Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: Organizational Development Tools (Page 1 of 5)

12 Great Strategic Board Games – by Joe Cole (with Scott Simmerman)

Entertainment is as important as work because it keeps your life balanced and in this manner you are able to work in a more effective way. In this modern technological world where we can find everything on our mobile screens – ranging from video games to social media services – sometimes we want to escape from the glittering mobile screens and demand something that is truly different. Most of us cannot even imagine that entertainment also exists outside our mobiles even if we want to play games, and these games are called board games. Board games are interesting and people still play these games because when you play board games, you take some time off from your mobile screens.

Guest blogger Joe Cole and I have collaborated to talk about our collection of what we think are 12 of the best strategic board games for business performance improvement.

Collaboration Journey game icon for teambuilding and Square Wheels

Collaboration Journey – a Square Wheels game

CJ comes in two versions, a simple and a complex one. In Simple CJ (CJ1), tabletops of 3 to 4 people plan a journey forward to collaborate and move through a series of constraints. While there can be a winner, the game is about getting ALL of the teams to move forward efficiently and effectively. Teams use dice to replace their Square Wheels with round ones so their wagons can roll faster. In Complex CJ (CJ2) teams must move their Wagon Pushers on and off wagons in order to gain round wheels in a fairly complex series of events. It is designed to take about 90 minutes to play and debrief.

Innovate & Implement – a Square Wheels Game

Innovate & Implement teambuilding game using Square Wheels

In I&I, teams speed around the game board gaining access to problems and using their resources to solve them. The idea is to collect all four round wheels so that they can implement change in their organizations. Training is an option, and the Trainer and the Manager chase teams around hoping to get them into the training class, while players tend to try to avoid that (just like they do in the workplace!). It is designed to take about 90 minutes to play and debrief. A speedy replay can also be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of practice and learning on quality of performance.

7 Wonders

It is a very interesting and strategic game which is also very easy to play. The game won’t take more than 30 minutes to complete one round, in case you are a busy person. The overall theme and gameplay are very simple, but you will have to learn the rules of the game first which are bit difficult and confusing, but as you play on, the rules become more and more obvious.

Coyote

It is a bluffing game and is very simple. 6 people can play the game at the same time, and one round won’t take longer than ten minutes. The game is based on numbers; each person carries a number on its head, and the only number he can’t see is his own. The game is not as linear as it seems because there are other puzzling cards like negatives, multipliers, and zeroes etc.

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica is a very difficult and complex game when compared with the other board games, but its difficulty also makes it very interesting. If you have watched the TV series, then there won’t be any difficulty in playing it because the game truly captures the essence of the TV series. The real charm of the game is that it is a cooperative game, and in the game, two or more people aren’t on your side and you don’t know about it until they reveal themselves.

Balderdash

If you have played the game Dixit, then you will know the rules of Balderdash instantly because both games have almost the same rules. The main theme of the game is that one person reads a word from any card aloud, and all the other members are asked to write the mock definitions of the word. The person who has announced the word then reads all the mock definitions aloud including the original one.

Smallworld

This game is all about tactics, if you play tactically you win; the game is as simple as that. All you have to do is get more and more gold on the board by controlling different areas which are mentioned on the board. You can only take different areas under your control only if you have greater army than your opponent. Special abilities, as well as different pairings, also make the game really interesting.

Dominion

It is a very simple and straight game and lacks any complexity whatsoever. Two main things in the game are coins and kingdom cards. You start playing the game if you have both these things. The main theme of the game is to get as many kingdoms as possible.

Agricola

It is a very interesting game with agricultural touch. The main theme of the game is that you own a house and some land as well. You will have to grow different things on the land you possess in order to feed your growing family. What matters most in the game is planning; if you don’t plan properly, your opponent will snatch all your resources.

Atlantis

It is a strategy game which 2-4 players can play at the same time. The main theme of the game is that you have to get off the sinking island of Atlantis. The game is highly imaginative and you can place the card patterns in what way you like.

The Golden City

It is a game for 3 or four players and features many adventures. When you start the game, you play as a settler on an island at the center of which there is a golden city. The primary goal of the game is to get the golden city by establishing a trade. This game can be purchased from Groupon, use Groupon coupon at checkout to save.

Set

The rules of the game are very simple, yet the game is very puzzling. The game is all about pattern recognition and you will have to find different patterns.

 

a team building simulation exercose

Lastly, let me add a short note about our flagship team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. You can find plenty of blog posts about it and we note that it is recognized as one of the best teambuilding simulations in the world, based on user comments. Dutchman focuses on collaboration, leadership and alignment and can play with hundreds of people in tabletops of 5-6,

This guest post is written by Joe Cole, he works at Coupon Goo.

Some additional comments were added by me,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

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.

Facilitation, Square Wheels and #MoreBetterFaster

We are just about ready to launch our new LMS, The Square Wheels Project, that will feature our Square Wheels® LEGO images and teach anyone how to facilitate a discussion about improving things in the workplace. The basic approach will be simple and straightforward and the links to themes of engagement, innovation, motivation and teamwork will be really clear.

Dan Stones and I have been working to bring all this together for the past few months and Dan does this seamlessly. For me, it is a much more difficult learning practice, it seems. He quickly gets the technology side of this so I mostly support the effort with my LEGO people and my ideas around turning Square Wheels into Round Ones.

So, as this all comes together, I started cranking up production of my “posters,” a little one page shot of some thought or a poem or similar. So, here are a three of the ones I thought you might find of interest.

Square Wheels stupidly simple reality posterSquare Wheels hands-on senseWorkplace Happiness and Square Wheels

It has been nearly 25 years since I started using Square Wheels as a metaphor for organizational improvement themes and it has been an interesting journey forward. I hope you like the approach we take, and that you will take a look at our actual learning tools,

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

 

#squarewheels #morebetterfaster #thesquarewheelsproject.com #innovation #engagement #motivation

 

 

Visions – Hindsight and the View at The Back

In a LinkedIn leadership group, Mark Deterding posted up an interesting thought on leading from insightful contemplation and framing things in a servant leadership model. His post was called, “Vision from Behind” and Mark said:

Hindsight is 20/20. While we often think of that in relation to blunders, it’s limiting to consider hindsight valuable only when recovering from mistakes. Making a reflective observation is a necessary step in clarifying your vision for the future. You discover more about yourself as you take a reminiscent tour through life experiences. Looking back is a magnifying glass, enhancing awareness of where you are now because of where you have been. This is helpful in understanding how you currently lead, and where you might want to focus your efforts in developing your future self as the servant leader that God created you to be. Vision from behind creates an environment where you become more and more a student of servant leadership.

This aligns overall pretty well with my thinking about communications and teamwork and issues of motivation. Mark’s hindsight and reflective observation is pretty much what I think of as “Stepping back from the wagon.” The idea is to disengage from that first-person, through your own eyes view of the world and to change one’s perspective, looking at the situation from a dissociated viewpoint, like watching TV. From a distance, you can better see other people’s viewpoints. Innovation and insight generally come from reflection and contemplation.

My explanatory model for how the world seems to work and how most organizations seem to operate looks like this:

SWs One NEW w: copyright 1We have Wagon Pushers who simply cannot see where they are going and who do not receive much in the way of performance feedback or coaching — they are simply too busy pushing the wagon and their view is one of “boards and hands.”

So think what the pushers actually see, and think what the Wagon Puller can see if he simply turns around. (Not much, actually.) My guess is that his view is mostly of the wagon, even though he might have a really nice view if he looks ahead. After all, who wants to stare at the front of a wagon for any length of time. So, to really generate perspective and a change in thinking, there is the need to really stop doing what we are doing and to move around a bit.

Reflection, in my model is termed,

“Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There.”

The idea is to step back from the wagon to get a different perspective, one that includes the Pushers and all the wheels, the whole scenario basically. One can probably identify ideas for improvement as well as thoughts on how to improve involvement, engagement and motivation.

That one, skipping a bunch of intervening, process improvement illustrations, could look something like this when all is said and done and everyone is allowed to play with ideas and solutions:

SWs Celebrating Two RWs

Vision from Behind is good and it is helpful. Servant Leadership is a fine concept. But I think that involving and engaging people in generating their innovative ideas for workplace improvement — and implementing those good ideas — is really more about how to generate intrinsic motivation for the journey ahead. Celebrating successes most likely will generate more successes and improved teamwork and collaboration.

If you are interested in more along these lines, take a look at some of my other blog posts around Square Wheels and motivation and engagement that are in my blog. A few of them are these:

Stupidly Simple Engagement and Motivation

A LEGAL Approach to improving Engagement

Improving Engagement and Workplace Efficiency to Motivate Performance

I also write poems and haiku and produce a bunch of different “posters” that you can see if you click through to my Poems on the Workplace blog in the footer below.

If you are looking for some simple and effective tools for impacting communications and improving innovation and engagement, 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.

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

 

 

Teambuilding Exercise – Overview of Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

My associate in India  emailed me with the info that he had just run his 169th session involving my team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. Pretty neat. And I am glad that we are leaving a “legacy” of teamwork and organizational improvement in India and in other countries.

He also shared his newest video overview of the exercise, which I thought to share here.Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine Teambuilding Exercise

Click on the image for a 2-minute overview of a session held for one of their clients.
https://youtu.be/n2A4Di3ye_c

If you are interested in acquiring one of these exercises for your own use as a consultant or trainer, you can find information here on my website, or contact me directly at the email listed below

WP Header Image

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.

 

BOSS: Spelled Backwards

Boss. In organizations, a lot of people know precisely who that is. And that can be a positive or a negative, as I will try to explain.

My dad owned a small trucking company in South Jersey for nearly 50 years and he was the boss, for sure. He made all the decisions, ran the office, did the collection, gave his customers bottles of hooch every Christmas and ran the company as a one-man band. He had a half-dozen trucks and he did well enough to buy a summer house that gave our family a place to be at the beach, boats and cars and all that. From that perspective, my dad was a good boss.

On the other hand, there is an aspect of BOSS that is not so good. You would sometimes see it in how he might interact with a driver. Orin was always stopping in on prospects to generate new business and my dad generally never wanted to talk with him, telling me to tell Orin he was not around, for example. Or if there was a problem, the conversation tended to be one-sided. My dad did not generally appreciate the thoughts and ideas of the guys who worked with him.

“I’m the boss, here” generally infers complete control and a bit more yelling and telling than asking and listening. Boss translates to Ruler, the Decider, someone who has all the bucks and they stop right there. I see the word “autocratic” in the management haze, the imperial-ness of the boss as a person.

  • I see The Boss theme happening in an organization where 60% of the employees feels that no one listens to their ideas or respects them for their work or personal accomplishments.
  • I see The Boss theme in organizations where 10% or less of the employees see themselves as actively engaged but the vast majority rating themselves as un-involved or even “Actively Dis-Engaged” and choosing not to be involved and engaged, with the correlated high levels of absenteeism and turnover. And even some sabotage (see this post of mine).
  • And, I see The Boss as someone who simply knows that they have the right ideas and approach and that they could not possibly benefit from any training on listening skills or engagement or innovation facilitation.

In those cases, BOSS spelled backwards probably is a pretty good explanation of their overall attitude and approach to employee involvement and engagement.

John was one such animal. He was The Boss, president of a company that asked me to help improve their customer service. We did some initial work and then had one of their first ever Manager’s Meetings, an all hands deal at a golf resort where we had scheduled some work sessions around some golf. You might have guessed that John was a Big Time Golfer, which is why a golf course was selected for a business meeting, and why meetings were actually scheduled around his tee times.

And, in that meeting, John actually said, while sitting there going through his mail (I was so shocked that I wrote it down!) as we were talking about employee ideas for improving the organization,

“That’s like asking the vegetables
how to design a refrigerator.”

John obviously saw himself as, The Boss.

And my one-liner back is,

Boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory.”

John was not there the following year, since his charter by the board of directors to improve operations and customer retention was not going that well regardless of what we tried to do at the lower levels.

A Customer Service Fundamental:

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

Perceptions are important, and if workers don’t feel right about the company, it is hard to get them to do those things that exceed customer expectations. It is hard to get them to feel motivated to perform at moderate to high levels. Sure, the top performers perform, but they always do that for intrinsic reasons until they burn out and leave. Note that average employees are often involved in Presenteeism. the situation where they show up and accomplish the minimally accepted level of work and performance competence.

Aldo note that the poor performers are actively un-involved and sometimes intentionally sabotaging the work. Why not choose to do some things differently to get a result that is #morebetterfaster?

So, you might simply reflect on the simple themes in, “Hey Boss!” Asking for and listening to ideas from your people does not involve a lot of training or skills, just the positive intention to treat them effectively.

It can look something like this:

active involvement and engagement with Square Wheels

Any questions? Just ask me, because I am The Boss!

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

 

Jobs Demands-Resources Model explained with Square Wheels

In a really solid interview of Dr. Arnold Bakker, David Zinger (@DavidZinger) asks about the Jobs Demands-Resources Model that is being used to clarify the understanding of workplace issues of motivation and engagement. I encourage you to look at the interview as well as the explanation of the model to gain your own ideas about how things work and what things can be done differently to impact employee engagement.

But also understand that the two articles referenced in the interview are heavily referenced academic descriptions of models, issues, interactions and comparisons of studies of these topics. You might find them an intellectual challenge to decipher, as I did, although the basic messages are quite clear.

David, who is the organizer of the Employee Engagement Network, feels that Dr.  Bakker’s work on people and performance is top shelf and I would agree.

My interests were focused on a couple of things that were said as well as the overall operational structure of the model and how to use it, Bakker said, in part,

My first action would be to create ample opportunities for the exchange of job resources between employees, by creating structural working conditions and processes that foster the exchange of feedback, social support, ideas, communications, etc. These resources would foster work engagement and build cohesion among employees.

David also asked, “If HR practitioners or CEOs were to read just one or two of your articles, which one/s would you recommend?” to which Bakker suggested:

Two articles come to mind. The first I would recommend offers an overview of the Jobs Demands–Resources Theory. This article explains how job demands and resources have unique effects on job stress and motivation. And the other I would suggest covers the daily fluctuations in employee work engagement. Here, I examine the predictors and outcomes of daily engagement, and  how individuals can advance work engagement from one day to another.


He also said:

Fortunately, we can influence our own daily levels of employee work engagement by proactively optimizing our job resources. Some examples include talking to enthusiastic colleagues, creating our own positive feedback, and starting new and challenging projects. My current interest is, not surprisingly, particularly in the latter self-management behaviors people use to influence their own work engagement (e.g., job crafting, strengths use, mobilizing ego resources, resource exchange, team boosters).


I read all of the above as “by having a good mental model to reframe our work into making progress forward, we can use our own resources to improve our own resources.” And my view of the model, a bit less detailed than Bakker’s, would actually appear something like this:

Square Wheels LEGO Illustration of engagement

After all, the reality is that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon and that sometimes we simply need to step back and reflect in order to reframe our thinking and to get out of the ditch and back up on the road.

If people work together with each other and management, and they take the time to discuss issues and opportunities, realities and best practices and ideas for workplace improvements of any and all kinds, you cannot expect them NOT to be more engaged and involved.

Nobody ever washes a rental car, and people with ownership involvement can be expected to treat things differently than those who are simply showing up, (what I call Presenteeism).

Remember that The Manager is the Motivator when it comes to improving the interactions of people in the workforce. This is NOT a task that can be accomplished by HR or Training and it is a daily occurrence, something that Bakker discusses in his interview and his second article.

 

I hope this is somewhat thought-provoking,

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

How many people have seen Square Wheels illustrations?

Got a problem with motivation, engagement or productivity and looking for a simple and bombproof, proven tool? Take a minute and read this. And Think!

A team of us are working at building our online teaching resource wrapped around the idea of “stupidly simple facilitation” through the use of my Square Wheels® theme. The project has gone through a number of phases and Dan Stones in Melbourne has jumped in to help us drive all of this forward. Expect some fun stuff as we continue to rock and roll.

As we were chatting, Dan asked me the simple question,

“How many people have seen or used Square Wheels?”

That is a really good question, for which I have no clue. History shows I have been presenting the theme at conferences and workshops since 1993 when I started using the main cartoon, Square Wheels One, done in black ink by my friend Roy Sabean. A few presentations later and I had 4 and then 7 different illustrations. When I got to 13, people started asking me for copies to use and I started selling a set in a brown envelope as colored transparencies and black line art.

Then, they wanted me to explain how to use them. Really? “Just do what I do or do your own thing,” I said, to no avail. They wanted me to write that stuff down, which resulted in a book with photocopiable masters. That was back in 1993, with the first book published in 1994.

By 2004, we were in our fifth edition of The Big Book, a package containing descriptions for using more than 200 of the illustrations and for making transparencies. I am guessing that I still have a 3 or 4 foot stack of transparency versions of these materials in different places in the house!

The cover of the 2004 Big Book of Square Wheels

So, I did not have an answer for Dan. Since 1993, I have presented workshops in 38 countries and dozens of conferences, including more than 10 trips each to places like Singapore and Hong Kong. And we have sold a lot of a variety of books and electronic toolkits since we started all this more than 20 years ago. My squarewheels.com website went up in 1998!

But I just saw a statistic that is relevant, one that I blogged on in a different place. There, I said:

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

Communication and connection are the cornerstone of relationships – a quarter to a third of employees believe their managers seldom or never listen to them, understand their issues, seek their input and ideas, or help them to resolve the issues and challenges they face.

Okay. So one thing I am pretty sure of.So, here is my tongue-in-cheek but serious answer to Dan’s original question:

Two-thirds of the employees worldwide have NOT had their manager use the Square Wheels theme in a discussion about improving their workplace involvement and performance.

If they did, things would probably be different. Square Wheels really are everywhere and the round ones are already in the wagon. Communications would have HAD to improve!

There ARE some things you can choose to do now:

Square Wheels LEGO poster of engagement and motivation

We believe that managers should be motivators, and that engagement comes directly from active involvement and communications about issues and opportunities, about goals and expectations. It is about teamwork and shared perspectives as well as about ideas for improvement/ We think “this engagement and motivation stuff” is pretty straightforward and that people are intrinsically motivated when they feel a sense of ownership involvement.

A solution? Consider using our $25 Stupidly Simple Toolkit to generate a conversation in your workplace. Or wait until we get our online MOOC up and running where we can teach and support you in your improvement initiative. The choice is yours and we will guarantee it will work for you to help involve and engage your people, improving communications in many ways,

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

 

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

 

 

 

Thinking Out of The Box – Seriously

Okay. You read that you have to “Think out of the Box” in order to be creative and innovative in your organization and to get anything new accomplished. I just read this again in an article in Inc. Magazine (Mar, 2016) just like I read about it 30 years ago.

The Box. Some things just never seem to change.

Maybe your box looks like this:

The LEGO Box for you to think out of

But I don’t think so. My guess is that it probably looks and works more like this

Square Wheels One LEGO MAIN ©

…because there are often other people involved in making progress and you have probably been pulling your box around for quite some time, right? It is simply hard to keep perspective.

Well, here is a little learning lesson: While things just might feel like you are simply pulling forward and things are operating on the Square Wheels and thumping and bumping along like always, you have other people involved who are probably fed up with not knowing where they are going and motivated to make improvements.

So, here are a few points of perspective:

  • Don’t expect much change if you continue to do those same things in the same way.
  • You are not in this alone!
  • Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!
  • Your Round Wheels are already inside the wagon.

Lastly remember this:

The Round Wheels you implement TODAY will be the
Square Wheels you must deal with tomorrow because
we really live in a world of continuous continuous improvement.

If you want to see a silent movie about how all this works, a movie of discovery, click here:

So, go deal with that box. Get some things done and have some fun out there,

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

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.

 

Teambuilding and Schools – Issues of Design, Alignment and Collaboration

One of my newer customers just asked me to send him, “the debriefing that works with schools,” since my writings in the support materials for our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, has been used very successfully in that context over the years.

But, THE debriefing does not exist in my materials in any real sense, nor is it in my head. Let me explain…

I have personally delivered programs to colleges as well as organizations like the Singapore Ministry of Education (a purchaser of the exercise), the Hong Kong Education Ministry, and with senior teaching faculty in Trinidad and Tobago (man, that was a fun trip!). We have a bunch of colleges using this with students, too. And, we have run the exercise for a number of public schools (faculty, staff and parents) with excellent outcomes, commitments for change, and impacts on alignment and teamwork. I also formally suggest that any owner of the game consider using this program with schools in their area, pro bono.

Our schools need all the help they can get to develop a collaborative, motivated staff with parental support.

But all we can do with the exercise is set the stage for people to change their own behavior or support the behavior of others on their team. And this obviously works best when the discussions in the debriefing tie in tightly to the desired overall behaviors and outcomes.

So, there is no canned “debriefing for schools,” even though they are all pretty similar to each other and to business organizations. (Apparently, I did say that there was such a powerpoint file in some of my writings, but I looked and found that it was last updated in 2006!) But, these days, I do NOT boilerplate any of my debriefings, preferring to use a process like this for their development from my master file of debriefing questions and images:

I follow and anchor to their overall framework for their specific desired outcomes:

  • What do the leadership of the organization want to accomplish from this session? What changes would they like to see, and what behaviors might be different?
  • What existing frameworks should be anchored to? What things have been done successfully in the past that are viewed as positive? What other training or discussions have they had around these issues that we need to use within our followup?

And from that thinking and related discussions with the leadership of the school (including, if possible, both parents and administration and teachers), we can build an effective program. The goal is to generate change and improvement.

One session I did (from that 2006 powerpoint series) had me construct slides focused on a leadership model that the school’s District leadership were using and talking about. It started with these keys to success:

ideas around The Search for the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

…and it had these individual components involved:

ideas around The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

So we had the tabletops discuss these kinds of frameworks for implementing, with tables sharing their key discussion ideas and the group forming up into some implementation teams for scheduled followup meetings with the school leadership. We tried to keep things within the normal scheme of how they operated, instead of adding some additional mechanisms that would probably fail to be sustainable over time.

ideas around The Search for the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

As you would do for the development of any solid debriefing for an organization, you would first want to clearly define those issues that you needed tabletops to talk about, those issues that could be resolved if people made different choices. In so many organizations, and especially our schools, the factions of teachers, administration and parents are generally not on the same page; each has different interests when you get into specific desired outcomes. Only through alignment to some shared vision of the future can you pull things together.

To expect collaboration in an environment with different groups of people each desiring different outcomes is simply silly and bordering on malfeasance. What you will see is competition for perceived (and actual) scarce resources, which will not invite teamwork or organizational excellence. What you need to do is have people make different choices focused on shared goals.

In business, you tend to have financial and service goals driving behavior. Those are often clearly defined and it is only the operational goals between departments that generate competition and sub-optimization. In schools, the measurements tend NOT to be nearly as clear, even though there is so much measurement and testing going on. The measures do not generate collaboration about the factions and are used more like hammers than glue. Collaboration among the teachers is more the exception than a shared organizational reality.

This teambuilding simulation is simply a great tool to generate a lot of behavior that can then be discussed in connection to the desired outcomes of the school and the players. It provides a useful context to talk about the optimizing effects of collaboration versus the often sub-optimizing and debilitating impacts of competition. Our world tends to set people against each other to see who succeeds, a behavior that makes less and less sense when the sharing of best practices and the mutual peer support can be so motivational and impactful.

We need to create more of a focus on a learning organization, one that openly shares ideas and discusses possibilities.

If you are interested in talking more about these ideas, give me a call,

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

Simple thoughts on Rewards and Performance

I thought to weigh in here with a few thoughts on reinforcement and performance. I am going to keep things really simple and straightforward and try to address a few misconceptions.

As background, a doctorate in behavioral neuropsychology and many years of working on animal behavior and rewards, plus 10 years of doing “behavioral consulting for organizational performance kinds of things,” both external and internal with small and big organizations. Add to that about 40 years of reflecting on organizational cultures and performance.

I view the issue in a very simple way: square wheels lego by scott simmerman

Simple Thoughts:

  • That which gets rewarded gets repeated.
  • Behavior is modified with things that are perceived as rewarding, be they rewards or simply feedback related to behavior.
  • Immediate rewards are far more effective than delayed rewards.
  • Most performance feedback is delayed and relatively ineffective – see these 3 posts (articlearticlearticle)
  • Contingent rewards are those that can be directly related back to behavior by the performer.
  • Extrinsic rewards are ineffective for most people in the workforce. What is an effective extrinsic reward varies greatly among individuals.
  • Punishment generates a wide variety of unanticipated (but expected) negative behaviors (including sabotage)
  • Like Punishment, extrinsic rewards can generate all kinds of unanticipated and negative behaviors among the body of the workforce, sometimes called Superstitious Behavior.
  • Negative Reinforcement is the removal of a negative stimulus — it is NOT at all the same as Punishment. (You behave and I get off your back is a negative reinforcement situation. You behave and I get on your back is punishment.)
  • The existence of other people in the workplace tends to complicate the simplicity – peer support is very powerful and maybe the most powerful reward system in place in the workplace.

People sometimes perform in the hopes that they will get recognized by the boss. In so many situations, that is superstitious behavior, like blowing on dice before throwing them or saying some kind of “okay baby” kind of verbalization which you link to the behavior.

What we know from 50 years of research is that intrinsic rewards are much more effective than any possible extrinsic ones. People do things mostly for their own reasons and all we can do is impact those things in some modest ways — they behave because of their values and expectations more than rewards, for the most part. We even know that small rewards are much better than large ones if they are extrinsic.

In so many workplaces, things are so bad that some managers think an annual appraisal of performance might be an effective motivator of specific desired behavior on a daily basis.

We also know that such formal appraisals rarely change actual performance; what is effective is the goal setting for the self-attainment of the individual and the issues around clarifying expectations and generating alignment to shared goals.

A post today shared the tweet that recognition should happen with 24 hours of someone accomplishing something. Sure, that is better than none or something a week later, but even 24 hours is not very good. Imagine learning to play the piano if you could not hear the notes for even 2 minutes!

Yes, something is better than nothing, but delayed reinforcement is hardly effective in any real sense, at least to reward some specific behavioral result.

What can happen is that people imagine that they will get some management or peer recognition, and that predicted result can be modestly rewarding. When that does NOT occur, though, expectations are reduced and the next occurrence will have less effect.

Far better than an extrinsic reward system is a solidly designed and implemented performance feedback system. Take a look at the simple feedback analysis that should generate some ideas about possible changes in performance management in the workplace. Changing the actual feedback in an effective way is a wonderful motivator for self-improvement and change.

Some Simple Ways to Motivate:

  • Involve and engage them in team-based organizational improvement initiatives or innovation initiatives where they have no fear of failure and get regular positive attention from the management team as well as each other.
  • Allow people to get actively involved and develop a sense of ownership in some aspect of their work that is important to them.
  • Be careful of not telling too much, Few people like to be told what to do – give them some framework and ask them for how to best approach things. Coach more than manage / manipulate. Nobody ever washes a rental car. Do things with them more than to them. People resist when pushed.
  • Clarify their roles and align them to shared goals and visions and help them to have clear expectations as to what is desired and feedback about how well they do on a constant basis.
  • Make them feel as if they are valued contributors to the work effort and have a positive impact on group results. Remember that 50% of the people in any workgroup will be above the group average but that 50% will also be below that average; note that ALL people contribute to results.
  • Look for ways to allow individual growth and skill improvement. People like to improve their competencies and performance. Support personal growth and allow for differences.

None of this is rocket science. Remember that YOU probably got promoted to management because you responded well to extrinsic motivators, which is the most common way organizations structure work environments. But also remember that not everyone likes extrinsic rewards in the same way. Extrinsic rewards are most likely NOT motivating many of those people in the lower half of the workgroup. (See more on extrinsic motivation here and here.)

These are my thoughts on the issues around motivating people and improving workplace performance results. Results differ based on any number of factors, but these are the basics. I hope that you got ONE good idea from going through these learning points.

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 sell a variety of simple Square Wheels® tools for improving engagement and communications.  Square Wheels Icebreaker is simple to use

 

Square Wheels – A Great Engagement Tool

Recent discussions about including Square Wheels into a leadership development eLearning course got me thinking that I have not really explained the underlying rationale for why these images and approaches work so well to involve and engage participants in learning and development situations. After all, they are just cartoons, right?

Well, playing with these images and ideas in 38 countries over the past 22 years has generated a bit of understanding about why these learning tools work so well. Audiences of all kinds get very involved and engaged in discussing issues and ideas about their workplace, the world at large, and even about their personal development, and there are a number of solid psychological underpinnings as to why.

My goal here is not to get into the neurophysiology and behavioral psychology * of how all this works within the brain, but to try to offer some simple thoughts on different aspects of learning and behavior.

As some people know, we first used the line-art versions of these illustrations. Here is the original Square Wheels One illustration, used back in 1993:

square wheels one 1993

More recently, I have been working to add a more colorful and interactive approach, using LEGO blocks and building on the above theme:

Square Wheels image using LEGO by Scott Simmerman

Fundamentally, the Square Wheels images work in a way similar to a Rorschach Test (or Inkblot Test), where individuals are shown images and asked to respond to them. These images are called “projective psychological tools” because people will project their beliefs onto the images, which have no reality in their construction. A typical inkblot might look something like this:

typical Rorschach inkblot imageDifferent people see different things. Their personal history comes into play.

With the Square Wheels tools, we focus more on organizational issues and opportunities, working on themes of teamwork and continuous improvement and other workplace themes.

The approach is very simple: we encourage a group of people to consider the image individually and generate their thoughts on, “How might this represent how things really work?”

After some silent contemplation, we then engage the tabletops to share their different perspectives and ideas, so we generate both an active involvement by the individual as well as a collective group consensus as to what the image represents. If there are more than 6 people in the group, we will engage them in small groups and there are approaches for actively involving and engaging even VERY large groups of 100s of people in highly interactive participative ways.

The anchor points are simple:

  • Square Wheels represent things that work, but that do not work smoothly
  • Round Wheels represent ideas for improvement that already exist and that could be implemented

Simply put, we will generate Cognitive Dissonance between the way that things are right now (as perceived by individuals or small groups) as well as potential solutions to close that gap. People are motivated to close the gap and we have developed some team / tabletop support for working to address that issue. Some of the overall impacts are as follows:

  1. We get people actively involved in generating ideas for improvement that can be anchored to organizational development or quality / process improvement.
  2. We get individual as well as collective tabletop ideas about issues and opportunities.
  3. We generate discussions about what might be done differently, giving participants an active involvement that generates engagement and ownership.
  4. We generate a collective broadly-based set of perspectives on issues impacting performance.
  5. We generate individual ideas, anchored to best practices, for what they might do differently to make improvements.
  6. We get a collective discussion and generate peer support around certain ideas that have “weight,” that are substantially impactful and the deserve to be addressed and implemented.
  7. People LIKE being involved and engaged in generating team-based ideas for improvement, much more so than they like being simply told what to do. Change is often resisted when forced on people, while active involvement generates motivation and engagement.

We can readily link the issues of Square Wheels back to the organizational or work group mission and vision, helping to readily impact the peer support for alignment and generating discussions as to where expectations and measurement / feedback systems do not align. You can read a short article on assessing feedback systems by clicking here.

We can open up discussions of best practices by sharing ideas for Round Wheels. And by requesting that 3 Round Wheel ideas be generated for each selected Square Wheel to be addressed, we can force more creative thinking for solutions to common problems.

Are these illustrations too silly or too simple? My thought is that they ARE simple and that is one of the reasons that they are so engaging. You will look at the illustration and have only a few thoughts, but once the ideas begin to be shared with others at the tabletops, the ideas will flow and the perspectives will shift significantly.

At that point, the general cartoon of issues is often transitioned back to the actual workplace, as people begin to see the issues they face in the context of the image. Problems take on a Square Wheels label, and once something is labeled a Square Wheel, it will always exist as something that NEEDS to be addressed and solved; after all, the Round Wheels already exist.

The simple concept and image is a powerful tool for brainstorming and creative problem solving, also, since it detaches the issues of ownership and politics from the issues of performance. Calling something a Square Wheel is not viewed as a personal attack on the person or originating department; it is merely something to address and improve.

It also links beautifully to ownership engagement for problem resolution. A reality is that:

Nobody ever washes a rental car

and that active involvement generated by the process links neatly to the issues of active workplace engagement.

Square Wheels Poster Image Improvement

Let this blog represent a starting point for addressing why Square Wheels images work so well in situations to generate active learning, active involvement, teamwork and pragmatic ideas for organizational improvement. Performance improvement is a difficult thing to accomplish, in so many situations, and these very simple tools and a simple approach to involving and engaging people works seamlessly and elegantly.

What are YOUR thoughts on why this works or some thinking
about the issues that using it might generate?

You can find out more if you purchase my simple “Icebreaker” toolkit. Cheap! And I am completing a full-blown Facilitator’s Toolkit focused on sharing more of the tools and approach for workplace performance improvement.

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

 * Please note that I actually have a doctorate in behavioral neuropsychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and have completed NLP Master Practitioner certification, along with being a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) from the International Association of Facilitators and a Certified Professional Trainer (CPT) from the International Association for People and Performance. So, I do have both an educational background for understanding the neurophysiology of learning as well as the professional experienced in changing organizational behavior.

Challenging Mediocrity – Continuous Continuous Improvement

Dan Rockwell shared another good post, this one on pursuing excellence and dealing with mediocrity. Ever since Tom Peter’s and Bob Waterman published In Search of Excellence (1982), I have found that concept to be a really solid and inspiring one to use. And one does not often hear the word “excellence” used much these days when talking about leadership or organizational improvement. Those thoughts of Peter’s have been strong influencers of my work for the past 30 years, the things like MBWA and sticking to the knitting.

Dan’s summary bullets included these:

  1. Ask teams, who believe in the mission, where they can be better. Don’t point out their failures. Let them point out their aspirations.
  2. Every time you feel like pointing out a problem, ask, “How can we make that better?”
  3. Never allow conversations about issues or problems to end without finding some corrective action. At the least, set a “make it better” meeting.
  4. Ask, “What can we do about that,” when someone points out a problem or shortfall.
  5. Reject the need for big solutions. The need for big solutions is the reason teams end up doing nothing, except complaining.
  6. When someone says, “That won’t work,” ask, “What might help?”
  7. Focus more on where you’re going than where you’ve been. Apply Pareto’s 80/20 principle.
  8. Think of the pursuit of excellence in terms of people, then systems. How can you maximize talent and passion?

(You can find Dan’s whole list here)

While the Excellence book did get panned because of some of the companies they selected, the principles that Peters and Waterman expressed seemed really solid ones and I think if more companies did these kinds of things, we would probably see higher levels of employee engagement and innovation today. Those eight key points, taken from the Wikipedia article, are:

  1. A bias for action, active decision making – ‘getting on with it’. Facilitate quick decision making & problem solving tends to avoid bureaucratic control
  2. Close to the customer – learning from the people served by the business.
  3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship – fostering innovation and nurturing ‘champions’.
  4. Productivity through people- treating rank and file employees as a source of quality.
  5. Hands-on, value-driven – management philosophy that guides everyday practice – management showing its commitment.
  6. Stick to the knitting – stay with the business that you know.
  7. Simple form, lean staff – some of the best companies have minimal HQ staff.
  8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties – autonomy in shop-floor activities plus centralized values.

Most of these are people / philosophy issues, as I see them. And people ARE about performance!

My personal approach for the past 20+ years is to view people and performance issues within the realm of my Square Wheels frameworks, which I think meld really nicely with Dan’s thinking. Languaging around Square Wheels for issues and Round Wheels for possibilities takes a lot of the negative out of improvement discussions, since we can all accept that the Square Wheels are everywhere and the Round Wheels already exist.

So here is a little ditty on Mediocrity that I spun up for this blog.

Square Wheels images like these are the designs of Dr. Scott Simmerman

Don’t let all those Round Wheels seem like roadblocks to your performance improvement or your journey forward. There are ideas for performance improvement everywhere and managing improving excellence is a simple process of working with people with a degree of alignment and collaboration.

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
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Issues of Workplace Over-Connectedness and Vacation Day Giveaways

This is the third post in this series on working, over-connectedness and the reality that many are working long hours for free.

My first article in this series focused on statistics on work and working and the interconnection with vacation time. I then updated that, since I just read an article in Mother Jones magazine about the issues and problems of always being connected to the business life.

The trend is that people are working lots of hours. LOTS. And only some of them are compensated. We know from a wide variety of research on creativity and innovation that continually working is not conducive to high performance and it contributes to being over-stressed, generating a variety of health issues over the long term.

Overworking is actually scary stuff, all in all. And the research shows pretty clearly that some disconnection from the workplace has a variety of positive benefits.

We ARE in need of some brain-freeing vacation time away from things. An Intercall survey of American employees showed that people are simply NOT paying attention during business conference calls, for example. Their minds are either drifting off or they are trying to multitask and do other job tasks.

  • 65% said they did other work at the same time as pretending to participate
  • 55% that they prepared or ate food
  • 47% that they went to the bathroom
  • 25% that they played video games
  • 27% confessed to falling asleep at least once during a call, and
  • 5% said they’d had a friend POSE as themselves in order to skip it completely.

People are often just simply disengaged. You can find a more expansive article clicking on this link. The rest of this blog gets into that  and other data.

This article in The Guardian starts with a simple statement:

Americans took the least amount of vacation time in almost four decades last year, forfeiting billions of dollars in compensation without scoring points with their bosses, according to an industry group analysis.

The report for the US Travel Association said the average American with paid time off used 16 of 20.9 vacation days in 2013, down from an average of 20.3 days off from 1976 to 2000. It added that 169m days of permanently forfeited US vacation time equated to $52.4bn in lost benefits.

Note that the above says, “without scoring points with their bosses.” Why? Because their bosses are doing the same thing! An Ipsos/Reuters survey in 2010 found that only 57% of Americans used all their earned vacation time.

As background and perspective, I am now well in my 31st year of running Performance Management Company. I started as a consulting business working in people and performance areas, with a shift to customer service quality and then to change management and now to themes of workplace involvement and engagement. The shift to selling materials has been a good one and the pressures of the day-to-day have shifted as I enter my 67th year of being in the business of living. I DO work a lot because it is MY business and there is actually no one else to do most of what I do.

As a small business, I will say that I am almost always thinking about business — it is impossible to get away. My business land-line forwards to my cellphone, for example. I check email regularly (like most managers). And I used to joke about spending 50% of my time marketing, 50% of my time developing materials and 50% of my time actually doing things to make money. Only the reality is that 50% + 50% + 50% is truly the small business reality… You are 100% committed to make things successful.)

(One of the very best articles ever about the issues of running a small business is Wilson Harrell’s 1987 article, Entrepreneurial Terror that appeared in Inc, Magazine.)

Here is some additional data that should be thought provoking from that Guardian article:

Wealthier workers tend to earn more vacation days but they also leave more of it unused based on the survey:

  • People with an annual income of more than $150,000 failed to use an average of 6.5 vacation days in 2013.
  • People with less than $29,000 did not use 3.7 days.

Employees who forfeited paid time off do not get more raises or bonuses than those who take all their vacation time. They also report higher levels of stress at work.

A Harris / Adweek poll three years ago said that 52% of Americans will work during their summer vacation. The survey showed these people will perform a variety of tasks, including:

  • Reading work-related emails – 30%
  • Receiving work-related phone calls – 23%
  • Accessing documents on home computer – 19%
  • Receiving work-related text messages – 18%
  • Accessing documents on work computer – 13%
  • Asked to do work by a boss, client or colleague – 13%

Clive Thompson, writing in Mother Jones magazine, shared a good information on the issue of being over-connected and why we need to unplug. View that article here.

Thompson shared data from the Center for Creative Leadership finding that 60% of smartphone-using professionals were work-connected for a full 13+ hours a day and that they spent another 5 hours playing with emails on weekends. That adds up to 72 hours a week of job-related content — but being paid for only 40 hours!

Another study by Good Technology found that 68% of people checked work email before arriving at work — before 0800 — and that 50% checked it while in bed before going to sleep! Almost 40% check email at the dinner table!

The American Psychological Association reports that one in ten check email hourly – when on vacation!

It would seem that the entrepreneurial issue of always feeling that one had to be connected is now everyone’s problem.

You can see a LOT of that explained in the reality of this scene from “Deal of The Century” (Chevy Chase) where Harold (Wallace Shawn) is waiting in his room for the phone call. (Watch it here – 4 minutes and very well done!)

Deal

Pressure. Pressure to make the sale. Pressure to complete a project. Pressure from the team. Pressure from the boss. Pressures of all kinds from working. There are lots of pressures and few ways to release them in a healthy way — taking time off from working is the best way to generate relief for your brain and body. (Another approach would be meditation, and some strongly suggest a nap during the workday.)

WITH our connectedness and other electronic support and unpaid work time, corporate productivity is up 23% since 2000. Inflation-adjusted wages and benefits are up only 4% for these same jobs. (Data from Economic Policy Institute) The pin will eventually hit the balloon on all this and we can expect to see a variety of negative impacts, like increased mental illness, stress-related diseases and some deviant workplace behavior.

And, Clive Thompson wrote, the marketing research firm Radicati Group reports that we can expect to receive 22% more business email by 2015 than we did 3 years ago. Managers get about 300 emails a day, from what I read, so when do we actually find any time to think, to innovate, to build trust in our relationships, or to even relax?

We are being multi-tasked and over-managed, we are being spread thinner and thinner, expected to know more about more things but also unable to get the training time or even understand how things work in many of our jobs.

And the research supports that reality that some play and relaxation and free time to reflect and refocus does an awful lot to rebuild motivation and morale.

Pin Balloon Play Performance poem

PMC has designed a variety of Square Wheels illustration toolkits to help managers generate ideas for workplace change and improvement. These are designed to be fun and engaging meeting tools to help people with team-based discussion about possibilities to do things differently.

PMC also designs performance-based team building exercises to help put more play into performance improvement initiatives. Click on the icon below to see more information on our website:

THE+Games for Teambuilding PMC Home Page icon 1

Have some FUN out there! (Yeah, me, too.)

 

Me, on the beach, kayak camping on Lake Jocassee in the mountains of Upstate South Carolina.

 

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.

Dr. Scott Simmerman

 
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.

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