Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: innovation (Page 1 of 9)

Facilitating Workplace Improvement: Herding Cats and Frogs

A couple of really good discussions on facilitation and implementation of strategies and innovation and some basic conversations about people and performance got me thinking again about The Issues of Workplace Reality:

Getting things done around here
is a lot like herding cats.

It is possible to accomplish that, but with me with an 8-month old uncontrollable and insane kitty and with me working on Robin Speculand’s Compass Model for workplace strategy implementation (and seeing lots of statistics around failures and challenges), I am once again reminded that the metaphor links to many issues of workplace engagement and alignment.

If you have never seen it before or need a refresher, you really ought to watch this great old 1-minute EDS commercial about the satisfaction gained from successfully herding cats:

Herding Cats - EDS Commercial“Herding cats. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy…”
“I’m living a dream…”

Funny stuff, for sure and worth watching!
(Clicking on the image above will open up in Youtube.)

My British friend, Barry Howell, used the phrase “herding frogs,” in a conversation, which got me into expanding my thinking. Not everyone in the workplace is a feline, which of course makes things more difficult to manage, right? Herding frogs seems to be a more common metaphor there, maybe because they aren’t so much into herding cattle as in the US.

So, what does herding frogs look like? Here is a video of The Great Frog Capture in California. Do NOT try this at home!

FrogsMetaphors!! I just love using those kinds of very visual,
kinesthetic phrases to anchor reality.

Then, I saw a link to an absolutely wild short video about stampeding ducks. Seriously. Click on the image and be amazed. And again, do not try herding ducks like this at home or at work!

Stampeding Ducks

Lastly, I thought to add a really beautiful video of sheep herding in New Zealand. This one is awesome! Courtesy of Tom Whittaker:

Herding sheep videoThe only issue that I would have with workplaces is that there would be little innovation and few people doing things differently. You would not have exemplary performers in any real sense. Plus, herding sheep is not workplace reality, for sure!

Trying to implement change and improvement and motivating people is not an easy task, as shown in the above examples. And while ducks will be imprinted to follow an individual or other ducks and sheep are naturally herd animals easily controlled with a few sheep dogs, managing people is simply not so easy. People ARE creative when we allow them to be. People are great problem solvers if they recognize something as an issue. And people need leadership.

There is one more graphic that speaks to getting things done and facilitating improvement and that looks like this:

Baby Elephant Teamwork Quote wordsWe need to have the time and energy, as leaders, to deal with the new baby elephants! We cannot simply add one more thing on top of all the other things and expect it to be given the attention it needs.

Most strategy implementations fail not because of a poor strategy, but because the implementation plan does not prioritize that implementation nor take into account all the time and energy needed to get things to be different. Plus, while it seems easier simply to tell people that they need to do things differently, that behavior generally results in active resistance by many.

We need to develop alignment, teamwork, collaboration and a sense of ownership, along with prioritizing the time and effort required, in order to move people to different performance places.

Cats, frogs, sheep and elephants.
Will Herding Zombies be next?

(Actually, the answer is YES, since my colleagues want me to get my Zombie Strategy Implementation Game into beta so they can mess with it. There do seem to be some Zombies among the very disengaged populations common in most places. Not all have turned, but some seem to have done so!)

Solutions are not simple. But you may find our approach to involving and engaging people for workplace improvement to be pretty straightforward.

We share some simple tools for involving and engaging people for improving workplace performance at The Square Wheels Project.

Using our Square Wheels images and themes and facilitation approach, you can generate alignment to shared missions and visions, ask about issues and opportunities and define strategies to implement and manage change. Check it out!

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

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

 
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.

Poem on Performance Improvement and Training

For two dozen years, I have used a “strength building” illustration as step one to discuss how training is not always a good solution to performance improvement problems. It is the old Bob Mager, “If you put a gun to their head, can they do it?” kind of framework in that it separates a skillset from a motivation. Simply put, if people can do the job, they don’t need more training to do the job.

Training is a good thing if skills are deficient, but we often see new people demonstrate the skills as they are coached but then not demonstrate those same skills over time. Something else is happening and workplace systems and processes are often a good place to look for new Best Practices and ideas to improve motivation and teamwork.

So, while training is a GOOD thing, and often one of those reinforcers for workplace performance, it is not THE solution most of the time.

My suggestion is to step back from the wagon and change perspective. Ask people for ideas and listen to issues and opportunities. That is the nature of The Square Wheels Project.

So, here is a little ditty poem about those issues and opportunities. I hope you like it!

Poem on Training by Scott Simmerman for The Square Wheels project

Note that training WILL often generate a 2 or 3% improvement in performance since the wagon pushers WILL be a little stronger!
But maybe that time could have been better used for engagement…

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

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

Monkeys, Management and Motivation – Simple Ideas

Ah, the Internet… And StumbleUpon. Blogs. And research on behavior. And Creative Genius. And themes of leadership and productivity and employee motivation.

I love it when it all comes together…

Way back in 2012, what seems like at least a decade ago, I was reminded of the monkey metaphor of William Onchen (HBR, originally in 1974!), who wrote about their management, care and feeding. Solid stuff.

Dan Rockwell, in his most excellent Leadership Freak blog, reminded me of some of that today. He talked around “whose monkey is it” and framed up the pronouns in a way to get you to pay more attention to what is being said. There are three different ways to listen to the discussion and the pronouns you use in discussing that little critter:

  1. ‘You’ – The monkey stays in their zoo. They own the issue. Responsibilities are theirs.
  2. ‘We’ – The monkey is a shared. “We will fix this.” Responsibilities are shared. Beware of adding unnecessary layers of complexity by sharing too many monkeys with team members.
  3. ‘I’ – The monkey moves to your cage. You own this issue. Responsibilities are yours.

And my curiosity caused me to click on a “Cognitive Science” link on StumbleUpon 3 years ago because it showed the following (copied with permission) research and metaphor.

article on managing monkeys by scott simmermanIn his article, the story about the situation and the behavior continues. In mine, I think you probably get where I am headed…

A key point is behavior and to consider how certain workplace behaviors get started and maintained.

The behavior of a group of monkeys is sustained by the organizational culture and the environment around it, and probably not even by any consequence system that still exists.I think that the behaviors generated years ago are often still in place and continuing to influence teamwork and collaboration and even best practices.

Jason Wells talks about the concept of  filiopietism, or the reverence of forebears or tradition carried to excess, but prefers another term: the tragic circle. (He moved his site but you can see his illustrations by clicking on this link The Lesson of the Monkeys )

And I agree. He links the concept to the behaviors of societies, and I think that the concept links even more directly to workgroups where there are extrinsic rewards and punishers for specific behaviors.

There are many such practices in workgroups that get carried on long after the original event. Techs at a car dealership client of mine would all yell, “What?” when one of them would yell out, “Hey, Stupid!”My guess is that a manager, once upon a time, was calling for one of them and yelled out the phrase and it just got established as a little “reminder ritual” for all of them (including the actual good-guy manager!!).

Most people in most workplaces are UN-Engaged. Why? You can’t know precisely, even when you look at it from all different kinds of angles. There are all kinds of local reasons. My take on it is that dis-engagement is being caused by something, maybe something that is inadvertent, but still a causal factor acting in the environment. It might be something as simple as “a banana” — the issue of some loss of trust or some shared negative corporate memory. And until we address the root cause, it will continue. Nothing will improve and little will change over time. The monkeys will simply continue to sit there…

uncontrolled impacts of extrinsic rewardsSure, one “Senior Corporate Leadership Answer” to the Monkey Problem is to get all NEW monkeys and start all over but that is a costly and difficult solution to implement. And some of the thinking may still carry over during that transition. Some organizations actually do that, moving from one place to another to shake things up and get new people.

But a more better simple alternative is to engage them (the people participants) in some discussions about what and why and look for new alternatives that can be implemented or problems that can be addressed that simply reinforce the situation at hand. So, “Yes, we have no bananas” (audio – vocal starts at 1:10, from 1923 (history) ), but we do have people who have a level of commitment to performing.

We need to do some serious Dis-Un-Engagement in the workplace, working with teams to identify the things that are getting in the way of people being engaged and actively removing them from the situation. Doing the precise same things, introducing one new monkey after another, will not make any difference.

Our new facilitation training for supervisors shares a straightforward approach for dealing with such issues and opportunities. You can see our approach, which uses my metaphor for Square Wheels at:

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance ManaagementThe tool is focused on discussing issues and opportunities, and the approach is to generate open discussion of the things that could work better, the issues of the culture and visions, and the generation and implementation of better ideas. It focuses on asking and listening and on generating ownership involvement,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Are Managers simply BAD or is it the Workplace

This will be a short post, with a link to a solid article and one illustration.

Gallup had an article that is depressing: www.gallup.com/businessjournal/200108/damage-inflicted-poor-managers.aspx

It is about the DAMAGE caused by bad managers. It is a short but hard read, saying in part:

Managers who don’t know how to meet the engagement needs of their team become a barrier to employee, team and company performance.

And a disturbingly high percentage of managers around the world are not meeting the needs of their employees. Actively disengaged employees (24%) outnumber engaged employees (13%) by nearly 2-to-1, according to Gallup — implying that at the global level, work is more often a source of frustration than fulfillment.

If work looks like this, which it seems to, can’t we actually DO SOMETHING to change the rope? Can’t we make things more involving and engaging by simply asking people for their ideas for improvement?

The Square Wheels Project image on perception by Scott Simmerman

That is what we are trying to teach with The Square Wheels Project: a simple facilitation process to allow supervisors to ask for ideas for 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

 

WHAM! The Square Wheels Guy sees a Round Wheel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Square Wheels Image production facility The Square Wheels Project

The message and key learning point is simple:

The Round Wheels are already in the wagon.

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

Monday Morning Square Wheels and other thoughts

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

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

 

Here are two of my most useful quotes:

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

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

1callosamia————

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Flying Rules:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

Thrive Global – and a message for Supervisors everywhere

It was interesting to read Arianna Huffington’s post,  “Welcome to Thrive Global.” As I read her thoughts, I could not help thinking of what we are trying to accomplish with The Square Wheels Project.

She writes, “Thrive Global is based on the truth that work and life, well-being and productivity, are not on opposite sides — so they don’t need to be balanced. They’re on the same side, and rise in tandem. Increase one and you increase the other. So there’s nothing to balance — increasing well-being and the productivity that goes along with it is a win-win, for work and life.”

Agreed. So. let me start with my model of how things really work in most organizations and the question I always ask to gain insights into perceived issues and beliefs:

Square Wheels - how things really work

I feel very strongly that there are parallel paths between thriving and involving / engaging others in a way that has so many positive impacts on life balance. Her ideas focus on all the negative impacts of burnout, including her own, on people and she does a series of biopic stories about perceived issues and the reality that things must change. Her audience seems to be entrepreneurs and senior executives.

My audience are supervisors and workers, the front-line managers who are focused on the performance and productivity issues and the workers who feel the often unnecessary stresses brought down on them by managements. The Square Wheels Project wants to improve the quality and effectiveness of those interactions by improving simple communications and facilitation skills. We want the front-line workers everywhere to have more of a sense of ownership involvement in what they do, more pride in their work and their contributions to their teams.

The Square Wheels Project and Thrive

So much research shows that people do not need to be bossed to produce excellent results. W. Edwards Deming wrote about these factors from the perspective of improving quality and innovation. His works then tended to be interpreted to focus on quality, and to measure it to death with initiatives like ISO 9000 and its successors that demand tight standards of production consistency but not so much involvement of the creativity and motivation of people in that quest for perfection (or at least standardized results!). Those initiatives are not about innovation,

Huffington’s models are successful top people: “… we need new role models, and The Thrive Journal will bring you examples of leaders in business, sports, media, entertainment, and technology who are proving that taking care of ourselves, far from detracting from success, enhances productivity and creativity.” (She lists Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, JPMorgan CEO Kelly Coffey, etc.).

As she writes, some of the issues are around training, but my guess is that little of that training will affect the people at the front lines and, like Senge’s “Learning Organization” approach to improvement, it will focus mostly on the middle and top managers with the hope that it trickles down to the workers.

As she says, “The science is clear and conclusive: when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, our creativity, our productivity and our performance dramatically improve across the board. And one of the goals of The Thrive Journal is to bring you the latest science from leading experts around the world….”

Excellent! But how much will impact the broader numbers of supervisors in the world and when might we expect that to occur. Like economic trickle down, the answer is, “most likely never.” Will workers ever see any impacts from those efforts?

She wants a focus on “…changes in your life by giving you concrete, actionable tips laid out in five pathways: Calm, Joy, Purpose, Well-Being, and Productivity.”

Wouldn’t it be great for workers and supervisors to have some of those same pathways available to them, to have more choice in self-direction and active workplace involvement and to be able to feel better about their contributions to work and to each other?

Our audience is the one that feels much of the pressures from those above them and if those people are stressed, our people are even more stressed because their interests are at the bottom of  Maslow’s Hierarchy of five basic needs and not at the top, like hers but at the bottom, where there is almost a struggle for survival felt by many.

So, I cheer her work but focus on impacts from The Square Wheels Project for having a potentially broader impact. If supervisors of the world can improve the interaction with their people, if they can get them more aligned, involved, engaged and motivated to make real changes in their own workplaces, much of the stress of managing people should be reduced. There is a lot of research that supports this; our goal is to change some behavior.

In fact, wouldn’t it be neat if some of these wagon pullers at the top could actually connect with those people at the bottom to have real talks about issues and opportunities as they affect that front-line worker. Would it not be really great if those people at the top understood that those wagon pushers are the ones who produce all the work of the organization and who need their support?

Help us!

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

 

Involve. Engage. Motivate. The Supervisor!

The leverage point is the Supervisor for most things that are not systemic. So, since I was writing on this, I thought to also do a short poem:

The Square Wheels Project by Performance Management Company and Dr. Scott SimmermanNew hires take a few months to lose interest and motivation. And it is the Supervisor who can bring things back together. Give them some simple training and some tools to deal more effectively with performance, both the coaching of people and the facilitation of ideas. Implementation and ownership are keys to performance improvement.

The Square Wheels Project is a simple course on facilitating workplace engagement and involvement, designed for front-line managers.

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

Text:
Let’s recover what was lost. Let’s work NOT to be ”The Boss.”
Let’s put people back on track and motivation will come back

 

Engagement. Motivation. Innovation. The Critical Importance of Supervisors

WHO in your management team has the absolute most impact on profits? Please do not delude yourself with some belief that it is senior management. We know from all kinds of research that the ideas from top management take 2 to 3 years, in general, in order to be fully implemented in most medium to large organizations. And we also know that, “a desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world” (John LeCarre). Right? 😀

Okay, than it must be sales or engineering or manufacturing or something, right? Well maybe… But let me make the simple point that workers work and managers manage and who has the biggest impact on the workers working? Let me suggest that it is our lowly supervisor.

Supervisors! You know, the ones you had to promote because the other ones quit; that person who you promise to actually send to training one of these days when the workload drops some or you can get a relief person ready…

And what is their normal day like? Mostly, from our conversations and observations, they are covered up with obligations about summarizing results, solving problems, doing HR paperwork, dealing with angry customers or angry managers in other departments and, above all, attending meetings!

You can save them a lot of time by reducing meetings, or making them more effective and efficient and sending them information instead of telling them. And you can also impact them positively by giving them some job-skills with broad impacts.

And you cannot expect them to impact their people much if you do not allow them to interact with their people. (I read an article that showed that people working remotely had more manager contact than those located in the same office space.) And I believe that. Managing by Wandering Around is just not the norm these days, for sure.

Let me suggest that effective communications are also somewhat of a skills problem, that many people simply do NOT know how to facilitate effectively to involve and engage and motivate people. If you put a gun to their head, they simply could not do much better, so it is a SKILL issue and not simply one of motivation. And that lack of skill and the pressure to perform causes something like this in most workplaces:

Training for Facilitation Skills through The Square Wheels Project

I’ve been playing with the themes of Square Wheels® for over 20 years and they are a fabulous as well as easy to use way to involve and engage people in workplace improvement. What we have done with The Square Wheels Project is design an online training program to teach the techniques and share the tools.

Give us a try. Allow one of your supervisors to go through this course and network with our other users and with us about their issues and opportunities, and see if they will dramatically improve how things work in their organization,

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

 

 

What is it with “Engagement?” Why can’t we drive it forward More Better Faster?

I was shocked and amazed to see, after we have spent billions of dollars on surveys and assessments and trainings of various kinds, that workplace engagement continues to be an issue and that only about a third of people seem to care about their workplaces.

It is amazing because there are thousands of books on leadership, amazing quantities of published works on organizational alignment and missions/visions, as well as how-to books like Good to Great and even way back to Managing Excellence-themed works — they all seem to show that the issue of generating shared expectations and teamwork looks pretty straightforward. Just DO It, right?!

But works such as Lenconi’s “The Trouble with Teams” shows that there are issues. Heck, an old article I read documented the ideas around Theory F, that FEAR was a good tool for managers to use to manage performance. (I mean, yeah it happens but to do it as a conscious strategy around workplace fear seems to be a reach!).

Gallup just published a report that showed that only 35% of male managers in the US are engaged in their jobs. Repeating: only 1/3 of males who are managing and leading other people are themselves engaged. (It is better for women – 41%, and it also shows that the teams working under women are also more engaged).

I remember an old one-liner, said to be Utah Jazz coach Frank Layton, talking with a talented but under-performing player: “Son, what is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?” to which the player supposedly responded, “Coach, I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Now whether or not the story is accurate, it does reach out to the issue that lots and lots of managers, supervisors and workers don’t seem to know or to care. So what can we do differently? Well, the answer to the engagement issue sure seems to be the involvement narrative. People that are told what to do simply push back; I know it and you know it because we all do it pretty naturally, almost biologically.

This is also supported by the idea that nobody ever washes a rental car. Talk to an owner of a rental car franchise to get some amazing war stories of what went out and what returned. Talk to someone who owns rental property. We simply cannot simply expect people who have no ownership to take the same responsibility as the ones who hold some proprietary interest in it.

There is a general lack of respect, and we have seen the number of people quitting their jobs to exceed the number who were terminated in the past. There are all sorts of issues around how people are treated, informed and involved:

  • Statistics find that 86% of engaged employees say they very often feel happy at work (against 11% of the disengaged). And, 45% of the engaged say they get a great deal of their life happiness from work (against 8% of the disengaged). (Gallup)
  • 46% of new hires leave their jobs within the first year, generally because of their managers and how they are treated
  • 63% of those who do not feel treated with respect intend to leave within 2 years (it is hard to capture data on those who actually do, but one can guess that they contribute at the “minimal expectations” level
  • Only 29% of UK employees believed their senior managers were sincerely interested in their well‐being; only 31% thought their senior managers communicated openly and honestly; only 3% thought their managers treated them as key parts of the organization and no fewer than 60% felt their senior managers treated them as just another organizational asset to be managed. (Towers Watson)

A Solution seems to be pretty simple:

Supervisors should be asking and listening. They should be asking their people for ideas about what needs to be improved to make their workplace more efficient and effective and those ideas should be considered for implementation. A solid approach to facilitation helps clarify the issues and opportunities, identify best practices and good ideas, and would help drive ownership involvement, teamwork and alignment to shared goals and expectations.

Is this a Perfect Solution? Probably not, because there is a lot of stuff cascading down from above that impacts motivation and morale and how things are prioritized. But does it make sense at the local level, where the supervisor interacts with the worker? Most certainly. This is the leverage point, but the supervisors generally do not have the skills to manage this and HR and T&T are generally too lean to offer much help.

The Square Wheels Project facilitation training for supervisors

What we are doing with The Square Wheels Project is teaching some simple, straightforward facilitation skills using an image that allows people to share their thoughts and ideas. We are sharing ideas about how to make these meetings highly interactive and effective, and suggesting how to structure the collection of ideas and the development of implementation strategies. And we are setting up a peer-coaching and peer-support approach to help supervisors actually move forward and do some things differently.

And we are keeping things very simple and straightforward: Show the image, ask tabletops for reactions and thoughts, identify some operating Square Wheels, select some to work on and generate some Round Wheels solutions. Implement.

We are focused on engagement, but we are also driving innovation, intrinsic motivation, teamwork and a lot of other positive team building and team bonding kinds of things. We will also support learners with ideas on managing roadblocks through a similarly engaging process.

Engagement Cannot Be Rocket Science. Involving people in workplace improvement ideas simply cannot be as hard as the big consulting firms, looking for the big consulting contracts, would make it appear. Ask, and Ye Shall Receive!

If you want to see more, go to www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com to view a short introductory video.

And if you would like to collaborate with us in some way, connect directly with me,

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

 

Square Wheels, Dr. Seuss and “suck” or “muck?”

As we develop more and more thoughts on The Square Wheels Project, our course to teach facilitation and engagement skills to supervisors using an online LMS and our Square Wheels® tools, I will occasionally digress and do something like a Dr. Seuss poem around one of the images.

With this particular one, though, I could not decide on the best wording so I ask my team and of course, I got two different answers so I did up a third one to confuse things even more…

Let me know which of these you like best. Maybe Dan or Chris can set up a poll; that is beyond my pay grade, I think!

Anyway, here are one, two and three:

Square Wheels LEGO graphic images by Scott SimmermanSquare Wheels LEGO graphic images by Scott SimmermanSquare Wheels LEGO graphic images by Scott Simmerman

So, if you have a most liked, let me know.

The Square Wheels Project continues to roll along,

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

 

Innovation and Thinking – Continuous Continuous Improvement

Innovation and continuous improvement are increasingly important issues for today’s business, with engagement, motivation and the resulting implementation being among the most critical components of future profitability. But there is also a concept in behavioral psychology called the “post-reinforcement pause” which occurs after a successful event.

In quality improvement, we heard about this expressed as, “Yes, we did our continuous improvement initiative.” meaning that it was accomplished and there was no further need to do anything more, that the box was now checked on the annual performance appraisal process.

NO!!!

Continuous improvement IS continuous. And the improvements made today, that DO need to be celebrated and recognized and which should be supportive of more efforts tomorrow, often get PAUSED. The incentive to do more slows or stops and we rest on our laurels.

NO!!!

Here is my thought, expressed in my illustrated thinking style:

Round Wheels of today become Square Wheels of tomorrow

Continuous Improvement is Continuous.

There are many things we can choose to do that can have widespread impacts on organizations. My thinking is that by changing the language of performance and innovation, we can change the thinking of people about communicating about issues and opportunities. Remember that the Round Wheels are already IN the wagon.

Seriously, 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

See more at https://www.facebook.com/SquareWheelsIllustrations/
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

Innovation and Thinking – Cognitive Dissonance and Creativity

There are plenty of good tools out there for generating new ideas and momentum about innovating in the workplace. And I would like to think that our Square Wheels approach is one of the good ones. We set the situation that the people are pushing the wagon with Square Wheels but the cargo represent better ideas for improving the journey. There are all sorts of linkages and it is really easy to facilitate a discussion of real workplace issues and opportunities.

The main illustration has evolved to look like this:

Square Wheels Facilitationand we are implementing our training program to teach supervisors and managers how to facilitate discussions and to involve and engage people for workplace improvement purposes. That all comes together at The Square Wheels Project, which will also have a social media back-end to allow people to share their experiences as well as coach each other to roll forward #MoreBetterFaster.

My newest thought for how to illustrate the benefits looks like this:

Brains, Square Wheels and Round Wheels, an image by Scott SimmermanMy goal is to get people to step back from their wagons and look for new or different or better ideas to make improvements. Perspective is a key to choosing to do things differently.

Your thoughts on this would be great! You can also check us out at TSWP to see how we are rolling all this forward. It is new and pretty thumpy at the moment but your ideas and feedback will be helpful in smoothing all things out and making this truly effective as a tool for organizational improvement, coaching and simple innovation,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Meetings. Making Creative Sessions more Creatively Discussing

This will be a simple expansion of some ideas for how a supervisor might hold an involving and engaging meeting with their workers, one designed to improve ideas for workplace improvement and one designed to discuss issues and opportunities.

#Morebetterfaster is our general theme for facilitating workplace involvement and engagement

Dan Stones and I are reaching some final stages of our “Square Wheels Stupidly Simple Facilitation Course” for improving the facilitation and engagement skills of supervisors and team leaders. The formal name for this LMS is The Square Wheels Project and we hope to be fully live within a few days. You can see the overview video now at the new website.

As we work to simplify our structural elegance, a whole bunch of questions come up as to what to say and how much detail is enough and how many ideas make for too many ideas. How do we get the main ideas and tips across without “going all expansive” as we sometimes can (and might ought to do)? I sure wish there were a simple answer.

We say things like, “be sure to have enough seats” when we really ought to say to have the participants be able to write on the handouts and to be able to discuss their ideas with 4 to 5 other people, that large groups will not be creative in discussing issues and ideas. Small groups will involve and engage even the introverted people while large groups tend to hear only from the most extroverted (shouldn’t that word really be EXTRA-verted in some cases?) or those with some particular agenda they personally feel is critically important.

To develop a sense of ownership and teamwork, small group discussions are simply so much better than a classroom or auditorium kind of setting.

And the supervisor, having their regular Monday Morning Meeting (geeze, do they still DO that these days with all the pressures of time and costs and all that?) has a different set of frameworks to deal with than the professional facilitator sitting down with a group of 40 people for the first time ever.

The latter might want walk-in music and tabletop schlock (the creative little fuzzballs or pop-toys or tabletop name tents with names on them, etc.) while the former might want to have things appear to be normal (or not). Do the tables have water or is there coffee available? If the supervisor meetings do not normally have coffee, do they bring doughnuts and have a coffee urn running?

In actuality, setting up a room for a powerful facilitation program is probably a whole course in itself, not simply a few paragraphs on a page.

Paul Collins (Jordan-Webb) is an old friend of mine and involved with the Midwest Facilitators Network for dozens of years. I actually sent him a note yesterday and have not talked with him in years. But when I just googled “facilitator room setup ideas” and up popped a pdf file complete with diagrams for various options and ideas and all that which Paul copyrighted in 2004. Small world, for sure, but it simply shows that the information available about these kinds of things is very deep. So, How do Dan and I keep our ideas “elegantly simple?”

Maybe we have to do it with hot links to deeper information, and put those ideas on my blog or deeper into our LMS. I don’t know.

What I DO know is that we want The Square Wheels Project to be an absolutely effective and powerful tool for people to learn how to facilitate workplace engagement and how they can use our simple powerful Square Wheels® approach to better involve people in innovative workplace ideas.

Square Wheels Facilitation workplace engagement innovation

Stay tuned!

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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