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Performance Feedback – Breakfast of Champions!

Feedback is a real key to intrinsic motivation and performance management. And most organizations can make big improvements in how people can self-maintain and self-improve if they just stepped back from things and looked at them differently.

Many years ago, we polished up and used a simple 14-point checklist that seemed to hit on the most important aspects of people getting the feedback they need to improve or maintain the highest levels of performance. To some degree, many of the items are a bit unrealistic or idealistic, but they also represent possibilities and reframes and potential things that might be addressed or improved or designed. Some of the items on the list are below, and you can click here to download the pdf file of the checklist and explanations: Analysis of Feedback

1.  Information on performance is based on actual measured accomplishment and not on estimates or opinions about how results were accomplished. Some people may appear to be very busy or doing a good job, especially if you are there watching them. Others may work at a slower pace and not appear to work as hard. Personalities differ and opinions about accomplishments may not reflect actual results. Good measures of results need to be implemented.
2.  Information highlights areas of performance that have quantifiable value to the organization rather than more general areas of preference Be concerned with results that produce bottom-line impacts. Sometimes, we get focused on issues of little or no importance to profits or quality or revenue. While a poor producer may chew gum and come in late, it is better to focus on the productivity than on the gum or lateness.  Feedback should focus on more critical issues.
3.  Performance information routinely goes to the people who do the work, rather than mostly to management.People see summarized results. People need performance data, not just feedback from management. In the absence of specific information, people will often assume that all is okay. Alternatively, some managers may only say something when results are not good, missing on the opportunity to comment positively.  Information on results provides balanced feedback.

Some of the other items are:

13. Data is expressed in a positive way.  This means “results achieved” and accomplishments rather than failures, complaints or errors. Regular negative information (such as error reports) has a tendency to be ignored or debunked and thus become ineffective motivators over time.  People tend to learn ways to avoid the negative as opposed to improving the positive.
14. Information is summarized to interested levels of management to insure recognition of achievement and continued positive involvement of others. Without the observable support of top management, few feedback and performance improvement programs are maintained. Top management will not support programs in the absence of reliable and actionable information. Top managers are generally unlikely to continually request and review information that is not positive and current, reflecting issues of performance related to bottom-line impacts.

In playing with this in workshops over the years, few managers would say that they attained even 8 or 9 of the 14 possibilities, but they were always impacted to consider ways that they could improve the feedback systems, even to go toward simple checklists or other things on a random basis — like a post-customer-contact call list to self-assess if customers were called by name and asked if they had any other questions and if they said they were satisfied with the contact. Stuff like that can be a powerful reminder of things to do and can be intermittent.

Shifting focus, let me address the play of our team building game and how we try to add performance feedback into the play to make it a more powerful learning experience.

In my post on Perfect Play, I shared a bit about how to debrief really good performance. You can see it here.

The idea is around how to motivate performance and build intrinsic motivation.

Rainbow Wagon green 70

The performance situation, briefly, is that tabletops are challenged to “Mine as much gold as We Can” and given resources they need to manage a 20-day journey to the mine and back. They have a variety of choices to make as to resource management, risk, route, information and similar. Once they leave the home base at the bottom left, Apache Junction, they move toward the mine on one of three routes.

LDGM 1 80

Some facilitators just let the groups play. In all of my games, I have a map on an overhead that also has “dots” of some kind that represent each team. Thus, every team can see the location of each team every day. Some teams might stay at Apache Junction for an extra day or two to acquire information, while others might take the high risk, apparently shorter route across the bottom of the map.

Since the goal is to mine as much gold as possible, the more days that teams are able to spend in The Mine (toward the top right), the more gold they get. Since they have to return to Apache Junction by Day 20, we can also see who leaves when and what route they use.

A design feature of the exercise allows for some teams to stay much later in the mine and get back twice as fast, This becomes VERY evident when a few teams return on Day 18 while other teams have just left the mine. The former, who are often a bit information-starved or resource-deprived because of their choices, see this discrepancy and this generates their conversations about how this is possible and what they might have done differently.

By the time we get to the debriefing, they already know what they could have chosen to do differently and the role of the facilitator is to bridge that information from the play of the game into the realities of the workplace and the issues of alignment, information sharing, collaboration and optimization of results.

Because of the map, I think we set up a neat little situation of cognitive dissonance and thus the motivation of the lower performing teams to discover these unknown best practices. At the same time, the map reinforces the higher-performing teams for the planning and collaboration that they did during play that helped them perform at a higher level.

My personal belief is that this feedback – the visual aspect of the map and the movement and performance of each team — helps generate a more effective debrief.

In the workplace, we have higher performing individuals and average and poor performers. If we make the performance a bit more obvious, and make the tools that are used (best practices) better-known and understood, we should be able to create these same kinds of gaps in actual and desired results, lending to better intrinsic motivation and self-directed improvement.

I may be wrong, but I do not think so. I think we can help people perform better, build teamwork and esprit de corps, and make the workplace a more engaging place.

You might also find this article on Managing Flow to be of interest:  high_performance_team_flow

Scott Debrief

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

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

Feedback – And Performance and Management Techniques

I am stimulated to write this after reading an email from Mark Murphy at Leadership IQ. Basically, what Mark is talking about is the whole issue of giving people compliments on their work. And I really disagree with his premise in some simple ways.

Mark wrote:

Please Stop the Compliment Sandwich

What is a Compliment Sandwich? Well, beyond being one of the worst management techniques ever invented, it’s a way of trying to criticize somebody without making them feel bad. Basically, you give somebody a compliment, then you criticize them, then close with a compliment.

Here’s how one training company describes the Compliment Sandwich process (this is so absurd it would be hysterical, if only it weren’t offered seriously):

  1. Decide where your employee needs to improve his/her performance.
  2. Think of something they do very well related to the situation. For instance, if you think that they are always late, try how they get straight to work once they arrive, or how they volunteer to stay late).
  3. Choose another positive point to remark on. This should be very loosely related to the above point.
  4. Deliver the first compliment. “Hey, Jon. Already deep in your work? Wow, you just got here!”
  5. State where you would like to see improvement. “It is almost 9:50, though; you’ve been late a lot recently…maybe you need to find a way to miss that morning traffic.”
  6. Finish with the last compliment. “Oh, by the way, your car looks fantastic!”

Scott’s thinking is somewhat different, in that I feel that compliments can be a positive PART of performance feedback, but that it should not represent the major component:

Where I beg to differ is that the so-called Compliment Sandwich is sure an awful lot better than the Critical Construct or the Negative Hammer or the Godzilla Meets Bambi approach of some managers who can find little or NOTHING positive to say about an individual’s performance and offer their “Constructive Criticism” as a constant way to involve and motivate people for performance improvement.

Samuel Goldwyn probably typified that approach, given he said:

“When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”

Goldwyn was probably not the most involving and engaging managers we’ve ever seen but he did head MGM movie studios and certainly “managed people.” There are LOTS of other such “leaders” who would have been a lot better if they had sandwiched their criticism with a few positives now and then, in my opinion. Pointy-Haired_BossThink Dilbert cartoons and the pointy-haired boss that everyone can identify with…

Most people would find some positive recognition to be useful. And managers should, most assuredly, offer some feedback and advice on when the performance is not up to standard and needs to be corrected. What we sometimes see is managers avoiding those people who are hard to deal with, and this greatly affects the overall workforce. Better a screaming match with the worst performer and bad actor than paying them more money for each unit of work, insofar as how it affects the overall work team.

My suggested approach is around building strong performance feedback systems so that performers themselves know how they are doing on critical performance issues. I write about that and offer a feedback analysis checklist on this blog post:

Performance Feedback! Breakfast of Champions

I also suggest facilitated work improvement discussions around the themes of building performance improvement teams and teamwork among people in the workgroup. Since most people are un-engaged, why not facilitate some discussions about what roadblocks need to be addressed and what best practices need to be shared and supported. I call that Engagimentation or Dis-Un-Empowerment and you can read about some of those ideas by clicking the linked text above.

Mark is selling a seminar. Me, I am just saying that things could be a lot worse (and they ARE a lot worse) in a lot of workplaces. The statistics clearly indicate that reality. Boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory.

Yet bosses can see the future and can coach and mentor and can provide effective motivational feedback to assist people in transformation. It is a reframing and a re-anchoring of perception to the core of behavior and desired change and improvement.

It is about seeing potential and acting upon it:

Mentoring Coaching haiku

So, continue to make things better by allowing your people to make things incrementally better and recognize and reward those improvements with your specific comments,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

Stupidly Simple Thoughts on Employee Engagement

It took me about two seconds to come up with the title for this post, after looking at a number of different posts around ideas for engagement and ideas for improving performance this morning. I put up a couple of things on my scoop.it page on Employee Engagement and I was completing a chapter for a book, so some thinking around the issue was fresh.

the scoop.it page of scott simmermanThere is a lot of writing around what to do and how well things are working. Generally, the information provided by Gallup and Sirota and others suggests that little is actually improving. It begs the question, why not.

My belief is simple: there is not enough effective communications going on between the supervisor and the workers. There is not enough alignment to visions and goals and expectations, not enough or sufficient performance feedback (and I do not mean coaching here — see this analysis) and there is not nearly enough listening or asking questions by the management team.

So, why not?

• Is it task interference? Do the supervisors simply have too little time to devote to listening about issues and opportunities?

• Is it an actual lack of employee interest in what is going on in their workplace?

• Is it the reality of measurement, and that workers just do not have the scheduled time available to them to be in meetings with their boss?

• Is it somehow related to the overall training and development goals of the organization, in that these meetings should be produced and directed by the people in Training and Development or HR and that developmental and coaching discussions with people are not the role of the managers?

• Is it a disconnect between the manager and the supervisor when it comes to themes of productivity and employee retention and performance levels?

I am not really sure, but I do know that the opportunity for improvement absolutely exists and that it IS relatively easy to involve and engage people and get their ideas about workplace improvement and job performance skills and techniques. And I know that we can improve real teamwork and collaboration with this same approach.

Let me illustrate with two simple thoughts, expressed through my Square Wheels® theme and thinking:

Square Wheels illustration about playing with ideas

and then there is this reality:

square wheels illustration on supporting change

Is this really so HARD to accomplish? Aren’t you pretty sure that people have ideas for improvement and will share those ideas in a meeting and discussion? Sure, if the workplace has a poor history of engagement and innovation (“bad managers” abound, the research suggests), you should expect some initial venting of frustration. But most people DO have positive intentions and DO want to have a positive impact on things. They get intrinsic motivation from doing things successfully.

Implementing Round Wheels in a Square Wheels World is not all that difficult to accomplish.

If you don’t believe it, go ask somebody!

And if you are looking for a simple tool to better involve and engage, we just uploaded the new “Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Toolkit” on our website – $25 with instructions and tools.

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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.

Implementing Improvement – Ideas on Brainstorming

“Nobody ever washes a rental car!”

That is my anchor point for doing anything that involves organizational change and improvement. If one is to expect anything to happen, we must insure that there is buy-in and participation and engagement. But how do we actually generate a sense of ownership? Surely, it will not come when we tell people what to do — that only generates resistance (or compliance). It does not involve and engage them in any meaningful way even if they understand the reasons why those changes are being made.

One often hears that we need to “empower” the participants to actually go out and do something. Well, I strongly disagree with that possibly happening – how does one ever empower anyone to actually DO anything if they simply do not want to do it? Coercive measures are not an acceptable alternative in most situations.

(Note: We can generate behavior change by altering the mechanism by which people get feedback on their performance. That is a much better option than working with any kind of extrinsic reward system. Read more about that here and here.)

At the same time, many factors lead me to believe that there are a variety of opportunities for workplace improvement among individuals and among small groups, simply for the asking. There is a strong general motivation to make improvements if people feel the gap between what happens now and what could or should be happening. Cognitive Dissonance is but one framework that supports this framework of generating intrinsic motivation for improvement.

(You can also see a great animation of the concept of DRIVE, as framed by Dan Pink – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc )

But in the workplace in general, and especially in today’s risk-averse and “job enhanced” environments, the real key to rolling forward is not something like feedback or empowerment; I think Dis-Un-Empowerment is what needs to be addressed. We can involve and engage people and help them to identify issues and deal with the implementation of processes that help them manage roadblocks.

Generally, all of us make choices all through each day as to what we will do or not do. We will often choose NOT to do something because we perceive difficulties or perceived roadblocks (example: “He won’t support that idea because he did not support the last idea I had…”).

Most people can think of LOTS of things that would get in the way of implementing some idea or ideas for improvement (“It might be against policy.” “There probably won’t be any support / resources for that.”)

One key role of training (and management and coaching) is to act to REMOVE the perceived or potential roadblocks that are un-empowering to people acting individually or in groups. That can be accomplished by getting pre-ordained support from managers not in the workshop, having managers come into the training session to hear the ideas and manage the roadblocks (and have THEIR roadblocks managed – we know from lots of contacts that many managers and supervisors are more roadblocked than their people!) and for the trainer to have a very good background understanding of what can be done and how it can be accomplished.

One of the things we miss today are trainers with the extensive background in how to implement and then measure the effectiveness of the training in workplace improvement initiatives. There are many factors operating there including pressures of time and cost, which is one of the reasons that outside consultants can often get things accomplished when inside support people  cannot — they also have the power of money and top management support behind them. But that is just a limitation and not a roadblock for the internal consultants.

Knowing how the most successful PAST improvements were  implemented will give good insight into how the next FUTURE improvement might be implemented. There are cultural keys that offer perspective on these kinds of things.

So, how do we get the best results from brainstorming ideas?

Creating a gap between how things are now (Square Wheels thumping and bumping along) and how things could be operating (Round Wheels already exist) is a motivational force. And defining an implementation strategy for making small and continuous changes and improvements clarifies responsibilities often making change and improvement very doable.


But the real key is generating a feeling of ownership involvement. Too many people “rent” their time to an organization and go through the motions of maintaining their employment, rather than buying in to improve workplace improvement. The statistics on engagement and on “ready to leave for a new job elsewhere” are pretty discouraging when viewed from a position of leadership…

Yet most people do want to make a positive impact on the work they do and the workplace around them. They WANT things to be better, if we will let them do so. But they feel little ownership. According to a November 2011 analysis of its database of 5,700 employers representing 5 million employees, human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure.
(I address this in a more recent article on Presenteeism.)

Un-Engagement should concern all of us interested in productivity, people and performance.

You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement by searching the blog. Another article is here. And here is an article on ownership.

What we CAN do is a better job of asking for ideas and generating possibilities for improvement from employees’ ideas. If they feel that they have a part in the issues and involvement in designing solutions, their involvement level will increase. Here are some suggestions and alternatives to simply doing what we do and generating the same results:

1 – Discuss the roadblocks that they feel are getting in the way of improving their performance. (You can find a number of articles of mine around different approaches here.)

2 – Ask them how to improve profitability. It is common that many people do not really consider costs and impacts on a daily basis and asking them to look at these issues might generate some good discussions about the purpose of their efforts in the overall organization.

3 – Discuss the impacts of other organizations on their ability to get things done. While this often tends toward the negative issues, there will also be some positive ones if you probe for them. Best practices of certain individuals in other departments will be seen and can be reinforced. Focusing on what is positive can help you build a better working relationship with other managers, for example, while you also look to address improvement issues.

4 – Get them to “Step Back” and look at their operations as if they were brand new employees and have them comment about what is not clear and what best practices might exist. Or, you can set this up as an accomplishment and chain backwards for things that were improved: “It is 2020 and our department was judged Best in the Business! What did we do that got us that recognition?” This approach tends to minimize roadblocks in their perceptions, since results were fait accompli.

Understand that it is impossible for a manager to have all the answers or to know all the issues. The workplace is really complicated and all sorts of things change on a regular basis. Plus, some people will construct better ways of doing things — Best Practices — that can be identified and shared throughout your workplace. Improvements can be generated by peer support for change.

And think about this:

Dr. Seuss Square Wheels Lego poem image by Scott Simmerman

If you are looking for simple and effective tools to generate involvement and engagement, click on the icon below:

See our new Square Wheels Icebreaker CLICK NOW icon

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

Perfect Play — How can an organization understand what it needs to accomplish to maximize success?

Thirty years of working with organizations may have taught me a couple of things. One is that a sense of teamwork is critical, along with a real understanding of the issues of alignment. Performance feedback is much more important than “reward systems” and extrinsic rewards. And there is no silver bullet about leadership — it is so much about clarity of expectations, required resources to support results, and an understanding of issues and opportunities.

What I want to do herein is to share some simple bullets that I feel link to the issues around optimizing performance. I also included a bunch of links to my other blog posts. My goal is to create one or two “Ah Ha!” moments and provide some ideas and maybe assist you in seeing how you might do one more things better or differently. The key is generating behavioral change and continuous improvement in how things are accomplished.

How does one even start… Let me begin with a key concept that seems to apply everywhere and that is on the framework of involvement and engagement:

Ownership Rental Nobody Toolkit icon 3

Yes, Ownership! If we do not allow people to have a sense of real ownership, we simply cannot realistically expect them to take care of something. That would simply be illogical, as Mr. Spock might say.

The cartoon above actually represents a number of key points that I would like to make:

  • The hard part is getting the wagon to begin to roll downhill. We push that thing uphill a lot more frequently and involving and engaging and building a sense of momentum is often the hard part for getting things moving.
  • If the wagon puller is not expecting things to move faster than they have been moving, or they have not been actively involved in the design and implementation process, they will feel that things are being done TO them and most wagon pullers will resist that, even if it makes good sense to roll forward.
  • We roll along on those very common Square Wheels, which work but do not work smoothly. Square Wheels are Everywhere!
  • Our focus on pushing and pulling will often result in a sense of non-awareness of those Round Wheels that already exist within the wagon, those things that could simply be implemented if we had the time and the tools to do so.

So, one message for anyone leading anyone is pretty darn simple:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz003

Simply stop, stand there, observe and consider. Get out of the way, if that will work. Involve and engage people. Ask for ideas. Talk about what is not working smoothly.

So, one thing that we offer customers is our Square Wheels facilitation toolkits, simple sets of instructions, powerpoint slides and worksheets that enable them to involve and engage people in discussions about what might be improved and how to get those ideas implemented. You can see some of the variety of offerings on our Square Wheels Facilitation Tools pages on the website. You can also read about these ideas on this blog.

In our flagship team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we give teams “sufficient but not excessive resources” along with a challenge to, “Mine as much gold as we can.” We provide them with an attractive vision of the future and a specific goal, immediate feedback about their decisions and the impacts, and allow them to implement their plan for play. Every team does well, but some do “more better” than the others. And we share with them a framework for Perfect Play, what they could have done to optimize results if they had made different choices.

Generally, teams mine between 4 and 9 days of gold. But they could have done better if they made different choices and involved leadership and collaborated more between the different teams:

Perfect Play Game Screen

They could have mined as many as 11 gold. And, as we debrief the game and discuss the decisions and the planning and the inter-table interactions, our goal is to reframe the play of the Dutchman Game into the play of teams in the workplace. We want to open people up to discussing what is motivating and demotivating and what they could choose do do differently.

This can involve discussions and personal choices, as well as team-based effectiveness and

LD Debrief triad 1

LD Debrief Triad 2

I find that “Perfect Play” comes from repetition, from stepping back and looking objectively at what decisions were made, what was accomplished, and what alternatives were available. It comes from having great performance feedback and flow. It comes when people are involved and engaged. And, ideally, playing again and again and repeating the cycle over and over.

When I was working in quality improvement initiatives, we called it,

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz004

Good leaders and top teams are always looking to expand their knowledge and improve their performance and doing the same thing over and over simply produces the same result.

Rat Cage More Better Faster

 

We think our tools and our approach are top-shelf. The materials are easy to use and the cartoons easily generate perspective and involvement. Our team building games are designed to generate the behaviors that link to real workplace performance opportunities and our games such as Collaboration Journey and Innovate & Implement are really easy to play for small groups.

We’ve been selling and supporting Lost Dutchman for 20 years now, with a really great reaction and long-term use by so many people worldwide.

Max DePree - cannot become

Have FUN out there, and see what you can do to generate some Perfect Play in your organization.

square wheels author

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

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

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More on “Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…” “

In March, I posted up a blog on workplace motivation and the issues that surround performance in the average workplace. The subtitle was,  “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…” to reflect the reality that so many people are just not into and aligned with the goals of the organization. This can be caused my many different factors but the end result is the same.

You can view that blog by clicking here

De-motivation seems to happen often in the workplace. It depresses results and has a wide range of side effects on attendance, quality, service, innovation and creativity. For an individual, it may be a sudden thing, where the pin hits the balloon and the worker snaps and decides that they are quitting. Some may resign and walk out right there — like the airplane attendant who grabbed a couple of beers and popped the emergency door to make that spectacular (and illegal) grand departure. Some simply decide that they will continue to show up for work but not quit —  first they will find another job. And sometimes it is simply that the person burns out, gets totally blase about things and just does not care to try very hard anymore. Many managers think it is simply a cost of doing business.

Pin hits balloon sabotage words red

click on image to redirect to zen koan on engagement

In that other blog, I excerpt some of the key thoughts and data points from my longer article about workplace performance, which you can also access. Basically, my solution is to facilitate more involvement and engagement in fixing thing that people commonly see as issues and opportunities for improvement.

Involving and engagind Drawing Board words

click on image for haiku about motivation

I wanted to re-post about this theme of “quitting while working” because I saw an interesting email to me this morning from Leadership IQ. I do not know those people but found that this post seemed to offer good, and slightly different ideas about dealing with this workplace intrinsic motivation issue. Here is what they said:

Middle performers comprise about 70% of your workforce.  Yet they get the least amount of development and consideration.  Managers spend most of their time trying to fix low performers, or enjoying the company of high performers.  So middle performers generally get ignored.There’s also a myth that middle performers are just ‘maxed out’ and can’t become high performers.  While that’s true for about 10% of them, the rest have other reasons for not becoming high performers.What are those reasons?They Don’t Know How
On our employee surveys, only about 40% of employees say “I know whether my performance is where it should be.”  That means about 60% of your folks truly don’t know, and that’s because expectations aren’t clear, there’s not enough (or poorly delivered) coaching, etc.  How can middle performers become high performers when then don’t know what that means?

They Lack Confidence
In some companies, high performers can be placed on a pedestal so high that their accomplishments seem out of reach of mere mortals. Even though many middle performers possess the skills and attitude of a high performer, they simply do not see themselves as having what it takes to make the climb to the top.

Costs Are too High
A common misconception among some middle performers is that being a high performer goes hand-in-hand with being a chronic workaholic. It may be that they have been witness to a few high performers that compulsively feel the need to work, and who, in doing so, embrace long hours and weekends at the office. It may also be that this group of middle performers does not fully understand what the expectations of high performance are, and so imagine that the only way to move to the next level of performance is to trade personal life and outside interests for increased work time.

Benefits Are Too Low
These are the folks that have the skills and attitude of a high performer, and who would be happy to do what it takes to move up to the next level, if only they could see the tangible benefit of doing so. They question each possibility of advancement, and if they foresee no favorable return, suspecting instead that the “rewards” will be factors such as a minimal pay increase, added hassle, and little to no promise of promotion, they turn away from making high performer efforts.

So what can you do? Join us at our upcoming webinar called BRINGING OUT THE BEST IN YOUR MIDDLE PERFORMERS.  

This 60-minute webinar will show you:

  • The 4 types of middle performers in your organization and how you can unlock the potential for each unique type
  • 2 changes you need to make to your leadership style to better unlock the hidden talent of your middle performers
  • How to discover whether a middle performer has “maxed out” their talent or if they’re just not giving 100%
  • 3 psychological factors that cause middle performers to give less than full effort
  • 5 step Career Map that gets your middle performers excited about their career potential
  • 2 ways to set goals that inspire middle performers to grow and develop their untapped potential
  • Why the typical way of praising a middle performer can actually demotivate them and cause them to exert less effort
  • How to give constructive feedback to middle performers in a way that motivates them to strive for superstar performance

I’ve blogged a lot about issues of people and performance. Heck, that is what ALL my writings are about. I think that the knowledge requirement is not one of more training, but of modeling best practices. People in the workplace can choose to help themselves improve if they were more engaged. I write extensively about that and you can see some of my thoughts on improving feedback systems to support higher performance, with a checklist, here.

I am less enthused about doing more skills training than I am on building self-managing work teams who focus on peer support and sharing best practices as an approach to improving results. You can also read some of my thinking on the issue of high performance in this post on Flow. This also addresses issues of confidence and if you design that individual or team’s workplace better, you can generate better performance results.

I am going to sign up for that webinar to see what tools they bring. I am not into the idea that doing a survey is what is needed, since a simple honest and open discussion about issues and opportunities can readily bring out that information as well as generate ideas for improvement. That is what our Square Wheels toolkits are designed to do and they do it well and inexpensively, plus they generate ideas for action.

You Make The Call Pin Balloon Drawing Board

So, I hope that all these ideas are useful to you.

We need to do something differently if we are expecting anything to improve.  At PMC, we sell simple tools with powerful impacts on engagement and innovation. They work because people generate their own ideas and solutions and the simple reality is this:

Nobody ever washes a rental car!

Square Wheels and teambuilding games by Scott Simmerman

Have FUN out there!

Elegant SolutionsDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Elegant solutions to complex problems.

Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

Sabotage, Defense, Engagement and Workplace Collaboration

Here are some issues and statistics and framework around the issue of employee workplace sabotage, which can take many forms, and some relatively straightforward solutions. Overall, the issues of teamwork and peer pressure can work for you, ideally, or can work against you as we frame up below.

The Situation:

Research says people are uninvolved and dis-engaged. Numbers show people are unappreciated and not motivated by extrinsic rewards. Many feel ignored and stagnant, not getting training or feeling that anyone cares. Writers talk about people whining (which I think is because they are not focused on doing anything they think is important) and that they won’t even take all their scheduled vacation days because of job security issues (other post on that here).

Yeah, it sure must be fun to work in a lot of places these days. Plus, we are seeing a lot fewer full time jobs and jobs with benefits and a lot more part-time jobs with no benefits and with variable hours… More and more people are working part-time — Between 2007 and May of this year, the number of part-timers jumped from 24.7 million to 27.5 million. A 2013 Gallup poll shows that one in every 5 workers is now part-time. For many, less than full-time work is creating conflict and all kinds of issues. According to the US Labor Department, as many as 1/3 of all part-timers are involuntary ones.

Reasons are many, but one seems to be “ObamaDodge,” whereby big employers avoid having to give healthcare to people who work less than 30 hours a week to bypass the Affordable Care Act.

Large employers like Regal Entertainment Group (franchise owners of Five Guys, Applebee’s and Denny’s), and the owner of Papa John’s pizza chain and a few other chains have announced plans to side-step new requirements that businesses with over 50 full-time-equivalent employees offer their full-time workers access to a qualified healthcare plan or pay a penalty. (There has been a lot of media and general public pushback, too.)

The healthcare law defines a full-time employee as anyone working more than 30 hours a week, so the boss simply cuts workers’ hours and hires additional part-time staff to make up the difference. Stafford notes that as many as 2.3 million workers across the country are at high risk of having their hours slashed to below the 30-hour mark. Half of retail workers in New York City were part-time, and only 10 percent of part-timers had a set schedule week to week and part-time workers are far more likely to be paid minimum wage (13%) than full-time workers (2%)

When I started a turnaround in my new job as Senior Vice President for a retail company, we had all kinds of issues to deal with, including store manager turnover of about 250% — we did not bother to measure salesperson TO because too many of them were quickly being promoted to store managers. AND, we had millions of dollars in “inventory losses.” Some of that was caused by the chaos and confusion in the stores, and some of it was most certainly THEFT by Employees. They were simply getting even, was the reason most of them gave…

If people feel attacked, we know from history that they will band together to fight back. The reaction of being pushed is to push back and the pin will eventually touch the balloon and things will pop. That is expected.

Pin Hits Balloon red color

The American Psychological Association reports a variety of ailments associated with underemployment, including depression, anxiety, psychosomatic disorders, low subjective well-being and poor self-esteem. There are workplace impacts for those kinds of feelings as they relate to customer service and teamwork with others. Researchers have found that full-time work is critical not only to the mental well-being of workers, but to their physical health as well. A decrease in physical health is another way that forced part-time workers suffer.

Once the group feels like it is being attacked (instead of supported and involved and engaged and compensated fairly), one can often expect that they will circle the wagons and try to defend themselves from the attackers. That is also a signal that all is not well in the workplace and that they are not completely convinced that pulling and pushing the wagon efficiently and effectively is in their best interests. If they run out of bullets, they will head for the hills!

Defense wagon yellow 70

But, if they feel pretty solidly supportive of each other, a slightly different scenario is possible, one that we are seeing in a few large companies. That one looks like this:

FortVanderWeilen th

Here, they start taking the wagons apart to use the wood for the walls and the wheels for barricades. They may demonstrate a sense of solidarity, and create a more permanent adversarial structure and culture. It is somewhat predictable — and look at the news about striking workers at WalMart – On May 28, around 100 workers in FL, MA and CA walked off their jobs for a series of “prolonged strikes.” Many of the striking workers traveled to Wal-Mart’s annual shareholder meeting in Arkansas last week. (article)

But it gets bigger than this. Just as my store managers did things to their company, workers everywhere have ways of “getting even.” Let me excerpt from my blog on  “Thoughts on Management,” which is basically about sabotage and comes from a manual produced by the US Army back in the 1940s, with this part talking about what employees can do to sabotage companies:

(1) Work slowly. Think out ways to in­ crease the number of movements necessary on your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one, try to make a small wrench do when a big one is necessary, use little force where considerable force is needed, and so on.

(2) Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can: (with examples)

(4) Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and ask to have them repeated more than once. Or pretend that you are particularly anxious to do your work, and pester the foreman with unnecessary questions.

(6) Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

(8) If possible, join or help organize a group for presenting employee problems to the management  See that the procedures adopted are as inconvenient as possible for the management, involving the presence of a large number of employees at each presentation, entailing more than one meeting for each grievance, bringing up problems which are largely imaginary, and so on.

There are SO MANY ways to cost companies money and increase your pay per unit of time worked. You can also be indifferent and unresponsive to customers or not fix things such as misplaced stock items on shelves or all kinds of things.

The solution:

You are probably going to be unable to fix a lot of the structural issues that companies have, but you can sure document the local impacts they have and push for improvement. You may not be able to reduce employee turnover, but you can certainly track the actual issues caused by new people on the job. Some of your analysis should include:

  • The cost of advertising for new people
  • The cost of initial paperwork and screening
  • The costs of interviewing  – costs of time spent doing that and costs of time not available for doing other important things
  • The costs of on-boarding or initial job training on systems and processes
  • The potential increased costs for job-related injuries or accidents
  • The costs of coaching and on-the-job training time
  • The costs of errors of new employees, including customer satisfaction issues, slower response times, mistakes and materials waste, misplaced inventory, and all sorts of innocent things that people do when new on a job
  • The costs of management supervisory time (yours)
  • The costs of advanced skills training — sometimes there are 6-week courses on learning how to process transactions and work computer systems correctly
  • The costs of NOT working the above computer systems correctly

There are many other similar kinds of costs incurred by organizations. Some of these also involve inter-departmental kinds of problems and you might also include theft or other kinds of negative impacts from the disgruntled as well as the new.

And, as result of all this training, there is also the eventual statistical likelihood and reality that this New Hire will simply be an average employee. Down the road, you may be looking to replace them!

Often the better and more skilled employees choose to go elsewhere for employment (and the below average ones are not actively looking) and you may be losing talent on a net overall basis. The best ones may also go to one of your competitors…

Sometimes, newer previously skilled employees will demand a higher wage and benefits than the “normal employee” and that is guaranteed to cause problems down the road.  Paying new employees wages equal to long-term employees is also problematic.

So what do you do?

You probably need to make the case, or at least support the existing case that things need to be improved, that doing the same thing will generate the same results. And you can choose to do things differently, yourself.

Nearly every research study shows that an involved and engaged workforce shows fewer negative issues with the above and shows lots of positive impacts on numbers like profitability and reduced customer turnover. If employees are presently un-engaged or at least not actively engaged, you have about 70% of your workforce that you can address and encourage.

Extrinsic motivators do not work. They possibly might have short-term positive impacts on some people, but they always have negative long-term impacts on everyone. Compensate them fairly on an overall basis.

Allow people to solve roadblocks and make improvements to systems and processes. Give them the tools and resources.

Allow them to address interdepartmental issues that impact their performance results.

Improve the performance feedback so that they have a better idea as to how they are performing in comparison to their own goals and your expectations. You can find a simple analysis checklist here. PMC sells simple toolkits for improving communications and engagement.

Provide some team building activities and build a sense of group (remembering all the stuff at the top of the article, be sure to have a fairly solid environment before forming, “The Collective” — remember the Borg?). PMC sells some great, inexpensive and bombproof team building simulations.

Have engaging and informative meetings and discussions, as groups and a one-on-one coaching and mentoring discussions.

Be there and supportive, not away and adversarial.

There is no silver bullet for any of this. Understanding the problem is a first step toward designing YOUR solutions. There is no one else who can really help you, when push comes to shove. HR cannot do it, senior managers cannot do it, consultants (certainly) cannot do it —

If it is to be words

and

If not you who words

If you are looking for some tools for improving engagement or for improving involvement and motivation to make workplace improvements, we sell some simple tools. Our specialties are in the areas of employee involvement and team building, but with a focus on performance improvement.

Square Wheels are simply great tools

Have Fun out there!

Scott Debrief

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

Connect with Scott on Google+
Reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com and 864-292-8700

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

 

Note: some of the basic statistics taken from
http://www.alternet.org/labor/part-time-jobs-and-economy

Tons of Good Writings, so why is improvement so hard? Part One

This is the first of two articles that hammer on the issues around supervision and how they affect engagement and performance. Spending billions for decades, why can’t we actually make improvements in organizations?

I’ll admit to being a pack rat when it comes to articles and interesting ideas. Next to me in the den is the January 1982 issue of Management Review with articles about how FEAR is common in management approaches to people and performance (Machovec and Smith), one on team management and motivation (Littlejohn) and another on closing the gaps in human performance (Bolt and Rummler).

1982 – and a rereading of them shows the articles highly underlined (this seems to be before the invention of the highlighter!) and all the key learning points are really solid. No surprises. On my floor is a 2002 article about collaboration and team building and how organizations need to improve alignment and focus more on collective intelligence — “All of Us know more than Any of Us.”

Like many of you, I have a few hundred books, going back to include Tom Gilbert’s Human Competence (1978 and since republished) and so many other great books by so many authors like Drucker and Peters. Thousands of old articles, and now, thousands of new blog posts, websites, eBooks and all that. Guess I go back the dinosaur age but I sure feel younger than that…

Google ChromeScreenSnapz001 So, what is so darn hard about managing and leading people? Why are companies spending two hundred BILLION dollars every year on newer and newer training programs, blended learning, computerized personality surveys and assessments and all this other stuff? (I outline some of the statistics and some of the issues in an older blog post you can find here along with Part Two of this thinking in a separate blog.)

My older blog article starts with:

In 2010, employers spent more on employees’ development than ever before: businesses in the United States spent $171.5 billion on employee learning in 2010, up from $125.8 billion in 2009, according to ASTD in their recent survey. Apparently, companies are seeing a benefit in investing in the development of their people and that there may be payoffs for that in terms of employee retention and improved performance.

It goes on to talk about some of my thinking about training and coaching and generating commitment. I do not see all this as being all that hard. One supervisor being coached and mentored to teach and support one front-line worker at a time. Sure there is all that technical stuff to teach, but so many basic statistics point to the reality that employee turnover is high due in large part because they do not feel as if they are effectively managed.

I mean, you can find some really elegant stuff out there. Amazingly well designed, logical, superbly crafted training and development programs. But like executives trying to implement strategy, 90% of those initiatives are viewed as failures by the people within the organization and they generally fail to generate any real results. (Am I being too hard here? Maybe, but $200,000,000,000 is a lot of money to find engagement of workers to be less than 30%. Ya think?)

We are spending tons of money on “outdoor team building adventure training” and not seeing any real improvement in business results. (I write my thoughts about why in a whole series of blog posts)

Wouldn’t you agree that you could structure a workplace environment that would involve and engage ONE person to improve their performance? I mean, some combination of improving the feedback they get from their behaviors (see my article on feedback and an analysis of high performance feedback systems) and do the mentoring and coaching needed to fully involve and engage them in making improvements in results?

Can’t you get ONE supervisor to accomplish that change and get ONE of their people to improve their performance? And couldn’t they do that more than one time, like maybe 10 times?

Collaboration. Instead of running around outside solving problems with strings, balls, sticks and buckets, or shooting at each other with paintball bullets or walking on ropes or hot coals or getting soaked on a full-day trip onto some whitewater river, couldn’t you spend half a day in a training room with an exercise that clearly demonstrates the benefits of resource management, strategic planning, project management, alignment, involving leadership and coaching, and collaboration between teams?

We got one of those in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We sell these to companies and consultants with a one-time cost. And I will guarantee that you will get results and that the program will match your desired outcomes. It’s not cheap, but it IS one of the best values in the world of training and development.

We’ve been selling this game for organizational improvement initiatives for 20 years. We’ve had one game returned and no negative comments (that return occurred because the trainer did not get permission to deliver the planned training course.)

When it comes to people and involvement, why are we not simply asking people to be more involved, to share their ideas for what needs to be improved? We do not need a lot of surveys — a simple brainstorming session will produce a lot of the real perceived issues and opportunities for management to act on.

Like Rodney King said so long ago,

“Why can’t we all just get along?”
Why can’t we work on shared goals and objectives
and support better performance?

Celebration plane color green

The Round Wheels are out there!
They are already in the wagon.
Step back, identify and implement.

You can find Part Two by clicking here

Scott Simmerman

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

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

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Tons of Good Writings, so why is improvement so hard? Part Two

This is the second of two articles that hammer on the issues around supervision and how they affect engagement and performance. Spending billions for decades, why can’t we actually make improvements in organizations?

It must be about organizational cultures and about our models of what good leadership must look like, or at least how most people view the role of a Manager.  It must be about how organizational measurements and competition between departments drive competitive behavior so that we do not find much collaboration. It must be competition driving away engagement, and extrinsic reward systems not being meaningful to everyone.

Something must be wrong and it makes sense that we need to do something differently. My thinking says it is the interface between worker and supervisor that needs to be fixed and that so many things that interfere with that interface need to be changed. The issue is one of communications.

Microsoft WordScreenSnapz002

I do not want to put an anchor point here to “leadership” because that means so many different things to so many people. And I do not think that the issue is “Supervisory Skills Training” since that says that people must be trained before they can exhibit behavior to improve that connection.

Over the past year, Gallup interviewed nearly 150,000 Americans in all states and industries and discovered that a stunning number are miserable in their jobs. More specifically, only 30% of the nation’s working population today admits to being fully engaged at work and 52% admit to being disengaged in their jobs with another 18% being actively disengaged.

Why are 7 in 10 workers discouraged, and more importantly,
why does no one seem to actually do much to improve this reality?

To a degree, I blame company cultures. They are not working yet they are totally resistant to change. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down, so doing things differently is very often punished. And if we keep doing things the same way, why should we expect anything to change? But let’s do another million-dollar survey to be sure of our thinking…

Numerous studies have shown that engaged workers display greater initiative, approach work more passionately and creatively–essentially do all they can for their organizations. Gallup’s report specifically states that engagement drives greater productivity, lower turnover, and a better quality of work. Organizations in the top 10% of engagement outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share and have 90% better growth trends than their competition.

Gallup, a survey organization, suggests that you measure engagement everywhere. My thought is why? What good are measurements when you won’t do anything to change in a meaningful way? Research shows that we’ve been doing a LOT of research and not making any impact, so why do more research? People are un-engaged so why not do something to engage them – that is most assuredly NOT another survey!

Gallup assumes that people do not know that people are not engaged. I suggest this: Walk into a workplace and stand there. You can tell the level of engagement just by looking and listening.

Companies have been doing surveys on engagement for 20 years and results will show that things are getting worse, if anything. Things are not getting better even though many organizations report they are “working on engaging people”: Employee engagement has declined from 24% to 13% in the past two years (Mercer’s 2012 Attraction and Retention Survey). If your spouse was “working on something” for 20 years, would you not also be frustrated and non-trusting?

Why not spend the money in different ways and get the managers away from looking at survey data to actually doing something differently. Improving engagement is just that – getting people to focus on improving things in their workplace and feeling more of a sense of ownership involvement.

Microsoft WordScreenSnapz003

There are a lot of bosses who foster un-engagement. The classic quote is Samuel Goldwyn, the G in MGM, who said,

“When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”

He also said, “If you don’t disagree with me, how will I know I’m right?”

Yeah, he would have be an engaging boss, for sure. NOT. Then again, boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory, right?

A Parade magazine survey in 2012 found that 35% of U.S. workers said they’d willingly forgo a substantial pay raise in exchange for seeing their direct supervisor fired. A Florida State University survey in 1997 found 40% think they work for bad bosses. The irony is that bad bosses are often insecure, which probably makes their bad behavior even more prevalent…

Okay, enough on the negative — what can we do differently?

Gallup sees solutions in more measurement and more employee development spending. My take is that while improving skills is a good thing, it is future-focused and not immediate. More immediate things will result in more immediate improvement, and tons of surveys focus on listening, team building, making workplace process improvements and even dealing with poor performers more effectively (coaching is often a good and effective solution).

I am reminded of this old quote:

We judge ourselves by our intentions;
We judge others by their behavior.

What we need to do is build teams and align people toward roadblock removal and process improvement. We can provide more effective performance feedback, build more workplace collaboration and add coaching and mentoring on a one-on-one and a team-based perspective.

It’s hard to care for customers
if you don’t feel the boss cares for you.

Long-term, we can look to improve hiring practices, provide more skills training and support for workers, increase compensation and similar kinds of things. In the short term, we can focus on doing things differently and doing the things that will dis-un-engage people and performance.

Mentoring words green

Good articles are plentiful out there and there are a lot of good stats, but I disagree with many of the conclusions. Many articles talk about better hiring as the solution — yeah, great idea, but it will do nothing NOW and that new “great hire” will tend to be pressed to regress to the average within 6 months (Sirota Research). Peer pressure toward “normative behavior” is really powerful and there are tons of studies that show that.

Clear expectations is another oft-seen solution. And that should probably be part of a solution but good performance feedback systems are not so common. (see my article on improving feedback here)

Give people the right tools to perform as a solution? Sure. But if you put a gun to their head, could they do a better job right now? Sure! (Bob Mager’s work on performance is useful – another blog post on managing performance is here).

Being generous with praise and recognition. Also a good idea. But 80% of minimum wage people work for large (profitable) multinationals. Praise and recognition are good, once people feel that they have some minimal sustainable level of overall compensation. It’s little things like HEALTH CARE that make a difference. When more than half of bankruptcies are for medical problems and happen to people who HAVE healthcare insurance (around 75% of them HAD coverage), we have a really tough situation for people to feel comfortable about…

Look at things this way:

Could ONE supervisor make a difference for ONE employee? Would that make a difference?

Could that one supervisor make a difference to another employee on a different day? Would those differences begin to add up?

Could ONE manager make a difference for ONE supervisor? Would that make a difference?

Could that manager make a difference for another supervisor on a different day? Would those differences begin to add up?

The reality, in my view, is that people are un-engaged and working in un-engaging workplaces managed by un-engaged supervisors working for un-engaged managers (it goes higher than that…). (You can read more about the general state of workplace motivation here)

One solution is to focus on DIS-un-engagement, helping one person and one group at a time. This involves the removal of real and perceived roadblocks, generating a feeling among people that someone is listening and actually cares about how things are going, and that people can make better CHOICES among considered alternatives, things such as “best practices” and the like.

We seem to have solved some of the issues around the Higgs Boson sub-atomic particle by using the Large Haldron Collider and smashing particles together. The Higgs Boson was initially theorized in 1964 and confirmed in March of this year, confirming the Higgs Field and all this being pivotal to the Standard Model and other theories of particle physics. Since we could do that, can’t we somehow figure out what is de-motivating people in their workplaces and make some considered changes in how we do things?

Can we finally understand that performance appraisals are detested for some pretty good reasons by every worker and manager (well I guess the top 10% like them) and that extrinsic reward systems just do not work (except for that top 10% who get them) and that most people are un-involved and dis-engaged?

I mean, really?

We can put a satellite into the sky that goes 500,000,000 miles to circle a small moon around Jupiter. Heck, we know that when Earth and Jupiter are at their closest to each other they are 628,743,036 million km apart and at their most distant, they are 928,081,020 km apart.

We can’t figure out how to motivate ONE worker in one workplace? Seriously?

This model, by the way, is wrong. It is NOT how to motivate people. I was kidding when I had it produced!

How to motivate people color red

We CAN motivate people by simply involving and engaging them in their workplace. Sorry, Gallup, but we do not need to spend any more hundreds of thousands of dollars on another survey that asks people if they are involved because they AREN’T. Ask their supervisors what they could do differently.

We might simply ask people what things do not work smoothly, and get them involved and engaged in solving workplace performance issues.

What are SWs image worksheet

This stuff ain’t particle physics or rocket science. It is about doing some simple and straightforward involvement and listening. (And then implementing!)

You can see Part One of this two-part series by clicking here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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

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Teamwork, Communications and Optimization of Performance

My friend Lou Carloni has been sharing ideas about people and performance for many years and a post I received from him this morning was one that got my full attention. The focus of it was on the issues of team communications, and, of course, I will add my normal spin around experiential learning and organizational performance.

Lou’s firm was hired to study communication needs in the Baltimore-Washington Region and they interviewed, surveyed, and held focus groups with over 1000 business professionals. The question asked was,  “If your organization had only enough money, resources, and time to perform training in one area of communications which area would it be:  Reading, Writing, Speaking, or Listening?”

  • Reading and Writing combined received 5% of the vote;  
  • Speaking received 40%;  
  • Listening received 55%.  

I agree with Lou on suggested solutions. One of them was to Get There In Person.

It is not just words, it is how those all come together to drive involvement and engagement, how the issues are framed and how possible solutions are discussed. It is really hard for most leaders to truly understand all the current issues faced by performers working to meet and exceed expectations of management and customers. It is just too easy to keep doing things the same way they were done before, what I always refer to with this illustration:

SWs One green color thin

The real impacts come from managers who get in front of people, asking about issues and opportunities. Lou suggests that words alone account for only 8-10% of the message in interpersonal communication; the spoken sounds account for 30-40% of the message; and the non-verbal elements account for 50-60% of the real message you are trying to send. While you might agree or disagree with the numbers, the presence of the manager up front, listening and supporting is the key.

We accomplish this with our Square Wheels approach and offer a variety of tools and toolkits to assist in the process of facilitation. I have blogged often about this in here and you can find inexpensive Square Wheels Tools on our website. We also support a variety of different team building exercises like Collaboration Journey and Innovate & Implement that are designed to involve and engage people in problem solving. All these products can be delivered by managers with their work teams.

Lou also talked about Gaining Power With The Person. To this I would also add, The Team, since people do work collaboratively in most workplaces. This connects to developing rapport and trust. One way to accomplish this with individuals, teams and groups is through our team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. In this design, the Expedition Leader exists as a person interested in optimizing ROI and results.  The expressed goal of the game is to Mine as Much Gold as WE Can!

The reality is that the tabletops do not plan well, do not collaborate and communicate with other teams, nor do they bother to ask the Expedition Leader for advice or assistance. The game leader, just like the workplace leader, exists to support individuals and teams, but the choices people make are more often to go it alone and not ask for help. In the game, and in the workplace, this measurably sub-optimizes results.

We sell a variety of different Dutchman games, at different price points, for repeated organizational use. You can find out more information about the Lost Dutchman game by going to our website.

Performance feedback is a critical component of good performers and good results, but my work with organizations has continually shown that a wide variety of improvements can be made to impact performance results. You can find a free Feedback Analysis Tool through this blog post.

Lou also talked about Skills versus Attitudes, and I am not sure that these two things are operating against each other or part of a series of competencies that are all important. I am working up an article on Flow for the blog and for the articles section of my home page. Skill is important and there is a continuum of them and skills interact with the perceived challenges people face. Flow is when these mesh together…

I will not reflect herein as to how I see differences between Lou’s thinking and mine on this other than to say that I prefer the way Bob Mager deals with the question. Lou’s website is:  http://www.smbcinc.com

Hope you found this of interest and use,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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

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