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

Month: December 2012

Trust is the Residue of Promises Fulfilled.

My good friend Frank Navran told me that 20+ years ago and it was certainly a great way to remember a really important factor in human relations.

Trust is the promises fulfilled.

So hard to build, so easy to damage. Hard to repair.

In the workplace, it is one of the really key factors in engagement and overall morale. If the workers do not trust their manager, and that can happen at any level, it is really hard to do those things that make an organization successful. People will avoid risk, bond together against leadership, etc.

The word “sabotage” comes from the French word for wooden shoe. Those were often found in the machinery during the French industrial revolution (and elsewhere) as managements tried to implement change and process improvement. If you have a valuable employee, why simply generate distrust and antagonism when you can find some way to use the positive energies and enthusiasm for business improvement?

Gallup posted up some research results recently. They asked,

“Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields – from very high, high, average, low, or very low? How about X, where X was randomized across different surveys.


Nurses were highest, followed by pharmacists and medical doctors. Healthcare came out pretty good, and we hope that it should. Dentists did well, too.

Not so good? The predictable “Car salespeople.” Okay, that was not unexpected, right?

But how about Members of Congress (54% rated Very Low and Low) and Senators (45% VL and L)? I mean, well…

Car salespeople CAN do things to build trust over time, like fairly representing their products and prices and all that. I would go back to Wendy again and even got my daughter a used car from her.

But what about “our elected representatives?” Is it too late for democracy? CAN they actually do some things to rebuild trust? One would hope.

Interesting, is that line for “Business executives.” They actually rank lower than Bankers. While 50% rate them Average, fully 27% rated them VL or L. (I sure would have liked to see them add in “your supervisor” and “your boss’ boss” but what the heck, there are plenty of other stats out there that indicate that improvements in that are possible…)

Yeah, Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled. And they should and can do some things differently to generate more alignment and congruence in their behavior, which would have significant impacts on the perceptions of their people. We have some really strong and ethical leaders out there (and we did not need former GE CEO Jack Welch embarrassing us on the accuracy of the job numbers just before the election — he did himself and all CEOs a great disfavor, IMHO, for political reasons.)

Trust is Residue butterfly guy blue

We have a great need to re-engage people. When surveys show that engagement has actually dropped from 23% to 14% recently, that is a signal that change is needed. We need to do some dis-un-engagement and engagimentation, we need to so some team building and leadership development. We need to get more people believing in more positive things about the corporations that are critical component of the success of our country (and any country).

I trust that you have found this interesting and that you would find some of our toolkits for involving and engaging people to be of benefit. Click on the icon for access to information:

Square Wheels are simply great tools


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

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

WHY does Godzilla want to smush Bambi?

My posts are pretty much all about team building and team building games, themes of leadership training and employee involvement and engagement. I was sitting here between thoughts and the twitter feed flashed by and the question above came into my mind:

Why DOES Godzilla, (our manager-leader), want to smush the many positive and creative ideas of Bambi, the worker?

My thinking on the reality of the situation comes across in my short animated presentation I call Godzilla Meets Bambi and which appears on my YouTube site. It happens and we all know it happens. I poke fun at the smushing, and write about it as dis-engagement or worse, but it is a most serious situation.

Godzilla Meets Bambi – a cartoon video of how organizational motivation gets smushed:

The many surveys out there talk about the importance of employee engagement and how many Mission Statements have the phrase, “Our people are our most important assets” or something along those lines?

People Asset

But why? Why does a manager feel like it is more important to quash new ideas than take the time to listen and to allow people to act on their ideas for improvement? Some of it is probably related to organizational power and ego issues. Some of it is the press for time and productivity and the lack of time for meetings other than the downloading of information that is required. Little time or focus seems available, even though the leadership is always talking about having a motivated workforce and having a focus on quality and productivity.

But there must be more to it, than that, isn’t there? This is about self-esteem and motivation and organizational improvement. It is about leadership and engagement. And there are impacts on costs, employee turnover, training needs and costs, etc. The skill of facilitation and brainstorming is pretty much known and fairly easy. Teamwork skill sets are common.

But reported behavior says that smushing is more common than encouragement, when it comes to employee ideas.

WHY can’t we simply get together on all this? Why can’t we remove the roadblocks that prevent employees from being engaged and involved in making their workplaces better? We know that engagement improves productivity and all that.

Godzilla crushing feeling poem


Good luck out there. Have some fun, too!


Need some tools? Check out Square Wheels and our many team building games at our website,

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

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

You can reach Scott at
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.


“Nothing Made Sense, and neither did EVERYTHING Else!”

Doing a wide variety of leadership and team building sessions all over the world for the past 30+ years, one of the most useful anchor points I have is that I do NOT know all the answers and should not be expected to. Heck, I should be able to even end sentences with prepositions and use dangling participles if that were the case.

Early on, though, I thought I needed to show my expertise, and have an answer for all things, but that is simply ludicrous.

I will share my opinions and thoughts when asked, but I also try to couch things in the framework that those are just thoughts and opinions… It is one of the reasons why I use my Square Wheels cartoons — they allow me to ask others for their thoughts and ideas. Yeah, I do have some anchor points and perspective, and I do use a variety of facilitation and organizational development frameworks and concepts.

SWs One - How Things Work

One reality is this one –

A Desk is a Dangerous Place from which to view the world.

I got that quote from a book by Jean LeCarre. I remember reading that in one of his hardback books and immediately writing it down. When trying to find it, however, it becomes impossible and I often think that others are simply repeating my reference as opposed to finding it on their own. But it is useful and it anchored the series of cartoons that I use to illustrate this concept:

Desk is Danger man + TriangleDesk is Danger Cost + Bump

IDEAS ARE GOOD. It is just that not every idea is a good idea. And one should not just go out implementing them without doing a little conversation, investigation and testing (“One Less Bump per Revolution” is one of my more favorite session punchlines!). I use this series pretty neatly in many of my leadership sessions. “A Desk IS a Dangerous Place from which to view the world.

Another quote I use often is the one that titles this writing:

Nothing Made Sense, and Neither did Anything Else!

I thought I read that one dozens of years ago in Joseph Heller’s book, “Catch 22.” Funny thing is that if you do go online, you will see LOTS of references to the quote, many linked to me, but many on the different quote pages that refer to the phrase coming from Catch 22.

On this page, for example, the first 25 quotes are all ripped off directly from my website writings, and unattributed to me — they were shared on a page a long time ago. Heck, they even kept some of the ones that I attributed to myself!
( ) — they call themselves “creative moves” but they shoulda maybe named the page, “outright theft. com” — same thing with this guy: and at  Ah well…

I just searched again, thinking that some things DO change and found the quote on page 18 of Heller’s sequel to Catch 22 – “Closing Time.” I must have read it there and simply got confused. The link to that page is here. And the whole quote is embedded in a longish paragraph that goes:

“…Men earned millions producing nothing more substantial than changes in ownership. The cold war was over and there was still no peace on earth. Nothing made sense and neither did everything else. People did things without knowing why and then tried to find out.”

Ah: “Nothing made sense and neither did EVERYTHING else.” I had it wrong all these years (and will probably keep using it my way!). And I wonder how many years it will take for my wrong attribution to get corrected. I think it might never happen with the “Truth in Internet” reality…

My next Quote Quest is to find if Tom Peters really said,

If we’re not getting more better faster than they are getting more better faster, than we’re getting less better or more worse.

My quote of Tom Peters’ quote is on the above referenced sites that have taken  quotes from my site, with no reference to having done that,  in addition to others that attribute my quoting him to him. No chance of finding if it was actually his, and I heard that in another consultant’s presentation maybe 20 years ago…

If you go to those websites mentioned, you can see a lot of the quotes that I use. They did a good job of lifting them from my site. But at least they are not (yet) stealing my cartoons.

Caterpillars can fly lighten up round


For the FUN of It!

Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools like Square Wheels. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and international consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ –
Reach Scott at


A Square Wheels Christmas Story

Reindeer gazed in wonderment, perplexed at this strange sight.
It’s a Square-Wheeled “wagon sleigh” but something’s not quite right.

Santa SWs One ©

Lo and Behold! Santa’s pulling instead of riding high in his sleigh
full of red-bowed Round Wheels with the elves pushing hard away.

What’s Santa thinking? It’s not possible this sleigh will take flight!
Square Wheels can’t replace us reindeer, how could he think they might?

Moving forward in its journey to all (in spite of Santa’s lack of insight),
the slow thump, thump, thump of the wheels are creating a very bad plight.

Oh dear, Santa must step back from that sleigh and think another way
or no gifts will arrive, for those who await them, by Christmas Day!

It seems so clear, Get rid of Square Wheels and add us! the Reindeer say.
Then kids everywhere will wake up excitedly with brand new toys for play.

At last, Santa realizes he needs Round Wheels and reindeer for flying tonight.
So he replaces those Square Wheels making everyone’s Christmas a delight!

Santa Flying sled, elves hanging on color

Square Wheels® are a registered servicemark of Performance Management Company.
© Performance Management Company, 2009 – 2012.
Poem by Joan Simmerman and artwork by R. Sabean.

Season’s Greetings

We published this 4 years ago. Check with our blog to see some new ones in a day or two:

Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman work great for team building


I am playing with things like this as we do things with LEGO:

Santa Square Wleels thinking about performance improvement

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
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


Engagement and Involvement: What Would Santa Do? Engagimentation!

I thought you might like this little story about Santa and the Elves and his reindeer and how he put together some teams to improve motivation and innovation.

dull Santa1This is a research report from an arms-length investigator and all facts and details can be confirmed by contacting Mrs. Santa Claus, Administrative Manager, Santa’s Workshop, North Pole. No email was made available to us at this time…

Santa Surprised

Santa wasn’t so jolly upon finding his Sleigh not ready for its Big Day!
“So,” he demanded from his Reindeer, “How’d you let it get this way?”

“We asked the Elves to help cause it’s too banged up to fly with ease
but they told US to fix it, they were busy, and then ignored our pleas!”

Santa went straight to the Elves and asked why they hadn’t heeded
his Reindeers’ concern about his Sleigh; the work it needed.
In reaction to this, the Elves yelled, “Because we’re overworked!”
And it was at that exact moment that Santa became mightily irked!

This lack of teamwork had Santa feeling stumped!
He needed a way to get them collaborating and pumped.
So, he used teambuilding he’d heard through the grapevine
called, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Santa to the LDGM Mine

Reindeer and Elves were mixed together and put into teams
and played Dutchman with energy, competition and beams!
By game’s end, they realized that their tendency to compete,
gave them less ‘Gold’ than if collaborating had been their feat.

Santa sled, just starting to fly color

Invigorated with a solid commitment, as a team, they turned
to fixing Santa’s Sleigh as they talked about what they’d learned.
“Since now we know working together benefits all,” said a Reindeer,
“Let’s show Santa his sparkling sleigh to bring him Christmas Cheer!”

Act finally together

What Santa did and needs to continue to do is Engagimentation. This is the process of engaging people with their ideas for improvement and then working with them to implement those same ideas. An inexpensive Square WheelsToolkit is available.

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.

Check out The Square Wheels Project, our LMS for teaching Square Wheels facilitation skills to supervisors and managers.

You can reach Scott at
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
Poem by Joan Simmerman and line art by R. Sabean

Godzilla Meets Bambi – Simple thoughts on creativity, innovation and leadership

Here is what happens if I let my brain wander around. I got online today and saw a post that got me clicking on some different things and eventually migrated over to my YouTube page at PMC864.

Looking at a couple of different things, I clicked on my Godzilla Meets Bambi video and was reminded how cute this 2-minute animated video was. For a first cut at trying to be funny, entertaining and informative in one swoop, I think you would find it pretty good. I should probably illustrate it with my LEGO images and I DID see a Godzilla toy in the stores before Christmas.

The link is here:

Godzilla Meets Bambi - On Leadership

Just me, having a bit of fun and messing with Godzilla. And there seem to be too many Godzillas and not enough Bambi’s in many of today’s workgroups, ya think?

Your thoughts and reactions are most appreciated.

For the FUN of It!

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

 You can reach Scott at

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

Some Random Thoughts and Quips on Management

Here is one of my new frameworks, something for consideration about how things seem to really work in most organizations:

Square Wheels LEGO one-liner by Scott Simmerman of The Square Wheels Project

And there are a more things I need to do before I call “Quits” for today that I will post up to appear Monday Morning — I am thinking that some of you might need that! And the thought was to also post up a few quips that I came across in a document while looking for something else.

The ones below are not Scott-original, but I will admit to playing with them a bit and that the original sources are unknown. If you find yourself laughing, that is probably a good thing, especially if you do not see this until Monday morning. Anyway, here goes:

One of my most useful quotes:
Nothing made sense, and neither did everything else.
Joseph Heller, from his book “Closing Time,“ (1994)

1callosamiaCaterpillars can fly, if they just lighten up. Thus, be the caterpillar, but watch out for the bird.

Discovery goes through three stages:

  1. Initial ridicule
  2. Violent passionate opposition
  3. Acceptance as the obvious

If you can’t be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

Indecision is a key to flexibility.
A decision made is an opportunity for flexibility missed.
Thus, flexibility is a key to indecision.

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” — Marcel Proust

Leverage:  The 2003 USDA proposed regulations for the concept of “Organic” ran a bit over 600 pages. The 83 page regulatory text summary of the 2000 standard was over 25,000 words and the pdf file of those Year 2000 standards ran 573 pages long. Somebody gets paid to write all this stuff… But many other people then have to read, understand and then comply to it. Why can Big Agra produce foods containing insecticides and other poisons and avoid labeling while organic producers have to PROVE that nothing is in their products.

“In Paris, they simply stared when I spoke to them in French. I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language.”  – Mark Twain

In order for something to become clean, something else must become dirty. But you can get everything dirty without getting anything clean.

Thoughts on Flying:  Keep thy airspeed up, lest the earth come from below and smite thee.

Basic Flying Rules:

  1.  Try to stay in the middle of the air.
  2.  Do not go near the edges of it. (The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.)
  3.  Strive to keep the number of successful landings made equal to the number of take-offs you’ve made.

It is not possible to awaken someone who is pretending to be asleep.
(Navajo proverb).

If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it. And borrow money from pessimists, since they do not expect you to pay it back.

Some managers choose to be rock solid in their commitment to flexibility. Some drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle.

“That’s like asking the vegetables how to design a refrigerator.” (An actual quote I heard a company president make when asked about the idea of employee involvement. Really!)

• A pregnant goldfish is called a twit.

• The pet ferret (Mustela putorias furo) was domesticated more than 500 years before the house cat.

The dome on Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, conceals a billiards room. Billiards were illegal in Virginia when Jefferson lived…

The term “devil’s advocate” comes from the Roman Catholic church. When 20 of the church’s most important convene in deciding if someone should be sainted, a devil’s advocate is always appointed to give an alternative view.

Management in some companies reminds me of 5,000 ants on a log floating down the river with each ant pretending they are steering and that they know where they are going.

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.

Check out The Square Wheels Project, our LMS for teaching Square Wheels facilitation skills to supervisors and managers.

You can reach Scott at
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

The Isolation of Leadership = A Desk is a Dangerous Place from which to View the World

I’ve been using the Square Wheels One illustration for a long time, since 1993, and reactions to it have always been awesome. It engages and involves people and helps them generate ideas for improvement as well as anchoring great discussions about the things that needed to be addressed.

SWs One - How Things Work

A related issue is the issue of leadership and understanding the reality that leadership can sometimes or often be really isolated from what is happening. Illustrated, it looks like this:

long long rope

Solutions? Pretty simple in my view of things. First, involve and engage people in generating ideas and solutions:

Brainstorming easel pad green

and then put forth some people to analyze and promote ideas for implementation:

Drawing Board Two green

I call this whole thing Engagimentation, the simply combination of engagement and implementation ideas. It is about brainstorming, team building, involvement, motivation and a variety of things that make organizations improve.

Maybe this approach is too simple. But it seems to work.

You can find toolkits and ideas on our website at

Scott SimmermanScott

(all cartoons are © Performance Management Company, 10993 – 2012)

What do Elves do to Learn and Improve?

You got to hand it to the Elves of the world, since they are the ones who get most things done. They are the hands-on people who work at it all the time for the rest of us.

But their jobs are not intrinsically motivating, for sure. There are lots of issues and problems of missions and visions, even when one thinks that everyone is clear on all things.

SWs Santa

Santa Surprise


Santa had lunch with the boys and got a rude surprise. Seems like the pushers at the back were not all that enthused about what they were doing. They did not share that happy holiday feeling and they were not all working together.


And Santa would sure like things to work better and faster. So, good old Santa got everyone together in the workshop to ask for ideas and see if some better solution might be available…

Santa Design Shop

And sure enough, they found that they just could get a plan together. Playing with the wheels sure helped cement the ideas, too.

thumping and bumping

So they put the effort in and got things going, together.

Act finally together

Have some fun out there, yourselves.


(cartoons and copy all copyrighted, 2012 by Performance Management Company)



Santa – Getting the Job Done and Living The Dream!

Work is work. And some things just do not work smoothly.

Having some fun

It is not about effort, but about systems and processes that do not work smoothly and the idea that things can continually be improved.

There are lots of idea and available resources, if only the gang could stop pushing and pulling and Step Back from the Wagon!

Have FUN out there!

© Performance Management Company, 2010

Santa Rocks and Rolls

I got out some of the old cartoons that we did around our Santa Performance Improvement Poems, crafted by Joan over the past 5 years. Anyway, I popped in a few graphics and did some poems and similar.

Trying to have some fun.

So here is Santa, when all the work is said and done:

Act finally together

Note the ROUND wheels!

Thoughts on Optimal Team Sizes and Intrinsic Motivation for Results

Andrea Goodridge posed the following question in a LinkedIn discussion:  “What is the optimal team size? Does anyone know of any evidence which demonstrates a team’s decay of effectiveness and productivity because of its size? (I am interested to hear if a team of 12 on one site will be more productive than 2 teams of 6 on two sites.) How DO you approach assembling a team or teams that will actually generate results and have organizational impacts?”


To this, I shared some of my thinking and perspective, noting that my experiences are varied on this, but that I have been playing with these same kinds of issues for 20 years (yeah, more like 35 actually…). I am not sure that there IS an answer to the question. (Andrea actually does go on to add some research data in her comments and discussion with me.)

No doubt teams of 5 to 6 people can form up more quickly and identify and solve problems quickly. But do they have the “steam” to actually get things done politically? Is there enough power there to do more than talk? So, a real question is around the issue of real and perceived management support for risk and initiative.

The makeup of the team is also critical — do they have a vested interest in the outcome, are they some of the engaged workers who self-selected onto the team and do they have any previous success with improvements? Note that previous failures are most likely seen as de-motivators of future performance. The organizational culture is also important: Does it support change and improvement and will it allow the group to become a team and actually take action?

Large groups can have more position power and can include some people who will actually do little but who have the juice to say, “get this done.” The problem is that those large groups CAN play the political / appearance game and be on the team for “resume purposes” or to protect turf or whatever.

It is amazing how many managers do NOT really want changes and improvements to occur, feeling that if a team can come up with something better and implement measurable improvements and results, then they make that manager look bad for not doing that before. Yep — I have seen that crush a plant-wide performance initiative because “Frank” was retiring in a year and he thought of himself as, “The Best Plant Manager in the Whole Entire Company.” My work in a whole bunch of pilot programs clearly showed improvements were possible but, as soon as I left the project, you could hear the screeching sounds of brakes being applied — success was NOT possible.

You can spend lots of money on team surveys and all that — plenty of offerings to “help improve teamwork.” Me, I am a GFNJ * 

The key is to have a really effective team leader or moderator, to take good notes, to set dates and standards and report accomplishments and insure that the infrastructure works to allow teams and team members to succeed. I have always liked that metaphor of a good team as a good jazz band, where everyone gets some solo time but where the group is recognized for its overall results.

Becoming an orchestra is an awful lot harder to accomplish.

Small teams. Engaged. Collaborative. Focused on improvement. Dis-Un-Empowered and Dis-Un-Engaged. In a culture that will actually support implementation!

Git ‘er Done!   ( * Guy From New Jersey)

Andrea Goodridge then added some good comments that I simply copy below:

AndreaThanks for your comments Scott – over the last few days I have done some research into this very question – below is my output: 

M Ringelmann discredited the theory that a group team effort results in increased effort, by analysing the pull force of people alone and in groups as they pulled on a rope. As Ringelmann added more and more people at the rope, he discovered that the total force generated by the group rose, but the average force exerted by each group member declined. Ringelmann attributed this to what was then called “social loafing” – a condition where a group or team tends to ‘hide’ the lack of individual effort. 

Researchers (Hackman and Vidmar, Richard Hackman, QSM, Klein, Wheelan) identified a general preference for a small team, containing less than seven members, showing: that as a team gets bigger, the number of links that need to be managed among members goes up at an accelerating, almost exponential rate; and teams comprising between three and six members are significantly more productive and better developed than those made up of between seven and ten, and those with 11 or more members. When teams get over eight or nine people, it is cumbersome and the team breaks down into sub-teams. 

J Mueller explored the question of small versus large teams and noted in larger teams, people may not have the time and energy to form relationships that really help their ability to be productive; and also higher levels of stress were revealed for members of larger teams than for smaller teams. On a smaller team, people knew what resources were available and felt they could ask questions when things went wrong. 

Espinosa, Lerch and Kraut state as projects and teams grow in size and complexity, tasks and member dependencies become more numerous, diverse and complex, thus increasing the need for team coordination. It often means less cohesiveness and less participation from group members, and often the opportunity for “social loafing”. 

Wheelan reports that smaller groups are more likely to pass through all four stages of group development, and highly developed groups are more likely to be productive. 

Overall, small is the better way to go when forming a team!

So, you have my subjective thoughts on this along with the research that Andrea cited. I cannot imagine where I would build a large team, but I might have a larger “steering committee” or some such political body that would give a stamp of approval to the efforts of the smaller teams.

I do note, though, that many automobile manufacturers and similar kinds of design groups are using social networking and crowd sourcing to help generate ideas for improvement. I am guessing that the implementation teams would be small to be effective, however.

And there does seem to be good support for the reality of organizing small mobile teams rather than big ones, IF you give them the room to operate and the resources they need to be effective.

For the FUN of It!

DScott Simmermanr. 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

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Simple thoughts on Extrinsic Motivation

Sometimes, I am not sure what triggers the motivation for me to pop into here and write up a blog. This one was triggered from “the holiday spirit” + some advertising on TV + a new LinkedIn discussion post on a similar topic + some of my own diabolical thinking and critical reflection.

This one is about motivating people through extrinsic rewards. Or, more about how that stuff actually demotivates people.

Extrinsic Motivation. What might make it effective? When might it not be effective and why? We really do know a lot about rewards, reinforcement and behavior and extrinsic rewards can control behavior in many ways — but some of them are somewhat surprising.

One is struck by all the ads on TV that suggest that viewers of football games and other TV shows will simply go out and buy someone a Lexus as a surprise gift for Christmas. I mean, really? Just hit the auto store and get that new car for a person who might be your wife or girlfriend simply because it IS Christmas (add theme of Jingle Bells here). (And you see the same kinds of ads for diamonds and other expensive jewelry — you are not a worthy person unless you spend lots of money on that other person on an extravagant or useless gift.)

Small Rant – Diamonds are always presented as a “very worthwhile investment.” one that holds its value. The gift that keeps on giving and that kind of thing. It is CARBON, people, and labs now can churn out truly flawless chunks of clear carbon (or colored clear carbon effortlessly)! The industry even suggests you give up 3 months of salary to get a “representative stone” for your marriage. Three months for a rock of carbon? Four years of car payments to demonstrate you are worthy? (Yeah, I rant…But how many people make money when they resell those things?)

Behind those ads, there must be some kind of hidden behavioral motivator that would cause one to want to buy a new expensive luxury car — I mean, most of us are not at all that altruistic, are we? So, what behaviors of that other person are you trying to motivate by getting that expensive gift?

There exists an extensive literature on BF Skinner’s concepts around the development of Superstitious Behavior, finding that a reinforcer following some random behavior will tend to make that random behavior get repeated. So, if the wife is washing dishes on Christmas morning when you say, “Honey, look out front!”, getting her a new car will reinforce her washing dishes… (More likely, she is sitting on the couch — remember, you made this choice of timing!)

A reality is that not all extrinsic rewards are rewarding to all people. That is one of the problems with using the to improve organizational performance. Generally, only the top performers actually get the rewards. And it is even worse than that. Bersin, in its “State of Employee Recognition in 2012” survey, reports that nearly 75% of organizations have a recognition program  — despite the fact that only 58% of employees think that their organizations have one.

Obviously, corporate programs, which represent 1% of total payroll on such extrinsic programs, are not getting much bang for the buck. But remember that it is the “winners” of these programs who get selected to be supervisors and the winners of those jobs get to be managers and the winners among them become their bosses. Gee, winners are the managers and who makes the decisions to keep these programs to reward the winners in place?

Why not simply focus on the bottom 80% of all the people, many of whom are disengaged and un-involved.

I share some statistics and thoughts on involving and engaging the mass of workers through something I am calling “engagimentation.” It is a program on Dis-Un-Engagement. It builds on teamwork and on involvement and can help to generate intrinsic motivation, which is much more effective.

You can download a pretty detailed article on engagimentation and motivation by clicking here: I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…

You can read a bit more on the situation there. Personally, I think that the best motivators are not extrinsic and are not given to employees with a goal of improving results of some kind. Why? Because they don’t always work. For an example, let me illustrate with a puppy. I mean, is this a cutie or what?


So, here is the deal: Make a comment on this article and I will find one of these little puppy guys at a nearby animal shelter and give it to you, free. I will reward your comment with a dog that you can take care of for the next 10 to 15 years! What could be better than that? And this particular one is a Saint Bernard, a lovely little guy who will get bigger and bigger (and bigger). If I cannot find you one of those, I am sure that there are some Great Danes and other ones that you would surely enjoy in your place of abode.

I mean, would this not be a great motivator one could give to everyone who had good performance?

(Me, I do not want a puppy at the moment! One cat is more than enough!)

Get a reasonable gift for those you love during this holiday season. And remember that you wife probably does NOT want a new electric drill or leaf blower.

And when you think about rewarding workplace behavior with extrinsic rewards, recognize that “not everyone wants a puppy” and that you just may be rewarding behavior that you do not really want to re-occur. You give someone a cash award after they return from a sick day and you may be rewarding them not to come in to work!  Or, your timing is such that they just told a customer to go away, so you might be rewarding that…

Better to look for intrinsic ways to reward performance. Look to improve feedback systems and improve peer support of change and improved results.

Oh, if you like this post, you could buy me a new Tesla Model D. Ya think?

For the FUN of It!


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


It’s Not My Fault – Why Engagement is Not Working

Some really scary stuff is how much money companies are spending on Engagement Surveys and how little is happening as a result. Bersin & Associates came out with a  report this year entitled, “Employee Engagement: Market Review, Buyer’s Guide and Provider Profiles,” (yes, it can be yours for $995) and here is what jumped off the page for reporter John Holton:

The research shows that organizations currently invest approximately $720 million annually in engagement improvement, including both outsourced and internally developed programs. Only 50 percent of the potential market has been tapped, with half the organizations stating an interest in engagement programs actually investing.”

Frankly, if one adds in all the time spent by people reviewing the numbers and the reports and generating ideas and “action plans,” the number would be a LOT higher than a billion dollars.  Organizations are trying to improve employee engagement and getting data about how they are doing — Bersin projects that the costs will eventually be a LOT higher — $1.53 billion. And if things simply continue, companies will have little to show for the spending other than a check-box on some Human Resources Management Competencies List that they have asked for ideas or some such thing.

Employee engagement has actually significantly DECLINED
from 24% down to 13% in the past two years
(Mercer, 2012).

Obviously, there is little visible impact from all this spending so this “engagement fad” should be doomed to go away. What is worse than that:  What truly lousy messages does all surveying and meetings send to the base of employees who feel they are underpaid and ignored? Employees KNOW that these surveys cost a big bunch of money and they SEE that year after year, their input gets ignored while the company does not have the money for any pay increases…

So, what do we actually do? Well, I am sure that precise solutions will vary. But you can pretty much rest assured that doing nothing differently will guarantee you the same results.

You may remember The Six Phases of Implementation:

1 – Enthusiasm for the initiative
2 – Disillusionment with initial results
3 – Panic as things fall apart
4 – Search for the Guilty
5 – Punishment of the Innocent
6 – Praise and Honor for the Non-Participants

This is how many people view how organizations respond to teamwork and the implementation of improvements. Obviously, that changes when people are asked to go through such a process the second time!

But let me suggest a pretty simple and straightforward concept:

  • Ask people what is un-engaging or needs to be done differently
  • Give them a model to deal with the different kinds of issues, because there is not one solution for all kinds of problems
  • Allow them to prioritize what needs to be improved in terms of themes like impact, timeliness, cost, difficult to accomplish, etc.
  • Allow them to individually solve problems that they can solve individually
  • Allow them to form teams where group thinking and peer support would help them move forward on particular issues and opportunities
  • Recognize efforts, successes and accomplishments
  • Look to alternative approaches toward redoing things that are perceived as unsuccessful
  • Focus on continuous continuous improvement

I call this Dis-Un-Empowerment and I look at the overall situation as one of Engagimentation. Functionally, it looks like this:

Engagimentation = engagement plus implementation

Make people feel successful and work as part of the team to implement their ideas — and let them feel that they are contributing to the overall success of the organization and their co-workers. Build a sense of collaboration and teamwork.

At the same time, look up! The horse represents an even “more better” way to approach the situation and the cargo jet represents the future. There are always improvements that can be made and people will feel accomplished if they are allowed to be part of the idea and implementation team.

Implementation is the key, and an analysis or review of your best past practices with implementing change and strategy will probably give you good ideas about what kinds of things work best within your culture. Looking at failures can also provide you with good information about what things do not work.

This improvement requires the active involvement of the managers in the identification of workplace issues — not just from a survey where not everyone will be candid or involved. It then requires them to engage people in defining what can and should be done differently, not just holding a meeting and going back to doing the same stuff…

Doing Nothing poem

We need to start really working to involve and engage our people in meaningful workplace improvements.

Engagimentation Rat Cage

Or not.

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

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