Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: Manager as Trainer

Corporate Engagement Hasn’t Worked – Why not try Disruptive Engagement?

What is your reaction to these statements?

  • “I’m from Human Resources and I am here to help you.”
  • “I’m from Management and I am here to help you.”
  • “I’m from Training and I am here to help you.”

Most of us workers can probably name names and share lots of personal experiences about having received that kind of “support” in our workplaces, where all that help was not able to change much of anything. Outsiders cannot help insiders very much because of organizational dynamics, regardless of good intentions.

Tons of statistics show that engagement still stinks, workers feel un-respected and un-involved and motivation basically sucks in so many workplaces. We’ve spent 50 years trying to drive this stuff tops-down with little to show for it other than the costs of our good intentions. (And, sure, there are exceptions, but I am speaking to the generalities and commonalities so often observed and expensed.)

People are un-engaged, often actively so. What does it take to do some DIS-un-engagement? Not much, I think. Data says that people want to improve things. The manager should be the motivator, right?

We do lots of surveys with the intentions of making improvements – those initiatives are generally always positive. HR wants to have positive impacts, managers want to improve results and Training and Development really does want to improve skills., dynamics of leadership, and impact collaboration. But it is simply the case that few things driven from the top will make much of a difference at the bottom. Why?

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

It’s just basic human nature. Few people take good care of things that they do not own, and that same ownership applies to how they approach their jobs. Sure, if that rental car is completely trashed, they might clean it up a little so they are not embarrassed, but that does not translate to any kind of exceptional care. They would do things differently if they felt ownership. If people do not feel a sense of participative involvement, it should even surprise you that they do anything more than the minimum.

So, what DO you do? Maybe it is to look for ways to do things from the bottoms-up. Maybe that supervisor can change the nature of how they actively involve people in their workplaces, asking for ideas for improvement or for better ways to collaborate or share information or resources. They become facilitators, they involve and actively engage and support innovation and chaos.

People unmotivated for work

INvolving and engaging people for workplace improvement

Asking for ideas for workplace innovation and improvement

Implementation is chaos

There exists no proven process or designed formula for how to accomplish this; there are too many variables. But the simple, basic idea is that each supervisor take the responsibility for asking their people for workplace improvement ideas and facilitating discussions of possibilities. This generates ownership involvement and active participation. From those ideas, you then determine an approach or approaches to implement them, with the supervisor managing the resources of time and money and roadblocks and interdepartmental collaboration to allow the natural teams to generate some successes.

How to move forward? Do some facilitation skills training and discover and clarify how the best-implemented programs of improvement were accomplished within your organization in the past, since those best practices are more likely to align with the culture and feel more comfortable to people. (It is also useful to look at the failures and find the features of those initiatives that made it unsuccessful.) Learn from your organization and repeat the successes / avoid the failures.

implementation of disruptive engagement

I’ve been playing in organizational performance and people performance since 1978 with a degree in behavioral neuropsychology and I remain frustrated with how little progress has been made. We HAVE all the tools, but we do not seem able to get them into the hands of the people who need them most. Managers only manage, while supervisors supervise the actual work. It is the supervisors who need to understand the corporate goals and then have the ability to align the behavior of their workers to those goals and objectives.

Why is all this so hard? Why can’t we just ask for ideas and involve people in the improvements that they already want to make?

The Square Wheels Project is our newest attempt to put practical and effective tools into the hands of the supervisor so that they can involve and engage their people in the improvements that are possible. We have an online course in facilitation that includes powerpoints and handouts as well as a focus on teaching the skills.

Take a look at the opening page of the 30-minute course and see if something like this might work for you or someone you know. Consider trying the course as a pair of people to support each others’ learning and understanding and initial trials at generating impacts and conversations.

Contact me if you want a discount! Help me leave a legacy…

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

Thoughts on Square Wheels and Blended Learning and Facilitation Skills

I continue to throw mud at the wire fence, looking for where the stick is the greatest and expecting rain. Normal progress, it would seem. Movement here, movement there, movement in many places. We’re just not all assembled into an operating paradigm as of yet.

The business applications of all this stuff are widespread, and I would like to take my interests and frameworks to a slightly different place, one focused on building facilitation and workplace improvement skills.

Two weeks ago, I completed a course on Moodle, with my focus being on trying out ideas for a simple course on facilitation and engagement that uses my cartoons as visual anchors for group discussions. The goal of using eLearning is to package a stupidly simple but bombproof overview of how to use the cartoon in the context of facilitating a group meeting of issues and opportunities for workplace improvement.

The design is to get a worksheet into the hands of workers to capture some of their ideas about how things work and what might be done differently. Here is what the worksheet looks like, asking people how the illustration might show how most organizations really work:

Square Wheels worksheet handout

I am taking this #blendkit2015 course as a way of gaining a bit more perspective on building the back-end, the interactive and collaborative part of my Square Wheels Facilitation Course.

So far, it looks like a good idea. Yeah, I will get a Badge for completing parts of the program, but that is also one of the things that I want to do with my Moodle Course, to give people badges of completion anchored to the development of their skills in involving and engaging other people, in asking and not telling. That should pay multiple dividends to many people in most workplaces.

SWs LEVEL 1 LEGO Facilitator Badge

Today, I took my thinking a bit farther, thinking of the situation more like this:

blended learning and round wheels of improvement poster by Scott Simmerman

So, my thinking is on herding cats and frogs and moving all this forward, looking for a way to go more global with these tools and impact more people for workplace improvement. If you are interested in playing with these ideas with me, let me know. I am looking for some collaborative partnership to involve, engage and motivate workplaces with these simple tools.

What ideas are you having about the Blended Learning 2015 MOOC from the Canvas Network and UCF and how you might apply it to your issues, opportunities and organizations?

Please make your comments in the Comments Section below. I moderate to prevent spamming but will approve any and all good thoughts on these issues,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

Improve Your Engagement of People: The Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit!

If you are looking for a simply toolkit to impact people and workplace performance improvement, here is a great solution. Using our Square Wheels illustrations as part of an interactive discussion about issues and opportunities is really straightforward and quite easy, actually.

My little company, Performance Management Company, has been focusing on improving results through team building and employee engagement, involvement and ownership activities for decades. Since 1984, it has been offering its tools and simple approach to companies everywhere and offers a high impact toolkit in an unusually collaborative way.

PMC is supporting collaboration with its customers by offering our easy to use, bombproof and powerful Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit. It is a flexible and engaging set of simple tools to get people talking about issues and opportunities.

This complete training package sells for $49.95 and contains:

  • A Facilitation Guide with clear and simple instructions for use
  • A PowerPoint file containing 64 slides of images, notes, and ideas – ALL you need to roll forward (more than you need, actually!)
  • Ready-to-use handouts for generating involvement and engaging participants in the concept, including:
    • –a Worksheet for mind mapping ideas generated by the main Square Wheels idea
    • –a Round Wheels Worksheet for identifying opportunities for improvement
    • –a Key Learning Points Summary Handout of Square Wheels themes for implementation
  • The “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly” article by Scott Simmerman, focusing on managing and leading change for organizations and individuals. This is background as well as an optional handout.

You can see more about the toolkit and its contents in a one-minute video here.

The approach is anchored to the Square Wheels One illustration that is a proven, powerful tool for promoting a participative learning approach, the concept pushes people to “step back from the wagon” and disclose their views about how things are really working, engage each other in a creative discovery process and use the diversity of ideas and perspective to generate thinking, innovation and communications. It’s a great facilitation tool for leadership development skills, employee engagement, team building and motivation.

We can use the Square Wheels theme to set up all kinds of discussions.

RWs Sig File iconWe can also use the themes to get people to discuss possibilities and generate ideas for improvement, discuss ideas for implementation, and improve their active involvement in making changes occur:

Intrinsic Motivation color green

Facilitating Square Wheels is an easy process, something that we discuss in detail in the supporting documents in the toolkit. It is simple for a manager to use the materials to engage the workers on innovating ideas they have for workplace improvement. It changes the language of innovation and change and sets up cognitive dissonance — an unwillingness to allow things to remain as they are.

You engage and thus motivate people to make some of
the changes they feel will improve their performance!

You can see a 2-minute video about why Square Wheels work so well here.

It’s my ardent belief that “Nobody ever washes a rental car” and that people become more engaged and motivated if they feel a sense of ownership in the journey forward. Therefore, it’s my hope that by your setting the price for this Toolkit, you’ll enjoy a keener sense of ownership/motivation for its use as well as discover, first hand, how this simple cartoon can create an empowering situation for participants as it stimulates  communications, ideas and improvements around workplace issues.

Intrinsic feel really good downhill PG

You’ll find the Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit (an Asian version is also available with some of the illustrations more “Oriental” in appearance) on our website at www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com or go there directly with  this link.

Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Performance Management Company and has presented his Square Wheels Illustrations series for Organizational Improvement and Team Building Games in 38 countries.

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 easily reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

Dis-Un-Engagement – thoughts for impacting employee engagement in the workplace

A series of different LinkedIn posts in my lists have focused on the general theme of “employee engagement.” Some focus on asking about reactions to definitions of engagement, some focus on the relevancy of focusing on improvements and their relation to profitability and results, while others seem to just be information or publicity-focused and do not seem to add much value to people reading the post.

I saw one post today and two yesterday that I responded to and thought, well, what the heck, post something up in here. SO, here we go with Dis-Un-Engagement. I think it looks something like the illustration below:

Some people know that I have used a concept of Dis-Un-Empowerment for many years and I am thinking now that it actually has many of the same general applications to many aspects of improving workplace engagement.

We talk about and see a lot of data on engagement but most people are un-engaged.The statistics and surveys show that they are not actively nor emotionally nor behaviorally involved in the workplace on a regular basis. They are un-hooked and un-involved and seem to choose to be so. It is not like they have no opportunities because the same surveys show that some of the people in that workplace ARE involved and engaged. That difference is informative, actually.

No amount of banter will change their choices and a LOT of their behavior to become engaged may actually get punished or otherwise emotionally isolated by the management team in the way that ideas are put down or jokes are made about some people’s “contributions” and in SO MANY other ways in the workplace. Many people grew up being bullied or simply being average and our schools do not always do a great job of building the self-esteem of students. Then, they come to the workplace…

You cannot engage me just like you cannot empower me. I mean, go ahead and try; I will wait…

Okay, never mind. But please accept the reality that you cannot do something TO me that empowers me — it is about the choices that I want to make — internal stuff as much as the external stuff.

What we need to do is identify the things that are BLOCKING engagement and do things to remove them. A “non-ever-meeting-responder” might be asked directly for their thoughts and ideas on fixing a problem in a team meeting, for example. I do not have to generate that list for you. There are a zillion ways to get people MORE involved and some additional involvement will generally translate into a bit more engagement.

If you read the literature, such as the survey results from the Big Consulting Companies, there are some VERY Expensive ($$$$$) Tools and Techniques you can get from them to improve things measurably. If you read the Big Consultants’ sales materials, you will need to spend money hiring them to come in and evaluate the results of your corporate Engagement and Involvement Program and then do regular surveys to insure that you are making progress (I am not big on acronyms but should probably take the time to make up some funny ones like “Corporate Response Activity Program” or some such thing.)

OR, your company could choose to do something completely silly like ask the managers to ask the people for ideas for improvement and ask that each employee generate at least one idea about what might be done differently and do this in meetings as well as using some back-of-the-door posters in the bathrooms to collect those anonymous comments.

Yeah, this would improve engagement if it is done honestly. And yes, some disgruntled employees might share some ideas that show that they are disgruntled. But at least they would be engaged in sharing those ideas!!

This stuff all adds up over time. Ask and Ye Shall Receive (more engagement than you had before).

Then, work on the “Dis” part of the above and do things to remove the roadblocks and improve the choices…

That’s my 2 cents worth of stuff… I have written a good bit on dis-un-empowerment over the years so you can google that to see more on this general line of thinking along with some specific ideas for what you can actually do cheap ($).

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The Customer sets the price for our Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit!

Please note: We stopped this promotion a while back. People continued to pay our retail price for the toolkit, understanding it was a great value as is. Thank you for that and have fun out there!

We just sent out a Press Release on customers setting their own price:

Taylors, SC – (5/10/12) Performance Management Company is supporting collaboration with its customers by offering them an opportunity to “name their own price” for the Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit. This complete training package normally sells for $49.95 and contains:

  • A Facilitation Guide with instructions for use
  • A PowerPoint Presentation containing 64 slides, notes, quotes plus illustrations / cartoons
  • A variety of ready-to-use handouts for generating involvement and engagement including:
  • –a Worksheet for mind mapping ideas generated by the main Square Wheels concept
  • –a Round Wheels Worksheet for identifying ideas and opportunities for improvement
  • –a Key Learning Points Summary Handout of Square Wheels themes for implementation
  • The “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly” article by Scott Simmerman, focusing on managing and leading change for organizations and individuals

Based on the Square Wheels One illustration that is a proven, powerful tool for promoting a participative learning approach, it allows people to “step back from the wagon” and disclose their views about how things are really working, engage each other in a creative discovery process and use the diversity of ideas and perspective to generate thinking, innovation and communications. It’s a great facilitation tool for leadership development skills, employee engagement, team building and motivation.

Why use Square Wheels? Round Wheels aready exist!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels illustration series, believes that “Nobody ever washes a rental car” and that people become more engaged and motivated if they feel a sense of ownership in the journey forward. Therefore, Scott hopes that by your setting the price for this Toolkit, you’ll enjoy a keener sense of ownership/motivation for its use.

You’ll find the Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit (an Asian version is also available with some of the illustrations more “Oriental” in appearance) on our website at www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com or go there directly with this link.

Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Performance Management Company and has presented his Square Wheels Illustrations series for Organizational Improvement and Team Building Games such as “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” in 38 countries. The products are available at www.performancemanagementcompany.com

People basically liked this idea, thinking that we have really great and simple tools for engagement and performance improvement. The amazing thing is that so few people paid only a little — most people paid the full price and a couple paid even more for it! THAT was most surprising. Guess they had seen the tool and felt it was a really good value.

If YOU need a great tool for involving and engaging people, give our Square Wheels tools a try. Click here for more information.

Scott Simmerman

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

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

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company. Materials copyright © PMC since 1993. All rights reserved.

Nobody ever washes a rental car – Thoughts on engagement and ownership

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

I’ve been using this phrase for dozens of years, since it elegantly and simply illustrates a very real opportunity for significant increases in employee engagement, organizational improvement, performance improvement and so many other aspects of improving organizational results.

It’s a really great anchoring statement and I have used it many times as the title of a presentation. But it also generates confusing reactions in some people.

It’s a metaphor! It is not a statement for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or some Rule of Life. And it is funny — I have actually had people raise their hands in seminars to explain that they have actually washed a rental car in the past. Once in a while, they admit to being WAY overly compulsive and obsessed. More generally, they illustrate my key point…

The point is one of ownership — people do not take care of things they do not own. I can often illustrate this by asking participants if they have ever owned a rental property. Some of the tenants were exceptional and left the place better than before they rented it. But most share my experience: tenants at a house I owned nearly burned down the house with a chimney fire, pretty-much destroyed the wood floors, punched holes in the walls and left nail holes in nearly every wall. The rose garden and the camilla tree were gone, with the former used as for parking and the latter just destroyed (by motor oil dumped around it, apparently).

Ownership — If you own something, you tend to take better care of it. That is all I mean. Let me illustrate.

If someone in the workplace comes up with an idea and presents it to the manager and the managers enables them to try it, they most likely will, right? But, if the boss comes up and says, “Let’s now do things this way,” the general response will be for people to resist the change and generate reasons why it won’t work, right?

Statistics say that most executives believe that the most difficult aspect of any organizational improvement initiative is employee resistance.

Nothing corners better, handles bumps and speedbumps, treats potholes and curbs with disdain, accelerates faster and breaks harder than a rental car. (right?)

Who owns the idea? Not the employee, right? So, why wouldn’t they resist the idea? After all, they need to change, learn to do something differently than they have been doing it, have a higher risk of failure and will probably see a drop in their productivity in the short term. What’s to like about all that?

And there is another paradox at work, as shown below:

Leaders will resist changes they feel are done TO them.

On consulting projects in the past, ideas that I helped the workers implement were often resisted by the managers, who felt that things were not under control or moving too fast or similar. This happened less and less as my experience improved and I could generate a level of their involvement that would balance the issues of resistance on both sides of the wagon.

I’ve expanded on the issue of ownership elsewhere in my blogs such as here on innovation and here on leading meetings.

There are lots of ways we can do things differently to better involve and engage people in our needed improvement initiatives. But pushing and pulling is not the best of strategies. Sitting, talking, explaining and asking is often a much more effective way to get things rolling…

Put the wagon up on wheels for a while and consider alternative ideas generated by everyone.

Have some fun out there, too.

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/

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123″ a>

Active Learning, Reflection and Performance – Thoughts by Mel Silberman

My last blog was on debriefing learning to better impact performance and was stimulated by a discussion with Roger Greenaway in Scotland, who focuses on such things and writes very eloquently and succinctly. He shared a chapter of such information for a book to be published by Mel Silberman, an old friend of mine.

Searching for some old statistics on the workplace in my computer files, I came across a post that Mel had written back around 1996 – 1997 for a listserve we were both actively involved with (TRDEV) and I thought to share that post here, since I think it represents the kinds of things that Roger and I focus on and that might be of interest to anyone focused on learning and performance:

Over 2400 years ago, Confucius declared :

What I hear, I forget.|
What I see, I remember.
What I do, I understand.

These three simple statements speak volumes about the need for active learning.

I have modified and expanded the wisdom of Confucius into what I call the “Active Learning Credo.”

What I hear, I forget.
What I hear and see, I remember a little.
What I hear, see, and ask questions about or discuss with someone else, I begin to understand.
What I hear, see, discuss, and do, I acquire knowledge and skill.
What I teach to another, I master.

Why do I make these statements?

There are several reasons why most people tend to forget what they hear. One of the most interesting reasons has to do with the rate at which a lecturer speaks and the rate at which people listen.  Most lecturers speak about 100-200 words per minute.  How many of those words do listeners hear?

Well, it depends on how they are listening.  If the listeners are really concentrating, they might be able to listen attentively to about 50-100 words per minute or half of what a lecturer is saying.  That’s because listeners are thinking a lot while they are listening.  In this case, it’s hard to keep up with a talkative lecturer.  More likely, the listeners are not concentrating because, even if the material is interesting, it is hard to concentrate for a sustained period of time.  Studies show that people hear (without thinking) at the rate of 400-500 words per minute.  When listening for a sustained period of time to a lecturer who is talking up to four times more slowly, listeners are likely to get bored and their mind will wander.

It is true that adding visuals to a lesson increases retention. A picture may not be worth a thousand words, but it is many times more effective than words alone. When teaching has both an audio and a visual dimension, the message is reinforced by two systems of delivery.  Also, some people prefer one mode of delivery over the other.  By using both, therefore, there is a greater chance of meeting the needs of several types of students. But, merely hearing something and seeing it is not enough to learn it.

Our brain does not function like an audio or videotape recorder.  Incoming information is continually being questioned.  Our brain asks questions such as:

Have I heard or seen this information before? Where does this information fit?  What can I do with it? Can I assume that this is the same idea I had yesterday or last month or last year?

The brain doesn’t just receive information– it processes it.

To process information effectively, it helps to carry out such reflection externally as well as internally.  If we discuss information with others and if we are invited to ask questions about it, our brains can do a better job of learning.  For example, a group of researchers asked students to discuss at frequent intervals during the class with a partner what a lecturer had just presented.  Compared to students in a control class for whom there were no pauses for discussion, these students received up to two letter grades higher.

Better yet, if we can “do” something with the information, we can obtain feedback about how well we understand.  Learning is enhanced if students are asked to:

1. state the information in their own words
2. give examples of it
3. recognize it in various guides and circumstances
4. see connections between it and other facts or ideas
5. make use of it in various ways
6. foresee some of its consequences
7. state its opposite or converse.

In many ways, our brains are like computers and we are its users.  A computer, of course, needs to be “on” in order to work.  Our brain needs to be “on” as well.  When learning is passive, the brain isn’t “on.”  A computer needs the right software to interpret the data that is inputted. Our brain needs to link what we are being taught with what we already know and how we think.  When learning is passive, the brain doesn’t make these linkages to the software of our minds.  Finally, a computer cannot retain information that it has processed without “saving it.”   Our brain needs to test the information, recap it, or explain it to someone else in order to store it in its memory banks.  When learning is passive, the brain doesn’t save what has been presented.

What occurs when lecturers flood people with their own thoughts (however insightful  and well-organized they are) or when they rely too often on “let me show you how” demonstrations and explanations?  Pouring facts and concepts into people’s heads and masterfully performing skills and procedures actually interferes with learning.  The presentation may make an immediate impression on the brain, but, without a photographic memory, people simply cannot retain very much for any period of time.

Of course, real learning is not memorization anyway.  Most of what we memorize is lost in hours.  In order to retain what has been taught, people must chew on it.  Learning can’t be swallowed whole.  A lecturer cannot do the mental work for listeners because they must put together what they hear and see into a meaningful whole.  Without the opportunity to discuss, ask questions, do and perhaps, even teach someone else, real learning will not occur.

Further, learning is not a one shot event.  Learning comes in waves.  It takes several exposures to material to chew long enough to understand.  It also takes different kinds of exposures…not just a repetition of input. Even more important is the way in which the exposure happens.  If it happens to the learner, there will be little mental engagement by the learner.

When learning is passive, the learner comes to the encounter without curiosity, without questions, and without interest in the outcome (except, perhaps, the grade he or she will receive.)  When learning is active, the learner is seeking something.  He or she wants an answer to a question, needs information to solve a problem, or is searching for a way to do a job.  Under these active conditions, learning is qualitatively different from what occurs when the learner is passive.

Dr. Mel Silberman
1942 – 2010
(http://www.rememberingmel.blogspot.com/)

Dr. Mel Silberman

I trust that you have found Mel’s thinking to be clear and relevant. Here is a picture of him from the internet and below is a picture of he and I back in 2001.

Scott and Mel Silberman, ASTD 2001

Commitment to Employee Development is good! Engagement? Coaching?

In 2010, employers spent more on employees’ development than ever before: businesses in the United States spent $171.5 billion on employee learning in 2010, up from $125.8 billion in 2009, according to ASTD in their recent survey. Apparently, companies are seeing a benefit in investing in the development of their people and that there may be payoffs for that in terms of employee retention and improved performance.

Training can be good!

Companies need to invest in employee development

Numerous surveys are finding, however, that the levels of employee engagement are low and that many are ready to leave their present organizations should another job opportunity appear. Training may not be actually working all that well to improve results…

A Fierce, Inc., survey of more than 1,400 corporate executives, employees, and educators across industries found that poor communication between decision-makers and employees, which heavily impacts human capital ROI. Some findings include:

  • 86 percent of respondents blame lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures; similarly, 92 percent of respondents also agree that a company’s tendency to hit or miss a deadline impacts results.
  • More than 70 percent of individuals either agree or strongly agree that a lack of CANDOR impacts the company’s ability to perform optimally.
  • More than 97 percent of those surveyed believe the lack of alignment within a team directly impacts the outcome of any given task or project.
  • 90 percent of respondents believe decision-makers should seek out other opinions before making a final decision; approximately 40 percent feel leaders and decision-makers consistently fail to do so.
  • Nearly 100 percent (99.1) prefer a workplace in which people identify and discuss issues truthfully and effectively, yet less than half said their organization’s tendency is to do so.

While ASTD’s report found that the value of a highly skilled workforce continues to rise, companies are still missing the boat when it comes to training. Training will not solve the kinds of problems mentioned above. Skill training often seems to generate results that look like this:

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

Skills are important. But what are we doing to better engage workers in workplace improvement? Businesses with highly engaged workforces have many advantages over its competitors:

• On average, they rate 86% higher with their customers and build higher levels of customer loyalty, which has many positive impacts on sales and referrals, marketing costs, etc.
• They have 70% more success in lowering employee turnover
• They are 70% more likely to have higher productivity
• They enjoy higher profitability, have better safety records and deliver greater earnings per share to their stockholders

Senior executives seem to understand that a highly skilled workforce, and the continued development of those employees, can be a strategic differentiator in today’s competitive business environment. What they seem to miss is the issue of involvement.

While the expenditure per employee increased, learning hours per employee remained the same — the amount of training is the same, but the costs have risen. My guess is that they have downsized their training departments so much that they now rely more on outside vendors, spending more for each hour of learning content used. Some other key findings include:

  • Use of technology to deliver training, especially mobile learning, continues to grow – Fortune Global 500 companies set a new high of 40.1 percent of formal learning hours used being delivered via technology-based methods.
  • Managerial and supervisory training was the most offered content (12.8 percent) followed by profession- or industry-specific content (11.3 percent), and mandatory and compliance content (10 percent).

Sounds like same old, same old, right? For zillions of years, companies chose to not involve and engage workers. This tended to be a basis of the initial formation of unions so long ago (Read Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” for a view of how things were in the workplace around the turn of the 20th century).

People were trained to do the job at hand, but they were NOT a part of the company. They were cogs to be trashed when they were broken. They did not have any workplace ownership involvement and were not treated as humabn capital. They were a cost.

Now, look at GM and Chrysler and Ford and what they are doing with a more involved workforce (and a union). They have productive, skilled, knowledgeable, involved and let me say productive people again. If we treat workers well and involve them in workplace decisions and keep them aligned toward expectations, goals and the future, we can accomplish a lot more than by simply training them to perform some task, in my opinion.

The Round Wheels are already in the Wagon!

If we focus more on Managers as Trainers, and focus more on teaching more of the existing Best Practices in the workplace to more of the people in the workplaces, and we focus more on engaging and motivating the people in the bottom half of the organization, can profit-improvement be far behind?

We should focus more attention on coaching the below-average performers to improve. They have the skills to improve, but not the support

You can see a short video presentation on this on my YouTube Site — it is about coaching the below average performer for workplace improvement:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cohrhcYpDCk&list=UUH7_vvqDOBSBrQ2un7jTo8A&index=7&feature=plcp

If we’re not getting more better faster than they are getting more better faster,
then we’re getting less better or more worse.

Progress is not all about Training. Motivation and Processes.

For a long time, I have played with a couple of cartoons that reflect my thinking about training and improvement. And I also believe that most people know the answers to most questions if we can ask the right question at the right time. The Round Wheels are already in the wagon, in my thinking.

A zillion years ago, the performance improvement consultants I worked with used to use the old Bob Mager (I believe) determiner:

•  “If you put a gun to their head, could they do it?”
(This was also known for the non-coercive types as,
       “If you gave them a million dollars, could they do it?”) 

That gave rise to an illustration I often used about Motivation and People and tended to reflect the either-or views of people and performance that are common with most managers in most organizations:

Beliefs about how one motivates people in the workplace

Many people believe that there were two choices – Rewards or “Aversive Control.” But the former generates a need to repeat / increase to get people re-motivated (and has all kinds of other negative side effects (see the work of Alfie Kohn and Dan Pink) while the latter has all kinds of other negative side effects (look at all the examples of it in relation to population control and policing). Aversive control generates compliance, when the people feel that they are being under that direct influence; remove the perception of control and behavior shifts quickly… There is a ton of research on compliance and punishment and conditioned helplessness that supports the fact that punishing kinds of things depress performance and motivation in all kinds of negative ways.

So, we come back to the issue of performance: Can the person DO the job or NOT? The “gun” test is merely a mental exercise: Does the person have the knowledge and capability to do the job right now? CAN they do it? 

If not, then is TRAINING one of the solutions?

(If there is a capability issue, that the person will be unable to do the job, then the alternatives are different and might include role changes or job aids. I will never be able to dunk a basketball and I have tried and tried. But provide me with a mini-trampoline and the situation would change! For a while, there was a professional roller-blade basketball league — can you imagine dunking on roller blades? There was also that trampoline-based basketball league. Yeah, baby!)

So, TRAIN THEM if they can do the job post-training. Training builds up personal strengths and capabilities, as shown below:

Training builds personal strengths and capabilities

But training itself is NOT the solution to most organizational problems. Training might help make incremental improvements as shown below:

Having more personal strength will improve performance, somewhat

But it will also NOT solve workplace issues and opportunities. In fact, management sometimes takes this opportunity to make other workplace improvements to generate more results:

Well, it IS an idea. But will it actually work?

Well, it IS an idea. But will it actually work? (Note: The wheels will not turn far before they hit the other wheels. But it looked good on paper!

The key to a lot of workplace improvement is engagement, involvement, process improvement, feedback about performance results and the sense of pride and teamwork that comes from celebrating successes.

We need to take time to step back from the wagon and to also celebrate our successes as a team. Peer support and positive feedback are key factors in motivating people.

I don’t know the solutions to most workplace problems.

But I do know that most people in most organizations know most of the things that need to be done differently to make significant improvements in performance while driving motivation at the same time. Involve and Engage. 

Some Punchlines on “Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly!”

For nearly 20 years, I have been playing with this theme of caterpillars, butterflies and change along with using a joke to set up a discussion about perceptions and thinking and limits to improvement. One of the realities is:

(That is “The” as pronounced “Duh.”)

Many managers appear to be resistant to new ideas for workplace improvement based on employee perceptions and surveys done since I was a boy. It may be that they KNOW the answer (or are expected to know the answer since that is their perception of their job and the implementation of their ego) and they thus functionally limit themselves to new information as well as limit motivation and ownership.

Let me tell you what happened to me and ask you to rate some of the comments people made. In a workshop in Hong Kong, I said:

There are two caterpillars sitting on the wagon and a beautiful butterfly floats by. The one caterpillar says to the other:

“You’ll never get ME up in one of those butterfly things.”

People did not laugh at the joke so I asked them to talk about it for two minutes and give me their reactions and thoughts. They were English-speaking Chinese and I was not sure that they understood the joke, so I simply asked them to discuss it. For two years, I had always thought my joke was about active refusal / resistance to change.

Surprisingly, they generated a lot of ideas. Which do you think was their best punch line to the story?

You may vote more than one time, if you like.

And I know the one that generally gets the most laughs as well as generates the most thinking about how things really work.

Hope you like this. And I will appreciate seeing your responses.

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