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

Category: Metaphors for business improvement (Page 1 of 5)

Facilitating Workplace Improvement: Herding Cats and Frogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stampeding Ducks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

Santa’s Square Wheels Performance Improvement Poem

A special Holidays greeting to you with the hope that an illustrated “Getting Santa Rolling” poem might add a touch of fun to your days.

Each year at this time, my little company sends out a seasonal greeting anchoring to either our Square Wheels illustrations around engaging people in making improvements or to our Lost Dutchman game about collaboration and teamwork. This year, it’s the Square Wheels theme that is the poem’s focus since after 25 years of using original line art we’ve transitioned to using LEGO images for a more playful representation of, “How most organizations really work.”

Since other mailings have gone out to my contacts in LinkedIn and to our subscribers, apologies if you get this twice. We would simply like to wish you the best for a great year ahead and for your having some positive impacts on the people around you. Here is what we had to say about getting Santa rolling this year:

A santa square Wheels poem

Getting Santa Rolling….
 Santa One
Things look too bumpy for Santa, his Elves and Reindeer!
How they’ll get flying with those Square Wheels isn’t clear.
Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott SimmermanSanta, ask your teams to stop & look in their “wagon”
As solutions exist there that’ll keep it from draggin’.Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman

Then the Elves and Reindeer could quite easily share
Their ideas for how things could work better there.

Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott SimmermanBy Asking and Listening you’ll most surely generate
Engagement and motivation leading them to innovate!

Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Their Round Wheel thinking will give them insight
into how to implement to make things quite right.
 Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Then all will gleefully rejoice as Christmas time arrives
Knowing their Round Wheel ideas got Santa in the skies!
Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Those Square Wheels exist everywhere, you’ll see,
But the Round Wheels are reachable—ab-so-lute-ly!
Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Managers who involve workers with positive intent
Offer everyone involved a gift of empowerment!
Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman

“Getting Santa Rolling” aligns with our mission to support Supervisors, Managers and Leaders with simple tools for facilitating improvements leading to a happier and better workplace.

If you’re interested in strengthening your facilitation skills, you can do that easily through online learning and support by joining The Square Wheels Project where you’ll receive self-paced learning and materials for making a positive difference in your workplace. Check it out here:

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

WHAM! The Square Wheels Guy sees a Round Wheel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Square Wheels Image production facility The Square Wheels Project

The message and key learning point is simple:

The Round Wheels are already in the wagon.

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

It’s about Perspective Opportunity, People!

Perception. Breakfast of Champions.

Or some such thing. Stepping back from the wagon to look for opportunities is such a more effective strategy than putting one’s head down and bemoaning all the things that are wrong.

What you see is all there is. So why not choose to look at things differently and go #morebetterfaster?

Daniel Kahneman quote on a Square Wheels image by Scott Simmerman

Our Square Wheels Project is designed to generate those ideas for workplace improvement from the wagon pushers. It is about facilitating different perspective ideas about issues and opportunities.

Check it out and let us know how we can support your performance improvement, engagement, innovation and motivational improvement initiatives,

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

 

Innovation and Thinking – Cognitive Dissonance and Creativity

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

The main illustration has evolved to look like this:

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

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

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Team Building Ideas for Trust and Performance Improvement

In the midst of redoing a game design that requires additional components for discussing workplace trust and issues of performance improvement, I spent last night looking at a variety of dynamics around generating and maintaining trust between individuals, trust among team members, trust between team members and ideas for accelerating the quality of trust and collaboration. I did get some new ideas and there was some creativity going on as I did it. At the same time, there is not a lot of stuff out there that is very helpful for game design.

Some are simply good discussions, like Kevin Eikenberry’s video you can see here:

kevin

I like Kevin’s work and thought his ideas were good but nothing really grabbed me for the design work.

SO, I went into Google and searched for trust exercise to see if there were any more ideas, frameworks or insights I might spin into the new simulation and Google popped me into a page of images. And all my good research intentions spun quickly downhill into these writings. I will admit that this was a fun one to put together, with a bunch of giggles! Yet, I also hope that this post will be illustrative of what I see are some real issues around doing team building activities with real people in real workplaces.

The first image that jumped out at me from Google’s images was this one:

trust 1

The image was attributed to Riana Green / flickr.com and the link was to Psychology Today and an article on Floating, Trust and Religion. I am not really understanding any of this but you can find the blog if you click on the image. Should the link to team building and trust escape you, let me simply note that it escaped me, also. But it DID get me looking at more images as my curiosity was piqued.

The wag in me said to myself, yep, a lot of the results of team building exercises
in corporate situations DO in fact look like the image above,
but then I quickly struck that thought from my mind. (grin)

Okay, the next picture that leaped out was this one:

trust 2

The image was from ashleylatruly.tumblr.com but the link no longer worked. Yeah, I am guessing that the activity underlying the above image did have some components of trust built-in although I am not sure what they were nor would I suggest doing this in any kind of corporate context with a mannequin much less an actual person. But who am I to judge, right?

Yeah, this next one is certainly around trust. It is also one that I would suggest not be done casually out on the organization’s front lawn. But, yeah, this would certainly build trust; I am just not sure it would translate all that well toward improved corporate performance. And I am still thinking of how to put this into a board game…

trust 3

That takes us to these other kinds of activities, so much fun for teenagers but maybe a little less appropriate workplace adult organizational improvement programs. I am reminded that US Department of Labor statistics that show about 1 in 7 women past the age of 65 are still working and by 2024, that is predicted to increase to almost 1 in 5 or more than 6,000,000 workers in total. I would think that doing any of the team activities pictured below might be somewhat problematic (and I note that there will also be six different decades represented within many workforces).

baaadteambuildingand trust 5

 

 

 

Both the above sure seem like fun, however there may also be that issue of “appropriateness” in relation to the various organizational cultures out there and issues of sexual harassment and similar. Just imagine the “most senior managers” nuzzled up with the younger female employees. Or the discomfort for any variety of ages of people or new hires placed in these physically close positions.

And, with this chair thing below, with 7 people standing on two metal chairs and two people UNDER those chairs and our general issues around obesity, what could possibly go wrong???

trust 6

I’m reminded of the Tony Robbins Firewalks and his related motivational speeches by this short segment on The (Stephen) Colbert Report (click here). This was prompted by the different events where people had burned their feet to apparently prove something to themselves. Frankly, I think kayaking offers the same kind of benefit but without the fire. But I digress…

Then, we get into the Trust Building Professional Level Activities, where people who are both fit and somewhat already down the road toward collaboration and teamwork show that they can take their professional and physical development to new levels in situations such as those pictured below. As toward being “low ropes” kinds of organizational development activities, you may also find them a bit out of bounds or out of reality!

trust 7

and

trust 8

Remember that ALL these images came from my Google search for trust exercise. I did not make this stuff up and remain merely the archivist for collecting and organizing these ideas.

I DO believe that there ARE some things that we can do to build more trust and collaboration in the workplace, but they are just not like these pictured.

What strikes me the most about the above pictures and situations is my uncertainty as to whether everyone clearly understands all of the issues around doing effective organizational development including the regard for employee comfort and also avoiding lawsuits and other things detrimental to profitability and to the collaborative cultures we are trying to build. There are #baaadteambuilding things going on out there that make some of us simply shake our heads in wonder about who thought that up and who agreed to it?

Better alternative ideas do exist to what has been shown here! If you need some, connect with me,

 

For the FUN of It!

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

 
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.

Note: These might all be excellent activities and exercises, but I try to write on themes of organizational development and team building and collaboration, and most of the things I share above are meant to poke fun at people who do not seem to truly understand issues of organizational culture and diversity and issues of age and personal preferences. I try to never make anyone uncomfortable with the kinds of things we choose to do as group activities. I have been in some that I did not like, whatsoever, over my years of experience.

Innovation and Change: BIG Sale on Square Wheels!

A conversation turns into an idea and then an illustration is produced. That seems how creativity and innovation flow around here. A comment about buggy whips and top hats becomes an image about change and survival. Take a look at this simple illustration, but do take a moment to actually consider the realities.

BIG Specials on Square WheelsDO take a moment and consider what is happening…

The two stores on the left are closed because the business simply disappeared. Somewhere, someone is making buggy whips because there are still a few horse and buggy wagons rolling around. Heck, one company makes LED whips for your off-road vehicle so it can be seen in the dark! Another “buggy whip store” sells men’s clothing in Nebraska and they do not even have a website but only a FaceBook page. So it looks like that business buggy whip business has kind of disappeared…

Scan to the right and you will see The Big Sale going on at Harry’s Square Wheels Wagonry Store. Harry has been in business for a long time, has a great inventory of new wheels in a variety of colors. He can probably even order you chrome ones!

But note that his former employee, Susan, has opened up a new store, one selling tires. Susan and her partner Sally have limited inventory and small volume at this point. Susan and Sally got the idea one day when at work, and they decided to act on their idea and make these things more available. (Yeah, Harry has met Sally, finally.)

Square Wheels LEGO Intrinsic sitting stop

It was actually a big moment for the ladies, and they thought that they could capitalize on that idea and make round tires into a business. Personally, I have to wish them a LOT of success, because the idea is great, but having the ability and resources to implement the idea is what is important. Asking questions and generating involvement is a key success strategy for implementation.

We offer The Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit for a meager $25 and we are nearly ready to launch our LMS MOOC to share some ideas and frameworks for how to use these simple illustrations and this direct approach to involve and engage people for workplace improvement.

Click here to read about Presenteeism, the reality that about 50% of most workers in most workplaces are “In, but Out” when it comes to their active involvement or the thinking that their boss listens to their ideas. It has been a workplace statistical constant since I started in the people and performance business in 1978.

The ONLY way to address the issues of un-engagement of the majority of a workforce is to involve and engage the Supervisors in the involvement and engagement process of their people to align to organizational visions and values and to focus them on improving their own workplace. I have never seen even a single workplace where people did not have good ideas for improvement.

It is NOT within an HR capability to fix this, nor one of Training and Development. It cannot be addressed with a survey or a videotape of the CEO talking about these things. LOTS of things can be done, but the rubber meets the road where the supervisor sits with the people.

It is a simple concept of providing them with bombproof tools and asking them to ask for ideas. Why not?

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.

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

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

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

 

The Neuroscience behind Square Wheels: Behavioral Neurobiology

The Science of Brain and Behavior, explained through LEGO and using Square Wheels images for anchoring ideas and concepts

Neuroscience is “hot” right now in the leadership development and organization improvement literature and I got one of those “doctorate thingies” in behavioral neurobiology* from UNC-Chapel Hill a long time ago, before this “brain science stuff” became popular as a solution to business and training problems. The basic reality and an insight to some training people is that the brain is actually involved in learning and memory and a variety of other human behaviors. We have actually known this for a long time… 😀

Scott Simmerman quote on neuroscience (grin)

Wikipedia defines Behavioral Neuroscience, as the application of the principles of biology to the study of physiological, genetic, and developmental mechanisms of behavior in humans and other animals. The American Psychological Association publishes Behavioral Neuroscience®  for original research articles as well as reviews in the broad field of the neural bases of behavior. They are seeking empirical papers reporting novel results that provide insight into the mechanisms by which nervous systems produce and are affected by behavior.

Me, I don’t publish many empirical papers these days… I design team building games and use cartoons and I blog and try to publish readable, actionable thoughts on people and performance issues. But I DO study behavior and I do know about the brain and so I thought to elucidate a couple of understandable pedagogical conceptualistic  frameworks that underpin my use of stupidly simple illustrations and how they relate to things like communications, engagement, learning, facilitation, creativity, change and quality. My one word to describe the underlying key principle is “perspective.” Change perspective and you change a lot of things.

Generating change is a complicated thing to accomplish and there are some great books written about it, with “Immunity to Change” by Kegan and Lahey (2009) being a really solid work and a good read. I think that perspective is also key to Daniel Kahnemann’s book,”Thinking, Fast and Slow.” And I still like the elegant simplicity of Peters and Waterman’s “In Search of Excellence.” All these books (and so many others) work by generating a more objective view of behavior and the working environment around it, much like what behavioral counseling is designed to accomplish (“Please, tell me about that…”).

Let me use LEGO to show you how the brain works:

First, we have a whole big bunch of input from all of the senses, information that comes in all at once with little structure or organization. It looks a bit like this:

LEGO Neuroscience 1 - How the Brain Works using LEGO

If that looks too complicated and confusing, maybe flipping it upside down will make it clearer?

Scott Simmerman LEGO Model of NeuroscienceWhatever…

Anyway, what all that electrical activity you have heard about really does is to allow different areas of the brain to add some structure and pattern and “brain-shape” to the information, prioritizing some information and ignoring other input. It uses the brain’s learned preferences, along with some innate / cognitive biases, for putting things into categories and cubby holes and relating one thing to another, something we call categorization and association. Memory storage is based on link new information to old and creating some blocks.
(Note: biases and storage link to lots of explanatory info on Wikipedia, if you want to click through…)

Structuring looks like this, which is not so confusing:

A LEGO Model of how the brain sorts information

Once the brain has learned a few things, which actually happens pretty early in life and which continues for most people their entire lives  is that we begin to see some patterns in things. Alzheimer’s, dementia and some other cognitive disorders are generally disruptions in information storage and retrieval, where these processes no longer work smoothly. Over time, more and more gets linked and related based on personal experiences and memories. This is normal learning; over time, more and more things get linked and the flexibility of sorting information decreases as these biases filter out more and more. Their behavior becomes more rigid and some tunnel vision can affect their perceptions.

If people start using a new model or framework through which to filter information, we can change how things are viewed and sorted. If they learn the metaphor of Square Wheels, for example, new information sorting can take place. Square Wheels can be framed in a metaphor about things that work but that do not work smoothly. Now, you can see them scattered among the blocks below, representing some new categories for how information can be filtered:

Square Wheels LEGO model of brain functioning

For those of us that are focused on process improvement and doing things more better faster, we will also look to identify some best practices or other choices that we might then label Round Wheels. Generating peer-level discussions of issues and opportunities and resorting and re-categorizing can refresh the learning process and generate more active involvement and engagement.

When there is something that is thumping and bumping along as a Square Wheel, most of us will think about ways to improve it. Seeing the gap between the way things are and the way things could / should be is motivating for most people, who will consider ways to close that gap. Leon Festinger discussed this kind of approach in his theory of Cognitive Dissonance. That might then look like this as they begin to consider some Round Wheel possibilities:

Round Wheels already exist

Now, obviously, your brain is not built from LEGO, at least for most of us, and I am being relatively simplistic in my descriptive model of basic neurophysiology. There are underlying structures in the brain that handle information in different ways, adding speech and comprehension and motor skills and all other sorts of output processes to the input of information.

But the basics DO apply, in that people’s brains focus on repetition and patterns and things that mesh in with past learnings are more readily integrated into what we know — ideas that are radically different are paradigms that are simply ignored. (See Joel Barker’s work video on Paradigms (from my pals at Star Thrower), based on the research of Thomas Kuhn and published in the 1960s.

Okay. Enough already on The Brain. How about some ideas on people and performance and how all this applies to the workplace!

Okay. The use of my Square Wheels images is really well-grounded in a variety of principles of learning and thinking that you might find interesting. So, I will try to share some of the underpinnings as to why such a simple approach can be so powerful and effective. Think about it!

NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) is a tool that helped me understand more of the links of behavior to how the brain handles information. My training took me to the Master Practitioner level and I led ASTD’s NeuroLinguistic Network for a couple of years a long time ago. It shares some interesting tools, like the Information Sorting Styles approach to thinking patterns. NLP focuses heavily on using dissociation as a tool to generate perspective. I call it, “stepping back from the wagon” in my simple approach and frame the concept of collecting ideas and generating participative involvement like this:

Don't Just DO Something, Stand There

Only by stopping the action and looking at how things work can you possibly identify new or different ways of doing things. By dissociating from the current reality, it is possible to see new relationships and gain new perspectives. Plus, if this is done with a shared approach, with more than one person adding ideas and viewpoints, the impact can be more better faster and the ideas can have more breadth and depth.

Dissociation and perspective also serve to decrease the emotional aspects of managing and leading change. In counseling, being able to simply view the situation without all the heavy emotional hooks is a desired outcome. The same thing occurs in the workplace. Talking about the THINGS that do not work smoothly is much less emotional than addressing issues that might be taken as a personal attack and thus generate defensiveness and active resistance. This is another reason why using Square Wheels as a metaphor is so effective.

Most of you are familiar with inkblot tests, properly called Rorschach tests. The visual has no reality but people will project their ideas onto that image based on their own information processing. (Look, a squirrel!) A related psychological test is the Thematic Apperception Test, which has situational drawings and people are asked to tell a story based on what they see happening. Both of these tools push people to put personal viewpoints and frameworks onto the images, which have no “internal construct” of their own. They are not pictures, but images that allow for differing perceptions and interpretations.

We do the same thing. Heck, this LEGO block is not even a wheel; it is actually a window! But it works for us as an image to use on the wagon, and if we calONE Yellow Square Wheel SWs LEGO 70l it a wheel, it must wheely be a wheel, right? (And I remember the time when I presented the illustrations to a software development group, who identified the Square Wheel as the Windows platform they were programming on! That was a hoot, as well as a surprise…)

Perception is a key to understanding. And people benefit by having a language on to which they can hang ideas. If the word for it does not exist, it is really hard to categorize it. That is another reason why Square Wheels work in the workplace, since they give everyone a common anchor point against which to pull and push around ideas for improvement. By its very nature, it could and should be improved and something that gets labeled a Square Wheel sets itself up for improvement.

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” is a relevant quote from Henri Bergson. Having an image against which to overlay systems and processes allows for a better understanding of the issues around performance improvement.

There are two other aspects to perception that link to the theme of motivation. One is that having some vision, preferably shared with others is important. Knowing where you are going is beneficial. The second is ownership, in that having a sense of active involvement and engagement is important. I can illustrate with another of the Square Wheels images along with one of my most favorite organizational development quotes.

The View at the back of the Square Wheels wagon

The View at the back of the wagon is not motivating

and

SQUARE WHEELS LEGO IMAGE OF MOTIVATION 

Metaphors such as the Square Wheels / Round Wheels dichotomy are easily remembered and incorporated into workgroup language. The simple basic concept of a Square Wheel, something that works but that does not work smoothly, combined with the perception that the Round Wheels already exist in the wagon sets up a motivation for continuous continuous improvement **

Stepping back from the wagon allows a sense of decreased emotion while expanding perceptions, and often “considered alternative choices.” The latter are critical in order to conceptualize a different future. If you cannot see alternatives, you cannot choose from them. Simple.

Daniel Kahneman Illustrated Quote with Square Wheels and LEGO

and

Square Wheels LEGO image ALl of us know more

My goal was to present our simple concept of organizational involvement and transformation, the Square Wheels theme, which is general and flexible and adaptable to a wide variety of personal and organizational development situations. People have a generally favorable memory of LEGO and play, and the links to the issues of combining different perspectives on issues and opportunities lend itself to improved communications.

I will switch to this metaphor to close this out:

Caterpillars can fly lighten up round

I think we can all improve all things if we just take the time to lighten up and look at things from a different perspective,

 

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

Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

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

* back before we became enlightened, we called it “physiological psychology.” Heck, the whole department is now called, “The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience” even though the website is still psychology.unc.edu so go figure… I might as well try to move into the mainstream of popularity.

** Idea from the Department of Redundancy Department and the concept that the Round Wheels of Today will, invariably, become the Square Wheels of Tomorrow. Failure to continuously improve is a design for disaster. Think of land-line telephones and MySpace.

 

Facilitation and Motivation – Ideas for workplace improvement

“Fear is the Mindkiller,” was repeated incessantly in the Dune books of Frank Herbert. Fear is numbing and generally not useful. Overall, the “Fear of public speaking,” remains America’s biggest phobia – 25% say they fear speaking in front of a group.

Clowns are feared (8% feared) and are officially scarier than ghosts (7%), but zombies are scarier than both (9%). Funny, eh? And research says that Democrats are nearly twice as likely as Republicans to have a fear of clowns, which might explain some of the interesting political events we find today. (Chapman University survey)

Watching workers working for nearly 50 years and trying to get a grip on the issues of engagement and motivation lead me to this conclusion:

Fear, the mindkiller

is a real fear in workplaces and for many managers — probably impacts people and performance more than most senior managers (who have to be accomplished presenters) more than one thinks. A lack of general confidence with facilitation skills can decrease leadership effectiveness, absolutely.

What we often do is promote that good worker into a Supervisor, because of their technical knowledge and their tendency to get things done. But are these new leader / managers actually good at involving and engaging their people for continued workplace improvement? Or are they just trying to keep things moving forward and more pressured to do things themselves? Do we actually give them training and development support to impact their leadership behavior?

Let’s also add in some additional leadership fears such as fear of loss of control and fear of not having the best ideas and all that other “am I worthy of this” personal competency thoughts and we can readily generate a list of reasons why so many managers simply find it hard to:

Ask for Ideas

for ideas.

It really is understandable. There are a lot of common fears about leading and involving and engaging and asking might indicate that you do not know…

At the same time, it is my consistent discovery that so many workplaces tend to look something like this:

Square Wheels Facilitation

The people are working hard, pushing and pulling their wagons, but it is the same thing, day after day and week after week. No wonder that Sirota Research found that 85% of new hires say that their morale declined significantly after spending 6 months in their job and that employee engagement remains so poor (Gallup, Mercer, and others).

We are apparently not doing a lot of asking
and probably doing a lot more telling!

My guess is that the reality of how organizations are working is not so much like that shown in the above illustration but seemingly more like what we share in the one below:

Square Wheels for improving facilitation

So, what is really so hard about facilitating a group discussion? Not a whole lot, actually, speaking as someone who was a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) by the International Association of Facilitators and who has been leading organizational improvement workshops teaching simple facilitation ideas since 1978.

Really, it is really simple, really. Seriously, it is really really simple:

  • Share an illustration with them that has printed on it, “How might this illustration represent how organizations really work?” And let them think about it and then discuss it in small groups.
  • Ask them to share their ideas and let them think, share and work.
  • Ask them to share how some of those same ideas might represent how things work in their work initiatives.
  • Ask them what we might try to do differently and if anyone is already doing something differently than everyone else.
  • Ask them if they could try to implement a change in how they do things or to recommend something that you might change to make things work better.

That, in a nutshell, is motivational engagement facilitation.

You can read lots more about facilitation, engagement and intrinsic motivation in my blog posts, since I often talk about these issues and opportunities as being straightforward. You can also read about Russian Poets and nutshells and Hamlet, if you want, since all this stuff does connect to motivating people and improving how things work. And, you can find a simple, free guide to facilitation by clicking below:

Elegant SolutionsFacilitating Engagement – an overview

The simple reality is that the Round Wheels already exist in wagons everywhere, but our people are seemingly too busy to stop and step back and identify issues and opportunities that are really visible and often relatively easy to fix. You can make that happen!

So here is some really simple advice for supervisors and facilitators:

Things I can do to improveSauare Wheels poster on Motivation

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

Robots and Work – Where will you fit in?

Square Wheels theme of Scott Simmerman

If you have not read the thoughts of Geoff Colvin on the rapid rise of workplace robotics and the impacts on people and jobs, you need to. Fortune magazine had a nicely done adaptation from his book, Humans are Underrated, and the information is really thought-provoking.

And here is another good article about robots and jobs you might find interesting.

Robots are taking over. At a lunch social get-together recently, a woman introduced herself and talked about finishing school and working as a pharmacist at one of the Walmart stores. Good job and apparently reasonably well-paying. But as we discussed what her work actually entailed, she was essentially counting pills and putting them in bottles labeled by the computer. And while she said that her special competencies included being able to talk about the medication and its interactions with other drugs, all I could think of was the way my Medicare Drug Plan fulfillment company did all that with an automated phone call and a computer printout showing the specifics of my simple prescription.

Remember the show Jeopardy and the IBM Watson computer back in 2011? That amazing artificial intelligence is now being packaged and sold to medical organizations because the intelligent system can scan the millions of published articles and databases and do a lot better intuitive investigative work on diagnosis than any team of physicians could possibly do. Computers are now complex thinking machines — even Siri on my iPhone is pretty amazing at intuiting and then learning the kinds of questions I ask and the information I need, getting better and better over time as it learns.

This trend toward “artificial intelligence” is both exponential in nature as well as inexorable. Many of the “sports stories” we read online are done by computers taking information and generating the article — there are no humans involved other than in some of the data collection.

I took two MOOCs, one on designing online learning courses using Moodle and one on blended learning techniques. Basically, I am learning to teach over computer rather than doing it in the classroom, and many of my training materials will be delivered in an interactive, collaborative online way, rather than me standing up in front of a group somewhere. I am actively trying to work myself out of work!

With an upcoming trip to Ecuador, I am working through a free online course (Duolingo) to teach me Spanish. If I move there, I may enroll in a language school taught by an actual person to really get a hang of the nuances and idioms, but the basic stuff is pretty easy to learn online. And there are lot of impacts on people and performance when training can be designed by computer without a lot of input from people and delivered instantaneously over mobile devices on demand.

So, the question becomes what tasks and activities can people continue to do, with the assistance of these computing machines and this newfound intelligence? Where will people continue to be important for production and performance?

The most common job these days is truck driver — there are about 2.9 million people moving trucks from one place to another and getting paid for their efforts. But rapid advancement in “self-driving automobiles” is finding that machines may be better at inputting data and making decisions than people. They respond faster, have better sensory input, process information a lot more effectively and they do not get drunk or distracted by kids in the back seat or pretty girls or handsome guys on the sidewalk. They can share data and make predictions and basically operate a lot more efficiently. And we are just beginning to use this technology; it will get better and better and will be totally different in 10 years than it is right now — and right now, it is pretty good.

When do we let computers do the surgical interventions on people rather than human doctors, who are subject to nervous movement and distractions and who do not – even now – have anything like the control of small movements that can be accomplished with robotics? They can perform with precision and can work 24 hours a day.

Where is human judgement going to be more valuable than that of the computer information processing on the data that is collected?

Colvin focuses on the key issue of empathy.

Maybe our training and organizational development activities need to focus a lot more on that kind of social interaction quality?

Me, I am going to continue to work in the areas of teamwork, collaboration, engagement and innovation using my teambuilding games and my LEGO and line art Square Wheels themes. We will use learning technologies to make the materials more accessible and to deliver some of the training, such as our plans with our basic supervisor facilitation training using the cartoons to generate ideas and involvement. I want to improve the quality of the interactions between people as a way of improving performance and even generating more workplace happiness.

As Colvin says, “Being a great performer is becoming less about what you know and more about what you’re like.”

Interesting stuff,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

Best Practices – Performance Shortcuts that need sharing

My thinking for the past 30 years has been about people and performance, about innovation and peer support for change and all that stuff.

In LinkedIn this afternoon, Ingrid Kelada shared an image from Arvin Jayanake that caught my eye since it illustrated so much about how things really work in so many organizations. (I do not know the source for this, even after a search, so please advise if you know the ownership.)

shortcut

If you have spent any time on a college campus, you have seen this reality.

The best way to build drainage for a new road is to build the road and then watch how it floods… THEN, build the drainage. A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world, especially when you are trying to generate optimal performance and “control behavior.” Do what works best; design from that perspective.

It is the same thing in organizations. The best way to operate is the best way to operate!

In reality, lots of organizations REALLY operate like the illustration above, with the exemplary performers using the shortcuts and doing things differently (to generate the exemplary results) and the average performers using the walkways like they were trained. We see these Best Practice paths everywhere, but a typical HR or management response to this situation is to build the wall across the shortcut!

My approach says that we simply need to step back from the wagon and look at how things are really working, finding those square pathways that can be improved in some way so that more people can operate more effectively. It looks like this when the top performers can get the attention of leadership:

Square Wheels and teambuilding games by Scott Simmerman

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There! Those best practice ideas already exist and we simply need to take the time to share some of them with the people who are pushing the wagons forward.

POEMS For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

We just released our new toolkit for improving organizational communications. Check it out:

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

 

 

Perspective: Stepping Back from The Wagon

Life is funny. Seriously…

There is a great story about Scott Adams and how his Dilbert cartoons got started. It was shared in LinkedIn, which had the hotlink to the article. You can go to that story by clicking on this link. It is a laugh, and goes on to share some of the realities of “Corporate Life.” (Is that an oxymoron?)

I shared that HBR – Dilbert link with my partner and my son, who is getting involved with the business and my son reflected back to me with a simple email:

Very clever….sort of.  Funny how a lot of people could have done the exact same thing, but he was able to step back and disengage from it and see look at it from afar to bring it into perspective.  There’s a lesson here somewhere…

My partner / his mother saw his response and then emailed me:

Yes, I just read that from the email you had sent to Jeff and saw Jeff’s comments about it. Quite interesting and shows how one person can, as Jeff said, step back and take a different kind of initiative.

My reaction to the second, anchored in the first is an email back to her, saying:

THAT is the whole point of what I have been trying to teach for 20 years!!! The Round Wheels are already in the wagon!

I’ve been talking about the need to step back from the wagon to see things that might not normally be seen for 20+ years; this is one of the key learning points underlying my thinking around Square Wheels.

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!

Step back and see things from a different perspective. Take a few minutes to talk with other people who might see things differently. Everyone brings their own viewpoint to a discussion so ASK instead of TELL.

For example, there is this poster:

square wheels image by scott simmerman

And there is this one, about Team Perspective:

square wheels lego image by Scott Simmerman

Sometimes, it takes a whack in the side of the head to realize that one has maybe not communicated that well. A major point to all these images and themes that I have been sharing is that perspective is a most wonderful thing.

Ya think?

Generating a new perspective on things is an important skill for coaching, innovating and change. The skill of “stepping back from the wagon” acts to generate dissociation, the viewing from another perspective. Seeing things from different angles allows you to generate alternatives, and these considered alternatives form the basis of managing change and innovating services. If you keep seeing things the same way, change and improvement are simply much harder.

For employee engagement, can’t each of us figure out some way to get our people to look around and see things from a different perspective once in a while? That is what my tools are for, in part.

Square Wheels Icebreaker is simple to use

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

Poem on Team Innovation and Motivation

Most of the time, I blog up my poems (and posters and quips) on my other blog, www.poemsontheworkplace.com. But, I thought to pop two up about motivation in here, since they impact on a lot of organizational realities of people and performance and to demonstrate my poetic genius. (grin)

My hat is off to the cat in the hat guy, who serves as a positive inspiration to a lot of us who don’t get iambic pentathlon and that other allegorical alliteration allusion stuff. Just keeping it simple and fun here, folks…

So here goes:

Square wheels image in LEGO by Scott Simmermanand, one of my favorites about the perceptions surrounding management and leadership:

square wheels poem by Scott Simmerman

If you are looking for some really easy to use tools to improve your communications, check out this $20 toolkit using the Square Wheels One image:

Square Wheels image Icebreaker icon

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

Square Wheels Business Toys – an idea

As many readers know, we have been slowly moving the line-art Square Wheels images into the LEGO representations. The latter are more colorful and three-dimensional but not really hands-on, since they are only pictures…

Square_Wheels_Images_by_Scott_Simmerman

But I have still not really added the kinesthetic learning element to this package of tools nor is there anything for desktops. So, when I saw that Quirky was doing a toy-development focus with Mattel to develop some new toy ideas and that LEGO is now the number one toymaker in the world, AND the reality that LEGO does not actually make Square Wheels nor any toys around my theme (and my intellectual property and copyrights and trademarks!), it seemed to make sense that I pop up a business toy idea around the themes. Right?

So, I pushed out some wordiology around the basic idea that we could develop some plastic toys that we could use in training and development around creativity and innovation, things that could be that hands-on kinesthetic learning link for workplace improvement ideas and team building.

If you think that this basic idea makes sense, check out what I popped up into Quirty:   https://www.quirky.com/invent/1648222/action/vote/query/view=trending

It’s just an idea, but it sure seems like it would be a fun thing to have when working to improve workplace communications and engagement, right? And your vote for the idea would be appreciated, for sure.

One result of all this is that you could have some cute reminder “statue” of your own design right on your desk, one that reflected the business improvement and corporate team building ideas and that could be used as a hands-on toy to improve organizational performance. Simple and direct, visual and kinesthetic.

PMC sells some simple to use and inexpensive toolkits for improving communications, and this would simply be another basic part of a memorable toolkit for employee involvement,

Square Wheels Icebreaker is simple to use

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

Poems and Haiku on People and Performance – Square Wheels themes

I was trying out some new image capture software and got into taking some screenshots of some powerpoint slides that I then thought to change and then to redo some poems and haiku about people and performance. I got a goodly number of these done, which I will share on my poems about the workplace blog. You can go there by clicking on the poem image below:

a Square Wheels poem by Scott Simmerman

The poems blog is full of posters, quotes, one-liners and some other quick stuff that I have tried to capture over the past 2 years. It is my place for having a bit of fun. Here is a haiku poem that I will upload there tomorrow:

A square wheels haiku poem by Scott Simmerman

and here is one more poem:

A square wheels poem on workplace reality by Scott Simmerman

Hope you like these. I have a good time playing with these kinds of things, and if you want me to illustrate any writings of yours with my Square Wheels LEGO images, let me know,

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

 

lyrics:

Teamwork’s the way to get more good things done,
Those difficult changes that ain’t any fun.
It’s hard work to mesh with those not like you,
But stopping and talking is always the glue.

Passion for change? Yes?
Get the job done fast and cheap.
Labor is intense.

The Boss may just be unaware.
Of the Square Wheels always thumpy.
The wagon can roll with much less care,
If communications not so lumpy.

 

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