Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: Change (Page 1 of 9)

WHAM! The Square Wheels Guy sees a Round Wheel

I shared this story with a couple of associates last night and both said I should blog about it. The situation is where some guy (me) who deals in Square Wheels and Round Wheels finally makes an improvement because he finally sees something as a Square Wheel, something operating that way for almost a year. Seriously…

My house has one room set up as an image production area and we got some green screen cloth and used a 5 foot by 3 foot table as the base on which to set up our various Square Wheels scenarios and images. We have good lighting sources and a tripod for using my iPhone to take pictures. We even have a remote control so we can keep the camera still while we do some stop-motion movies. (We will start publishing some animations in January – an amazing fun way to be creative and get some key learning points across.)

Santa flying with elves watching and Round Wheels on the Square Wheel sled

Anyway, I thought that we had production down to what was a science. Simple set up, hit some light switches and get out the iPhone, with auto upload to the cloud and downloading to my computers. Neat!

But there were small problems. In some shots where we had wider images, like with Santa and the reindeer plus some elves at the back, we were getting the sides of the screen to come into view at the back. That resulted in me having to move LEGO more toward the back to control the angles and image quality.

On Thursday, Joan and I were shooting Santa shots (new poem will be published) and I sat there and heard voices in my head saying, “Why don’t we rotate the table so that it changes from 3′ wide and 5′ long to being a more usable 5′ wide and 3′ long?”

Why was it 3 x 5? Because the table fit neatly along the 5 foot wall to the left and we had a light box sitting on the table when we first started. But then we moved the table away from the wall when we went from shooting within the box to a back-screen open arrangement. We kept changing backgrounds, raised the height of the table and did other things but we never bothered to rotate the table. It worked as it was, but it did not work smoothly. It took 5 minutes to make a really useful fix…

My own Square Wheels metaphor winds up whacking me in the side of the head. A better solution has been there for MONTHS, but I simply could not SEE it because I was used to the way it was working, Neither Chris nor Joan saw it either, and Chris helped me with all the initial set up and has taken half the pictures.

Square Wheels Image production facility The Square Wheels Project

The message and key learning point is simple:

The Round Wheels are already in the wagon.

Improvement often just requires us to stop, step back, and LOOK for ideas to make things better, rather than simply doing the same thing over and over and somehow expecting better results.

I do TRY to live my own metaphor and look for those Round Wheels.
But apparently, “not always,”

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

Monday Morning Square Wheels and other thoughts

Here is our new framework for considering how things really seem to work in most organizations, this one done as a paradoxical joke that might take a second. It is also something for consideration about the perception of reality:

Square Wheels LEGO one-liner by Scott Simmerman of The Square Wheels Project

 

Here are two of my most useful quotes:

Nothing made sense, and neither did everything else. 
     (Joseph Heller, from his book “Closing Time,“ (1994) )

It is not possible to awaken someone who is pretending to be asleep.
(Navajo proverb).

1callosamia————

Caterpillars can fly, if they just lighten up. Thus, be the caterpillar or the butterfly, but always watch out for the birds and expect changes because we go through cycles of existence. 

If you can’t be kind to others, at least have the decency to be vague.

Indecision is a key to flexibility.
A decision made is an opportunity for flexibility missed.
Thus, flexibility is a key to indecision.

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” — Marcel Proust

“In Paris, they simply stared when I spoke to them in French. I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language.”  
– Mark Twain

Some thoughts on Flying:
Keep thy airspeed up, lest the earth come from below and smite thee.

Basic Flying Rules:

  1.  Try to stay in the middle of the air.
  2.  Do not go near the edges of it. (The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.)
  3.  Strive to keep the number of successful landings made equal to the number of take-offs you’ve made.

If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it. And borrow money from pessimists, since they do not expect you to pay it back.

Some managers choose to be rock solid in their commitment to flexibility. Some drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle. 

“That’s like asking the vegetables how to design a refrigerator.” (An actual quote I heard a company president make when asked about the idea of employee involvement. Really!)

 

The dome on Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, conceals a billiards room. Billiards were illegal in Virginia when Jefferson lived…

The term “devil’s advocate” comes from the Roman Catholic church. When 20 of the church’s most important convene in deciding if someone should be sainted, a devil’s advocate is always appointed to give an alternative view.

Management in some companies reminds me of 5,000 ants on a log floating down the river with each ant pretending they are steering and that they know where they are going. But it is not their fault, it is simply the result of their perceptions about how things work.

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.

Check out The Square Wheels Project, our LMS for teaching Square Wheels facilitation skills to supervisors and managers.

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

Leadership, Teamwork and Making Progress

My approach to motivation and engagement is based on this image of how things really work in most organizations:

sws-one-main-final-tiny-133

Nothing fancy or earth-shattering, just people working to move their wagon forward, with a few possibilities for improvement…

We have:

  • isolated Leadership
  • uninformed or un-aligned workers
  • inefficient processes that do not work smoothly
  • poor or difficult communications, and
  • round wheels that already exist in the wagon that could be implemented to make things work more better faster.

We have been playing with this theme and different illustrations about how things really work as a way of involving and engaging managers and workers in the process of continuous continuous improvement, that the process of stepping back from the wagon serves many purposes. People have ideas and implementing those ideas improves how things work along with engagement. Leadership does get isolated from the hands-on reality and communications is an important factor in every workplace.

My friend in India, Shantanu, emailed me this picture, with no context and no explanation, heck not even a source. And looking at it for a couple of minutes gave me all sorts of ideas and inspirations and questions and comments.

Working Hard from Within the WagonWhat do YOU think is happening here?

This WILL take a minute or two to register and for some different alternatives to come to mind. Who is that guy in the bed of the truck and what is he actually accomplishing? Bunches of possibilities, but my thought is that this kind of thing happens very often in nearly every workplace!

poster-reality-round-already-in

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

 

 

 

Collaboration – Abstracts of Blog Posts of Scott Simmerman

Collaboration offers big benefits to organizations. It directly impacts motivation and engagement and innovation. Yet teams will often not collaborate, and often simply because they choose not to. The reality (and most people’s experience) shows there is more competition than collaboration in most organizations, which is a double edge sword.

What I wanted to do herein is share some of my thinking about these issues, to share a resource to stimulate your choices about these issues. My tools address these opportunities for improvement pretty elegantly.

Why do teams compete? Collaboration offers more positive benefits?

People continually make choices, selecting responses from their existing set of “behavioral alternatives” and often simply choosing to do what they have done before. The book, Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman does an excellent job of sharing the research on decision making and thinking and I expand on his thoughts in this blog.

This post focuses on some common reasons why teams compete and frames up some of the key learning points derived from session debriefings of our teambuilding simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We find that a better understanding about their choice and choices, generated from their own behavior, generates powerful impetus to make changes in how things work.

Sabotage, Defense, Engagement and Workplace Collaboration

Disengagement is but one of the stages of disgruntled employee attitudes, and active disengagement can often generate actual workplace sabotage. This can manifest in a variety of ways, from encouraging other people to mis-align with corporate values to actual adversarial behavior. It can generate work slowdowns, increase sick days or even sick-outs, theft, poor customer service and other negatives. Some general frameworks for solving these issues are discussed.

Interdepartmental Collaboration’s Vital Link to Organizational Profitability

This overviews and connects to an article I published in HR Management Magazine that frames up issues of interdepartmental collaboration and the impacts on organizations. You can download and distribute the article, if that is of interest.

Collaboration and Teamwork and dealing with Mud

I use the metaphor of mud in both my Square Wheels toolkits as well as my Lost Dutchman team building game. Mud is the glop that most workers and most managers need to get a grip on, since it generally appears everywhere and it tends to simply bog you down and make even simple things more difficult. Some managers are better “mud managers” than others simply because they choose to do things differently. These best practices can be shared.

On Collaboration and Decision-Making

This focuses on the general idea of US and THEM, and that the reality is that they are us! It shares some simple thoughts on alignment and the benefits of having a diversity of opinion on things. The reality is that ALL of us know more than ANY of us and that collaboration greatly benefits the quality of our decision making. Involvement also generates ownership, which is important to implementation.

For the FUN of It!

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

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

Poems and Haiku on People and Performance – Square Wheels themes

I was trying out some new image capture software and got into taking some screenshots of some powerpoint slides that I then thought to change and then to redo some poems and haiku about people and performance. I got a goodly number of these done, which I will share on my poems about the workplace blog. You can go there by clicking on the poem image below:

a Square Wheels poem by Scott Simmerman

The poems blog is full of posters, quotes, one-liners and some other quick stuff that I have tried to capture over the past 2 years. It is my place for having a bit of fun. Here is a haiku poem that I will upload there tomorrow:

A square wheels haiku poem by Scott Simmerman

and here is one more poem:

A square wheels poem on workplace reality by Scott Simmerman

Hope you like these. I have a good time playing with these kinds of things, and if you want me to illustrate any writings of yours with my Square Wheels LEGO images, let me know,

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

 

lyrics:

Teamwork’s the way to get more good things done,
Those difficult changes that ain’t any fun.
It’s hard work to mesh with those not like you,
But stopping and talking is always the glue.

Passion for change? Yes?
Get the job done fast and cheap.
Labor is intense.

The Boss may just be unaware.
Of the Square Wheels always thumpy.
The wagon can roll with much less care,
If communications not so lumpy.

 

Engagement – The Day AFTER National Employee Appreciation Day

I popped up a short post on doing a Day of Un-Appreciation every year, with the idea that doing a day of appreciation is only one day of many and that it should certainly be more common. People are not being involved or engaged or motivated well in their workplaces, and managements are apparently choosing not to do things differently (or things would improve!).

poster of making every day a day of appreciating employees

This morning, I framed up another idea:

Celebrate the day after the day of employee appreciation

What if we simply doubled the days that we thought about appreciating employees, you know, those people that actually do the actual work of organizations and not the management of those people… (grin)

There is simply so much more that so many more could do to help the process of generating better workplace engagement.

As an addendum, let me share a graph from the Gallup organization that showed a recent high bump in engagement in the US, something that some people are apparently celebrating.

Gallup National Data on employee engagement levels

graph is linked to original article

The rise in apparent engagement is most assuredly not a “leap” and it also correlates with the drop in un-employment (so some new hires might appear in the survey data) along with a drop in the numbers of under-employed, meaning that additional workers started making more money.

So, don’t think that there have been a lot of improvements in how people are being managed nor in how people are being appreciated. There is a great need for companies to understand that managers can choose to do things differently to dis-un-engage and dis-un-empower their people on a day to day basis.

Check out our toolkit for involving and engaging people for workplace improvement. $20!

Square Wheels Icebreaker is simple to use

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Workplace and the Work – Thoughts on the 8-hour day

I’ve posted up a number of things about the workplace over the years, and also about a lot of the current-day issues of over-connectedness and the average 72-hour workweek of many managers.

This is reflected in this article from last year – Working while Not Working – The Problem of Overconnectedness – which shared a bunch of statistics and issues and data.

I came across another interesting site that I thought to share, one that focused on general thinking about The Workweek and that shared some interesting thoughts on our assumptions.

Why do we have 8 hour work days in the first place?

How do we spend out time? This image is from the article by Leo Widrich:

image of hours in a day

Widrich writes with the idea that workers or managers somehow have a choice about their workweek. Maybe that is true, but there is a LOT of data that suggests that the average worker is a LOT more connected and involved than that simple 8 or 9-hour workday.

Many of us own our own businesses, and my week is pretty much described as, “always.” I will respond to email on Saturday night at midnight and work 6 hours on a Sunday before turning on the TV and watching a movie while I write this blog. How can one even calculate how many hours a week I am connected in some manner to the business?

I DO like a lot of his recommendations, which I adaptively reproduce below. Read his original article for a lot more ideas:

The top 4 tips for improving your work day

I’ve started to make 4 distinct changes to implement the above research better. Here is what worked the best:

  • Manually increase the relevance of a task: Now, a lot of us still might struggle to find the focus, especially if no one set a deadline to it. Overriding your attention system, and adding your own deadline together with a reward has shown some of the most significant improvements for task completion. 
  • Split your day into 90 min window. Instead of looking at a 8, 6 or 10 hour work day, split it down and say you’ve got 4, 5 or however many 90 minute windows. That way you will be able to have 4 tasks that you can get done every day much more easily.
  • Plan your rest so you actually rest: “The fittest person is not the one who runs the fastest, but the one who has optimized their rest time.” Says Tony Schwartz. A lot of the time, we are so busy planning our work day, that we forget about “how” to rest. Plan beforehand what you will do your rest. Here are some ideas: Nap, read, meditate, get a snack.
  •  Zero notifications: One of the best ideas I’ve ever had was to follow Joel’s advice on Zero Notifications.  Having absolutely no counter on my phone or computer changing from 0 to 1 and always breaking my focus has been a huge help. If you haven’t tried this yet, try to turn off every digital element that could become an alert.

The comments to his post are also very interesting. People have a lot of different perspectives on things.

My guess is that a lot of us have already adapted his as well as our own ideas toward managing our work. I’ve been in my business 31+ years and guess that I keep things at least somewhat in balance. I was going to the gym 5 or 6 hours a week but that ended because I blogged about Planet Fitness and some issues of trust, respect and engagement related to their leadership that were pretty obviously poor in the impacts on their workers. Those workers have some obvious issues of being poorly managed, in my opinion.

I also edited an older blog of mine to capture some ideas about how we can look toward making the workplace a more involved and engaged place and how to improve motivation. You can find “The Future of Work…” here.

And, I was sent a link to a short slideshare on the work environment, focused on furniture and lighting and design. I thought it was interesting. You can find that here.

Now, I guess I will add in more bicycling and kayaking to the schedule, along with the pool and the gardening. While there is always something to get done, some of it can wait. But call me any time and I will answer,

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.

 

Innovation, Infrastructure and Africa – Square Wheels or Round Wheel Choices

For the past 10 years or so, I have been reading the works of my pal, Brian Paxton, in South Africa. His writing is insightful and I often send him notes about things that link to his thinking about Africa and its opportunities. Here is one that I received this morning in his Mbendi newsletter, notable because I think it hits directly on the kinds of thinking I see as problematic.

Before I share his writing, though, let me frame it up with this idea:

How things really work in most organizations...

In the above, the team proceeds to continue to do things the same way and getting the same result. They work hard and DO meet the goals that are set, but these same old goals and systems and processes generally keep them doing the same kinds of things.

The above is illustrated in what Brian shares:

————–

THE WORLD AFTER 2020 – INFRASTRUCTURE DREAMING

In these days of fast advancing technology, one of Africa’s key competitive advantages versus the rest of the world is that it is very much a green field. Not literally of course, because you have places like the Sahara Desert, but figuratively.

Take communications for example. Twenty years ago, at the advent of the cell-phone / Internet revolution, Africa’s telephone infrastructure, where it existed at all, was decidedly antiquated. Today the majority of Africans have cell phones – I have vivid memories of seeing a red-clad Masai in the wilds of Tanzania herding his cattle while talking on his phone. East Africa pioneered cell-phone payment systems largely eliminating the need for banking infrastructure, branches, ATMs and all.

New cheap smart devices can deliver education, entertainment, news, medical diagnoses, prices and a whole lot more to Africans without requiring all the obsolete copper, paper and corporate infrastructure developed nations still have to amortize.

A regular MBendi newsletter reader recently pointed me to an article on the Guardian newspaper website. It seems that at some times of the day Queensland wholesale electricity prices fall below zero as 1,100 MW of solar panels on the roofs of 350,000 buildings across the state churn out electricity. Of course those same buildings are also connected to dirty coal-fired plants via a complex system of transmission and distribution cables, all of which, likewise, requires amortization, so there’s a tussle developing between the utilities wanting a return on capital and their customers wanting cheap power.

Now, if Queensland is sunny, Africa is even sunnier with a countryside largely unblighted by transmission lines and coal-fired pollution. In our last newsletter we mentioned that solar street lights are to be installed in all towns in Nandi county, Kenya. Last week NYSE-listed Chinese company Jinko Solar, the fourth-largest solar PV manufacturer in the world, opened an R 80 million manufacturing plant in Cape Town which can produce solar photovoltaic panels equivalent to 120 MW each day. So, in the electrical power arena, it would seem that Africa too enjoys an advantage through its lack of traditional power infrastructure and there are some, albeit cautious, moves afoot to capitalise on this.

But not so fast. Last week the US government convened a meeting of the leaders from 54 African countries to discuss USA-African trade and investment. With great fanfare the US government used the occasion to announce that it is to invest billions of dollars in African infrastructure, particularly electrical power generation where General Electric will lead the charge. Chinese leaders chimed in to propose working hand in hand with the Americans on African infrastructure. Meanwhile down in South Africa, state investment in infrastructure is seen as a way to stimulate the economy, starting with yet another massive coal fired power station, a nuclear power plant and additional railways to ship coal locally and abroad. Not only do none of these projects take advantage of Africa’s green fields but they will leave the continent with expensive, soon-to-be-redundant infrastructure.

But that’s not the only problem. While the USA claims to be investing billions in African infrastructure, the payments will go largely to American suppliers and consultants with just a fraction paid to local manufacturers. In East Africa there’s a protest groundswell developing at the news that 5,000 Chinese workers are to be shipped in to build a railway; perhaps the Ethiopians have told them about the thousands of Chinese workers who weren’t repatriated when major projects finished there. We’ve all had the experience of buying a computer printer then finding replacement ink cartridges cost as much as the original printer; I hope someone sane is factoring in all the running and maintenance supplies needed from the donor nations after this generous donation of infrastructure goes live.

Back in 2002 BAE Systems, aided and abetted by the UK government, foisted an expensive and totally unnecessary military radar system on Tanzania. The whole shady deal turned out to have involved bribery and corruption so much so that in 2010 the UK’s Serious Fraud Office handed down a £29.5 million fine on the company. Companies from around the world who, with the support of their national governments, supplied South Africa with arms in the late 1990’s are suspected of similar malpractices.

All these big infrastructure projects – unlike solar panel or cell phone investments of individuals – carry the same potential for the decision making process to be perverted by bent carrots and sticks, especially by opaque governments. With Russia tipped as being the favourite of South Africa’s atom-minded cabinet, maybe that’s why President Zuma didn’t condemn Russia’s takeover of the Crimea as he lambasted Israel’s Gaza incursions in a supposedly trade-related speech in Washington?

Africa would be a better place if a group of experts could sit down and rationally plan how best to plow Africa’s rich green fields. Start with a glorious vision; take a sober view of where we are at present; and then build a logical plan to take us from here to there. This is a much better approach than simply gratefully accepting what is foisted on us by others in their interests even more than ours.

In my words, the Square Wheels are everywhere but the Round Wheels already exist in the wagon. We can repeat the same old models for electrical infrastructure or we can look to NEW proven models that would seem to make a lot more sense. They need to step back from the wagon to see things differently and to generate alternative choices that make the best sense and that optimize the journey forward.

(An irony is that GE’s Turbine manufacturing is located here in my home town. I think they are a great employer and I have many friends working there. But are the same Square Wheel Turbines what Africa really needs to move their wagon forward?)

Y9u can reach Brian Paxton here  – MBendi Information Services <brian@mbendi.com> and you can find and subscribe freely to his previous (great) newsletters here: http://www.mbendi.com/mbendipr/newsletter/website/index.htm

 

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

Weed Killers, Bug Killers and Organizational Development

We spend a LOT of money on weed control and bug killers for our yards and gardens. We spend tiny amounts on things to actually help plants grow and to improve the environment. That seems exactly what we do in our organizations. Some thoughts:

The statistics on the workplace continue to worry me as it relates to the health of a country, including but not limited to the United States; this certainly appears to be a global phenomenon. Results show that people are finding work less and less rewarding, both in terms of income that it generates as well as the personal rewards gained from doing a good job well and feeling appreciation for that accomplishment.

The data continue to suggest that high levels of engagement and personal development have big impacts on organizational performance results and stock prices. In an excellent blog by Barbara Kimmel, she shares the following graph of stock performance tied to one issue around people and performance:  TRUST.

FACTS Kimmel Trust graph stock results

Click on the image to see the blog with stats and related information

There are similar solid statistical proofs for a wide variety of positive indicators of leadership and involvement and individual development / personal growth. Investing in people and performance has a positive impact on the bottom line and long-term success of organizations of all types.

Treating people well thus has a wide variety of positive impacts with only ONE seemingly negative issue: COST.

Yes, senior managers do seem to continually look at the cost of people to the organization and the cost of training and the cost of salaries and all that. Investments in people are on the wrong side of the financial analysis, IMHO. Nevermind the statistically solid reality that these kinds of investments can be easily linked to critical performance indicators. There is some apparent perceived risk in investing in people. So many organizations simply choose not to do so, or to do so half-heartedly.

When monies get tight, the first thing cut is almost always “training.” There is constant pressure to keep the costs of payroll low, to the point that people often cannot even take vacations because their job duties cannot be done by another.  (See my article on vacation and time off and the issue of continued connectedness of today’s worker and manager.)

What happened to me yesterday pushed me to create this post. I was in one of the Big Box home fixing stores, the ones that carry lawn and garden materials, tools, paints, appliances, and all that other stuff. I was looking for some indoor plant fertilizer and some electrical tape.

What I found was a truly amazing quantity and selection of things like weed killer, fire ant killer, bug sprays, fungicides, grub killer granules and similar. There were 70 feet of aisle space focused on negative control of things, with all sorts of impacts on the biological environment.

There was a small — very small — shelf allotment of things to actually help plants grow. Somehow, this seems out of kilter, in that a healthy environment will generally serve to keep the weed problem small. Heck, I pick the crabgrass by hand in my yard, since I never let it get started. I use corn gluten as a pre-emergent to avoid poisoning my worms.

Can’t we manage our workplaces with less toxic substance
and do more to help our people grow?

SWs LEGO POSTER - Create non-toxic

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

 

Thoughts on Change and Choice – a Square Wheels LEGO cartoon

I was thinking about a discussion about climate change and decision-making and “considered alternatives” and things like that and I just happened to see one of the illustrations I did for my Susan and Courage slideshare package the other day.

And the whole idea of decision-making and information gathering popped into my head so I adjusted that original cartoon to look like this:

LEGO Politics Brain in a Box

You can see lots more cartoons on my poems blog – click the image!

My thought is that you need to at least get people to STOP doing what they have always done in order to look for possibilities for improvement or change. Ideas are just not implemented, they first need consideration…

If you have not seen these before, my main cartoon in LEGO that sets up the above theme looks like this one:

How things really work in most organizations...

And the above is based on the Square Wheels illustrations that we have been selling in a variety of toolkits that anchor to these line-art drawings, this one with one of my poems embedded into the main idea:

Square Wheels One poem Always Do Pretty Rotten

Square Wheels represent the things that work, but that do not work smoothly. Round Wheels are already IN the wagon, but getting the leadership and the team to consider these as possibilities for improvement represents the real challenge. From there, implementation of these ideas is often pretty straightforward. We KNOW how to implement things; choosing to do so is often the real issue of teams, organizations, and societies.

You can find lots of articles within the blog posts on this blog — there are over 400 of them now and searching is pretty easy since I keyword them. Click here to go to the main home page.

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

The Reality of Change, Innovation and Employee Engagement

Change is a constant in the workplace: there is always something…

Sometimes change appears to be happening too fast and sometimes it seems much too slow, given the business needs. Sometimes we are looking to make changes and sometimes we simply must make change to keep moving forward.

On my poems blog, I just posted up this illustration poster:

LEGO POSTER REALITY OF CHANGE

The simple idea is that the wagon wheel has broken, the team needs to get moving again, but the wheel needs to be replaced. With Round Wheels literally “at hand”, we put on a new Square Wheel simply because that is what we have always done. We roll on Square Wheels!

My “regular” line-art cartoons that we use in our toolkit on change, look like this:

SWs Reality of Change © yellow words

The related image that shows some improvement looks like this:

SWs Reality of Change 2 ROUND © yellow

Note the difference — the woman is now installing one of the ROUND wheels.

In the cartoons, overall, we see three people and some note the reluctance of the wagon puller to let go of the rope. Some viewers might comment that the guy at the far left is just lazy and not helping out. But you might also note that the wagon is up on the points of the Square Wheels, making it easier to install a new wheel but much harder to balance, which is the job of those two people.

One guy is lifting — we all know of those people who really put out the effort to help teams succeed.

Lastly. Many people simply miss the HORSE. The horse represents a completely different way to address the reality of moving the wagon. It is surprising how many people miss that aspect of the situation as they focus on the broken wheel. Heck, even the characters in the cartoon seem to have missed that!

What I have been doing for 20+ years is involving and engaging people to see things differently and teaching a VERY simple yet actionable model for understanding change, identifying leverage points and action plans and facilitating the process in such a way that the participants can identify things that they can do differently as well as engage others.

The key is to focus on employee engagement and ownership. If people are involved, they are more likely to be engaged and feel some sense of commitment to getting things done.

I use a simple tool, my Square Wheels illustrations and metaphor to set things up.

SWs One WHY USE © 2014 green
The wagon rolls on a set of wooden Square Wheels carrying a cargo of round rubber tires. The process continues this way because of a few different factors, such as the square wheels actually working (just like they always have), and the lack of perspective (“Don’t just DO something, Stand There!). 

The reality is that stopping the process and implementing improvement takes time and is not always successful. Plus, the round wheels of today will invariably become the Square Wheels of tomorrow.

The intent of this facilitation is to involve people in stepping back from the wagon and seeing the obvious – the round wheels already exist and should be implemented to make long-term progress and not simply to meet the goals for today.

Sometimes, I introduce the concept of Mud, the glop that gets in the way of moving forward. This can include organizational restraints (perceived and real), politics, culture or simply the difficulty in changing. I then show the wagon and the people up to their “axles” in this mess and how hard it is to make progress. For me, “mud” is a great metaphor and I use it with the theme, “Get out of the ditch and up on the road” to introduce the issue of choice and choices. We choose what we do. Deal with it. (“If it is to be, it is up to me!”)

(“Mud” can also be grinding paste, cement, and other things. On my website at www.squarewheels.com, you can also find recipes for making Gack out of things like Elmer’s Glue and borax – Gack is a gooey mess — a “colloidal suspension.”)

“The best “Mud Managers” do things differently. What is it they do?”

This is a great question to ask, since it generates alternative behaviors and alternative thinking in their discussions, often anchored on best practices of the exemplary performers in the room at that time. (Peer coaching!)

At some point in the design, we will move toward my model of change, involving the current level of discomfort with the way things are now, the attractiveness of the vision of the future, the individual or groups’ previous history with change and the peer support for improvement.


All four things are actionable and under control of the manager. Change can involve teamwork or simply group process techniques for identifying issues and opportunities. But once something (a process, generally) is anchored as a Square Wheel, it almost always generates an implementable round one — this nicely taps into the cognitive dissonance model of Festinger.

Change does not have to be done TO people and is best done WITH them, having them involved in the different aspects of environmental and social support. This is why the illustrations work. We get people actively involved.

If you want to read more about this, you’ll find my article that includes these ideas, “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly” at:

http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/articles

Plus, if you’d like to make any comment or discuss any of this, it would be most welcome.

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

Elephants, Line Managers and Workplace Engagement

More and more, I am convinced that the key training people in organizations do not reside in HR / Training Departments but exist in the ranks of the line managers. The complexity of their job roles, however, can block their efforts to involve and engage their people to implement change and improvement. We need to look at that reality. Here are some thoughts and ideas.

——————

Managers are responsible for performance. Managers are responsible for quality and service. Managers are responsible for productivity and results. Managers do reports and attend meetings. And, more and more, we are driven away from the simple act of focusing on skills needed to motivate and retain people (including the managers!).

Yet these same managers are the only ones who have the direct influence on the workers to understand issues and generate changes.

The reality of the supervisors and managers will probably look something like this when it comes to opportunities to involve and engage their people:

Engagement Elephant Birth Process

So, what are we doing to provide managers with the tools they need to function as organizational performance improvement consultants, coaches for identifying best practices and communicating and implementing changes and improvements? Are we giving them the time they need and freeing up worker time for them to be asking, listening and considering?

Are managers involving and engaging their people or are we just wasting time and energy thinking that they might?

This could be brainstorming and an action to involve and engage people in workplace improvement. Or, this might represent another “Yell and Tell” training session.

In most workplaces, people are NOT involved and engaged — sure, the BEST Bosses are good at leading people forward, building ownership and engaging people in teamwork and process improvement. But in most organizations, BOSS spelled backwards is self-explanatory (email me and I will explain privately, if this euphemism is not immediately understood!) and people are not being engaged — the boss is too busy, as in the haiku below:

LEGO SWs One Business Haiku Talk and Trust

What do our managers need to do to shift the energy of these meetings and discussions from negative to positive? One solution is to use better tools and an approach that is facilitative rather than confrontational. This simply requires the right tools and some simple, self-taught facilitation training.

Asking is a much better approach than Telling. Engaging is a much better approach than generating resistance to change. Generate SMILES, not frowns.

For the past 20 years, I have been developing simple but powerful tools for involving and engaging people and generating ownership and performance improvement.

My view is that the solution to the work situation looks something like this:

LEGO POSTER - WORKPLACE HAPPINESS at hand

And we need to allow the team and the managers the time to consider possibilities and plan actions.

If you have any questions about how your organization might accomplish more of this, drift around randomly through the PMC website and generate your own thoughts on how people can be more intrinsically motivated and build a better sense of team and “US.”

SWs - Why use SWs RWs

People have ideas for improvement and supervisors can do a better job of asking and engaging and implementing, don’t you think? Could people simply choose to do things better and more efficiently?

 

For the FUN of It!
Scott small picDr. 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

Reflection and Innovation: Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There

This statement,

Don’t Just DO Something,
Stand There!

describes the action that we have been teaching as a basic tool of innovation and change since the early 90s. Only by looking at a situation from a dissociated perspective can one even possibly see that new ideas might exist.

Too often, we are so busy pushing and pulling the wagon, just like we have always pushed and pulled, that we seldom have the opportunity to step back and look at things from a displaced perspective. Once we do, we can often see that things are rolling on Square Wheels while the cargo of the wagon — round rubber tires — represent ideas for improvement.

A Square Wheels image from the tools of Dr. Scott Simmerman

Consider taking things apart to look for new ideas

The act of dis-assembly can identify issues as well as build teams. And new ideas will spring from that effort, along with improved teamwork.

Very often, people who perform better than others — the exemplary performers of any organization — will already be doing things differently than the others and can add those ideas to the mix. The round wheels in so many situations are already identified and tested and implemented and refined.

One of the series of Square Wheels images of Dr. Scott Simmerman

The more they play, the better it gets

(Note that the majority of the people, and especially the poor performers, just keep on keeping on and doing what they have always done and their Square Wheels remain in place. They need to get involved with new ideas.)

Innovations can occur quite naturally. Some of us are nearly always looking for ways to do things differently so that it is easier. Tom Gilbert expanded on a framework of “laziness” back in the late 70s in his book, Human Competence. I have always liked that concept: Because we are naturally lazy, we will always be looking for the easiest and most efficient way to do things.

Why not look for the downhill route instead of pushing and pulling the wagon uphill (and sometimes through the mud)?

By involving and engaging people in the identification of the things not working smoothly and through the sharing of best practices and round wheels, we do a better job of engaging and involving the workforce. Engagement is a key to motivation and sustaining high performance. Or, putting the Round Wheels to use!

People like to play with ideas and do things differently, if they feel that the team is behind them and the risk is low. It has all kinds of positive impacts and ramifications for continuous continuous workplace improvement.

LEGO Celebration of Changes Team

If you like this post, give us a like or a tweet or make a comment. Your reactions are always appreciated,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

KISS – Keeping It Stupidly Simple – A Square Wheels Poster on Collaboration

Complex, convoluted and risky. That is today’s workplace for most people.

Nothing seems simple today and, frankly, the more complex and detailed the design, the more opportunities there are for failure and non-compliance, two words not totally appreciated in the workspace of today’s managers. Avoiding risk is a key issue and many a good training program is being met with a lot of talk but not a lot of change or improvement.

Engagement continues to be a main theme of workplace improvement and the reality is that few people are all that engaged. Those that are feel a strong sense of ownership and involvement, feel appreciated and supported, and will often generate those higher levels of performance that are so desired.

As it is my intention to put up a number of posts and illustrations and posters reinforcing the theme that we need to start looking for some SIMPLE solutions instead of increasing the increasingly complex. I wanted to add this simple notion of collaboration. The Big Idea is that we need to START working on trying to collaborate, take a simple look around to see if any new ideas or improvements might exist, and then implement those ideas.

LEGO POSTER - COLLABORATION really working together

Looking at the above as a representation of how a group of people is working together to make progress, doesn’t it seem obvious that some solutions are at hand and that the situation simply needs conversation and agreement about issues and opportunities? And doesn’t the above illustration really represent how things work in most organizations?

————–

I added another related cartoon to my poems blog – you can see the text of ideas if you click on the image of it below:

SWs LEGO Boss Gang with Skis and RWs 2 90How hard would it be to really generate some collaboration?

————–

If you want to  gain some simple ideas and access some bombproof simple tools for improving intrinsic motivation and involving and engaging people for collaborative workplace improvement, clicking below will share some of my posts on stupidly simple themes of COLLABORATION and TEAMWORK:

•Posssible Sideways GAMES link for homepage

At Performance Management Company, we sell simple tools and recommend simple approaches to generating collaboration, involvement and motivation for continuous workplace 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.

 
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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