Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: Change Facilitation (Page 1 of 11)

Trust in the Sand

My colleagues in Romania just sent me an email about one of their blog posts on leadership that had this image within it:

Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled

I thought it was pretty neat, and it reminded me of my friend and colleague Frank Navran’s quote that:

“Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled”

and how easy it is to simply wipe it away with some foolish behavior…

All it takes is a gust of wind to change things and we need to be reminded that trust is something we need to maintain, not just do once in a while.

Now Vio’s blog is written in Romanian, and even with translation services, I am not going to spend much time going through his key comments around the elements of trust; I simply reacted to his email and sent him the following:

“Trust is not just about writing in the sand. It is also about having perspective, moving about to see what is really happening around you and being willing to move about to potentially see things from other positions rather than from where you are standing. It is also about involving people with shared goals and acting collectively. I think it can also look like this:”

Footprints in the Sand and perspective on surroundings, by scott simmerman

We should also be reminded and mindful about the diversity of people within our organizations and about the reality that all of us know more than any of us when it comes to generating ideas and engagement for improving workplace performance.

Here at Performance Management Company, we sell simple tools for impacting teamwork (Vio at HumanInvest has our Lost Dutchman game in English and Romanian) as well as impacting innovation and motivation. We suggest that leaders work to actively involve their people in generating ideas for improvement and facilitating creative problem solving as well as generating alignment and collaboration.

We also have a simple online facilitation skills training course and toolkit (really cheap and highly effective!) at The Square Wheels Project.

Square Wheels - How organizations really work Metaphor organizational improvement

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

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

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

If not you, WHO? If not now, WHEN?

If not you, WHO?
If not now, WHEN?

I love that short little quote about personal accountability and action. Of course, we can always wait for someone else or we can simply choose to wait, which tends to be the most common response of people to opportunities. Lots of statistics point to the small numbers of “early adapters” of new programs or organizational change efforts while the bulk of managers simply sit and watch to see the results.

But, if things are going to change, someone needs to make them change.

If it is to be, it is up to me!

Otherwise, things will just roll like they have always rolled., which in my view of the world tends to look like this:

Square Wheels One by Scott Simmerman at Performance Management Company

Things tend to roll along like they always have and why not. Things stay the same unless they change… And the continuous un-engagement of the wagon pushers is no surprise, since their view of the future tends to be, “boards and hands.”

Most wagon pulling leaders work hard, pulling the wagon and trusting that the measurements and expectations and performance appraisal mechanisms will insure that the people at the back are pushing instead of pulling. After all, what choice do they have? So, they simply keep pulling, hoping that things will always be okay.

But let’s challenge these assumptions. Let’s assume that day after day, month after month, year after year, all this gets really old and somewhat de-motivating. New hires become dis-engaged over about 6 months and regress to the average enthusiasm of the other workers even as their skill levels increase. And, the good workers will tend to blame their wagon pullers for a lot of the communications issues.

How bad is it? I share some stats in my post of a few days ago (here) but two that stand out are these:

• 35% of US workers would forgo a raise to see their boss fired.
• 3 of 4 workers say that their boss is the worst / most stressful part of the job.

This all begs the question of what might be done differently to generate improvements, basically, The Who and The When.

DDI recently shared some statistics that suggested only 11% of supervisors get management training. So, we can guess that support for skill development will not be coming soon from Training and Development / HR. Nothing new there… They simply have other priorities.

The reality is that people will continue to come into the workplace dragging. And if nothing changes, nothing changes. They are, for the most part (70%), un-engaged, un-enthused and un-involved, and the best predictor of the future is the past.

Spring Forward Monday should be engaging and motivating

So, who other than their supervisor can change things? How can that supervisor become a Draggin’ Slayer and choose to do things that might DIS-un-engage them and generate some active involvement around identifying the Square Wheels® that exist and the Round Wheels we always find inside the wagon?

Draggin' Slayer - What are some Square Wheels by Scott Simmerman

Which, when facilitated with active questioning and group involvement, can begin to break the ice around communicating about issues and opportunities. It is NOT instantaneous in some workgroups where there is hostility of a lack of trust, but it DOES work if we keep asking questions and responding positively to the initial ideas. The process itself is pretty bombproof.

Draggin Slayer Active Involvement Square Wheels LEGO by Scott Simmerman

Having been around corporations and other businesses for 35 years, I actually see NO real solution to the issues we face in motivating and involving workers other than through the direct actions of supervisors.

Operations have always been this way; exemplary performers doing things differently than everyone else and exemplary supervisors choosing to defend their top performers from “corporate bureaucracy” — and simply managing people better. The best managers have always gotten people talking about Square Wheels and playing with Round Wheel ideas for improvement.

Let's implement Round Wheels by Scott Simmerman

We simply cannot go #morebetterfaster if we continue to do the same things the same way and wait for help from above. It just is not going to happen! Our better managers ask questions and solicit ideas from their people, generating motivation and innovation. You simply cannot drive this from a tops-down approach since you can never reach the people who are doing the work.

Square Wheels Draggin Slayer Getting Motivation by Scott Simmerman

If you can share a more effective or impactful approach to involving and engaging people in the workplace, why not contribute a comment? Workers DO have ideas about improving their workplace and impacting quality and productivity. Working together can foster teamwork and peer support and many of the other intrinsically motivating aspects linked to accomplishments.

Building communications and trust between workers and managers is an important factor in employee retention and skill development and cascades into innovation and service quality and customer retention.

We offer a SIMPLE toolkit for facilitation skills development at The Square Wheels Project. For a tiny bit of money, supervisors can gain access to an online course and also the powerpoint and handout sheets needed to have a productive and engaging meeting (or meetings, actually) with their people about issues and opportunities for workplace improvement.

The Square Wheels Project marketing logo for facilitation skills

If we can encourage our supervisors and managers to think differently and go off on their own paths to improving involvement and engagement and motivation of their people, is there really any downside? I guess you could call this empowerment. But how else are we going to take advantage of our human capital and go #morebetterfaster? The managers should be the motivators.

Share your thoughts and reactions,

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

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

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

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

Engagement – Think Local, Act Local

I was reading an article on adapting things like HomeKit and Echo into the way people interact with their homes. Alexa is pretty cool, but there are issues around its inability to recognize voices and there have been instances of voices on TV actually telling the system to order products online and the reality that a burglar could simply tell the system to turn off security alarms. The point that author Seyi Fabode was making was that one of our most basic needs is for security and safety.

MY thinking about his thinking was framed around a workshop I attended by Brad Thomas with my local ATD group yesterday morning. Brad was focusing on the implementation of full-company engagement systems and his excellent talk was anchored somewhat to these local issues but mainly focused on the corporate commitment to generating and acting on large amounts of employee feedback to frame up issues and opportunities.

In that Big Picture Corporate Model, things needed to cascade down from the top and that HR departments had to rethink how they focused so that they could actually bring human resource capital into play for their operational counterparts, that they could not simply remain the paper pushers they are in so many places. HR needed a seat at the corporate boardroom table to focus on the people side of improvement initiatives. It seems like an awful amount of senior management engagement and systemic change was a requirement before ANY actions could occur.

And when you have, as I once did, senior executives out there saying (or believing) things like this about people / engagement / involvement and being actively working to generate innovative ideas:

“That’s like asking the vegetables how to design a refrigerator,”

you pretty much KNOW that you are not going to be successful working from the tops downward forward. (And, yes, there are senior managers who could not care less about employee involvement and ideas — we seem to have one in the White House if you need an example.)

These two things clanged for me about an hour ago. Big Corporate Solutions trying to solve the issues of the worker / supervisor interface. What could possibly go wrong? Well, as results seem to consistently show, pretty much everything… Overall, statistics seem to show that OD things look pretty much like this:

Corporate engagement programs don't work well

From this month’s issue of Workforce magazine (3/17), Rick Bell shared some  statistics and anchor points. Supervisors clearly improve their leadership and engagement skills. Some tops-down corporate program to improve overall engagement will simply not get traction:

• 35% of US workers would forgo a raise to see their boss fired

• 44% of employees say they have been emotionally or physically abused by a supervisor

• 3 of 4 workers say that their boss is the worst / most stressful part of the job

Other statistics supporting the idea of local control / local influence include:

• “Communication and connection are the cornerstone of relationships – a quarter to a third of employees believe their managers seldom or never listen to them, understand their issues, seek their input and ideas, or help them to resolve the issues and challenges they face. This persistent gap presents both a challenge and an opportunity to leaders and managers.” (Leadership Management Australasia’s LMA survey, April 2016)

• Only about 1 in 3 US managers are engaged in their jobs, and about 1 in 7 are actively DISENGAGED. Employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers. (Gallup)

Bell and others share these statistics, however, so there IS opportunity here if we can improve the interaction between workers and their managers:

  • Managers are the Number 1 way that people feel supported by their organization
  • Managers influence 70% of the variance in empllyee engagement scores
  • Close to 60% of Americans say they would do a better job if they got along better with their boss
  • Close to 70% of those polled said they would be happier at work if they got along better with their boss, with the breakdown equal among men and women, but younger workers in their 20s and 30s were even higher (80%)
  • Over half (55%) of those polled, think they would be more successful in their career if they got along better with their boss
  • Only 4 in 10 of Americans will thank their boss on National Bosses Day with most believing that their boss wouldn’t care enough to bother
  • About 10% said they would use the day as an opportunity to talk to their boss and improve the relationship

So, what IS a viable solution? Understand that the Big Corporate Improvement Program Initiatives seem doomed to fail unless organizations impact that supervisor / worker interface and make it more supporting and effective. And you can probably figure out that working to engage workers working for the 1 in 7 managers who are actively DIS-engaged within their own organization is simply a waste of money and resources.

Throw some mud at the wire fence!

Break away from the Big  Corporate Program Mentality and do some Guerilla Engagement. Give some of your better supervisors the tools they need to improve their effectiveness. Allow them to improve their interactions with their people and to improve their facilitation and involvement skills.

The Square Wheels Project is an online training program designed FOR SUPERVISORS who need some training and some tools to improve communications. The Spring Forward Monday Toolkit is a package of tools (handouts, powerpoints, posters and instructions) to give supervisors the framework for a series of meetings and implementation action plans for simple ideas for workplace improvement and innovation, to allow more teamwork and active involvement.

Square Wheels - How organizations really work Metaphor organizational improvement

We are not THE Solution, to anything, but we are a most excellent alternative to the initiatives that are generally not working very well.

Help your managers to become better motivators. Help them lead on-site workplace innovation and improvement initiatives at the bottom-most layer of your organization. Do things differently and let them lead!

Solve the small problems in simple ways, keeping a sense of safety and security in place with your supervisors feeling a minimal amount of risk for doing something differently. Look for some “small answers” to local issues and build things from the bottoms up. Make real improvements where you can, instead of looking for Big Answers.

Our stupidly simple tools can help your managers get some really effective, performance-focused improvement conversations going,

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

Apparently, Employees are also People!

I was playing around with some of my flower pics on Saturday, wishing for Spring after weeding, composting and fertilizing the day lily garden. That got me to thinking that we need to do those same things in some workplaces (yeah, weeding, also). And then I thought to put up a flower post

Employee Growth by scott simmerman at The Square Wheels ProjectThen, I got to thinking about that first word and if it might be better if I made it more general and changed it to people, since it also applies to children and it did not have to be a workplace poster. So, I put up a “which one” image of both in Facebook and the resounding response was PEOPLE.

People agree that PEOPLE can grow and that employees are people, too.

People can grow if we help them - from The Square Wheels Project

Now, I wish that more organizations will make that simple realization and behave to better involve and engage them in alignment to goals and objectives and provide them with the feedback and support and teamwork that would allow them to grow and perform at a higher level. The data suggest that people are disengaged and often unmotivated. Extrinsic rewards are not driving high levels of overall performance and interdepartmental collaboration remains an oxymoron.

Supervisors are the fulcrum for changing behavior. HR and T&D simply cannot impact people who are doing the jobs at hand. We must improve supervisory skills and facilitating involvement is straightforward – Ask and Receive. But few supervisors seem to be listening, or even respecting their people based on many different surveys of attitudes and behaviors in the workplace.

Remember that the flower IS in there! (And so is a brain.)
So, give them some sunlight and some good soil and watch what happens!

Poster by Scott Simmerman of The Square Wheels Project

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

The Square Wheels Project is an LMS designed to teach facilitation skills to supervisors, using the Square Wheels metaphor for organizational performance improvement. The theme is simple, Square Wheels describe how most organizations and most processes really work and the Round Wheels already exist, in that the people at the back have the hands-on experience with moving forward and know what can be changed and improved. The idea is to enable to conversations, which is what the short course is designed to accomplish.

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

Facilitating Workplace Improvement: Herding Cats and Frogs

A couple of really good discussions on facilitation and implementation of strategies and innovation and some basic conversations about people and performance got me thinking again about The Issues of Workplace Reality:

Getting things done around here
is a lot like herding cats.

It is possible to accomplish that, but with me with an 8-month old uncontrollable and insane kitty and with me working on Robin Speculand’s Compass Model for workplace strategy implementation (and seeing lots of statistics around failures and challenges), I am once again reminded that the metaphor links to many issues of workplace engagement and alignment.

If you have never seen it before or need a refresher, you really ought to watch this great old 1-minute EDS commercial about the satisfaction gained from successfully herding cats:

Herding Cats - EDS Commercial“Herding cats. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy…”
“I’m living a dream…”

Funny stuff, for sure and worth watching!
(Clicking on the image above will open up in Youtube.)

My British friend, Barry Howell, used the phrase “herding frogs,” in a conversation, which got me into expanding my thinking. Not everyone in the workplace is a feline, which of course makes things more difficult to manage, right? Herding frogs seems to be a more common metaphor there, maybe because they aren’t so much into herding cattle as in the US.

So, what does herding frogs look like? Here is a video of The Great Frog Capture in California. Do NOT try this at home!

FrogsMetaphors!! I just love using those kinds of very visual,
kinesthetic phrases to anchor reality.

Then, I saw a link to an absolutely wild short video about stampeding ducks. Seriously. Click on the image and be amazed. And again, do not try herding ducks like this at home or at work!

Stampeding Ducks

Lastly, I thought to add a really beautiful video of sheep herding in New Zealand. This one is awesome! Courtesy of Tom Whittaker:

Herding sheep videoThe only issue that I would have with workplaces is that there would be little innovation and few people doing things differently. You would not have exemplary performers in any real sense. Plus, herding sheep is not workplace reality, for sure!

Trying to implement change and improvement and motivating people is not an easy task, as shown in the above examples. And while ducks will be imprinted to follow an individual or other ducks and sheep are naturally herd animals easily controlled with a few sheep dogs, managing people is simply not so easy. People ARE creative when we allow them to be. People are great problem solvers if they recognize something as an issue. And people need leadership.

There is one more graphic that speaks to getting things done and facilitating improvement and that looks like this:

Baby Elephant Teamwork Quote wordsWe need to have the time and energy, as leaders, to deal with the new baby elephants! We cannot simply add one more thing on top of all the other things and expect it to be given the attention it needs.

Most strategy implementations fail not because of a poor strategy, but because the implementation plan does not prioritize that implementation nor take into account all the time and energy needed to get things to be different. Plus, while it seems easier simply to tell people that they need to do things differently, that behavior generally results in active resistance by many.

We need to develop alignment, teamwork, collaboration and a sense of ownership, along with prioritizing the time and effort required, in order to move people to different performance places.

Cats, frogs, sheep and elephants.
Will Herding Zombies be next?

(Actually, the answer is YES, since my colleagues want me to get my Zombie Strategy Implementation Game into beta so they can mess with it. There do seem to be some Zombies among the very disengaged populations common in most places. Not all have turned, but some seem to have done so!)

Solutions are not simple. But you may find our approach to involving and engaging people for workplace improvement to be pretty straightforward.

We share some simple tools for involving and engaging people for improving workplace performance at The Square Wheels Project.

Using our Square Wheels images and themes and facilitation approach, you can generate alignment to shared missions and visions, ask about issues and opportunities and define strategies to implement and manage change. Check it out!

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

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

 
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.

Poem on Performance Improvement and Training

For two dozen years, I have used a “strength building” illustration as step one to discuss how training is not always a good solution to performance improvement problems. It is the old Bob Mager, “If you put a gun to their head, can they do it?” kind of framework in that it separates a skillset from a motivation. Simply put, if people can do the job, they don’t need more training to do the job.

Training is a good thing if skills are deficient, but we often see new people demonstrate the skills as they are coached but then not demonstrate those same skills over time. Something else is happening and workplace systems and processes are often a good place to look for new Best Practices and ideas to improve motivation and teamwork.

So, while training is a GOOD thing, and often one of those reinforcers for workplace performance, it is not THE solution most of the time.

My suggestion is to step back from the wagon and change perspective. Ask people for ideas and listen to issues and opportunities. That is the nature of The Square Wheels Project.

So, here is a little ditty poem about those issues and opportunities. I hope you like it!

Poem on Training by Scott Simmerman for The Square Wheels project

Note that training WILL often generate a 2 or 3% improvement in performance since the wagon pushers WILL be a little stronger!
But maybe that time could have been better used for engagement…

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

2017 – A Year of Choices, Engagement and Innovation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott Simmerman

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

 

 

A Round Wheel Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

The Square Wheels Project is about facilitating engagment and improvement

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

Monkeys, Management and Motivation – Simple Ideas

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

I love it when it all comes together…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Are Managers simply BAD or is it the Workplace

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Square Wheels Project image on perception by Scott Simmerman

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Santa’s Square Wheels Performance Improvement Poem

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

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

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

A santa square Wheels poem

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

What is Negative Reinforcement, a Square Wheels Innovation Framework

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Negative Reinforcement and Square Wheels and intrinsic motivation

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

Intrinsic Motivation, Square Wheels and LEGO by Scott Simmerman

You get to go #morebetterfaster.

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

 

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

 

It’s about Perspective Opportunity, People!

Perception. Breakfast of Champions.

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

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

Daniel Kahneman quote on a Square Wheels image by Scott Simmerman

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Thrive Global – and a message for Supervisors everywhere

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

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

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

Square Wheels - how things really work

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

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

The Square Wheels Project and Thrive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help us!

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Engagement. Motivation. Innovation. The Critical Importance of Supervisors

WHO in your management team has the absolute most impact on profits? Please do not delude yourself with some belief that it is senior management. We know from all kinds of research that the ideas from top management take 2 to 3 years, in general, in order to be fully implemented in most medium to large organizations. And we also know that, “a desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world” (John LeCarre). Right? 😀

Okay, than it must be sales or engineering or manufacturing or something, right? Well maybe… But let me make the simple point that workers work and managers manage and who has the biggest impact on the workers working? Let me suggest that it is our lowly supervisor.

Supervisors! You know, the ones you had to promote because the other ones quit; that person who you promise to actually send to training one of these days when the workload drops some or you can get a relief person ready…

And what is their normal day like? Mostly, from our conversations and observations, they are covered up with obligations about summarizing results, solving problems, doing HR paperwork, dealing with angry customers or angry managers in other departments and, above all, attending meetings!

You can save them a lot of time by reducing meetings, or making them more effective and efficient and sending them information instead of telling them. And you can also impact them positively by giving them some job-skills with broad impacts.

And you cannot expect them to impact their people much if you do not allow them to interact with their people. (I read an article that showed that people working remotely had more manager contact than those located in the same office space.) And I believe that. Managing by Wandering Around is just not the norm these days, for sure.

Let me suggest that effective communications are also somewhat of a skills problem, that many people simply do NOT know how to facilitate effectively to involve and engage and motivate people. If you put a gun to their head, they simply could not do much better, so it is a SKILL issue and not simply one of motivation. And that lack of skill and the pressure to perform causes something like this in most workplaces:

Training for Facilitation Skills through The Square Wheels Project

I’ve been playing with the themes of Square Wheels® for over 20 years and they are a fabulous as well as easy to use way to involve and engage people in workplace improvement. What we have done with The Square Wheels Project is design an online training program to teach the techniques and share the tools.

Give us a try. Allow one of your supervisors to go through this course and network with our other users and with us about their issues and opportunities, and see if they will dramatically improve how things work in their organization,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

 

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