Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: empowerment (Page 1 of 5)

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

 

BOSS: Spelled Backwards

Boss. In organizations, a lot of people know precisely who that is. And that can be a positive or a negative, as I will try to explain.

My dad owned a small trucking company in South Jersey for nearly 50 years and he was the boss, for sure. He made all the decisions, ran the office, did the collection, gave his customers bottles of hooch every Christmas and ran the company as a one-man band. He had a half-dozen trucks and he did well enough to buy a summer house that gave our family a place to be at the beach, boats and cars and all that. From that perspective, my dad was a good boss.

On the other hand, there is an aspect of BOSS that is not so good. You would sometimes see it in how he might interact with a driver. Orin was always stopping in on prospects to generate new business and my dad generally never wanted to talk with him, telling me to tell Orin he was not around, for example. Or if there was a problem, the conversation tended to be one-sided. My dad did not generally appreciate the thoughts and ideas of the guys who worked with him.

“I’m the boss, here” generally infers complete control and a bit more yelling and telling than asking and listening. Boss translates to Ruler, the Decider, someone who has all the bucks and they stop right there. I see the word “autocratic” in the management haze, the imperial-ness of the boss as a person.

  • I see The Boss theme happening in an organization where 60% of the employees feels that no one listens to their ideas or respects them for their work or personal accomplishments.
  • I see The Boss theme in organizations where 10% or less of the employees see themselves as actively engaged but the vast majority rating themselves as un-involved or even “Actively Dis-Engaged” and choosing not to be involved and engaged, with the correlated high levels of absenteeism and turnover. And even some sabotage (see this post of mine).
  • And, I see The Boss as someone who simply knows that they have the right ideas and approach and that they could not possibly benefit from any training on listening skills or engagement or innovation facilitation.

In those cases, BOSS spelled backwards probably is a pretty good explanation of their overall attitude and approach to employee involvement and engagement.

John was one such animal. He was The Boss, president of a company that asked me to help improve their customer service. We did some initial work and then had one of their first ever Manager’s Meetings, an all hands deal at a golf resort where we had scheduled some work sessions around some golf. You might have guessed that John was a Big Time Golfer, which is why a golf course was selected for a business meeting, and why meetings were actually scheduled around his tee times.

And, in that meeting, John actually said, while sitting there going through his mail (I was so shocked that I wrote it down!) as we were talking about employee ideas for improving the organization,

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

John obviously saw himself as, The Boss.

And my one-liner back is,

Boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory.”

John was not there the following year, since his charter by the board of directors to improve operations and customer retention was not going that well regardless of what we tried to do at the lower levels.

A Customer Service Fundamental:

It’s hard to care for customers
if you don’t feel the boss cares for you.

Perceptions are important, and if workers don’t feel right about the company, it is hard to get them to do those things that exceed customer expectations. It is hard to get them to feel motivated to perform at moderate to high levels. Sure, the top performers perform, but they always do that for intrinsic reasons until they burn out and leave. Note that average employees are often involved in Presenteeism. the situation where they show up and accomplish the minimally accepted level of work and performance competence.

Aldo note that the poor performers are actively un-involved and sometimes intentionally sabotaging the work. Why not choose to do some things differently to get a result that is #morebetterfaster?

So, you might simply reflect on the simple themes in, “Hey Boss!” Asking for and listening to ideas from your people does not involve a lot of training or skills, just the positive intention to treat them effectively.

It can look something like this:

active involvement and engagement with Square Wheels

Any questions? Just ask me, because I am The Boss!

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

 

Learning Skills, Note Taking, and Improving Performance

I will admit that I was never much of a student when in school. It was an 82 average in high school and a 2.23 in college and all that. On the other hand, my performance in classes and my effectiveness in research and my overall engagement in the things I was interested in was the flip-side of all this. I got into one of the finest educational institutions in the world for my doctoral work on behavioral neurophysiology because of my research publications, high SAT scores and my experiences in presenting at international conferences (as an undergraduate!). It was not because of classroom performance!

The key point I wanted to share is that I only learned how to learn about 10 years after graduating. No one ever pointed me to any sort of learning technology or job aids into how the brain stores and retrieves information. Only when taking courses in NLP from Jon Linder did this stuff really come together.

We knew a lot back then but we just did not share it with the students! Now, I would think we could be doing things differently to help our students as well as the workforce.

Sarwan Singh put out a pretty good slideshare on note taking and study techniques I thought to share. I would have added the mind-mapping visual tool to the set but it is what it is.

Take a walk through the ideas and see if there is anything that you might find useful:

Note Taking Cover of Sarwan Sing Slideshare

You can also find a lot of blogs out there that review mind mapping tools, which is an approach I use a lot when motivated to capture ideas or plan a presentation.

If we want to make our organization more of a learning organization, and improve the performance of our people, we should probably give the trainees some access and some experience about learning how to learn and how they can improve retention and memory. The above is a place to start,

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.

 

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

 

 

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

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

Square Wheels One LEGO Main Image in LEGO by Scott Simmerman

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

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

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

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

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

Square Wheels LEGO POSTER Roadblocked

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

Trust and Respect: Should you force your managers to lie, PlanetFitness?

I wrote a few weeks ago about the Wade Hampton PlanetFitness gym and their apparent policy of zero engagement of customers and employees.

You can read about my issue with sanitation and the simple layout solution that I offered up to management. But the reality is that ideas from employees and customers go into a black hole – they are not encouraged and they get no response. Senior Managers must have ALL the ideas, right?

Well, it is sad to say that the story got worse right after I published. Hard to believe but true.

That blog post went up on Sunday and I was in there Monday to do my regular workout. The store manager, Danny, stopped by and said that the owner and his regional manager were in there that morning and he shared the idea with them. He seemed pretty positive about how that all went down and was smiling when we talked. Apparently, and I guess at this, he seemed to feel that his management was actually listening.

On Tuesday, though, I get a phone call and it is Danny telling me that my membership had been canceled!

He said that my blog post depicted members and that was a violation of membership privacy and he was forced to cancel my membership. It was apparently because of this picture:

Planet Fitness has correctable  issues of engagement and sanitation

Is any customer privacy really violated? Could the people in the picture even identify themselves? Would they complain to management? Seriously??

 

THIS picture violates member privacy? 

It does not take much to get underneath that behavior to guess at the cause. His boss or bosses had negative personal responses to what I had said about their continued behavior of ignoring any suggestions from anyone. Their staff had commented on that before plus I never got a response to any of my emailed suggestions sent to their offices. My guess is that they were embarrassed by the blog and the conclusions and that they were a bit vindictive — in a get-even mode. How do they get even? Fire The Customer!

The problem is that store-manager Danny was now put in a position where he had to lie to a customer — he was forced into an unethical and illogical position. I asked him about it and he would not respond. He would not blame management, he would have no comment other than repeating that the photo above violated the contractual statement on customer privacy.  OTHER people in the store would also not comment about the situation — a gag rule seemed to have been implemented. How do the workers feel?

Put yourself in Danny’s position. Your boss forces you to call a customer and tell them that they are fired, and for really dubious reasons. You know it is a lie and the customer knows it is a lie. How would YOU feel about that?

Do they not realize the impacts on things like trust and respect? The customer certainly loses respect for the manager and the manager must lose respect for his boss and boss’ boss.

They lose a customer who was a pretty good customer. They get some negative publicity in social media. The regular employees certainly see what is going on, since one commented that he saw the paperwork that cancelled me out. It gives me one more “never do this kind of thing” story. It is sad, really. What does Danny say to me when I see him on the street or does he simply pretend that he does not know me?

And, if this is some policy, why won’t other people do a similar thing when they want to get out of their contract with them? You sign a multiple-page commitment that is hard to get out of but this sure seems like a simple way: publish a selfie with other people on Facebook. That seems to be their rule…

I think that the reality of this, insofar as ethics and leadership, trust and respect, innovation and creativity and continuous improvement is that senior managers need to understand that ruthless reactions to employees and customers is not really a good leadership principle. In my social interactions in the weeks since this happened, I have shared this story with a few dozen other people and they all support my thinking as to the arrogance of the ownership of this company.

PlanetFitness. It’s a gym and a job. Just a gym with poor employment practices…

The choices made seem so illogical. The customer offers ideas for improvement and gets fired by the owner!

Planet Fitness has been making the news with other member terminations lately. Here is one where a customer complains about what looks to be a man in her ladies locker room — www.wnem.com/story/28278233/planet-fitness-drops-member-after-gender-identity-complaint – It is apparently a “No Judgement Zone” as a gym and a “No Complaints Zone” as a corporate membership policy. The woman had an issue and she gets terminated. Hope that Planet Fitness likes the negative publicity about their leadership issues.

There should be a sign: Got a Complaint? Take it Outside.

 Your thoughts?

(Note: Since I was telling other people about this and they were asking for the details, I felt committed to follow through and put more information into this people and performance blog. It is simply sad to see “leaders” of organizations make such poor choices and treat their people in unethical ways. It is sad that employees are forced into difficult situations like these.)

Scott Simmerman

Zero Engagement at PlanetFitness?

For almost a year, I have gone to the PlanetFitness operation not far from my office. They did a really good job of converting a dead KMart location into a busy and viable business, which was the anchor for the whole strip mall. It seemed like a really good operation.

building

With my business being organizational improvement and addressing the Square Wheels that often exists within operations, there were a number of things that I had commented on to assist management in keeping things clean or noticing a piece of equipment not working and similar.

One constant complaint was the music — I really did not like it and continually joked that the playlist was selected by the owner’s 13-year old daughter, since it constantly reflected that type of music and seldom anything else. The lack of fit was obvious – the average age of the customers during the times I was there was probably 40 and many wore cumbersome headphones and earbuds. Even the staff did not like it and suggested I complain. I did, online at their main website, but never got a response. I never got a response to the dozen or so Twitter complaints with their #planetfitness tag… (One has to assume that they monitor that, right?)

Well, a real Square Wheels became apparent to me about a month ago, concerning a cleanliness / health issue. They have pads available for stretching that many people use, but few actually clean. Now, I clean the pad thoroughly before and after I use it – and I wish others would simply spray it down when they are done.  My guess if that there were better customer loyalty, which is driven by employee loyalty and commitment, things would generally be better.

But this sanitation situation also got me thinking about physical solutions to change people’s behaviors, as I think with pretty much everything I see. The cause is, in part, location of the use of the mats. Customers use the pads far from any cleaning station and many are too lazy to walk the 50 feet (even though they are there for fitness!). They are not actually stored there, but that is where customers choose to leave them. And many of the customers use these pads on the floor in a high foot-traffic area:

room

The door on the far left is where staff go to get cleaning supplies and leads to a back door where they probably park cars and keep their lunches, etc. I have not been back there, but there is constant traffic through that door. You can also see one of the yellow cleaning stations in that far back right corner.

SEE THE NEGATIVE IMPACTS THAT  THIS SIMPLE
SUGGESTION CAUSED – UPDATE IS HERE

My simple idea is to move the first row of machines forward to be on both sides of that purple pole and then move that second row of machines forward, putting the pads on that white wall and moving the cleaning station to the middle. Traffic would be improved and the people would be in a more private area of the room. With the pads nearer the cleaning stuff, customers would be more likely to wipe things down. They would also keep them back there instead of all over the building. Seems easy, with no cost.

In talking with the manager, he basically said that it was a corporate decision on design and that this was the way they wanted it. He could not even try it — he could NOT make the change and my impression is that changing this would get him in trouble!

My proactive self then asked if he could make the suggestion to someone and he essentially threw up his hands with a “that would never work / they would never listen” kind of response. I would guess he tried that before, since he had been with the company a long time. My guess is that he would not bother to make the suggestion. I even got the impression, based on a question, that my suggesting directly it would not even get a response.

I asked the staff, who are great. ALL of them are good people, including the manager. But they also confirmed that making a suggestion was a waste of time. A couple had apparently made suggestions about the music and other things but gotten no reaction.

IS it really corporate policy to not respond to requests and suggestions about business improvement ideas from customers and employees? Seriously? One wonders about the morale of the employees in different locations, working for average or below average store managers (remember that there is a normal curve of performance among any group of people — half are above average and half are below, statistically!)

One wonders about employee turnover and other business costs.

Another real impact is the sales of materials. PlanetFitness devotes visual space to branded merchandise:

people 1

But they don’t sell much. My guess is that locker combination locks and the different skin creams are much bigger sellers than the branded t-shirts. With high margins on these items, suggestive selling by loyal employees would certainly add revenues to the store and company.

But my educated guess is that sales are minor, that engagement is nil, and that the company is successful simply because of positioning in the marketplace. I also know that competition is a real thing and the playing field will change.

Why does the company NOT encourage ideas for improvement in store operations? Why is there so much un-engagement? My guess is that they just do not value people — customers and employees — in their overall efforts to manage their business.

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.
(John Le Carre)

And if it were me, I would sure be out there asking for new ideas and talking with everyone whose behavior determines my success. As a customer, I sure would appreciate it if the place were kept better sanitized. If the employees and customers don’t care, only price will drive them into the business.

Maybe someone from corporate will actually read this blog and consider doing something differently, like visiting the property and asking employees for ideas to improve the business, both the operational stuff along with the customer service along with the merchandise sales. Stay tuned, I guess… I share my ideas and information freely, like their staffs would.

After all, the round wheels are already in the wagon, but sometimes the rope used by the wagon puller can get pretty long!

Square Wheels One image of performance by scott simmerman

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

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Purposeful Meeting Openers and Icebreakers: Relevant and Congruent

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

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

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

In other words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The image shows a wagon rolling along on Square Wheels while the cargo is round rubber tires. (There are other aspects of leadership, motivation and vision along with best practices. Plus, it gives people an anchor point for focused conversation and discussion).

Square Wheels LEGO image of how things work

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

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

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

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

Best practices are Round Wheels.

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


Learn more about the Square Wheels Icebreaker.

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

Blog Icon for Icebreaker link

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

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Entrepreneurial Terror – How can anyone else understand?

One of my most favorite articles of all time is one by Wilson Harrell, then an editor of Inc. Magazine, that focused on the issues around being an entrepreneur and published back in 1987.

If you have not read it, I suggest that you do, since it speaks to the unspeakable and relates to what one feels as one starts a business. He called that membership in The Club of Terror!

The post is extremely well-written and clear as a bell — the tones still resonate for me and I am completing my 30th year of being in business for myself. He says things like this:

Now, I realize that you didn’t bargain on this when you started your company. Terror is something that entrepreneurs don’t expect, can’t escape, and have no way of preparing for. You won’t find any college course on the subject — Handling Terror 101 and 102, or whatever. Nor are there any on-the-job training programs. To my knowledge, nothing has ever been written about it, either, and few people even talk about it. The truth is that those of us who have experienced entrepreneurial terror seldom admit to it. As a result, it remains a deep, dark secret.

and

Above all, don’t take terror home with you. No matter how sorely tempted you are, do not under any circumstances share terror with people you love, unless they happen to be partners in your company. It will only make them despondent and maybe even sick. They put up with enough just living around an entrepreneur. Besides, you need the experience.

and concluding:

My own belief is that the ability to handle terror, to live with it, is the single most important — and, yes, necessary — ingredient of entrepreneurial success. I also believe that it is the lonely entrepreneur living with his or her personal terror who breathes life and excitement into an otherwise dull and mundane world. From that perspective, the Club of Terror is a very exclusive one. Welcome.

You can click on the icon below or this link to read the article in its entirety:

Elegant Solutions

http://www.inc.com/magazine/19870201/4032.html

I hope you like this as much as I do.

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

 

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

Fear is The Mindkiller – Thoughts on Facilitation and Engagement

In writing about facilitation and how it seems that some people want to make this simple concept into a horribly complex pedagogical framework understood only by experts (like me, but certainly not approaching the issues like me!), I was reminded of a quip and then looked it up for the whole source.

I remember reading Dune (by Frank Herbert) while on a 9-month solo car camping trip around the US back in 1977. I was acting out the definition of footloose and fancy-free in those days, for sure, since I had no plans, no timeline, no specific destination. Just me and my car and my tent and camping gear. Awesome journey all over the US and reading a few books in the quiet evenings.

Herbert’s Dune Trilogy was an outstanding set of science fiction works, one that took the basic characters over time and across The Universe. It was a lot about personal strengths and leadership and dealing with adversity and politics. And one of the repeated phrase in the first book and in the trilogy was this one:

Fear is the mindkiller

The whole litany of the Bene Gesserit for building their personal strengths and resolve was actually,

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Pretty neat mantra, I think, and a really good thing to tell yourself when you are faced with a challenge or challenges. Allow the fear to pass over and through and then reflect on it to learn. Personal growth from managing fear effectively.

I am reminded of this as we talk about facilitation of workplace improvement and the obvious lack of real involvement and engagement in the workplace.

The concepts and understanding of the related issues are pretty clear and there are some strong Big Ideas about what should be done. Jim Cliffton, CEO at Gallup and the surveyor of millions of workers simply says that there are 7,000,000 bad bosses out there who should be fired because they cannot demonstrably manage people very well.

(This is not me talking for him — see this link for what he said and how he was framing this issue of leadership and management practices in everyday organizations.)

So, a solution? Yes. Mine is a simple one designed to get things rolling and change the language of improvement. Mine is an easy, bombproof way to get workers talking with supervisors about issues and opportunities for workplace improvement. Mine is one that anyone can do without a lot of training.

Have a meeting and use this simple illustration:

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

We suggest that you:

  • Show the Square Wheels One cartoon.
  • Play with the general ideas people think of and share.
  • Link the ideas and process to the organizational issues of the group
  • Play with listing organizational Square Wheels of the workplace
  • Break down and separate the list into least difficult and most difficult.
  • Break easier ones into less costly and more costly.
  • Ask for volunteers to work up the idea or to try to implement a solution or solutions.
  • Provide organizational resources as needed (time, money, support, power)
  • Repeat the cycle building on successes.

Facilitation is not rocket science, although rocket scientists certainly use facilitation when they are brainstorming new ideas or looking for issues or problems or trying to define different ways of accomplishing difficult tasks that need a team-based solution.

Remember the movie Apollo 13 with the issue of the square filter needing to fit into the round hole: (Watch this 90 second YouTube clip by clicking on Tom Hanks’ image below). Pretty cool scene, and a real and urgent problem solving situation faced by the response team:

Hanks - apollo 13

The facilitation is easy. Share the problem, share the tools and framework, and ask a group of people to put things together. In the case of YOUR people working in your organization, consider using our simple Square Wheels One illustration and cheap facilitation tools to create your Apollo 13 problem and ask your people how to help each other make things better.

Find my short screencast about how to use Square Wheels as a tool for improvement by clicking on the image below:

Square Wheels The Movie Logo Must DO

We help people make workplace improvements,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman

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

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

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

A really neat set of inspirational cartoons…

StumbleUpon sent me this a couple of days ago and I just got the chance to look at it. Pretty amazing, actually. It is a series of inspirational comics illustrating the works of people like Robert Frost,  Neil Degrasse Tyson, Hunter Thompson and others and is REALLY well done.

This is an unauthorized screenshot of the one around Robert Frost’s writings:

Robert Frost StubmbleUpon

 

You can click on the image or go to this page – http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1KspPi

It was done by ZenPencils — zenpencils.com – Zen Pencils adapts inspirational quotes into cartoons. The site is illustrated by Gavin Aung Than and it updates with a new comic every week.

Truly awesome stuff. Check it out!

 

scott tiny casual

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

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

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

 

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An interview on leadership and engagement with Dr. Scott Simmerman

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


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

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

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

SWs One green color thin

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

* from the Department of Redundancy Department

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From a slightly different angle, consider that:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody red color

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Companies need to invest in employee development

Companies need to invest in employee development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And have FUN out There!

Muscles slide in background

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

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Some simple thoughts and quotes on change

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

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

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

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

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

Dee Hock, founder of VISA International

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

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

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

Some of my thoughts are these:

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

Whatever you do, don’t simply keep pushing!

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

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

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

    You can help remove the roadblocks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Round Wheels already exist. Use Them. And have FUN out there!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

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