collaboration.”

Fully half (53%) said this was TRUE! (Only 9 people said this was False, which given the highly experienced and global nature of our users, is pretty fantastic. We are NOT the most expensive exercise out there, just apparently the best value!.)And comments were uniformly supportive of our design, packaging and pricing.

Another tough question and positive response was this one: 30 people (55%) responded that Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is “the best overall team building exercise I have used.” For such an experienced user-base, this was outstanding!

Fully 100% of users would recommend the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine game to others for purchase and use, with 63% saying they would recommend it to ANY trainer or consultant.

As to value, two-thirds of users (64%) strongly agreed that the purchased of the exercise represented an excellent value to their organizations and 11 merely agreed, with 5 people sharing a neutral response.

The exercise was designed to be useful for organizational development, alignment, leadership and teambuilding. It was designed for impact.

  • Fully 7 in 10 agreed or strongly agreed that the simulation was effective in generating observable, “desired changes in behavior after the session ended, back on the job.” One person disagreed.
  • 96% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that, “the exercise linked well to our issues of workplace collaboration and performance management” with two people being neutral.
  • As to, “representing the Best Value for a teambuilding exercise in the global marketplace,” 21 people strongly agreed and 16 others agreed of 52 registered responses, or 71% of our users.

Again, we framed that question up as a real test of perceived value and even the neutral responses were supportive! It seems we are doing pretty well out there, and no one would actually name an exercise they thought was better than ours.

We asked some tough questions and we got some great answers.

If you are looking for a real team building exercise, one that does the building a lot more than it focuses on “bonding” like so many other exercises in the marketplace, check out our simulation. It is powerful and yet inexpensive.

After all, fully three quarters of our users felt it represented a Best Value in the global marketplace of tools for organizational improvement and communications.

a team building simulation exercose

We think that companies can accomplish real teambuilding, if they focus on it and use good tools. And we stand 100% behind our tools,

For the FUN of It!

Monkeys, Management and Motivation – Simple Ideas

Ah, the Internet… And StumbleUpon. Blogs. And research on behavior. And Creative Genius. And themes of leadership and productivity and employee motivation.

I love it when it all comes together…

Way back in 2012, what seems like at least a decade ago, I was reminded of the monkey metaphor of William Onchen (HBR, originally in 1974!), who wrote about their management, care and feeding. Solid stuff.

Dan Rockwell, in his most excellent Leadership Freak blog, reminded me of some of that today. He talked around “whose monkey is it” and framed up the pronouns in a way to get you to pay more attention to what is being said. There are three different ways to listen to the discussion and the pronouns you use in discussing that little critter:

  1. ‘You’ – The monkey stays in their zoo. They own the issue. Responsibilities are theirs.
  2. ‘We’ – The monkey is a shared. “We will fix this.” Responsibilities are shared. Beware of adding unnecessary layers of complexity by sharing too many monkeys with team members.
  3. ‘I’ – The monkey moves to your cage. You own this issue. Responsibilities are yours.

And my curiosity caused me to click on a “Cognitive Science” link on StumbleUpon 3 years ago because it showed the following (copied with permission) research and metaphor.

article on managing monkeys by scott simmermanIn his article, the story about the situation and the behavior continues. In mine, I think you probably get where I am headed…

A key point is behavior and to consider how certain workplace behaviors get started and maintained.

The behavior of a group of monkeys is sustained by the organizational culture and the environment around it, and probably not even by any consequence system that still exists.I think that the behaviors generated years ago are often still in place and continuing to influence teamwork and collaboration and even best practices.

Jason Wells talks about the concept of  filiopietism, or the reverence of forebears or tradition carried to excess, but prefers another term: the tragic circle. (He moved his site but you can see his illustrations by clicking on this link The Lesson of the Monkeys )

And I agree. He links the concept to the behaviors of societies, and I think that the concept links even more directly to workgroups where there are extrinsic rewards and punishers for specific behaviors.

There are many such practices in workgroups that get carried on long after the original event. Techs at a car dealership client of mine would all yell, “What?” when one of them would yell out, “Hey, Stupid!”My guess is that a manager, once upon a time, was calling for one of them and yelled out the phrase and it just got established as a little “reminder ritual” for all of them (including the actual good-guy manager!!).

Most people in most workplaces are UN-Engaged. Why? You can’t know precisely, even when you look at it from all different kinds of angles. There are all kinds of local reasons. My take on it is that dis-engagement is being caused by something, maybe something that is inadvertent, but still a causal factor acting in the environment. It might be something as simple as “a banana” — the issue of some loss of trust or some shared negative corporate memory. And until we address the root cause, it will continue. Nothing will improve and little will change over time. The monkeys will simply continue to sit there…

uncontrolled impacts of extrinsic rewardsSure, one “Senior Corporate Leadership Answer” to the Monkey Problem is to get all NEW monkeys and start all over but that is a costly and difficult solution to implement. And some of the thinking may still carry over during that transition. Some organizations actually do that, moving from one place to another to shake things up and get new people.

But a more better simple alternative is to engage them (the people participants) in some discussions about what and why and look for new alternatives that can be implemented or problems that can be addressed that simply reinforce the situation at hand. So, “Yes, we have no bananas” (audio – vocal starts at 1:10, from 1923 (history) ), but we do have people who have a level of commitment to performing.

We need to do some serious Dis-Un-Engagement in the workplace, working with teams to identify the things that are getting in the way of people being engaged and actively removing them from the situation. Doing the precise same things, introducing one new monkey after another, will not make any difference.

Our new facilitation training for supervisors shares a straightforward approach for dealing with such issues and opportunities. You can see our approach, which uses my metaphor for Square Wheels at:

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance ManaagementThe tool is focused on discussing issues and opportunities, and the approach is to generate open discussion of the things that could work better, the issues of the culture and visions, and the generation and implementation of better ideas. It focuses on asking and listening and on generating ownership involvement,

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

 

Are Managers simply BAD or is it the Workplace

This will be a short post, with a link to a solid article and one illustration.

Gallup had an article that is depressing: www.gallup.com/businessjournal/200108/damage-inflicted-poor-managers.aspx

It is about the DAMAGE caused by bad managers. It is a short but hard read, saying in part:

Managers who don’t know how to meet the engagement needs of their team become a barrier to employee, team and company performance.

And a disturbingly high percentage of managers around the world are not meeting the needs of their employees. Actively disengaged employees (24%) outnumber engaged employees (13%) by nearly 2-to-1, according to Gallup — implying that at the global level, work is more often a source of frustration than fulfillment.

If work looks like this, which it seems to, can’t we actually DO SOMETHING to change the rope? Can’t we make things more involving and engaging by simply asking people for their ideas for improvement?

The Square Wheels Project image on perception by Scott Simmerman

That is what we are trying to teach with The Square Wheels Project: a simple facilitation process to allow supervisors to ask for ideas for 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.

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

 

Santa’s Square Wheels Performance Improvement Poem

A special Holidays greeting to you with the hope that an illustrated “Getting Santa Rolling” poem might add a touch of fun to your days.

Each year at this time, my little company sends out a seasonal greeting anchoring to either our Square Wheels illustrations around engaging people in making improvements or to our Lost Dutchman game about collaboration and teamwork. This year, it’s the Square Wheels theme that is the poem’s focus since after 25 years of using original line art we’ve transitioned to using LEGO images for a more playful representation of, “How most organizations really work.”

Since other mailings have gone out to my contacts in LinkedIn and to our subscribers, apologies if you get this twice. We would simply like to wish you the best for a great year ahead and for your having some positive impacts on the people around you. Here is what we had to say about getting Santa rolling this year:

A santa square Wheels poem

Getting Santa Rolling….
 Santa One
Things look too bumpy for Santa, his Elves and Reindeer!
How they’ll get flying with those Square Wheels isn’t clear.
Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott SimmermanSanta, ask your teams to stop & look in their “wagon”
As solutions exist there that’ll keep it from draggin’.Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman

Then the Elves and Reindeer could quite easily share
Their ideas for how things could work better there.

Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott SimmermanBy Asking and Listening you’ll most surely generate
Engagement and motivation leading them to innovate!

Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Their Round Wheel thinking will give them insight
into how to implement to make things quite right.
 Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Then all will gleefully rejoice as Christmas time arrives
Knowing their Round Wheel ideas got Santa in the skies!
Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Those Square Wheels exist everywhere, you’ll see,
But the Round Wheels are reachable—ab-so-lute-ly!
Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Managers who involve workers with positive intent
Offer everyone involved a gift of empowerment!
Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman

“Getting Santa Rolling” aligns with our mission to support Supervisors, Managers and Leaders with simple tools for facilitating improvements leading to a happier and better workplace.

If you’re interested in strengthening your facilitation skills, you can do that easily through online learning and support by joining The Square Wheels Project where you’ll receive self-paced learning and materials for making a positive difference in your workplace. Check it out here:

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

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

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

WHAM! The Square Wheels Guy sees a Round Wheel

I shared this story with a couple of associates last night and both said I should blog about it. The situation is where some guy (me) who deals in Square Wheels and Round Wheels finally makes an improvement because he finally sees something as a Square Wheel, something operating that way for almost a year. Seriously…

My house has one room set up as an image production area and we got some green screen cloth and used a 5 foot by 3 foot table as the base on which to set up our various Square Wheels scenarios and images. We have good lighting sources and a tripod for using my iPhone to take pictures. We even have a remote control so we can keep the camera still while we do some stop-motion movies. (We will start publishing some animations in January – an amazing fun way to be creative and get some key learning points across.)

Santa flying with elves watching and Round Wheels on the Square Wheel sled

Anyway, I thought that we had production down to what was a science. Simple set up, hit some light switches and get out the iPhone, with auto upload to the cloud and downloading to my computers. Neat!

But there were small problems. In some shots where we had wider images, like with Santa and the reindeer plus some elves at the back, we were getting the sides of the screen to come into view at the back. That resulted in me having to move LEGO more toward the back to control the angles and image quality.

On Thursday, Joan and I were shooting Santa shots (new poem will be published) and I sat there and heard voices in my head saying, “Why don’t we rotate the table so that it changes from 3′ wide and 5′ long to being a more usable 5′ wide and 3′ long?”

Why was it 3 x 5? Because the table fit neatly along the 5 foot wall to the left and we had a light box sitting on the table when we first started. But then we moved the table away from the wall when we went from shooting within the box to a back-screen open arrangement. We kept changing backgrounds, raised the height of the table and did other things but we never bothered to rotate the table. It worked as it was, but it did not work smoothly. It took 5 minutes to make a really useful fix…

My own Square Wheels metaphor winds up whacking me in the side of the head. A better solution has been there for MONTHS, but I simply could not SEE it because I was used to the way it was working, Neither Chris nor Joan saw it either, and Chris helped me with all the initial set up and has taken half the pictures.

Square Wheels Image production facility The Square Wheels Project

The message and key learning point is simple:

The Round Wheels are already in the wagon.

Improvement often just requires us to stop, step back, and LOOK for ideas to make things better, rather than simply doing the same thing over and over and somehow expecting better results.

I do TRY to live my own metaphor and look for those Round Wheels.
But apparently, “not always,”

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

Nothing Made Sense – Charter Spectrum Customer Service

I was not intending to blog again today. But this is insane! And I have to vent about customer service — emphasizing the cuss part of that more than the service part, of course.

(Addendum – Read what I added to the bottom because the circus clowns called Charter Spectrum continue to shock and amaze… New text will be in purple.)

Addendum to the addendum – Amber was an outstanding customer service rep who handled the followup call to install the TV nicely. But she also added $10 to the bill because of the SC taxes and stuff, something that I asked specifically about with Shannon, the rep mentioned below — who said the total would be $88. Paying $1000+ a year for TV and internet DOES put all this out of the reach of many in our society, too. Sad that everything has to be for-profit in the US. Estonia has free internet for its people…

Let me lead with Joseph Heller’s quote, “Nothing made sense and neither did anything else.”

Charter Spectrum Service Quality Image

The hour begins with my cellphone ringing. An unknown 877 number. I answer. Long pause and a guy comes on to tell me that my Charter Spectrum account is overdue and they are going to turn off my cable service. I actually have a bill on my desk and was going to call them about this, but calling is always an interesting Square Wheels process given their “automated customer calling direction systems” are so user unfriendly, so good they called me.

He tells me that $48 is overdue.

I ask him if this account was not already set up for Auto-Pay, the automatic deduction from my credit card. Oops. It is!! It has been set up to be paid automatically.

And, it is actually going to automatically pay tomorrow — and it was set up over 6 weeks ago. (Actually, it was set up in October but they screwed it up and needed to set it up again.) “So,” I ask him, “what do we do right now?” He says no action is needed. (Ha! Keep reading!)

Charter (now trying to operate as Spectrum because the name Charter carries so much negative service quality baggage, I guess. Note that I have blogged before and done illustrations to complain about them!!) also sent me a letter that my promotional rate on my internet was going up from $40 to $60. So, While Charter on my mind, I called them.

For $27 more, I can add a DVR and their TV service. I talk about this with Shannon. There is also a $37 service call fee that I did get her to mention. So, I ask her to waive that and she looks at her current promotional offerings and then tells me that because my account is (still) being dunned even though she sees that it IS set to auto-pay tomorrow, I will need to call them back!!!

I am also smart enough to think to ask WHEN I should call, because they will not handle anything until auto-pay happens and the account is reset. I HAVE TO CALL THEM AGAIN, go through the whole automated menu, get another rep, explain all the stuff again, etc. They do NOT have my main phone number listed on this account so I have to give all the address info, etc. Seriously, I ask. Yes, she says.

(This is one of those situations where artificial intelligence and robotics are most certainly more capable than some human being trying to operate within a “customer service billing system” that totally sucks. A somewhat intelligent robot with systems access should do this easily — they will not allow their people to do intelligent things, apparently throughout history given Charter’s sterling reputation for absolutely horrible customer service.)

So, I made a note to call them tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully one call. Hopefully some installer who knows what he is doing.

And then, maybe the equipment will work reliably. They replaced 4 or 5 other DVRs over the course of a year the last time I had that service.

Charter Spectrum Customer Service. Can four words be considered an oxymoron? And why do we give them a monopoly over this service? Why isn’t the internet run by the government and free to all citizens like it is in so many other developed countries? Estonia has free internet, for god’s sake…

The Square Wheels are everywhere. Some companies are really good with their customer service and their service quality management systems. But Charter / Spectrum is a monopoly and they got you because the government allows them to get you. Pretty awful.

And something even training cannot improve, since the issues are systemic to how they choose to run their business. This is one company where I look forward to artificial intelligence and smart robotics replacing how they do the job now.

Addendum – Well, I have not made that second call to Customer Service yet today to add the TV and see if they will waive that installation fee. It will be interesting.

But these clowns DID call me again with their call director 877-number, with me answering and then waiting while they decided to connect me to someone after 4 or 5 interminable seconds.

That clown representative then told me that auto-pay was scheduled for today, and nothing else, like that was good customer service.

I relayed some recent customer history and some quite candid thoughts about their service quality (using the CUSStomer Service language they so deserve) and actually asked him about the actual benefit to this call for me, as in the fact that I had a similar call from them 24 hours before (see above for details!).

But I DID ask to be transferred to Customer Service and they put me, not directly to a service person, but back into their Call Director, which actually did recognize my phone number and which then automatically gave me my account information, including the balances and past due amounts that Charter Spectrum is simply so fond of sharing.

I eventually got a representative (not representing me but representing them), and he did NOT get the phone recognition so I needed to give him all the account verification information (address and secret  security word and all that) AGAIN.

Since they had my cell phone in my account, I wanted them to change that to my landline so that when I call from my desk again later today, it would recognize who I am (maybe). We will see if that works when I call them again later this afternoon.

HOW can any company work so hard to be so absolutely awful. Their systems and processes can so easily be replaced by artificial intelligence, which I hope happens soon to them. They also wanted me to take a customer service survey after my call. It would be about the rep, of course, and not the company because they do not seem to be very focused on the customer experience overall and only want a hammer to hold over the head of their people. At least that is how it appears.

The Clowns. That is what they should have renamed the company,
Clown Cable Systems.

And, just imagine them operating with an, “If we suck, it’s FREE!” kind of service quality guarantee like many companies do these days. Just imagine…

(Installation call set up – scheduled for 20 hours after today’s call to purchase the TV / DVR. I also asked for a NEW DVR box, since the refurbished ones of the past each seem to last about 2 months before their catastrophic failure – 5 replacements in one year last time I have Charter TV… Also funny is that the call goes into Spectrum, but completing the rep service quality survey gets a thank you from “Charter” and not Spectrum.)

Lastly, I am framing up a novel about the implementation of AI and robotics and the human factors involved in implementation and the thought I just had was that my main character, Brad, will get a HUGE insight into something he can do differently as he goes through an installation experience like mine with SPECTUM Cable Clowns, something that he can see he needs to do differently to impact his people and performance issues…  Not quite sure what it IS yet, but that will be the catalytic moment for a key insight… Got an idea? Share it in the comments.

 

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

 

 

 

Monday Morning Square Wheels and other thoughts

Here is our new framework for considering how things really seem to work in most organizations, this one done as a paradoxical joke that might take a second. It is also something for consideration about the perception of reality:

Square Wheels LEGO one-liner by Scott Simmerman of The Square Wheels Project

 

Here are two of my most useful quotes:

Nothing made sense, and neither did everything else. 
     (Joseph Heller, from his book “Closing Time,“ (1994) )

It is not possible to awaken someone who is pretending to be asleep.
(Navajo proverb).

1callosamia————

Caterpillars can fly, if they just lighten up. Thus, be the caterpillar or the butterfly, but always watch out for the birds and expect changes because we go through cycles of existence. 

If you can’t be kind to others, at least have the decency to be vague.

Indecision is a key to flexibility.
A decision made is an opportunity for flexibility missed.
Thus, flexibility is a key to indecision.

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” — Marcel Proust

“In Paris, they simply stared when I spoke to them in French. I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language.”  
– Mark Twain

Some thoughts on Flying:
Keep thy airspeed up, lest the earth come from below and smite thee.

Basic Flying Rules:

  1.  Try to stay in the middle of the air.
  2.  Do not go near the edges of it. (The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.)
  3.  Strive to keep the number of successful landings made equal to the number of take-offs you’ve made.

If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it. And borrow money from pessimists, since they do not expect you to pay it back.

Some managers choose to be rock solid in their commitment to flexibility. Some drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle. 

“That’s like asking the vegetables how to design a refrigerator.” (An actual quote I heard a company president make when asked about the idea of employee involvement. Really!)

 

The dome on Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, conceals a billiards room. Billiards were illegal in Virginia when Jefferson lived…

The term “devil’s advocate” comes from the Roman Catholic church. When 20 of the church’s most important convene in deciding if someone should be sainted, a devil’s advocate is always appointed to give an alternative view.

Management in some companies reminds me of 5,000 ants on a log floating down the river with each ant pretending they are steering and that they know where they are going. But it is not their fault, it is simply the result of their perceptions about how things work.

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

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

Check out The Square Wheels Project, our LMS for teaching Square Wheels facilitation skills to supervisors and managers.

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

What is Negative Reinforcement, a Square Wheels Innovation Framework

The key point here is that removing Square Wheels has widespread, natural systemic reinforcing impacts for improving organizational results. It is a direct and simple way to impact results, everywhere.

I am a behaviorist from way back, getting one of those doctorate thingies and playing with “behavioral engineering” back in the late 70s and working with people like Tom Gilbert and Ed Feeney and Ken Junkins. The main approach was to identify critically leveraged, high-impact behaviors and then set up mechanisms to implement changes systemically, to give performers self-reinforcing feedback that enables performance improvement. It was an interesting and effective approach that certainly has applications today in so many situations. (More on feedback here)

Feedback is all about alignment and engagement, since it focuses on giving people the information they need to be high performers. It focuses on best practices and things that can be improved with focus.

We see a LOT of this in many of the gamification approaches to accelerated learning and training in general.

In reading an excellent whitepaper on gamification in general, there was some confusion in using the term “negative reinforcement” that I thought might be useful for a blog, since it does share some different enlightening information. I even did an illustration that anchors it and shows why it would have a positive impact.

Negative reinforcement is commonly used as an alternative phrase meaning punishment.

They are NOT the same. There are three things here:

  1. Positive reinforcement works when some behavior occurs and it results in a positive outcome or response, positive from the viewpoint of the individual or the team. Positive reinforcement increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring in the future.
  2. Punishment works when some behavior occurs and a negative outcome or response occurs. Punishment reduces the likelihood of that behavior occurring in the future. It is a negative outcome.
  3. Negative reinforcement works when some behavior occurs and it results in the removal of some aversive stimulus of some kind. The removal, contingent on the behavior, causes an INCREASE in the behavior. It is a positive outcome.

There are a lot of issues involved in any stimulus / response situations. There are intrinsic rewards and extrinsic rewards and contingent and non-contingent rewards and a whole lot of “past experience” operating to determine impacts. Perceived (non-actual) links between stimulus and response can generate superstitious behaviors (article here) such as blowing on dice or wearing lucky hats.

Intrinsic rewards are personal to people while extrinsic ones (like money) are added and can generate all sorts of unpredicted impacts. (more on extrinsic rewards here and here ). Candidly, I do NOT like extrinsic rewards, since most set up competition and generate both winners as well as losers. Many people (as many as 40%) have also learned that they never win, so why even try.

So, why does generating a discussion about Square Wheels® work so well to generate motivation and engagement? Why is it so bombproof as a tool for organizational development and innovation? Because it works something like this:

Negative Reinforcement and Square Wheels and intrinsic motivation

By removing some Square Wheels, the things that work but do not work smoothly, and replacing them with Round Wheels, you do the workers the favor of helping them remove some of the aversive aspects of their work and workplace. This increases the likelihood they will repeat the behaviors, both individually and collectively. You build teamwork, alignment, and collaboration and you improve communications and you get positive actions like these:

Intrinsic Motivation, Square Wheels and LEGO by Scott Simmerman

You get to go #morebetterfaster.

tswp-logo-for-chris-for-newsletter-2

 

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

 

 

It’s about Perspective Opportunity, People!

Perception. Breakfast of Champions.

Or some such thing. Stepping back from the wagon to look for opportunities is such a more effective strategy than putting one’s head down and bemoaning all the things that are wrong.

What you see is all there is. So why not choose to look at things differently and go #morebetterfaster?

Daniel Kahneman quote on a Square Wheels image by Scott Simmerman

Our Square Wheels Project is designed to generate those ideas for workplace improvement from the wagon pushers. It is about facilitating different perspective ideas about issues and opportunities.

Check it out and let us know how we can support your performance improvement, engagement, innovation and motivational improvement initiatives,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

 

Choose Rolling over Rocking

Below are two images that represents one of those simple contemplation ideas or thoughts on life, just for consideration as to personal or organizational innovation and improvement. The first one is a giveaway, but the second one is a paradox. Maybe, for learning possibilities, I should have reversed the order, but then people will probably just skip by and ignore this opportunity…

The impetus came when I got a Creative Whack Pack (1992) last night. I flipped through it and thought I need to do a card deck around the many dozens of our Square Wheels LEGO images as a tool for some creative thinking on implementing improvements as well as innovating solutions to workplace realities. (We’ve been using images as creative thinking tools since we first started playing with Square Wheels® One back in 1993. That has been a most interesting journey.)

So, from that review of the card deck framework, I started generating two new “posters” around people and performance:

Square Wheels image for The Square Wheels Project on innovationThe reality is that both Square Wheels® and Round Wheels already exist. Square Wheels are exceptionally common, a daily occurrence actually, since so many systems and processes simply do not work well — but so few people seem to understand that things can be fixed and improved. Few things out there seem to work smoothly and continually and continuous continuous improvement is an organizational reality. But people also resist change when they believe things are working.

The Square Wheels Project is our course focused on improving the facilitation skills and engagement competencies of managers. All sorts of statistics point to this as an organizational issue worldwide, to the reality that engagement is awful in many places, and the the issues that motivation and innovation are critical to long term success. But it is NOT just about identifying problems. It is about implementing solutions and that is often impossibly hard without the active support of the people doing the job.

Identifying issues is a critical issue for innovation - cartoon for The Square Wheels Project

It is not simply the identification of the problems, it is the implementation of  solutions that is critical to success and the involvement and engagement of the workforce. And how one actively involves and engages people in change is the key. That is a SKILL. It is not accomplished from yelling and telling or by people simply using power to try to influence — that just generates resistance. We see that in all kinds of statistics (low engagement, lack of respect, employee turnover, etc.)

Performance Management Company has been supporting workplace issues of people and performance since 1984. We offer simple teambuilding tools and the Square Wheels® themed tools for engagement and change management, to keep things straightforward and simple.

If we can provide some support, let us know,

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 Certificate of Achievement from Drumpf University

Well, I read an article today about giving those people who enrolled and who paid for their education at Trump University some kind of recognition. Two months ago, I registered on the Dudism website and downloaded a Certificate of Ordination in the Church of The Latter Day Dude. Yeah, serious stuff… But I did get some recognition and a certificate of “accomplishment.”

certificate of ordination in church of the latter day Dude - for Dudism

With that under my belt, I decided to roll forward.

And in the bright light of all that is happening out there, I thought that I might offer up a supporting Certificate for:

  • those who enrolled in Trump University,
  • those who thought they might have enrolled there, or
  • those who should have enrolled there but did not have the money.

(Or even those who never heard of it but wanted a degree from “a university,” even though it was unregistered.) Whatever…

Since there was apparently little learning actually transferred, I thought that ANYONE who thinks they might deserve a certificate get one for similar effort and transfer of learning and knowledge. And MINE is FREE!!

So, below is a full-size, reprintable Certificate that you can have, even though you did not give them any money or receive any value. They call this quid pro quo or some such thing, right? And, heck, it is Saturday night and it is almost Christmas!

drumpf-trump-university-certificate

Feel like you are making progress!

And, if you want a real education to improve your facilitation skills, please visit us at The Square Wheels Project, where we will share some solid group facilitation skills and perspectives and actually give you some tools you can use to improve engagement and innovation in your workgroup. OURS is a serious learning project and, YES, you will earn a Certificate of Completion along with some badges for accomplishments like supporting other people.

poster-tswp-take-a-walk-wild-side

If you think you should share The Square Wheels Project with your manager, or if you want to connect them with us, please do. Or, heck, give him or her their own Certificate of Honest Completion,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2014 butterflyDr. 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. He is a CPF and CPT and holds a doctorate in behavioral neuropsychology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Scott is co-Founder of The Square Wheels Project.

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 People and Performance is here.

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

 

Thrive Global – and a message for Supervisors everywhere

It was interesting to read Arianna Huffington’s post,  “Welcome to Thrive Global.” As I read her thoughts, I could not help thinking of what we are trying to accomplish with The Square Wheels Project.

She writes, “Thrive Global is based on the truth that work and life, well-being and productivity, are not on opposite sides — so they don’t need to be balanced. They’re on the same side, and rise in tandem. Increase one and you increase the other. So there’s nothing to balance — increasing well-being and the productivity that goes along with it is a win-win, for work and life.”

Agreed. So. let me start with my model of how things really work in most organizations and the question I always ask to gain insights into perceived issues and beliefs:

Square Wheels - how things really work

I feel very strongly that there are parallel paths between thriving and involving / engaging others in a way that has so many positive impacts on life balance. Her ideas focus on all the negative impacts of burnout, including her own, on people and she does a series of biopic stories about perceived issues and the reality that things must change. Her audience seems to be entrepreneurs and senior executives.

My audience are supervisors and workers, the front-line managers who are focused on the performance and productivity issues and the workers who feel the often unnecessary stresses brought down on them by managements. The Square Wheels Project wants to improve the quality and effectiveness of those interactions by improving simple communications and facilitation skills. We want the front-line workers everywhere to have more of a sense of ownership involvement in what they do, more pride in their work and their contributions to their teams.

The Square Wheels Project and Thrive

So much research shows that people do not need to be bossed to produce excellent results. W. Edwards Deming wrote about these factors from the perspective of improving quality and innovation. His works then tended to be interpreted to focus on quality, and to measure it to death with initiatives like ISO 9000 and its successors that demand tight standards of production consistency but not so much involvement of the creativity and motivation of people in that quest for perfection (or at least standardized results!). Those initiatives are not about innovation,

Huffington’s models are successful top people: “… we need new role models, and The Thrive Journal will bring you examples of leaders in business, sports, media, entertainment, and technology who are proving that taking care of ourselves, far from detracting from success, enhances productivity and creativity.” (She lists Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, JPMorgan CEO Kelly Coffey, etc.).

As she writes, some of the issues are around training, but my guess is that little of that training will affect the people at the front lines and, like Senge’s “Learning Organization” approach to improvement, it will focus mostly on the middle and top managers with the hope that it trickles down to the workers.

As she says, “The science is clear and conclusive: when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, our creativity, our productivity and our performance dramatically improve across the board. And one of the goals of The Thrive Journal is to bring you the latest science from leading experts around the world….”

Excellent! But how much will impact the broader numbers of supervisors in the world and when might we expect that to occur. Like economic trickle down, the answer is, “most likely never.” Will workers ever see any impacts from those efforts?

She wants a focus on “…changes in your life by giving you concrete, actionable tips laid out in five pathways: Calm, Joy, Purpose, Well-Being, and Productivity.”

Wouldn’t it be great for workers and supervisors to have some of those same pathways available to them, to have more choice in self-direction and active workplace involvement and to be able to feel better about their contributions to work and to each other?

Our audience is the one that feels much of the pressures from those above them and if those people are stressed, our people are even more stressed because their interests are at the bottom of  Maslow’s Hierarchy of five basic needs and not at the top, like hers but at the bottom, where there is almost a struggle for survival felt by many.

So, I cheer her work but focus on impacts from The Square Wheels Project for having a potentially broader impact. If supervisors of the world can improve the interaction with their people, if they can get them more aligned, involved, engaged and motivated to make real changes in their own workplaces, much of the stress of managing people should be reduced. There is a lot of research that supports this; our goal is to change some behavior.

In fact, wouldn’t it be neat if some of these wagon pullers at the top could actually connect with those people at the bottom to have real talks about issues and opportunities as they affect that front-line worker. Would it not be really great if those people at the top understood that those wagon pushers are the ones who produce all the work of the organization and who need their support?

Help us!

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

 

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