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

Month: December 2011

PRIDE – Issue or Opportunity?

One of the illustrations I have used over the years to focus on organizational paradoxes is this one:

Pride in Work is a good thing. But is Pride focused on Performance? How do these things relate?

I use this to get tabletops to discuss, “What is happening here?”

So, what IS happening in the illustration above?

One thing we can do is allow people to “polish things up,” but does that really pay any dividends? Does a clean break room refrigerator actually translate to results that will sustain the numbers of people in the workgroup and to performance improvement?

Maybe. But I think that too few organizations take that motivation of Pride and translate that into teamwork and workplace results. Too often, the group is focused only on the group and we sometimes see HIGH levels of pride translate into something that looks like this:

Interdepartmental Collaboration often looks like this. High levels of My Team, My Team can generate too much focus on MY Teams success and not enough on the organization. Really. Seen this too often…

What is happening here is why the term “Interdepartmental Collaboration” is so often seen as an oxymoron in most organizations. Oxymorons are words that do not really fit well together like Jumbo Shrimp, pretty ugly, free love, Great Depression and my personal favorite, religious tolerance…

The issue is that one team, wanting to win and generally succeeding, will not make another team’s journey any easier if they can have their way. Sharing success is seen as counter to succeeding and being seen as successful.

Teamwork and collaboration between teams are key issues in organizational improvement and generating optimal results. Our team building exercises are nearly all focused on generating competitive behaviors and discussing the choices that people make to compete rather than collaborative performance optimization.

Working together and sharing ideas can improve performance of ALL the wagons, not just the one in the lead.

Work together, Have FUN!


Scott small pic

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

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The Elephant in the Room – Line Managers are the Trainers (All others fail)

More and more, I am  convinced that the KEY training people in organizations do not reside in the HR or Training Departments –they are the ranks of the line managers.

Managers are responsible for performance. Managers are responsible for quality and service. Managers are responsible for productivity and results. And, more and more, the continued budget cuts in these “training departments” are now more focused on issues of basic skills training, orientation training, and similar kinds of outcomes.

So, what are we doing to provide managers with the skills they need to function as organizational performance improvement consultants, coaches for identifying best practices and communicating and implementing changes and improvements? Are most managers involving and engaging people, or just wasting time and energy?

This could be brainstorming and an action to involve and engage people in workplace improvement. Or, it might represent another “Yell and Tell” training session.

My belief, as so much data shows, is that people are NOT involved and engaged by the acts and actions of most managers — sure, the BEST Bosses are good at leading people forward, building ownership and engaging people in teamwork and process improvement. But it is still true, in most organizations, that BOSS spelled backwards is self-explanatory (email me and I will explain privately, if this euphemism is not immediately understood!).

What do they need to do to shift the energy of these meetings from negative to positive? One solution is to use better tools and an approach that is facilitative rather than confrontational.

Asking is a much better approach than Telling. Engaging is a much better approach than generating resistance to change. Generate SMILES, not frowns.

For the past 20 years, I have been developing simple but powerful tools for involving and engaging people and generating ownership and performance improvement. If you have any questions, drift around randomly through the PMC website and generate your own thoughts on how people can be more intrinsically motivated and build a better sense of team and US.

SWs - Why use SWs RWs

People have ideas for improvement and supervisors can do such a better job of asking and engaging and implementing, don’t you think. Could people simply choose to do things better and more efficiently?
Scott small pic

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

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On Collaboration and Decision-Making

Games like The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine can make some really difficult concepts much easier to dissect and discuss.

Collaboration and decision-making tend to be pretty intense activities in so many situations. In the team building exercises we deliver, the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing acts all get accomplished in a 15 minute planning period.

Normally, not everyone agrees at the start of the exercise, since people have different viewpoints on things like risk or have thought about resource management differently. Some want to get more information and some people are just unsure

Not all the players on a team will share the same ideas about how things should be played. These discussions are valuable — they help generate alternatives.

But, within that time period, it is evident from observing the behaviors of the team members that they are now a team, sharing a goal and working together to prepare for the journey forward.

Pressures of time and clarity of goals / visions will help teams perform the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing steps within the Planning Period of 15 minutes

Now, that team can get to work and get things organized. What has NOT been resolved is that team’s role in the larger picture of the exercise. Watching the teams interact and the Collaborator being labeled a “Spy” is enlightening. The different tabletops still view the others as:

We hear about “THEM” all the time, but often they are really made up of “US!”

The goal is clear, the resources are defined, the possibilities are limited and the decisions being made are pretty critical. But teams bond to the exclusion of the other tabletops unless the Expedition Leader does some extraordinary things.

“My Team, My Team, My Team” focus can cause more competition than collaboration

One way to play the game is to stop things after Day 5 of Day 10 and discuss performance relative to goals and objectives. After all,

The Goal is to Mine as much Gold as WE can!

But ALL of us Know More than ANY of us, so sharing information and maybe the trading of resources and ideas can have big overall benefits. People collaborating generate better results than people competing, that is for sure! We play the game to get into serious discussions about issues and opportunities to clarify existing or new visions and goals as well as address the fundamental issues of poor planning and competition.

After all, we are in this together,

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

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

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In The Beginning – Thoughts on strategies and motivation

I am just back from a great trip to India, part of which focused on themes of strategy implementation and leadership and the generation of alignment and motivation. The sessions went well and like most things, generated a new focus on continuous continuous improvement for me.

A lot of the tabletop discussions were around motivating people and driving alignment from the top. As usual, I wrapped my thoughts and comments around the Square Wheels illustrations. More than most session, though, we focused on The Vision Thing and about how communications were so critical.

One theme was to reconfirm the issues of isolation. I use my illustration on idea generation for this:

A Desk is Dangerous Place from which to View the World

Ideas are good and people should be always thinking of better ways to get things done. But not all ideas are good ideas and some should NOT be implemented. But the idea combined by “The Power of the Desk” can result in some of them being strongly considered. This is partly an issue of isolation from the workplace and a failure to check with the hands-on workers who are directly affected.

This work reminded me of an old tool that I used to use, back in the days of overhead projectors and transparencies and doing a goodly number of presentations on leadership and involvement and similar. Thus, I reproduce “In The Beginning” below as a tool for thinking about the disconnects that so often seem to occur and the issues of upward communications and the filtering of information.

I believe in Managing by Wandering Around (Tom Peters) and in the constant communications about Square Wheels and Round ones between workers and managers.

Hope you like this:

In the Beginning was The Vision

And then came the Assumptions
And the Assumptions were without Form
And the Vision was without substance.

And Darkness was upon the faces of the Workers
And they Spoke amongst themselves, saying:
“It is a Crock of Shit, and it Stinketh, badly.”

 And the Workers went to Supervisors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Pail of Dung, and none may abide the Odor thereof.”

 And Supervisors went to Managers, and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Container of Excrement, and it is so very Strong that none may abide it.”

 And Managers went to Directors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a vessel of Fertilizer, and none may abide its Strength.”

 And Directors went to Vice Presidents and sayeth:
“It contains that which aids plant Growth, and it is very Strong.”

 And Vice Presidents went to Executives and sayeth unto them:
“It promoteth Growth, and it is very Powerful.”

 And Executives went to the President, and sayeth unto him:
“This powerful new Vision will actively promote the Growth and Efficiency of our departments and the company overall.”

And the President looked upon the Vision and saw that it was good.
And the Vision became The Reality.

I hope that this speaks for itself about some of the issues we face in generating involvement and engagement and in motivating people for workplace improvement. We have lots of ways to make real improvements, but they really need to be real improvements!

Remember that the View at the Back of the wagon:

The View at the Back of the wagon is different from the View at the Front - what most workers really see

is generally different from the View at the Front:

The View at the Front of the wagon is unobstructed. But it is NOT the view of the organization as to where it is going.

Hope you liked this! It is about people, motivation, and alignment to goals and objectives. Keep things real!

And have FUN out There!

Statistics on the US Economy – Crazy Stuff that is Unbelievable

The website has some shocking statistics on how bad things really are and maybe they will shock YOU out of your lethargy. As they say on the site, “If we do not educate the American people about how deathly ill the U.S. economy has become, then they will just keep falling for the same old lies that our politicians keep telling them.

This is not my normal kind of post, but I saw these statistics and they speak to themes of productivity and performance, to people who should be involved and engaged in workplace improvement. But it is hard to focus on success when you are focused on survival and so many of these statistics are just depressing when it comes to improveing things in America.

I will share some of the statistics below, not wanting to violate anyone’s intellectual property rights for the assembly of this information but also to share some of the numbers to get you to consider the reality of where we are at as a country. I suggest you read the entire list at:

The article shares the sources of the numbers. And I hope that you will read them and get motivated to do something differently to help make improvements — this means a lot to all of us.  (My comments are in italics)

 #1: A staggering 48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be “low income” or are living in poverty. 

#2: Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be “low income” or impoverished. (This is the average — in some cities, it is much worse. That meal at school may be the only meal that child eats.)

#3: If the number of Americans that “wanted jobs” was the same today as it was back in 2007, the “official” unemployment rate put out by the U.S. government would be up to 11%. (We do not define things the same way, now, so that the numbers look better…)

#4: The average amount of time that a worker stays unemployed in the United States is now over 40 weeks. (Not that long ago, it was 30 days!)

#5: One recent survey found that 77 percent of all U.S. small businesses do not plan to hire any more workers. (Small businesses like mine are also not doing really well, going down with the rest of the economy. Taxable income is decreasing.)

#6: There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million extra people to the population since then.

#8: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16.6 million Americans were self-employed back in December 2006. By 2011, that number has shrunk to 14.5 million. (See my comments in #5, above)

#10: According to author Paul Osterman, about 20% of all U.S. adults are currently working jobs that pay poverty-level wages. (This is for WORKING Americans!!! They work and do not make enough money to get out of poverty. Many many millions have no jobs.)

#12: Back in 1969, 95% of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job. In July, only 81.2% of men in that age group had a job. (From 19 in 20 to 4 of 5 — and men are the traditional wage earners in the family, The psychological impact on men is devastating when they cannot provide for their families – combine this with # 10 above and it is truly awful.)

 #13: One recent survey found that one out of every three Americans would not be able to make a mortgage or rent payment next month if they suddenly lost their current job. (This is why so many Americans are not taking their earned vacation time. They are afraid of leaving their jobs and losing their jobs because they took a vacation.)

#22: New home construction in the United States is on pace to set a brand new all-time record low in 2011.

#23: As I have written about previously, 19 percent of all American men between the ages of 25 and 34 are now living with their parents. (Well over half of all college graduates went home after graduation, unable to find a good job that would allow them to live on their own.)

But all is not bad. The 1% seem to be doing quite nicely:

 #32: According to a study that was just released, CEO pay at America’s biggest companies rose by 36.5% in just one recent 12 month period.

#34: The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined. (From what I remember, none are great philanthropists supporting the people of the country.)

#41: Today, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps. (They are not on food stamps because they want to be – the level of food “insecurity” is at all time high levels in this country. Families NEED this assistance to buy food, even though the parents are working. Food stamps are not a luxury and this is should be an embarrassment to all Americans who supposedly “lead” this country as our elected politicians.)

 And on and on and on.

Do you think that this can continue without us doing something differently? Does it really seem that cutting government benefits is a logical thing to do with so many people suffering. Doesn’t it seem like our government should be creating jobs and building infrastructure in The United States rather than fighting supposed “wars on terror” in other countries. Do you really think that our stand on social issues like abortion or on drug consumption or any of those other aspects of choices people make will solve any of these problems? Will our spending on the militarization of our police departments, with huge spending for equipment but not much for hiring,  cure any of these problems listed above.

Why not ask for some real change on the part of the elected leaders of this country (and other countries, too!)

This written and produced during my business trip to Mumbai and Bangalore, India, where we are focused on improving business productivity by increasing employee engagement and teamwork.

Read more:

We need to make some very basic readjustments to our economy and bring back higher-paid workers, improve management salaries and make this country more fair to all workers. It CAN be done. But we need more innovation, better leadership, more employee involvement and better organizational collaboration.

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

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Stress as a Motivator?

In the LinkedIn discussion that I mentioned in the previous post, the question arose as to whether stress was motivational. The question was expressed as: What impact do you think stress has on innovation – does it hinder or help the creative process? Does Stress work like the “fight or Flight” response?

I think that this is more than a fair question, and my response to it will be pretty straightforward as well as illustrated with a couple of cartoons.

My question back is, “Whose stress is it?”  What is the source of the stress and how does the individual react to it? What other stresses already exist and is this the straw that breaks the back of the camel?

If the performer sees a gap between where they are and where they want to be, that will usually generate “a stress” — consider it a motivational drive. That can be very positive since it is self-generated and usually healthy if that gap is perceived to be something that can be closed and the goal achieved. I think of that old work on “Cognitive Dissonance” (Leon Festinger in the 1950s) that clearly explains and researches this issue.

If this gap is one that is highly desirable and the gap cannot be closed, then it has the potential to become problematic: an obsession. But I am not going to get into those kinds of issues. What I want to focus on is the issue of stress in the workplace as it has to do with organizational performance results and accomplishments.

Stress when driven from outside the individual can be motivational; it has the potential to be a positive, driving force especially when it comes from someone perceived to be a trusted supporter or mentor or manager. It is often perceived as good advice and it often helps generate “considered alternatives and choices” that are different from the ones currently in practice.

This kind of pressure from other individuals, or too much pressure to change can feel something like the following to most people in the workforce:

Gulliver is part of the Square Wheels® series of organizational development cartoons

Pressure can have predictable consequences when it comes to motivation

Pressure can cause people to freeze and become helpless, as can pain and other kinds of externally driven “motivators.” The work of Marty Seligman on conditioned helplessness supports that fact that many externally applied pressures can have negative, adverse impacts on people and performance.

My experience and perception is that this continuous outside stress will often generate a fairly predictable workplace response that looks something like this:

From the Square Wheels® series of cartoons. Protected by copyright

Defense is the reaction to outside threats and results in collaboration and teamwork!

People can logically be expected to defend themselves from outside threats and challenges, sometimes pulling together in unexpected ways to help each other. This kind of teamwork is not productive and little gets done, but if people are pushed, they will often push back, predictably.

Continued pressure from outside, where there is not an obvious collaborative solution, will result in further development of the defensive perimeter. The former situation can usuall be easily resolved, while this latter position requires a lot more attention:

People feeling pressured will construct elaborate defenses to protect themselves

People feeling pressured will construct elaborate defenses to protect themselves and their associates

So, is stress motivating? Is it stress that generates innovation and creativity?

I would reframe the concept of Stress into one of “Discomfort with the way things are. Now.” This is one of the four parts of my model for managing and leading change and a key component of motivating people to improve performance.  If they are comfortable with how things are, the motivation for change is predictably lower than if they have an idea as to what they might do differently.

Choosing to do things differently is a key to continuous continuous improvement of self and team, of personal accomplishments and organizational improvement.

Our toolkit on “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly” has a lot to say about our model of change and how one can better involve and engage people for workplace improvement and personal growth.

Creating stress to increase innovation is not a really good strategy, in my opinion.

We can do things better and differently.

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

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Innovation, Strategy and Motivation

I am sitting on the bed in Mumbai, looking at emails and thinking about how well the strategy improvement / implementation session went that I helped deliver on Friday. We used the Square Wheels illustrations linked to issues of alignment and vision and change to frame up how leadership could best communicate a new strategy down through the organization and engage people to try new things and share ideas as to how to best apply these strategies within their job activities.

It was my first presentation on this specific theme and the session flowed neatly and with positive reactions by all of these senior managers. For a basic framework, I used my friend Robin Speculand’s basic approach to strategy implementation and organizational alignment. Robin has recently opened his Implementation Hub website, one that offers a wide variety of tools and information about the issues and opportunities. You can find that here.

My approach would focus more on engagement and alignment than most strategy management books that I read, since I focus a lot more on the people side of the alignment process than I do on the mechanical side of things. We showed the Dan Pink RSA animation of his TED presentation on the negative impacts of extrinsic rewards on most organizational development tasks and the need for using intrinsic motivational strategies to implement successfully. That generated a good bit of discussion and challenged the typical organization’s extrinsically-driven motivational approach.

I was also going through some of my LinkedIn group correspondence and one question was about designing a one-day program for management team building.

Most of the other responders had good ideas, but one said that it was a good idea not to reinvent the wheel… Of course, that pin hit my balloon and I thought to post up something that spun around that point and made some other points about implementing changes. So, here is what I said (might as well post that post it entirely than re-inventing the wheel, right? ; ) :

Unlike the other responder, I WOULD try to reinvent the wheel!!

As I was reading the thread, I was thinking about all the innovative ideas for workplace improvement that I have encountered over the years in my work on continuous improvement and productivity and motivation. Yes, people ARE innovative and cultures DO suppress and often actively inhibit the good ideas that already exist, creating what I call Spectator Sheep. Those are the ones that stand around, disengaged and disenchanted and voice their opinions, “Naaaaaaaaa, Baaaaaaaaa!”

Spectator Sheep are not involved or engaged but they will express their thoughts verbally: Naaaaa Baaaaa

I show the Square Wheels One cartoon, which depicts a wooden wagon rolling on 4 wooden Square Wheels with a cargo of round rubber tires. It is presented as, “How might this represent how things really work in most organizations?”

Square Wheels One, by Performance Management Company © 1993

Square Wheels represent the way things work in most organizations. Round wheels already exist!

That challenge always generates engagement and interactions and dozens of thoughts on issues and opportunities.

What we find are that there are lots of Round Wheel possibilities that already exist and that could simply be utilized by more people in the workplace. For those not already using these round ones, this represents innovation and process improvement and sometimes drives resistance to change (a whole ‘nother issue).

Some of the ideas are simply Best Practices, while the session can also focus on new ideas that are not yet created — Here is a Square Wheel we deal with; what are some round wheel possibilities?

Similarly, a problem or challenge can be presented to the group as a Square Wheel and one can use a variety of creative, group-oriented processes like Dot-Voting and Fast Networks and other activities to generate some energy and cross-functional discussions. Thiagi and many others have simple exercises that can work to accomplish this engagement.

Dan Pink’s summary of research in creativity (the book is Drive but click here  (“Dan Pink RSA”) to see a 10-minute animated discussion of his key points) says that EXTRINSIC Rewards directly inhibit creativity and the research is really clear on this. I would TOTALLY avoid the use of any “completion rewards? and just allow the INTRINSIC, self-generated motivation to solve problems to drive ideas and possibilities.

This can be done at the workgroup level for small problems or led at the top levels with strategic or product-related “Square Wheels” to engage focused energy.

As others have stated, we need to be clear about the desired outcomes before we can roll forward or downhill.

You can see some writings and tools and similar at

We do not focus on innovation directly in our workshops to improve team building and organizational performance, but innovation and improvement are critical factors in any plan to engage and motivate people. Continuous Un-Improvement is not such a hot idea for any workgroup!

chaos confusion haiku 2

Hope that helps.


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

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Tripping to India to do Strategy Implementation and Team Building

The past month has been quite a journey, even before I head off to Mumbai once again. My passport expired as did my one-year, multiple-entry business visa to India. SO, I put the passport into “The System” and got it back quickly. Then came the application process for the entry visa. It was one of these “in the mud” kind of weeks:


Scott, talking about being up to your “axles in mud,” with Spectator Sheep. This situation sure felt like that!

Online, it gave me some options so I applied for the 10-year, multiple-entry business visa, since it was the same price as the 5-year one and not too much more expensive than the 1-year, the application requirements were as before as were the timelines.

But in this case, I ran up into “the processor bureaucracy.” To make a long story short, it has taken me nearly a month, with me making 4 phone calls, repeatedly sending things, changing one or two words in the application letter (I am a one-person company but the letter from my company to the embassy has to be from someone else in my company verifying my honesty and abiilty to pay any debts occurring in India) and there was an issue with the words “training” and “contract.”

I will be going there to market my organizational development tools (Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine) and to meet up with my exclusive representatives to look at new product development and marketing. I am going to present to some large conferences to model the delivery of the tools. We have a contract that protects my intellectual property, mostly. BUT, the person reading the application materials was MOST CERTAIN that I was going to India for employment, and thus, I must complete an Employment Visa. And having “a contract” proved to her that I was an employee and not the owner of my own company doing business with another company. Her ignorance was most amazing, actually, and combined with her unwillingness to listen, caused me (and probably many other businessmen) a great deal of anguish.

That employment descriptive document had things like me having to receive an annual salary of at least USD $25,000 and that my sponsoring company had to assert that I was uniquely qualified and that there was no one in India who could do my job. (I cannot imagine how that would actually be accomplished). In reading it, we would have to LIE on the application for me to qualify for one of those employment visas.

With me being totally truthful on all things, and with the processor actually losing my passport in their mailroom, I finally made that one perfect phone call to the right person who said, “I can fix this!” and she did, using the information that they already had. It proves the value of the empowered employee when it comes to customer service.

UPS now has my passport and I get it today. This is after a MONTH of them diddling around with this processor company’s people (absulute power corrupts absolutely?) and making mistakes and losing things. And, this put a great deal of pressure on all of us, given the commitments we were making to deliver large programs in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. 

Anyway, it looks like things are all in order, that the trip will be a “go” and the tickets and time not wasted.

Now, I am putting a lot of materials together that will recombine the Square Wheels tools into a program on strategy implementation, something that is a critical issue for most large organizations. I am building on the work of my long-term friend and associate, Robin Speculand in Singapore, and focusing on using his Compass model and his general information, combining his approach with my tools for generating engagement and involvement and alignment, and using the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise as a tool for changing behavior and generating commitment to missions and visions.

It will be a unique program for me. I have worked on implementation themes for 30+ years, but never linked these tools in this manner. We are redesigning the play of Dutchman to allow for mid-game restructuring and communications, which will improve its effectiveness around the strategy and vision themes.

And, I will get another newsletter out on this today.

Sure has been an interesting journey to India, this past month, and I have not even left the US yet!

Square Wheels are everywhere! So are the Round Ones.
  (And thanks to Jennie at Travisa for helping me out when all others failed…)

And I am really looking forward to working with the illustrations and games again in India.




For the FUN ot It!

Scott small pic

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

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Dis-Un-Empowered Government Employee – Scott to the rescue of the citizens!

If it were not so sad, it would be funny.

With a friend and parking in an Asheville, NC downtown city-owned parking garage, we get back to the car only to find everything backed up and nothing moving. Maybe one car seemed to actually exit in the first 5 or 10 minutes. In front of us is a white truck with an amber spinning warning light (off) on the top, that I walk past as I stroll toward the front to see if I can find out anything…

As I pass the door, a guy gets out of the truck and I can see, “Parking Authority” on the door, so I suggest that he give me his keys and that he go up past the 15 or so stopped cars to check out and see if he can solve the problem. Well, after 15 minutes, there is maybe one car leaving every 5 minutes (and hundreds left stalled, since the downtown art fair ended and everyone was trying to get home, it being 4 PM on Sunday.

Now, being in charge of this truck, I ask the woman in front of it and the guy ahead of her to scrunch up a little so I can get by and put the truck into a Handicapped Parking place and get it out of the way. (There are now LOTS of spaces beginning to open up so handicapped access was no problem.) Cars are now slowly getting out – 1 every 5 minutes or so. We have now been stalled for about 30 minutes.

I then walk up to the front and watch the guy for a moment. He is taking the parking entrance cards and then manually processing what should be an automated exit since the processing machine was not working. It is taking a long time. People are getting upset. People are wasting gasoline. This is not working well…

I go back to the car and we eventually get to the guy and the machine. I suggest that he simply help the city to avoid a LOT of bad will and complaints by simply allowing the cars to leave smoothly and without paying — he should just open the gate. After all, everyone now has been overcharged an hour and they have wasted a great deal of their time.

What is funny is that he says, “Wait here and I will go back to my truck and get the pass card.”

So, with US NOW APPEARING TO BE BLOCKING THE EXIT, he walks back up the stairs to where I parked his car and gets the card and walks back and uses the card to let us out (without paying). I am guessing that he “cost” the city a few hundred dollars, since there were cars backed up on 5 levels of this full parking lot. But I think he also saved the city a good bit of grief in having to respond to a lot of pretty disgruntled people who wanted partial refunds on their fees.

One wonders this: Why did he not take the card with him when he walked up there the first time? Why did it take 30 minutes of additional time for him to get the idea of simply letting people out?

(He also called someone on his cell phone, which he also apparently left in his truck) on the way back to the gate. Probably his boss, to ask permission.

We did not pay to park. We were the first ones – the other 15 cars that were ahead of us all paid!

Wheeeee. Guess he was simply choosing NOT to do something to fix the problem by his actions. He was simply trying to process the transactions. He did say that he was concerned that he would get into trouble because his truck was parked in a handicapped space!! He could have made a lot of different choices than he did, but he probably felt that he couldn’t…

Yeah, sometimes one just has to step up…


Google ChromeScreenSnapz001

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

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Motivation? It is feedback, not extrinsic motivators, the drive performance

I think the biggest opportunity to improve performance is through good, positive, immediate Performance Feedback, and that we can decrease all the focus on the addition of extrinsic rewards. I think the biggest mistake we make is in thinking that you can simply ADD THINGS to motivate people to do better work.

Dan Pink has gotten a great deal of publicity for coming out against extrinsic reward systems and exposing some of the shortcoming of how we normally support performance in the workplace, building on the older work of Alfie Kohn. Good book, though, his “Drive.” And there is a great video presentation (search for “Dan Pink RSA – millions of views!!) that was published based on his TED presentation.

Basically, Dan gives exposure to the reality that these added rewards often get in the way of supporting the behaviors they are supposed to support. At the same time, people in the workplace are USED to having them around, thus there is sometimes a short-term, “Where is my reward?” that occurs. Generally, rewards causes more problems, in my opinion and experience.

But I do think that he gave short shrift to Alfie Kohn’s classic books like, “Punished by Rewards” — Kohn shared lots of research on how rewards do not drive expected behaviors and why extrinsic rewards seldom work as desired. There are LOTS of unanticipated and often negative consequences (Think Wells Fargo Bank and the scandal about the unauthorized opening of customer accounts).

What we need is more self-directed positive feedback.

LONG ago (1979?), I came to the conclusion that most corporate feedback programs were awful when it came to supporting performance improvement.

Here are 5 of my 14-point checklist. Most people report systems that support less than half of these kinds of features:

1.  Information on performance is based on actual measured accomplishment and not on estimates or opinions about how results were accomplished.

2.  Information highlights areas of performance that have quantifiable value to the organization rather than more general areas of preference

3.  Performance information routinely goes to the people who do the work, rather than mostly to management.

4. People see summarized results

Yes, there are basic needs and all those requirements. But so many people think that motivation is driven extrinsically.

Yeah, maybe, but we sure better be careful. Extrinsic rewards are what Managers like to say motivates people. The irony is that these people ARE motivated by extrinsic rewards in many cases — they LIKE those incentives and thus respond well to them, for the most part. SO, that should mean that everyone wants rewards, right?

Well, maybe. Tell you what. I like dogs, so I might promise to give a St. Bernard / Labrador mixed breed puppy to everyone and their two neighbors who respond to this post.

Ya think?

And how, precisely, is that going to support teamwork and improvement or improve my leadership?

Have fun out there, but please consider looking at your performance feedback systems and processes. Or write to me and I can share more about my Feedback Analysis checklist.
Page one of a Feedback Analysis Worksheet for Performance Improvement

You can download a 3-page pdf file of the Feedback Analysis checklist
and notes by clicking on this sentence.

Hope you find this useful and comments and suggestions are most appreciated.


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.

You can see his new training materials at
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