Performance Management Company Blog

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

Tag: employee workplace engagement

Facilitating Workplace Improvement: Herding Cats and Frogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stampeding Ducks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

Visions – Hindsight and the View at The Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection, in my model is termed,

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

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

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

SWs Celebrating Two RWs

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

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

Stupidly Simple Engagement and Motivation

A LEGAL Approach to improving Engagement

Improving Engagement and Workplace Efficiency to Motivate Performance

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

 

Stupidly Simple Thoughts on Employee Engagement

It took me about two seconds to come up with the title for this post, after looking at a number of different posts around ideas for engagement and ideas for improving performance this morning. I put up a couple of things on my scoop.it page on Employee Engagement and I was completing a chapter for a book, so some thinking around the issue was fresh.

the scoop.it page of scott simmermanThere is a lot of writing around what to do and how well things are working. Generally, the information provided by Gallup and Sirota and others suggests that little is actually improving. It begs the question, why not.

My belief is simple: there is not enough effective communications going on between the supervisor and the workers. There is not enough alignment to visions and goals and expectations, not enough or sufficient performance feedback (and I do not mean coaching here — see this analysis) and there is not nearly enough listening or asking questions by the management team.

So, why not?

• Is it task interference? Do the supervisors simply have too little time to devote to listening about issues and opportunities?

• Is it an actual lack of employee interest in what is going on in their workplace?

• Is it the reality of measurement, and that workers just do not have the scheduled time available to them to be in meetings with their boss?

• Is it somehow related to the overall training and development goals of the organization, in that these meetings should be produced and directed by the people in Training and Development or HR and that developmental and coaching discussions with people are not the role of the managers?

• Is it a disconnect between the manager and the supervisor when it comes to themes of productivity and employee retention and performance levels?

I am not really sure, but I do know that the opportunity for improvement absolutely exists and that it IS relatively easy to involve and engage people and get their ideas about workplace improvement and job performance skills and techniques. And I know that we can improve real teamwork and collaboration with this same approach.

Let me illustrate with two simple thoughts, expressed through my Square Wheels® theme and thinking:

Square Wheels illustration about playing with ideas

and then there is this reality:

square wheels illustration on supporting change

Is this really so HARD to accomplish? Aren’t you pretty sure that people have ideas for improvement and will share those ideas in a meeting and discussion? Sure, if the workplace has a poor history of engagement and innovation (“bad managers” abound, the research suggests), you should expect some initial venting of frustration. But most people DO have positive intentions and DO want to have a positive impact on things. They get intrinsic motivation from doing things successfully.

Implementing Round Wheels in a Square Wheels World is not all that difficult to accomplish.

If you don’t believe it, go ask somebody!

And if you are looking for a simple tool to better involve and engage, we just uploaded the new “Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Toolkit” on our website – $25 with instructions and tools.

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

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

 

 

 

 

Focusing Attention on Performance Improvement through Interactive Engagement

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

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

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

We can call these engagement activities things like:

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

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

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

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

PMC Creates Simulations that teach

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

intrinsic motivation is about succeeding

McGonigal classified the intrinsic motivators into four categories:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ivette Helal Dutchman Testimonial

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

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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

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

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