Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: Organizational Development Tools (Page 2 of 5)

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
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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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.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company

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PMC's Team Building Activities – Comparison Matrix

The pressure is on — people want me to bring forth my new game design on strategy implementation, trust and collaboration. This is the one that focuses on capturing Slinks before they turn into Zombies and about gathering the things needed to start a new civilization. (And this scenario is sounding more and more like the real world every day!)

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is still our flagship team building game. We get testimonials like this one on its effectiveness every week.

LDGM Training Consutant Testimonial

The Seven Seas Quest exercise was designed to followup on Dutchman but it is also an outstanding stand-alone exercise in its own right. Innovate & Implement exercise anchors to our Square Wheels tools for involving and engaging people, as do our two Collaboration Journey exercises.

Play of the games is pretty straightforward and the designs solid, based on a lot of feedback from users plus my own propensity to put a LOT of informational resources and detailed delivery materials with each game. I do not think anyone has ever complained about not enough information about presenting and debriefing.

And, the reality is that ALL of my games are focused on simple and straightforward debriefing. The metaphors are always clean and easy to link to issues of organizational performance such as leadership or collaboration or planning.

To help explain the different products, our website has a  “Team Building Games Comparison Chart” that tries to outline the basic keys such as number of players, desired outcomes and applications, benefits and similar. We have games that work for 4 people and most games can scale up for hundreds.

And we even show the actual price (it’s interesting that so few of our competitors will actually post the prices of their games; they seem to be almost embarrassed by the costs) as we feel we have the best cost to benefit ratio in the world for the kinds of products we design, sell and support. Plus, we sell all of our exercises “unemcumbered,” without the per-participant or annual licensing fees so common in the industry for full-blown simulations like ours.

AND, we’ll often customize for free if we think that work will result in a better team building product that we can distribute…

You can see the full Comparison Chart on the PMC website by clicking here – a version is added below but I am guessing that it will not be readable because of its size.

We think the current products carry forward into a lot of different kinds of organizational development initiatives. If you have any questions or ideas, I am easily reached and I answer my own phone (which seems to surprise many callers but is the way it SHOULD be for such important decision making as product selection and team building).

More fun is in store for all as I work up some new designs and I love it that we can design and offer these games that link so well to workplace issues at a low cost and as a great value.  

If you have any issues that you might like to see addressed with an interactive and engaging exercise, please drop me a note. My friend Brad wants to build a game on corporate sustainability for an executive development program he conducts at Furman University. And we have also played with the design of an emergency preparedness exercise.

Comments and suggestions are always appreciated!

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.

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

Some New Thoughts on Trust and Devils Advocate

My plans are to develop a solid whitepaper on the benefits of challenging existing assumptions and challenging status quo, with the goal of finding solid ideas that merit implementation or to identify issues in generating innovation and process improvement. There is a LOT of data and a LOT of success stories around all this that I want to elaborate on and share.

So, the note-taking and quote-taking continue and I am waiting for the brain to say, “You got it, now go!” So far, no such auditory trigger has been pulled. So I muddle with the meddling. And I wanted to get something up on this useful topic.

What I AM doing is continuing the framing of the issue. I must keep the framework and tools really simple, because lots of data also suggest that supervisors and managers are way overloaded and functionally unable to add much new to their plate of responsibilities.

My thought is that facilitating this process with the Square Wheels tools makes really good sense, since the approach really does not require any significant facilitation skills training or other costly roadblocks. If the manager wants to do things, they can simply choose to do them.

My oft used quotes are that:

  • Trust is the residue of Promises Fulfilled. (Frank Navran)
  • The Round Wheels are already in your wagon. (Scott Simmerman)
  • A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. (John LeCarre)
  • Nobody ever washes a rental car. (Scott Simmerman)

ALL of these lend themselves to the reality that the supervisor has to be the one to involve and engage their people in workplace improvement ideas in order to generate intrinsic motivation and process improvement, and the ideas already exist and people can develop a sense of ownership that will support their implementation.

So, I developed two simple Posters using my LEGO cartoons to help frame the issue. The issue is a simple one: Most workplaces have unengaged people simply doing the work of pushing their wagon and it needs to be acceptable for them to question the reality with management on occasion. This can generate new ideas as well as improve teamwork and intrinsic motivation for working.

LEGO POSTER Devil's Advocate simply

But one HAS to stop pushing and pulling in order to have the mental time to even consider options.

LEGO SWs One POSTER Devil's Advocate Challenge

The TRUST aspect of this comes from behavior. If you can make promises and commitments about implementing the ideas of the workers, if you can form empowered teams and allow them to operate in a way to make those improvements, you build the trust between you one wheel at a time. Approaching the workplace like this allows you that opportunity to act congruently, set clearer expectations about desired results and outcomes, and to give recognition for steps of improvement.

(Click here to see a supporting article on Trial and Error Thinking)

Trial and Error Blame Frame color red

What we do with our Square Wheels toolkits is offer up a simple-to-use and very inexpensive toolkit for involving people and generating their thoughts around the Square Wheels (what is not working smoothly) and their Round Wheel ideas for possibilities for improvement.

Good ideas spin up easily from this approach and the materials themselves lend themselves to engagement and involvement, since the approach is to simply use the cartoons to ask for ideas.

Tools for Involving and Engaging PeopleIf you want to improve engagement of people and improve performance, you cannot wait for HR to offer up some solutions. Get a grip on things by letting go of the rope.

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!

I will guarantee that these tools work for engagement and innovation and that they are simple to use. They come complete with all sorts of backup materials and there are dozens of blog posts within the PMC Blog that offer ideas for facilitation and framing,

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.

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

 

LEGO Team Building Exercises

If you have been following my blogs, you would know that I am using LEGO to help impact organizational improvement and to reframe some of my Square Wheels ideas. I posted this one up today on my poems blog, for example:

SWs LEGO RW Feel something better

The simple and basic theme is that we are rolling on Square Wheels but the round wheels already exist.

There are also a whole bunch of “posters” that I have anchored to various things, like this one on team building:

LEGO POSTER - Teamwork with SWs One

So, I roll down the road of continuing to illustrate some basic realities around communications, engagement, experiential learning and team alignment.

A friend asked me if I was aware of these LEGO being used for team building exercises and it reminded me of some of the exercises from my other website that were contributed to me 15+ years ago. You can find a long series of them by clicking on this link but I thought to post up a good example below:

Darin Ulmer’s “LEGO Communications Exercise”

Darin offered up this activity focused on collaboration and communications to viewers of my website. He indicated that the activity works best if participants return from the exercises’ suggested meetings unaware of the value or significance of the information they received because that lack of relevance tends to mirror the reality of so many workplaces.

Have at least 5 people at each table and have them chose who will go to each of five simultaneous meetings and set it up as follows:

“Often we go to meetings and we are asked to return to our direct reports and disseminate that information back to them. Between the meeting and the reporting many things can happen to the information that is to be shared. We are going to see how effectively you can communicate information that you learn in a meeting back to the people at your table.”

“The meetings contain extremely important information about the company’s vision. In order to build the best company possible, everyone will have to come back to the tables after the five-minute meetings to share what they have learned. Please go to your meetings now.”

Direct everyone to the rooms or area of the room where they can view the written guidelines listed below. It is best if they are out of earshot or even out of view of the other meetings. There should be at least one representative from each table at each meeting.

While everyone is meeting, place one bag containing all of the pieces to build the “Baja Buggy” (or similar kit / set of LEGO materials) on each table. Make sure you have enough kits for each table you have set up and that you have all of the pieces in the bag. (Nothing upsets teams more than being set up for failure so be sure that ALL the pieces are in the kit.)

Note: If you wish to push the need for collaboration between the groups and they are somewhat functional teams to begin with, you may with to give each table all of one particular piece in a plastic bag so that they have to go to the other tables to get missing pieces. This bartering can cause many issues about sharing of resources to arise. You also open the group up to set each other up for failure by choosing to withhold pieces from other groups. Your debriefing can focus on how interdepartmental competition is detrimental and creates lose-lose situations.

After 5 minutes, collect the written guidelines and ask everyone to return to their tables. Announce that:

“You have 20 minutes to build a better company. You have been given the vision and now it is time to act on that information. Be aware of the process that you go through to complete the vision so that you can share your experience with the other tables.”

You may wish to document the progress by teaching flow-charting and having someone at each table take responsibility for documenting the steps that a team follows. The flow-chart lesson could be at a sixth meeting for those people. It is important that they look for both effective and ineffective behaviors as learning examples.

After the 20 minute building time, ask everyone to stop and have each table show what they have built and relate to the other tables what process they went through to reach that vision. Debrief with the whole team afterward about what was important from the exercise to take back to the work place. (See debrief above)

Here is what is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #1 (for the Baja Buggy set. Instructions would be different for other assembly packages):

  • The hood and the handlebar base are white. The base is two pieces and the handlebars are one.
  • The bullhorn sits on one wheel well peg behind the drivers four-peg seat and in front of the white roll bar.

What is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #2:

  • The front is five pieces high with a bumper protruding (white/red/yellow/gray/white).
  • The front wheel wells are on top of the lights. The rear snaps directly to the body.

What is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #3:

  • The rear is five pieces high with two hooks protruding (white/red/red/gray/white).
  • The front bumper and rear flag and walkie-talkie holders are gray.
  • The rear holders are below the body and the front bumper is next to the body.

What is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #4:

  • The man with the yellow legs has a blue hat.
  • The rear axle does not touch the red body piece, but the front axle is centered below the red body piece and gray front bumper.

What is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #5:

  • The lights are yellow. Two are on top of the front bumper and two are on the roll bar sides facing forward.
  • The bullhorn, walkie-talkie, tires, and the two pieces found above the rear axle and immediately behind the headlights are black.

This exercise was designed by Darin Ulmer. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission. © 1997

You will make up your instructions based on the particular kits that you acquire. The nice thing is that all of these are reusable and that you can very easily link over to a variety of organizational improvement discussions because of the experiential and interactive nature of the activity itself.

You can find ones similar to this that I published back in 1998 at http://www.squarewheels.com/content/legotrdev.html

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, Surprised 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 People and Performance is here.

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

 

Why do teams choose to compete rather than collaborate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

LD MAIN Goal is to Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find our articles on organizations and performance

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

Performance Management Company website for team building

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

 

Working while Not Working – The Problem of Overconnectedness

I wrote a blog up a year ago about statistics on work and working and the interconnection with vacation time. I thought I would also update that, since I just read an article in Mother Jones magazine about the issues and problems of always being connected to the business life. Pretty scary stuff, all in all. And it points out research that shows disconnecting can be really beneficial.

—————-

Addendum:

We ARE in need of some brain freeing vacation time. An Intercall survey of American employees showed that people are simply NOT paying attention during conference calls.

  • 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 simply disengaged, over-meeting’d and in need of a break from work to put humpty dumpty back together. You can find a more expansive article clicking on this link. The rest of this blog gets into that data.

—————-

As background and perspective, I am now well into my 30th year of running Performance Management Company, which 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 66th year of being in the business of living.

As a small business, I can affirm that one is almost always thinking about the business — it is impossible to get away. 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 actually 100% small business reality…

(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. Heck, I still give out photocopies of that to people every so often…)

A Harris / Adweek poll two years ago said that 52% of Americans will work during their summer vacation this year. The survey showed that working people are expecting to 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 bit of interesting information on the issue of being plugged in all the time and why we need to unplug. View that actual article here.

He 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 — with pay for 40 hours!

Another study by Good Technology found that 68% of people checked work email before work — before 0800 — and that 50% checked it while in bed before going to sleep! Almost 40% check email at the dinner table! And the APA 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. And there is that scene from “Deal of The Century” (Chevy Chase) where Harold (Wallace Shawn) is waiting for the phone call and cannot leave his room. (Watch it here – 4 minutes and very well done!)– Chevy does a coaching / inspirational talk about making the sale.

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.

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 4% for these same jobs. (Data from Economic Policy Institute) 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 sells Square Wheels illustrations and 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.)

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

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Two new testimonials about The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding exercise

Most of my posts try to be informational and instructive and I love adding cartoons and poems and haiku and all that for spice. But occasionally, it is simply useful to me to post up some good testimonials that I can offer up to people who are interested in our products and services.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is our flagship exercise for building teamwork and inter-organizational collaboration. It works great at every level of an organization as a tool for leadership development and organizational alignment or even for implementing strategy and change. It is easy to deliver, inexpensive, reusable, and very effective.

Below are two testimonials, one from a long-term consultant user of the exercise and one from a client.  Clicking on the LDGM testimonial images will take you to different slideshare overviews of the exercise and its impacts – the top one is about pricing options and the second shows links to issues of organizational development and how the exercise can be debriefed.

Speculand Testimonial LDGM 100

and

TF Testimonial LDGM Helal 100

I will add this one, from a senior line manager who rented the LDGM exercise from us and who chose to rent it again after she changed jobs and had 50 new reports — she wanted to involve and engage with her in a session on alignment, one designed to demonstrate her leadership style and her organizational goals in a fun and engaging way:

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

We are really proud of how well the Lost Dutchman exercise works for organizational development and alignment issues. Please contact me if I can offer any additional information or assistance,

For the FUN of It!

Facilitation tools and engagementDr. 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.

 

 

Strategy Implementation and Team Building – Years of Hard Work

My friend and associate, Robin Speculand, has been working with strategy implementation ideas and frameworks from his base in Singapore. He has published 4 books and has brought his Implementation Hub to the world of collaborative organizational development. Summarizing expansively, he would suggest that implementation is very hard work, requires a great deal of investment of executive and management time, and only works slowly at best.

The research from the people who studied the implementation of quality control and management systems over the past 20 years have consistently suggested that it takes 3 years to really see good implementation. There has been a lot of research done on this issue by the university business communities and others.

I expand on some of the issues of why so many strategy improvements fail in an older blog that cites a good bit of Robin’s research, but here is a short summary from that longer article of mine:

Robin’s Key Findings include:

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

I was reminded of this when reading a great article about the issues surrounding the effective implementation of high-performance work teams. You can find the full article here, but let me excerpt a bit of it to align with some of Robin’s findings above. The article in New Directions Consulting also suggests a time framework of 2 to 3 years and shares some key implementation steps, somewhat modified by me for clarity, but including these three phases and these bullets and more:

The “Start Up” Phase (6-8 months) – including initial budgeting for training, meeting time, lost production time, etc. This includes the initial design of team support processes and accountability:

  • Team charter including agreement on goals and measures
  • Help/Hinder list and other protocols for roadblock management
  • Team Meetings and support system processes with coaching
  • Early consensus building across the organization
  • Team conflict resolution engagements and alignment
  • Communications
  • Team training — basic
  • Cross training on task knowledge

The “Growing” Phase (9-18 months) with most time being spent in organizing and fine-tuning systems and processes:

  • Sharing cross-functional team and work assignments
  • Conflict resolution between members
  • Team planning and problem solving (continuous improvement)
  • New member selection, orientation and training
  • Team management system development – including defining of action items and feedback / support systems and measurements
  • Presentations to management – issues, results, opportunities

The “Mature” Phase (18-36 months and continuous) whereby changes and improvements will actually become visible and measurable – the impacts:

  • Continuing problem identification and management
  • Costing / budgeting and integrating financial reporting
  • Analyzing team performance and conducting “lessons learned” sessions to identify issues and opportunities
  • Redesigning work processes and systems
  • Proposing new capital and process improvement opportunities
  • Proposing new business ideas and customer requests
  • Team performance management, with feedback, rewards and recognition
  • Greater linkage between team’s metrics and organizational metrics
  • Integration of teaming into operational and management systems like compensation, performance management, career growth, training and development, etc.

above adapted from New Dimensions Consulting newsletter and blog.

A lot of the teamwork will appear like this to the organization as a whole:

Trial and Error Murphy's Law words

and how the organization reacts to these situations of trial and error learning will be a critical cultural change that must happen if teams are to thrive and be effective in implementing change and improvement.

As teams become more operational and more common, teams and individuals will begin to address cross-functional issues that are harder to manage because they cross a variety of operational and logistical and systemic barriers. Changing metrics is always difficult and making people accountable for different things is not generally accepted smoothly. There will be change at a personal and a peer-group level that needs to occur before the organizational issues can be addressed with any effectiveness.

I wrote up a lot more extensively on these ideas in an earlier blog, focused on Ancona and Bresman’s book on X-teams (2007). This generated some good thinking on the components of the implementation process and especially about improving the external focus of teams — how that could be so beneficial to overall organizational collaboration and improve the closeness to customers. Find more on X-teams and cross-functional organizational improvement by clicking here or on the image below:

Involving and engagind Drawing Board words

In my view, there are no silver bullet solutions to teamwork.

There are lots of troubles with teams, issues of team motivation, issues of leadership and alignment and the view that probably ALL of Murphy’s Laws will apply as you work with individuals with different personal and professional agendas and merge them into operational units and then try to get those units to address potentially risky issues.

But the impacts of good teamwork on organizational performance cannot be understated. It generates improvement in a wide variety of ways, helps increase engagement and decrease employee turnover, improves innovation and processes, etc.

But it is also like giving birth to a baby elephant:

Baby Elephant Teamwork Quote words

If you are not fully committed to teams and teaming, consider doing more research and reading. There are hundreds of books and articles about the issue. There are also a wide variety of structures and frameworks under which your processes can operate. Some are quite rigid and some are much less so — your corporation’s style and culture will help determine which might be best for your particular needs and there is NOT one best way to accomplish this. What works for Apple or Google will not work for CVS or Walmart.

Plus, the one really important requirement for success is the absolute commitment of the top management team and senior leadership. If you are not willing to commit money and time and focus to the improvement initiative, consider NOT doing anything along these lines. The worst thing you can do is partly commit and then de-commit at some future time, since it makes implementing the next initiative so much harder.

If you are interested in powerful tools for involving and engaging people and for helping to build higher levels of inter-organizational collaboration — or you are looking for a leadership development exercise that will help focus your management team on the issues of team building and employee engagement, Performance Management Company has designed the Square Wheels tools for organizational improvement and The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for building alignment to shared goals and cross-functional teamwork.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

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

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

The actual quote for the baby elephant birth quote is:

TEAMWORK: An awful lot like giving birth to a baby elephant.

  • It always starts at a high level.
  • It’s accomplished with a lot of trumpeting and screaming.
  • It takes 22 months to grow and develop.
  • – And then you have a baby elephant to take care of…

 

 

 

What is Performance Management Company

What is PMC – who are we?

Founded in 1984, PMC is dedicated to collaborating with an international network of trainers and consultants to help create applications to impact engagement, teamwork and organizational performance.

Performance Management Company was founded in 1984 by Scott Simmerman, Ph.D., who is Managing Partner. Back in the old days, performance management referred to “behavioral engineering” kinds of applications, focusing on alignment, feedback and contingent reward systems to generate peak performance for individuals and organizations. That is our heritage, continually looking for what we can choose to do differently to improve performance, generally through increased employee engagement and intrinsic motivation.

Through the years, the company’s base has evolved from consulting to creating and selling products supporting management and organizational development. Sales are worldwide, to organizations and individuals looking for simple tools.

PMC is dedicated to collaborating with a network of trainers and consultants to help create new ideas and applications for products. I continually try to do more than the customers expect, which comes from my 20 years of working on service quality improvement.

The more formal bio says something like this:

Combining work experience in business consulting and retail management with a doctoral degree in psychology and university teaching from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Scott initially created Performance Management as an organizational consulting business. However, the focus of the business changed to designing and selling resources because of a single cartoon called simply, “Square Wheels One.”

From that, Scott created the interactive Square Wheels® illustration series consisting of over 300 cartoons now packaged in different Square Wheels® toolkits, available as complete training packages. Also developed were two different Square Wheels – based team exercises.

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

One of Scott’s premises is that if people enjoy a learning experience they will more readily retain key points.

The fun, fast-paced, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” game was created with this belief in mind. Serious learning points such as collaboration, communication and quality are all entwined with participants having a good time while playing this team building game. It has, hence, become one of the leading team building exercises in the world.

Our materials can be readily reviewed at the Performance Management Company website. My older site — www.SquareWheels.com — has a lot of articles and other supporting information, but it is also a bit dated and not maintained. And, in addition to this blog, I also added the “Poems on The Workplace” blog where I am approaching 200 different poems, quips, business quotes, haiku and all sorts of other simple things about people and performance, illustrated with cartoons and other images. Check it out!

Scott and Joan Simmerman operate PMC as a home-based business since the late 1990s, keeping our costs low and work environment conducive to high quality and responsiveness. All products sold and presentations come with a satisfaction guarantee or monies are returned. PMC works enthusiastically with purchasers of its products to help support their success and satisfaction. And, we get great testimonials from users as well as clients:

Speculand LDGM Testimonial

and

Client Testimonial on Dutchman team building game

Users of PMC products include a global mix of Fortune 100 companies and multi-national organizations as well as small businesses, schools, universities and independent consultants.

Total PMC Client Logo Compendium

Scott is only occasionally available to do speaking engagements and facilitations these days, but people remember his presentations because they are unique, interactive and engaging. This adds up to his consistently being a top-ranked and internationally recognized presenter. His topics include themes of Change, Team Building, Motivation, Productivity, Innovation and Communications, all within a general framework of leadership. Visit his presentation website at www.ScottSimmerman.com.

Since Scott began sharing Square Wheels and his other products, he’s delivered workshops, retreats and seminars in India, South Africa, Egypt, England, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Mexico, Canada, Mauritius, New Zealand, Dubai, Japan, South Korea and all around the U.S — 38 countries in all thus far.

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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Team Building and Large Event Management Ideas

My network of consultant users is sharing the idea that the “large team building event business” which has been pretty sparse is starting to pick up once again. There seems to be renewed interest by companies in hosting effective team building events for their management teams to help refocus on issues of business improvement or interdepartmental collaboration. The theme of strategy implementation has inherent interest, as does general teambuilding to improve interdepartmental collaboration.

This is good for us because we offer one of the most effective simulations out there for helping to focus people in the theme of optimizing results through better communications, alignment and planning. We are also well-positioned to build on the successes of many of the outdoor training or challenge courses that set the stage for less work on individual learning and more work on organizational improvement.

LDGM LinkedIn PMC Page Logo 50

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine fits a unique position in the marketplace. It is inexpensive to own and use, with only a one-time purchase price and no annual fees or licensing requirements or similar. A corporation like Wipro can run it with 30,000+ employees with the additional cost of printing paper, for example (true!). And I just got a testimonial from a consultant user who has had the game in continuous use for 19 years (that even shocked me!).

And people are reporting that their organizations have not been doing much with teamwork, sometimes for many years. They battened down the hatches on those kinds of developmental events a few years ago and just have not moved toward re-energizing their people or refocusing or realignment. The time seems to be approaching when some solid OD will have clear benefits.

If you might be interested in a solid developmental activity, you can rent the exercise from us, custom-packaged to meet your desired outcomes. You are dealing with the principle designer and owner of the company, so you get hands-on support at a high level.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Lots of people look to do team building within their organizations and Dutchman is one of those exercises that works well with small and large groups.

Normally, my conversations are generally with consultants and trainers who have been doing these kinds of things on a smaller scale and are looking for some new tools and approaches. Many of those conversations were with the, “been there and done that” crowd who were simply looking for some new and better tools than what has been out there in the marketplace.

We also just put together an agreement with Challenge Korea, an outdoor-based team building company who is going to begin using Dutchman, in Korean, and working to assist the larger companies there. It will be a good product addition to their current offerings, and will enable them to build more collaboration and followup implementation with their clients.

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman DebriefSo, it has been fun to put my Coaching Hat on once again, along with my Event Planner Hat, and offer up some ideas for optimizing impacts for these new clients.We just had one organization run Dutchman with 9 different groups of college accounting students all over the US, with sizes from 140 up to 250 — and with great reported successes.

The exercise is about getting help along with information and on collaborating and sharing information and resources to optimize results. But what leaders see are people choosing NOT to get available planning information, to compete rather than collaborate among tabletops and to choose to not get help from the game leaders who are there to help! The messages are pretty obvious and the debriefings are most excellent.

Anyway, it is really neat to see these kinds of large events start happening again, since they can be powerful events to engage people in change and improvement and to lead them out of the current “engagement doldrums” that we seem to find ourselves.

Have some FUN out there yourself!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

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

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

The Square Wheels, LEGO Controversy: Thoughts on Leadership and Engagement (Part One)

In the blog post of yesterday, I shared the LEGO image that was sent to me with  comments that I was either collaborating with the author or that he was infringing on my intellectual property. The reality now, for all sorts of good reasons, is COLLABORATING!!

After all, we do make choices and some choices are simply a lot better than other choices. As I think about this, I think wheels within wheels because there are so many levels to the situation along with so many issues and so many possibilities.

Håkan Forss saw a cartoon and decided to do it “in LEGO” as he had been doing to a lot of other ideas. It looked like this:

The square wheels metaphor of Scott Simmerman expressed in Lego

One issue that I had was that the cartoon made it seem as if the guys on the right pushing and pulling the wagon were actually choosing not to consider possibilities for improvement. My thought was that it might sometimes be the wagon puller that does that, simply because they are isolated from the hands on reality of the wagon pushers, but that the wagon pushers also know that things could be different and better.

Wagon pushers have different perspectives than wagon pullers.

My Square Wheels One situation sets things up like this:

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

Håkan then went back to find the original cartoon that he used as the framework for his expression in the top figure and I was surprised to see this work as his basis:

ToBusyToImproveI had never seen that cartoon. It also has no attribution as to copyright and there is no apparent information that I can find as to where it was published or who is the author. My thought, given that I have been using this theme of round wheels and square wheels since 1993, is that it is probably what is technically termed, a derivative product. And I DO need to know because we do not want the theme of “Square Wheels” to go into the public domain.

We literally have 300+ cartoons that have spun off that original idea, plus a few hundred other quotes, poems, haiku and one-liners that anchor to that theme and that are published in articles, blogs, training toolkits and other formats. Protecting the image called Square Wheels One is important to us.

report the author button

mailto:Scott@SquareWheels.com

In later posts along this same line, I will discuss some of the different aspects of our Square Wheels One illustration in comparison to Håkan Forss’ work and probably challenge him to illustrate a couple of those cartoons with his unique and interesting style of LEGO art.

And maybe Håkan and I can create some LEGO block interactive tools so you can have your workshop participants play with ideas for workplace improvement. After all, the round wheels are already in (my) wagon and the ideas for improvement already exist.

Don’t Just DO Something,
Stand There!

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

Can Creativity be Taught? Is that the RIGHT Question?

My Simple Framework:

We should NOT think that we have to have people go through
some kind of creativity training in order to “be creative.”

There is a long thread of 60+ comments in a LinkedIn group on Learning and Education and Training that generated a good discussion. In part, some of the people seemed to take the position that creativity needs to be taught and people can be taught to be creative. Some people think it can be “stimulated, encouraged, challenged and fostered” by environments that encourage people to share their ideas.

But others took the idea that creativity = imagination and that the latter was not something that everyone engaged in as much as some. In other words, there is a lot of creative thinking going on about creative thinking.

CJ Stape, for example, added this thought which I thought was excellent: “Creativity has several dimensions including: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.”

And there were thoughts around the reality that the workplace for so many people is just not working well in actually asking them for their ideas and thoughts on workplace improvement. The statistics on engagement and involvement and motivation would tend to more than suggest that many workplaces are not very good when it comes to employee involvement on any kind of consistent basis. Large numbers of people are un-involved and dis-engaged.

And it is also true that not everyone can or will contribute equally to using creativity skills or doing creative problem solving to implement workplace ideas or innovation. But so what! That is what teamwork is for and what management should be doing, helping people make actual improvements and providing organizational support.

Should we really even be asking the question if creativity can be taught? That might imply that only some people have it and that one needs to go through some kind of training to be creative.

“Nope. Sorry. You are not allowed to be creative until you go through the Creativity Training Course offered by HR. We can get you into that in 2016. Should I put you on that list? Or, go online to the website: www.WeMakeMostThingsReallyInsanelyHard.com
(I wonder if there is such a website or if there should be!)
and sign up yourself.”

Seriously: I had a client — a big global bank you know by its initials — require people to go through a course on teamwork before they could be ON a team for process improvement. They HAD TO LEARN THE PROCESSES in order to contribute. Do you know how frustrated people were because they had ideas but were NOT ALLOWED to share them?

Everyone in the workplace can contribute good ideas, or help refine ideas to optimize their impact. The creatives can throw mud at the wire fence. The pragmatics can sort out the better ones from the less gooder ones and the Devil’s Advocate folks can help to challenge them from different perspectives to help refine them.

I often talk about Spectator Sheep as those who are not involved and engaged in the actual activity and who have perspective and who are not satisfied or agreeable to how things are really working.

Spectator Sheep Yellow round bordersYou can find two posts about engaging Spectator Sheep here and here.

For me, everyone is creative and just asking the question causes a problem. My approach is to share a cartoon and have people consider the possibilities. Then, they share their individual ideas as a small group and generate some consensus on the overall performance situation. Only then do we begin to even suggest that they consider ideas for improvements in their own workplaces! We allow the creative juices to flow with virtually no constraints — since NOT contributing ideas and being creative seems to be a learned response for many.

Only then do we allow the teams / tabletops to start thinking about performance improvement and process improvement in their work, sharing ideas about the best practices of individuals, the workarounds and ideas for roadblock management, etc.

We sell simple toolkits because we believe things are simple and straightforward when it comes to asking for ideas and allowing creativity to occur:

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

Is creativity a muscle that needs to be exercised? It is a ZONE that one has to achieve in order to operate effectively — do you have to be in the flow (link) in order to contribute? Can only some be expected to contribute to an organization’s process improvement process? It seems like that is a perspective held by some, but my view is that everyone can contribute to the group total, collectively and collaboratively — creative is additive and not exclusive.

I added some additional thoughts to this issue in a followup blog. You can access that by clicking on the TS Eliot illustrated quote below:

Square Wheels One and TS Eliot Shadow

Please feel free to ask for ideas and support at any time, within your organization or directly to me,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman

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

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

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

Focusing Attention on Performance Improvement through Interactive Engagement

Yeah, I avoided the word “game” in the title and used “Interactive Engagement” as an alternative. It sounds a lot more impressive, right? I do it because it seems that many “serious senior executives” have an issue with how interactive learning is framed. So the choice of game, simulation, exercise, experience, and all those other labels sometimes come into play in decision-making.

The reality is that involvement and engagement are critical factors in any kind of performance. Fun can be fun but it is about anchoring experiences in some event to the choices that people will make about what to do differently. High performance is often accompanied by some level of ownership involvement and commitment to change.

If they feel some peer support and have some ownership involvement, they are more likely to do things differently. If people are un-involved and dis-engaged, they are probably providing “compliance-level performance” in the workplace and not giving you the productivity they might. That is one big reason I use experiential activities, anchored to business metaphors, for a lot of the developmental work we suggest.

We can call these engagement activities things like:

  • Game
  • Exercise
  • Simulation
  • Interactive Engagement Tool
  • Limbic System Brain Activation through Asymmetric Stimulation of Peripheral Receptor Cells

(How do you like that last one? After all, playing games involves kinesthetic movement as well as stimulation of sensory cells in the eyes and peripheral nervous system having to do with sensory nerve cell activation and kinesthetic movement, right? All this nerve cell stimulation rushes up the spinal cord into the midbrain of the participating animal to increase activity of brain cells and create new learning pathways, right? (grin) )

Yeah, games have a way of engaging us and linking to learning, if appropriately designed and implemented. And there is actually some game playing going on in the world. According to Jane McGonigal, author of “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,”  more than 3,000,000,000 hours a week is spent in gaming globally. (That is unreal!)

People love to play games and challenge themselves. What businesses need to do is provide more context for learning and organizational collaboration within the framework of engagement and team building. Focusing on realistic simulations and challenges can improve the skills and organizational cultural to allow more collective improvement. This is different than a focus on single-players beating others in some challenge.

PMC Creates Simulations that teach

Games can generate engagement because they generate focused behavior designed to have some kind of impact. Gaming often appeals to our intrinsic desires or our intrinsic motivation for self-actualization or accomplishment. People really do love achievable challenges, which is one of the bigger drivers of workplace performance improvement. They want to add skills and gain peer recognition for them — think of that auto-repair place and the various certifications that the mechanics can earn and wear on their sleeves. People WANT to achieve and they want their performance to count for something.

intrinsic motivation is about succeeding

McGonigal classified the intrinsic motivators into four categories:

  • achieving satisfying work,
  • experiencing success or the opportunity of success,
  • making social connections and
  • having purpose or meaning.

All four are relevant and important but I think a really good experiential activity can help accomplish the latter (and most important) factor if that experience can be neatly and elegantly tied to the workplace and the expectations and goals. We can do more to involve and engage people into a collective, collaborative and supportive peer group working to make improvements in how things are accomplished.

It is not so much winners and losers, but the issue of generating the maximum collective result, what we refer to repeatedly in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine as,

The Goal is to Mine as much Gold as WE Can
and optimize overall ROI.

There are a lot of really good tools out there, and lots going on in the development of individualized online learning courses (MOOCs) to support desired personal development.

Focusing on using experiential learning to involve and engage teams of people to allow them to focus on Mining as much gold as WE can is the prime driver of our Lost Dutchman game. We think that the energies generated can help work groups better support organizational development initiatives and that the intrinsic motivation can have positive spill-over to issues of personal growth and development.

But all we can do is provide the tool and our support. Our users have to provide the context and the environment to move things forward.

Ivette Helal Dutchman Testimonial

Let us know if we can be of any assistance to you — and recognize that you are dealing with ME, not some big corporation or salesperson. If we can develop a tie-in to your overall objectives and goals, we are most willing to do that,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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

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

Alternate Versions of our Spring Forward Monday Square Wheels engagement tools

We have created some alternative versions of our toolkit and handouts for employee engagement. One way to acquire the free handout shown below, one that uses a different version of our Square Wheels One illustration (with alternative characters than our fat white guys with hats version) shown below.

If you look closely at the image, you can see we are using Version 2 of the image:

SWs One copyrighted V2 small

instead of the regular or main version that we display on most of our materials:

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

Thus, there are differences in the handout from the worksheet shared yesterday.

Spring Forward Monday Square Wheels Worksheet Handout V2You can acquire the pdf of this handout by clicking the link below:

Spring Forward Monday — What are SWs
Worksheet Handout – V2

The idea is a simple one to use. You can simply hand out the worksheet and ask how the illustration at the top right might represent how things work in most organizations and then, after they discuss that a bit, ask them for some ideas as to how this works in their work group.

This would work and it is free. Just download the pdf and print a worksheet for each person. Use it to ask them for their ideas about what might be improved that would make a Spring Forward Difference.

As a value-added alternative, you can click on the worksheet image and go to a very special offer of a complete toolkit, including images in powerpoint, a facilitation guide, multiple worksheets and other supporting information including images you can use for promoting the idea within your organization. All for the pretty outstanding and astounding price of $5.95!!

This IS a complete set of tools that we sell for $50…

Spring Forward Monday Square Wheels toolkit

Have FUN out there and DO make an impact.

Dr. Scott Simmerman

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

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

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

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