Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: Managing and leading change (Page 2 of 6)

Reflection and Innovation: Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There

This statement,

Don’t Just DO Something,
Stand There!

describes the action that we have been teaching as a basic tool of innovation and change since the early 90s. Only by looking at a situation from a dissociated perspective can one even possibly see that new ideas might exist.

Too often, we are so busy pushing and pulling the wagon, just like we have always pushed and pulled, that we seldom have the opportunity to step back and look at things from a displaced perspective. Once we do, we can often see that things are rolling on Square Wheels while the cargo of the wagon — round rubber tires — represent ideas for improvement.

A Square Wheels image from the tools of Dr. Scott Simmerman

Consider taking things apart to look for new ideas

The act of dis-assembly can identify issues as well as build teams. And new ideas will spring from that effort, along with improved teamwork.

Very often, people who perform better than others — the exemplary performers of any organization — will already be doing things differently than the others and can add those ideas to the mix. The round wheels in so many situations are already identified and tested and implemented and refined.

One of the series of Square Wheels images of Dr. Scott Simmerman

The more they play, the better it gets

(Note that the majority of the people, and especially the poor performers, just keep on keeping on and doing what they have always done and their Square Wheels remain in place. They need to get involved with new ideas.)

Innovations can occur quite naturally. Some of us are nearly always looking for ways to do things differently so that it is easier. Tom Gilbert expanded on a framework of “laziness” back in the late 70s in his book, Human Competence. I have always liked that concept: Because we are naturally lazy, we will always be looking for the easiest and most efficient way to do things.

Why not look for the downhill route instead of pushing and pulling the wagon uphill (and sometimes through the mud)?

By involving and engaging people in the identification of the things not working smoothly and through the sharing of best practices and round wheels, we do a better job of engaging and involving the workforce. Engagement is a key to motivation and sustaining high performance. Or, putting the Round Wheels to use!

People like to play with ideas and do things differently, if they feel that the team is behind them and the risk is low. It has all kinds of positive impacts and ramifications for continuous continuous workplace improvement.

LEGO Celebration of Changes Team

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For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. 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.

Why do teams choose to compete rather than collaborate?

People continually make choices, selecting responses from their existing set of “behavioral alternatives” and often simply choosing to do what they have done before. The book, Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman does an excellent job of sharing the research on decision making and thinking. (I share a little of this in my article on Square Wheels and decision-making.)

LDGM Why do teams choose to compete wordsWhy DO teams choose to compete?

Teams and teamwork are simply about choice and choices. Teams will often choose NOT to collaborate if they feel that competition offers them more positive benefits and impacts and this is especially true if they have competed in the past — it is the fast decision that does not require much thinking and consideration. Competition may also simply be More Fun!

But does competition really do much to support overall organizational results? Does competition really make results better when you look at the overall impact? Does competition between sales and operations really help things?

More often than not, the answer is that competition measurably sub-optimizes organizational results. Clearly. This is grounded in my work in implementing performance improvement and customer service as well as in a variety of other contexts — it is much easier to generate inter-organizational competition than it is to develop real trust and collaboration.

I tried to collect some of the key articles around performance and teamwork in this annotated blog of my best posts on our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. You can see some of these sources by clicking on the image below:

LD MAIN Goal is to Mine

We often ask tabletops to discuss various real world perceptions after playing this team building exercise. Below are some thoughts of participants after playing The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses directly on issues of inter-table collaboration and communications:

As you will see from these responses, there are a lot of systemic issues that block teamwork and there are also lots of experiences in “playing the game of working” that will get in the way of simply choosing to do things differently. Breaking the patterns is why an exercise like Dutchman works – people play, make choices, and see the impacts of their behavior on the play of others and in the overall sub-optimization of results.

Why do teams compete when collaboration obviously offers more impacts and benefits?

  • Evaluation and Reward Systems do not support it
  • Organizational objectives are unclear
  • Human Nature – we are competitive
  • Past Experience precludes collaboration and has rewarded competition
  • Lack of a Trust or Relationship with others
  • It takes extra time and effort to do it
  • Benefits of collaboration not supported by leaders
  • Impacts and payoffs are not obvious
  • Conflict may generate discussion of realities and produce creativity
  • Teams do not have a history or experience with doing collaboration or generating better impacts by it

What did you learn about teamwork and communications from playing the exercise?

  • There is a need for networking
  • Small teams work better than committees / larger teams
  • Someone needs to take on the role of team leader
  • We must compromise individually and collaborate collectively to succeed
  • Don’t dominate – listen to others views
  • THINK COLLABORATION and Trust
  • Share a common goal
  • Share Ideas and Information
  • Plan before Acting
  • Have a division of labor and roles and think creatively
  • Initiate support from others
  • Have Empathy for others
  • Identify others’ needs
  • Be Creative
  • Be a good listener
  • Build on others’ ideas
  • Recognize Interdependence
  • Move quickly, take some risks
  • We probably have sufficient resources – use them wisely

In this game, most people do NOT ask for help, which also happens in the workplace. Why don’t most teams ask for or get the active leadership of their managers?

  • We are conditioned by education, bad experiences and culture
  • Personality (we’re not proactive but quiet)
  • We’re too involved in our own work and forget the existence of the “Expedition Leaders”
  • We’re afraid of losing time, thus we suboptimize results
  • We are really not clear of our roles or the Leader’s role
  • There is a fear of losing Face (ego, insecurity)
  • There is an assumption that not asking means we get all of the     praise and recognition for our good performance / ability
  • “Us and Them” mentality — Leader is not part of team
  • No access to them – can’t get their time so why ask
  • It’s not part of the rules of how we play
  • Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled

Some Key Learning Points for engaging and involving people in performance improvement:

  • Visions are critical for motivation
  • Motivation occurs when people share risks, goals and objectives
  • Teams are “naturally” competitive and processes must actively drive collaboration and cooperation
  • Teams only reluctantly ask Expedition Leaders for advice.
  • Leadership must clearly communicate with directness and honesty.  They need to be perceived as supportive.
  • Justify the need for collaboration as it influences corporate profitability and improvements in systems and practices.
  • Identify the mud that is bogging teams down and wasting resources.
  • Insure that each participant knows his or her role on the team and their importance to the overall results — make sure each team member feels that their efforts are of value.

How does this exercise and debriefing link to improving organizational results?

  • Collaborative, overall effort is needed to achieve Company Goals
  • Plan – Do – Check – Action
  • Collaboration is essential
  • Manage your processes with effective allocation of resources
  • Do It Right The First Time – there are few second chances in reality
  • Highlight the internal customer concept – we depend on each other
  • All of us is better than Some of US!

The competitive aspect of the game:
How might it be harmful in an organization?

  • Not sharing information for personal reasons will sub-optimize overall results
  • Damaging relationships and trust
  • Duplication of efforts
  • Not utilizing resources in best or optimal way
  • Sub-optimization — Not seeing whole picture
  • Undermining the efforts of others

Overall, competition is harmful because it is not maximizing company results nor the performance by the largest number of people. Competition works for the competitive and not for everyone. Discussing these issues and opportunities in the context of collaboration and communications offers the chance that people may choose to behave differently, or at least be more aware of how they are influencing others in their workplace.

So, a key to organizational improvement comes directly out of debriefing on ideas and reflecting on choices so that different choices can be made in the future that would allow for a culture shift of some kind.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine is a fun and powerful way to learn more about teambuilding and collaboration

Find our articles on organizations and performance

We support all kinds of innovation, motivation, engagement, team building and other aspects of people and performance through the sale of our simple tools for facilitating change and improvement. You can find out more about these by clicking on the link below:

Performance Management Company website for team building

For the FUN of It!

Scott DebriefDr. 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.

 

We CANNOT expect involvement and engagement if we play the Blame Frame Game

How can we motivate people when we make them defensive? How can we expect innovation and process improvement if we are not actually encouraging people to share their thoughts and try new things?

Attack creates defensiveness; and appraisal and constructive criticism can certainly represent an attack in the perception of the workers:

Defense with © Square Wheels Image

If we ask managers how they manage, they tend to give all the right answers. But is that really their tendency to act and perform in reality?

Maybe. In the “Keeping Things Simple – Involving and Engaging” blog, I shared this cartoon that we call, “Trial and Error”.

square wheels image of Trial and Error

When we ask them to comment on the illustration, they tend to focus on what is wrong, rather than what else might be done, The ratio of negative to positive is about 8 : 1 and, if anything, the peer support appears more clearly in reactions to the different negative themes.

In other words, eight comments focused on the negative and what they did wrong for every one good thing the managers might spot, such as they are stepping back and looking for more improvements and that the horse, will in reality push a wagon.

Mothers usually call this “constructive criticism,” but I am not sure what good purpose it serves to continually point out what people are doing wrong, “even if it is for your own good.” as we so often hear as kids and teenagers (and workers, in so many instances!).

What the managers tend to do looks like this:

and this will not serve to improve motivation or make things better. If anything, this blame frame will make innovation harder and decrease the likelihood of people trying to be involved and engaged.

Note they this work team added a horse to the situation — more horsepower, as it were — and a definite paradigm shift. And YOU probably have not considered whether this might actually work. What if the next step simply looked like this:

ALL of us need to focus more on the innovative steps to improvement and the reality that change is a requirement in the workplace. So is support and encouragement — every book on leadership will comment on that but that is not congruent with the behavior of many managers.

Improvement is a continuous process, one that requires celebration of what is accomplished and continued reflection on possibilities and potential shifts in resource utilization. One might think that there is a train in their future?

Note – clicking on the images will take you to some different, related posts.

For the FUN of It!

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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Teamwork Works! Teambuilding has Positive Impacts.

There have been a variety of articles and posts on different leadership development groups taking the position that teamwork does not work to improve organizational performance.

Huh? Seriously?

I would be hard pressed to think of one situation where some kind of teamwork wasn’t necessary to produce an optimal result in some relatively complex situation. Teams and teamwork are how things get done, so taking a position that team building does not have any impact on results and performance seems a bit goofy, right? There are troubles with teams and they do not always work smoothly, and creating a team is not always the best solution to solving a problem, but it is certainly a good one, in general. There is no question that diversity of perspective and ideas gives a better result on most problems in most situations.

Yeah, sometimes we have situations like this:

Square Wheels and competitionbut that is not to say that teams do not work!

But maybe it is the kind of team building training that is the issue behind few observable improvements? Maybe there are some less effective approaches in play.

Last night, I saw an advertisement for Booking.com that was about “The Annual Company Retreat” — It is pretty much a hoot! Click on the image below to see this 30-second commercial (by Booking.com).

Annual company paintball teambuilding retreat booking dot comI think this pretty clearly shows how a LOT of people see teambuilding combined with paintball — does teambuilding need pain, suffering, losers and winners?

Hey! I will admit a vested interest in the issue, since I design and sell interactive exercises focused on issues of engagement and collaboration between teams. And there IS a lot of crap training out there calling itself teamwork — my particular pet peeves are things like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes and other similar “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together, interacting to define things to improve, bonding together to fix problems, etc. Sure, the events themselves are challenging, but does river rafting really build a team of people focused on improving the business?

And Golf as team building? Gimme a break — Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play is crucial to their overall success (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole, but not during play, most certainly. Bowling? Maybe. Cooking? Maybe, if one is running a big commercial kitchen in a restaurant or hotel…

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations, IMHO. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then expect people to work together. In so many organizations, and lots of research supporting this, many of the people are not engaged and many are DIS-engaged. One might not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people.

But we can motivate them. People want to feel successful and not be scared by the risks of performing. We need to get them to a new place, mentally.

Motivate people through success

In high performing workplaces, you will see a collaborative culture where people work together to handle issues and solve problems. Granted, that approach may not work too well in places like Real Estate, Mortgage Lending or Stock Market Sales, but we do see a strong need for collaboration and commitment where things like production or product design or customer service come into play.

Take any group of people, give them some common goals, measure them on shared performance and allow them the ability to help each other and you have the basics for a workplace situation where teamwork will arise. Then, do some activity that demonstrates the benefit of collaboration on the overall results — something like, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Then, debrief that activity and discuss the choices that people made along with the choices they COULD have made, link it to the issues they see in their own workplace, and allow them to make commitments to each other (peer support) and you are highly likely to see improvement (if there is a bit of followup after the session).

Think of all the activities that we engage in where teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment — sports is but one endeavor. And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Celebration plane color green

Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. And improvement is a continuous activity.

Sure, individuals can excel, but only through collaboration and engagement and motivation can we get a group of people to high levels of accomplishment and performance that they can celebrate and then continue to impact.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman Debrief

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

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

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On Teamwork, Trial and Error Improvement, and Blame Frames

Organizational improvement and teamwork. The ideas are pretty simple but the reality of actually designing and implementing workplace improvement tends to be a little difficult. When we add in issues of corporate power and politics, of sensitivities to criticism and perceived failures, and the framework of collaboration between departments to get things done differently, it looks a bit more like this:

Mud and Square Wheels image

And, organizationally, it can sometimes look like this:

Square Wheels and competition

In the “Keeping Things Simple – Involving and Engaging” blog, I shared a cartoon that we call, “Trial and Error”:

square wheels image of Trial and Error

Take a moment and look at the above image and react to what you see before moving on, please. Just consider what might be happening with the people and their workplace.

When I show this illustration to managers and ask for their reactions, we generally get a ratio of about 8 negative reactions to each positive one. In other words, eight reactions focused on the negative and what the people in the cartoon did wrong for every one positive thing about the situation. This is often called “constructive criticism,” but I am not sure what good it serves to continually point out what others are doing wrong. It does not build teamwork or increase engagement and it serves to smash down any intrinsic motivation that might have been occurring.

Managers should be trained to look for business improvement opportunities and to look for things that can be improved. This serves solid business purposes. But when this gets expressed as Non-Support for Change and Risk-Taking, we cannot expect others to just go along with that.

What we commonly see looks like this:

We embed the good with the blame and the people are more likely to run over the top of the hill and hide than come back to the wagon and continue to make improvements. Sure, their first attempt was pretty quirky and maybe they missed an idea or two about how they could get things done better.

But they also added a horse to the situation — more horsepower, as it were. And YOU probably have not considered whether this might actually work. What if the next step simply looked like this:

Square Wheels images by Scott Simmerman

The Round Wheels are in the wagon. Carrot’s, too!

Allow people to do things and celebrate their successes.

Square Wheels Celebration Haiku good ideas

Improvement is a continuous process, one that requires celebration of what is accomplished and continued reflection on possibilities and potential shifts in resource utilization. One might think that there is a train in their future?

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

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

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

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Some Square Wheels Illustrated Quotes

There are a few main “one-liners” and memorable quotes that I use regularly in my articles and presentations and that I sometimes use as anchors in various posts on LinkedIn and elsewhere. And I inconsistently post them up into my other blog that is generally loaded up with poems and haiku and other thoughts that I post up as singles.

Since my readership is different, I thought to share a few of my Business Thoughts herein for your enjoyment and edification. If you want to see more, pop over to http://poemsontheworkplace.com/

An illustrated Square Wheels quote: Mahatma Ghandi

Square Wheels illustrated quote on business

Nothing Made Sense, and neither did anything else illustrated quote by scott simmerman

Teamwork - the Square Wheels about how things really work

We sell simple toolkits that use different illustrations and themes to generate discussions about workplace improvement.

Performance Management Company website for team building

They work beautifully in training programs as well as in simple workplace discussions about issues and ideas, teamwork and collaboration, innovation and motivation. You can connect easily with me if I can provide direct support to your efforts to better involve and engage people in performance improvement,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. 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.

 

Which is Innovation Reality? You make the choice…

A cartoon of Håkan Forss generated a few reactions about which might better represent organizational reality. It is a good question so I thought to post up this “Discussion Blog” that is a bit different from my normal style of doing things. Your thoughts and comments would be most appreciated.

Take these two different illustrations on roughly the same thing:

Hakan's plus SWs One combined

In Håkan Forss’ illustration on the left, we have what I see as people simply rejecting the idea of a different wheel for the wagon. (click here to see an enlarged version of that illustration)

In Square Wheels One, we have people possibly unaware that different wheels exist.

•  In your experience, is the first situation more common than the second? Are people more commonly rejecting outside ideas or unaware of them?

•  Are outsiders to the team more commonly offering suggestions with the wheels from other team members who are not actively involved?

•  Are Round Wheels generally found within the wagon? Do the round wheels in an organization already exist or do they more commonly need invention?

•  Where does “disruptive innovation” appear in all this work?

•  Where are the Lean approaches operating in either or both of these situations?

•  Is leadership actively against change or are they simply unaware of a need for it?

I certainly have my views on things, which I will elaborate on Part Two of the blog, “The Square Wheels, LEGO Controversy: Thoughts on Leadership and Engagement.

What do you think about the reality of how things
generally work in most organizations?

Please add some thoughts and comments below,

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.

LEGO® is a registered trademark of LEGO A/S, a corporation incorporated under the laws of Denmark.

Implementing Round Wheels to fix the Square Ones

People often talk about things that do not work smoothly in their workplaces, the things that frustrate them and lower productivity. And this frustration and dissatisfaction about improvements causes all sorts of negative spins to impacting intrinsic motivation. It can send the message that what the workers see is important and what the management sees as important are two different things — that is most likely not going to lead to any sort of workplace engagement and performance improvement.

But the problem is often related to how the problem is presented.

Reasons include:

  • People do not fix or care that much about ideas that are not their own.
  • Bosses are busy, or at least too busy to spend time listening to ideas
  • Improvement may not be measured by the company
  • The improvement is not related to your job or their job
  • The value and impact of the improvement is not thought out or defined
  • Everyone has different perspectives
  • The idea not well presented or framed as a business proposition
  • The idea not seen as cost effective
  • Some interdepartmental collaboration may be required (needs IT or another department or something similar to implement)

SWs One Dis-un-engagement choice

What we suggest that supervisors and managers do is to ask people for ideas. But first, we want to engage and involve them and get them to “step back from the wagon and think out of the box” a little. We do this by using the a general projective tool, the SWs Brainstorm Sheet:

Square Wheels One Brainstorm worksheet

What we do is show them the main illustration and ask small tabletops of 5 to 6 people to brainstorm a bit. What they do is project their beliefs onto the illustration and the group process gives them lots of personal involvement and support and lends itself to more creative thinking and brainstorming. The idea is to get them actively involved and working together around ideas.

You can read a bit more about this theme by clicking on the worksheet icon above to go to another blog post on possibilities thinking.

What we want to do is move the discussion from the general ideas about how things work to some specific issues that they see in their workplace and to then brainstorm more about potential solutions that might be implemented. We eventually move toward a worksheet like this to take specific Square Wheel issues and generate some round wheel possibilities:

Square Wheels to RWs worksheet

Once we define the issues and opportunities, refine our thinking about how an improvement would impact people and performance, and do some discussion about costs and timelines and the required involvement of people, processes and procedures, we can make a good case for change. It is that kind of detailed thinking that needs to be cascaded upward in the organization. People can earn the right to do more as they roll down the road…

The key is to get the wagon rolling downhill a bit!

Square Wheels image Intrinsic feel really good PGHope that helps,

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

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

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

Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly – A Slideshare program

Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly is the theme of my ideas on managing and leading change. I have presented worldwide on the theme and even developed a complete Square Wheels Change Toolkit that has metaphors, exercises, jokes, illustrations, quotes and all sorts of resources for presenting on the topic and involving and engaging people for change.

Part One of my Slideshare program illustrates many of my key learning points with images of caterpillars and butterflies and a variety of poems and haiku about the issues and opportunities to involve and engage. It is about fun and perspective and the issues of understanding the process of change.

Caterpillar butterflies are more than me simple poem

You can find Part One of the three part overview by clicking on the image below:

Square Wheels Slideshare Teaching The Caterpillar icon

I hope you find it fresh, fun and interesting — and your comments, reactions and suggestions would be most appreciated.

square wheels author

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

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

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

 

 

Business Haiku – Square Wheels thoughts and ideas

It is well known that images add to imagination and that poems and quips often anchor ideas to make things more memorable. I have a lot of Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine images and have done a LOT of poems, quips and similar with the image as a visual anchor.

More recently, I started playing with Haiku and the images and will paste up a few of them here and lots more on my poem blog. To spring over there, click on any of the Haiku below and you will go over to the main poems on the workplace blog of mine.

Here is one on continuous continuous improvement:

Square Wheels One Haiku working together

and this one on possibilities for improvement:

Square Wheels One Haiku Boss views the path

and this one on being frustrated with nothing changing:

Square Wheels One Haiku tender resignation

Sometimes you feel like you are just getting nowhere with all your efforts.

Rat Cage Haiku work hard

Yeah, frustration with nothing improving and no one listening is a real problem generating un-engagement and other reactions:

Pin Balloon Haiku Mad Pin hit balloon

So, eventually we reach a point where we can play with ideas. Often, a new good ideas really prevents one from going back and doing things the same old way. We make personal improvements.

Square Wheels Twaining Haiku wagon on blocks

I hope you like reading these as much as I like doing them. I want them to be reflective, to generate some alternative thinking about possibilities for organizational and personal improvement. Inspiration!

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

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

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

Continuous Continuous Improvement found by The Caterpillar!

The caterpillar in all of us will probably discover that the world is all about “continuous continuous improvement” and the reality is that our transition from caterpillar to butterfly is just the start.

At some point, the caterpillar gets the intrinsic motivation to spin a cocoon around itself. And while in that cocoon, it gives up all of its former existence to become something new and different.

Caterpillar in cocoon more than that words

(The reality is that the caterpillar breaks down at the cellular level — there is nothing left of it other than goo — and it recapitulates into the developing larvae of the butterfly. Thus, in the cocoon, it is no longer what it was and not yet what it will be!)

The butterfly emerges and then learns to fly, sees that the world is so different from their original perspective (as a caterpillar) and now so many more new opportunities appear. It is all about perspective and collaboration.

“Hey,” said the Monarch Butterfly. “Let’s all head down to Mexico for the winter!” (and they DO! Millions of them.)

Monarch Butterfly Cluster

My poems blog is filling up with a whole bunch of poems and quips on the transformation of caterpillars into those butterfly things! You can click on the image below to go to the homepage for those illustrations.

Caterpillar butterflies are more than me simple poem

We have been using the metaphor of Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly as it relates to our Square Wheels approach to managing and leading change for many years. The focus is on gaining the active involvement of others for the design of different choices and considered alternatives.

You can see more if you click on the image links below, the first of which will take you to our articles page where you can download the article and the other where you can find our facilitation toolkit for Managing and Leading Change.

Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly icon

SWs toolkit for managing and leading change

If we can support your performance improvement or engagement programs with our simple and effective facilitation tools and metaphors, connect with us. There are unlimited possibilities for involving and engaging people for performance improvement and workplace innovation and creativity. Our approach is both simple and elegant.

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

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

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

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Flying, Skills, Performance Management and Performance Appraisal – Crazy Thoughts

Sometimes, you just have to jump. Things come together to force you to do something. Sometimes, it is easier to just step up and do things. Sometimes…

With plenty of things on today’s agenda, I opened an email from an old friend in the UK and he sent me a story with the subject: “Saw this and thought of you.” Yep. And, I am also in a LinkedIn discussion about Performance Management and the relationship of that to Performance Appraisal. A goodly number of the responses are from newbies, who think that they even know what Performance Management is. (More on that later…) So, I like what Geoff sent and jumped!

So, I first went to check out the origins of Geoff Cook’s story and it turns out that it appears as a parable on line in a couple of places, once of which is a blog post by my old pal, Fred Nickols. I mean we were on Message Boards back 15 years ago when I had a CompuServe email address and no website (1995?)! (I seldom use the word “old” loosely these days–grin–.) Fred posted his embellished version and ideas here (click this link).

So, I popped in LinkedIn and sent Fred a note that I wanted to use his graphic here in this blog, using the “forgiveness prior to permission” approach. Of course, he just responded back and said to send him the link to this.

Here is the story that Geoff sent me – and I will admit to making a couple of minor changes and there are some differences in the published versions of this:

Once upon a time, there was a man named Clarence who had a pet frog named Felix. Clarence lived a very modest life based on what he earned working retail but he never gave up his dream of being rich. One day, hit by sudden inspiration, he exclaimed, “Felix, we’re going to be rich! You will learn to fly!”

Felix was terrified at the prospect. “I can’t fly, Clarence! I’m a frog, not a bird!” Clarence, disappointed at the initial response, told Felix: “Your attitude isn’t helping matters. I think you can benefit from some training.”

So off Felix went to a three-day course where he learned about the history of aviation, the basics of aeronautical engineering (e.g., lift, thrust, drag, etc), gliders, parasailing and the lives of famous fliers. (For obvious reasons, the instructor did not mention Icarus, but they did talk about Why Geese fly in a V.)

After the training and on the first day of the “flying lessons,” Clarence could barely control his excitement (and Felix could barely control his bladder). Clarence pointed out that their apartment building had 7 floors, and each day Felix would jump out of a window, starting with the first floor and working his way up to the top.

After each jump, Clarence and Felix would analyze how well he flew, isolate the most effective flying techniques and implement the improved process for the next flight. By the time they reached the top floor, Felix would surely be able to fly.

felixthefrog Felix pleaded for his life but his pleas fell on deaf ears. “He just doesn’t understand how important this is,” thought Clarence. “He can’t see the big picture.”

So, with that, Clarence opened the window and threw Felix out. He landed with a thud. They discussed and analyzed his performance…

The next day, poised for his second flying lesson, Felix again begged not to be thrown out of the window. Clarence opened his pocket guide to “Managing More Effectively” and showed Felix the part about how one must always expect resistance when introducing new, innovative programs. With that, he threw Felix out the window again. THUD!

On the third day (on the third floor), Felix tried a different ploy: stalling. He asked for a delay in the “project” until better weather would make flying conditions more favorable. But Clarence was ready for him: He produced a timeline and pointed to the third milestone and asked, “You don’t want to mess up the schedule, do you?”

From his performance appraisal feedback, Felix knew that not jumping today meant he would have to jump TWICE tomorrow. So he just muttered, “OK, let’s go.” And out the window he went.

Now this is not to say that Felix wasn’t trying his best. On the fourth day he flapped his legs madly in a vain attempt at flying. On the fifth day, he tried “visualization.” He tied a small red cape around his neck and tried to think “Superman” thoughts. It didn’t help.

By the sixth day, Felix, accepting his fate, no longer begged for mercy. He simply looked at Clarence and said, “You know you’re killing me, don’t you?”

Clarence pointed out that Felix’s performance so far had been less than exemplary; failing to meet any of the milestones he had set for him. With that, and knowing that there was one more floor, Felix said quietly, “Shut up and open the window.” He leaped out, taking careful aim at the large jagged rock by the corner of the building.

And Felix went to that great lily pad in the sky.

Clarence was devastated. His project failed to meet a single objective he set out to accomplish. Felix not only failed to fly, he hadn’t even learned to steer his fall; instead, he dropped like a sack of cement. Nor had Felix heeded Clarence’s advice to “Fall smarter, not harder.”

The only thing left for Clarence to do was to conduct an after-action-review and try to determine where things had gone wrong. After reviewing the records and giving the data much thought, Clarence smiled knowingly and said, “Next time, I’m getting a smarter frog!”

Fred Nickols said this in his introduction and asked these questions:

I first heard the parable of Felix the Flying Frog in the early 1970s. It appears in many places nowadays and its author is unknown. I think its staying power owes to the many points it illustrates – some subtly and some not so subtly. It has great utility as a discussion piece for use in reflecting on life in organizations – and life in general for that matter. Toward that end, you will find some potentially useful questions at the end of this version.

  • How did Clarence’s expectations get so out of line with Felix’ capabilities and how might better alignment have been achieved?
  • Why did Clarence reach so quickly for training as a solution?
  • What role did the power differential between Clarence and Felix play in shaping the course of events?
  • Why was Felix so compliant, even in the face of his own destruction?
  • What blinded Clarence to the role he played in the failure of his attempt to make Felix fly?
  • What talent did Felix possess that might actually have made Clarence and he rich and why didn’t Clarence see that?

I had never seen this parable before. And there are lots of things to consider related to performance, capability, perspective, leadership and engagement. And Fred uses it in a great way. And could Clarence have made some money by having a talking frog? He was too enraptured about flying…

The irony for me, as I mentioned, was this LinkedIn discussion about Performance Management and Performance Appraisal, generally with a bunch of young HR people chatting about what they think these things are and talking about “performance.” I think they get at the concept of people and work, but feel like they are trying to teach Felix to fly. Some said things like:

  • I see Performance Management oriented towards Indicators (much more quantitative) on the other side Performance Appraisals cover both, quantitative as well as qualitative, thus I see them as two different tools
  • Performance Management is a process, whereas, Appraisal is an activity (part of Performance Management).
  • Performance Management is a technique to measure the level of performance of an Employee. Its result is Excellent, Good, Average, Poor. Action is ‘IMPROVEMENT’  Appraisal Management is a technique to measure the result of a performance. Its result is used for ‘Salary Hike’ & ‘Promotion’
  • Performance Management is the policy guidance which will vary as per existing need, progress made and future demand of the company. Performance Appraisal is the periodical matching aspect of the prescribed criteria with the actual performance of the employee, for compensation and career planning purpose.

Me. I posted this up to explain that there are real differences in these things and that Performance Management has nothing to do with Performance Appraisal and that it was simply a substitution of words that were an attempt to cover up the appraisal and subjective evaluation and assessment of the person:

Performance Management was the term applied to the issue of Human Behavioral Improvement as used by people like Tom Gilbert, Aubrey Daniels, Ed Feeney and many others back in the mid 1970s to look at ORGANIZATIONAL performance. It was generally anchored to Skinnerian Operant Behavioral Psychology and applied systems for behavioral analysis (such as Feeney’s BEST Program: Behavioral Engineering Systems Training), the analysis of performance feedback programs, and the application of contingent extrinsic rewards to drive desired behaviors.

As pretty brief explanation is available at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performance_management

Tom Gilbert’s book, “Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance” is one of the critical works in the field, comparable to Peter Senge’s work on “Learning Organizations.”

In the mid 1980s, the phrase was co-opted by Human Resource people to try to make the concept of “Performance Appraisal” less offensive and less emotional, kind of like how “Re-Engineering” was used in place of the concept of “Downsizing.”

I say this, watching the name of the company I founded in 1984 – Performance Management Company – undergo a shift in anchor points from my focus on systemic organizational and human performance improvement to having people think we did performance appraisal systems. You can read a lot of different articles on human behavior at www.PerformanceManagementCompanyBlog.com

Many of us Old Guard still work in the area of best practices, organizational alignment to goals and expectations, refining performance feedback systems and using extrinsic and intrinsic reward systems to drive performance improvement. And it seems like a shift back toward organizational improvement is happening once again.

But Performance Management sure isn’t Performance Appraisal, much like preparing a Christmas dinner sure isn’t popping a frozen dinner into the microwave. (grin)

So, I read that Clarence / Felix The Frog parable as linking right up into the issues related to performance and capability. Could Felix fly? Yeah, we have this new drone technology where we could strap that little guy into a helicopter and fly him anywhere we want.

But a Talking Frog? Now THAT is really something.

Let me end this with a brief discussion of the thoughts of W. Edwards Deming, one of those really key guys in the whole quality improvement leadership literature.

Deming was really clear in his writings that he felt that merit pay, incentives, numerical targets without discussion of methods, quota systems, and annual performance appraisals are some of highly counter-productive management practices. He clearly thought that Performance Appraisal was one of the Seven Deadly Sins of management and lots of us have lots of good examples of how appraisals screw things up for people.

Deming said, “Evaluation of performance, merit rating, or annual review… The idea of a merit rating is alluring.The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for; motivate people to do their best, for their own good. The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise.” (W. Edwards Deming, “Out of The Crisis”)

There are lots of issues with evaluation and being evaluated that do NOT contribute to organization improvement and operational effectiveness. Many of these are deadly when it comes to implementing teamwork and innovation.

Get your people to talk. Get out there and talk about what things are not working well and what might be improved. The Round Wheels are already in the wagon! Just DO it!

SWs One 300 © green words

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

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Strategy Implementations, like most other initiatives, Mostly Fail. Some thoughts…

My good friend and associate, Robin Speculand, has been working closely with organizations on the implementation of strategy. His research is clear:

MOST STRATEGY IMPLEMENTATIONS FAIL – 9 OF 10

It’s as simple as that. There are a lot of causes but it mostly is a failure to integrate the strategy with the desired behavioral changes throughout the organization. It is easy to talk about it; it is hard to accomplish it successfully.

Robin recently completed his international survey and shares some interesting results. I just got the email announcing its publication so I share it and some of his key findings here and will comment more extensively on it in future posts when I return from my travels.

Key Findings include:

  • 80% of leaders feel their company is good at crafting strategy but only 44% at its implementation and only 2% are confident that they will achieve 80-100% of their strategy’s objectives
  • Most leaders allocate more time to implementing strategy than creating
  • An overwhelming number believe that their bonus should be linked to the successful implementation of the strategy
  • 70% of leaders spend less than one-day a month reviewing strategy
  • Leaders believe that only 5% of employees have a basic understanding of the company strategy

This year’s survey, the 12th year of his research, continues to show that things could be done differently and better.

Implementation Success

It has involved online responses for the first time as well as over 130 interviews. The majority of organizations have over 10,000 employees and their headquarters are predominantly in the US and Singapore, with 62% of the companies being multi-nationals, 21% were from the Public Sector and 17% local (Singapore).

The main industry this year was from IT followed by Financial Institutions, Government and Pharmaceutical. The main participants in the survey were middle and senior managers with a handful of supervisors.

You can see a slideshow of the results at  http://www.slideshare.net/SpeculandRobin/strategy-implementation-survey-results-2012
until the end of February, 2013.

Robin has been using my flagship team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine as an integral part of his engagement and alignment process for a dozen years. As George Peppard said in the old A-Team TV show, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

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

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Two Miles of Ditch for Every Mile of Road – Thoughts on Teamwork and Collaboration

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

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

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

Dealing with the mud of team building

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

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

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

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

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

Remember:

Caterpillars can fly lighten up round

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

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

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

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A Haiku poem on Management and Improvement

A Haiku poem on Management and Improvement

I continue to play around with the cartoons and the themes of innovation and improvement in the workplace, intrinsic motivation and engagement.

In this case, we can become so busy doing things that we will often fail to see obvious ideas for improvement.

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