Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: Articles on Teamwork (Page 2 of 12)

Simple thoughts on Rewards and Performance

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

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

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

Simple Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Simple Ways to Motivate:

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

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Make Your Off-site Team Building Event Pay Off

Organizations hold off-site meetings to generate more alignment, introduce a new strategy initiative, build increased collaboration and related goals. The Big Idea is that the expenditures for these meetings will generate a return on that investment. I will loosely define one overall goal as “team building” and I will suggest some ideas and frameworks that will actually accomplish some of that.

These events and meetings should involve and engage participants and generate a better sense of ownership and involvement about what they might choose to do differently: “more better faster cheaper.” But inspiration alone won’t cut it and lectures and presentations will sometimes distract people from their emails. People will often drift off from a presentation and knowledge does not always translate into behavior change. Just explaining things will only have a modest impact on results or generate any change in behavior, as you have probably witnessed.

Human beings are paradoxical creatures.
What I know does not directly translate into what I do.

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

And we are known to have that common behavior of overestimating our own performance when good measurements are not good.  This cognitive bias for over-estimating even has a term: illusory superiority.”

Examples abound:

  • In one study, 84% of the students predicted they would cooperate with their partner, but only 61% actually did. The irony is that their prediction of other student’s behavior was close to actual.
  • people with a below-average IQ tend to overestimate their IQ
  • In a survey of faculty at the University of Nebraska, 68% rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability.
  • In a similar survey, 87% of MBA students at Stanford University rated their academic performance as above the median.
  • For driving skill, 93% of the US drivers put themselves in the top 50% of all vehicle operators.

We will not delve into all the reasons for this; the information is nicely covered in a Wikipedia article. Here, let’s focus on practicalities when it comes to costs and impacts and generating commitment and change.

Here are some ideas and possible solutions that represent my personal biases along with 30 years of experience in these kinds of settings:

Have really solid goals and expectations for what you want to see done differently.  Communicating ideas and data might give someone the chance to be seen, but it is a pretty costly way to move that information. Think about the past and what worked well insofar as meeting goals and actual outcomes – what kinds of things helped attendees do something differently after the meeting to solve problems or improve results.

1 – Communicate before the meeting with the facts, information and relevant data that people will need to do things differently. Give them the tools and pre-thinking review time to allow the data to link with any new information or stimulate new ideas. Most people think better with time for processing and consideration and new ideas generally link to old information.

2 – Put the right people in the seats. Maybe you do need everyone to attend, but maybe you don’t. If your meeting is a celebration junket, that is different than if it is a key meeting to drive out a new strategic plan. The people who are there should be the people who need to be there! Everyone else is either costly or distracting or both.

3 – Let their feets get them off their seats. Do things that get them moving around and interacting in some kind of focused way. Breaks can be useful, but people are often off doing their own things with phone calls and emails instead of talking with each other about shared issues and desired changes. While some would suggest prohibiting cellphone use during the meetings, I think we should try to treat attendees as something other than third-grade students and allow them responsible use — you never know when they might have some real business emergency with a real business impact and you DO want them in the room and not out in the hallway expecting some call. Phones do have a vibrate setting!

4 – Design facilitated engagement and involvement. Don’t just do things TO people but insure that your sessions involve and engage them. Do things WITH attendees if you can. Solicit their ideas and their input. Challenge them to help solve business problems instead of presenting them with solutions, if you can.

Nobody ever washes a rental car

Be sure to do things to share ownership. People are more likely to take risks and challenges if they are invested in the situations.

5 – Allow people to work in teams but also collect their notes and thoughts. You can use worksheets or easel-pad brainstorming and mindmaps and similar tools. You can use dot-voting and other consensus-building activities. You can use twitter and other interactive media or collaboration software, if the group is comfortable with that approach. (You might encourage all of them to bring their laptops / notepads or smartphones to certain interactive work sessions.)

Leadership and presenters should be asking questions and generating perspective and sharing missions and visions more than they should be standing there “yelling and telling,” no matter how charismatic they are. Like John Le Carre wrote,

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

The more hands-on, broadly experiential the base of information, the more ownership involvement and real-world information you can generate, the better the impacts.

6 – Structure followup on the ideas that are generated and push people to do things differently. There are any number of ways to generate commitment and your current organizational culture and experience should offer you ideas about what kinds of things work (and what kinds of things do not). You might have each person post one good idea into email or on a specifically designed note card collected by the senior manager. You might organize natural teams to collect and look to help implement good ideas. Department heads might be tasked with generating 5 good ideas for change and improvement, along with action plans and a project management template of some kind.

But DO something. Make some things happen and attribute those positive results to the leadership and through the organization as experiences have shown to be successful. Too many meetings just end; they do not generate efforts at improvements, much less impact results.

If you are just meeting to meet, with no other expected changes, then consider communicating through podcasts or other techniques and save a whole big bunch of money in travel expenses, time and salaries. Your meeting should generate actions that impact results.

Summary:

The reason I write this post is that I have seen some events that really fail to generate what they could, simply because of the “powerpoint presentation culture” that exists in so many organizations. Similarly, I hear about programs that do the simply “fun team building” kinds of things, the electronic spin-the-wheel “Wheel of Fortune” games or the Jeopardy or treasure hunt activities, none of which will generate much real teamwork or real problem-solving or behavior change.

Since 1993, we have been developing and supporting an actual business simulation exercise with real impacts on teamwork and planning and which structures debriefings focused on shared missions and visions, expectations and teamwork. A differentiating feature is the anchor point to inter-team collaboration, rather than the more common competition between teams. For so many organizations, “Interdepartmental Collaboration” is an oxymoron rather than an implementation strategy. Generating real collaboration is of very high value to most businesses.

We offer a most excellent team building exercise that you can purchase for repeated use or rent for a one-time event.

Lost Dutchman Gold Mine Logo with three icons

There are literally dozens of articles about the exercise here on the blog. Directly connect with me if this might be of any interest to your organization. I will try to share my thoughts and ideas about features and benefits of this exercise. It is straightforward in its delivery and not difficult to facilitate and link to a variety of desired outcomes. My coaching and design collaboration are free.

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

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Sweet Feed for Herding the Cows: Ideas for Improved Organizational Results

There is a lot written out there about motivation and all sorts of complicated theories that are similar in difficult to landing a vehicle on a moving comet. Yeah, we can do it, but it does take a bunch of real rocket scientists to accomplish, along with a lot of computers and mathematics and a good bit of luck.

We often hear of really difficult issues of alignment when faced with implementing strategy or change or accomplishing organizational innovation. So let me take a moment to back up from all the complexity and share a simple conceptual model of how to get things moving in the right direction.

Okay, I admit to having a doctorate in behavioral neurophysiology, so I actually do understand that brain science stuff. But my role in life is to simplify things, not explain the neurobiological chemistry of all this stuff…

Okay. You have a lot of cows in the pasture and you need to get them all to some new place. The normal strategy we see is that we get all the cowboys in an all-hands meeting and we talk about situational issues and engage them in some cattle-driving. This appears in a lot of different ways but overall, I think of it as getting the cowboys on their horses and having them ride at the far edge of the herd, making a lot of noise and generating a lot of activity and fear.

If we do this “right,” we can get the cows moving through the gate at the opposite end of the pasture somewhat quickly, albeit with a loss of a few cows, high levels of frantic movement and a good bit of stress from them hearing all the shouting and gunfire. And it might also be fun for the cowboys, if they do not have to do this every month or so.

Sweet Feed and a more effective approach:

A different theory would say that it is not necessary that you motivate ALL the cows at the same time, since you really cannot do that anyway. But you can also help to involve and engage a few of the leader cows to support your efforts and that this will actually engage the rest of them.

So, you get up in front of the cows nearest the gate (the ones closest to your actually new desired goals or direction and the ones who can actually see where you want them to go) and you entice them by tossing out a little sweet feed tossed between them and the gate. “AH,” say those cows. “This looks like an interesting situation!” and you gradually draw them forward toward the goal, which gets closer and closer. This actually does not take a long time, once they notice the incentive. (Note: This can take longer if they do not trust the people between them and the gate!)

The reality is that the other cows, also nearer the gate than the ones at the back, will also get curious as to what is happening and will follow the lead cows. As the distance increases between these two sets of cows and the others, you might also have a few cowboys at the back stir things up a little bit, but not so much as to cause a stampede. The cows in that larger group will be observed to close the distance to the front cows.

Pretty soon, you have them all moving forward, since we can predict a normal bell-shaped curve for most measures of most things in most organizations. The shape of the curve will remain relatively constant and this will include the distance between the top performers / front cows and those at the back that will move with the group but less quickly than we might like.

Scott Simmerman being confused by a graph showing performance and #s of cows

Scott Simmerman being confused by a graph showing performance and numbers of cows. Seriously!

A shift to the right of the median (line down the middle) will simply move the whole curve to the right.

We tend to make this “performance thing” really complicated and we can add all sorts of behavioral models, intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, measurement and appraisal systems and we can overlay all of those on different change models, personality and information sorting personal inventory measurement systems, and all that other stuff we do to block most change from occurring.

For me, I find we get change when we:

  • Make the vision of the future more attractive
  • Increase the discomfort with the way things are now for individuals and groups
  • Do things to make people feel successful with their change and improvement efforts
  • Create positive peer support for the desired changes and strategies

Nobody ever washes a rental car” and we cannot simply expect people to change because we are pushing them to move by using cowboys, gunshots and other organizational noise. We can do some simple “sweet feed” kinds of things to improve their individual engagement and involvement as well as to do some teamwork kinds of things to get people moving forward together.

We improve our results by getting our individuals to want to improve their results. Sure, we can do things like building smaller pastures to have fewer cows to move and we can also add electric fences and cowboys in Humvees to decrease how many are involved in chasing the cows forward.

Or not. So:

Give people a reason to change. Help them move forward.

Hope you found this fun. My old friend Ken Junkins used this story back in a situation with some managers maybe back in the early 80s and I thought it was a solid and interesting metaphor that has gotten a few of my own spins tossed in to make it clear.

I liken the situation, shifting my metaphors a little, to the people simply standing and not engaging or participating. They are simply standing!

Square Wheels image of Lego Team

What we need to do is get them more involved and engaged in actually doing things and making changes.

LEGO Square Wheels image of teamwork and innovation

People want to change the wheels of the wagon to make things work better. It is relatively easy to engage them in fixing the things that they think need fixing. And their testing of the waters and initial successes in making improvements will help them to make more improvements down the road.

 

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

Simple, Powerful, Effective Team Building Simulation

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine continues to generate really positive feedback from customers. Since 1993, it has been continuously improved and refined to the point where it runs seamlessly, generates wonderful reflection, and clearly mirrors the organizational culture of the players.

We just had a situation where a senior line manager again rented the exercise for a team building and organizational development session she was leading for her team. The company is an electrical utility and she had about 50 managers in her new organization that she wanted to work with. The Lost Dutchman game was part of her overall goal of getting to know her people better and building some trust.

She had rented the Dutchman game in her previous assignment and had liked the outcomes and discussions it generated. This time, she liked it even more!

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

The team building exercise sets up situations where players and teams have a variety of choices, and their strategic planning and collaboration within and between teams generates measurable results and a return on investment. When a team plays well, they generate good results. When the team chooses to try to beat the other teams, we generally see measurable sub-optimizing impacts on overall results.

Here are the comments from a young church leader, who had experienced the exercise as part of the DeVos Foundation work with leadership development and the inner city and who then used the game to impact his church and generate much better alignment and team building:

testimonial on The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game

People make choices, and we debrief on the choices made and how those same choices relate to their workplace, their alignment as team members of the group, and how choosing to compete impacts the culture as well as the customer. The goal of the exercise is to Mine as much Gold as we can and the role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful. ALL of this relates very directly to workplace improvement.

We love to get this continuing stream of positive comments and testimonials about how the play of the game impacts people and performance. It is confirmation that our plans have generated positive impacts and changes,

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.

 

Purposeful Meeting Openers and Icebreakers: Relevant and Congruent

In my experience, many trainers and consultants focused on involving and engaging participants use some sort of warm-up exercise, with the idea that getting people “warmed up” in some way will help them learn the material more effectively or bring more energy to the training itself.

One LinkedIn discussion had a trainer wanting to start a class focused on “workplace improvement best practices” and was looking for some relevant activity to get things started. The goal was to have something fast and simple but that would also generate some cognitive dissonance and frustration anchored to them not being able to finish a task on time. His goal was to use frustration to generate an initial motivation to correct their existing workplace issues.

In my experience, motivation already exists in most workplaces with most supervisors on performance improvement issues. There are often a variety of ways to identify and implement improvements and best practices but a key is to generate the intrinsic motivation to actually do something differently. I am also pretty sure that generating frustration as a desired outcome of this activity was not the best idea, since many of those attending were probably already frustrated by their workplace or by the fact that they were now in some “training program” when they should be working.

In other words:

  • He was asking for ideas about how to make the trainees frustrated because they could not get some exercise / task done well in the allotted time.
  • My thought is that their workplace was like most others and that the managers were already frustrated with these same issues of quality and timeliness.

My other thought was anchored to the simple idea that getting people frustrated may not be the best way for starting a training class. Beginning a program, negatively, does not generally get people positively motivated and the potential reactions can be somewhat uncontrollable.

Some other people in LinkedIn also elaborated on some of the possible unintended outcomes of such an activity, too. (The conversation got pretty bloody but we also think we saved him from a huge strategic mistake, on which he agreed!!).

The other half of my thinking pounded on the very common use of “irrelevant icebreakers” as a complete waste of time — you know, the goofy meeting openers that are not related to the issue or desired outcome of the session and play on people telling three truths and one lie about themselves or the most interesting thing about their hometown or stating something that no one would ever guess about them. (you can find a long list of such goofy actual activities here)
(http://performancemanagementcompanyblog.com/2012/11/02/motivation-training-and-icebreakers-keeping-it-real/)

I’m in agreement with a lot of other consultant trainers, especially about all that psychology stuff and what happens in training. One psychologist shared his approach of having people literally “draw a pig” that represented things in their organization. (The reference to “pig” as being too close to corporate operations and management these days with all those raises and salaries of CEOs in excess of 300 times the workers as well as the growing pay gaps, policy issues, etc.)

My psychology and engagement framework would use an illustration like that below as a tool to get people to project their ideas about how their organization really worked onto an image. It works like an inkblot test – there is no reality but people push one onto the image, one that also allows them to share some thinking about the issues and opportunities that already exist. And it is really fast and tight.

The image shows a wagon rolling along on Square Wheels® while the cargo is round rubber tires. (There are other aspects of leadership, motivation and vision along with best practices. Plus, the image and its discussion gives people an anchor point for focused conversation and discussion, present and future. The term “Square Wheels is simply shorthand for things that do not work smoothly.)

Square Wheels - How organizations really work Metaphor organizational improvement

The idea is to get individuals thinking about issues and groups collaborating and sharing ideas about the illustration – brainstorming with an organizational behavioral anchor. Groups can also be motivated through a little competition to make a longer list (facilitation) and what players do is to project their beliefs about their own organization onto the illustration (the Rorschach or inkblot effect).

If you are going to take their valuable time in a class, why not focus on issues of innovation and teamwork and involvement about their workplace, and not some completely unrelated thing like 3 Truths and a Lie or Dragon Tag or some such “energizer.”

Using the cartoon as an anchor to the reality of how things really work, we get them talking about their issues — the things that do not work smoothly — and the ideas that already exist within the context of making the wagon move more effectively. This approach also allows discussion without the attack on management or structures. It has proven itself to be “developmentally neutral” and non-political in that regard.

The behavior and ideas and issues in play can then be linked to a lot of different kinds of content for your training session, and the activity thus made congruent and relevant.That is something that cannot be done with so many of the very general icebreakers — it is hard to make the transition of doing one and then quickly linking to a real business purpose. (Sure, you can use some words but their actual behaviors are generally off target and non-congruent — how does making up a funny name relate to workplace improvement?)

Best practices are Round Wheels.

The focus on the training and performance improvement might be linked to making Square Wheels roll more smoothly. You can coach people on identifying SWs and generating round ones, while generating dissociation and second-position perspective. Issues of change and implementation (stopping the wagon and changing the wheels) can be part of your, “What are we going to try to do differently after we leave here?” discussion. Sharing round wheel ideas is easy and this begins a process of continuous continuous improvement.


Learn more about the Square Wheels Icebreaker.

You can find another article on this issue of effectively using trainee time and optimizing impact by clicking on this link:

Blog Icon for Icebreaker link

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
and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+DrScottSimmerman

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

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Issues of Workplace Over-Connectedness and Vacation Day Giveaways

This is the third post in this series on working, over-connectedness and the reality that many are working long hours for free.

My first article in this series focused on statistics on work and working and the interconnection with vacation time. I then updated that, since I just read an article in Mother Jones magazine about the issues and problems of always being connected to the business life.

The trend is that people are working lots of hours. LOTS. And only some of them are compensated. We know from a wide variety of research on creativity and innovation that continually working is not conducive to high performance and it contributes to being over-stressed, generating a variety of health issues over the long term.

Overworking is actually scary stuff, all in all. And the research shows pretty clearly that some disconnection from the workplace has a variety of positive benefits.

We ARE in need of some brain-freeing vacation time away from things. An Intercall survey of American employees showed that people are simply NOT paying attention during business conference calls, for example. Their minds are either drifting off or they are trying to multitask and do other job tasks.

  • 65% said they did other work at the same time as pretending to participate
  • 55% that they prepared or ate food
  • 47% that they went to the bathroom
  • 25% that they played video games
  • 27% confessed to falling asleep at least once during a call, and
  • 5% said they’d had a friend POSE as themselves in order to skip it completely.

People are often just simply disengaged. You can find a more expansive article clicking on this link. The rest of this blog gets into that  and other data.

This article in The Guardian starts with a simple statement:

Americans took the least amount of vacation time in almost four decades last year, forfeiting billions of dollars in compensation without scoring points with their bosses, according to an industry group analysis.

The report for the US Travel Association said the average American with paid time off used 16 of 20.9 vacation days in 2013, down from an average of 20.3 days off from 1976 to 2000. It added that 169m days of permanently forfeited US vacation time equated to $52.4bn in lost benefits.

Note that the above says, “without scoring points with their bosses.” Why? Because their bosses are doing the same thing! An Ipsos/Reuters survey in 2010 found that only 57% of Americans used all their earned vacation time.

As background and perspective, I am now well in my 31st year of running Performance Management Company. I started as a consulting business working in people and performance areas, with a shift to customer service quality and then to change management and now to themes of workplace involvement and engagement. The shift to selling materials has been a good one and the pressures of the day-to-day have shifted as I enter my 67th year of being in the business of living. I DO work a lot because it is MY business and there is actually no one else to do most of what I do.

As a small business, I will say that I am almost always thinking about business — it is impossible to get away. My business land-line forwards to my cellphone, for example. I check email regularly (like most managers). And I used to joke about spending 50% of my time marketing, 50% of my time developing materials and 50% of my time actually doing things to make money. Only the reality is that 50% + 50% + 50% is truly the small business reality… You are 100% committed to make things successful.)

(One of the very best articles ever about the issues of running a small business is Wilson Harrell’s 1987 article, Entrepreneurial Terror that appeared in Inc, Magazine.)

Here is some additional data that should be thought provoking from that Guardian article:

Wealthier workers tend to earn more vacation days but they also leave more of it unused based on the survey:

  • People with an annual income of more than $150,000 failed to use an average of 6.5 vacation days in 2013.
  • People with less than $29,000 did not use 3.7 days.

Employees who forfeited paid time off do not get more raises or bonuses than those who take all their vacation time. They also report higher levels of stress at work.

A Harris / Adweek poll three years ago said that 52% of Americans will work during their summer vacation. The survey showed these people will perform a variety of tasks, including:

  • Reading work-related emails – 30%
  • Receiving work-related phone calls – 23%
  • Accessing documents on home computer – 19%
  • Receiving work-related text messages – 18%
  • Accessing documents on work computer – 13%
  • Asked to do work by a boss, client or colleague – 13%

Clive Thompson, writing in Mother Jones magazine, shared a good information on the issue of being over-connected and why we need to unplug. View that article here.

Thompson shared data from the Center for Creative Leadership finding that 60% of smartphone-using professionals were work-connected for a full 13+ hours a day and that they spent another 5 hours playing with emails on weekends. That adds up to 72 hours a week of job-related content — but being paid for only 40 hours!

Another study by Good Technology found that 68% of people checked work email before arriving at work — before 0800 — and that 50% checked it while in bed before going to sleep! Almost 40% check email at the dinner table!

The American Psychological Association reports that one in ten check email hourly – when on vacation!

It would seem that the entrepreneurial issue of always feeling that one had to be connected is now everyone’s problem.

You can see a LOT of that explained in the reality of this scene from “Deal of The Century” (Chevy Chase) where Harold (Wallace Shawn) is waiting in his room for the phone call. (Watch it here – 4 minutes and very well done!)

Deal

Pressure. Pressure to make the sale. Pressure to complete a project. Pressure from the team. Pressure from the boss. Pressures of all kinds from working. There are lots of pressures and few ways to release them in a healthy way — taking time off from working is the best way to generate relief for your brain and body. (Another approach would be meditation, and some strongly suggest a nap during the workday.)

WITH our connectedness and other electronic support and unpaid work time, corporate productivity is up 23% since 2000. Inflation-adjusted wages and benefits are up only 4% for these same jobs. (Data from Economic Policy Institute) The pin will eventually hit the balloon on all this and we can expect to see a variety of negative impacts, like increased mental illness, stress-related diseases and some deviant workplace behavior.

And, Clive Thompson wrote, the marketing research firm Radicati Group reports that we can expect to receive 22% more business email by 2015 than we did 3 years ago. Managers get about 300 emails a day, from what I read, so when do we actually find any time to think, to innovate, to build trust in our relationships, or to even relax?

We are being multi-tasked and over-managed, we are being spread thinner and thinner, expected to know more about more things but also unable to get the training time or even understand how things work in many of our jobs.

And the research supports that reality that some play and relaxation and free time to reflect and refocus does an awful lot to rebuild motivation and morale.

Pin Balloon Play Performance poem

PMC has designed a variety of Square Wheels illustration toolkits to help managers generate ideas for workplace change and improvement. These are designed to be fun and engaging meeting tools to help people with team-based discussion about possibilities to do things differently.

PMC also designs performance-based team building exercises to help put more play into performance improvement initiatives. Click on the icon below to see more information on our website:

THE+Games for Teambuilding PMC Home Page icon 1

Have some FUN out there! (Yeah, me, too.)

 

Me, on the beach, kayak camping on Lake Jocassee in the mountains of Upstate South Carolina.

 

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.

Dr. Scott Simmerman

 
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

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

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

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

FUN is not team building.

CHALLENGE is not team building.

Teamwork High Ropes Guy

One of my friends talked about her teambuilding experiences thusly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IRS Line-Dancing – click to see the video

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a recent testimonial that I thought to add:

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

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

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

 

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Getting the Cows to the Barn; Thoughts on Alignment and Performance

I am NOT saying that employees are cows.

Just the opposite, actually. Well, guess I am not sure what the opposite of a cow would be, but I have always been focused on issues of people and performance and looking for ideas and approaches to generate improved alignment and results.

Square Wheels image of Lego Team

In a LinkedIn discussion about motivation and alignment, I remembered an analogy that old friend Ken Junkins used when we were talking about people and motivation, so I thought to share it in that discussion as well as pop it into the blog. Here is the rough storyline as to how I remember Ken using the story of herding cows back 30 years ago…

I am reminded of the herd of cows wandering aimlessly in the pasture. You, the manager, need to get them to the barn, so how do you do that?

Some managers will go out and get their supervisors to shoot guns and ride around the back with horses, yelling and screaming. That will get some of the cows to move away from them, (hopefully toward the barn). But, it will not be a successful enterprise unless you have lots of those herders and those herders are all sharing the same goal of moving the cows toward the barn within a certain amount of time.

Another approach is to get some sweet feed and sprinkle it out on the ground between the herd and the barn. Not many of the cows will know it is even there, but the ones that do will begin to move in your desired direction.

As those cows move, more of the others will wonder what is going on and begin to also move in that direction. With some gentle prodding from the management team, after the cows are beginning to go in the right direction, the herders at the back can begin to gently motivate the laggards, at least getting their attention that something is happening.

It is a slow process and not nearly as much fun as riding around fast and shooting guns and yelling and screaming. But you will have more contented cows and need a lot less management overhead to get them to where you want to go…

Ya think?

You can read more on my metaphors of herding here, with a pretty funny and well-linked article on herding cats and frogs. Click on the image to go there.

Herding Cats - EDS Commercial

Managing and motivating people is seen to be a difficult task. Some people believe that aversive control and punishment are the best rewards, most likely because they think that this approach is what motivates them. (That is probably not true, but it is a belief.) The research shows pretty clearly that intrinsic motivation generated through teamwork, alignment, good feedback systems and congruent values is much more effective that extrinsically-driven approached.

Extrinsic rewards may work, and they may work better for some people than for others, but they are not generally effective over the long term.  And the use of aversive control generates all sorts of problems. (See the article on sabotage and defense, aversive control and punishment by clicking on the icon below)

Defense with © Square Wheels Image

The two articles linked to the illustrations share a good bit of research data about motivating and aligning people toward workplace improvement. I trust that they may stimulate some thoughts about what you might try do to differently or that they will confirm some of the things you choose to do now.

Let me update this with one other video, not about herding cows but about herding sheep. With the proper environment and the right support (think of a few well-trained sheep dogs to keep things under control, as you might with a few well trained and supportive and aligned supervisors), you CAN move sheep seamlessly. This is an amazing and lovely video that Tim Whittaker allowed me to share:

Herding sheep video

So, we CAN generate alignment and communal performance. We can move organizations forward with proper planning and training (and maybe some hiring). We can generate innovation and improvement.

Please note that we sell some simple to use tools for generating engagement and alignment at the front lines or for use in strategy implementation frameworks.

Square Wheels images by Scott Simmerman

And you have some fun out there, too.

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

 

A Few Stats on Workplace Fantasy Football

I thought that this was interesting data, so I report it here:

Fantasy Football’s cost to lost productivity will be more than $13 billion dollars this year (2014), since it will be played by more than 25 million people (with 4 of 5 being men) with an average weekly time investment of 8.7 hours per person.

Is this lost money for companies or does it have some benefits? It is hard to measure that or make one inference for so many different work cultures… Each of us has our own beliefs and observations and frameworks to evaluate the impacts.

Creating some workplace fun can have positive benefits.

BIG Square Wheels LEGO Fun image

Click on image to see, “Is work funny or what?” article

As to benefits, 54% of the players say that their participation increases camaraderie with fellow employees and that participation helps with the building of better rapport with their business contacts (16%). It is fun to be a fan and to share fandom and close interactions can have benefits to teamwork and collaboration.

And the reality is that it would be hard to actually block workplace participation in such an activity and attempts to repress it would probably be met with some resistance. While sharing a common adversary might improve teamwork, the dynamics of that might cause problems.

(Here is an article about workplace sabotage and some of the driving factors)

And it is about money. Wonder why you see so many advertisements for Fantasy Football leagues? Overall, fantasy sports shows the average player spending $111 and the industry raking in $1.1 billion dollars in 2013.

And workplace interruptions of all kinds consume about 3 to 5 hours of time a day with costs estimated to be over $580 billion a year, so fantasy football represents only a small part of of the cost of people and performance.

The question I would frame up is how much are we doing to involve and engage our people into the game of our organizations and use that shared mission and goal to help drive more desired behavior, innovation, involvement and ownership?

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

(Statistics from newsletter of workforce.com and you can see a graphic overview of this data and a few more statistics and ideas at http://www.workforce.com/articles/20746-by-the-numbers-september-2014 and http://www.workforce.com/articles/20496-by-the-numbers-june-2014 )

Outdoor Training: Issues of Learning and Change

Workers are the people who are doing the work. Managers are the people managing. Teamwork should have positive impacts and collaboration is more important than competition.

So why do most outdoor activities seem to be highly competitive ones? And why would we want MORE competition within the organization since it is already not helping — “interdepartmental collaboration” is an oxymoron in most places!

And I am sure that the workers find more competition within the different departments of your company right now than they find between your company and your competitors. The senior managers might see things differently, but do the workers themselves actually feel they are competing with others more than they feel they are already competing with their own management?

  • So, why not focus on more inter-departmental collaboration and alignment?
  • Why not build on improving communications and engagement?
  • Why keep doing competitive things when collaborative ones are needed?

—————————

Airline Cargo Volleyball TrophyWe won the competition, but we lost the team building aspect of things. And I have the trophy to prove it! More on this below.

—————————

On occasion, I am asked if one of our team building games could be used in an outdoor setting. Wow, does that bring up some memories about what might have happened and the reality of losing control. I find too many uncontrolled things can happen in an outside environment and wonder why they are used, actually. And, so many of these outdoor events are strictly “games” and not learning events and, therefore, primarily competition-based engagement.

(Is that an oxymoron?)

Being outside is great, but is it cost effective for a business to make that decision? I guess if FUN is the desired outcome, and not LEARNING nor generating behavioral commitments to do things differently, outdoor games can work.

The idea of sports analogies or military frameworks applied to business development situations also makes me uncomfortable because businesses do NOT represent how sports teams operate nor are we generally accepting assault and raw aggression as good business strategies. We are not a football team with a quarterback and plays and countless practice drills and direct head-to-head team competition with other teams. We are not a baseball team, with players who each do their jobs in the field and then take bats individually against the pitcher of another team. We are not basketball teams, running plays and shooting baskets. We can make analogies to those activities, but we are not in those industries!

Paintball as a business exercise? Shooting at other people with the goal of doing them harm (killing them out of the game?) and demanding some level of motor skills coordination and physical activity of running and dodging to succeed creates an unfair playing field.  Sure, there are analogies, but is that a business learning opportunity? Is building a rope bridge and then walking over it a real situation for your business (or driving a go-cart or bowling) — is it going to generate real business collaboration and improvement? Firewalking?

(I do have a good article on Business Sabotage you can read here!)

Sports are too much about winners and losers whereas business requires collaboration across a variety of operational and support groups. Military games are way too deadly serious and many of your participants may have significant emotional ties to such situations. If they were in a real war, your activity will bring back those strong negative associations and memories. If they had a child or relative killed or injured in some war, it is that same issue — you are coercing them to participate in a situation that creates unpleasant emotions.

Do we really need to use competition and competitiveness
as driving forces
for collaboration within our companies?

(Is that telephone customer service rep actually in competition with another company or merely depending on collaboration from other departments to perform well in her job? Is that guy on the shopfloor really competing with The Koreans in producing a high quality automobile? Is competition the real driving force for top performance by people? (Answer: NO) )

Workers are the people who are doing the work. Managers are the people managing. Workers and Managers both want LESS competition within the different departments of your company. So, why not focus on more inter-departmental collaboration and improving communications and engagement?

Generally, the links to the business improvement issues — why companies are actually spending money and time with managers and employees — are sometimes quite vague when relating many outdoor activities to organizational behavior and leadership, problem solving or change. Sure, these outside exercises are fun and people do like to solve problems and compete. But it takes a good facilitator to bring out the discussions and not all the facilitators are all that good nor is there always support within the program design for a strong debriefing to take place. Plus, the links from the activity back to business are sometimes stretched.

I speak with experience as a participant of many different kinds of these activities. One was at a college with a bunch of my Leadership Greenville colleagues (a program supported by our Chamber of Commerce). Being collaborative and facilitative in my general style, I applied these skills in discussions about solving the outdoor problems at hand (like the acid river and the bucket on a string designs). The “session leader”  actually decided I was helping too much and told me that I HAD to be silent and could not talk — this is also known as punishment in psychology and it has pretty predictable consequences long-term.

(Yeah, and imagine when I was allowed to talk in the debriefing! One of the questions I asked of her was about the leader’s business experience. Turns out that she had never actually had an actual job. And she is the leader of this group of business people? Really?)

Another such program on collaboration turned into a mass group competition, where the VP of the group was making things more competitive by timing the different problem solving activities and comparing different groups to the others.

Airline Cargo Volleyball TrophyWe actually had a quite competitive volleyball teambuilding competition, too, and during the awards ceremony, many of the Losers actually booed the Winners in front of the company’s Executive VP Operations. And this was at a team building event where the company spent many 10s of thousands of dollars bringing players in from all over the US and hosting them at a retreat facility in the middle of Texas!

Note: I was on the winning team and I still have my trophy on my bookshelf as a reminder of how badly this went…

That same event also had one of the participants being stung by a scorpion when he leaned on a tree — he went into shock. But the facilitation team actually carried an anaphylactic shock kit with them out in the field, since it had apparently happened before (wonder if they had mentioned that when working on the design of the activities). Needless to say, that hour spent on it was costly for the 60 highly paid company people — everything stopped completely — as well as pretty distracting for all of his friends and co-workers.

Competition produces chaos and confusion, not collaboration and improvement

My outdoor delivery experiences also include a session where the sun came out and totally washed out the projected images on the screen so no one could see. At a different event, the temperature in the huge circus tent went to 110 degrees and the big electric fans blew all the papers off the tabletops (so we taped them down). But these same fans were so noisy that the debriefing was impossible, as also occurred with the game activities that followed after my session. And this narrative represents the short-version of all the things that went wrong…

Another event had it rain for an hour right after we put the maps and things on the tables. We quickly recollected all the soluble stuff and then, when the rain stopped, we had each table select what it required from our “Organized Pile of Materials” and take these things outside to their tables (which the hotel staff helped us dry off with a massive number of room towels).

YES, my games CAN be delivered as outside activities, but why? I actually cannot remember a single time when something did not go wrong and force us to make a major adjustment in our delivery (like an afternoon lightning storm). And I cannot imagine doing a large group, outside, with any kind of controllable learning outcomes. Here is one we did for 500 people that went really well:

Large group team building delivery - INSIDE - with everything under control!

If my client is paying big bucks to get people to the venue, feed them, house them and all that, and they are renting a room for lunch or dinner, why the heck not simply deliver the exercise inside under controlled temperature and lighting and audio/video and avoid all the disasters? Why even allow the potential problems? What is the big benefit of people standing around outside? (Heck, maybe I could design a program around them all coming over to my house and working on my yard and gardens, ya think? Do it like one of those cooking classes — I could sell it as a Landscaping Teambuilding Initiative and maybe even get them to work on my neighbors’ yards…)

Lastly, I do not consider firewalking, golf, go-karting or golfing to be very good team building activities. Baseball is okay, maybe, since everyone can play and bat and all that but running is required (and I actually ruptured an Achilles tendon playing ball). Volleyball requires too much skill and the size and skill differences between people can be way too large. And how many times do I have to pass balls around or deal with a bucket on a string or hold hands with other people to solve a problem, anyway…

There are LOTS and lots of good team building games and exercises that can be delivered with high impact and good learning. So, why intentionally add uncontrollable factors just to make it some “outside” program whereby a much higher potential for non-participation or even injury might occur?

I will always remember the White Mile movie starring Alan Alda: A corporate team-building trip ends in tragedy in this drama. Hoping to build bonds between his employees and clients, advertising executive Dan Cutler (Alan Alda) takes the group on a whitewater rafting excursion. But the raft capsizes, several of the men die, and one widow files a lawsuit. Cutler tries to hide his negligence, and one survivor (Peter Gallagher) faces a difficult moral dilemma.

Have fun out there! And maximize your team building impact.

 

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

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this was re-edited and re-published on September 30, 2012.

Faster Play = Longer Debriefing

When initially designed 25 years ago,  The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine was to have a solid front-end that challenged teams to put together a plan of action managing their limited resources and to push players to work together to develop a shared strategy and plan of action. The Intro was focused on them making specific choices around collaboration and strategic planning.

(note: this post is actually written for users of the exercise, but it also speaks to our overall design thinking and features and benefits of Lost Dutchman over some competitive products which you might be familiar with.)

We also wanted this planning time to set the stage for play and the processes for playing out those team decisions to be clean, fast and simple. While some people have questioned the strategy of having a really simple “play” of the game, this has proven itself to be a good decision — faster play allows a longer debriefing time, and debriefing is where we generate commitment to change and manage post-exercise expectations and implementation.

We chose to use 20 days for play with a simple design that allowed the days at the end to be as short as 30 seconds each even in fairly large team events. It was the initial team decisions that either facilitated a lot of success and some low-stress play or some less-than optimal decision-making and planning that generated high-stress and scrambling for resources to succeed. By design, every team mined gold, but the teams with the better planning got better results and could also assist the others.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Basically, I found that it was best to give a detailed overview, with a good bit of redundancy, so as to maximize understanding. In this way, the players could make the best decisions possible to maximize the results and have the fewest mistakes. Heck, I even found that by adding “Most Common Questions” as a slide set at the end of the Intro to review the key points that I had already made saved me delivery time, since those were questions commonly asked of me that delayed getting started.

My thoughts were around optimizing play and minimizing the dumb mistakes and being detailed enough to enable players to get a good start in the 15 minutes of planning time given. It was also found that by shortening or deleting things, such as the time spent in generating the suggested Team Roles, the disorganization caused them to take even longer in getting started. Having roles enabled them to listen to the instructions more carefully and allowed them to get moving with the planning right away.

My associates in India asked how they could take the normally 45 minute Intro and set-up and reduce it to 15 minutes because their client had “a tight schedule.” Their thinking was that shortening it would have no impact on the team building, subsequent planning and play. They had this schedule for an upcoming session of 140 people:

  • Intro and briefing – 15 minutes.
  • Planning – 15 minutes
  • Play– 50 minutes
  • Break – 20 minutes and
  • Debriefing – 50 minutes.

Well, I like challenges… So here are some thoughts about the dilemma:

The actual team building process occurs during the initial stages of the game in the 15 minute planning period. A long, detailed and a bit redundant introduction gives every player all the details of play and even some tips for optimizing results. Everyone knows all the rules and details, thus the discussion is not about what but about how to execute. They all should be equal participants in the discussion of strategy and overall decision-making and therefore would all share in ownership of the end result.

There are no really good, simple ideas on speeding things up the Introduction. I played with this a LOT during the first 10 years of playing and selling the exercise and found this to be true: If you keep something out of the Introduction, it either generates a question that takes at least as long to answer or it creates a problem with misunderstanding and a playing mistake they blame on YOU.

My focus on delivery has been to generate an effective and efficient way to present the information so that players are clear about the details of the rules at the start of their planning. I have found it to be faster to go slower and be more redundant in the Introduction. This way, players and teams make better decisions and play with better results and have fewer questions and run into less difficulty at the end. (Or, at least they have all the information on which to make a less than optimal decision (grin) ).

My finding is that speeding up by shortening the Intro information can slow things down in different and unexpected ways or causes more mistakes and poorer play and all that… Plus, it helps in the debriefing if all the players understand all of the operating rules and have better understanding and perspective on the choices and the impacts.

(They all “get” the planning metaphors of The Videos, for example. They were all offered the opportunity to acquire one or both before heading out and it was their choice to get or not to get them. The Videos are not a surprise in the debriefing, just the information that was in them and the reality that it could be shared with other teams.)

Okay, some ideas for speeding play and saving time:

Start on Time –

Demand that the session starts when scheduled and that everything is ready to go. Generally, this means delivering the game the very first thing in the morning. If there is breakfast, ensure that the hotel or center staff is there to help clear away the dishes and that there are stands around the room where plates can be taken. Have the tabletops all set up, including the tables for the Provisioner.

It is scary how often these programs with known “tight timing” issues do not start on time. This is especially true if there is some manager that. “needs to say a few things to the group before you get started.” I have lost 30 minutes or more from these “few minutes” while the content of that introduction could have been in an email to everyone. Often, these managers are not professional when it comes to presenting in a timely and efficient manner so it is YOUR responsibility to get that part of the program done quickly.

If you are starting after lunch, be sure to have someone who works for you on the lunch floor pushing the timing so that people can come into the room. Make the room inviting, with music and a slide show of pictures or something similar. Get them in and KEEP them in until you are ready to go.

And, again, do not allow for a few minutes of “more introduction” by anyone other than a professional presenter who knows the meaning of “ending on time” for their part.

NEVER EVER play the game at night with alcoholic beverages. Those sessions are absolute disasters – and no one will remember anything the next day.

Team Roles
One idea might be to not assign roles during the Intro and let teams figure that out during the planning. That saves a bit of time, but the teams will be less organized. Thus, decisions might take longer if roles are not clear.

However, if you do that, DO stress the selection of the team Trader but maybe not the others. Having one person be accountable for bringing resource cards to the Trading Post is critical to efficient delivery.

The alternative is to assign teams and tables prior to the session, and you can also suggest team roles in that assignment, You can list table # and team member names with roles on the sheet. (Make the most senior manager the Team Trader, though — they do the most work and get isolated! See this blog for more information on players and roles and assignments.)

Pods
And DO separate the groups into distinct pods for large group events. If you have 120 people, you could play with 2 pods of 10 teams each or 4 pods of 5 teams each. It is certain that the pods of 5 teams each will play faster than pods of 10. You would also need more floor support, but that would help to answer questions and respond to problems more quickly. It would be easier for a Provisioner to spot a team that is having trouble with a smaller pod, and thus direct help toward that tabletop.

Team Size
In my experience, smaller teams play faster — if you can set up as groups of 4 players per table, the planning and the play will go faster. So, a session of 24 people would play faster with 6 tables of 4 rather than 4 tables of 6 players each. But that takes more support from your team of delivery people with larger teams. It depends on how many support people you have but the more experienced help on the floor, the easier to solve problems. (Note – I use senior managers to support my large group events! See this blog for rationale.)

(If you do that, use a different Team Roles Form than the one showing 6 job roles at the tables and in the slides.) Maybe have only the Leader, Trader, Analyst / Supply Expert and Collaborator…

Decisions of smaller tabletops will be faster and usually better — but they MUST understand all the rules and themes and issues.

For those of you with 24 people, having 6 teams of 4 will be faster than having 4 teams of 6, for example.

Floor Delivery Support
You can trade off SUPPORT PEOPLE ON THE FLOOR against covering things in PowerPoint Intro. The less you talk about, the more questions and the longer the “15 minutes of planning time” will take. This is especially true in a large group as in this session of 140.

If you do shorten the Intro, be SURE to have knowledgeable co-Expedition Leaders on the floor for each 3 or 4 teams. It will change the dynamics some…

Breaks
My way of speeding things up is to have NO BREAK at the end of play – telling players that team play should allow individuals to take a break for bathroom or drinks during play. Cookies and coffee and the like can be in the room or even served to the tables by staff.

A “scheduled 20 minute break” (with 140 people) can run out to 30 minutes or more, which is very common with large groups. And it is probably the people last to arrive back that need the debriefing key learning points more than the others.

Large groups are much less manageable from a time perspective if they leave the room. Make them Break during the Play of the game, not afterwards. Make it impact their team, not you and the rest of the group!

Results
Minimize the review of game results but use the results summary and overhead projectors to allow everyone to see all the results from all the teams. That generally reduces questions about “who won” and why and allows you to focus on the issues of optimization.

Focus on the differences between the high and low teams and ask if the higher performing teams had resources that they could have shared that would have generated MORE RESULTS FOR YOU — not a winning score for one team…

I often do NOT show the Perfect Play summary of woulda-shoulda, but do focus on the fact that there were 3 Turbos that could be shared so that 3 teams could have used the Turbo to return in 4 days, as opposed to less than 3 (look at total TF Videos to see the number of Turbos available versus the number actually used (get that off the Tracking Forms at the Trading Post). THAT is probably the most important number for the entire group — that plus the days back early because of resource mis-management and bad planning decisions.

The Turbos are the Best Practices that generate better results with the same effort and they represent the leverage generated by collaboration among teams in the workplace. There were sufficient resources, but a good plan of action with engaged and involved teammates helped maximize results for the team — why not for the group? What would they need to do differently in the workplace…

Debriefing
I deliver the game as a learning event, not as a fun activity. Thus, for me, “The play of the game is an excuse to do a debriefing on choices, behaviors and the issues of engagement and collaboration.” Thus, I will demand that I have the full time allotted to the play and that we start on time

And I try not to lecture nearly as much as I try to allow tabletops to discuss specific issues and opportunities. I facilitate the game much more than I “teach” from it – their thoughts are more congruent to their issues than any idea that the game Expedition Leader might have.

If possible, I try to coach the most senior manager to engage people in a discussion. This is sometimes dangerous since their preferred style is to talk at the people, not engage them. I have had to cut off such attempts at “training” more than a few times, generally with something such as, “Why don’t you spend 5 minutes and discuss that key learning point at your tabletop?” (And then take back the control of the debriefing…)

Turbos are best practices that can be shared – thus it begs the question, “What turbochargers are available that we could share with other groups within the company?”

(You can view a long slideshare on debriefing experiential exercises, framed around Lost Dutchman, by clicking on the image below:)

LD Slideshare Debrief cover

My debriefings generally focus on the dynamics of team interactions and desired collaborative behavior. My illustrations and questions anchor most of the debriefing to the desired client outcomes for the event. On occasion, they just want to have fun — I can usually persuade the leadership to get more value by increasing things like collaboration or sharing ideas around motivating others as part of a leadership development theme.

For large events, we discuss desired outcomes a lot prior to the event so that everyone involved in the delivery design is on-board with what we are trying to accomplish. In play, I most often end with tabletop discussions around, “What does mining (more) gold mean to us as an organization?”

corporate team building ideasLastly, do all that you can do. (You cannot do any more than that!)

Work as best as you can to meet the commitments that were set, but realize that you may not have all the control you need to make this optimal. Various things will decrease your available debriefing time. Senior managers may feel the need to espouse on certain issues they think are critical — and they probably are — but that can cut into your plans.

And have FUN out there with the delivery. If you have fun and work the issues, they will have fun and also work the issues.

If you have any thoughts or ideas about improving the speed of delivery, we would love to hear from you. Anything we can do to increase the debriefing time is a worthwhile alteration, in my opinion. Many of the changes suggested above will have impacts on the dynamics of delivery, I think. SO be careful out there!

YOUR thoughts on all this would be Most Excellent!

Note: Thanks for reading this far. To improve and impact our debriefing and make the exercise even more memorable, we are in the midst of adding LEGO characters to our Introduction and some of our Debriefing materials in all versions of the exercise, with the thought that the game can better tie in with our Square Wheels® approach or be more congruent with consultants using LEGO Serious Play tools or simply using LEGO in general. We have NO affiliation with The LEGO Group or any other organizations and we are using the “useful article” approach to issues around intellectual property.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, Surprised 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

Scott’s blog on People and Performance is here.

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

 

A Desk is a Dangerous Place – Thoughts on Innovation and Implementation

I responded to a LinkedIn post about the issues of innovation. It was started by a professor who deals with Very Senior Executives and who talked about starting their sessions with sticky notes and 5 minutes for ideas for improvement. The comment was that executives generate 70% of their notes about products.

That makes sense. I think that most executives think more about THINGS than they do about the process of making things better. Doing the latter will often involve change and structural reframing which are often problematic and involve all sorts of effort and involvement. Products? Yeah, that is a lot less complicated…

Let’s see, let’s do a new teambuilding board game focused on trust and zombies…

My thought was that the basic framework of the activity might change a little, to be more group-process focused and to use an inkblot of some kind to generate broader perspective around making organizational progress. It seems to me that a little restructuring of the activity might generate a broader picture of how things really work.

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

That is for sure. The quote was embedded in a John LeCarre book I read a couple dozen years ago, but it stuck with me. You bring the executives together and you give them yellow stickies and ask what they would change. Of course, few will think about how things are working.

A different approach might be to show them a picture of a wagon rolling on square wheels with a cargo of round tires. The wagon pusher looks forward and pulls a rope while the wagon pushers look at boards and hands. That, many agree, is a much more representative model of how things work in most organizations. So, I would show this image with this question:

Square Wheels One Main Question How might this represent

  • Leaders lead. That is all they see themselves doing.
  • Pushers push. That is their job.
  • Few things seem to work smoothly from a hands-on kind of reality.
  • The view at the back is very much different than the view at the front.

So, asking people to project their ideas onto that wagon generates all sorts of ideas about issues and opportunities. Some might focus on the round wheels (products) but they simply cannot ignore the reality of motivating and engaging the wagon pushers if they are to make progress.

Plus, we suggest that the executives (or workers) work as tabletops of 6 so that the truly awful ideas get little support and the good ones generate some ownership involvement.

Plus, it is NOT simply about ideas. We know, based on all sorts of research, that 9 of 10 strategy or change improvement initiatives fail, often because of poor alignment and communications. And don’t push YOUR idea down and expect ME to support it — the reality is that, “Nobody ever washes a rental car” and if you do not share ownership involvement in the creation or at least the implementation strategy, you will simply generate all sorts of resistance.

I know that I do not have The Answer. But I do know that the round wheels almost always exist in the wagon.

Don’t just DO something, Stand There!

I make some supporting suggestions here in another blog on people and performance:  http://performancemanagementcompanyblog.com/2014/08/07/7-things-you-should-do-differently-to-build-better-teamwork/

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

.

7 Things You Should Do Differently to Build Better Teamwork

This is most assuredly NOT the First Rodeo for the vast majority of my readership. Many of you have been managing teams and engaging people for years and have even been an employee of a few Best Bosses during your worklife and you have probably had a few others that you probably “learned from.”

We all have our own models of leadership and involvement. We have all reflected on what we currently do and how we do it so that change is simply a matter of choice. We could all choose to do something or some things differently to improve our personal effectiveness, right?

So, please write in the Seven Things that YOU should be doing differently! Now!

And it would be great if you can use the comments section to share those ideas with others. Have fun and DO give this some thought, since it is YOU who lead your people! And we all deserve some time for reflection, so maybe this can be it!

LEGO SWs One Boss Hey What © 80

What are your 7 Thoughts for personal leadership improvement?

I know that You know that you can make some different choices to improve t hings. But, here are some prompts and thinking stimuli:

  • What two things can you do differently or better to involve and engage your people?
  • What can you do right now to improve alignment and intrinsic motivation of three of your people? Better alignment to a goal = improved performance and engagement.
  • What can you do to increase the quality of performance feedback or the quantity and quality of the recognition that people receive? Better feedback = improved performance and engagement.
  • What can you do to improve teamwork and collaboration?
  • What other thoughts and ideas do you have for two things you could choose to change in your leadership behavior?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

See more of my thinking on people and performance that use my cartoons and themes by viewing my blog on poems and quips. Click on the cartoon above to go to that website on poems, quips and performance in the workplace.

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

Is Work Funny or What? Paradoxes in Perceptions

I am a serious guy when it comes to people and performance, which is why I lean toward using games and cartoons. They are simply More Effective than, well, being SERIOUS!

So, let me take a serious poke at people and performance by using a cartoon and you tell me whether I nail it for you, or not.

Let’s say that work looks like this:

SWs LEGO Puzzled Boss horse puller

How? Why? Where? What?

Some thoughts (and I know that you can come up with more of them):

  • We have a wagon rolling on Square Wheels. These wheels work but they do not work smoothly.
  • We have people pushing the wagon forward but they probably cannot see where there are going nor what they are really doing.
  • We got a wagon puller, just out of training, using a white horse. All supervisors have white hats and ride white horses, right?
  • We have Round Wheels in the wagon. It is not like a better idea does not already exist, it is just that the wagon puller may not be aware of it or have a clue as to how to implement it.
  • We have no idea about communications at the back, between the back and the front, or any other things that might be happening.
  • We have a puzzled guy just standing there and not apparently doing anything. He could represent senior management. He might be a consultant. He could be from Accounting or Human Resources!

Most of those involved are sincerely interested in getting their jobs done. But it is commonly found that they do not feel like they are part of a high performance team.

WHY are we doing this and why are we doing this this way? Because maybe:

  • this approach to doing things represents the way things have always been done around here.
  • this way represents the reason the guy on the horse is ON the horse, that a good idea of moving from triangular to square was rewarded!
  • this represents a huge improvement over how we used to do things — dragging the wagon was, well, a real drag!

HOW will we make improvements? I think that is very simply a matter of everyone taking a look at things and maybe thinking that some alternative just might exist. Is there a budget? Can the wagon pushers and puller actually have the time to stop and fix anything?

WHERE the heck are these people going with these wheels? Are they for internal processes or has some customer ordered them to use on their wagons? Or, are those wheels going to be installed on the new 747 cargo planes another customer is acquiring, something that will have all sorts of implications and ramifications.

And where might some of those Round Wheels actually be used to benefit our own people and our own performance.

WHAT we need to do seems pretty clear. Step back from the wagon and take a couple of seconds to see if the fog of work clears.

WHO? YOU!

And if not You, Who?
And if not Now, When?
IF IT IS TO BE
IT IS UP TO ME.

We sell simple toolkits and interactive team building games to drive increased motivation for change and improvement.

Tools for Involving and Engaging People

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

Trust is Revealed by implementing Round Wheels

Dan Rockwell had a really great blog this morning, one that I wanted to reframe and reanchor and repurpose into a short piece on engagement and motivation. I will excerpt some of the key points I saw but I refer you to his complete blog that you can see here:

FirefoxScreenSnapz001

As Dan said, handled well, problem solving can have the following benefits to the organization:

  1. Strengthen connections.
  2. Intensify focus.
  3. Enhance vulnerability.
  4. Fuel urgency.
  5. Clarify responsibility.
  6. Increase opportunity.
  7. Instigate growth.
  8. Disrupt status quo.
  9. Extend skills.
  10. Develop character.
  11. Amplify self-reflection.
  12. Grow capacity.

Poorly handled, problems distract, defeat, and, eventually destroy. And a lot of the result is influenced by the history of the previous transactions between people and management. If the manager has a history of acting trustworthy and being honest and open and dependable, the reactions can be much different that if a low level of trust exists.

My Poster on this looks like this:

LEGO SWs One POSTER Trust is Revealed

How do your people react to the “What” question? Do they see you honestly involved and engaged in discussing their ideas or do they simply see you reacting as if you are being bothered?

Trust is revealed in the way that you handle problems. And remember that today is yesterday tomorrow, so you can always choose to start the process of building trust and rapport with your teams. See Dan’s article for some additional ideas about dealing with the issues. My work here is done! (grin)

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

 

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