Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: Feedback

A Round Wheel Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

The Square Wheels Project is about facilitating engagment and improvement

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

Stupidly Simple Engagement and Motivation

One gets whacked in the head, but maybe not often enough. No, let me change that to say that workplace whacking should be a lot more common and that every manager of every manager should be whacking their people about this problem. At some point, realistically, you would think managers would finally step back and see the stunningly obvious reality of how things are not working in workplaces to engage and motivate people. Or not…

For what is probably my 40th year of viewing this same statistical reality, here we go again: Leadership Management Australasia’s LMA survey summary, April 2016 shared this stunning commentary:

Communication and connection are the cornerstone of relationships – a quarter to a third of employees believe their managers seldom or never listen to them, understand their issues, seek their input and ideas, or help them to resolve the issues and challenges they face. This persistent gap presents both a challenge and an opportunity to leaders and managers.

Seriously? Two-thirds of the workers (or more) in another national survey feel that communications in their workplaces stink? Still? This is what I remember addressing back in 1978 when I first started organizational consulting on people and performance.

What boggles my mind is that this is one of those “forever” problems. Is it a training issue? NO, because if you put a gun to the head of the manager and threatened to blow her brains out if she could not communicate, you would actually SEE her communicate with her people (this is the Bob Mager Test, not mine, so do not blame me for any workplace violence — it is just a metaphor! Do NOT bring a gun to your leadership development programs unless you are in Texas.)

This is NOT a skill issue; training is not needed. But it might be a “tools” issue, and that might be readily solved. So, here is my proposed solution to this global communications issue, with me trying to keep things stupidly simple and obvious:

Square Wheels LEGO poster of engagement and motivation

This persistent and incessant gap in communications is simply numbing.

The manager should be the motivator and the communicator. After all, who else has the connection to the workers?

This is such a persistent problem that we are going to develop an unnecessary but apparently critical actual online MOOC training course to teach people how to use this stupidly simple communications tool, the Square Wheels metaphor, complete with worksheets and training and collaborative support across a global community of people wanting to improve motivation and engagement. Overkill, probably.

But we are going to eliminate the excuses for people not talking,

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

Debriefing Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine – The Numbers

For the past 20+ years, we have been supporting a team building exercise focused on inter-team collaboration and the sharing of resources and information with the goal of optimizing organizational results. We know from our users, a global network of consultants and internal trainers, that the exercise is unique as well as highly effective.

Our users are a highly experienced group, with 70% using 6 or more different team building exercises in their organizational development work. Most (89%) have run the exercise multiple times and 36% have run it more than ten times. (You can see a summary of our 2016 User Survey here)

So this paper was designed as a “high-level” document overviewing basics as well as advanced interpretations linking behaviors and game results to issues of organizational performance and alignment to shared goals and objectives. The goal of play is to drive real change in the workplace based on perspective, observations and commitments.

The attached document might be of interest if:

  • You already own The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine
  • You are interested in how a team building game can be used to link to desired future behaviors and drive alignment and collaboration
  • You are already using another team building simulation and are looking to make improvements in your debriefing or your evaluation of play or ready to choose my game for use, instead!

One of our customers, a senior manager at a large public utility company, asked for my thoughts on her debriefing of the results when she delivered the exercise to her 100 direct reports. What evolved was a highly detailed review of how the results generated in play could be interpreted and discussed. While some of this information is included in the packaging of our exercise, I thought to include it here should our existing customers want to see these details.

Linking Measured Game Results to
Organizational Development Opportunities

Design features in Dutchman allow teams to acquire additional informational resources that help them optimize their results. Basic planning will allow every team to be successful and contribute. But collaborating with the leadership team and working across tabletops will allow them to mine even more gold. Acquiring the extra information allows their team to improve outcomes even more, and to choose as to whether they will assist another team or teams in the quest to mine even more gold.

You can see an intro to the Lost Dutchman’s exercise by clicking on the image below:

video overview of Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

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

Getting the Cows to the Barn; Thoughts on Alignment and Performance

I am NOT saying that employees are cows.

Just the opposite, actually. Well, guess I am not sure what the opposite of a cow would be, but I have always been focused on issues of people and performance and looking for ideas and approaches to generate improved alignment and results.

Square Wheels image of Lego Team

In a LinkedIn discussion about motivation and alignment, I remembered an analogy that old friend Ken Junkins used when we were talking about people and motivation, so I thought to share it in that discussion as well as pop it into the blog. Here is the rough storyline as to how I remember Ken using the story of herding cows back 30 years ago…

I am reminded of the herd of cows wandering aimlessly in the pasture. You, the manager, need to get them to the barn, so how do you do that?

Some managers will go out and get their supervisors to shoot guns and ride around the back with horses, yelling and screaming. That will get some of the cows to move away from them, (hopefully toward the barn). But, it will not be a successful enterprise unless you have lots of those herders and those herders are all sharing the same goal of moving the cows toward the barn within a certain amount of time.

Another approach is to get some sweet feed and sprinkle it out on the ground between the herd and the barn. Not many of the cows will know it is even there, but the ones that do will begin to move in your desired direction.

As those cows move, more of the others will wonder what is going on and begin to also move in that direction. With some gentle prodding from the management team, after the cows are beginning to go in the right direction, the herders at the back can begin to gently motivate the laggards, at least getting their attention that something is happening.

It is a slow process and not nearly as much fun as riding around fast and shooting guns and yelling and screaming. But you will have more contented cows and need a lot less management overhead to get them to where you want to go…

Ya think?

You can read more on my metaphors of herding here, with a pretty funny and well-linked article on herding cats and frogs. Click on the image to go there.

Herding Cats - EDS Commercial

Managing and motivating people is seen to be a difficult task. Some people believe that aversive control and punishment are the best rewards, most likely because they think that this approach is what motivates them. (That is probably not true, but it is a belief.) The research shows pretty clearly that intrinsic motivation generated through teamwork, alignment, good feedback systems and congruent values is much more effective that extrinsically-driven approached.

Extrinsic rewards may work, and they may work better for some people than for others, but they are not generally effective over the long term.  And the use of aversive control generates all sorts of problems. (See the article on sabotage and defense, aversive control and punishment by clicking on the icon below)

Defense with © Square Wheels Image

The two articles linked to the illustrations share a good bit of research data about motivating and aligning people toward workplace improvement. I trust that they may stimulate some thoughts about what you might try do to differently or that they will confirm some of the things you choose to do now.

Let me update this with one other video, not about herding cows but about herding sheep. With the proper environment and the right support (think of a few well-trained sheep dogs to keep things under control, as you might with a few well trained and supportive and aligned supervisors), you CAN move sheep seamlessly. This is an amazing and lovely video that Tim Whittaker allowed me to share:

Herding sheep video

So, we CAN generate alignment and communal performance. We can move organizations forward with proper planning and training (and maybe some hiring). We can generate innovation and improvement.

Please note that we sell some simple to use tools for generating engagement and alignment at the front lines or for use in strategy implementation frameworks.

Square Wheels images by Scott Simmerman

And you have some fun out there, too.

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

 

 

Daylight Savings Improvement Day – Spring Forward Monday

On Sunday, March 9, at 0200 hours in the early morning of 2014, most of the United States will engage in an exercise called Daylight Savings Time and we will move the clocks forward an hour, making it darker early in the morning and extending daylight in the evening.

It has some historical anchors, but various sources estimate the actual cost in lost productivity to be somewhere between $400 million and $2 billion, with people generally losing an hour of sleep in addition to having to adjust all the manual clocks in their life. (Most cannot remember how to reset the clocks in their cars!)

So, as an alternative to the lost productivity and in recognition of the need to improve workplace productivity and involvement and engagement, I am going to propose we create and celebrate Spring Forward Monday, where supervisors and managers should spend some special time with their people working on the issues of productivity and alignment.

The basic idea is pretty simple:

Things may not be working smoothly. And some round wheels are already in the wagon. So, let’s take a bit of time to stop pushing and pulling and talk together about some of the perceived issues and opportunities and how we can implement some changes and improvements. Most people feel that managers do not listen to ideas, so let’s use this special day for this special purpose: communications!

SWs One 2 Haiku brown and green

So, we want to choose to do something that looks more like this to better involve and engage everyone in the workplace and hear their ideas for improvement:

Spring Forward Monday Square Wheels toolkit logo

We want to engage all those feet in moving things forward, more better faster.

The conversations could focus on shared goals, missions and visions, and alignment kinds of things to clarify expectations and provide performance feedback or it could focus on themes of issue identification and opportunity implementation.

You can view a 3-minute video on the basic idea of Spring Forward Monday by clicking on the image above or by clicking on this link.

There should be lots of positive impacts for something special like this, including the simple recognition that ideas for improvement already exist and that we should be choosing to do some things more better faster.

Click here to find more information about this specially priced, $5.95 Square Wheels Engagement toolkit by clicking on the link below:

Spring Forward Monday Square Wheels toolkit

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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.

Perfect Play — How can an organization understand what it needs to accomplish to maximize success?

Thirty years of working with organizations may have taught me a couple of things. One is that a sense of teamwork is critical, along with a real understanding of the issues of alignment. Performance feedback is much more important than “reward systems” and extrinsic rewards. And there is no silver bullet about leadership — it is so much about clarity of expectations, required resources to support results, and an understanding of issues and opportunities.

What I want to do herein is to share some simple bullets that I feel link to the issues around optimizing performance. I also included a bunch of links to my other blog posts. My goal is to create one or two “Ah Ha!” moments and provide some ideas and maybe assist you in seeing how you might do one more things better or differently. The key is generating behavioral change and continuous improvement in how things are accomplished.

How does one even start… Let me begin with a key concept that seems to apply everywhere and that is on the framework of involvement and engagement:

Ownership Rental Nobody Toolkit icon 3

Yes, Ownership! If we do not allow people to have a sense of real ownership, we simply cannot realistically expect them to take care of something. That would simply be illogical, as Mr. Spock might say.

The cartoon above actually represents a number of key points that I would like to make:

  • The hard part is getting the wagon to begin to roll downhill. We push that thing uphill a lot more frequently and involving and engaging and building a sense of momentum is often the hard part for getting things moving.
  • If the wagon puller is not expecting things to move faster than they have been moving, or they have not been actively involved in the design and implementation process, they will feel that things are being done TO them and most wagon pullers will resist that, even if it makes good sense to roll forward.
  • We roll along on those very common Square Wheels, which work but do not work smoothly. Square Wheels are Everywhere!
  • Our focus on pushing and pulling will often result in a sense of non-awareness of those Round Wheels that already exist within the wagon, those things that could simply be implemented if we had the time and the tools to do so.

So, one message for anyone leading anyone is pretty darn simple:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz003

Simply stop, stand there, observe and consider. Get out of the way, if that will work. Involve and engage people. Ask for ideas. Talk about what is not working smoothly.

So, one thing that we offer customers is our Square Wheels facilitation toolkits, simple sets of instructions, powerpoint slides and worksheets that enable them to involve and engage people in discussions about what might be improved and how to get those ideas implemented. You can see some of the variety of offerings on our Square Wheels Facilitation Tools pages on the website. You can also read about these ideas on this blog.

In our flagship team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we give teams “sufficient but not excessive resources” along with a challenge to, “Mine as much gold as we can.” We provide them with an attractive vision of the future and a specific goal, immediate feedback about their decisions and the impacts, and allow them to implement their plan for play. Every team does well, but some do “more better” than the others. And we share with them a framework for Perfect Play, what they could have done to optimize results if they had made different choices.

Generally, teams mine between 4 and 9 days of gold. But they could have done better if they made different choices and involved leadership and collaborated more between the different teams:

Perfect Play Game Screen

They could have mined as many as 11 gold. And, as we debrief the game and discuss the decisions and the planning and the inter-table interactions, our goal is to reframe the play of the Dutchman Game into the play of teams in the workplace. We want to open people up to discussing what is motivating and demotivating and what they could choose do do differently.

This can involve discussions and personal choices, as well as team-based effectiveness and

LD Debrief triad 1

LD Debrief Triad 2

I find that “Perfect Play” comes from repetition, from stepping back and looking objectively at what decisions were made, what was accomplished, and what alternatives were available. It comes from having great performance feedback and flow. It comes when people are involved and engaged. And, ideally, playing again and again and repeating the cycle over and over.

When I was working in quality improvement initiatives, we called it,

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz004

Good leaders and top teams are always looking to expand their knowledge and improve their performance and doing the same thing over and over simply produces the same result.

Rat Cage More Better Faster

 

We think our tools and our approach are top-shelf. The materials are easy to use and the cartoons easily generate perspective and involvement. Our team building games are designed to generate the behaviors that link to real workplace performance opportunities and our games such as Collaboration Journey and Innovate & Implement are really easy to play for small groups.

We’ve been selling and supporting Lost Dutchman for 20 years now, with a really great reaction and long-term use by so many people worldwide.

Max DePree - cannot become

Have FUN out there, and see what you can do to generate some Perfect Play in your organization.

square wheels author

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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Defusing Conflict to Improve Communications and Engagement

Workplace performance and productivity are critical issues for so many of us during those 30 to 60 hours that we put in every week at work. And communications is such a critical aspect of how the environment feels. Sometimes, things go really well and everything clicks. Other times, things seem to thump and bump and rattle…

Two thirds of American workers say that communication bottlenecks or a simple lack of information negatively affects productivity and performance. And there are things we can do to improve things.

Let’s start with this well-known picture:

Brewer Obama

The above is a great picture of communication between President Obama and Governor Jan Brewer taken in Arizona taken in 2012. Following this encounter, the AZ Governor said, “I was trying to be gracious!” and she also called Obama “thin-skinned” on national TV. (Wow, think of how she would act if she were angry or frustrated!  And how is “employee morale” throughout the entire state of Arizona these days? Think that there is a precedent for potential violence among the citizens if the leaders are communicating so graciously with others?)

Non-verbal communication conveys very strong messages and often gets us into trouble, especially when we are attempting to de-escalate an angry person.

While we tend to focus on verbal communication, logic and reason to calm others, there are also some environmental things you can look to do. If you find yourself in a confrontation or argument and discover that nothing that you say is working, it just may be the immediate surroundings and your body language that are having an influence. It may also be a chain of previous communications that this one is anchored to in either or both parties.

We all interpret non-verbal communication differently. A certain gesture or posture may be anchored to the past experience of the other person and trigger an unexpected or unanticipated response. There are also some gestures that commonly show aggression that other person will respond to, such as pointing your finger at their chest or face (or poking them!).

Our life experience, our belief system and our judgments collectively help us interpret both words and body language. So, we never know what is going to trigger the other person’s hostility or an aggressive reaction. We all have personal histories and anchors to emotional states that can be triggered by other people’s behaviors, much like the screech of car tires reminds some people of accidents and pain.

The best idea is to be situationally aware and to have some ideas about what you can choose to do differently within that conversation, what we can call “behavioral versatility” or “behavioral alternatives.” These will be both verbal and non-verbal choices.

Remember that if you are uncomfortable with confrontation and conflict, the chances are high that you will show some of this with your non-verbal and even verbal behaviors. Planning on such a conversation, you might consider some of these possibilities for the conversation:

  • Be prepared and think things through beforehand. Gather your thoughts about the information you need, desired outcomes that are acceptable, the likely perspectives that they will have that might be different from yours and other related frameworks. Consider possibilities and have a goal of gaining resolution.
  • Find a neutral place, generally away from others who might contribute to the emotionality of the scene. For some people, that might be a public non-workplace location like a coffee shop or similar. For others, a more private conference room or similar. Do not choose to isolate yourself if you expect any kind of physical threat to occur.
  • Develop a neutral posture and position so your weight is evenly distributed over your feet. Respect their personal distance and stand at least two feet away from the person that you are attempting to de-escalate. This neutral stance will give you a stronger presence and will be more comfortable. Understand that different cultures have different personal distances, so be aware of both.
  • If you are nervous or uncomfortable, try to push down on your toes to distract you as well as gain some control. Think about it as pushing the emotion and adrenaline out of your body. This is a simple approach to decreasing tension.
  • Prepare yourself to look the person in the eye even if you are uncomfortable with this. Most people who are nervous or afraid of conflict will look down or away and thus not seem serious. At the same time, do not overdo the eye contact, since sustained eye contact is a predator behavior and our brains are wired to see that as being aggressive!

A reality of this is that if you are comfortable with dealing with conflict and have a knack for de-escalation and confrontation, you may be seen as the aggressor and immediately put the other person or the group on the defensive – that expectation can work for you or against you, depending on the situation and the other person’s beliefs. Pushing will generally result in resistance, so be aware of that possibility. You are looking to resolve the conflict, not stomp it!

Being friendly is good and generally useful. Being flippant and unconcerned will most often work against you and increase their emotionality about the situation. Smirking is not normally conducive to effective communicating. You are trying to generate or maintain rapport with the other person.

bush smirk

If you are aggressive in the way you de-escalate conflict, here are a few tips to follow:

  • Avoid pointing your finger and ensure that your hands are empty.
  • Avoid smiling or smirking as it may be seen as mockery or condescending behavior on your part.
  • Be at the same eye level. If you are taller, suggest that you sit.
  • Ensure that your posture is upright and relaxed. Uptight or overly erect posture can be seen as extreme or commanding.
  • Relax your facial muscles as much as possible and relax but pay attention.
  • Look into the other person’s eyes no more than 85% of the time. Constant, continual eye contact can escalate the situation because it is a sign of aggression.

The person who is angry often simply wants to be heard and have their beliefs listened to. 

Until they feel like someone understands, they will remain angry and frustrated. What you say and how you react are important in de-escalating the conversation and you will do this through what you say and your non-verbal communications. Something triggered their initial behavior and that needs to be addressed before the situation can be resolved.

Listen to what they are telling you; it is important to them and often a lot more important than you think it might be. “Blowing them off” or simply “Winning the argument” is not going to solve the problem or address the issues.

Note that if you simply want to get them angry so they quit or you can fire them, do all of the above to simply increase your ability to annoy them.

Lastly, do NOT do ANY of this stuff at home with spouses or teenagers, since that can get very expensive. Finding a new place to live is also time consuming…

Two last thoughts:

It’s not about the nail” is a great short video on two people talking and problem solving.

And:

It takes two to tango. It also takes two to play paintball.

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/

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Tons of Good Writings, so why is improvement so hard? Part Two

This is the second of two articles that hammer on the issues around supervision and how they affect engagement and performance. Spending billions for decades, why can’t we actually make improvements in organizations?

It must be about organizational cultures and about our models of what good leadership must look like, or at least how most people view the role of a Manager.  It must be about how organizational measurements and competition between departments drive competitive behavior so that we do not find much collaboration. It must be competition driving away engagement, and extrinsic reward systems not being meaningful to everyone.

Something must be wrong and it makes sense that we need to do something differently. My thinking says it is the interface between worker and supervisor that needs to be fixed and that so many things that interfere with that interface need to be changed. The issue is one of communications.

Microsoft WordScreenSnapz002

I do not want to put an anchor point here to “leadership” because that means so many different things to so many people. And I do not think that the issue is “Supervisory Skills Training” since that says that people must be trained before they can exhibit behavior to improve that connection.

Over the past year, Gallup interviewed nearly 150,000 Americans in all states and industries and discovered that a stunning number are miserable in their jobs. More specifically, only 30% of the nation’s working population today admits to being fully engaged at work and 52% admit to being disengaged in their jobs with another 18% being actively disengaged.

Why are 7 in 10 workers discouraged, and more importantly,
why does no one seem to actually do much to improve this reality?

To a degree, I blame company cultures. They are not working yet they are totally resistant to change. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down, so doing things differently is very often punished. And if we keep doing things the same way, why should we expect anything to change? But let’s do another million-dollar survey to be sure of our thinking…

Numerous studies have shown that engaged workers display greater initiative, approach work more passionately and creatively–essentially do all they can for their organizations. Gallup’s report specifically states that engagement drives greater productivity, lower turnover, and a better quality of work. Organizations in the top 10% of engagement outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share and have 90% better growth trends than their competition.

Gallup, a survey organization, suggests that you measure engagement everywhere. My thought is why? What good are measurements when you won’t do anything to change in a meaningful way? Research shows that we’ve been doing a LOT of research and not making any impact, so why do more research? People are un-engaged so why not do something to engage them – that is most assuredly NOT another survey!

Gallup assumes that people do not know that people are not engaged. I suggest this: Walk into a workplace and stand there. You can tell the level of engagement just by looking and listening.

Companies have been doing surveys on engagement for 20 years and results will show that things are getting worse, if anything. Things are not getting better even though many organizations report they are “working on engaging people”: Employee engagement has declined from 24% to 13% in the past two years (Mercer’s 2012 Attraction and Retention Survey). If your spouse was “working on something” for 20 years, would you not also be frustrated and non-trusting?

Why not spend the money in different ways and get the managers away from looking at survey data to actually doing something differently. Improving engagement is just that – getting people to focus on improving things in their workplace and feeling more of a sense of ownership involvement.

Microsoft WordScreenSnapz003

There are a lot of bosses who foster un-engagement. The classic quote is Samuel Goldwyn, the G in MGM, who said,

“When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”

He also said, “If you don’t disagree with me, how will I know I’m right?”

Yeah, he would have be an engaging boss, for sure. NOT. Then again, boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory, right?

A Parade magazine survey in 2012 found that 35% of U.S. workers said they’d willingly forgo a substantial pay raise in exchange for seeing their direct supervisor fired. A Florida State University survey in 1997 found 40% think they work for bad bosses. The irony is that bad bosses are often insecure, which probably makes their bad behavior even more prevalent…

Okay, enough on the negative — what can we do differently?

Gallup sees solutions in more measurement and more employee development spending. My take is that while improving skills is a good thing, it is future-focused and not immediate. More immediate things will result in more immediate improvement, and tons of surveys focus on listening, team building, making workplace process improvements and even dealing with poor performers more effectively (coaching is often a good and effective solution).

I am reminded of this old quote:

We judge ourselves by our intentions;
We judge others by their behavior.

What we need to do is build teams and align people toward roadblock removal and process improvement. We can provide more effective performance feedback, build more workplace collaboration and add coaching and mentoring on a one-on-one and a team-based perspective.

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

Long-term, we can look to improve hiring practices, provide more skills training and support for workers, increase compensation and similar kinds of things. In the short term, we can focus on doing things differently and doing the things that will dis-un-engage people and performance.

Mentoring words green

Good articles are plentiful out there and there are a lot of good stats, but I disagree with many of the conclusions. Many articles talk about better hiring as the solution — yeah, great idea, but it will do nothing NOW and that new “great hire” will tend to be pressed to regress to the average within 6 months (Sirota Research). Peer pressure toward “normative behavior” is really powerful and there are tons of studies that show that.

Clear expectations is another oft-seen solution. And that should probably be part of a solution but good performance feedback systems are not so common. (see my article on improving feedback here)

Give people the right tools to perform as a solution? Sure. But if you put a gun to their head, could they do a better job right now? Sure! (Bob Mager’s work on performance is useful – another blog post on managing performance is here).

Being generous with praise and recognition. Also a good idea. But 80% of minimum wage people work for large (profitable) multinationals. Praise and recognition are good, once people feel that they have some minimal sustainable level of overall compensation. It’s little things like HEALTH CARE that make a difference. When more than half of bankruptcies are for medical problems and happen to people who HAVE healthcare insurance (around 75% of them HAD coverage), we have a really tough situation for people to feel comfortable about…

Look at things this way:

Could ONE supervisor make a difference for ONE employee? Would that make a difference?

Could that one supervisor make a difference to another employee on a different day? Would those differences begin to add up?

Could ONE manager make a difference for ONE supervisor? Would that make a difference?

Could that manager make a difference for another supervisor on a different day? Would those differences begin to add up?

The reality, in my view, is that people are un-engaged and working in un-engaging workplaces managed by un-engaged supervisors working for un-engaged managers (it goes higher than that…). (You can read more about the general state of workplace motivation here)

One solution is to focus on DIS-un-engagement, helping one person and one group at a time. This involves the removal of real and perceived roadblocks, generating a feeling among people that someone is listening and actually cares about how things are going, and that people can make better CHOICES among considered alternatives, things such as “best practices” and the like.

We seem to have solved some of the issues around the Higgs Boson sub-atomic particle by using the Large Haldron Collider and smashing particles together. The Higgs Boson was initially theorized in 1964 and confirmed in March of this year, confirming the Higgs Field and all this being pivotal to the Standard Model and other theories of particle physics. Since we could do that, can’t we somehow figure out what is de-motivating people in their workplaces and make some considered changes in how we do things?

Can we finally understand that performance appraisals are detested for some pretty good reasons by every worker and manager (well I guess the top 10% like them) and that extrinsic reward systems just do not work (except for that top 10% who get them) and that most people are un-involved and dis-engaged?

I mean, really?

We can put a satellite into the sky that goes 500,000,000 miles to circle a small moon around Jupiter. Heck, we know that when Earth and Jupiter are at their closest to each other they are 628,743,036 million km apart and at their most distant, they are 928,081,020 km apart.

We can’t figure out how to motivate ONE worker in one workplace? Seriously?

This model, by the way, is wrong. It is NOT how to motivate people. I was kidding when I had it produced!

How to motivate people color red

We CAN motivate people by simply involving and engaging them in their workplace. Sorry, Gallup, but we do not need to spend any more hundreds of thousands of dollars on another survey that asks people if they are involved because they AREN’T. Ask their supervisors what they could do differently.

We might simply ask people what things do not work smoothly, and get them involved and engaged in solving workplace performance issues.

What are SWs image worksheet

This stuff ain’t particle physics or rocket science. It is about doing some simple and straightforward involvement and listening. (And then implementing!)

You can see Part One of this two-part series by clicking here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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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Flying by the seat of your pants – NOT the way to Engaging Employees

In the process of writing a new newsletter on the criticality of supervisors in organizations, I was looking for some statistical anchors. And while doing that, I got invited to be on the board of the IAPPD, the International Association for People and Performance Development. So, I recommended a couple of other people for them to consider for a similar slot and that got me using Bing to search for those stats — who pops up but David Zinger, one of the two people I recommended. Yeah, a small world…

And that link took me to an article that I really liked from July of 2007, one that I repost in here with a link back to his blog.

An Employee Engagement Six Pack

Are you flying with a six pack of employee engagement?

In this case, I don’t mean half a dozen beers.

The essential instruments in a light aircraft are often referred to as the 6- pack:

  • airspeed indicator flight-instruments
  • attitude indicator
  • altimeter
  • turn coordinator  
  • heading indicator
  • vertical speed indicator

Do you monitor 6 strong “indications” of your employee engagement to get you successfully to your destination?

  1. Airspeed indicator – how fast can you move towards your goal?
  2. Attitude indicator – is everyone maintaining a strong and positive attitude and avoiding too much wobble?
  3. Altimeter – how high can you climb with fully engaged employees?
  4. Turn coordinator – are you responsive to change to turn back to employee engagement if you begin to drift off course? Can you feel exhilarated while making a steep turn?
  5. Heading indicator – do you stay vigilant about where you are headed?
  6. Vertical speed indicator – how quickly can you climb to new levels of employee engagement?

Grab a coffee, jump into the workplace cockpit, and prepare to take off with these indicators of employee engagement. Of course, you could also grab a six pack of beer or root beer and have a down-to-earth discussion about employee engagement with the team of people you work with.

——————
Simple and clean. Having the right instruments and measuring the right kinds of things is important for managing people and performance. Knowing where you are and where you are going allows you to align the right resources and provide the right levels of support and training to accomplish your goals.
My thinking increasingly leans toward the criticality of the supervisor in generating workplace improvement and overall performance. I sense that we can do a much better job of this, and that we need to focus more attention on the initiatives to dis-un-engage and actively involve so many more people in our workplaces.
 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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Teamwork, Communications and Optimization of Performance

My friend Lou Carloni has been sharing ideas about people and performance for many years and a post I received from him this morning was one that got my full attention. The focus of it was on the issues of team communications, and, of course, I will add my normal spin around experiential learning and organizational performance.

Lou’s firm was hired to study communication needs in the Baltimore-Washington Region and they interviewed, surveyed, and held focus groups with over 1000 business professionals. The question asked was,  “If your organization had only enough money, resources, and time to perform training in one area of communications which area would it be:  Reading, Writing, Speaking, or Listening?”

  • Reading and Writing combined received 5% of the vote;  
  • Speaking received 40%;  
  • Listening received 55%.  

I agree with Lou on suggested solutions. One of them was to Get There In Person.

It is not just words, it is how those all come together to drive involvement and engagement, how the issues are framed and how possible solutions are discussed. It is really hard for most leaders to truly understand all the current issues faced by performers working to meet and exceed expectations of management and customers. It is just too easy to keep doing things the same way they were done before, what I always refer to with this illustration:

SWs One green color thin

The real impacts come from managers who get in front of people, asking about issues and opportunities. Lou suggests that words alone account for only 8-10% of the message in interpersonal communication; the spoken sounds account for 30-40% of the message; and the non-verbal elements account for 50-60% of the real message you are trying to send. While you might agree or disagree with the numbers, the presence of the manager up front, listening and supporting is the key.

We accomplish this with our Square Wheels approach and offer a variety of tools and toolkits to assist in the process of facilitation. I have blogged often about this in here and you can find inexpensive Square Wheels Tools on our website. We also support a variety of different team building exercises like Collaboration Journey and Innovate & Implement that are designed to involve and engage people in problem solving. All these products can be delivered by managers with their work teams.

Lou also talked about Gaining Power With The Person. To this I would also add, The Team, since people do work collaboratively in most workplaces. This connects to developing rapport and trust. One way to accomplish this with individuals, teams and groups is through our team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. In this design, the Expedition Leader exists as a person interested in optimizing ROI and results.  The expressed goal of the game is to Mine as Much Gold as WE Can!

The reality is that the tabletops do not plan well, do not collaborate and communicate with other teams, nor do they bother to ask the Expedition Leader for advice or assistance. The game leader, just like the workplace leader, exists to support individuals and teams, but the choices people make are more often to go it alone and not ask for help. In the game, and in the workplace, this measurably sub-optimizes results.

We sell a variety of different Dutchman games, at different price points, for repeated organizational use. You can find out more information about the Lost Dutchman game by going to our website.

Performance feedback is a critical component of good performers and good results, but my work with organizations has continually shown that a wide variety of improvements can be made to impact performance results. You can find a free Feedback Analysis Tool through this blog post.

Lou also talked about Skills versus Attitudes, and I am not sure that these two things are operating against each other or part of a series of competencies that are all important. I am working up an article on Flow for the blog and for the articles section of my home page. Skill is important and there is a continuum of them and skills interact with the perceived challenges people face. Flow is when these mesh together…

I will not reflect herein as to how I see differences between Lou’s thinking and mine on this other than to say that I prefer the way Bob Mager deals with the question. Lou’s website is:  http://www.smbcinc.com

Hope you found this of interest and use,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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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Performance Feedback – Breakfast of Champions!

Feedback is a real key to intrinsic motivation and performance management. And most organizations can make big improvements in how people can self-maintain and self-improve if they just stepped back from things and looked at them differently.

Many years ago, we polished up and used a simple 14-point checklist that seemed to hit on the most important aspects of people getting the feedback they need to improve or maintain the highest levels of performance. To some degree, many of the items are a bit unrealistic or idealistic, but they also represent possibilities and reframes and potential things that might be addressed or improved or designed. Some of the items on the list are below, and you can click here to download the pdf file of the checklist and explanations: Analysis of Feedback

1.  Information on performance is based on actual measured accomplishment and not on estimates or opinions about how results were accomplished. Some people may appear to be very busy or doing a good job, especially if you are there watching them. Others may work at a slower pace and not appear to work as hard. Personalities differ and opinions about accomplishments may not reflect actual results. Good measures of results need to be implemented.
2.  Information highlights areas of performance that have quantifiable value to the organization rather than more general areas of preference Be concerned with results that produce bottom-line impacts. Sometimes, we get focused on issues of little or no importance to profits or quality or revenue. While a poor producer may chew gum and come in late, it is better to focus on the productivity than on the gum or lateness.  Feedback should focus on more critical issues.
3.  Performance information routinely goes to the people who do the work, rather than mostly to management.People see summarized results. People need performance data, not just feedback from management. In the absence of specific information, people will often assume that all is okay. Alternatively, some managers may only say something when results are not good, missing on the opportunity to comment positively.  Information on results provides balanced feedback.

Some of the other items are:

13. Data is expressed in a positive way.  This means “results achieved” and accomplishments rather than failures, complaints or errors. Regular negative information (such as error reports) has a tendency to be ignored or debunked and thus become ineffective motivators over time.  People tend to learn ways to avoid the negative as opposed to improving the positive.
14. Information is summarized to interested levels of management to insure recognition of achievement and continued positive involvement of others. Without the observable support of top management, few feedback and performance improvement programs are maintained. Top management will not support programs in the absence of reliable and actionable information. Top managers are generally unlikely to continually request and review information that is not positive and current, reflecting issues of performance related to bottom-line impacts.

In playing with this in workshops over the years, few managers would say that they attained even 8 or 9 of the 14 possibilities, but they were always impacted to consider ways that they could improve the feedback systems, even to go toward simple checklists or other things on a random basis — like a post-customer-contact call list to self-assess if customers were called by name and asked if they had any other questions and if they said they were satisfied with the contact. Stuff like that can be a powerful reminder of things to do and can be intermittent.

Shifting focus, let me address the play of our team building game and how we try to add performance feedback into the play to make it a more powerful learning experience.

In my post on Perfect Play, I shared a bit about how to debrief really good performance. You can see it here.

The idea is around how to motivate performance and build intrinsic motivation.

Rainbow Wagon green 70

The performance situation, briefly, is that tabletops are challenged to “Mine as much gold as We Can” and given resources they need to manage a 20-day journey to the mine and back. They have a variety of choices to make as to resource management, risk, route, information and similar. Once they leave the home base at the bottom left, Apache Junction, they move toward the mine on one of three routes.

LDGM 1 80

Some facilitators just let the groups play. In all of my games, I have a map on an overhead that also has “dots” of some kind that represent each team. Thus, every team can see the location of each team every day. Some teams might stay at Apache Junction for an extra day or two to acquire information, while others might take the high risk, apparently shorter route across the bottom of the map.

Since the goal is to mine as much gold as possible, the more days that teams are able to spend in The Mine (toward the top right), the more gold they get. Since they have to return to Apache Junction by Day 20, we can also see who leaves when and what route they use.

A design feature of the exercise allows for some teams to stay much later in the mine and get back twice as fast, This becomes VERY evident when a few teams return on Day 18 while other teams have just left the mine. The former, who are often a bit information-starved or resource-deprived because of their choices, see this discrepancy and this generates their conversations about how this is possible and what they might have done differently.

By the time we get to the debriefing, they already know what they could have chosen to do differently and the role of the facilitator is to bridge that information from the play of the game into the realities of the workplace and the issues of alignment, information sharing, collaboration and optimization of results.

Because of the map, I think we set up a neat little situation of cognitive dissonance and thus the motivation of the lower performing teams to discover these unknown best practices. At the same time, the map reinforces the higher-performing teams for the planning and collaboration that they did during play that helped them perform at a higher level.

My personal belief is that this feedback – the visual aspect of the map and the movement and performance of each team — helps generate a more effective debrief.

In the workplace, we have higher performing individuals and average and poor performers. If we make the performance a bit more obvious, and make the tools that are used (best practices) better-known and understood, we should be able to create these same kinds of gaps in actual and desired results, lending to better intrinsic motivation and self-directed improvement.

I may be wrong, but I do not think so. I think we can help people perform better, build teamwork and esprit de corps, and make the workplace a more engaging place.

You might also find this article on Managing Flow to be of interest:  high_performance_team_flow

Scott Debrief

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/

Simple thoughts on Extrinsic Motivation

Sometimes, I am not sure what triggers the motivation for me to pop into here and write up a blog. This one was triggered from “the holiday spirit” + some advertising on TV + a new LinkedIn discussion post on a similar topic + some of my own diabolical thinking and critical reflection.

This one is about motivating people through extrinsic rewards. Or, more about how that stuff actually demotivates people.

Extrinsic Motivation. What might make it effective? When might it not be effective and why? We really do know a lot about rewards, reinforcement and behavior and extrinsic rewards can control behavior in many ways — but some of them are somewhat surprising.

One is struck by all the ads on TV that suggest that viewers of football games and other TV shows will simply go out and buy someone a Lexus as a surprise gift for Christmas. I mean, really? Just hit the auto store and get that new car for a person who might be your wife or girlfriend simply because it IS Christmas (add theme of Jingle Bells here). (And you see the same kinds of ads for diamonds and other expensive jewelry — you are not a worthy person unless you spend lots of money on that other person on an extravagant or useless gift.)

Small Rant – Diamonds are always presented as a “very worthwhile investment.” one that holds its value. The gift that keeps on giving and that kind of thing. It is CARBON, people, and labs now can churn out truly flawless chunks of clear carbon (or colored clear carbon effortlessly)! The industry even suggests you give up 3 months of salary to get a “representative stone” for your marriage. Three months for a rock of carbon? Four years of car payments to demonstrate you are worthy? (Yeah, I rant…But how many people make money when they resell those things?)

Behind those ads, there must be some kind of hidden behavioral motivator that would cause one to want to buy a new expensive luxury car — I mean, most of us are not at all that altruistic, are we? So, what behaviors of that other person are you trying to motivate by getting that expensive gift?

There exists an extensive literature on BF Skinner’s concepts around the development of Superstitious Behavior, finding that a reinforcer following some random behavior will tend to make that random behavior get repeated. So, if the wife is washing dishes on Christmas morning when you say, “Honey, look out front!”, getting her a new car will reinforce her washing dishes… (More likely, she is sitting on the couch — remember, you made this choice of timing!)

A reality is that not all extrinsic rewards are rewarding to all people. That is one of the problems with using the to improve organizational performance. Generally, only the top performers actually get the rewards. And it is even worse than that. Bersin, in its “State of Employee Recognition in 2012” survey, reports that nearly 75% of organizations have a recognition program  — despite the fact that only 58% of employees think that their organizations have one.

Obviously, corporate programs, which represent 1% of total payroll on such extrinsic programs, are not getting much bang for the buck. But remember that it is the “winners” of these programs who get selected to be supervisors and the winners of those jobs get to be managers and the winners among them become their bosses. Gee, winners are the managers and who makes the decisions to keep these programs to reward the winners in place?

Why not simply focus on the bottom 80% of all the people, many of whom are disengaged and un-involved.

I share some statistics and thoughts on involving and engaging the mass of workers through something I am calling “engagimentation.” It is a program on Dis-Un-Engagement. It builds on teamwork and on involvement and can help to generate intrinsic motivation, which is much more effective.

You can download a pretty detailed article on engagimentation and motivation by clicking here: I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…

You can read a bit more on the situation there. Personally, I think that the best motivators are not extrinsic and are not given to employees with a goal of improving results of some kind. Why? Because they don’t always work. For an example, let me illustrate with a puppy. I mean, is this a cutie or what?

puppy

So, here is the deal: Make a comment on this article and I will find one of these little puppy guys at a nearby animal shelter and give it to you, free. I will reward your comment with a dog that you can take care of for the next 10 to 15 years! What could be better than that? And this particular one is a Saint Bernard, a lovely little guy who will get bigger and bigger (and bigger). If I cannot find you one of those, I am sure that there are some Great Danes and other ones that you would surely enjoy in your place of abode.

I mean, would this not be a great motivator one could give to everyone who had good performance?

(Me, I do not want a puppy at the moment! One cat is more than enough!)

Get a reasonable gift for those you love during this holiday season. And remember that you wife probably does NOT want a new electric drill or leaf blower.

And when you think about rewarding workplace behavior with extrinsic rewards, recognize that “not everyone wants a puppy” and that you just may be rewarding behavior that you do not really want to re-occur. You give someone a cash award after they return from a sick day and you may be rewarding them not to come in to work!  Or, your timing is such that they just told a customer to go away, so you might be rewarding that…

Better to look for intrinsic ways to reward performance. Look to improve feedback systems and improve peer support of change and improved results.

Oh, if you like this post, you could buy me a new Tesla Model D. Ya think?

For the FUN of It!

Catie

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 and owner of Catie the Cat.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

Teamwork, Peer Support and the idea of Dis-Un-Engagement

People need support.

On the playing field, the players have each other pushing them in their efforts, being congratulated when they make a good play and cheering for them, often along with thousands in the stands, cheerleaders, students in their classes during the week, etc. Players also have coaches, videotape analysis of their efforts and practice.

(Maybe Alan Iverson did not have to practice every single day, because he was one of the very best basketball players of all time — and I still think that this is one of the greatest candid interviews in all of sports:  Alan Iverson Press Conference on “Practice.(It gets going around second 52, IMHO).)

And players on teams get LOTS of other kinds of support from those around them, along with continuous feedback and ratings, and often skilled coaching — all things designed and installed to support high performance.

Now, I am not one of those people that think sports metaphors are good for business — I actually think the opposite. I do not liken the sales force to a team of baseball players or use soccer/football as a metaphor for innovation or gymnastics for dedication (and practice?). Yeah, I will admit to liking rowing as a metaphor for teamwork, though, and even have a $20 series of cute cartoons for that.

But the workplace reality seems quite different. We have measurement and appraisal systems that focus more on the individual performance and not so much the overall results in many workplaces. There is some level of fear as to job security for many. And there are often a wide variety of factors that are de-motivating and dis-engaging. This occurs for workers as well as their managers, who often find themselves working in a somewhat non-supporting environment.

The reality, however, is that one can get the support of co-workers — real honest encouragement to succeed. And one can build a sense of team among the people, if they are focused on external competitive factors and share a common goal and have the tools that they need to improve (plus a lot of other things not discussed herein).

Individual performance improvement requires effective feedback and measurement systems, something often lacking or sometimes overdone in organizations (see this blog post for my thinking on performance feedback, along with an analysis tool you can use with your team to discover and implement ways to improve).

Individual and team performance improvement requires that one make the workplace more motivating. Our games, such as The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, focus on issues of collaboration versus competition, since we need some of both to generate and sustain high performance. Play of the game allows the group to discuss the issues and problems currently faced along with future-paced discussions about what things could look like if changes were implemented.

And so will discussions of Roadblocks and the sharing of individual / group ideas about what is un-motivating or de-motivating in the workplace. Discussions of those kinds of issues can be readily facilitated and tools are available such as our toolkit on Dis-Un-Engagement. By generating thoughts about what is in the way and doing a good analysis of solutions for each, one can engage the group on solving the problems and implementing good solutions — as a team in many cases.

These kinds of workplace discussions facilitate real involvement focused on the importance of continuous continuous improvement. One can never stop making changes — some incremental and some major but all significant to the people involved — and thus remove the things that are de-motivating and dis-engaging.

People are much better problem solvers than problem identifiers — they need help on the latter and also need to feel that their real opinions and ideas can be shared with the others. Some have off-base and unimportant ideas that the group will help them realize. Many are not using best practices and the little tweeks that allow top performers to perform — and those can be shared on a continual basis. We can build peer support for high performance.

  • If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.
  • If it is to be, it is up to me.
  • If not you, who? If not now, when?

I trust that some of these thoughts are useful to you. And remember that it is the workers around you who get things done.

Remember that the Manager is the Motivator,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, Ph. D., CPF – “The Square Wheels Guy”
Performance Management Company – 864-292-8700
3 Old Oak Drive    Taylors, SC 29687
Scott@SquareWheels.com

– Tools for Training and Development <www.squarewheels.com/>
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– Tools, games and presentation materials at
<www.performancemanagementcompany.com>
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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Dr. Simmerman is a Certified Professional Facilitator (IAF)

Performance Management – what it is (and isn’t)

WAY back in 1978, I started consulting after a short career as a psychology professor. It just seemed that the college teaching was not what I really wanted to do, so I took 9 months and rolled around the USA in my 1973 yellow Volvo 145 station wagon. And, 26,000 miles later, I wound up in Westport, CT working for Ed Feeney and doing BEST.

Behavioral Engineering Systems Training was written by Tom Roth, who graduated from Allegheny College a few years earlier than me and who took some of Tom Gilbert’s ideas and made them into a very understandable and usable three-binder training system.

Binder one was full of analysis stuff, defining “outputs” and qualifying them into different categories and comparing current level of average results with exemplary levels of performance as well as impacts to generate some priorities. Module Two was about designing feedback and measurement systems and Module Three was a very Skinnerian-focused extrinsically-focused reward-focused reinforcement design program.

Most people found Modules One and Three to be the most interesting, while Module Two focused simply on implementing. My view and experiences over the past 30 years has consistently been by far the most important.

In the early 80s, after formally founding my business in October of 2004, slowly but surely, “Performance Management” became  an increasingly used euphamism for performance APPRAISAL. Appraisal was a bad word, implying judgement and judging people, grading on curves, focusing on the negative and all those things. So, instead of calling it appraisal, they called it “management.”

Well, I guess it was management in a way, but it still retained appraisal as its main focus and technique. It has been a while since I have looked at these kinds of “performance management systems” but I sure do not like how they took a good concept of working to make the environment more productive and obliterated it with the much-disliked appraisal metaphor.

My company will always be, Performance Management Company even though many people will not understand that it is about people and performance, engagement and best practices, feedback systems and innovation.

Ah well…  Think I should rename it? Something like

  • Games and Frames
  • The Square Wheels Company
  • The Round Wheels Company
  • Teambuilding Games and Square Wheels Company
  • Scott Simmerman & Associates (how awful is that!)

Nah. Just remember that MY understanding of Performance Management isn’t what they think it is!

Have fun out there.

Roadblocks Model Graphic

Moron Engagement – The Concept of Dis-Un-Engagement

Dis-Un-Engagement? Really? Yep!

I was reading all the comments on a long LinkedIn thread – “I’m looking for ideas on how to improve employee engagement? Any ideas will be greatly appreciated” and saw Judi Adams’ starting comment, “As you know, each person has different needs so there is no one bullet solution” and I had one of my occasional “odd thoughts.”

“Bullet” reminded me of a gun which linked over to Bob Mager’s work on performance and one of his test questions as to the need for training or something else:

“If you put a gun to their head, could they do it?”

The context of Mager’s thought is that if they COULD do it, then it is not a skill that needs to be trained but a behavior that needs to be “motivated.”

Thus, I wonder if we could “put a gun to the heads” of the “dis-engaged” and come up with THE relevant and actionable list of all of the things that would need to be present for people to feel more involvement, engagement and ownership. And we should do ONE list for each supervisor of a workgroup or each manager of a department get their people together to brainstorm ideas. Having HR generate an overall list of these things for the company would be totally inappropriate and would actually work against the un-engagement process that I suggest, Let each workgroup have the ownership – involvement of putting their list together. No other way will really work; they need some “sweat equity” involvement in this initiative to become engaged in the process and involved in the implementation.

Doing things TO them will not get them involved. Do things WITH them.

I do something similar with my concept of Dis-Un-Empowerment feeling that one cannot empower people, that many people feel “un-empowered” and that managers can do many things to address and remove perceived and actual roadblocks and, thus, “Dis” them into irrelevance. Thus, Dis-Un-Empowerment.

The approach serves to get the “bad” ideas of the dis-engaged mixed in with the good ideas of the top performers with the result that we build in a lot of peer support among the group for making improvements along with getting involved because we have made improvements and visibly addressed those issues brought up as dis-engaging. Thus, we involve and engage the un-engaged!

I am wondering if a similar approach might be taken with the Un-Engaged, asking them what kinds of things are getting in the way of them feeling more ownership involvement and commitment and then using that list as a “To Do” list for the managers to address and change or improve.

Why can’t we simply be direct with the issue(s) and ask people for the Square Wheels that are not working smoothly and the Round Wheel ideas that already exist in the wagon?

I posted up something last June on this idea and wonder if anyone else has supporting ideas about how to accomplish this. I see it very closely aligned, from a facilitation standpoint, to our Roadblock Analysis process.

The idea is to get the whole list, process the list into actionable categories (sometimes having to delegate upward in the organization to solve) and generate the energy and involvement of the individuals to form teams and address, suggest and even implement ideas and solutions. It is a facilitated, group-oriented process that is involving by its very design.

By going onto the website and searching for “roadblock,” you can find all sorts of information, articles, tools and similar. See more that way.

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