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 www.performancemanagementcompany.com

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. 
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