Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: Disruptive Engagement

The Hubcap Report – a note on Task Interference and Supervisors

These days, my focus continues to be on people and performance, with more consideration around The Supervisor and their work to dis-un-engage and actively involve their people in workplace improvements. I blogged last week about the concept of Free The Supervisor.

If we want to improve engagement, the only people who will do this are the ones that have direct contact with the employees. All the rest is window dressing and no amount spent on surveys will accomplish anything without the vesting of those front line managers.

The reality is that so many things get in the way of them doing anything differently. And I am actively collecting data in this regard, trying to identify some of the things they do that block them from doing new things. And a conversation with David Zinger of the Employee Engagement Network this morning got me thinking of one of those classic examples of this kind of meaningless required goop.

The Hubcap Report

Note: This actually happens to you, if you are a manager, but you call it something else and the names and faces are changed.

I am working with one of the Bell operating companies working on the outside plant that supports the telephone wires and all that stuff. In particular, I am working with one of the supervisors and his manager and looking at ideas for impacting motivation and performance results. We have really good support from the management team to try to do some things differently and I have good access to the managers.

So, early for a scheduled meeting and sitting in the District Manager’s office and talking with his secretary, I spy what looks to be an interesting series of notebooks labeled Hubcap Report. So, I ask her about them and she pulls the latest one down. Inside are a series of bi-weekly reports from all 12 garages listing the trucks with a check mark if they have hubcaps. Years of reports.

Digging down, one of the former DMs in visiting a garage noted that some of the vehicles were missing hubcaps so he had asked the garage managers to get them fixed and to send him a report. That request became a process, done by each supervisor every two weeks, signed off by their manager and forwarded to the District Office where they were stored in this notebook. The current DM never even knew they existed and the secretary simply filed them, not knowing how silly they were to keep doing.

How many of YOUR supervisors are completing reports and sending them upward, with no clear purpose and minimal impact?


And, on meetings and time and costs in general, HBR had a report about an analysis of a large organization and the costs to prepare senior executives for their peer-group weekly meetings. Note that little actually gets done from these meetings, other than the sharing of information and the occasional planning of a new strategy. THESE ARE COSTS, NOT IMPACTS:

In this particular company, a total of 7,000 person-hours per year were spent in weekly executive committee meetings at which 11 senior staff members provided updates on the business to themselves. To prepare for these meetings, these senior staffers held 11 of their own unit staff meetings consuming 1,800 person-hours each, for a total of 20,000 hours per year.

To get ready for the unit meetings, a total of 21 managers working for the senior staffers held their own meetings, 21 of them, for a combined total of 63,000 hours per year. Of course these unit meetings, being important, required “prep meetings” themselves, often involving supervisors.

There were thus 130 prep meetings in total, consuming a total of 210,000 hours per year. T0 summarize, it looks like this:

  • 7,000 hours: Weekly executive committee meetings.
  • 20,000 hours: Weekly senior staff unit meetings.
  • 63,000 hours: Weekly meetings of the staff to the senior staff
  • 210,000 hours: Weekly prep meetings for the staff to the senior staff.

FREE THE SUPERVISORS!

Help them to see out of the box they find they are in. Give them some perspective and even some hope that things may get better.

Roadbloc Management Square Wheels Toolkit for Managers

And look for simple solutions to some of the issues. Look at the things you can eliminate. Stop doing the things that do not have real impact. Maybe even BLOCK some of the extra-departmental information requests that will have NO positive impacts on YOUR team’s results. It is simply so easy for someone in staff to ask for information and so easy to take up your people’s time with those requests.

Start doing some active involvement. Start doing some team building — our Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine activity is fabulous. Take a look at the communications and engagement tools at The Square Wheels Project. But whatever you DO choose to do, do something that will improve motivation and performance!

Any kind of real collaboration and employee engagement at the front lines is likely being blocked by things that have little impact on your organization.

Use this process of facilitating dis-un-engagement to implement some real improvements,

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

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

 

Managers – How Square Wheels can impact their workplaces

I got three fast notes from an HR director from an Indian company this morning. He and I had started chatting about organizational development and he wondered how my tools could impact the workplace, if they worked for managers, which one would be best and the difference between the downloadable and the LMS. And this happened in four successive short emails…

So, I started responding and realized it would make a good blog, since the focus is on helping managers impact organizational performance, and keeping things simple and straightforward.

So a few thoughts to frame this discussion:

  • All of my products are designed so that managers can deliver them without any support from Training or HR. That simply makes sense, given how isolated those departments can be from organizational reality. They are simply too busy doing other things of a higher priority to directly help managers.
  • Managers NEED tools to help them improve active involvement and clarify organizational alignment and deal with issues of people and performance.
  • Simple straightforward packages that do not require heavy train the trainer or psychological principles are much more useful than the complicated models that we often use in consulting or training. Simple tools to address real problems in straightforward ways are simply better, if they can be made available.
  • Tools to involve and engage workers for process improvement and innovation or to help actively involve and engage them in productivity increases are practical, and those that build teamwork and collaboration are even more important over the long run.

Managers need to be better motivators and workers need to be more innovative and productive and motivated.

But managers and supervisors are often incredibly over-burdened with other responsibilities and priorities that it makes their interpersonal communications very hard to accomplish. One survey said that managers have more contact with their remote workers than they do with the people who share office space with them.

What I have been writing about lately is the theme of Disruptive Engagement, with the premise that ideas coming from the bottoms up are so much more likely to actually occur than things driven from the tops down. You can read more about that in my other posts on leadership and innovation.

And managers have to be more actively engaged in their workplaces and with their people. To illustrate, Gallup found that managers working for engaged leaders are 39% more likely to be themselves engaged and that employees working for engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged, something they referred to as The Cascade Effect.

Of course this makes logical sense but the numbers are pretty startling if you consider the flip-side and the issues around working for UN-engaged leaders and managers. Gallup also reports that 51% of managers are not engaged and that 14% are actively disengaged. Scary.

With The Square Wheels Project, we offer an online training program that any supervisor can take to improve their group facilitation and team building skills and they also get a Square Wheels Toolkit of powerpoints and worksheet handouts to capture ideas and generate considered alternatives for improvement.

With the Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Toolkit, we offer a complete and easy to understand powerpoint-based training program, basically the materials supported by The Square Wheels Project but without the online training videos and other supporting modeling of delivery ideas.

The idea is to hold workplace meetings focused on identifying things that do not work smoothly for people and then identifying possibilities for improvement. I mean, what worker, where, does not have ideas to make things work more better faster? But nobody listens to them and few bosses seem to care, so those ideas simply languish. The beauty of Square Wheels is the generality of the metaphor – things thump and bump but Round Wheels are already in the wagon. Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!

So, now that we have people talking, things can progress like this, with the first image representing a compendium of workplace realities, present day:

Square Wheels Project Motivational Reality in the workplace

But then we start talking and acting on ideas:

Active workplace improvement starts things rolling

And, if we follow through and keep communicating as well as involving and engaging other people (recruitment), we can see more of some things like this:

More weeks and more celebrations of improvements in organizational development

Idealistic? NO. There are thousands of examples of this kind of impact, person to person. While there is no silver bullet since organizational cultures and issues around trust and leadership vary so widely, the reality is that Ask and Ye Shall Receive actually works quite well when one involves and engages teams of people in the improvement of their own work environment.

Lastly, we need to upskill the workers and managers on their issues of Dis-UN-empowerment and Dis-UN-Engagement, which is otherwise called Roadblock Management. People need the tools to mentally manage the issues that appear when any kind of change process is happening and having peer support for improvement is a valuable factor. We have a simple toolkit and model for Roadblock Management, too!

Roadbloc Management Square Wheels Toolkit for Managers

As I said earlier, we do not believe that all this stuff is rocket science. There is an elegant simplicity in our approach, one that negates a lot of the apparent complexity that often prevents people from moving forward. Our tools are all about rolling forward more better faster.

My understanding, based on a doctorate in behavioral neurophysiology and early consulting work with people like Ed Feeney and Tom Gilbert and Ken Junkins drove me to believe that performance feedback is the breakfast of champions and that active involvement and ownership is what drives real motivation. Using Square Wheels® to create a perceptual gap between how things are and how they could be (Round Wheels) is simple cognitive dissonance.


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 team building 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
Twitter @scottsimmerman

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

 

FREE The Supervisor – thoughts on Disruptive Positive Active Engagement

Free The Supervisor might be my new chant as I continue to research and discuss and consider the reality of most workplaces. In a simple phrase, “They Get Pressed.”

Remember – The ONLY people who actually produce any income for an organization are the workers. All of the management function as overhead costs. And who actually manages the workers?

Here is a defined, analyzed, job and task description of the job of Supervisor, from the ReferenceForBusiness.com website (abridged because it was WAY too long and detailed):

The Role of The Supervisor:

Supervisors play an important role in the business environment. Their primary job is to see that the work performed by employees is completed on time and at the highest level of quality. In order to complete this task, they must know the production process and have an understanding of human behavior. Theirs is a pressure-filled job.

It is their job to write reports, letters, memos, performance appraisals, and the gamut of documents that businesses need to operate. They must be equally comfortable in communicating with chief executive officers and assemblyline production workers. They must be able to run effective meetings. They must carefully monitor the organization’s goals, strategies, tactics, and production schedules. They must be cognizant of union rules where applicable. They must be trainers, confidants, computer experts, goal setters—in short, supervisors must be well-rounded employees who are willing to accept the responsibilities required to keep a company running.

Job duties include

Supervisor as Communicator.
Supervisor as Trainer.
Supervisor as Student.
Supervisor as Goal Setter.
Supervisor as Evaluator.
Supervisor as Human Resources Specialist.
Supervisor as Computer Expert.
Supervisor as Producer.
Supervisor as Adviser.
Supervisor as Idea Champion.
Supervisor as Environmental Watchdog.
Supervisor as International Manager.

But, as I shared in other articles and blogs, and despite corporations spending billions of dollars in survey fees and executive and management time focused on improving active involvement and motivating the workers to improve productivity and performance, the Supervisors still do not apparently get it, since results do not improve. Let’s blame them for the performance problems, right?

No! Let’s look at task interference, our measurement and expectation systems, what we give feedback about from the management team (if asked about engagement once every few months, you can expect a focus on engagement every few months…).

I keep hearing about EMPOWERMENT as a driver of engagement, yet a simple observation will show that most people in most organizations are un-empowered. So, who will do the DIS-un-empowerment and focus on the removal of perceived and actual roadblocks other than The Supervisor? (Certainly not HR!)

SO.

  • Why not try to make the Supervisors a bit less constrained and a lot more able to do what they want to do in regards to actively involving their people, building teams, solving workplace improvement issues and things like that?
  • Why not look to FREE them up from some of those duties listed above. Let’s do away with performance appraisals (by any name) and let’s reduce the clerical burden.
  • Let’s free them up from all the administrative minuscule and even give them some training. Let’s give them more skills and more confidence to use those skills through support from their managers.
  • Let’s make them more like Facilitators than Bosses (since BOSS spelled-backwards is self-explanatory).

Disruptive engagement supervisors and motivation

There is no one simple way to do this; there are lots of ways to do this but we have to make the choice to make things happen. Look, the very brave supervisors already do this now, and you know who they are. They are the ones with the exemplary results. I mean, how else can you explain those results?

Taking a quote from Conant, “Behold the Supervisor who, like the turtle, only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.

Let’s get the supervisors and their people to break the things that are already broken and get more motivated because they can fix things and make improvements,

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

 

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

 

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