Performance Management Company Blog

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

Tag: facilitating workplace improvement (Page 1 of 2)

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

 

 

 

“Spring Forward Monday” For Workplace Improvement

Monday’s, most typically, are the least favorite day of the work week but the Monday following the Daylight Saving’s “spring forward” time change, arguably, should be considered the worst of Mondays being that people find it even more challenging to face this workday since they are still adjusting to having lost an hour from their lives the day before. According to numerous studies, the attitudes and happenings around this lost hour cause this Monday to be particularly low in workplace productivity.

What might you be doing to counteract the loss of productivity that will most likely occur in your workplace on Monday, March 14, 2016?

Square Wheels Spring Forward Monday with feet and plane 1

At Performance Management Company, we’re always looking for opportunities that can bring about employee engagement and workplace improvement for better organizational success. Realizing that Monday, March 14th is that special kind of day that needs a good reason for getting up and going to work, we’ve got a concept and solution for turning it into a rewarding workplace happening day and we’re calling it,

Spring Forward Monday!

What is the Spring Forward Monday Concept?

Managers and leaders can gather their employees together and seize Monday, March 14, 2016, as day for workplace improvement by inviting ideas, innovation and involvement for improving workplace practices. By doing so, people can get away from their desks and become energized by taking part in a process that can make a positive difference for everyone.

How Can You Do This?

It’s simple. Facilitate a session that will stimulate and engage employees in sharing their perspectives and ideas for making a better workplace. Doing so will give them a feeling of empowerment and an opportunity to create improvements and increased workplace happiness.

If you’d like a way to successfully approach this, we designed The Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit for just this type of occasion with everything needed to create an interactive and engaging session with serious outcomes. The gist of this Toolkit is the Square Wheels One illustration that elegantly generates thinking, creativity and humor as people react to it and its lead-in statement, This is how most organizations really work.”

Here’s a quick, illustrated video showcasing 
how facilitating
Spring Forward Monday 
in your workplace will cause people to 
“Wake up and Energize for Improvements.” 

You can purchase this Toolkit here for only $24.95, for a one-time cost with unlimited use with any number of people.

This Toolkit provides both the original black and white line-art Square Wheels One illustration and the new Lego image of Square Wheels One
giving you the choice of using either version.
Square Wheels One - copyright 1993, Performance Management CompanySquare Wheels image using LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Here’s what’s included in Toolkit:
  • The Square Wheels One illustration (in both the original line-art and its Lego image)
  • A Leader’s Guide for facilitating the session
  • Participant Worksheets/Handouts
  • A collection of Square Wheels Lego Posters that can be hung in the workplace as anchors to the insights gained.

All yours for only $24.95!

Whether you choose to use this Toolkit or prefer to consider another way to approach the Spring Forward Monday concept, it surely makes sense to make a difference in everyone’s present and future workdays through involving them and energizing them in the journey forward.

Make Monday, March 14, 2016 your
Spring Forward Monday!

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games Scott small picand 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.

Best Practices – Performance Shortcuts that need sharing

My thinking for the past 30 years has been about people and performance, about innovation and peer support for change and all that stuff.

In LinkedIn this afternoon, Ingrid Kelada shared an image from Arvin Jayanake that caught my eye since it illustrated so much about how things really work in so many organizations. (I do not know the source for this, even after a search, so please advise if you know the ownership.)

shortcut

If you have spent any time on a college campus, you have seen this reality.

The best way to build drainage for a new road is to build the road and then watch how it floods… THEN, build the drainage. A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world, especially when you are trying to generate optimal performance and “control behavior.” Do what works best; design from that perspective.

It is the same thing in organizations. The best way to operate is the best way to operate!

In reality, lots of organizations REALLY operate like the illustration above, with the exemplary performers using the shortcuts and doing things differently (to generate the exemplary results) and the average performers using the walkways like they were trained. We see these Best Practice paths everywhere, but a typical HR or management response to this situation is to build the wall across the shortcut!

My approach says that we simply need to step back from the wagon and look at how things are really working, finding those square pathways that can be improved in some way so that more people can operate more effectively. It looks like this when the top performers can get the attention of leadership:

Square Wheels and teambuilding games by Scott Simmerman

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There! Those best practice ideas already exist and we simply need to take the time to share some of them with the people who are pushing the wagons forward.

POEMS For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

We just released our new toolkit for improving organizational communications. Check it out:

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

 

 

Engagement, Communications and Building Teams

We talk about engagement, but it does not appear too often if one looks at the myriad of statistics and surveys about the workplace. My personal view is that too many supervisors have too much task interference to actually communicate well and build consensus on performance improvement and team-based initiatives.

Consultant friend Brian Remer posted up an excellent summary about powerful questions and improving how we communicate about issues of workplace improvement. You can read it here.

The thrust of his post is that we can ask better questions and positively impact thinking and decision making. It is his focus to improve teamwork and make discussions of issues and opportunities more straightforward.

“Powerful questions that focus on meaning also challenge mental models and basic assumptions. They bring people to a deeper level and encourage a more creative response to what could otherwise be a “complaint” or “blame” session.”

This is a short read, but a solid one, with a couple of illustrating graphics. The Architecture / Structure of the question is one dimension with the “How” and “What” questions being optimal for eliciting information. The Scope of the question is what frames the situation and the context of the discussion. The Meaning of the question revolves around the mental models of those involved.

Related to the above are the Intention and the Tone of how things are presented. This involves the issues of interactive history and trust as well as the style of the discussion leader. I am reminded of that old NLP quote,

“We judge ourselves by our intentions.
We judge others by their behavior.”

Closely related to Brian’s post is the writing of Dan Rockwell in his post about Leadership Sherlocking, where he also focuses on asking questions and the related issues of communication. You can find Dan’s article here and you can read my illustrated blog about my take on his ideas by clicking on the icon below.

Perspective Innovation LEGO POSTER  Hey Boss got a Minute

There is a good bit of clear thinking out there when it comes to asking questions to involve and engage people. What is a bit frustrating is that more of our supervisory and management people are apparently not being effective in how they are communicating with their people on workplace improvement discussions.

Performance Management Company sells a variety of inexpensive and highly effective illustration-based toolkits for improving teamwork and implementing innovation and engaging people in the workplace. Check out our simple and straightforward toolkit for facilitation by clicking on the icon below:

Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit

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

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.

Teamwork and Politics, Alligators and Sharks and Fear as a Motivator

Organizational Improvement and Performance Management and Innovation and Teamwork.

These are real issues and represent improvement opportunities in most every organization. To some people, it’s “Bring on the challenges” while for many others, it is, “run for the hills!” And there is a ground reality for both groups and their thinking.

Early Adapters are those individuals who simply love the challenges of putting something together and implementing to see the results. They are somewhat less risk averse than most people in organizations, but they also seem to have a mindset of being able to meet challenges, adapt as needed, take some hits but keep things moving forward — then tend to see the Big Picture in things and like the rewards obtained from successes. They view risk taking as a manageable and normal part of their job.

Others may not feel as confident in their survival skills and will choose to observe a bit and see if positive results are recognized or if some failures get a more negative treatment. They tend to look at survival as something more important, that the known issues and downsides of taking risks are quite real as opposed to some possibility of maybe getting some recognition.

It is a different style issue, to some extent, but also an issue of personal perspective and personal history. Different people view the same situation differently.

I tried to illustrate this situation with my Trial and Error illustration and the supporting activities and comments in another blog. You can read about it by clicking on the image link below:

square wheels image of Trial and Error

Basically, do people see the attempt at improvement in the illustration above as a good thing or do they focus their critical attention on the things that should or could have been done better? Now that they have stepped back and have some perspective, do they re-approach the wagon and continue working or do they simply run over the hill and look for something else?

Continuous continuous improvement comes from continuous reinforcement of incremental improvement. But fear also comes into play (read about Fear as the Mindkiller in another of my blogs).

The reframing thought I would like to share is the basic idea that caterpillars can fly if they would just lighten up! Fear is a manageable situation for most people in most organizations and some additional thoughts and a survey about understanding fear will be the subject of a later post, based on some work by the late Gene Calvert.

Politics is represented in my illustrations by the idea of mud. It is that gooey stuff that is hard to get a grip on. It exists more after rain, so it may be different for different workgroups on different days, but the mud still forms. And people need to deal with it. You can find information about our change management toolkit using the Square Wheels illustrations by clicking on the image link below:

Square Wheels Mud Image and haiku

The key is how we deal with it and how we look at the environment. We’re up to our axles in mud and we need to get out of the ditch and up on the road, which takes both effort and perspective. There is also the issue of perceived risk. Some people look at how things are working and consider the cost and downside more than the potential benefits for improvement. Staying in the mud in the ditch might be perceived as a safer situation than trying to work to get free.

The might be that if it CAN go wrong, then it probably WILL go wrong and that the risk is not justified by the small reward potentially gained by taking that risk. It is an issue of organizational culture, positivity, and perspective. You can find a good bit of writing on Murphy’s Law and a lot of the correlates of that thinking in an earlier blog of mine here.

The solutions can actually be pretty straightforward. People tend to take more risks if they are part of a team, and that team tends to take more risks if the recent past attempts to improve have generated some positive reward or reaction. If failure is accepted when in the context of sincere attempts to implement change or improvement, we begin to change the culture and the nature of the mud.

The other reality is that the environment sometimes feels like this:

Alligators and Sharks Competition poemOne view says, DANGER. The closely associated view says, “pressure to make improvements.” A bit of perspective shows that some level of motivation to change will help drive improvement. The key is whether it is energizing or that it simply causes people to freeze in fear. Fear is the Mindkiller, right?

It is kind of like building a wall of mud: the critical act is throwing mud at the wire fence. You may not know precisely where each bit of mud might stick, but the act of persistent mud throwing WILL build a wall over time. (It is probably reasonable to also expect some rain on occasion (grin) ).

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman

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

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

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

 

 

 

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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Facilitation? Me, a Facilitator? Me, a MOTIVATOR??

I haven’t checked lately, but 50 years of watching what people say they fear has kept

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz002

as the number ONE fear of most people, including most workers. Okay, so now we make a good worker into a Supervisor. Has much really changed? Are these new leaders actually good at involving and engaging their people? Or are they just trying to keep things moving forward?

Plus, we can add in other leadership fears such as fear of loss of control and fear of not having the best idea and all that other personal competency stuff and maybe, we can generate a list of reasons why so many people find it hard to:

Ask for Ideas

for ideas. This really is understandable. There are a lot of common fears about leading and involving and engaging…

At the same time, it is my consistent discovery that so many workplaces tend to look something like this:

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

The people are working hard, pushing and pulling the wagons, and it is the same thing, day after day and week after week. No wonder that Sirota Research found that 85% of new hires saying that their morale declined significantly after spending 6 months in their job and that employee engagement is actually falling – from 24% to 13% in the past two years (Mercer, 2012). We are seemingly not doing a lot of asking and seemingly doing a lot of telling!

So, I am guessing that the reality of how organizations is not so much like that shown in the above illustration but seemingly more like what we share in the one below:

Those who do have Those who lead missSo, what is really so hard about facilitating a group discussion? Not a whole lot, actually, speaking as someone who was a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) by the International Association of Facilitators and who has been leading organizational improvement workshops since 1978. Really, it is really simple, really. Seriously, it is really really simple.

  • Share an illustration with them that has printed on it, “How might this illustration represent how organizations really work?” And let them think about it and then discuss it in small groups.
  • Ask them to share their ideas.
  • Ask them to share how some of those same ideas might represent how things work in their work initiatives.
  • Ask them what we might try to do differently and if anyone is already doing something differently than everyone else.
  • Ask them if they could try to implement a change in how they do things or to recommend something that you might change to make things work better.

That, in a nutshell, is facilitation.

You can read lots more about facilitation, engagement and intrinsic motivation throughout my blog posts, since I often talk about these issues and opportunities as being straightforward. You can also read about Russian Poets and nutshells and Hamlet, if you want, since all this stuff does connect to motivating people and improving how things work. And, you can find a simple, free guide to facilitation by clicking below:

Elegant SolutionsFacilitating Engagement – an overview

The simple reality is that the Round Wheels already exist in the wagon but that people are seemingly too busy to stop and step back and identify issues and opportunities that are really visible and often relatively easy to fix.

So here is some really simple advice for supervisors and facilitators:

Square Wheels One - Things I need to do more celebrate 100

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.

Square Wheels – NOT some simple model of organizational performance

An interesting telephone conversation this morning got me thinking that it might be a good thing to add some reality to my stupidly simple but effective model of

How Organizations Really Work

Many people have experienced a presentation using my Square Wheels One illustration, either something I have delivered or something from one of the purchasing users of my toolkits. The main anchor point is this illustration:

Square Wheels One image

What we suggest is that the presenter show the illustration and then allow people to play on a worksheet that asks them for their ideas on how the illustration might represent how things work in most organizations. We use “most” to keep it arms-length, but many people will use the drawing as an inkblot test and project their ideas about it onto the worksheet. We allow individuals about a minute of “silent refection” prior to working and sharing their ideas with others at a table for 5 to 6 people.

It all seems really simple. But using it over the years, I will admit to being shocked and amazed at how well this works as a projective instrument to help diagnose organizational issues. The very nature of the group interaction also lets other people frame and reframe ideas until the collective work is nothing short of amazing.

What we generally suggest is to allow the tabletops to select on relevant Square Wheel and then work on generating 3 round wheel potential solutions for consideration, with the idea that we will force some additional considered alternatives rather than the first thing that comes to mind. Those ideas can then serve as the basis for a strategy for implementation.

How surprising are the ideas generated? Well, I actually collected about 300 different ideas about the above illustration before it became impossible to sort the list; my guess is that I have heard 500 or so different thoughts on the cartoon. Some of them include:

  •  We’ve always done it this way
  •  Determined to use the old ways
  •  Organizations don’t think
  •  Solutions are in the wagon, already
  •  The solutions are available but not being used
  •  Old processes and information
  •  No trust in the people behind you
  •  No trust in the team
  •  Lonely at the front
  •  One person sets the direction
  •  One person has the vision
  •  Leadership is deaf
  •  Leaders see only what’s ahead
  •  There is no idea of where they are going or where they have been
  •  Support people are blind
  •  All of them are blind to the possibilities
  •  They can’t see the forest for the trees
  •  Round wheels belong to someone else
  •  We don’t use the tools that we sell
  •  Changing directions is very difficult
  •  We need to se the problem to find the solution
  •  Traditions die hard
  •  Inefficiencies are everywhere
  •  Need to change our paradigms
  •  People aren’t resisting change, they aren’t aware of possibilities
  •  People are choosing to be unaware of possibilities
  •  People work hard, not smart
  •  No mechanism for steering or changing direction
  •  Continuous improvement is possible
  •  Some work is just not much fun
  •  Don’t just do something, stand there
  •  We need to step back from the wagon to discover possibilities for improvement
  •  Resources are always available
  •  No vision of what is ahead from the back
  •  No use of resources
  •  Poor planning for resource utilization
  •  Lack of commitment to make real progress
  •  The rope is loosely tied, management may choke itself
  •  The answer is in front of us, we just can’t see it
  •  If only we mirrored our reality occasionally
  •  People need to step back every so often to look around
  •  Push, or get left behind
  •  Working together can get it done
  •  Jobs are designed harder than they need to be
  •  Human capital isn’t valued
  •  We like to overpower rather than reduce obstacles to get things done
  •  Not all technology works for you
  •  Not all the ideas are usable immediately
  •  Progress isn’t simply about working harder
  •  Tried and true still works — the Square Wheels still work
  •  Internal resources for improvement are always available
  •  Leaders get isolated from the realities of the wagon and the journey
  •  Workers have no vision of the goal
  •  People are too busy pushing and pulling to get a vision of the goal
  •  People are too busy pushing and pulling to make improvements
  •  Square Wheels are the status quo; difficult to change on the fly
  •  The team will probably meet its goals for productivity and cost
  •  Communications are always difficult when people are busy
  •  The manager may be too close to the work to see the possibilities
  •  The wagon is hard to start and easy to stop
  •  Stop. Think!
  •  People make things work no matter what
  •  Too busy with the work to focus on what will work
  •  A few people are doing all the work and others are going through the motions

The above bullets represent less than 2 of the 8 pages of thoughts and ideas that I have captured while showing the illustration. You can see from the above that there is a great diversity in viewpoint over something as simple as a line drawing. When you consider the complexity of the actual workplace, there are no simple views that are most correct.

And there have been a bunch of great one-liners, jokes and quips from session participants, including:

• Those who do have no clue, and those who lead can miss the need.

• If it didn’t go thump, thump, how would we know we’re making any progress

• We’re not like that! We push our wagon uphill!

• You should have seen what we did Last Year!

• The Pushers may have a wheely bad attitude

• Triangular wheels would be an improvement:
– You know, “One Less Bump per Revolution!”

• The Square Wheels may have been invented by a woman…
– but the men are stupid enough to push it that way!

The illustration is a wonderfully simple and unexpectedly powerful tool to generate involvement and engagement in identifying workplace issues and opportunities. The recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman attests to the need to anchor thinking and allow for group participation to generate the optimal understanding of opportunities. I reframed one of his key concepts thusly:

Square Wheels image of Daniel Kahneman

 

Our perceptions can be extremely limited, especially when one considers John Le Carre’s quote about a desk being a dangerous place from which to view the world. What we really need to do is actively work to involve and engage people in discussions about what things in the workplace need improvement. That engagement works wonders when some of those ideas can be implemented, as they usually can.

I have written extensively on the statistics and benefits of improving the active involvement of people. My blog is full of different articles around un-engaged and unmotivated people and ideas for making improvements. There are even articles on the issues and realities of sabotage that the actively dis-engaged people may take.

If you would like to read more about the Square Wheels tools for actively involving people and facilitating workplace improvement, click on the link below.

Square Wheels are simply great tools

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.

 

Intrinsic Motivation and Engagement – Training is NOT the answer

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

I read that in an old John Le Carre novel 20 years ago and it stuck with me. It is just one of those quotes that just makes some sense out of why so many things can be improved. Using my metaphor for how Square Wheels really work in the workplace, we have something like this:

ideas are goodconnected with:

Square Wheels ideas are good implementation

A reality of organizations and training globally is something like this:

Square Wheels Engagimentation Progress 700Mand that also relates to:

Square Wheels Engagimentation Progress Down 700M

Engagimentation is my term for Dis-Un-Engagement, which is acting to remove the things that people perceive as un-engaging. It is simple roadblock management when you reduce to the ridiculous, but it can be done in a way that actually generates intrinsic motivation and the sense that the organization is listening.

I think that the typical Training looks like this, an attempt to build individual strengths:

Muscle Building yellow cartoon

The reality of going back to work generally looks like this:

SWs One Muscle Puller yellow © border

Because we cannot generally address organizational structural and process issues in much of our training, and because of issues like resistance to change and a lack of overall workplace engagement, we have a wide variety of performance based issues. Here is an article on the problem of how we manage people and here is an article about workplace intrinsic motivation from other popular blog posts of mine.

One possible solution to these issues of ownership involvement and problem solving and intrinsic motivation would be better facilitation of ideas for performance improvement from the workers. We offer some simple cartoon-based tools for that purpose.

Square Wheels are simply great tools

Lastly, remember to have some fun out there!

See our poems and quips blog

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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The Origin of Engagement in the breakdown of Appraisal and Control

Simply put:

We need stop doing such a lousy job
of motivating people in the workplace.

Stats show 85% of employees report their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job (from Sirota Survey Intelligence) and 49% of workers say they constantly have their antennae out for new job opportunities — even when they are happy in their current position. Few feel their current employer is giving them a fair deal in terms of advancement opportunities (Kelly survey).

In a recent Forum Corp. survey, only 8% of employees report that they trust their leaders “to a great extent.”  But in that very same survey, 96% of employees say that it is, “extremely important to have a manager they can trust.”

I expand on a lot of issues of workplace motivation in this two-part post,

Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…”
(Part One) (Part Two)

The data is clear. People are not involved and engaged in the workplace and these people, their managers, the customers and the company all pay a price for that un-engagement.

square wheels image

Solutions for this are pretty much everywhere. Improving leadership and its alignment to core values and an expressed mission and vision — one that is real and congruent to their behavior — is a good place to start. Improving teamwork and collaboration in the workplace is another good place to begin to re-engage people.

Here is a short 6-minute video on the engagement network
that frames up some obvious solutions.

Removal of the perceived roadblocks to good performance is basic and straightforward and you can read some of my ideas about managing that here.

There are some thoughts here on sharing praise and managing performance feedback, including a link to my Feedback Analysis Checklist. (Click here to see that blog post) and there is a long, two-part series of articles that get into a lot of ideas and information and statistics on managing performance here.

What we need to do is understand that passion and trust are critical factors in workplace motivation and that our traditional approach of performance appraisal and performance evaluation simply puts the worker and the manager into an adversarial kind of environment. The typical “reward systems” that are installed by HR and supported by the executive team are not working and will not work, serving very often to simply put the people into competition, which more often sub-optimizes the overall group performance a lot more than it motivates the top performers.

Best practices already exist in the organization, but developing the teamwork to help install them throughout the workplace cannot be done with competition as the driving force. The ideas for improvement already exist, but we cannot make improvements if we keep working like this:

Square Wheels One cannot expect improvement words

We need to do things differently
or we will continue to get the same results!

The change needs to be at the interface of the worker and the supervisor. All that other stuff is nice, but it is the manager that needs to change their behavior. We also can build on the natural tendency of people to work together on shared goals and desired outcomes. People are competitive, but teamwork does occur naturally.

We must put the power into the hands of the supervisor, not in the hands of some remote and well-intentioned HR Control Group that has little in common with the workers and supervisors and who do not share the same expectations, desired outcomes and goals, or rewards for good performance. Performance Appraisal and Evaluation — even if you improve it — will not do much to improve workplace performance. Simply because:

  • Fear is the Mindkiller (from the Dune books) — competition produces winners and lots more losers and no one likes to lose.
  • Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled. (Frank Navran)
  • Nobody ever washes a rental car. Ownership and hands-on involvement are critical factors in success.

Get them involved and engaged with you in your workplace improvement efforts and focus HR on human capital improvement, not performance appraisal and so-called incentive motivation.

We cannot become what we want to be

PMC has great tools for facilitating engagement and involvement and for building teams and teamwork, tools that work for supervisors interested in the improvement of workplace performance and motivating people. It is not rocket science — it is straightforward, simple and simply continuous…

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.

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Common Traps when Debriefing – some ideas from Roger Greenaway

Roger Greenaway is a superb facilitator. Even though we have never met, we run in similar loops and his work is commonly referred to by my customers and other people in this business of learning. He and I have had some good correspondence on ideas and his work — regardless of your skills — is useful.

You can find his website here, and I wanted to write about one of his posts because I think it is really solid and related to what we do with our team building games and what we might do better.

Roger sees some of the common traps as these:

1. Apologising for holding a review
2. Asking ‘What did you learn?’ at the start of a review
3. Speeding: expecting instant thoughtful responses
4. Trivialising: expecting brief answers to big questions
5. Controlling the whole review process, or trying hard to do so
6. Keeping the whole group together for every review process
7. Filling up flipcharts
8. Strongly favouring one learning style
9. Assuming that everyone had much the same experience
10. Welcoming certainty
11. Talking too much as a facilitator

and he details his thinking on this page on his website.

I wanted to reframe one of these because it is  common to my suggested debriefing around game play in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and are commonly used in most game debriefings. Roger’s #2 problem is one of the ones that I disagree with (2. Asking ‘What did you learn?’ at the start of a review).

Roger suggests that there is an Unintentional Message, that:

“The learning has already happened – so don’t expect to learn anything new in this review.” Just four words (“What did you learn?”) transform an opportunity for new learning into a memory test.

Avoid trap 2  Follow a sequence that is designed to generate learning from experience during the review. For example:

  • Start by asking for descriptions of what happened and of what people were doing. (Consider how selective you want these accounts to be, and whether you want participants to focus on particular themes or perspectives.)
  • Ask yourself (or the group) whether visual aids would assist their reflection and communication (eg pictures, diagrams, photos, video or re-enactments of key moments).
  • Encourage participants to look out for different versions of events and experiences. Such curiosity helps to bring out new learning.
  • Notice how much description is ‘external’ (equivalent to CCTV footage) and how much reveals ‘internal’ worlds of feelings, reasons, intentions etc. Recognise that a lot of learning will arise from bringing out new information – both external and internal.

If you also want the group to recap what they have already learned, try to do so in a way that does not interfere with their expectations of new learning arising during the review process.

My thinking is that this is the BEST way to start the debriefing and learning part of an experiential learning session anchored to a game.

What did you learn from playing Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine exercise

I will suggest that this simple question of, “What did you learn from your experience,” done as a tabletop open discussion really allows our players to discuss the game from an ending perspective, that it allows them to discuss the decisions that they made that led to the different outcomes that they got.

One of my goals is to get that experience fully anchored in their thinking and to get the play of the game up front, so that we can discuss it and “put it in the back and move forward.”

Since it is done at a tabletop among teammates who shared an emotional experience, it has been my experience that the group is able to talk about information that was accepted and rejected, advice and help that they could have received early in the game, etc.

It was my experience in debriefing the exercise early on that the players would continue to talk about the play of the game as we tried to move ahead in our discussions of the choices they could make for improving the workplace, that the game was getting in the way of the learning… By allowing them to discuss their shared experience and decisions first, we could get that out of the way and move on.

I then repackage this same question and get them to focus on the learning as it relates to their organization, the desired outcomes for the session and the issues and opportunities they see for change and improvement. I want to use the behaviors of the game to link to the behaviors in the workplace.

Reading Roger’s thoughts on this is interesting and gives me pause. Maybe there are other ways of accomplishing the same kinds of things. My thinking was to spend a bit of time on this and NOT allow a long and divergent discussion of the game, but to move quickly toward choices and links to the workplace.

You can see an overview of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine here.

Your thoughts?

Discuss what you might do differently

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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Followup, Followup, Followup — The Only Way to make Improvements

Guilty of it myself, much more often than I would like.

We do some training and expect things to change.

What is wrong with this picture is that while we might impact knowledge, we do not really implement any change or improvement in results.

Gosh, I know that feedback is the critical part of performance (not reinforcement per se) and that changes in feedback are the ONLY way that anything will change for any length of time.

(You can read more on performance feedback here)

What I have been doing lately to impact the effectiveness of the play of our team building exercise that focuses on collaboration is to further develop our debriefing cartoons to include some anchored to poems and that could be used to keep people thinking about issues and opportunities and about the commitments they made to do some things differently.

Obviously, without some way to measure change and improvement, we will not have much sustainability from any training event. But, with the leadership team asking about changes and improvements and ideas, it does keep the issues and opportunities more in the forefront.,

I do NOT have a silver bullet for making all things right. But we do offer some simple, elegant tools like Lost Dutchman and Square Wheels to help organizations implement improvement.

Here are a few of the series, that is still under development. If you are a Lost Dutchman owner-user, pop me a note and I can assemble the illustrations for you and send them along,

LD boots in rain poem question

LD Grub Stake 2 poem and questions

 

LD Chaos Confusion poem and questions

 

LD Land Rush feather poem question month

 

 

 

I trust that you like these. Feel free to bounce back with your own poems and suggestions, and note that I have about 50 of these right now, with more to come,

For the FUN of It!

Scott LD

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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