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What is it with “Engagement?” Why can’t we drive it forward More Better Faster?

I was shocked and amazed to see, after we have spent billions of dollars on surveys and assessments and trainings of various kinds, that workplace engagement continues to be an issue and that only about a third of people seem to care about their workplaces.

It is amazing because there are thousands of books on leadership, amazing quantities of published works on organizational alignment and missions/visions, as well as how-to books like Good to Great and even way back to Managing Excellence-themed works — they all seem to show that the issue of generating shared expectations and teamwork looks pretty straightforward. Just DO It, right?!

But works such as Lenconi’s “The Trouble with Teams” shows that there are issues. Heck, an old article I read documented the ideas around Theory F, that FEAR was a good tool for managers to use to manage performance. (I mean, yeah it happens but to do it as a conscious strategy around workplace fear seems to be a reach!).

Gallup just published a report that showed that only 35% of male managers in the US are engaged in their jobs. Repeating: only 1/3 of males who are managing and leading other people are themselves engaged. (It is better for women – 41%, and it also shows that the teams working under women are also more engaged).

I remember an old one-liner, said to be Utah Jazz coach Frank Layton, talking with a talented but under-performing player: “Son, what is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?” to which the player supposedly responded, “Coach, I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Now whether or not the story is accurate, it does reach out to the issue that lots and lots of managers, supervisors and workers don’t seem to know or to care. So what can we do differently? Well, the answer to the engagement issue sure seems to be the involvement narrative. People that are told what to do simply push back; I know it and you know it because we all do it pretty naturally, almost biologically.

This is also supported by the idea that nobody ever washes a rental car. Talk to an owner of a rental car franchise to get some amazing war stories of what went out and what returned. Talk to someone who owns rental property. We simply cannot simply expect people who have no ownership to take the same responsibility as the ones who hold some proprietary interest in it.

There is a general lack of respect, and we have seen the number of people quitting their jobs to exceed the number who were terminated in the past. There are all sorts of issues around how people are treated, informed and involved:

  • Statistics find that 86% of engaged employees say they very often feel happy at work (against 11% of the disengaged). And, 45% of the engaged say they get a great deal of their life happiness from work (against 8% of the disengaged). (Gallup)
  • 46% of new hires leave their jobs within the first year, generally because of their managers and how they are treated
  • 63% of those who do not feel treated with respect intend to leave within 2 years (it is hard to capture data on those who actually do, but one can guess that they contribute at the “minimal expectations” level
  • Only 29% of UK employees believed their senior managers were sincerely interested in their well‐being; only 31% thought their senior managers communicated openly and honestly; only 3% thought their managers treated them as key parts of the organization and no fewer than 60% felt their senior managers treated them as just another organizational asset to be managed. (Towers Watson)

A Solution seems to be pretty simple:

Supervisors should be asking and listening. They should be asking their people for ideas about what needs to be improved to make their workplace more efficient and effective and those ideas should be considered for implementation. A solid approach to facilitation helps clarify the issues and opportunities, identify best practices and good ideas, and would help drive ownership involvement, teamwork and alignment to shared goals and expectations.

Is this a Perfect Solution? Probably not, because there is a lot of stuff cascading down from above that impacts motivation and morale and how things are prioritized. But does it make sense at the local level, where the supervisor interacts with the worker? Most certainly. This is the leverage point, but the supervisors generally do not have the skills to manage this and HR and T&T are generally too lean to offer much help.

The Square Wheels Project facilitation training for supervisors

What we are doing with The Square Wheels Project is teaching some simple, straightforward facilitation skills using an image that allows people to share their thoughts and ideas. We are sharing ideas about how to make these meetings highly interactive and effective, and suggesting how to structure the collection of ideas and the development of implementation strategies. And we are setting up a peer-coaching and peer-support approach to help supervisors actually move forward and do some things differently.

And we are keeping things very simple and straightforward: Show the image, ask tabletops for reactions and thoughts, identify some operating Square Wheels, select some to work on and generate some Round Wheels solutions. Implement.

We are focused on engagement, but we are also driving innovation, intrinsic motivation, teamwork and a lot of other positive team building and team bonding kinds of things. We will also support learners with ideas on managing roadblocks through a similarly engaging process.

Engagement Cannot Be Rocket Science. Involving people in workplace improvement ideas simply cannot be as hard as the big consulting firms, looking for the big consulting contracts, would make it appear. Ask, and Ye Shall Receive!

If you want to see more, go to www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com to view a short introductory video.

And if you would like to collaborate with us in some way, connect directly 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.

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

 

Presenteeism – They are IN but they are OUT

I was reading some news feeds and came across the word, “Presenteeism” in an HR thread. The term was new to me, but since I was gathering some notes around the theme of involvement and engagement, it resonated. The common use is seemingly around working while sick and is seen as the opposite and related problem to absenteeism.

I think the term is much bigger than that and that presenteeism is much more prevalent than commonly thought. I want to expand and relate the term to issues of people and performance in general.

Repeatedly, we see that only about 1/3 of workers are engaged with work. Others are not engaged and some are even anti-engaged to the point where they are actively working against the organization. You can see a bit more on this if you read my blog about sabotage or if you google “workplace sabotage” or even search on issues around part-time employment problems. Those anti-organization workers are few in number and often known, since they tend to actively act and speak against the company and its management (but not always).

Individuals suffering from Presenteeism are a more common issue. I remember back in my college fraternity years that when we wanted to take a break during an active beer drinking game, we would announce, “I’m in, but I’m out,” effectively saying that we were still playing but that we were going to take a break for a bit.

The concept is actually getting a good bit of study from the academics. Wikipedia offers:

Scholars have provided various other descriptions of the concept. For instance, Simpson claimed that presenteeism is “the tendency to stay at work beyond the time needed for effective performance on the job.” Aronsson, Gustafsson, and Dallner wrote that it means attending work even when one feels unhealthy. In a recent review of the literature, Johns highlighted the lack of agreement between the many definitions. The author claimed that many of the definitions lack utility and that the term is most often defined as going to work while ill. He further noted that definitions of presenteeism, which are centered on attending work while sick, have received more evidence of construct validity. In other words, when defined as coming to work while sick, presenteeism seems to relate more to logical outcome variables and correlates.

I am going to expand the concept to refer to the employees who are, IN but OUT when it comes to their everyday active involvement in their workplace, to the large percentage of people who are not at either end of the engagement curve, the ones that are not actively engaged or dis-engaged. These people in the middle are the people that organizations should be focused on, the ones who can contribute a bit more to the results than they currently choose to do. They have the skills to perform, just not the motivation or peer support.

SO, how does one reduce Presenteeism in their organization? There is a LOT of research that says that the concept is pretty simple and straightforward and I will summarize it in four simple rules:

  1. Ask them for their ideas
  2. Ask them for their ideas
  3. Ask them for their ideas
  4. Ask them for their ideas

Visually and operationally, presenteeism reduction can look something like this:

Presenteeism Prevention with Square Wheels LEGO

Stop the everyday pushing and pulling of the wagon and let people sit down and play with ideas for a bit of time. They will often discover or share new ways of doing things that might make an impact on processes but will surely make an impact on engagement.

My simple rule of thumb is that the activity of management asking their people for ideas about improving their workplace, and then dealing honestly and openly with suggestions is the most straightforward way to deal with presenteeism. (This is not about doing some survey where everything in anonymous and results get buried but the active, face-to-face interface of supervisors and workers or managers and supervisors.)

If you feel that the boss cares for you, you are much more likely
to care for your work and the work of others.

If you would like to see a short video about how this can actually be accomplished, click on the 13-second video offered below. We are trying to keep this simple and easy in regards of how it can help motivate and engage people:

Your efforts to dis-un-engage people can be very straightforward – you can act to get them more involved and you can help them remove perceived roadblocks.

‘For a more detailed, operational overview of these ideas, take a look at this more elaborate, explanatory video below. Note that you can do that by exposing YOUR workplace wagon and asking people for ideas about what things might work better and what ideas and resources might already exist. Again, the research on this suggests that 2/3 of the people in workplaces feel their boss is not interested in their thinking, a prime causal factor of Presenteeism:

You can find our simple toolkit for decreasing workplace Performance Presenteeism by clicking on the image below:

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

My goal is to provide simple but effective tools for impacting people and performance, and I am not sure how I can be any more simple and straightforward. It is up to YOU to be more effective,

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

 

 

 

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

Better Roadblock Management – Dis-Un-Empowerment and Square Wheels

My regular readers know that I use images and metaphors to express a lot of my thinking. My basic metaphor for how things work looks like this:

Square Wheels One LEGO Main Image in LEGO by Scott Simmerman

Square Wheels are the way things really work, and the Round Wheels are already in the wagon. Don’t just DO something, Stand there!

For 20+ years, I have been playing with issues of empowerment and engagement and team building, using cartoons and games to drive out desired behavior and produce better communications and alignment to goals and missions. I take the low road on all this, working hard to keep things really simple because I find that things ARE really simple.

In moving from my line-art representations to using these LEGO block images and themes, I am working to upgrade some of the simple toolkits we sell and support. Right now, we have the Square Wheels Icebreaker Toolkit (the very simple communications tool) packaged and on the website.

And I am working on the materials for the Roadblocks Management Toolkit, which will be a large expansion of the existing one that has worked so well to dis-un-empower people and workplace improvement ideas. I thought to put a “work-in-progress” update here as a blog post, with the offer that if you purchase the OLD toolkit, I will update you with the new one, at the OLD PRICE!

The model is rebuilt, using LEGO pieces to represent the roadblocks, with images in powerpoint to generate discussions along with worksheets for use in processing the ideas. The OLD one works fine, and the new one will work better. Save a few bucks and get the NEW one at the old price if you act now.

Square Wheels LEGO POSTER Roadblocked

There is more to come, and a slideshare program and maybe a short video describing how things can change and how managers can more effectively involve their people in workplace improvement ideas, along with team building and coaching frameworks,

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

 

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

Challenging Mediocrity – Continuous Continuous Improvement

Dan Rockwell shared another good post, this one on pursuing excellence and dealing with mediocrity. Ever since Tom Peter’s and Bob Waterman published In Search of Excellence (1982), I have found that concept to be a really solid and inspiring one to use. And one does not often hear the word “excellence” used much these days when talking about leadership or organizational improvement. Those thoughts of Peter’s have been strong influencers of my work for the past 30 years, the things like MBWA and sticking to the knitting.

Dan’s summary bullets included these:

  1. Ask teams, who believe in the mission, where they can be better. Don’t point out their failures. Let them point out their aspirations.
  2. Every time you feel like pointing out a problem, ask, “How can we make that better?”
  3. Never allow conversations about issues or problems to end without finding some corrective action. At the least, set a “make it better” meeting.
  4. Ask, “What can we do about that,” when someone points out a problem or shortfall.
  5. Reject the need for big solutions. The need for big solutions is the reason teams end up doing nothing, except complaining.
  6. When someone says, “That won’t work,” ask, “What might help?”
  7. Focus more on where you’re going than where you’ve been. Apply Pareto’s 80/20 principle.
  8. Think of the pursuit of excellence in terms of people, then systems. How can you maximize talent and passion?

(You can find Dan’s whole list here)

While the Excellence book did get panned because of some of the companies they selected, the principles that Peters and Waterman expressed seemed really solid ones and I think if more companies did these kinds of things, we would probably see higher levels of employee engagement and innovation today. Those eight key points, taken from the Wikipedia article, are:

  1. A bias for action, active decision making – ‘getting on with it’. Facilitate quick decision making & problem solving tends to avoid bureaucratic control
  2. Close to the customer – learning from the people served by the business.
  3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship – fostering innovation and nurturing ‘champions’.
  4. Productivity through people- treating rank and file employees as a source of quality.
  5. Hands-on, value-driven – management philosophy that guides everyday practice – management showing its commitment.
  6. Stick to the knitting – stay with the business that you know.
  7. Simple form, lean staff – some of the best companies have minimal HQ staff.
  8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties – autonomy in shop-floor activities plus centralized values.

Most of these are people / philosophy issues, as I see them. And people ARE about performance!

My personal approach for the past 20+ years is to view people and performance issues within the realm of my Square Wheels frameworks, which I think meld really nicely with Dan’s thinking. Languaging around Square Wheels for issues and Round Wheels for possibilities takes a lot of the negative out of improvement discussions, since we can all accept that the Square Wheels are everywhere and the Round Wheels already exist.

So here is a little ditty on Mediocrity that I spun up for this blog.

Square Wheels images like these are the designs of Dr. Scott Simmerman

Don’t let all those Round Wheels seem like roadblocks to your performance improvement or your journey forward. There are ideas for performance improvement everywhere and managing improving excellence is a simple process of working with people with a degree of alignment and collaboration.

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

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Some New Thoughts on Trust and Devils Advocate

My plans are to develop a solid whitepaper on the benefits of challenging existing assumptions and challenging status quo, with the goal of finding solid ideas that merit implementation or to identify issues in generating innovation and process improvement. There is a LOT of data and a LOT of success stories around all this that I want to elaborate on and share.

So, the note-taking and quote-taking continue and I am waiting for the brain to say, “You got it, now go!” So far, no such auditory trigger has been pulled. So I muddle with the meddling. And I wanted to get something up on this useful topic.

What I AM doing is continuing the framing of the issue. I must keep the framework and tools really simple, because lots of data also suggest that supervisors and managers are way overloaded and functionally unable to add much new to their plate of responsibilities.

My thought is that facilitating this process with the Square Wheels tools makes really good sense, since the approach really does not require any significant facilitation skills training or other costly roadblocks. If the manager wants to do things, they can simply choose to do them.

My oft used quotes are that:

  • Trust is the residue of Promises Fulfilled. (Frank Navran)
  • The Round Wheels are already in your wagon. (Scott Simmerman)
  • A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. (John LeCarre)
  • Nobody ever washes a rental car. (Scott Simmerman)

ALL of these lend themselves to the reality that the supervisor has to be the one to involve and engage their people in workplace improvement ideas in order to generate intrinsic motivation and process improvement, and the ideas already exist and people can develop a sense of ownership that will support their implementation.

So, I developed two simple Posters using my LEGO cartoons to help frame the issue. The issue is a simple one: Most workplaces have unengaged people simply doing the work of pushing their wagon and it needs to be acceptable for them to question the reality with management on occasion. This can generate new ideas as well as improve teamwork and intrinsic motivation for working.

LEGO POSTER Devil's Advocate simply

But one HAS to stop pushing and pulling in order to have the mental time to even consider options.

LEGO SWs One POSTER Devil's Advocate Challenge

The TRUST aspect of this comes from behavior. If you can make promises and commitments about implementing the ideas of the workers, if you can form empowered teams and allow them to operate in a way to make those improvements, you build the trust between you one wheel at a time. Approaching the workplace like this allows you that opportunity to act congruently, set clearer expectations about desired results and outcomes, and to give recognition for steps of improvement.

(Click here to see a supporting article on Trial and Error Thinking)

Trial and Error Blame Frame color red

What we do with our Square Wheels toolkits is offer up a simple-to-use and very inexpensive toolkit for involving people and generating their thoughts around the Square Wheels (what is not working smoothly) and their Round Wheel ideas for possibilities for improvement.

Good ideas spin up easily from this approach and the materials themselves lend themselves to engagement and involvement, since the approach is to simply use the cartoons to ask for ideas.

Tools for Involving and Engaging PeopleIf you want to improve engagement of people and improve performance, you cannot wait for HR to offer up some solutions. Get a grip on things by letting go of the rope.

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!

I will guarantee that these tools work for engagement and innovation and that they are simple to use. They come complete with all sorts of backup materials and there are dozens of blog posts within the PMC Blog that offer ideas for facilitation and framing,

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 blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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

 

Debriefing Team Building Games – Some Ideas and Reactions

A few weeks ago, I posted up a 35-slide Slideshare compendium of some of the main debriefing themes we use, anchored to our teambuilding exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. The goal was to share how the exercise connects to organizational development issues and opportunities as well as to illustrate how we feel team building exercises of ALL kinds should work.

LD Slideshare Debrief cover

Dutchman focuses on aligning teams and players to shared goals and on generating collaboration between the tabletops as some of its unique competencies. It also links to leadership, motivation, strategic planning and project management themes.

Once I uploaded that file to Slideshare, I sent the link out to some of our existing consultant and trainer users of the exercise for their comments and reactions. All were positive and a couple of people offered up some good frameworks. Raju Madhaven, who used the game to train thousands of people when he was with Wipro in India (and who is now out consulting and training with his purchase of it) shared some good comments that stimulated me to blog about this:

  1. You can consider including the Tuckman model of Teaming – Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing (slide 21/22)
  2. Asking the question – Does your organization reward collaborative thinking? What are the ways in which it can reward? (slide 20 & 26)
  3. Slide 23 – While the poem is great- I wish the readers don’t misinterpret the visual! (it shows a driver and his vehicle on a mountain flat with no way to go up/down!
  4. I use the text in slide 33 a lot- very effective

So, let me embellish his comments with some of my own:

1. The Tuckman Model of Teaming is a very simple expressive model of four stages of team development: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. It is often useful in describing how people feel when they are challenged as a group to make a decision but it is not a tight model nor one that has proven itself as an organizational tool.

In referencing that model, Raju was referring to the slides that I use to express the common reactions of teams to the challenge and the need to go from differing ideas to a shared consensus in order for the team to operate efficiently and effectively:

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 21 and 22 60

The tabletops do move from discord and disagreement to a readiness to operate, and they accomplish this in the 15 minutes of allotted Planning Time before the start of the game. That simply demonstrates that people CAN reach a decision and work as a team under time pressures, if the goals and objectives are shared and the mechanics of how to operate are known.

2. Collaboration – Raju likes to ask questions about how organizations deal with the culture of collaboration — is it supported or is the culture more competitive. Much of the Dutchman game design supports the measured benefit of collaboration, since we can track how sharing information and resources helps to optimize overall results.

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 20 and 26 60

The issue of rewarding collaboration is a difficult one, I think, since the addition of extrinsic rewards generally increases complexity of the interactions (do you reward all team members for the extra efforts of a few of them or do you reward all the teams participating in an organizational improvement initiative when only some of them were major contributors and some may have faced legitimate roadblocks like a lack of funding for their work. I am a Big Believer in using intrinsic reward and self-satisfaction to push behavior rather than the extrinsic rewards to recognize success. Some balance is certainly needed!

Collaboration is an obvious benefit to organizations, but the way that we often structure measurement and feedback systems is to generate competition rather than teamwork. In many cases, the term “Interdepartmental Collaboration” represents an oxymoron (words that do not go together) and we even call different operating units “Divisions” in many large organizations, somehow expecting divided organizations to function together.

The consulting and alignment and leadership development of these aspects of organizational structure are a difficult issue to address in many organizational cultures, simply because they have always been competitive in their orientation. Dutchman accomplishes this better than anything we are aware of…

We have a number of consultant users framing the Dutchman exercise into one for strategy implementation and restructuring and similar massive organizational change initiatives.

3. Intrinsic Motivation – I have long used this illustration, along with a body language physical exercise, to stress the important feeling of success that comes from accomplishment.

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 23

So, I am using the concept of pinnacle or reaching the top as the anchor point for the image, not the fact that they are “stuck” or any such thing.

In my trainings, I sometimes have people stand up and then raise their arms over their heads. I ask them how that feels and responses are uniformly positive. Then, I have them droop their arms down and round their shoulders forward and put their heads to look down and I ask them how that feels. Routinely, they will say things like “low energy” or “depressing” or “heavy.” Then, I repeat the arms over their head, have them cheer or jump up and down or similar and then tell them that they always have a choice in terms of how to react to situations!

So, for me, the cartoon illustrates a success state, a state of accomplishment, and I discuss things from that perspective.

I am not thinking that anyone would not see that from the way I debrief that slide! You can use that kind of framing in most any training, I would guess. You might also note that the vehicle in the image has round wheels, but that is a whole different conversation!

4. My two simple ending or closing statements:

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 32 and 33 60

I like to anchor my sessions in the concept of choice and choices. We all get to choose our reactions to things and having a more diversified set of choices or considered alternatives helps us to choose better.  Ownership is important, since

Nobody ever washes a rental car

Click on above to read Scott’s blog on ownership involvement

All of our games and toolkits are designed to generate active involvement, a sense of ownership and commitment from the resulting discussions, and a set of considered alternative choices for future decisions.

I hope that you have found this framework useful and that maybe a new idea has been generated about improving the impact of your training and organizational development 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.

 
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.

 

 

 

 

Leading People by Involving and Engaging – some resources

Motivating, aligning and engaging people are critical tasks of managing, but also something that seems to need consistent attention from leaders at every level of the organization.

In my 30+ years of working with people and performance, an Engaging Leader is one who facilitates and sustains an inclusive and supportive workplace for those who they lead, so that people become increasingly active participants in organizational and performance improvement. They take an incremental, long term view and look for a better future for the workgroup and the individuals.

How does a leader better involve and engage people? In my view of the world, they increase the shared vision of the future. It looks something like this:

The View from The Front is different than the View at the Back. And people DO have ideas for workplace improvement that can be implemented with teamwork.

The View from The Front is different than the View at the Back. And people DO have ideas for workplace improvement that can be implemented with teamwork.

You do not need to be a professional facilitator to involve and engage your people in workplace improvement. One just needs to get them working with you to identify issues and opportunities; generally, they will be self-motivated to make things better. And, you can build their intrinsic motivation and increase their creativity by helping them move forward. You can help them to implement their ideas and we have the tools, small packages of self-directed communications bundles that are simple as well as inexpensive.

We Sell Simple Tools for Engaging Employees

You will find that these easy-to-use, engaging tools are designed for leaders to facilitate communications, motivation, collaboration, innovation and teamwork. Examples of these toolkits are:

Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit
A powerfully simple tool to get people engaged in the journey forward. This basic program is for anyone wanting to facilitate workplace improvement
and involve and engage people to impact intrinsic motivation.

The Square Wheels Coaching for Improved Performance Toolkit
Coaching is about involving and engaging and changing the picture of how things can be. One needs to develop a sense of ownership and deal with issues of perceived roadblocks to generate alternative choices.

Manager as Motivator – A Square Wheels Toolkit
A complete program for Facilitating Employee Involvement and Implementation of Ideas. A train-the-trainer kind of bundle for trainers and more senior managers to use to teach their managers involvement and motivational skills.

Innovate & Implement
A solid learning tool. It puts as few as 3 people (but works with an unlimited number of players) in a situation where they have to work together in a challenging, time-limited game focused on collaboration and communications.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Goldmine Team Building Game
This is our flagship team building exercise and you can find dozens of supporting articles here in the blog that explains its very unique capabilities and applications. It has received worldwide acclamation as a Game for Team Building, Communications, Strategic Planning, Collaboration and Leadership Development that works with all kinds of organizations and groups.

Any of these along with the other products on our website are proven tools for reaching out to and engaging employees in the process of continuous, continuous improvement.

Here are some of my Blog Articles around the Idea of Engaged Leaders who help generate a motivated and innovative workplace.

If You Aren’t Leading and Engaging, What are You Doing?

LEGO, Square Wheels, Innovation, Leadership and Stuff

Fear is The Mindkiller – Thoughts on Facilitation and Engagement

Facilitation? Me, a Facilitator? Me, a MOTIVATOR??

Decision Making, Creativity, and Implementation

Teamwork and Square Wheels and Implementation

Can Creativity be Taught? Illustrated Thoughts

Focusing Attention on Performance Improvement through Interactive Engagement

square wheels business haiku on intrinsic motivation

If we can help you, connect with me. I am easy to reach and can offer some pretty realistic and straightforward ideas and solutions to many performance improvement and team building issues that we find in the workplaces of the world.

Square Wheels Intrinsic Motivation illustration

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.

If you aren't leading and engaging, what ARE you doing?

If you aren’t leading, involving, engaging and motivating people, are you just taking up valuable organizational space? We need Leaders in so many workplaces today and managers need to make choices!

—–

A key issue in most teams in most sports is having leadership. It can occur everywhere. Sometimes, they wear a little “C” on their jerseys indicating to the officials that they are Captains and sometimes they walk to the middle of the playing field to watch the coin toss. Other times, they are simply the people on the field who the other look to for motivation or depend on for The Big Play.

This happens in every organization, too. Sometimes, people depend on one of their own to speak up at a meeting to express a common concern. Sometimes these are just those people who get others involved in what is going on, since every person in the tug-of-war lends something to the effort.

Paraphrasing on Henny Youngman standard one liner, the research by so many different organizational polling companies would suggest,

Take my Boss… Please.

Jim Clifton seemed to seriously suggest that the data from his Gallup polling would suggest a realistic situation were for about 7,000,000 managers to simply be fired because they repeatedly seem unable to lead, manage or get out of the way. So many workers complain that no one listens and no one cares and that engagement is a HUGE problem with most companies worldwide. (Find a link to some of his writings here.)

Organizations  tend to work like this, in the view of most people: Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

Wagon Pullers are seemingly isolated by the rope!

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2014 Survey showed that leadership was a critical issue, with 86% of respondents rating it “urgent” or “important”. It also showed that only 13% of organizations say they do an excellent job of developing leaders at all levels — yeah, that is kind of noticeable.

But leadership is a big wide thing, with there literally being thousands of books on the topic. Most of us regular people would simply suggest that being trustworthy, involving and engaging are pretty important skills to generate everyday motivation. Feeling aligned to the goals and expectations and feeling appreciated seem to be pretty straightforward and understandable parts, too.

These Big Survey Consulting Companies like Gallup and Deloitte tend to offer up Very Big Solutions (you can read that as complicated and expensive). Me, I am more of a continuous continuous improvement kind of guy who thinks that everyone can make some improvements every day without requiring the extensive involvement of HR and Training & Development organizations — you know, the ones that always get their funding cut first because they are seen as costly to most senior managers (who do not get their development from them anyway, relying on outside groups like the Universities and Center for Creative Leadership and similar…).

There are a number of writings in the PMC blog around the issues of generating engagement and motivation, all of it simple and straightforward and all of which can easily be accomplished by any supervisor simply looking to improve their skills in motivating people.

– Here are thoughts on the problems of involving and engaging people– Here are ideas on Dis-Un-Engagement and issues of facilitating– Here is a framework for involvement and workplace improvement

As so many others have framed things, I believe that only some of the problems of leadership are at the top levels of the organization — senior managers may not be leading well or implementing strategies effectively.

But as Jim Clifton and others have shown, the real issues of organizational leadership and day-to-day motivation and performance occur at the interface of worker and manager – there are zillions of those minute-to-minute, hourly and daily interactions that might allow so many more people to work “more better faster” and that would help to involve and engage and align people to the expectations and goals. That is where organizations are failing their people.

There are no Big Silver Bullets out there to solve these issues. But there are bazillions of the Square Wheels, those things that work but do not work smoothly and that generate less than optimal performance. These are “artificial hindrances” in the sense that The Round Wheels are already in the wagon! There are all sorts of motivational impacts to be achieved when our supervisors do a better job of involving and engaging their people and our managers do a better job of involving and engaging our supervisors.

So many Big Solutions have been tried and have seemed to fail over the past 50 years. Sometimes, that exceptional leader like a Steve Jobs can get a good grip on things and have that major impact, but those cases are really rare (which is why Steve Jobs got all that press!).

Maybe it is time to try somelittle solutions. Maybe it is time to simply allow a bit more individual development and initiative in the workplace of the managers and supervisors so that they can more effectively involve and motivate their people.

S

It does not take a whole big bunch of money or time to actually implement some of the ideas of the team that would make the workplace better in some ways. People generally want to make things better and will work toward doing that. And that little effort has a big and cascading impact on people and morale:

cartoon by Dr. Scott Simmerman

It is important to remember that Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car and that people want to have a sense of ownership involvement in things. Plus, it is also important to know that people do need to be involved and engaged in order to want to be involved:

Navajo Not possible to awaken

 

At PMC, we sell simple toolkits that allow a supervisor to generate actionable ideas from their people. We use these simple cartoons to get wheels rolling downhill, to show supervisors that involvement and engagement facilitation are not that difficult to accomplish and that these activities can be a part of their everyday life as a manager. It is easy to ask and to listen, to generate teamwork focused on implementing good ideas to make performance improvements.

People are creative and flexible. We can do simple things to remove or decrease frustration and deal with roadblocks to help motivate people. I call this process Engagimentation (or Dis-Un-Empowerment) and suggest that you consider taking such actions with your people to make some impacts on so many things. Let me know if we can help – we sell inexpensive and effective tools for communications.

Performance Management Company and Scott Simmerman

For the FUN of It!

square wheels authorDr. 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.

 

 

The Origin of Engagement in the breakdown of Appraisal and Control

Simply put:

We need stop doing such a lousy job
of motivating people in the workplace.

Stats show 85% of employees report their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job (from Sirota Survey Intelligence) and 49% of workers say they constantly have their antennae out for new job opportunities — even when they are happy in their current position. Few feel their current employer is giving them a fair deal in terms of advancement opportunities (Kelly survey).

In a recent Forum Corp. survey, only 8% of employees report that they trust their leaders “to a great extent.”  But in that very same survey, 96% of employees say that it is, “extremely important to have a manager they can trust.”

I expand on a lot of issues of workplace motivation in this two-part post,

Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…”
(Part One) (Part Two)

The data is clear. People are not involved and engaged in the workplace and these people, their managers, the customers and the company all pay a price for that un-engagement.

square wheels image

Solutions for this are pretty much everywhere. Improving leadership and its alignment to core values and an expressed mission and vision — one that is real and congruent to their behavior — is a good place to start. Improving teamwork and collaboration in the workplace is another good place to begin to re-engage people.

Here is a short 6-minute video on the engagement network
that frames up some obvious solutions.

Removal of the perceived roadblocks to good performance is basic and straightforward and you can read some of my ideas about managing that here.

There are some thoughts here on sharing praise and managing performance feedback, including a link to my Feedback Analysis Checklist. (Click here to see that blog post) and there is a long, two-part series of articles that get into a lot of ideas and information and statistics on managing performance here.

What we need to do is understand that passion and trust are critical factors in workplace motivation and that our traditional approach of performance appraisal and performance evaluation simply puts the worker and the manager into an adversarial kind of environment. The typical “reward systems” that are installed by HR and supported by the executive team are not working and will not work, serving very often to simply put the people into competition, which more often sub-optimizes the overall group performance a lot more than it motivates the top performers.

Best practices already exist in the organization, but developing the teamwork to help install them throughout the workplace cannot be done with competition as the driving force. The ideas for improvement already exist, but we cannot make improvements if we keep working like this:

Square Wheels One cannot expect improvement words

We need to do things differently
or we will continue to get the same results!

The change needs to be at the interface of the worker and the supervisor. All that other stuff is nice, but it is the manager that needs to change their behavior. We also can build on the natural tendency of people to work together on shared goals and desired outcomes. People are competitive, but teamwork does occur naturally.

We must put the power into the hands of the supervisor, not in the hands of some remote and well-intentioned HR Control Group that has little in common with the workers and supervisors and who do not share the same expectations, desired outcomes and goals, or rewards for good performance. Performance Appraisal and Evaluation — even if you improve it — will not do much to improve workplace performance. Simply because:

  • Fear is the Mindkiller (from the Dune books) — competition produces winners and lots more losers and no one likes to lose.
  • Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled. (Frank Navran)
  • Nobody ever washes a rental car. Ownership and hands-on involvement are critical factors in success.

Get them involved and engaged with you in your workplace improvement efforts and focus HR on human capital improvement, not performance appraisal and so-called incentive motivation.

We cannot become what we want to be

PMC has great tools for facilitating engagement and involvement and for building teams and teamwork, tools that work for supervisors interested in the improvement of workplace performance and motivating people. It is not rocket science — it is straightforward, simple and simply continuous…

For the FUN of It!

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.

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123″ a>

Bill Cosby, John LeCarre and Jim Collins on Improving Workplace Performance and Motivation

Bill Cosby made a great presentation years ago at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Conference in San Diego. he told the story of:

… two geniuses and two human resources professionals at the gates of heaven, all trying to get in. The gatekeeper said there was a simple way to gain entry: just give God a question that he couldn’t answer. If you could stump him, you got in.

The Geniuses huddled and talked back and forth for a while, but no matter how hard they tried to ask questions, God always had the answer.

Those two human resources people, on the other hand, huddled for just a moment, scribbled down a single question and handed it to the gatekeeper.

He reappeared a few minutes later and said they had done well and that God was stumped, so they could enter Heaven when they liked. 

The geniuses were puzzled. How? What, they asked the gatekeeper, could those two HR people have possibly been able to ask God that he couldn’t answer?

It was simple, the gatekeeper said:  “They asked God when the company they had been working for was going to get its shit together.”

The joke was well received because of the reality:  Businesses really don’t have it together!

The workforce and staff know it to be true and pretty uniform across organizations. These same people, as customers, undoubtedly feel it when interacting.

Square Wheels One with Customer Riding

But top managements just don’t seem to be aware that they do not really know what is happening or if they have the right operational policies and procedures in place.

As the author John LeCarre, once wrote,

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

Jim Collins, author of management books as Good to Great and Built to Last, showed that a very typical problem is that “the CEO has already made a decision, and that view of “leadership” was to get people to participate so that they feel good about the decision already made.” This is a really poor way to manage because, “you’re ignoring people who might know a lot that would be useful in making the decision.”

Collins added: “You’re accepting the idea that because you’re in the CEO seat, you somehow know more or you’re really smarter than everyone else, But what you’re really doing is cutting yourself off from hearing options or ideas that might be better.”

The story and Collins’ research make the same point:  Leaders are not fully informed. They know some things but not everything. They tend to look at numbers and receive information that has been filtered a number of times (see how I close this with, “In The Beginning!”). Senior leadership seldom actually deal with customers or customer problems and do not have their hands on the keyboards and phone pads that influence results and touch the business. And talking with the CEO of another company does not make them hands-on, either!

A Desk is Dangerous Place from which to View the World

People down in the trenches understand an awful lot more about the business than the executive suite people give them credit for and they have good hands-on feelings about the causes of a lot of problems. They also have a lot of good ideas about how to make the business operate more efficiently and more effectively. While they may not understand the Big Picture and the overall issues, they certainly know a lot about how things actually work in their areas of expertise.

The problem is, the people with their hands on things are generally not asked what they think or about what should be done differently. They are often pushed into competing with other departments rather than collaborating in meaningful ways. Worse, from a motivational and developmental perspective, they are often simply handed down decisions without being given an opportunity to have any meaningful input or change to those ideas – this generates compliance.

Heck, even God would probably understand the issues and opportunities communicated in my favorite quote:

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

We totally agree that these are real issues! And this is where our Square Wheels® tools can easily have a huge impact. We provide simple tools for helping managers dramatically improve communications, helping them become better facilitators for motivation and innovation and allowing their people to have a voice and feel ownership. They can use our tools to remove roadblocks, identify issues and generate possible solutions, all the while doing this with the people rather than to them.

A wide variety of workplace statistics point to the dissatisfaction of employees because they perceive that leaders do not care about their ideas for improvement. Many feel little involvement in the decisions that directly affect them and often feel they have no effective way to voice their ideas, opinions and solutions concerning workplace issues or ideas.

For managers, a great way to tap this source of ideas is to facilitate a session using Square Wheels® illustrations.  These illustrations provide a “safe” non-threatening format for people to openly discuss issues and ideas and work on implementation.

Square Wheels One is an illustration that sets up the metaphor of the wagon moving along on Square Wheels with Round Wheels in the wagon.

square wheels image of how things work

The Manager begins the session by showing the cartoon and stating that this is how most organizations seem to work. At this point, he asks the participants (who are ideally seated at round tables with 5 to 6 people per table), to talk among themselves about how they see their organization in the illustration.

After 5 minutes, ask for reactions from each table and write them on an easel pad, preferably containing the illustration. Leaders need to get their people involved and engaged. And the leaders also need to be active participants in the improvement process itself — they must clearly show their support for the show to go on…

square wheels on ownwership

Lastly, all of this discussion reminds me of a classic, which I have reproduced for your enjoyment:

In the Beginning was The Vision
And then came the Assumptions
But the Assumptions were without Form
And the Vision was without substance.
And Darkness was upon the faces of the Workers
As they Spoke amongst themselves, saying:
“It is a Crock of Shit, and it Stinketh, badly.”

 So the Workers went to Supervisors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Pail of Dung, and none may abide the Odor thereof.”

And Supervisors went to Managers, and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Container of Excrement, and it is
so very Strong that none may abide it.” 

And Managers went to Directors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a vessel of Fertilizer, and none may abide its Strength.”

And Directors went to Vice Presidents and sayeth:
“It contains that which aids plant Growth, and it is very Strong.” 

And Vice Presidents went to Executives and sayeth unto them:
“It promoteth Growth, and it is very very Powerful.” 

And Executives went to the President, and sayeth unto him:
“This powerful Vision will actively promote Growth and Efficiency
of our departments and our company overall.” 

And the President looked upon the Vision and saw that it was good.
Thus the Vision became The Reality.

Yeah, the reality is that information is quite filtered as it rolls up the organization, so do what you can to get more hands on (so to speak!).

See more thoughts on thinking and decision-making at this other popular blog of ours:

Square Wheels ideas are good implementation

and find out more about our tools for engagement by clicking the image-link below:

Square Wheels are simply great tools

For the FUN of It, be involved and engaged!

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.

Motivating People and Performance – Three Simple Ideas

A lot has been written about generating higher levels of performance to produce better results. And a lot has been written about improving engagement and involvement to improve innovation and employee retention. A further lot has been written about improving teamwork among employees and management.

None of this is rocket science and none of this actually requires much of a budget or the involvement of the training department or human resources. None of this even really requires any support of senior management, although that should be an expected occurrence in organizations trying to implement improvements. What it does clearly involve is the active engagement of line managers.

Here are actually Three Big Simple Ideas.

  1. Build involvement and engagement by facilitating a series of meetings on visions, missions, goals, expectations and feedback. (also known as Alignment.)
  2. Create some teams and allow them to accomplish things related to that alignment.
  3. Improve facilitation skills and use involvement to generate participation.

Let me briefly expand and explain how you can take your people to a higher level of performance. And this will not cost anything. If you email me by clicking on this link, I will send you the free Square Wheels tool that you can try, with no obligation. But remind me of the offer from your reading this blog!

square wheels image

1 – Build involvement and engagement by facilitating a series of meetings on visions, missions, goals, expectations and feedback.

The statistics are clear: Some or most people in many or most organizations do NOT really understand the overall goals and objectives of the organization – at best, this is 4 of 5 people but it is generally not that high. Data are clear on this, even though most managers would say that it is not likely in their organization. Your people might know their jobs, but they often do not understand how what they do fits into the bigger picture. Thus, we often see departmental squabbles when the customer is the one who is really impacted, which indicates an alignment issue.

Let’s say that your company is implementing a new strategy and your group is part of that process of making some changes to better align with these new goals. What are reasonable expectations? My friend Robin Speculand at Bridges Consultancy in Singapore has some global statistics that are numbing:

  • 90% of strategies fail to deliver even 50% of their objectives.
  • Only 5% of employees have a basic understanding of the company strategy
  • Only 2% of managers are confident that they will achieve 80% or more of their strategy’s defined objectives.

So much about the success of such initiatives are simply about facilitation and communications of visions, missions, goals, and expectations and changes in feedback and measurement systems.

This alignment process is not a difficult one, but it is something that really needs to be accomplished. And, you should do this through questions and tabletop discussions and not

2 – Create some teams and allow them to accomplish things related to the above.

You’ve got to have a problem that you want to solve;
a wrong that you want to right.

Steve Jobs

It has got to be something that you’re passionate about because otherwise you won’t have the perseverance to see it through.
Steve Jobs

There are dozens of ways to build teams. Basically, they need to have some kind of challenge that they want to address and some kind of organizational support that they feel will allow them to address the issue. We use the simple process of facilitating Square Wheels One to both involve them creatively as well as get them to share and agree on some specific Square Wheels that are operating.

This produces cognitive dissonance, a motivation to close the gap between the Square Wheel and some possible Round Wheels. One of the keys is their perceived likelihood of getting the support needed to address that implementation. Cultural and company cultural differences will lead to different strategies and tactics to address this opportunity. And I have written extensively around issues of implementation throughout the nearly 300 posts in this blog.

Teams will form naturally in most workplaces if they are allowed. And there are all sorts of models that can be overlaid for the long-term, like Kaizen or Lean. Find one that works already in your organization — no sense reinventing that particular wheel!

3 – Improve facilitation skills and use involvement to generate participation.

The issue is generally not one of compensation or similar cultural roadblocks to performance. The Kelly Global Workforce Index from in June, 2013 said:

  • 45% of workers in The Americas agreed that they receive equitable compensation for their work.
  • 44% say they would perform at a higher level if compensation were tied to performance / productivity.
  • Reframing that, 55% of the workers feel that they do not receive equitable compensation (one can assume most feel undercompensated) and 56% of them are saying that they could accomplish more if they were better motivated.

If you are interested in more statistics on these kinds of issues, Part IV of my post on managing and leading change summarizes a lot of data about people and performance. You can find Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly – Part 4 here.

The issue is relatively simple. You have to stop TELLING them things and begin to ASK them more about their understandings and their ideas. You can save time by lecturing, but you lose all the energy that arises from involvement and ownership.

Lastly, remember that a transfer of ownership involvement is a key step in getting the people involved and the momentum for change. Make this improvement opportunity theirs, since:

Nobody ever washes a rental car!

I’ve said it a zillion times: People do not take care of things when they feel no ownership involvement. If it is their idea, they own it. If they talk in defense of a position, they own it. If you can get them sharing ideas and deciding to do things differently, they own it. And all you need to do is provide the support and resources to help them get things done.

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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An interview on leadership and engagement with Dr. Scott Simmerman

In the published interview discussion below, Dr. Scott Simmerman, managing partner of Performance Management Company speaks with Joel Groover about his leadership philosophy and teaching approach.


Q: You’ve had a wide variety of experiences with people and organizations worldwide. And feedback indicates some very positive reactions to your thinking about how organizations work and what improvements can be made. Can you share a brief explanation of your model?

Joel, first of all, I really like statistician George Box’s framework: “All models are wrong; some models are useful.” More than anything else, I am interested in usefulness and practicality. My approach is to share a very simple and general set of tools to help in understanding organizational behavior.

I generally start by presenting Square Wheels One as, “a model of how most organizations really work” and soliciting the groups’ reactions about what they see and think:

SWs One green color thin

In this cartoon, the leader pulls the wagon forward with a rope, an efficient way to pull. It also offers good clarity of vision about the journey forward. But the rope also insulates and isolates the puller from the wagon. Note that changing directions is also difficult.

The wagon itself is also okay, capable of handling the task at hand. And the Square Wheels do work, although there are some obvious improvements possible.

The people at the back, who are effectively pushing, have a limited view of where they are going. But the nature of the job, including the wagon, and the rope, and the need to push and pull will make communications difficult.

By using this illustration, we can engage people in tabletop discussions about common themes in their organization and can link their thoughts from the illustration to reality. The critical message is pretty simple,

“Don’t Just DO Something,
Stand There.”

Take the time to stop pulling the wagon and go find some round wheels!


Q: In Square Wheels, you note that communications between leadership and support people often can be improved. Do you have any specific tips on helping leaders communicate more effectively?

One thought is that leadership needs to understand the need to keep perspective on the journey. One of the things leaders must do is take the time to stop pulling the wagon and go find some round wheels!Generally, they are already in the wagon.

It is my experience that the wagon pushers know more about the thumps and bumps of what is going on and what is not working smoothly. But they need to have the puller’s perspective and support in order to start discussing the round wheel possibilities. There are always better ways of doing things and they need to be considered.

And from a motivational standpoint, it makes sense to get people involved in implementing these best practices, since we then begin to do things with them rather than to them.

By asking What are the Square Wheels?,” leaders can generate involvement, gain support for any changes and start a process of continuous continuous* improvement; after all, the Round Wheels of today will surely be the Square Wheels of tomorrow.

 

* from the Department of Redundancy Department

Most front line workers understand that many managers do not have a real understanding of what the workers do and what it takes to get the job done right. This illustration provides a simple tool for communications about the issues and opportunities in the workplace and builds connections between pushers and pullers. It can also generate the sense that someone is listening to them.

The other thing it accomplishes is that it closes the gap between the beautiful view of the journey at the front and the reality of the view at the back (boards and hands!). If people have a better sense of the journey, it is logical to expect them to be more motivated.

So, those are some of the links between the illustrations and the themes of communications within an organization.


Q: Another Square Wheels theme is that most systems and processes do not operate at maximum efficiency, and that bumps along the road are to be expected. Many leaders are, by their very nature, perfectionists. Is it possible to balance a desire to make things perfect with a more pragmatic approach?

Things generally do not work smoothly and there are bumps in the road. It is how we handle this reality, I guess.

One paradox of leadership is that the current expectations and goals are often based on Square Wheels. The goals are set based on an imperfect set of systems and processes (just ask the customers and the front line workers!). Thus perfection is an attempt to make a marginal situation perfect. And the challenge is that increasingly difficult goals are often met by working harder and reflecting less. This results in less time available to make improvements!

I think this is one of the reasons that so many people in so many organizations are frustrated. The isolation of leadership makes them less aware of the realities and the pushers wonder why no one seems interested in making things better. The further up one goes in the organization, the longer the rope.

If one considers that the round wheels are already being used by the exemplary performers — in other words, the proven ideas already exist in the organization — then the solutions are less a matter of invention and more a matter of communications and implementation. This is the criticality of my leadership model, taking the time to stop pushing and pulling and reflect on reality and opportunities.

Again, I do not think that this model is perfect, but there are plenty of round wheels right at hand in most of the organizations I have visited over the past 22 years. The workers know what needs improvement and often develop workarounds in many cases. It’s also why an outsider or new employee can see things that the management team might have missed…

Saying that leaders are perfectionists misses the key point, to some degree. Leaders want things to work smoothly, of course. But they ARE isolated from the “hands on reality.” I find that leaders suffer from the problem that they THINK that they know how things work. And since the rope isolates them a good bit, it makes it hard for them to “get a grip.”

From a slightly different angle, consider that:

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

The world is full of Square Wheels. And I keep trying to identify them in my business and I keep looking for Round Wheels to implement. Problems are a natural part of any business. Focusing on the system and processes is much more productive than blaming people. Deming, Peters and so many other great thinkers in leadership development have continually and elegantly pointed this out. I just use cartoons!

It is the wagon pushers, I think, that have the vast majority of the knowledge about what needs fixing and what is not working well. The challenge is to give them more of an understanding of the mechanics of the journey itself. They don’t always see the big picture…


Q: As opposed to merely making a speech, you strive to involve your audiences and make your workshops interactive. How does getting audiences involved in this way help convey the message?

Excellent question. One of my basic beliefs in human nature is that “Nobody ever washes a rental car.” People need a sense of ownership in order to take care of things. I try to make this point by doing it in my sessions.

Now I know that “Nobody” really isn’t an absolute. But it is a common observation. And I think that any presentation must involve VAK in order for it to be remembered. V for Visual, A for Auditory and K for kinesthetic. So, I try to engage all the senses and give participants a stake in the outcomes.

I’m not sure about the readers, but how many sessions have you ever attended (school and professional) and how many do you remember? I thought about that one day a decade ago and the answer was pitiful.

Then, I thought about those I did remember and what things they had in common. In almost every case, I was somehow actively involved and there were memorable visible images and metaphors. Often, I participated in an activity as opposed to being lectured to. So, I try to do that with every presentation I do, even if it’s only a 15 minute program — I don’t make speeches!

And let me take this ownership theme a step further and illustrate with a cartoon. I think that most programs fail for a simple reason that I illustrate below:

Nobody red color

Most programs fail when leaders feel the pressure at their backs and they resist the pressure. This most often occurs when the wagons start rolling downhill faster than before, when a team of people reinvent how things get done. Because most managers are passive participants, they find that the rope goes slack and the old management strategies don’t work anymore. Thus the pressure.

It makes sense to do things that involve and engage people actively, and the cartoons are a simple way to involve and engage them, identify some potential issues to address, and to allow them to help you fix them. And I encourage the managers in my sessions to do the same things modeled in the session with their people so I give them access to the main cartoon for free, and all the help I can personally provide.

I’m trying to change things one wheel at a time, I guess. And in a memorable way. And I have had people tell me about some session they attended of mine more than 20 years ago! I guess that the cartoons and involvement helped their memory, for sure.


Q: Another of your themes is that different individuals bring different perspectives to the organization — including resistance that can hinder progress. Do you have any tips for contemporary leaders who want to get the most from their team?

There are always differences in perceptions and this is the source of a good bit of innovation and creativity. But I am not a big believer in resistance. Resistance more often occurs when things are being done TO people rather than WITH them.

My suggestion is to get people involved, give them perspective and support, help them with roadblocks, and encourage them to make as many improvements as they can in addition to focusing on their own personal improvement.

Teamwork is something that builds up over time. It’s built on trust. And trust is the residue of promises fulfilled.

Resistance is the result of pressure. Continuous pressure causes defense, and this makes it even harder to make change occur because people tend to defend positions.


Q: Could you summarize your approach to continuous improvement and the roles that you think leaders should play in that process?

Gosh, haven’t we been covering that?  3smiley

I use the phrase continuous continuous improvement in the recognition that many people think that they have already completed their initial continuous improvement project. And note the past tense of this. In my thinking, round wheels will become square and it is critical that we recognize that reality.

It’s like the thought that “we just completed a change program.” The only reality these days is that change is continuous, thus it is never completed and always ongoing. So we need to restructure organizations into teams focused on the definition of new possibilities and continuous process improvement.

I find that the resistance is more often IN the leadership roles. From a mid-manager’s perspective, once I am meeting my goals, why would I want to change the measurement system? It’s a reality. Ego and fear get in the way, as does success. It’s another of those paradoxes. Remember that many people in the middle of an organization were promoted for successfully implementing a round wheel — and that many of these may be a bit square at the moment.

Again, we need to make sure that people at all levels of the organization feel ownership and see a positive stake in the outcome of continuous improvement.


Q: As you travel and speak, what are some of the common challenges that today’s leaders ask you to help them with?

One of the questions that is often asked of me goes something like this: “How can I empower my people to get more done?”

This relates to a lot of my normal presentation content and is a good question. And my response generally results in a laugh and then some consideration.

I don’t think we can empower anyone except ourselves. And while the concept of giving people power is generally good, it is often not a reality in the workplace as we discussed in regards as to why programs fail.

I think managers need to focus on something that they CAN do and relatively easily — I call it Dis-Un-Empowerment.

Most average workers are un-empowered. They have a variety of things that get in the way of them doing what they could do. Paradoxically, the top performers in the same workplace are not un-empowered and know how to manage around the roadblocks (actual and mental) and know how to get things done.

So, one of the things that managers can do differently is work to share these best practices, which are often little things and mental models as much as dramatic new solutions.

There is so much performance improvement available in the average workplace. People CAN get so much more done if they are involved in the improvements and feel like their efforts are recognized. And most of the survey results would lend support to the concept that workers are generally frustrated with the way things are now.


Q: How many presentations do you give in a particular month, and what are some of the programs you offer? In addition, what are some of the materials that you have available for purchase on your Web site?

My main focus over the past twenty years has been to move away from doing a lot of workshops to packaging and marketing useful materials that people can pick up and use. Most of the presentations I do these days are on team building or focused on managing and leading change. You can see a few testimonials about how this works on the links I just shared.

The good news is that the leadership understands my goal of training managers as facilitators — they let me build that simple piece in as part of the design. We then have the expectation that at least some of the managers will go away and actually deliver a simple Square Wheels session with their people.

Thus, my interactive presentation will at least have some impact and not simply be another in a continuing series of interesting speeches.

The bad news is that more organizations tend to rely on trainers to do the development and do not share the view of “managers as facilitators.” In my view, this looks something like this:

Companies need to invest in employee development

Companies need to invest in employee development

where we are focused on building strengths and human resources, but generates a result that looks like this:

Even with improved training-related strengths, failures to improve the workplace and involve and engage workers will not lead to great improvements in performance

Even with improved training-related strengths, failures to improve the workplace and involve and engage workers will not lead to improvements in performance

Granted that this is a bit of a joke, but the reality is that it is hard for even the best trainers to have much real impact on the workplace, especially the systems and processes.

My business is basically selling our Square Wheels Toolkits (bundles of powerpoint illustrations, guides and worksheets) as well as our team building simulations, of which there are many – the flagship being The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We are doing some customization of products for end-users, as well as some eLearning development using our illustrations, and a fair number of large group presentations.

I like to present, but I also want these sessions to be remembered, so they are generally pretty interactive.

Joel, thanks for letting me share these ideas. I hope that your readership finds them to be of interest.

And have FUN out There!

Muscles slide in background

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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Some simple thoughts and quotes on change

There are lots of possibilities for improvement of people and organizations and the list is never-ending. The reality is that life is all about continuous continuous improvement and constant change and development.

There are so many ideas that are already in the wagon and already used by so many other people. It does not require a lot of creativity or even the invention of new ideas or processes, since these ideas often already exist.

The key is perspective and vision. It is about getting people to “step back from the wagon” and consider possibilities.

If you are looking for The Answer on issues of personal and organizational change, recognize that there is probably no good simple answer. No one is that smart and every situation is different. There are too many conflicting factors and individual differences to do anything but coach and support.

“Given the right circumstances, from no more than dreams, determination, and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently do extraordinary things.”

Dee Hock, founder of VISA International

“Never doubt that a small, committed group of people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)

God gives every bird his worm, but he does not throw it into the nest. (Swedish proverb)

At the same time, the best practices and unimplemented ideas are already in the wagon, needing only some way to recognize and implement them. There are a lot of workable and even proven ideas that can be used by you and the people you support. We just need a more effective approach to sharing these ideas and implementing change.

Some of my thoughts are these:

Our journey forward is often marked by limitations, but numerous possibilities already exist for improvement.

Whatever you do, don’t simply keep pushing!

So, let’s choose to focus on becoming more than what we are and becoming more like the butterfly. It is the diversity of thinking and perspective that gives us the opportunity to continue to see things in different ways. And we need to keep focused on the future. Each of us has the potential within us to fly, even though we all are different, so long as we continue to focus on improvement.

We are limited in vision and processes, but we can always push for improvements.

You cannot empower. You CAN Dis-Un-Empower.

    You can help remove the roadblocks.

        Most employees say, “Can’t” but really CAN.

But people have been writing about managing and leading change for as long as people have been writing. It has always been with us and it will always represent both a problem as well as a solution.

Go to the people
Learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build on what they have
But of the best leaders
When their task is accomplished
Their work is done
The people will remark:
“We have done it ourselves.”
2000 year-old Chinese Saying

“Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves, for we shall never cease to be amused.” (Author Unknown)

“Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.”
(The Eagles, “Take It Easy”)

 Even Caterpillars can fly, if they would just lighten up.
(Scott Simmerman)

 So, I challenge each of you to look for ideas for improvement and make a difference in your wagons.

Your Round Wheels already exist. Use Them. And 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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