Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: The Square Wheels Project

Poem on Performance Improvement and Training

For two dozen years, I have used a “strength building” illustration as step one to discuss how training is not always a good solution to performance improvement problems. It is the old Bob Mager, “If you put a gun to their head, can they do it?” kind of framework in that it separates a skillset from a motivation. Simply put, if people can do the job, they don’t need more training to do the job.

Training is a good thing if skills are deficient, but we often see new people demonstrate the skills as they are coached but then not demonstrate those same skills over time. Something else is happening and workplace systems and processes are often a good place to look for new Best Practices and ideas to improve motivation and teamwork.

So, while training is a GOOD thing, and often one of those reinforcers for workplace performance, it is not THE solution most of the time.

My suggestion is to step back from the wagon and change perspective. Ask people for ideas and listen to issues and opportunities. That is the nature of The Square Wheels Project.

So, here is a little ditty poem about those issues and opportunities. I hope you like it!

Poem on Training by Scott Simmerman for The Square Wheels project

Note that training WILL often generate a 2 or 3% improvement in performance since the wagon pushers WILL be a little stronger!
But maybe that time could have been better used for engagement…

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

2017 – A Year of Choices, Engagement and Innovation

We are at the cusp of a new year and this tends to be the time when people consider new possibilities and new thoughts on doing things differently. In that context, let me wish you a Happy Round Wheel New Year and hope that you can give your people the gift of engagement and workplace happiness.

Here, I am working up some new initiatives, and writing a Square Wheels novel around workplace innovation and implementation, one that uses the themes of involving and engaging people for their innovation ideas as well as building on Robin Speculand‘s upcoming book on excellence in execution.

My efforts will work on the bottoms-up side of motivating people for improvement while his focus is on strategy implementation from the tops down. Both will combine in the intrigue and challenge of implementing workplace change in a difficult environment, with the requisite Spectator Sheep continually voicing their opposition to anything new and the Mavericks looking to fight the systems and processes because they do not work smoothly.

The leverage point is that interface between Brad, the manager, and Paula, the consultant. Brad is frustrated, that typical motivator for change, and Paula has untried, simple, engaging approaches to involve and align work teams.

Wrapping it around two illustrations for this Happy Round Wheel New Year, it looks like this:

The Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott SimmermanThe Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott Simmerman

DO have fun out there, and DO step back from the wagon and ask for ideas. What you gain is priceless: the active involvement and teamwork of people focused on implementing their own workplace improvement ideas. Generating the intrinsic motivation for self-improvement and team innovation. Improving leadership and trust through increasing organizational alignment to shared missions and goals.

The Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott Simmerman

Make 2017 about continuous continuous improvement, since the round wheels of today will become the Square Wheels of tomorrow.

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

 

 

 

A Round Wheel Happy New Year!

We had a Christmas Day brunch at one of the finer hotels here in Greenville and, to put it simply, things did not roll very smoothly. There were any number of service quality issues from beginning to end, starting with a “10 minute wait” that was 35 minutes (we sat outside where it was nice and not in the stuffy crowded lobby) to the food quality / timeliness issues to having our table swept when we went back to the buffet (even the silverware and glassware and I had to re-serve our water because there was no one there…) and to having to wait 20 minutes to get the check.

Giving specific feedback to the restaurant manager generated a nice conversation with the General Manager /Partner of the property. I expected nothing and was simply sharing information, but he sent me an email a bit ago inviting me to another event. It was both unexpected and unnecessary — maybe we will followup and do it. But getting something for free was not part of my effort to share information to enable better performance.

Anyway, I wanted to cheer things up a little and since the Square Wheels image was something he and I discussed, I thought to do up a Happy New Year Poster.

A HAPPY NEW YEAR Square Wheels poster about people and performanceThe key point is that people know what they could choose to do differently or #morebetterfaster if they simply had a better sense of why it is important. It does not take much effort for a team of people to implement better solutions and improve how things work. The idea of stepping back from the wagon (and also ignoring the Spectator Sheep) is important to get the overall perspective to find and implement some new ideas.

If YOU have some Square Wheels issues around people and performance, visit The Square Wheels Project and pick up some simple facilitation skills along with some simple tools to use. The Round Wheel solutions already exist; it is about identifying issues and implementing solutions,

The Square Wheels Project is about facilitating engagment and improvement

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

Monkeys, Management and Motivation – Simple Ideas

Ah, the Internet… And StumbleUpon. Blogs. And research on behavior. And Creative Genius. And themes of leadership and productivity and employee motivation.

I love it when it all comes together…

Way back in 2012, what seems like at least a decade ago, I was reminded of the monkey metaphor of William Onchen (HBR, originally in 1974!), who wrote about their management, care and feeding. Solid stuff.

Dan Rockwell, in his most excellent Leadership Freak blog, reminded me of some of that today. He talked around “whose monkey is it” and framed up the pronouns in a way to get you to pay more attention to what is being said. There are three different ways to listen to the discussion and the pronouns you use in discussing that little critter:

  1. ‘You’ – The monkey stays in their zoo. They own the issue. Responsibilities are theirs.
  2. ‘We’ – The monkey is a shared. “We will fix this.” Responsibilities are shared. Beware of adding unnecessary layers of complexity by sharing too many monkeys with team members.
  3. ‘I’ – The monkey moves to your cage. You own this issue. Responsibilities are yours.

And my curiosity caused me to click on a “Cognitive Science” link on StumbleUpon 3 years ago because it showed the following (copied with permission) research and metaphor.

article on managing monkeys by scott simmermanIn his article, the story about the situation and the behavior continues. In mine, I think you probably get where I am headed…

A key point is behavior and to consider how certain workplace behaviors get started and maintained.

The behavior of a group of monkeys is sustained by the organizational culture and the environment around it, and probably not even by any consequence system that still exists.I think that the behaviors generated years ago are often still in place and continuing to influence teamwork and collaboration and even best practices.

Jason Wells talks about the concept of  filiopietism, or the reverence of forebears or tradition carried to excess, but prefers another term: the tragic circle. (He moved his site but you can see his illustrations by clicking on this link The Lesson of the Monkeys )

And I agree. He links the concept to the behaviors of societies, and I think that the concept links even more directly to workgroups where there are extrinsic rewards and punishers for specific behaviors.

There are many such practices in workgroups that get carried on long after the original event. Techs at a car dealership client of mine would all yell, “What?” when one of them would yell out, “Hey, Stupid!”My guess is that a manager, once upon a time, was calling for one of them and yelled out the phrase and it just got established as a little “reminder ritual” for all of them (including the actual good-guy manager!!).

Most people in most workplaces are UN-Engaged. Why? You can’t know precisely, even when you look at it from all different kinds of angles. There are all kinds of local reasons. My take on it is that dis-engagement is being caused by something, maybe something that is inadvertent, but still a causal factor acting in the environment. It might be something as simple as “a banana” — the issue of some loss of trust or some shared negative corporate memory. And until we address the root cause, it will continue. Nothing will improve and little will change over time. The monkeys will simply continue to sit there…

uncontrolled impacts of extrinsic rewardsSure, one “Senior Corporate Leadership Answer” to the Monkey Problem is to get all NEW monkeys and start all over but that is a costly and difficult solution to implement. And some of the thinking may still carry over during that transition. Some organizations actually do that, moving from one place to another to shake things up and get new people.

But a more better simple alternative is to engage them (the people participants) in some discussions about what and why and look for new alternatives that can be implemented or problems that can be addressed that simply reinforce the situation at hand. So, “Yes, we have no bananas” (audio – vocal starts at 1:10, from 1923 (history) ), but we do have people who have a level of commitment to performing.

We need to do some serious Dis-Un-Engagement in the workplace, working with teams to identify the things that are getting in the way of people being engaged and actively removing them from the situation. Doing the precise same things, introducing one new monkey after another, will not make any difference.

Our new facilitation training for supervisors shares a straightforward approach for dealing with such issues and opportunities. You can see our approach, which uses my metaphor for Square Wheels at:

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance ManaagementThe tool is focused on discussing issues and opportunities, and the approach is to generate open discussion of the things that could work better, the issues of the culture and visions, and the generation and implementation of better ideas. It focuses on asking and listening and on generating ownership involvement,

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

 

Santa’s Square Wheels Performance Improvement Poem

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

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

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

A santa square Wheels poem

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

WHAM! The Square Wheels Guy sees a Round Wheel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Square Wheels Image production facility The Square Wheels Project

The message and key learning point is simple:

The Round Wheels are already in the wagon.

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

Choose Rolling over Rocking

Below are two images that represents one of those simple contemplation ideas or thoughts on life, just for consideration as to personal or organizational innovation and improvement. The first one is a giveaway, but the second one is a paradox. Maybe, for learning possibilities, I should have reversed the order, but then people will probably just skip by and ignore this opportunity…

The impetus came when I got a Creative Whack Pack (1992) last night. I flipped through it and thought I need to do a card deck around the many dozens of our Square Wheels LEGO images as a tool for some creative thinking on implementing improvements as well as innovating solutions to workplace realities. (We’ve been using images as creative thinking tools since we first started playing with Square Wheels® One back in 1993. That has been a most interesting journey.)

So, from that review of the card deck framework, I started generating two new “posters” around people and performance:

Square Wheels image for The Square Wheels Project on innovationThe reality is that both Square Wheels® and Round Wheels already exist. Square Wheels are exceptionally common, a daily occurrence actually, since so many systems and processes simply do not work well — but so few people seem to understand that things can be fixed and improved. Few things out there seem to work smoothly and continually and continuous continuous improvement is an organizational reality. But people also resist change when they believe things are working.

The Square Wheels Project is our course focused on improving the facilitation skills and engagement competencies of managers. All sorts of statistics point to this as an organizational issue worldwide, to the reality that engagement is awful in many places, and the the issues that motivation and innovation are critical to long term success. But it is NOT just about identifying problems. It is about implementing solutions and that is often impossibly hard without the active support of the people doing the job.

Identifying issues is a critical issue for innovation - cartoon for The Square Wheels Project

It is not simply the identification of the problems, it is the implementation of  solutions that is critical to success and the involvement and engagement of the workforce. And how one actively involves and engages people in change is the key. That is a SKILL. It is not accomplished from yelling and telling or by people simply using power to try to influence — that just generates resistance. We see that in all kinds of statistics (low engagement, lack of respect, employee turnover, etc.)

Performance Management Company has been supporting workplace issues of people and performance since 1984. We offer simple teambuilding tools and the Square Wheels® themed tools for engagement and change management, to keep things straightforward and simple.

If we can provide some support, let us know,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Thrive Global – and a message for Supervisors everywhere

It was interesting to read Arianna Huffington’s post,  “Welcome to Thrive Global.” As I read her thoughts, I could not help thinking of what we are trying to accomplish with The Square Wheels Project.

She writes, “Thrive Global is based on the truth that work and life, well-being and productivity, are not on opposite sides — so they don’t need to be balanced. They’re on the same side, and rise in tandem. Increase one and you increase the other. So there’s nothing to balance — increasing well-being and the productivity that goes along with it is a win-win, for work and life.”

Agreed. So. let me start with my model of how things really work in most organizations and the question I always ask to gain insights into perceived issues and beliefs:

Square Wheels - how things really work

I feel very strongly that there are parallel paths between thriving and involving / engaging others in a way that has so many positive impacts on life balance. Her ideas focus on all the negative impacts of burnout, including her own, on people and she does a series of biopic stories about perceived issues and the reality that things must change. Her audience seems to be entrepreneurs and senior executives.

My audience are supervisors and workers, the front-line managers who are focused on the performance and productivity issues and the workers who feel the often unnecessary stresses brought down on them by managements. The Square Wheels Project wants to improve the quality and effectiveness of those interactions by improving simple communications and facilitation skills. We want the front-line workers everywhere to have more of a sense of ownership involvement in what they do, more pride in their work and their contributions to their teams.

The Square Wheels Project and Thrive

So much research shows that people do not need to be bossed to produce excellent results. W. Edwards Deming wrote about these factors from the perspective of improving quality and innovation. His works then tended to be interpreted to focus on quality, and to measure it to death with initiatives like ISO 9000 and its successors that demand tight standards of production consistency but not so much involvement of the creativity and motivation of people in that quest for perfection (or at least standardized results!). Those initiatives are not about innovation,

Huffington’s models are successful top people: “… we need new role models, and The Thrive Journal will bring you examples of leaders in business, sports, media, entertainment, and technology who are proving that taking care of ourselves, far from detracting from success, enhances productivity and creativity.” (She lists Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, JPMorgan CEO Kelly Coffey, etc.).

As she writes, some of the issues are around training, but my guess is that little of that training will affect the people at the front lines and, like Senge’s “Learning Organization” approach to improvement, it will focus mostly on the middle and top managers with the hope that it trickles down to the workers.

As she says, “The science is clear and conclusive: when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, our creativity, our productivity and our performance dramatically improve across the board. And one of the goals of The Thrive Journal is to bring you the latest science from leading experts around the world….”

Excellent! But how much will impact the broader numbers of supervisors in the world and when might we expect that to occur. Like economic trickle down, the answer is, “most likely never.” Will workers ever see any impacts from those efforts?

She wants a focus on “…changes in your life by giving you concrete, actionable tips laid out in five pathways: Calm, Joy, Purpose, Well-Being, and Productivity.”

Wouldn’t it be great for workers and supervisors to have some of those same pathways available to them, to have more choice in self-direction and active workplace involvement and to be able to feel better about their contributions to work and to each other?

Our audience is the one that feels much of the pressures from those above them and if those people are stressed, our people are even more stressed because their interests are at the bottom of  Maslow’s Hierarchy of five basic needs and not at the top, like hers but at the bottom, where there is almost a struggle for survival felt by many.

So, I cheer her work but focus on impacts from The Square Wheels Project for having a potentially broader impact. If supervisors of the world can improve the interaction with their people, if they can get them more aligned, involved, engaged and motivated to make real changes in their own workplaces, much of the stress of managing people should be reduced. There is a lot of research that supports this; our goal is to change some behavior.

In fact, wouldn’t it be neat if some of these wagon pullers at the top could actually connect with those people at the bottom to have real talks about issues and opportunities as they affect that front-line worker. Would it not be really great if those people at the top understood that those wagon pushers are the ones who produce all the work of the organization and who need their support?

Help us!

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

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