Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: dis-un-empowerment (Page 1 of 2)

Dr. Seuss on Disruptive Engagement

Even Dr. Seuss would understand about the issues and opportunities around the positive impacts of supervisors leading more active involvement to make impacts on people and performance. The data are simply so clear that people DO have ideas for improvement but that no one in the organization facilitates the process of capturing those ideas. Thus, there are large gaps in innovation and quality and productivity because possibilities simply are not realized.

I’ve blogged elsewhere about the general idea of Disruptive Engagement but I thought that one image, simplifying to the stupidly understandable level, might generate some actual thinking about choices and doing things differently! (grin)

The Square Wheels Project Dr. Seuss framework

People have ideas for improvement, the Round Wheels are already in the wagon. But they interact with their supervisors, who generally choose to NOT do things differently because of risk or time or task interference or the lack of collaboration from other departments. “I’m here from Human Resources to help you,” is such a “reality joke” in so many places because they are structurally unable to help, too.

If things are going to improve, it is going to be the people who choose to improve things. And it is going to come from increased collaboration and alignment to shared goals. Do some effective team building (see why I hate outdoor activities)!

Facilitate Dis-UN-engagement and Dis-UN-empowerment with your people by choosing to actively involve them in some workplace improvement activities. Visit The Square Wheels Project for some simple tools and support,

 

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.

Scott and Dan Stones built The Square Wheels Project as an LMS, sharing tools and training to support Disruptive Engagement in the workplace.

Visit The Square Wheels Project at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

 
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

 

Disruptive Engagement, Supervisors, Empowerment and Performance Improvement

I listened to a great presentation yesterday by Mercer on managing engagement, the need to focus on key metrics but the reality of driving behavior at the very bottom of the organization, which is what engagement is. Nicely presented, with great graphics. And I look forward to getting a copy of the information, statistics and related materials.

On the other hand, it seemed to have nothing actionable. It focused on senior managers and HR and organizational statistics and surveys and never once directly mentioned the Supervisors, to my recollection, as being involved in this “involvement and empowerment and engagement stuff.”

It is totally clear that workers and supervisors and managers are basically un-involved and un-engaged in so many workplaces.  And it is management effectiveness AND the workplace environment that is behind this problem. It is NOT a “senior management leadership issue” that can be corrected with more surveys and more executive development.

To illustrate:

Gallup:

  • only ONE IN FOUR employees “strongly agree” that their supervisor provides meaningful feedback to them, that the feedback they receive helps them do better work.
  • Only 21% of employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.

DDI reported

  • 87% of first-time supervisors feel frustrated, anxious and uncertain about their new role
  • Only 11% said they were groomed for that role through some developmental training or program.

Rick Bell shared some statistics in the March issue of Workforce magazine about how badly workers are being supervised

  • 35% of US workers would forgo a raise to see their boss fired
  • 44% of employees say they have been emotionally or physically abused by a supervisor
  • 3 of 4 workers say that their boss is the worst / most stressful part of the job

Again:

It is NOT a “senior management leadership issue” that can be
corrected with more surveys and more executive development.

The issue here is basic supervision, basic leadership at the front lines. People are uninvolved and frustrated, so the solutions are about Dis-un-engagement and Dis-un-empowerment. *

The solution requires involving workers in workplace improvement for both process improvement and more self-determination and personal growth. It is about demonstrating that the supervisor is actively listening and helping to implement ideas. It is about the workers and the management team removing roadblocks that are perceived to be operating that are blocking engagement and the ability to act empowered. Simply, it is about facilitation and feedback.

*Note – I do not believe that it is possible to directly engage or empower someone else. You cannot change their internal workings, directly. What you can do is address their perceived issues and determine what they think blocks their acting in a more involved manner. Roadblock removal is kind of like coaching, only it can be done in a group or team setting. It is accomplished by ASKING FOR THEIR PERCEPTIONS ABOUT HOW THINGS WORK and what they might try to do differently. Remember that “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and that “Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled.”

The Square Wheels Project is a simple online training program focused on using the metaphor of Square Wheels® as a tool for communicating about issues and opportunities, and it is accomplished by teaching the supervisor basic facilitation skills and providing a simple and bombproof tool for leading discussions. It also supports these supervisors with peer-level communications about issues and questions and dealing with problems and politics.

The Solutions:

We do not share any silver bullets about how to fix these problems. You can see some additional thoughts around implementation in this other blog post. Every organization has its own blend of communications and cultural issues. But the removal of perceived roadblocks to implementing ideas for performance improvement is intrinsically motivation and a way to address common fears around implementing change. (See Dan Stones article about overcoming team fears here)

But, operationally, it looks something like this: Let people play with Round Wheels since they are currently operating on Square ones…

positive disruptive engagement and Square Wheels becomming round ones

So, without cost or training or doing anything but downloading two pdf files, go play with this idea. Below is the really simple explanation of how it works.

Print out the two card-based worksheets. (SWs One 2017 What Might Be Cards to Print and SWs One 2017 How Does Cards to Print)

Square Wheels card

 

 

 

 

 

Cut each of the pages above into 10 relatively similar-sized “business cards.”

1 – Give a “how does this represent how things really work” card (left) to each person in your meeting and have them discuss the image in small groups. Let them consider possibilities. Ask them to share their thoughts.

2 – After discussion, give one “what might be some of our Square Wheels” card to each person and then ask them for some of their thoughts.

3 – Process the ideas as you wish. Do not defend the status quo but consider these thoughts and ideas as possibilities. “What else?” is a good response.

If you like what you see, which might start out with some discussion about the problems of processes and leadership and teamwork and ideas in a general workplace situation and the transition into what some of the issues might be in your workplace, you will get some idea of the power of this metaphor for changing thinking, language and goal-directed performance improvement.

We have a variety of workplace improvement tools available for purchase, all framed around the idea of changing people’s perceptions and behavior, driving improved teamwork and communications, and generally working to disrupt the way things are and create a more positive workplace.

 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


Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

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

Disruptive Engagement and Radical Candor by Scott Simmerman


The Performance Management Company blog is found at www.PerformanceManagementCompanyBlog.com

The Square Wheels Project is found on Udemy, and you can access this online supervisory facilitation skills training program, complete with downloadable powerpoint slides, printed handouts and other support materials at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

Dr. Scott Simmerman holds a doctorate degree in behavioral neurophysiology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a Certified Training Professional through the IAPPD and a Certified Professional Facilitator by the International Association of Facilitators. His LinkedIn bio is extensive and found at http://www.linkedin.com/in/scottsimmerman

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

 

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.

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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Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly – Thoughts on Change – Part Five

This is Part Five of our five-part post on issues surrounding people and performance and managing and leading change. Included are some ideas about:

  • managing change and personal growth   
  • assisting change management initiatives
  • developing individual and organizational potential

1eurytidesmarcellusPart One of this series talks about the danger of knowing The Answer when it comes to working to manage and lead change and you can click the link or the image at right  to go to the beginning of this article. 

(Here we briefly talk about a simple involving and engaging model for managing and leading change, something that meshes up neatly into our beliefs about involving and engaging people for workplace improvement. I will write more about the model in another post.)

For nearly 30 years, my associates and I have been working with a very actionable and understandable model for change, one that we prefer to do with the involvement of the people who are going through the change process. I feel that with them knowing and playing a role in the process, it makes all things a lot easier. It also helps to clarify issues and minimize misunderstandings and tension.

What we do in this post is focus on some things to consider in helping your organization roll forward. It is as much about HOW you do things as what those things are, it seems.

People will often appear to resist change because they are actually comfortable with how things are, right now. Getting them to change for no real reason is resisted…

By using the approach of our illustration to generate their active involvement, we help the change process by identifying Square Wheels and the possible Round Wheels. This elegantly serves to increase discomfort with the way things are now and this helps make change more likely since people now have some considered alternatives.

Change Model

This relates to our simple Change Model, comprised of four factors which may only be somewhat related,

  1. The current level of discomfort with the way things are now and about how people feel about the environment and how things work
  2. The attractiveness of the vision of the future and whether they feel like they should invest in it.
  3. The individual or groups previous success with change — are they personally successful in making changes and improvements or were they recently unsuccessful and thus more reluctant to fail again
  4. The peer support for making a change occur — are the rest of the people for the change?

By increasing any or all of them, we make change more likely. We work to involve and engage people to help move these possibilities along.

Note that we have written extensively on my simple model for analyzing and managing Roadblocks, which also uses a facilitative engagement process and which PMC offers a simple and effective toolkit for addressing. There are four types of roadblocks, ranging from immovable (escalate those up) to “the ones you’ve heard of that must be true” that one can simply choose to fix. By allowing groups to brainstorm and list roadblocks and then analyze them, the group can decide which to escalate and which to handle.

Roadblocks Model Graphic

To some degree, most people are un-empowered, allowing roadblocks that are real or perceived to get in their way. The reality, however, is that they expect things to change while they keep doing things the same way. My belief is that our tools and approach can help managers to remove those things that get in the way (dis-un-empowerment) and generate peer support for change and improvement and the sharing of best practices through improved teamwork.

The problem with performance improvement and dis-un-empowerment is that many people don’t “buy into the program.” Issues of trust and past history often factor into this causing people to feel that things really won’t improve or that their efforts may not be recognized and appreciated.

Many people don’t have a positive experience with attempts to make changes and improvements. And they do NOT get the support of others around them.

Let’s illustrate with a test that might be interesting for you. You could also try it with someone else. Take 2 minutes and consider identifying four or five key points in the following illustration:

Trial and Error yellow

Consider the above – what is going on / what is this about. Think of some themes and ideas – maybe 6 of them before reading on…

DO pause here and consider the above…

The name of the cartoon is Trial and Error. And it is about how change and improvements occur. And if you are reading this without considering your reactions to the illustration, stop and please consider.

If you are like most people in our discussion sessions, you will generate a number of ideas about what is wrong and what they should have done and few about what they have done or are doing positively. The actual ratio of negative to positive is greater than 16 : 1 and we’ve tested this worldwide in all sorts of organizational cultures with very similar results.

Some of the common ones include: they aren’t working on the problem, the horse is before the cart, horses won’t push like that, they should see the problem but they don’t, they missed the Square Wheels completely, and they are about to run off and stop working.

Continuous continuous improvement is an ongoing process, is accomplished by trial and error and requires perspective and reflection. But, too often, we are quick to put a “Blame Frame” on things and presume, with our leadership and expertise, that we would not have made such simple errors and omissions.

blame frame color

But horses will push carts when trained and motivated (hang a carrot in front of it!) and a great many potential ideas for improvement will always exist that can be implemented or modified.

Trial and Error color carrot

As Max DePree elegantly said:

“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.”

If everyone is focused on what people should have or might have done, this feedback to others will be seen as non-supporting and negative. The effort that was taken to try to do things differently would be punished rather than rewarded and, therefore, we make change less likely.  This “constructive criticism” is not constructive and will not support continuous continuous improvement.

A team approach generates the pooled, collective knowledge needed to solve real problems as well as provide the synergy and consensus as to where to generate results. Peer pressure can be focused on improvements if we can engage the team in a bit of reflection. Leadership provides the power and support to the implementation — but they must follow through and do something to recognize any improvements.

Quality, for example, is a people thing. A cross-functional team with a few skills, a mission and vision, and a bit of empowerment from management can generate the objectivity, perspective, collective knowledge and support to make real improvements in systems and processes, the root solution to the quality issue. And by getting people involved in the solution, they become equity owners of the process and we do things with them rather than to them.

Improving service quality is often an issue of leadership and recognition. Organizations have a real need to implement change. But the dynamics involved are complicated, and yet simple. You would all agree that motivation comes from people who take pride in results, with pride being a strong natural reinforcer of behavior.

The impact of putting The Blame Frame around less than perfect attempts to improve will stifle improvement. We naturally generate defensiveness or defense instead of change and we punish innovation while we demand improvement. And then we wonder why people do not feel self-actualized and intrinsically motivated. All of us can support improvement of others!

Intrinsic motivation, then, looks like this:

Intrinsic Motivation color green

Most people already have the Round Wheels within their grasp but, because of negative self-talk, constructive criticism, past performance evaluations focused on the negative and other typical work dynamics, we may not recognize them. Getting a test back in school, for example, was an experience of seeing all of our wrong answers highlighted and marked in red.

You can read more about intrinsic motivation, as I have blogged about it extensively. This takes you to a summary page.

This focus on the negative does not work to bring out the positive. Focusing on the negative only brings out more negative!

Performance coaching and personal improvement should address the many positives of the situation, seeing that continuous improvement is continuous. There is a need for objectivity and perspective combined with management support. But because of people’s focus on personal issues, politics and pettiness, many do not get feedback that focuses on the things that could be done to correct and improve our results.

We can’t really focus on developing human capital and achieving highest potential if we treat people in ways that diminish self-esteem and limit opportunities. The only way to achieve high performance is to engage the best energies of the people within the organization. And they already exist — the challenge is to unleash them from within.

So, if we want people to fly, we’ve got to look at what influences their initiative and performance and get them involved and engaged.

We need to allow people to try new things and experiment with the systems and processes. By hooking things up in a new way, we can often generate that creative spark and innovation that will make a long-term fundamental improvement. Consider what you can do to have more fun and generate new ideas for change.

SWs One Caterpillars pie in sky poem

 

Change is inevitable. So why not make it both easier and fun? Involve and engage people in the changes that they think are needed and see if things do not roll a lot smoother. And remember that caterpillars can fly, if they would just lighten up!

Hope that these ideas help you some,

For the FUN of It!

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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The Play’s The Thing – More Cartoons on how organizations really work

Organizations need to make continuous progress on workplace improvements so that they can sustain intrinsic motivation among the staff and retain some level of competitive innovation in products and services. That is a given.

But the reality is that people are un-engaged and de-motivated by “continuous un-improvement” and are frustrated because their ideas are ignored and their efforts unappreciated. At least that is the consistent result of a few hundred workplace surveys!

CAN things be improved? Sure. Think “Best Boss” and what that individual did differently for you and your work. The ideas for improvement and engagement are pretty straightforward, but it just seems like so many managers and supervisors simply cannot do those simple things to involve and engage people and performance.

To that end, I continue my series of illustrations and captions about how things work. My idea is that maybe I can rattle a cage somewhere and get at least a few people to see what they might do differently. After all, the Round Wheels are already in the wagon and it is simply an issue of identification of Square Wheels that often leads to ideas and implementation.

Captions – Part One

Captions – Part Two

Don’s Just DO Something. Stand There.

So here are a few more cartoons and captions for your enjoyment. Let me know which ones you like best.

SWs One Today was good today was fun

SWs One brain in head feet in shoes

SWs One all the things you won't see red

 

SWs One all the things you won't see yellow

SWs One Nothing is NOT

SWs One They're everywhere

SWs One Collective Intelligence

 

So, please let me wrap this up with this last one, which is kind of a closing theme.

 

Brainstorming Their ideas are BETTER

 

You can find our Square Wheels Toolkits on our website. We offer a variety of different bundles of cartoons in powerpoint, handouts, and ideas / instructions for how easy it is to involve and engage people in your performance improvement initiatives.

Have FUN out There!

Elegant Solutions

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/

Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Square Wheels and funny captions – The Joke is on Who?

Funny how the brain works…

I got a list of slogans and tagwords for beauty products and computer software and I happened to be working on my illustrations in a powerpoint file. So, those two things crashed together and I got silly. The end result is a whole bunch of illustrations about how organizations work and themes of process improvement, leadership and the like.

I should probably figure out how to do this as a poll so you could vote for your favorite but that is probably more difficult than I would need to do to accomplish my basic goal of making you laugh, too! Literally, I am giggling as I put some of these slogans and images together here alone at my desk, which raises the simple question of, “Have I been doing this too long?”  3smiley

Understand that this all started with my basic illustration, a wooden wagon rolling on wooden Square Wheels with a cargo of round rubber tires. There are many meanings and anchor points around leadership and motivation and engagement and process improvement and similar kinds of organizational and personal development themes.

And everyone needs to step back from the wagon every so often and involve and engage the team to share their ideas about new ideas and how to best implement improvements. It is all about teams and all about intrinsic motivation.

SWs One green watermark

So, here are a few of my new creations. Your thoughts, reactions, ideas, issues and any new thoughts would be appreciated, for sure. Some of these are probably more obvious than others.

SWs One Qwality

SWs One Making Sense

SWs One - working on improvement

SWs One Effortlessly Managing People Processes

SWs One THINK You are pulling

SWs One - motivating and engaging seriously

SWs One some time to think

SWs One Because it works that way

Yeah, there are more of these things and I keep having fun with the idea that people are dis-engaged and un-involved and that the illustrations are a simple and powerful tool to address these issues in almost any workgroup.

You can find Part Two of these captioned cartoons here

You can find Part Three, where I start rhyming, here

See my blog post on slogans around people and performance here

Have fun out there and make a difference to someone today.

 

Scott small pic

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/

 

Roll Better Ideas Forward – Improve Engagement and Innovation

The old brainstorming process works. It just does not work very well. And there are lots of ideas about how to make it better. In past blogs, I’ve  shared a number of ideas and techniques to improve the quality and quantity of ideas. You can see this recent post, for one set of thoughts:  “On Brainstorming and workplace productivity improvement” – the link.

Woody Allen called the brain his second most favorite organ.

This is your brain.

Brainstorming is pretty well understood and is a common technique used by people for idea generation. It originated back in 1942, with a BBDO ad executive named Alex Osborn who used the approach and coined the term “brainstorming.” He used these four rules of involvement and engagement:

1. Focus on quantity. More ideas are better and you can always separate the good from the less good
2. Withhold criticism. There are no bad ideas in a brainstorm and you want to just keep things flowing.
3. Welcome the unusual ideas. Look at things from every perspective and withhold judgment.
4. Combine and improve ideas. Things are synergistic and a bad idea can generate a good one. Recapitulate and juggle thoughts.

This approach is so common that I would guess 50% of supervisors could tell you the rules and they are often presented First Thing when facilitators use the technique. It has not changed much. The only real issue is that this is not the best way to generate involvement and engagement and ideas.

Research says that some of the best ideas actually come when people are alone and doing “considered consideration” of issues and opportunities and working in groups at a fast pace may miss some of the better ideas. An article last year in the New Yorker shared some fundamental ideas about how to optimize impacts. (find “GroupThink, The brainstorming myth” by Jonah Lehrer here)

Basically, research has shown that groups using classic brainstorming approaches generate fewer ideas than people who work alone and then assemble and pool their ideas. 

What seems evident from this and other research on idea generation and innovation is that the best ideas and solutions to organizational issues seem to come from group discussions about ideas generated in isolation.

This research supports what it is that makes our Square Wheels One illustration such a great engagement tool, since it sets up a short solitary time for idea generation followed by some group processing of ideas and sharing of different perspectives and it changes the language of talking about organizational issues.

Getting people to talk about issues and opportunities is getting them to consider options and possibilities, and the power and strength of this visual metaphor allows them to return to these same organizational improvement issues down the road. You put their brain on fire!

Your brain on fire after brainstorming

Your brain on fire after brainstorming

The Square Wheels are everywhere, and so are the Round Ones. And once you start this process of issue identification, positive group processing, peer support, commitment to implement and the resulting praise and recognition for successes or movements toward success, you generate a more positive and engaging work environment.

All through the use of a metaphor about how organizations really work. Square Wheels One is the illustration that sets up the discussions of how things really work in most organizations and helps people to project their thoughts and ideas about their workplace on to the visual. They can work individually for a few moments and then collaborate as a group to expand their viewpoints.

SWs - Why use SWs RWs

The reality is that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon.
We just need to take some time to look for things to implement!
Sharing improves engagement / innovation and impacts teamwork.

Celebration color green train

The most revolutionary solutions spring from group discussion of ideas hatched in isolation. Let Square Wheels cartoons work for you.

(Brain on fire from CartoonaDay.com)

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman sells inexpensive and powerful 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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Two Miles of Ditch for Every Mile of Road – Thoughts on Teamwork and Collaboration

There is that old joke about when you are up to your axles in alligators, it is hard to remember that your job was to drain the swamp. Sometimes the tasks at hand simply overwhelm the possible improvements. Organizational improvement is a lot like that, it seems.

Mud has been a most useful metaphor for me around the concept of dealing with Square Wheels when the cargo are round ones. Mud represents the organizational glop, or as I define it, “the stuff that is hard to get a grip on.”

Mud is the goo, the cement, the grinding paste — basically the stuff that is hard to deal with but that directly slows performance. It might be the culture of the organization or the tendency to not reward improvement / punishing failure. It is often the bureaucracy that gets in the way of generating change. It could be one person who tends to simply make everything more difficult for any number of reasons. If organizations had personalities, it could be that, too.

Dealing with the mud of team building

My comments tend to be around choice and choices and defining possibilities. Often, people simply choose to keep muddling along like they always have and not much will change. You just keep plugging away, hoping to make progress.

But it is often useful just to step back from the wagon and look for some ways to “Get out of the ditch and up on the road!” Doing the same thing will generate the same results. And, understanding that there are a lot of miles of ditch to deal with in most organizations is just a thought on reality. Nothing makes sense, and neither does anything else so much of the time. Knowing what needs to be changed and even building a good case for it does not necessarily translate into an organizational improvement initiative.

These situations take group engagement and a sense of shared focus and teamwork in order to generate the energy to change the course of what is happening. One person, no matter how powerful or skilled, will find it very difficult to deal with the glop and get things moving more effectively. There is just too much to deal with, most of the time. Change is difficult. And peer support and teamwork and collaboration are helpful.

Me, I just got up on the road, I think, by doing these little ditty things using the cartoons and illustrating the issues with Haiku and poems and maybe some limericks on occasion. I have a bunch of clients and friends sending me their poems and word changes and the like, so I think I will keep going down this path and see what results.

YOUR thoughts and words would be appreciated, and if you want a couple of cartoons on which to permanently and forever post up your thoughts (attributed to you, of course), pop me a note. I can assist and you can be the poet or wordsmith forever anchored to one of the themes of improving organizations.

Remember:

Caterpillars can fly lighten up round

Or, from The Waterboy:  “You can do it!”

Have fun out there, too. Have a most wonderful New Year!

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

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What I hope for: The Workplace

I was asked for a 500-word “wish” to be published by another organization and I thought to repost it in my blog.

My hope is for every workplace to be a better place to work.

Businesses are a key part of any community and community spirit as well as individual families are very directly influenced by the quality of their employers. If people are treated well and respected, that energy carries over into all aspects of how they live and their support of others.

What is distressing is to read about the low levels of engagement and morale in so many workplaces and the typical response from many senior executives and human resource professionals about how the workers don’t produce and their need for continuous management. Commonly heard are how much people resist change and training and that there are too many poor performers in the workplace.

For me, two things stand out. The first is that, “Nobody ever washes a rental car” and that we cannot expect people to take care of things if they do not feel any ownership involvement. Since so many feel that nobody listens or cares, why should they feel any sense of ownership? And the perception is the reality of that.

The other issue is that so many people are un-engaged and un-involvedwhen they could be involved and participating in the continuous improvement of their companies and their workplace.

I wish more companies would focus on Dis-Un-Engagement and do things to help the supervisors and managers do a better job of asking people for their ideas about how to make improvements. The wagons are rolling on wooden Square Wheels while the cargo is a lot of round rubber tires. But workplaces see themselves as too busy to stop pulling and pushing and to identify those things that are not working smoothly. If nothing changes, how will anything improve?

By involving and asking people for what kinds of things generate their feelings of un-engagement, we can allow them to generate some solutions and repairs. With the managers intent on fixing things, those efforts to remove those perceived roadblocks and problems will go a long long way toward improving workplace efficiency and effectiveness.

By demonstrating the care of listening to issues and ideas, we can make all sorts of impacts.

I guess that is the essence of my thinking and my wishes and hopes. Maybe everyone can get some of the above as a present for the year-end holidays: A bit more positive feelings about their role in their companies and a better sense of belonging and ownership. People are no longer just, “hired hands in the workplace.” Workers have brains and thoughts and ideas, too!

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

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Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly

For 20 years, I have been playing with my Square Wheels cartoons and using the metaphor in a variety of training programs on managing and leading change, involving and engaging individuals and teams in performance improvement, and focusing on individual and team intrinsic motivation.

One of my most fun as well as powerful tools is around the metaphor of “the change from caterpillar to butterfly” and the paradox of how one might lead that change.

I start with the basic Square Wheels illustration and then, after I get those key themes and ideas anchored down, add in the storyline that there are two caterpillars sitting on the wagon. A beautiful butterfly floats by and the one caterpillar says to the other caterpillar,

“You’ll never get ME up into one of those Butterfly things!”

From here, it just gets crazy as I identify a whole series of punchlines to the joke, not the one that most people get and simply stop thinking about. And I discuss how this process of “stopping the thought process” is what often gets in the way of continuous continuous improvement at work and in personal development initiatives.

You can download a pdf file of the article, Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly, by clicking this link.

The article gets into my model for managing and leading change, talks about the use of the Square Wheels illustrations as tools for facilitating personal and organizational development and focuses on making improvements. Another document you might like is the poem about the transformation of caterpillars into butterflies

Teaching Caterpillar poem

This is a solid metaphor, and one where our Square Wheels tools work beautifully. You can also purchase a very extensive powerpoint-based training program on Managing and Leading Change here, which builds nicely on these metaphors and works to involve and engage people in the change process.

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

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