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Bad Team Building Ideas for Trust and Performance Improvement

In the midst of redoing a game design that requires additional components for discussing workplace trust and issues of performance improvement, I spent last night looking at a variety of dynamics around generating and maintaining trust between individuals, trust among team members, trust between team members and ideas for accelerating the quality of trust and collaboration. I did get some new ideas and there was some creativity going on as I did it. At the same time, there is not a lot of stuff out there that is very helpful for game design.

Some are simply good discussions, like Kevin Eikenberry’s video you can see here:

kevin

I like Kevin’s work and thought his ideas were good but nothing really grabbed me for the design work.

SO, I went into Google and searched for trust exercise to see if there were any more ideas, frameworks or insights I might spin into the new simulation and Google popped me into a page of images. And all my good research intentions spun quickly downhill into these writings. I will admit that this was a fun one to put together, with a bunch of giggles! Yet, I also hope that this post will be illustrative of what I see are some real issues around doing team building activities with real people in real workplaces.

The first image that jumped out at me from Google’s images was this one:

trust 1

The image was attributed to Riana Green / flickr.com and the link was to Psychology Today and an article on Floating, Trust and Religion. I am not really understanding any of this but you can find the blog if you click on the image. Should the link to team building and trust escape you, let me simply note that it escaped me, also. But it DID get me looking at more images as my curiosity was piqued.

The wag in me said to myself, yep, a lot of the results of team building exercises
in corporate situations DO in fact look like the image above,
but then I quickly struck that thought from my mind. (grin)

Okay, the next picture that leaped out was this one:

trust 2

The image was from ashleylatruly.tumblr.com but the link no longer worked. Yeah, I am guessing that the activity underlying the above image did have some components of trust built-in although I am not sure what they were nor would I suggest doing this in any kind of corporate context with a mannequin much less an actual person. But who am I to judge, right?

Yeah, this next one is certainly around trust. It is also one that I would suggest not be done casually out on the organization’s front lawn. But, yeah, this would certainly build trust; I am just not sure it would translate all that well toward improved corporate performance. And I am still thinking of how to put this into a board game…

trust 3

That takes us to these other kinds of activities, so much fun for teenagers but maybe a little less appropriate workplace adult organizational improvement programs. I am reminded that US Department of Labor statistics that show about 1 in 7 women past the age of 65 are still working and by 2024, that is predicted to increase to almost 1 in 5 or more than 6,000,000 workers in total. I would think that doing any of the team activities pictured below might be somewhat problematic (and I note that there will also be six different decades represented within many workforces).

baaadteambuildingand trust 5

 

 

 

Both the above sure seem like fun, however there may also be that issue of “appropriateness” in relation to the various organizational cultures out there and issues of sexual harassment and similar. Just imagine the “most senior managers” nuzzled up with the younger female employees. Or the discomfort for any variety of ages of people or new hires placed in these physically close positions.

And, with this chair thing below, with 7 people standing on two metal chairs and two people UNDER those chairs and our general issues around obesity, what could possibly go wrong???

trust 6

I’m reminded of the Tony Robbins Firewalks and his related motivational speeches by this short segment on The (Stephen) Colbert Report (click here). This was prompted by the different events where people had burned their feet to apparently prove something to themselves. Frankly, I think kayaking offers the same kind of benefit but without the fire. But I digress…

Then, we get into the Trust Building Professional Level Activities, where people who are both fit and somewhat already down the road toward collaboration and teamwork show that they can take their professional and physical development to new levels in situations such as those pictured below. As toward being “low ropes” kinds of organizational development activities, you may also find them a bit out of bounds or out of reality!

trust 7

and

trust 8

Remember that ALL these images came from my Google search for trust exercise. I did not make this stuff up and remain merely the archivist for collecting and organizing these ideas.

I DO believe that there ARE some things that we can do to build more trust and collaboration in the workplace, but they are just not like these pictured.

What strikes me the most about the above pictures and situations is my uncertainty as to whether everyone clearly understands all of the issues around doing effective organizational development including the regard for employee comfort and also avoiding lawsuits and other things detrimental to profitability and to the collaborative cultures we are trying to build. There are #baaadteambuilding things going on out there that make some of us simply shake our heads in wonder about who thought that up and who agreed to it?

Better alternative ideas do exist to what has been shown here! If you need some, connect with me,

 

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.

Note: These might all be excellent activities and exercises, but I try to write on themes of organizational development and team building and collaboration, and most of the things I share above are meant to poke fun at people who do not seem to truly understand issues of organizational culture and diversity and issues of age and personal preferences. I try to never make anyone uncomfortable with the kinds of things we choose to do as group activities. I have been in some that I did not like, whatsoever, over my years of experience.

Teambuilding and Schools – Issues of Design, Alignment and Collaboration

One of my newer customers just asked me to send him, “the debriefing that works with schools,” since my writings in the support materials for our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, has been used very successfully in that context over the years.

But, THE debriefing does not exist in my materials in any real sense, nor is it in my head. Let me explain…

I have personally delivered programs to colleges as well as organizations like the Singapore Ministry of Education (a purchaser of the exercise), the Hong Kong Education Ministry, and with senior teaching faculty in Trinidad and Tobago (man, that was a fun trip!). We have a bunch of colleges using this with students, too. And, we have run the exercise for a number of public schools (faculty, staff and parents) with excellent outcomes, commitments for change, and impacts on alignment and teamwork. I also formally suggest that any owner of the game consider using this program with schools in their area, pro bono.

Our schools need all the help they can get to develop a collaborative, motivated staff with parental support.

But all we can do with the exercise is set the stage for people to change their own behavior or support the behavior of others on their team. And this obviously works best when the discussions in the debriefing tie in tightly to the desired overall behaviors and outcomes.

So, there is no canned “debriefing for schools,” even though they are all pretty similar to each other and to business organizations. (Apparently, I did say that there was such a powerpoint file in some of my writings, but I looked and found that it was last updated in 2006!) But, these days, I do NOT boilerplate any of my debriefings, preferring to use a process like this for their development from my master file of debriefing questions and images:

I follow and anchor to their overall framework for their specific desired outcomes:

  • What do the leadership of the organization want to accomplish from this session? What changes would they like to see, and what behaviors might be different?
  • What existing frameworks should be anchored to? What things have been done successfully in the past that are viewed as positive? What other training or discussions have they had around these issues that we need to use within our followup?

And from that thinking and related discussions with the leadership of the school (including, if possible, both parents and administration and teachers), we can build an effective program. The goal is to generate change and improvement.

One session I did (from that 2006 powerpoint series) had me construct slides focused on a leadership model that the school’s District leadership were using and talking about. It started with these keys to success:

ideas around The Search for the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

…and it had these individual components involved:

ideas around The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

So we had the tabletops discuss these kinds of frameworks for implementing, with tables sharing their key discussion ideas and the group forming up into some implementation teams for scheduled followup meetings with the school leadership. We tried to keep things within the normal scheme of how they operated, instead of adding some additional mechanisms that would probably fail to be sustainable over time.

ideas around The Search for the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

As you would do for the development of any solid debriefing for an organization, you would first want to clearly define those issues that you needed tabletops to talk about, those issues that could be resolved if people made different choices. In so many organizations, and especially our schools, the factions of teachers, administration and parents are generally not on the same page; each has different interests when you get into specific desired outcomes. Only through alignment to some shared vision of the future can you pull things together.

To expect collaboration in an environment with different groups of people each desiring different outcomes is simply silly and bordering on malfeasance. What you will see is competition for perceived (and actual) scarce resources, which will not invite teamwork or organizational excellence. What you need to do is have people make different choices focused on shared goals.

In business, you tend to have financial and service goals driving behavior. Those are often clearly defined and it is only the operational goals between departments that generate competition and sub-optimization. In schools, the measurements tend NOT to be nearly as clear, even though there is so much measurement and testing going on. The measures do not generate collaboration about the factions and are used more like hammers than glue. Collaboration among the teachers is more the exception than a shared organizational reality.

This teambuilding simulation is simply a great tool to generate a lot of behavior that can then be discussed in connection to the desired outcomes of the school and the players. It provides a useful context to talk about the optimizing effects of collaboration versus the often sub-optimizing and debilitating impacts of competition. Our world tends to set people against each other to see who succeeds, a behavior that makes less and less sense when the sharing of best practices and the mutual peer support can be so motivational and impactful.

We need to create more of a focus on a learning organization, one that openly shares ideas and discusses possibilities.

If you are interested in talking more about these ideas, give me a call,

For the FUN of It!

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 themes of People and Performance is here.

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Performance Management Company

Off-Site Meetings, Teamworking and Engaging People for workplace improvement

In a LinkedIn thread, we started discussing company activities and teamwork. My thoughts are along the theme that building teams within an organization is not the same as doing a lot of things that are called teambuilding. What I did was show this picture in a discussion called “Teamwork? Why is this called TEAMwork?” and comment:

Every so often, I am simply struck by what some people call team building. I have written extensively in my other blog about things like go-kart racing, golf, bowling, firewalking and other activities and how a connection to team building behavior and organizational performance change is tenuous at best.

FUN is not team building.

CHALLENGE is not team building.

Teamwork High Ropes Guy

One of my friends talked about her teambuilding experiences thusly:

Hi Scott! I think these activities help build teams when people *choose* to get together and do fun things together; not because the company forces them to do so. The reason certain coworkers will choose to do things together on their own is because the working environment is open and friendly and lends itself to people *wanting* to get to know each other outside of the office. The best team building activities I’ve ever experienced were completely voluntary and informal.

I read a thought this morning that helped me frame this up a bit more clearly in my mind.

It is a simple reality that building a community within an organization is not the same as building real teamwork.

Forming a softball team can have the benefit of helping people get to know each other so as to improve that sense of community; it may help improve communications and trust. But it is not going to help the team build a better sense of alignment to the organization’s goals and visions, nor will it improve systems and processes to have impacts on performance metrics.

The kinds of problem-solving faced by the second baseman when considering whether to throw the ground ball to first base or second base (one out, tie score, 3rd  inning) or the person forty feet off the ground standing on a board is not thinking about improving customer service or generating a sale or shipping an order. Teamwork is adding brains and engagement to business process improvement, more than doing a firewalk or winning at paintball.

I’ve written a lot about the issues I have with things like bowling or golf paid for by company funds and framed as “team building events.” A company started here in Greenville SC with indoor go-karts framed up its first advertisement with it being “a year-round team building opportunity.” Racing about in go-karts is a team building event? How will that impact organizational performance? How will that improve collaboration and decision-making?

There was a lot of media a while back about the Internal Revenue Service and such a formal event they structured. You can read about it here under the title,

IRS needs Large Group Team Building instead of $27,000 Innovation Speakers
Google ChromeScreenSnapz003

IRS Line-Dancing – click to see the video

They spent a gazillion taxpayer dollars on a huge fancy choreographed event, hiring “motivational speakers” (an oxymoron – do any actually motivate you?*) and took time to “train” a whole bunch of people to do different things like the line dancing above (team building, I guess) when they could have done something like The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for maybe a total of $10,000 (including a leadership development session for senior managers) and generated some serious discussions about organizational and departmental goals, choices about collaboration and improving communications, discussions of shared risk and leadership of others, etc.

* I can remember attending a corporate event years ago when a famous football quarterback / restaurant owner was paid $40,000 to speak to a group of employees and vendors about his experiences with customer service. Does anyone really think that any listener walked away and did anything differently? It was a photo-opportunity for the company execs to get pictures taken, though.

Just as icebreakers to energize can be a waste of time and energy when they are completely unrelated to the training goals and session subject (see Motivation, Training and Icebreakers. Keeping it Real),  organizational team building activities should have a real connection to improving the organization.

Note: You can find a solid article on ideas for success for off-site team building event management ideas on this blog post.

That is not to say that company activities aren’t good things to do, because they are. But when limited budgets for organizational improvement are spent on picnics, bowling, softball and other community-building activities, you can miss the opportunity to do things that actually make impacts on people and performance. Do both, if you can.

Note:  We rent and sell an absolutely world-class team building exercise focused on alignment and inter-organizational collaboration. It is called, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and there are many posts in my blog about the exercise and its design features.

Here is a recent testimonial that I thought to add:

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Renting the game is a really inexpensive way to have a great large group event team building at a very inexpensive price. Read more about renting Dutchman here:

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

 

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Santa Creates Motivational Issues among The Reindeer! Seriously!!

It all started out this way:

Santa's Reindeer

On Dasher, On Dancer, On Prancer, On…uh..uh… stumbled Santa… GO!

HEY! yelled Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen, Santa’s not right!
He’s made a blunder; he always calls ALL of our names, but now not so!
Just let it go, insisted Dasher, Dancer and Prancer, don’t ruin this night!

So up and away they went, but 5 of the Reindeer weren’t feeling ‘Gung Ho.’
They’d lost their sense of teamwork and with that sunk their spirit to unite.
They all agreed that not hearing their names didn’t leave a very warm glow.
It’s as if we’re not as important as them and that’s a pretty rotten plight!

Meanwhile, Santa was so busy you wouldn’t think that he’d ever even know
that some of his Reindeer were disgruntled and creating a dispirited flight.
His sleigh was filled with kids’ gifts so he needed to keep his ducks in a row.
Yet, Ole St. Nick, being a sensitive guy, was fully aware that all wasn’t right.

During his drops from house to house, his Reindeer concerns began to grow.
Hmm, he thought, what’s going on here, could there maybe have been a fight?
Whatever it is, it’s put a Square Wheel in place and now we’re going way too slow.
What we need is to find a Round Wheel way of bringing the problem to light.

So Santa had them stop the sleigh to find out why their energy seemed so low.
They hemmed and hawed fearing he wouldn’t accept their reason with delight.
Then, at last, Vixen spoke up and gave Santa their whole story, blow by blow.
Good grief, cried Santa with quite a relief, you were all giving me quite a fright!

Apologies for making you feel disengaged when your names Santa
from me didn’t flow!

As I age, my rusty memory often makes calling out your names harder to recite.
Each of you is equally important as without you here, this trip we’d have to forgo!
So, what say we join together and get on with this very special Christmas flight?

And then you could hear Santa reciting each Reindeer’s name with a Ho Ho Ho! All toys were delivered while Santa and all Reindeer remained Merry and Bright

Santa and Reindeer Act is Together

 

Season’s Greetings, and may your 2014 be filled with lots of Round Wheels, for sure!

Note: Joan creates all these things every year. If you want to see some of the past year’s poems on Santa and performance, we can email them to you,

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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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Annotated Abstracts of Management Team Building articles

Many of my posts are descriptive of ideas for business management team building exercises and posts on how to use training events to impact engagement and involvement for workplace improvement. This seems especially true for those focused on executive development, since the actions at the top have so many impacts as they cascade down through the organization.

One of my basic beliefs on these kinds of motivational team building exercises is that these events can be fun but that they can also be inexpensive and tightly linked to specific organizational objectives. One of the things we do is to deliver such sessions and then sell the client the simulation to run themselves through training or other kinds of developmental initiatives. They are really good when bundled into a strategy rollout kind of strategy.

What I did for this blog was simple: I searched my posts on “Motivational Team Building” and came up with about 20 different articles among the 275 in the blog. Then, I selected 5 that seemed most relevant to someone searching for that kind of information.

LDGM 1 80

1 – In Lessons from The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a game on teamwork and collaboration, we focus on some of the key learning points in our teambuilding exercise. One is that collaboration, even when it is encouraged, is really hard to generate. People choose more often to compete even when it sub-optimizes results. It is also easy to see that the three most important resources are Time, Information and Each Other. We also then talk about the issues of My Team, My Team, My Team and how we can help organizations improve overall collaboration and engagement.

My Team My Team haiku

2 – The post, “Maximizing Team Building Impacts with Senior Managers,” addresses how to involve and engage the top managers of an organization with the goal of cascading the teamwork and alignment down. In many organizations, the phrase interdepartmental collaboration is an oxymoron, and it exists because of exclusive measurement systems and the competition between leadership – causing the silos. This article focuses on working with senior management and shares some thinking about how to implement this initiative throughout an organization.

3 – Innovation, Strategy and Motivation is focused on my thinking about the overall effectiveness of a program I did in Mumbai, India for a group of very senior managers. It was focused on my friend Robin Speculand’s approach to strategy implementation and wrapped around my Square Wheels illustrations as tools for generating alignment and engagement. I include links to Dan Pink’s materials on intrinsic motivation and also relate to other resources for impacting people and productivity.

Rat Cage More Better Faster

4 – Does Teamwork Work? Issues and Ideas for Improvement is about the basic design of team building programs and their linking to organizational improvement. There are a lot of activities out there representing themselves as team building that may or may not be truly effective in linking to real organizational improvement initiatives and business process improvement. Many might have aspects of collaboration or team thinking involved, but are they really designed to facilitate a powerful debriefing? Dutchman was designed to link to issues of optimizing performance results.

5 – In Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…“, there is a solid review of the data and statistics on workplace motivation, which anchors really well to what we can do differently to better involve and engage individuals and teams for performance improvement. The data show that there are just so many people going through the motions of working, and that they could accomplish a lot more if the workplace was more situationally engaging. People can do more, and they will if you allow them. It is a lot about Intrinsic Motivation.

These are a few of almost 300 articles in my blog, ON PERFORMANCE. I hope that you find some of these ideas of use and benefit as you move things forward in your organization or for your clients.

Plus, I am just starting up a blog of poems, quips, one-liners and other illustrated cartoons with captions and slogans. You can check it out at http://poemsontheworkplace.wordpress.com/

SWs One - things you will see border copy 2

We believe that we have some of the most useful tools for communications and organizational development that exist. Our team building games are simple and effective and our Square Wheels toolkits easily involve and engage people to share and implement their ideas for improvements.

Have FUN out there!

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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Maximizing Team Building Impacts with Senior Managers

A prospect engaged me in a discussion of the potential of using The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine with a large group of senior managers to accomplish some management team building. So, this blog post resulted as I framed up some of their issues into possibilities for improvement. We had the whole global senior management group in our Dutchman kickoff to their 3-day strategy session (mfg, sales, corporate, marketing, research, etc.)

One neat aspect is that their Most Senior Manager, the division GM, wanted to play an active role in the event and focus on identifying things that these executive managers could and would do to improve customer service (internal and external), reduce costs, improve innovation and other impacts through improved inter-departmental collaboration and teamwork.

(That is a really neat fit to our basic game design for Dutchman. Testimonials say that it is one of the best of all the motivational team building exercises.)

What really helped in my thinking was her very clear framing of the key desired outcomes for the session (along with very solid framing of how this kick-off activity should align to the overall goals and objectives of the gathering). She had several planning meetings with the GM and thus a quite clear idea about wanting to

  1. Offer the participants a fun and interactive team building activity
  2. Give people an opportunity to interact with others whom they may not know very well
  3. Offer something that will be useful to participants when they return home – a new insight, learning, awareness, etc.
  4. Have the activity help us understand how we can work better as a team so that we can better serve our customers
  5. Make this the first activity in a two day meeting, that should set the stage for what we’re going to be discussing for the rest of the meeting

 Nice. Actionable, too. So here are some thoughts on optimizing impact and generating the maximum amount of alignment possible.

Specifically addressing the above Desired Outcome session bullets, I had the following thoughts and ideas:

1 – Dutchman will be fun and very interactive between players. There is a lot of interaction between the tabletops / teams and the focus of the game is on optimizing overall results. Our goal is to mine as much gold as WE can. This is clearly and repeatedly stated in the Introduction. Teams are working under the direction of the Expedition Leader and expected to generate a maximum return on the investment in them (map, vehicle, grub stake of resources, information, leader assistance, etc.) as communicated through slides like these:

Triad One

This is a business simulation, designed with a fun and engaging framework. It is an exercise intended to generate a serious debriefing on defined issues and opportunities. It is not designed to simply be fun – it is work, it takes planning and analysis and it is stressful, with pressures of time and decisions to get measurable outcomes. In this way, it differs from a lot of the other kinds of fluffy things out there in the “team building activity” marketplace.

2 – On interacting: Most of the actions will be at the tabletops, so I might suggest that tables be arranged with seating assignments so that there would be a good mix of a most senior person with other players done in a way that made sense.  This will allow them to work as a team and bond together on shared goals and mission.

The Most Senior Manager at each table should be the team’s Trader; the role of the Trader is to move between the tabletop and the Trading Post, exchanging resource cards each day. In that way, Traders get somewhat isolated from the team and its continuing decision-making, The Trader role is the game’s version of the customer service rep, who is not always clued in on what is happening. The funny part of this is that the role is presented thusly: “The Bad News is that the Trader is the ONLY person at the tabletop who is accountable for anything!”

This exercise will not allow everyone to interact with everyone and some people will interact more than others due to a variety of factors and personal styles. Some people get up and go around while others choose to stay put at the table. There are some other possibilities to design something like Fast Networks into other program content to generate more interactions. (See some thoughts about Dot Voting and Fast Networks in this blog post.)

Each team’s Collaborator, for example, is chosen for their role of finding out the best practices and ideas of the other teams – they are particularly challenged to go about and find out what goes on with the other tables. Sometimes they are quickly labeled “Spies” and told to go away – sometimes they gain valuable information that will help their own team optimize results. Sometimes, they can share their good information with other teams and sometimes they are not trusted and thus shunned.

3 – Being useful afterwards: Directly in the game, there are many great metaphors that link to a wide variety of leadership and organizational behaviors and possibilities. Our debriefing will present some key ideas and allow the tabletops to discuss the choices made and the impacts of those choices as they affect the organization in reality. Other event content can easily link back to situations from the play or the debriefing.

In the game, for example, the teams can make the decision to spend an extra day at Apache Junction and gain additional information before departing on Day 2 or 3. They can get a “video” of Tortilla Flat that gives them 3 Turbochargers; One Turbo enables them to go two blocks a day for the whole game, rather than one; It is a metaphor of a Best Practice. They acquire two extra Turbos and might give or trade one or both extra Turbos with another team, allowing them to also go twice as fast. Or not — it is a choice that they can make.

How do teams choose to balance collaboration and sharing with competition and winning? How do they, as a group, reach that decision and what might influence that same kind of decision back when they are leading their teams to improve collaboration and alignment? How do they balance these and other things in the play? That is the purpose of the debriefing, to discuss choices and alignment and collaboration to optimize overall results in the game and in the business.

The lessons learned are quite solid and memorable and can be readily linked tightly to the GM’s actual goals and program agenda. That is easily fine-tuned.

This suggestion represents a different choice and a lot more leverage for these players and builds directly into desired followup actions:

Assuming that these same issues exist within each of the operational units, it would be quite easy to roll the game out to those units locally. A Director and his VP could easily deliver the exercise to the senior local management team — Dutchman is very easy to deliver and operate and really bombproof; most of our purchasers of the exercise have never actually seen the game played, much less been a participant in it. The session participants could easily roll this out at their locations, generating a much higher level of alignment and collaboration at a half-day management retreat delivered within a few weeks of our session. Easy!

Plus, they could have the support of the local Training and Development people who operate on site and this could be integrated into an organizational development framework for ongoing training and for new-hire orientation.

How often is it that a senior manager of a manufacturing plant would feel comfortable leading an organizational development team building session with himself setting the stage for more collaboration and alignment to the goals of the organization. And, to have a very powerful tool for accomplishing his or her goals?

The exercise could be delivered by teams of senior managers that were participants with the possible support of someone from training at each location. (We have had secretaries deliver the game for their boss’ senior manager groups in the past! It is quite bombproof, to be sure.)

4 – The exercise is all about choices and service. Dutchman has a nice strategic planning / project management spin and directly relates to collaboration to optimize team and group performance. Teams make a lot of assumptions or make decisions without obtaining all the available information, which relates nicely to many common service quality issues.

Teams also do not ask many questions of the Expedition Leader, who is in fact a customer in the sense that he / “me” is depending on them to perform to deliver results to me. I am looking for results and investing my time and money in them to deliver. By asking questions and even asking for help, teams can get more support in their quest to mine more gold.

LD Goal is to mine gold

The Provisioner who manages the Trading Post is also a customer, requiring the Traders to perform their jobs accurately, completely and in a timely manner. The whole group is delayed when ONE of the teams is slow to respond to the end of a Day.

5 – Insofar as kicking off the event and setting the stage for the other session events and content, this will be superb. It is fun, but it is serious. People will make choices. They may make friends with people they do not know and help them out, or they may make “enemies” in the choices they make (like demanding two golds for one Turbo) and laugh about that stuff afterwards. It is serious fun and nicely interactive.

Overall reinforcement of desired behavior – The Celebrations

We can both recognize and reinforce what has been done in recent past in the improvement of overall customer service as well as link neatly to the choices that they can make about the improvement of internal service quality or supply chain kinds of things. This can be accomplished in the debriefing and casual discussions afterwards. That is quite straightforward.

If people are pre-assigned to teams, that works okay and you might consider all sorts of factors in that assignment, like how well they know the other people, how much they NEED to know those other people, etc. The session planners can also name the teams, giving some special recognition to certain groups for overall, long-term accomplishments. The “Finnish Express” might be led by the plant manager of the Finland plant that implemented the best service quality improvement plan. Thus, when making assignments to tabletops, you can assign the Team Leader to be a particular individual. The rest of the tabletop will align with that “glow” and team name.

Perfect Play:

Each table is an “operating unit” but they do benefit by collaborating across the tabletops. It is NOT essential that teams collaborate, especially if they have a good plan of action, but it pays dividends overall.

There IS a perfect play scenario that occurs when 3 teams work together, sharing Turbos and Cave Cards and resources. Whereas the average team will mine about 7 days of gold and return to the start, these collaborating teams can mine 11, 10 and 10 gold among themselves with no additional costs or resources – well, actually, they must borrow $50 from the Expedition Leader!

Perfect Play slide pair

There can also be a lot of learning and development takeaways from this exercise. It is, after all, all about team performance and communications as well as to alignment to a shared mission and vision.  We use these magnets as take-away’s and a simple reminder:

The Goal of the game is to COLLABORATE and optimize results...

Recognizing and rewarding performance

I want the GM to play the game as a regular player. We will set him up as the Trader for his tabletop and he will not be privy to any secret information about the game design. He will play like everyone else. After I get into the debriefing of the play and some discussions of the key learning points, I will set the stage for him to lead the closing discussion.

We will present the tabletops with this question:

LD - to mine more gold what do we do

This is framed as, “What can we do to generate more gold for our organization? What things can we choose to do differently to improve results? What things can we get our people to do differently? Please discuss this at your tabletops and be prepared to offer your ideas to the group.” The GM leads this discussion and the supporting people all take notes. This should directly set the stage for the work of the next two days.

Even though the game is not about winning and losing, people like recognition and everyone needs to feel like they were part of the winning team, because they are. So, we work hard to focus on the overall group as the team and not that individual tabletop that happened to mine more gold than the others.

My Team My Team color

For recognition of everyone, I might suggest that we manufacture some simple trophies that use blocks of wood, a large chunk of Iron Pyrite, and a small plaque commemorating their involvement and participation in the program. Each would say, “Number One Team.”

Gold Trophy

We can also structure an awards ceremony where they are all recognized with The White Hat Award, for their overall contributions to the performance and profits of the organization. Both the trophy and the hat would symbolize their membership of the bigger team and the need for collaboration to optimize results.

As to the debriefing, we have a great deal of flexibility in choosing the key themes and how to generate some discussion and ownership. We have over 150 different slides that we have used over the years. Here are just a few of them:

Debriefing - 155 slides

And we can illustrate some key learning points to make them more memorable:

LD General debrefing Scott's slide minis

There are just so many different ways that this exercise can support those kinds of desired outcomes. My apologies for such a long post, but it sure is fun to develop these ideas and present them in an integrated way.

Please note that a sister article to this, entitled, “Thoughts on Teambuilding and Aligning an International Business Group” can be found be found by clicking on the title.

 

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/

 

Lessons from The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a game on teamwork and collaboration

There are many lessons that can be learned from playing team building games, and we feel that our products generate more than their share of great learning opportunities. Reactions are as varied as the groups of people that play and the kinds of cultures they represent. It works for very large groups as well as really small ones. Dutchman is quite flexible in how it is delivered.

Microsoft WordScreenSnapz001

One neat thing about Dutchman is that the organizational culture will show itself measurably and clearly — if people are highly competitive with each other, we see it in the dynamics of play and the lack of measured collaboration. If the culture is analytical, we see that in the inventory numbers at the end. If there is distrust among people, that shows itself clearly in that people will resist the help of other teams or even the game leadership. It is easily discussed in the debriefing and those issues can be challenged and alternatives discussed for implementation.

Microsoft WordScreenSnapz002

If you are interested in the possibility of using Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine as a team building or motivational exercise for a retreat, large event or even purchasing it for use within a training program, I can help you make a good decision in a few-minute conversation about your group, your goals, and your desired outcomes. If Dutchman is not a good fit, I would certainly offer other recommendations that might mesh with your goals with some other vendors and consultants. There are many good options out there.

These are some of the most common and important issues and outcomes from the play of The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine:

Collaboration, even when it is encouraged, can be difficult to achieve

  1. There is a big difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. Safety does not generate good results and it can measurably sub-optimize results
  2. Many people will choose competition rather than collaboration as a strategy and a few of those on a team will make the team less collaborative
  3. Openly encountering and assessing the risks involved and seeing a clear benefit is vital to generating collaboration in both the game and in the workplace

There are three Most Important Resources: Time, Information and Each Other

Time:

  • Decisions made up front often have the greatest impact on final results. Planning time is often time well spent
  • Strategies and plans are often forgotten when in the midst of pressures for results.

Information:

  • We must understand the challenge, plan for necessary resources, prioritize our activities and value our resources in order to optimize results
  • Decisions, no matter how good, are made based on considered alternatives; if little or no information is available, good decisions are impossible.

Each Other:

  • Activity is no replacement for productivity and accomplishment; Peer support is often an essential component of critical thinking and action
  • People can add better perspective to risks and barriers to performance; shared risk is more easily endured

Decision-making, combined with clear understanding of the goals and objectives, will often help to optimize performance, productivity and results.

  • Team consensus generally leads to better decisions if it is focused; unfocused consensus leads to mediocrity and compromise
  • Your past experiences will color your decision-making and risk taking and teams will often take more considered risks than an individual.
  • The best goals are  specific, attainable and realistic, measurable, clear and agreed-upon by your teammates.

In the Lost Dutchman exercise, we clearly state the goal as being to mine as much gold as WE can. It is common, though, based on the above factors, that tabletops will often frame “we” as “My Team, My Team, My Team” because that is commonly how things work in the workplace. Each team is often designed to be an independent one, and thus collaboration is not actively encouraged nor managed.

My Team, My Team color

In the game, as well as in most workplaces, performance is optimized when cross-functional and interdepartmental teamwork is the norm. The exercise reinforces that, clearly showing the costs of competition.

My Team needs to be OUR Team,
and “all of us” is much more than “most of us.”

This is done well with Dutchman, since it so clearly and measurably rewards collaboration and communications with leadership and with other teams. Collaboration was a main design feature in how the game was constructed. We can neatly measure collaboration in different ways.

Many of our users tell us that  Dutchman is the best team building exercise in the world, and we have a lot of testimonials that support that conclusion. It will soon be 20 years that this game has been in play (and in continuous continuous improvement).

Frankly, talking about Lost Dutchman with prospects and users is one of the best things that I can do in a day. I feel really fortunate that we could put all this together into such a well-playing team building simulation that fits worldwide. It generates clean results and very actionable ideas for implementation. And users have told me that the, “ah ha’s!” continue to happen long after the session.

You can find out more by clicking on this link or on the gameboard below:

LDGM 1 80

If we can help you with this, let us know,

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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Thoughts on building a high performance environment – Teamwork and Flow

Flow” is a simple concept that relates challenges to skills, with the understanding that the two are integrated and that they can dramatically affect performance. A good manager is aware of the relationship, and can structure the work environment to maximize results by keeping things in adjustment.

I expand on this in a long article on my website. You can find this and other performance-related articles and download them by clicking here. Or, you can simply click on the link below to download a pdf file directly. High_Performance_Team_Flow

The concept is based on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s model for improving individual performance that blends Challenge with Skills and helps people to frame a process for optimizing performance, both theirs and others. Overall, the situation looks like this:

Flow - Issues Graphic

Low skills in a highly challenging situation generate stress and sometimes fear. High skill levels in a low challenge situation generate boredom. It is not a complicated notion and most of us can readily think of situations where this has occurred.

His model takes these issues and puts forth a different proposal for how to improve performance. That looks like this:

Flow - Image Graphic

“Flow” might be described as becoming absorbed in an activity and tapping into that energy field to perform at a high level. 

A high performance state is where individuals and teams operate most effectively and find that state intoxicating. People who have played my team building exercise, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” often experience flow toward the end of the planning period when everything comes together very rapidly – or not, depending on how their team was working!

Skills and Challenges are important, but environment also counts.

How does one structure the environment to generate flow?

The overall environment generally needs to be supportive to reinforce the positives and minimize the negatives. The key is to set up an environment that helps to engage people and drive such a state of thinking and behaving. The components of a team-based, workplace environment design might have many or most of these components:

  • Clear goals, missions and purpose, where expectations are specific and processes and procedures are understood. Goals need to be perceived as achievable and the individuals must feel they possess adequate skills and abilities. The involvement of the team in the situation can also support flow.
  • Concentration and focus with a narrow field of view. Flow is more likely to occur if focus is on a narrow band of things rather than a broad one. Think of Bob Beamon’s thoughts on that record long jump in the 1968 Olympics. Avoiding distractions and disruptions is very helpful, although sometimes difficult to arrange and influenced by personal concentration skills.
  • Effective Performance Feedback is a critical factor, and one that many people do not well understand or implement (click here to access Scott’s Performance Feedback Analysis materials). To support high performance, feedback needs to be nearly immediate, positive, demonstrate trends in results, be narrow and specific and generally be self-measured and self-produced. When delays are introduced, it is like learning to play the piano when one cannot hear the notes for 30 seconds, a most difficult task.
  • Sufficient resources must be available so that external influences are felt to be minimal and a sense of “local control” exists about what is needed to succeed. Having to wait for equipment or permission is not conducive to a flowing workplace. A sense of control over the situation or activity lends itself to improved results; an internal focus-of-control generates better flow than a reliance or dependence on outside influencers.
  • Mental skills training is important. People should be using skills such as   dissociation, meditation, visual rehearsal or projection, positive self-talk (opposed to the constructive criticism so often used as a leadership technique by management!) and other creative skills that can benefit individuals. People should be able to access high performance mental states and also avoid distractions, both mental and physical. Teams using thinking processes like Ed DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats and other brainstorming or mind-mapping practices can add thinking skills to a problem-solving situation. Self-generated stretch or push goals for performance can create the need to expand and improve results and productivity.
  • A focus on success, rather than avoidance of failure, is important for most individuals. While some may employ a fear-of-failure strategy as a motivational force, it is generally not something that will drive peak performance. Having a focus on achieving success and meeting goals is much more rewarding than avoiding failure or lack of success. Intrinsic rewards support sustained performance much more than any added extrinsic rewards might generate. Achieving the goal and generating immediate positive feedback are powerful motivators and help sustain flow.
  • Balance between ability levels and challenges presented for the team (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult) is a key factor and something that managers and key leaders must attend to for best results.
  • Engagement within the activity itself is important, especially when it is a group or team situation where there may have been some past negativity surrounding this activity. Sharing risk can help minimize distractions and contribute to the feeling of support. Organizations DO have histories, as do individuals.
  • A situation of ownership can help, whereby teammates are enlisted in a shared challenge. This generates peer support for the perceived risks as well as support for the needed efforts. As I have said many times, “Nobody ever washes a rental car.” Having a sense of ownership can help reduce distractions as well as providing overall support and a decreased sense of risk. Individuals who do not have a sense of ownership involvement will not often create a sense of flow.

All of the above represent manageable environmental factors that managers can influence or control and any of these will help improve performance. And making people aware of the concept of flow is also helpful – the awareness can change how they deal with their thoughts and ideas and the choices they make about their performance.

And Remember, Fun is a helpful addition to almost every team building, high performance or organizational developmental situation.

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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Excuses for Poor Teamwork and Poor Performance – Find Your Own!

Dan Rockwell posted up a short blog on his LeadershipFreak blog about getting past excuses. The gist was that we make excuses for why we do not do what we are capable of, this for ourselves and for others.

Well, sure. ALL of us are capable of doing more than we do, in some cases a LOT more! I do not think that there is anyone who performs to their maximum potential on anything like a consistent daily basis. Some are frustrated by this, some take the gap as motivational, and some just roll along normally.

Who couldn’t work more hours, engage others in more better teamwork, run faster, eat less, and on and on. And I want to also differentiate the anchor of excuses from the issues of failure. Not getting everything done perfectly is not failure, it just might represent expectations that may or not be too high.

Setting achievable goals is an important issue. If the goals are too low, reaching them is not rewarding. If the goals are too high, trying to achieve them may be frustrating or may cause some kinds of cheating for their achievement. It is about overall balance, I think. Achieving good goals is a good thing for a lot of reasons.

Much of my organizational focus is on engagement, collaboration, and teamwork as they relate to optimizing performance results.

In the case of teams, the players will often throw a Blame Frame around things. I have written about that before in this blog on Trial and Error.

In my Lost Dutchman team building game, for example, we tell the tabletops that the goal of the game is to maximize ROI and to “mine as much gold as we can.” But, often, the phenomenon of “My Team, My Team, My Team” gets in the way and teams compete instead of collaborating and thus sub-optimize the gold that could have been mined. They then make their excuses like blaming the Expedition Leader for not being clear (it is always clear — it is their choice to compete).

After all, it is easier to put blame on others and make excuses rather than focus in on reality. So, the Dutchman game is really a tool to get the tabletop to begin to discuss behavioral alternatives and the requisite variety of options in the game and then make the leap to dealing with those same issues in the workplace. Teams in the workplace are often facing a lot of the same kinds of blame frames and individual choices that do not lead to collaboration and improved results.

Getting people to generate their excuses for performance flaws is often a very good idea since it gives the other members of the team a chance to discuss these and even put peer pressure on each other to not let those get in the way.

In teaching a class on consulting skills a few years ago, I assigned final group projects to triads of 3 people — in nearly every case the individuals came to me fearful that they would individually contribute more than the other two on their team. These were adults with workplace experiences probably paralleling this. So my simple solution was to take 30 minutes of the next class to ask what kinds of excuses there might be for a lack of teamwork and collaboration on these projects. Funny thing– how well that worked to generate solid levels of cooperation and shared effort.

It seems to be a lot about choices and perceived alternative solutions. Too many of us get too close to the wagon too often and fail to step back and see different possibilities. Having different alternatives for change is a key. Requisite variety is the word. If you think that all you have is that hammer, you may use it in different ways but you will still have only a hammer. I think that we can also see that there are different tools in our toolkits and that many of these tools can be applied in different ways.

Teamwork offers an anchor point to excuses, for example. Lots of us choose not to fully participate in teams because of “others.” We either think that we will contribute too much relative to the choices of others or that no one will listen to our ideas because they failed to do so in the past. But much of it is simply driven by how we think.

If you have good excuses for your personal lack of accomplishment, that is fine. Just take a moment, every once in a while, to see if those are still working well for you. After all, you cannot push the wagon at 100% of your effort 24 / 7 — that is just an unreasonable strategy. Step up and push as hard as you can. But also take some time to step back from the wagon every once in a while. You might see some things you could do differently and better.

View Back not motivational words

Me, I am tired and I think I will go take a nap. After that, I might sneak a peak around and see if I can find some new ideas to play with, like continuing my series of poems about performance.

View front Motivational words

I will plan to get back to work later. Heck, I should probably edit this later, too.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, team building facilitatorDr. 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

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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

 

Facilitation and Motivation – Ideas for workplace improvement

“Fear is the Mindkiller,” was repeated incessantly in the Dune books of Frank Herbert. Fear is numbing and generally not useful. Overall, the “Fear of public speaking,” remains America’s biggest phobia – 25% say they fear speaking in front of a group.

Clowns are feared (8% feared) and are officially scarier than ghosts (7%), but zombies are scarier than both (9%). Funny, eh? And research says that Democrats are nearly twice as likely as Republicans to have a fear of clowns, which might explain some of the interesting political events we find today. (Chapman University survey)

Watching workers working for nearly 50 years and trying to get a grip on the issues of engagement and motivation lead me to this conclusion:

Fear, the mindkiller

is a real fear in workplaces and for many managers — probably impacts people and performance more than most senior managers (who have to be accomplished presenters) more than one thinks. A lack of general confidence with facilitation skills can decrease leadership effectiveness, absolutely.

What we often do is promote that good worker into a Supervisor, because of their technical knowledge and their tendency to get things done. But are these new leader / managers actually good at involving and engaging their people for continued workplace improvement? Or are they just trying to keep things moving forward and more pressured to do things themselves? Do we actually give them training and development support to impact their leadership behavior?

Let’s also add in some additional leadership fears such as fear of loss of control and fear of not having the best ideas and all that other “am I worthy of this” personal competency thoughts and we can readily generate a list of reasons why so many managers simply find it hard to:

Ask for Ideas

for ideas.

It really is understandable. There are a lot of common fears about leading and involving and engaging and asking might indicate that you do not know…

At the same time, it is my consistent discovery that so many workplaces tend to look something like this:

Square Wheels Facilitation

The people are working hard, pushing and pulling their wagons, but it is the same thing, day after day and week after week. No wonder that Sirota Research found that 85% of new hires say that their morale declined significantly after spending 6 months in their job and that employee engagement remains so poor (Gallup, Mercer, and others).

We are apparently not doing a lot of asking
and probably doing a lot more telling!

My guess is that the reality of how organizations are working is not so much like that shown in the above illustration but seemingly more like what we share in the one below:

Square Wheels for improving facilitation

So, what is really so hard about facilitating a group discussion? Not a whole lot, actually, speaking as someone who was a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) by the International Association of Facilitators and who has been leading organizational improvement workshops teaching simple facilitation ideas since 1978.

Really, it is really simple, really. Seriously, it is really really simple:

  • Share an illustration with them that has printed on it, “How might this illustration represent how organizations really work?” And let them think about it and then discuss it in small groups.
  • Ask them to share their ideas and let them think, share and work.
  • Ask them to share how some of those same ideas might represent how things work in their work initiatives.
  • Ask them what we might try to do differently and if anyone is already doing something differently than everyone else.
  • Ask them if they could try to implement a change in how they do things or to recommend something that you might change to make things work better.

That, in a nutshell, is motivational engagement facilitation.

You can read lots more about facilitation, engagement and intrinsic motivation in my blog posts, since I often talk about these issues and opportunities as being straightforward. You can also read about Russian Poets and nutshells and Hamlet, if you want, since all this stuff does connect to motivating people and improving how things work. And, you can find a simple, free guide to facilitation by clicking below:

Elegant SolutionsFacilitating Engagement – an overview

The simple reality is that the Round Wheels already exist in wagons everywhere, but our people are seemingly too busy to stop and step back and identify issues and opportunities that are really visible and often relatively easy to fix. You can make that happen!

So here is some really simple advice for supervisors and facilitators:

Things I can do to improveSauare Wheels poster on Motivation

For the FUN of It!

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 themes of People and Performance is here.

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

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

Respect: Half of employees do not have it

An HBR study of employees found some unsurprising results. At least they are unsurprising if you have been looking at any of the data on engagement or involvement and employee attitudes on leadership. Employees do not get what they perceive as RESPECT from their managers. Half feel they are not respected.

Rodney Dangerfield Respect

Here is Rodney Dangerfield on Respect (3 minutes on YouTube)

Yeah, like Rodney, people feel that they simply get no respect from their management. And there are lots of data to support this over the years. (Some of us might be surprised to see that fully half do feel like they get respect when so few are actively involved and engaged, since these are correlated.)

Being a motivational manager requires facing issues head on and dealing with people and conflict. Employees want a leader that will stand up for them, communicate well and generate trust and engagement. Employees want a boss that will listen to them and help solve problems.

Research by Dale Carnegie Training showed that pride in the company and belief in the senior managers were key factors in driving organizational engagement, as is the relationship with one’s direct supervisor. A long series of Gallup surveys support the idea that personal relationships are critical factors for success.

And  this has Big Benefits. A 2010 study by the Corporate Executive Board found that, “firms whose culture encourages open communication outperform peers by more than 270% in terms of long-term (10 year) total shareholder return.”

Clearly, respect is a critical factor for performance and success. But it is not generally judged to be important. The HBR research shared that over 60% of managers claim that they are overloaded with things to accomplish and have no time to be nice to their people. One forth claimed that they had no role model within their organization (basically, they probably feel that they do not get any respect from their bosses!) Yet treating people with respect generates engagement, as the following graph shows.:

HBR Treat with Respect

If we could just get managers and supervisors to deal with the following kind of situation more effectively, I think we would see tremendous dividends.

Square Wheels LEGO image of devil's advocate

But when supervisors don’t feel they have the time to consider ideas and talk with their people about issues of missions, visions, goals and expectations, we are leaving a lot of motivation on the table. People do need to feel respected, along with involved and engaged. Feeling like they are an integral part of the performance team is a very positive thing.

This does not get us what we want:

Square Wheels LEGO Mission Poster image by Scott Simmerman

What we need to do is address the issues of communication, of mission and vision, of expectations and we need to get the ideas of everyone about what needs improvement and what ideas exist to accomplish those improvements.

(Here is an article about building a better sense of mission – including the In The Beginning description of the reality of creating such a thing.)

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

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

 

 

The Actual Impossibility of Engagement – An Organizational Reality

Check me on this if you can, but we keep talking about improving workplace performance by the active involvement and engagement of people doing their jobs. There are lots of reasons as well as lots of data that support this as a REALLY good idea because of the widespread impacts on results.

Just back from ASTD and after conversations with colleagues, both there as well as in a variety of email connections, it seems that this engagement idea is a non-starter and doomed for failure in so many organizations. In a simple illustration, let me anchor down my thoughts:

Square Wheels Supervisor leads teams forward Rat Cage words

Does anyone really think that HR is going to be able to do some kind of training event or lead some kind of organizational improvement initiative to involve and engage all the workers? Maybe, and I can think of a couple of organizations that have the culture to pull that off. But the day-to-day reality of the supervisory environment would suggest that improvement generated by active involvement and participation is a high-risk activity for most supervisors in most organizations.

After all, are they not already busy right now? Are they not up to their eyeballs in tasks and reports and meetings and reports and tasks? Do we simply expect that they would be motivated to do some “public speaking” and set up meetings where they involve people to share ideas about workplace issues and problems (and then expect some resolution and improvement) or is it a lot safer just to continue to do things the same way.

What is the Reality of this (from their perspective)?

Lee Ellis popped up a nice blog post here that I summarize:

Three strong indicators of an unhealthy organization are:

• A lack of trust leading to poor teamwork and alignment.
• A lack of clarity about mission, vision, and values.
• A fear of conflict. People are not allowed to say what they really think.

A healthy organization, alternatively, has management who:

1. Build Trust
2. Clarify and Over-Communicate
3. Create a Safe Environment and Encourage Debate
4. Are Courageous

All this stuff is fine, well and good, but anecdotal conversations continue to support the very basic idea that supervisors are incredibly busy with what is already expected of them (they do not even take all their earned vacation days, it seems and they work while they are off the job with emails and calls, etc.).

So, can we really expect them to add the risky activity of asking about the problems that their people feel exist and be expected to implement some solutions? Sure, they could implement teamwork, but that is a whole different set of worms…

Do most of them really want to start up performance improvement teams and use up even more of their time and the time of their people? And, a lot of supervisors are fearful of teams because of the potential loss of control that they perceive might occur. Plus, they often need the support of their managers and maybe even HR.

So, is engagement of people for workplace improvement even a reality for most organizations doing things the same way and expecting things to change and improve?

I think that there are good possibilities for change and improvement and we sell some very simple tools to generate ideas in a pretty safe and effective manner with our Square Wheels toolkits. This one on basic facilitation is cheap and easily used.

An organizational motivational reality might look like this:

Square Wheels One poem Always Do Pretty Rotten

And thus, my basic suggestion is pretty simple:

Square Wheels One Don't Just DO Stand red border

Make things happen. Your choice.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

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

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

We also sell a powerful team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. You can view a slideshare overview of the exercise here:

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine prices

Is ENGAGEMENT even possible, today?

For all the statistics showing that employee engagement is really low and the surveys showing 2/3 of employees have the opportunity to improve their level of involvement, for all the studies about impacts for involving people from the motivational / ownership side of things to the impacts on innovation and creativity, I am thinking that believing that we can engage people in the workplace is simply wishful thinking.

My thoughts are anchored to this illustration:

Square Wheels One - if you always do done

A reality in organizations is that we cannot expect things to change if we do not do anything differently and I think that the average supervisor or manager is simply UNABLE to get the time to stop pulling and sit down with people.

A consultant friend said it this way:

We have a ton of anecdotal information capturing what supervisors actually do. This is far different from what supervisors “should” do theoretically. The reality in the workplace is that since 2008 supervisors have been charged with “supervising and doing task oriented staff work”. In other words, supervisors are now “working supervisors” doing tasks that staff would do except we don’t have a staff person or even a position on the books to place anyone. So supervisors are strapped to help complete the work of their unit and supervise, too.

That matches with my perception of reality. They are trapped with too much to do. They are simply not given the opportunity to have alignment and idea meetings with their direct reports, since everyone is measured continually on their production and there is simply not the time.

I think of it more like this:

Square Wheels One Seuss supervisor break out the time

If you have seen any statistics on all this, please add a comment. The old Mintzberg kinds of research on time and motion do not begin to capture the realities of the modern workplace. And all sorts of different data point to the fact that “productivity” has had continuous massive jumps while the numbers of people who would like to quit their current jobs is very high, including managers as well as workers.

I’ll quit with this little graphic I just created, based on my cartoon called, “Chain of Command“:

Chain of Command one-liners

It would be most excellent if senior managers would understand that there is a lot of headroom for performance improvement if we can simply step back from the wagon a bit and look for and allow people to improve.

There is an old quote from the training literature that goes,

How long can we go lean and mean
before we become gaunt and dead?

The round wheels are already in the wagon. We need to look at our supervisors and really understand if they have the time and resources to ask for and implement ideas for workplace performance improvement. There would be a LOT of positive impacts throughout the organization, for sure.

I added a few more thoughts on this in another blog post so click on the image below:

Square Wheels Rat Cage Haiku work hard

And you can find more about our thinking on the bigger picture of employee involvement and engagement by clicking on this link to another article on my blog or by heading to my website,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and tools

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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