Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: collaboration (Page 1 of 4)

Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Video: Facilitating Improvement

LEGO. iPhone. Square Wheels. Engagement. Innovation. Involvement. Ownership.

See what comes to mind when you watch this 45-second video.

And we would love your comments about your thoughts as to what is happening and what happens, or the final outcome of this effort or the next steps the team might take (like looking for another round wheel)?

Chris Fisher, my son-in-law and technical guru, worked this up and gave it to me yesterday. I think it is great, but what you think is probably more important:

 

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

Collaboration – Abstracts of Blog Posts of Scott Simmerman

Collaboration offers big benefits to organizations. It directly impacts motivation and engagement and innovation. Yet teams will often not collaborate, and often simply because they choose not to. The reality (and most people’s experience) shows there is more competition than collaboration in most organizations, which is a double edge sword.

What I wanted to do herein is share some of my thinking about these issues, to share a resource to stimulate your choices about these issues. My tools address these opportunities for improvement pretty elegantly.

Why do teams compete? Collaboration offers more positive benefits?

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 and I expand on his thoughts in this blog.

This post focuses on some common reasons why teams compete and frames up some of the key learning points derived from session debriefings of our teambuilding simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We find that a better understanding about their choice and choices, generated from their own behavior, generates powerful impetus to make changes in how things work.

Sabotage, Defense, Engagement and Workplace Collaboration

Disengagement is but one of the stages of disgruntled employee attitudes, and active disengagement can often generate actual workplace sabotage. This can manifest in a variety of ways, from encouraging other people to mis-align with corporate values to actual adversarial behavior. It can generate work slowdowns, increase sick days or even sick-outs, theft, poor customer service and other negatives. Some general frameworks for solving these issues are discussed.

Interdepartmental Collaboration’s Vital Link to Organizational Profitability

This overviews and connects to an article I published in HR Management Magazine that frames up issues of interdepartmental collaboration and the impacts on organizations. You can download and distribute the article, if that is of interest.

Collaboration and Teamwork and dealing with Mud

I use the metaphor of mud in both my Square Wheels toolkits as well as my Lost Dutchman team building game. Mud is the glop that most workers and most managers need to get a grip on, since it generally appears everywhere and it tends to simply bog you down and make even simple things more difficult. Some managers are better “mud managers” than others simply because they choose to do things differently. These best practices can be shared.

On Collaboration and Decision-Making

This focuses on the general idea of US and THEM, and that the reality is that they are us! It shares some simple thoughts on alignment and the benefits of having a diversity of opinion on things. The reality is that ALL of us know more than ANY of us and that collaboration greatly benefits the quality of our decision making. Involvement also generates ownership, which is important to implementation.

For the FUN of It!

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

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

Engaging Senior Managers in Large Group Teambuilding Events

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine (LDGM) is a powerful team building simulation that we have been running since 1993. And the initial thoughts on designing the operational side of the game was to make it very simple to deliver, with the idea that the exercise could be run by senior executives.

My goal was to put forward some ideas that can be used with any large group event where involving the senior manager team would be useful for the visibility and for their collaboration. But, I did frame this blog up around my flagship team building game. The ideas should stand on their own, however.

Since we rolled it out, it is great to get the stories about successes in such frameworks, since the impacts of the senior managers leading the play and the debriefing would obviously be much more effective in sending messages than if outside consultants or people in training were running the program. Plus, with the simple design, we could also run very large groups, seamlessly, making the exercise ideal for big group events of 100 or more participants.

A while back, a sole practitioner was asking me how to staff up a large group delivery of the program and how to optimize the debriefing. A perfect question, actually. How better to sell the program than without the added costs of a bunch of facilitators and with the involvement of the senior staff of the organization in the delivery. So, let me elaborate:

First of all, Dutchman is one of the truly great team building exercises that works well with really large groups. My largest session was 600 people, but a software company in India holds the record with 870 people in one room at one time, with a solid debriefing linked to their specific issues and opportunities.

The large group play of Lost Dutchman's teambuilding exercise

Generating real organizational change or aligning people to the new company strategy is always an issue – how does one generate real involvement and alignment and ownership among the senior management team and then among all of the key performers? I think that active involvement and engagement and understanding along with clear discussions about past and future choices for changes and behaviors is what generates impact and value.

Delivering a large group event using the exercise actually represents a unique and unparalleled opportunity to really accomplish some executive team building. Here’s why:

  • Senior managers like to respond to challenges, and what better challenge than having them learn to facilitate a program that generates alignment of their own people toward the organization’s goals and objectives.
  • Senior managers will often talk team, but they operate their own groups in a way to isolate them from real inter-organizational collaboration. We hear the term “silo” enough to know that it represents real organizational reality. So putting them into a situation where their teamwork together is required for effectiveness makes it easier to get these behaviors down the road. Working as a team generates teamwork, especially when there is followup and discussion about the impacts.
  • Instead of some unknown people running around during a facilitated event, why not have these managers walking the talk and supporting teamwork and sharing resources and behaving congruently?

In the Dutchman exercise, the expressed goal is, “To mine as much gold as we can and to generate an optimal Return on Investment.”

We get the managers aligned and congruent with the above as part of the game and as part of the debriefing on what changes need to be made to impact and optimize organizational results.

Dutchman was designed to be easy to facilitate — As part of my initial thinking about how it should play, I did not want my company to need a staff of people to do licensing or certification nor did I want to make the exercise too hard for players to understand. I also wanted non-training people (managers) to be able to deliver the game — we have had many line managers run the exercise over the years with great success. (You can see 30+ testimonials by clicking on the image below.)

A testimonial on The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold MineDutchman has had 20+ years of polishing to make it into a very straightforward team building program where there are few hidden tricks. It allows for the complete congruence of all of the facilitating staff to support the players in solving the planning and execution challenges we present.

The banking of the game and the tracking of team behaviors was also designed to be really simple and clearly understood in the debriefing. There are no “mechanical” issues or illogical demands and it is easy to learn how to operate the game. The goal was to enable a facilitator to pay more attention to the observed behaviors rather than needing to become some expert on game mechanics and unnecessary complexities.

When I first started my deliveries, I would assemble some people and pay them for a few hours of their time to help me deliver large games (50 people or more). Smaller games, I can operate by myself.

As I was asked to deliver even larger events, I would generally get internal people together for an hour or so to teach them the mechanics — these were often the training or HR staff who were supporting the event. But I eventually discovered that involving the senior managers in the delivery gave me the biggest impacts.

Now, for a large session of 200 or more, I first deliver a real team building event for the most senior managers, running them through the actual exercise with a short debriefing of results and impacts. With a half day designated for such training, we debriefed a bit on the goals that were set for the big event and talked about the mechanics of banking and supporting the exercise on the floor. We would involve them in the full debriefing during the large event.

If I could get them to commit to a full day of training and collaboration, I could also get their ideas and agreement on alignment and shared goals for the organization, link that to the desired debriefing of the results of their large group team building event, and then put them into an active role for that delivery. Some could be “bankers” and some could help as coaches on the floor answering questions and providing direct team support. But their active ownership of the overall design was a very strong positive impact,

THIS became my most effective overall design focus for large groups:

  • Get the senior managers in a collaborative and aligned mode of operation and give them an active role in the exercise = ownership
  • Have a collaborating team of senior managers supporting their people in the large group event and in the debriefing, improving actual organizational alignment and directly / actively supporting inter-team collaboration

Dr. Scott Simmerman facilitating team building gameThis design gives me the ability to put my executive coaching hat on, debriefing them with the goal of improving the senior leadership teamwork with real purpose. It also enables me to run really large groups with only ME being required for delivery.

You can imagine how that positively impacts my profitability, decreases client costs and minimizes any staffing issues. We also have plenty of management help for running the game itself, an involved and committed leadership group aligned to a shared goal and purpose.

I can also charge the client a LOT less than my competitors because we are not charging for extra staff and travel expenses and all that. AND my delivery staff has that vested interest in making the event optimally successful.

Imagine the staffing needs to run a typical experiential exercise for 300 people versus the ability to deliver a senior manager team building session plus the large teambuilding event with only my active involvement and participation. Simplicity and effectiveness!

We generate a much higher likelihood of behavioral change and implementation of organizational improvement after the event, since the managers have a really powerful hands on collaborative experience in working with each other to maximize the results of the event itself.

The debriefing of that senior manager session focusing on discussing the kinds of behaviors these senior managers would like to see from the people at the large event helps tie things together. The focus on the shared missions and visions and the generation of alignment to goals, objectives and expectations becomes quite clear.

Having these real Senior Managers in this game delivery role is a great leadership learning lesson on how to implement change and support high performance. One cannot simply TALK about what leaders and players should be doing; they have to behave consistently and congruently to actually generate results.

And behaviors of the teams playing the game directly parallel what we see in organizations. While a few of the tabletop teams will have precisely what they need to perform at a maximum level, those same teams will often choose NOT to collaborate, to thus “win” the game at the cost of negatively impacting overall organizational results. This is one of the great debriefing points — that collaboration is a desired overall organizational outcome!

I hope that this framework has been informative and helpful.

We sell the Dutchman game directly to end users looking for a high-impact, low cost training tool. We deliver the game to companies wanting outside facilitation. And, we rent the game for one-time use.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Have some FUN out there!

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.

Engaging Senior Managers in Organizational Teambuilding

Since we started focusing on the rental of our large event team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, I have been engaged with consultant trainers asking me more questions about impacting organizational effectiveness and engaging senior managers in strategy improvement and change.Dutchman is one of the truly great team building exercises that works well with really large groups.

The large group play of Lost Dutchman's teambuilding exercise

Generating real organizational change is always an issue – how does one generate real involvement and alignment and ownership among the senior management team? And how does one really get value and focus from a large group event? We think it is active involvement and engagement along with clear discussions about past and future choices for changes and behaviors.

benefit of teambuilding exercise simulation

In actuality, delivering a large group event using the simulation represents an unparalleled opportunity to really accomplish executive team building and alignment because of a specific design feature in Dutchman: its’ direct simplicity.

Dutchman was designed to be easy to facilitate — I did not want to need a staff of people to do licensing or certification nor did I want to make the exercise too hard for players to understand. I also wanted non-training people to be able to deliver the game — we have had many line managers run the exercise over the years with great success. (See the Megan and Robin testimonials here)

The end result after 20+ years of polishing was a very straightforward team building program where there are few hidden tricks and a complete congruence of all of the facilitation staff to support the players in solving the challenges that are presented. The banking of the game and the tracking of team behaviors was made really simple. There were few “mechanical” issues and it was easy to learn how to operate so that a facilitator could pay more attention to the observed behaviors rather than needing to become some expert on game mechanics.

And the result exceeded expectations; in actuality. FEW people ever call me after purchasing the exercise and going through the instructional materials. Few people ever contact me after they deliver the game with questions and only occasionally do we get into nuanced discussions about design and tweeking the game to focus on details. It’s simplicity became a feature and benefit!

When I first started my deliveries, I would assemble some outsiders and pay them to help me deliver large games (50 people or more).  And as I was asked to deliver even larger programs, I would often get internal people together for an hour or so to teach them the mechanics — these were often the training or HR staff who were supporting the event.

What I eventually discovered is that I could deliver an actual team building session for a group of senior managers, running them through the actual exercise with a normal debriefing of results and impacts. If I could get them to commit to a full day, I could also get their agreement on alignment and shared goals for the organization, link that to the desired debriefing of the results of their large group team building event, and then put them into an active role for that delivery. Some could be “bankers” and some could help as coaches on the floor answering questions and providing direct team support.

THIS became my most effective overall design focus:

  • Get the senior managers in a collaborative and aligned mode of operation and give them an active role in the exercise = ownership
  • Have a collaborating team of senior managers supporting their people in the large group event and in the debriefing, improving actual organizational alignment and directly / actively supporting inter-team collaboration

Dr. Scott Simmerman facilitating team building gameThis design gave me the ability to put my coaching hat on with a real purpose and also enables me to run really large groups with only ME being required for delivery.

You can imagine how that positively impacts my profitability and minimizes any staffing issues and we also have plenty of management help for running the game. I can also charge the client a LOT less than my competitors because we are not charging for extra staff and travel expenses and all that. AND my delivery staff has a vested interest in making the event optimally successful.

Imagine the staffing needs to run a typical experiential exercise for 300 people versus the ability to deliver a senior manager team building session plus the large teambuilding event with only my active involvement and participation. Simplicity and effectiveness!

Plus, we generate a much higher likelihood of behavioral change and implementation after the event, since the managers have a really powerful hands on collaborative experience in working with each other to maximize the results of the event itself. The debriefing of that senior manager session focuses on discussing the kinds of behaviors these senior managers would like to see from the people at the large event. A focus on the shared mission / vision and generating alignment to goals, objectives and expectations becomes quite clear.

Having these real Senior Managers in this game delivery role is a great leadership learning lesson on how to implement change and support high performance. One cannot simply TALK about what leaders and players should be doing; they have to behave consistently and congruently to actually generate results.

And behaviors of the teams playing the game directly parallel what we see in organizations. While a few of the tabletop teams will have precisely what they need to perform at a maximum level, those same teams will often choose NOT to collaborate, to thus “win” the game at the cost of negatively impacting overall organizational results. This is one of the great debriefing points — that collaboration is a desired overall organizational outcome!

Anyway, it is really neat to see these kinds of large events happening, 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!

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.

 

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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

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

 

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

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

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

Defense with © Square Wheels Image

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

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

square wheels image of Trial and Error

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

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

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

What the managers tend to do looks like this:

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

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

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

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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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.

On Teamwork, Trial and Error Improvement, and Blame Frames

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

Mud and Square Wheels image

And, organizationally, it can sometimes look like this:

Square Wheels and competition

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

square wheels image of Trial and Error

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

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

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

What we commonly see looks like this:

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

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

Square Wheels images by Scott Simmerman

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

Allow people to do things and celebrate their successes.

Square Wheels Celebration Haiku good ideas

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

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

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

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

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Herding Cats and The Moose Joke: Moving 50 feet further than last year…

It really IS like the EDS commercial years ago about Herding Cats!

And it is hard to maintain attention and do good follow through when you have zillions of distractions and tons of details.

A long time ago, I put together a slideshow that illustrated my Moose Joke. This is a session closing story that I have been using to end most of my workshops for the past 30 years. It is a really great story. And, as I do fewer and fewer executive team building sessions or workshops these days (by design!), I thought to use the internet, the website and the blogs to share the storyline.

So, I created a powerpoint and then finessed it into a slideshare program that I also used for a screencast, which I narrated and edited and put into YouTube.

You can find that video narrative here:

Moose Joke 50 feet yellow icon

The video is not me simply telling the joke but is designed to teach you how to USE the story to make your key learning points. You can also find the slideshare program that offers up a good bit of detail by clicking on the following image:

The Moose Joke Story for Closing Presentations

These are two solid resources that I hope you find interesting. I will simply say that I have not once ever seen a session close with anything as powerful as a metaphor. You make all your key learning points on your desired outcomes and you reinforce the reality of implementing change and the need to feel successful to keep things going. It is also about teamwork and commitment.

Have FUN out there!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman Debrief

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

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

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

Implementing Round Wheels to fix the Square Ones

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

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

Reasons include:

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

SWs One Dis-un-engagement choice

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

Square Wheels One Brainstorm worksheet

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

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

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

Square Wheels to RWs worksheet

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

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

Square Wheels image Intrinsic feel really good PGHope that helps,

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

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

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

Possible Potential Possibilities and Continuous Continuous Improvement

Ron Richard, a quality consultant up in Canada, and I have been co-publishing some ideas and he is going to publish a short “eBook” called, “It’s Possible.” So, he sent me a draft and I bounced some ideas back and forth and we are now moving toward pushing out an illustrated book of ideas, poems and haiku around the themes of possibilities and choices.

So, from that conversation, I generated a quote to summarize my thinking about my thinking, and it comes out like this:

“Possible Potential Possibilities are like Continuous Continuous Improvement. They make us more better faster, if we only stop to reflect. Is that even possible?”

Illustrated, the above idea looks something like the following:

Square Wheels One Haiku outside the work teamand

Square Wheels One Haiku wagon not just empty

which is a thought on choice, which leads us to the idea of motivation and the recognition that comes from accomplishment:

Square Wheels Intrinsic Haiku Motivation Good Ideas

and peer support

Square Wheels Celebration Haiku good ideas

There are Lots and Lots of possibilities out there for personal and team and organizational performance improvement and change. The keys are to recognize that possibilities are actually possible and that continuous improvement is really a continuous process.

But it is critical that you, “Step back from the wagon,” in order to see the issues and the opportunities.

See my slideshare program on change, caterpillars and butterflies by clicking on the image that follows:

Square Wheels Slideshare Teaching The Caterpillar icon

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Business Haiku – Square Wheels thoughts and ideas

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

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

Here is one on continuous continuous improvement:

Square Wheels One Haiku working together

and this one on possibilities for improvement:

Square Wheels One Haiku Boss views the path

and this one on being frustrated with nothing changing:

Square Wheels One Haiku tender resignation

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

Rat Cage Haiku work hard

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

Pin Balloon Haiku Mad Pin hit balloon

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

Square Wheels Twaining Haiku wagon on blocks

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

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

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

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

Puppies and Performance Improvement – Random Thoughts…

Much of my thinking involves that metaphor of a wooden wagon rolling on Square Wheels with a cargo of round rubber tires. The reality seems that the wagon just keeps rolling along, with the leader pulling and the workers pushing and it thumps and bumps. The irony is that the wagon is full of round wheel possibilities.

Square wheels One and How Things Work ©

The most frequent use of the metaphor is for workplace improvement, with the cartoon used by a supervisor to talk about the issues of continuous improvement and to accomplish the critically important task of involving and engaging people in workplace improvement. And I expand on the reactions of participants in this blog link below:

SWs One - what you see is all border

If it is the participant wagon puller’s idea to make improvements in the way things work, implementation is an awful lot easier than if it is the idea of the wagon puller, since their involvement in problem identification or issue awareness generates a much stronger sense of ownership. No involvement often generates resistance to change.

Nobody ever washes a rental car.

So, there I was minding my own business watching TV yesterday than what appears are two advertisements, one asking for contributions to improve the lives of children living in poverty and another for improving the lives of animals that are confined to shelters. Cute puppies.

So, that generated me thinking about what motivates people and I had this idea to put puppies into the wagon — would that make a difference in the awareness of the wagon puller and pushers if the puppies were getting treated badly and being thumped and bumped around?

A few minutes of playing around and I created this:

Square Wheels One Puppies 2

I passed the illustration around to a couple of people and the reactions were, in fact, pretty interesting. Without a clear understanding of the metaphor that I was trying to communicate, they saw different issues and themes and had different questions, among them the thought that why would people treat a wagon with puppies differently than a wagon with a cargo of round wheels.

One person said if the situation were actually like that above, everyone would actually stop pushing and pulling and would play with the puppies, who would be running around everywhere…  My thought building on that is that they would then be forced to push and pull even faster to meet their goal, causing a lot more chaos with puppies bouncing everywhere!

For me, I see a good bit of indifference in the workplace to the ideas of the wagon pushers. So many studies point to the lack of involvement and their feeling that no one cares about their ideas to make workplace improvements. This results in dis-engagement or un-involvement and a lack of motivation. (see my articles here and here with stats on this here) and it seems to be an issue of how people are managed (see my article on Jim Clifton’s thoughts (Gallup) here). We can choose to do things differently.

So why not use puppies?

Anyway, the fun here continues. And I guess my next step is to add some butterflies to the whole thinking on people, motivation, behavior, performance and puppies. I mean, what could be better than an image of puppies and butterflies as it relates to how organizations really work?

Square Wheels are simply great tools

Ask us about our simple to use tools for organizational improvement,

For the FUN of It!

scott tiny casual

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.

Perfect Play — How can an organization understand what it needs to accomplish to maximize success?

Thirty years of working with organizations may have taught me a couple of things. One is that a sense of teamwork is critical, along with a real understanding of the issues of alignment. Performance feedback is much more important than “reward systems” and extrinsic rewards. And there is no silver bullet about leadership — it is so much about clarity of expectations, required resources to support results, and an understanding of issues and opportunities.

What I want to do herein is to share some simple bullets that I feel link to the issues around optimizing performance. I also included a bunch of links to my other blog posts. My goal is to create one or two “Ah Ha!” moments and provide some ideas and maybe assist you in seeing how you might do one more things better or differently. The key is generating behavioral change and continuous improvement in how things are accomplished.

How does one even start… Let me begin with a key concept that seems to apply everywhere and that is on the framework of involvement and engagement:

Ownership Rental Nobody Toolkit icon 3

Yes, Ownership! If we do not allow people to have a sense of real ownership, we simply cannot realistically expect them to take care of something. That would simply be illogical, as Mr. Spock might say.

The cartoon above actually represents a number of key points that I would like to make:

  • The hard part is getting the wagon to begin to roll downhill. We push that thing uphill a lot more frequently and involving and engaging and building a sense of momentum is often the hard part for getting things moving.
  • If the wagon puller is not expecting things to move faster than they have been moving, or they have not been actively involved in the design and implementation process, they will feel that things are being done TO them and most wagon pullers will resist that, even if it makes good sense to roll forward.
  • We roll along on those very common Square Wheels, which work but do not work smoothly. Square Wheels are Everywhere!
  • Our focus on pushing and pulling will often result in a sense of non-awareness of those Round Wheels that already exist within the wagon, those things that could simply be implemented if we had the time and the tools to do so.

So, one message for anyone leading anyone is pretty darn simple:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz003

Simply stop, stand there, observe and consider. Get out of the way, if that will work. Involve and engage people. Ask for ideas. Talk about what is not working smoothly.

So, one thing that we offer customers is our Square Wheels facilitation toolkits, simple sets of instructions, powerpoint slides and worksheets that enable them to involve and engage people in discussions about what might be improved and how to get those ideas implemented. You can see some of the variety of offerings on our Square Wheels Facilitation Tools pages on the website. You can also read about these ideas on this blog.

In our flagship team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we give teams “sufficient but not excessive resources” along with a challenge to, “Mine as much gold as we can.” We provide them with an attractive vision of the future and a specific goal, immediate feedback about their decisions and the impacts, and allow them to implement their plan for play. Every team does well, but some do “more better” than the others. And we share with them a framework for Perfect Play, what they could have done to optimize results if they had made different choices.

Generally, teams mine between 4 and 9 days of gold. But they could have done better if they made different choices and involved leadership and collaborated more between the different teams:

Perfect Play Game Screen

They could have mined as many as 11 gold. And, as we debrief the game and discuss the decisions and the planning and the inter-table interactions, our goal is to reframe the play of the Dutchman Game into the play of teams in the workplace. We want to open people up to discussing what is motivating and demotivating and what they could choose do do differently.

This can involve discussions and personal choices, as well as team-based effectiveness and

LD Debrief triad 1

LD Debrief Triad 2

I find that “Perfect Play” comes from repetition, from stepping back and looking objectively at what decisions were made, what was accomplished, and what alternatives were available. It comes from having great performance feedback and flow. It comes when people are involved and engaged. And, ideally, playing again and again and repeating the cycle over and over.

When I was working in quality improvement initiatives, we called it,

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz004

Good leaders and top teams are always looking to expand their knowledge and improve their performance and doing the same thing over and over simply produces the same result.

Rat Cage More Better Faster

 

We think our tools and our approach are top-shelf. The materials are easy to use and the cartoons easily generate perspective and involvement. Our team building games are designed to generate the behaviors that link to real workplace performance opportunities and our games such as Collaboration Journey and Innovate & Implement are really easy to play for small groups.

We’ve been selling and supporting Lost Dutchman for 20 years now, with a really great reaction and long-term use by so many people worldwide.

Max DePree - cannot become

Have FUN out there, and see what you can do to generate some Perfect Play in your organization.

square wheels author

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

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

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

 

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