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

Month: February 2013

Innovate & Implement – an exercise linked to getting things done

We’ve been playing with the design of a package focused on innovation for a couple of years. Since creativity and innovation are not primary focuses of mine, this game languishes a bit in my development of it, even though it works really great. It is a full, developed, and effective program that I simply need to play more often with my workshop groups.

It is a board game playable by 3 or better 4 people. Each table is separate from the others in that there is no collaboration or that kind of framework, other than what the players at the table do. I tried to model the issues around common problems that teams face when they try to solve problems and implement ideas and, like most of my other games, it is loaded up with metaphors.

I&I Check it out words

We give each team the instructions and they have to pull together to develop a plan of action and coordinate efforts. As the game progresses, they get more and more efficient with their actions, and make more and more progress.

The goal is to move about the board and enter rooms and solve problems. Once they find the Round Wheels, they can then return home and end the game. Some measure of luck is involved, but it is more about efficiency and effectiveness. And while they can ask for help and find additional information “from a Training Class,” the work harder to avoid that than they do on learning anything!

You, as facilitator, can keep the players “tight to the rules and policies” or allow them to bend them a little to play better and faster. You, in a real sense, influence the Innovate & Implement game culture.

The debriefing of the game is excellent, and we package the exercise complete with our other Square Wheels tools to allow you to either integrate the game with your existing innovation or implementation processes or to build a complete program around the exercise with our other outstanding tools.

I&I Bundle Contents

And you always have Scott to assist. He freely offers his consulting and coaching time to insure that you have the product you need integrated with the learning that you want.

Scott and I&I w title

The simplicity of this exercise would allow your supervisors to play it with their people to involve and engage them and generate the intrinsic motivation and teamwork to go forward and identify and solve their workplace issues and then develop an effective plan of action for implementation.

This package is a great value at $495 and you can see more information about the exercise at our website. Click here or on the game board icon below:

I&I gameboard 20

This is a fully developed, completely supported package of excellent tools!

I&I Game Folder image

For the FUN of It!

Muscles slide in background

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

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Stress, The Workplace, Statistics and The Future

I have posted up before on the issues of the workplace and demographics and teams and have gotten a number of nice emails on the issues (here and here). For my way of thinking, improving teamwork and collaboration will have a wide variety of positive impacts on people and on performance. I have also shared some thoughts on taking vacation time and similar, noting that I am taking a 5-day cruise shortly with NO access to internet, email, telephone or any such thing and not intending to even check for emergencies!)

Stress. Working. Issues.


I just read a post by Arianna Huffington that got my attention. I link to it here but I summarize many of the key points that it made for me and also add some comments below, since my focus is on the performance improvement side of things. In summary, I found this material of relevance when it comes to issues of workplace performance and opportunities:

An American Psychological Association study asked people to rank their stress level on a scale of 1 (“little or no stress”) to 10 (“a great deal of stress”).

  • Millennials led the stress parade, with a 5.4 average.
  • Boomers registered 4.7,
  • The “Matures” gave themselves a 3.7.

Nearly 40% of Millennials said their stress had increased last year, compared to 33% for Boomers and 29% for Matures

Not surprisingly, WORK is one of the biggest causes of stress, with 76% of Millennials reporting it as a significant stressor, compared to 62% of Boomers and 39% of Matures. Us older people are a little more settled, even though the issues of Social Security and Medicare are not resolved. Things are a lot less settled for anyone under Boomer-Age and the overall job market and opportunities for personal / salary growth are unsettled.

Student loan debt and this bleak job market are contributing to stress — even for the lucky ones who are working — and the picture for the future is bleak and depressing. According to the Economic Policy Institute, between 2000 and 2011 wages adjusted for inflation fell by 11% for high school grads and by 5% for college grads. The report concluded that from 2010 to 2020, while 19,000,000 college grads will be hitting the job market, the economy will add fewer than 7,00,000 jobs requiring a college degree.

Job stress and fear are real. More than one-third of American workers regularly eat lunch at their desks, and a recent study showed that an average of 9.2 vacation days were skipped last year. We talked about these stats and others in my “Vacation” blog. All this overwork and pressure inevitably leads to sleep deprivation, which costs American businesses over $63 billion a year — even though studies show that for each 10 hours of additional time off, productivity increased by 8%.

A Gallup Poll showed that even given the battered economy they’re entering, 80% of Millennials were optimistic about their standard of living getting better. (But then research also shows that 1 of every 3 people is clinically mentally ill at some point in their lives, so these data might simply be merging!)

Too bad that the position of many of our elected leaders here and globally is that Austerity – of all things, which has not once proven to actually improve a country’s economy – is still being pushed as a “solution” to our economic situation. Austerity creates nothing. But it does insulate the richest among us from the trials and tribulations of the younger and less fortunate people in the workplace.

Revisions of the tax code and some government Stimulus are what will help to change the situation and make things better for my children and so many others.

Companies need to improve their workplaces, no question. They need to better involve and engage their people in making it a better place to work and to improve morale and decrease stress. Supervisors need to do more to involve and engage people in their jobs and create more intrinsic motivation for individuals and teamwork among people. That would help with some of the stress.

And our governments need to look for ways to increase the number of jobs, improve education, improve infrastructure and boost overall salaries. Eliminating the minimum wage sure feels like the absolutely wrong thing to do and there seems to be a lot of research to support the more positive impact of increasing it as it will obviously generate even more spending.

Each of us can make a difference each and every day. Let’s get going and pay it forward.

Me. I am looking forward to some beach time soon! Here is my last trip to Barbados:

Barbados Sunset 2 pics

Yeah, baby!

——————  UPDATE  ————–

Some new research shows that Americans are quitting their jobs at the highest rate since 2008. I put a link to the article here, but the basic situation shows that 53% of “job separations” are from people quitting. This may be negative and a statement about working conditions or it may be a positive indicator about how workers feel about the job market and their skills.

Here is another interesting stat: 40% of the American workplace is expected to be self-employed by 2020. (Not sure of the source of that but it is in the article).

See more at

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

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Innovation. Continuous Continuous Improvement. People. Engagement.

As I wrote this title, I thought: Keywords.

Innovation. Continuous Continuous Improvement. People. Engagement. Intrinsic Motivation. Team Building. 

And I also thought Connection. How all these things are connected and how they all play a part in the process of organizational improvement and intrinsic motivation. What happened was that I was engaged in a thread on innovation in LinkedIn’s Innovation Excellence group (join it!)

And Square Wheels. Opportunities for innovation are everywhere…

SWs One - How Things Work

There was a discussion on Should Individuals be More Accountable for Innovation? (link to blog is here) that got me thinking. Of course individuals are involved in the thinking around innovation but should they be held accountable for it or should they merely be more engaged and involved IN it? It is an interesting discussion. Yet it also got me thinking about Engagement, or more precisely, my thoughts on Engagimentation – the combination of engaging people and implementing ideas and improvements.

So, here is what I posted to the group:

Innovation. Yep. All People ALL the Time!

I never worked in innovation or creativity with the organizational development work I have been doing for 30+ years. Never called it that. We always focused on things like performance improvement and best practices, customer service, profitability and motivation of the intrinsic kind.  But it was always focused on people and performance.

The “top performers” do things differently than everyone else — basically because they do things differently! But getting more people more involved was always the challenge.

From all this stuff, I evolved an approach that generated involvement and engagement, made it okay to throw mud at the wire fence to see what ideas for improvement might exist, etc. We got groups involved in working together to do things differently.

Now, this is all framed up in “team building games” that one does to generate a sense of camaraderie and collaboration (All of us know more than ANY of us!) and the reality that different eyes see things differently and different hands do things differently. If we can capture those engaged individuals’ energies, we can accomplish a lot more.

Thus, my drift into “innovation” as part of improvement. While some think Quantum Leaps and Big Jumps, I think more continuous continuous improvement (Dept. of Redundancy Dept.) and about trying to involve and engage individuals and teams into looking for ideas and ways to make improvements and do things differently. Ideas seem to come from everywhere and link to everything…

So, now I tend to use cartoons as Rorschach Inkblots and let people see what they see and talk about what they feel is important.

If only we can get more supervisors to be more facilitative in their areas and generate more inter-departmental collaboration. That’s my new focus…

I really see the issues surrounding so many organizational issues to drop right on top of the shoulders of the supervisors. HR cannot do innovation, other than a workshop or two, and managers are too isolated. Sure, P&G can have 8,000 R&D people and roughly 4,000 engineers all working on innovation (from the blog article above) but that is because they ARE about innovation. For most companies, everyone needs to be an innovator, be it for process improvement and productivity purposes or for product improvement. It is the front line employee who is listening to customers and their issues (opportunities for improvement?).

After all, good ideas for improvement can come from anywhere and everywhere and often from unexpected places where people are thinking differently:

Stupid Duh Dumb Guy Improvement green

HOW do we improve the facilitation skills of the supervisors to involve and engage people to be more intrinsically motivated and to help improve all aspects of how the organisations perform?

How can we get there from here? And STAY there in that high performance state?

Brainstorming easel pad green

Answers must include The Supervisors!

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

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Military Team Building Games – some thoughts on alternatives

Good Governance, rather than autocratic leadership, is one of the keys to creating value and improvement for organizations and society.

Dutchman is Teamwork

Organizations of all types are looking for tools to help improve collaboration and teamwork and they sometimes are looking toward military models of operations, since we tend to view SEAL groups as highly organized and effective. Thus, many view the use of some kind of “military model of leadership” as a tool to improve performance in their own organizations.

And remember back in 1986 when everyone was going toward “Top Gun” kinds of training programs and employee improvement actions because of the popularity of the Tom Cruise movie and the apparent thrill of flying a jet fighter? Ah, if organizations could only work like that! Zoom Zoom! They were printing Top Gun Baseball caps for everyone, it seemed.  (But if you actually remember the movie, the leadership and congruence among the teams sure was not that smooth and everything was a competition, which sometimes nearly got people killed. There was constant conflict and often a lack of coordination, Boss-driven compliance, demotions and all that…)
Stealth SWs yellow

I am sometimes asked how our teambuilding and collaboration products can be used for a Military Team Building Game or similarly themed-exercise, either as a game with a military theme or one that can be used by a military unit to teach practical leadership and teamwork lessons. And there are a bunch of anchor points to generating good results and impacts.

Some of my client colleagues who do these kinds of team building events in various military organizations all say pretty much the same thing. Russ, for example, said, “The only thing I have to say is that military has the same issues as civilian, local focus, lots of distractions, different risk levels,…. Nothing jumps out as specific or different for Military applications.”

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine remains my flagship product and one that we are proud to offer to clients of all types, profit and non-profit, who are interested in generating more engagement and collaboration across organizational barriers. The focus is on the overall result of the group, not any one team. And the applications toward idealized Military Efficiency are pretty straightforward.

My personal beliefs are that an exercise themed on a military team building would tend to be too focused on competition / violence, something that might not sit well with a female audience or one that an objector might find distasteful. My “Military Might!” exercise, for example, is one that my son and I designed initially for his high school Air Force ROTC organization to teach the criticality of planning and attention to detail. As Corps Commander, Jeff needed to improve how things worked and improve attention to detail, as in taking inventories and similar functions.  But Might! game is about planning to kill terrorists – and I am reframing the design to become an oil exploration exercise with many of the same learning points; just a different message medium.

So far as generating compliance because or ordering people to do things, it is common that people commanded may not complain, they may simply do. But the distaste for being told will remain. And compliance does not generate a lot of desired outcomes in general.

And the basic theme of a “military game” may generate unanticipated consequences*.  I have a friend who still suffers from PTSD from his activities in Vietnam. He remains an out-patient in the VA hospital and attends group therapy. If he were one of the players of a military-style game, he would have fun, but there would be a residue left behind from such an event and it would probably trigger a lot of negative memories and emotions. The problem is that one can never really predict what will trigger what in other people…

* (My lawyer friends say that nothing is actually “unanticipated” but that due diligence would discover the unexpected problem and prevent it from ever occurring! “Saying” that it is unanticipated does not remove one from the responsibility for the unintended consequences…)

A colleague in the DC area and who regularly delivers programs for military leadership development and communications courses had this to say about military-themed team building and leadership training in general (in blue):

For decades there’s been a huge emphasis on collaboration information sharing across units and services (between Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy). Collaboration is an important and real issue today between these groups, not to mention between our security services like Homeland, NSA, FBI, CIA and local police forces. There remain a wide variety of teamwork and communications issues that directly impact public safety.

The phrase “joint operations” is used frequently (a similar phrase is “going purple”). This is about reducing the historic inter-service rivalries, and increasing effectiveness through the concept of one, joint fighting force. This kind of military team building exercise can also show up on the local level. It is also related to Emergency Preparedness, where interdepartmental and turf issues can show themselves clearly.

[As an aside here, my personal observations of such joint operations at a local high school among the fire, police, state police, EMS and Public Health Services was so inefficient and ineffective to be almost comical. A big laugh for me came when one of the demolition guys took a great deal of time and space to set off his “explosion” to mark the beginning of the terror-response activity. It was a real “guy moment,” in my view and had nothing to do with the exercise other than the fun he had blowing stuff up! Heck, they had difficulty choosing the radio channel to use for communications among the divisions!]

Dutchman also contributes to understanding these concepts and their power.

– Today’s military and government agencies face a variety of pressures to be more nimble, fluid, change on the fly as conditions change.

– And today’s military members fill roles they haven’t played before, in place like Iraq and Afghanistan – nation builder, mentor, friend, teacher, diplomat, as well as warrior.

Interdepartmental Collaboration is not good

Joint military teamwork can look something like this

Those are a lot of different roles, so feeling part of a team and developing one’s leadership and collaboration skills is a critical component of any developmental initiative. Getting groups to work together across natural competitive lines is a powerful tool to implementing new missions and visions and optimizing results.

So, to the extent that Lost Dutchman helps people see the importance of what I mentioned, in the above, it can help you convince folks in the military of its utility for them.

(You can see more of Russ’ thinking about things here:

We think that we have an excellent leadership development exercise in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. It links to the real issues of aligning people to a shared mission and vision and it supports collaboration, even when teams choose to compete. And while it is not a military team building game, it accomplishes all of those things that such a design would need without resorting to attacking others or creating damage or some such thing.

Dutchman is about leadership and collaboration and sharing goals and objectives. It is about optimizing results with limited resources, planning and gaining strategic information that is critical for overall success of the team and the group.

Our many user testimonials say that Dutchman is a great team building game – see some of them here at our other blog

Scott banking 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

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People, Leadership, Engagement and Implementation – Best Practices

Robin Speculand and I go way back — I do not want to count the years but it is more than 20. He is in Singapore and we have collaborated and shared ideas from our different perspectives for a long time. More recently, however, we have been drifting closer and closer and his recent work is aligning more and more with my thinking about people and performance.

Robin is a recognized thought leader in the issues surrounding Strategy Implementation. Like me, he runs a tight ship and a small leading-edge company. I publish a lot more of my ideas and he publishes books and gives presentations. And his recent work is such that I take the initiative of re-publishing some of it before he has even published anything!

bridges title

His recent work is titled, Implementation Best Practices from High Performing Leaders and it is based on his surveys and presentations and consulting. So, knowing that we start from the same place in our thinking of how organizations need to align themselves to implementing improvement, I thought to get a jump on things and publish some excerpts here before he even has it on his implementation website!

Robin’s model incorporates eight different segments, what are called People, Biz Case, Communicate, Measure, Culture, Process, Reinforce and Review. What he does in his paper is list some of the key traits and competencies that the outstanding leaders incorporate into their strategy implementation and improvement frameworks. It is a highly readable document so I read and reacted and summarized some of the content with a few bullets:

  • Without people engagement, implementation will fail.
  • Within the culture, leaders must identify the right activities to build awareness.
  • Leaders do not implement strategy, their people do.
  • There needs to be an understanding of what needs to change and why.
  • Successful implementation is about continued, visible support, Leaders don’t implement it, they oversee it.
  • While strategy is designed at the top of the organization chart, it gets implemented from the ground-up.
  • People resist change done TO them, not change in which they are participants.
  • Getting off to a good start is a lot better than trying to recover from a bad one.
  • Every organization’s culture is different and therefore their implementation is unique.
  • Strategy cannot be implemented if it cannot be understood and it cannot be understood if it cannot be explained.
  • Translating strategy into the business means examining what needs to change in the way people do their work.
  • When leaders don’t synergize between the strategy and processes, staff members end up continuing to work the old way, using old systems, structures, and processes that is extremely frustrating, annoying and even demoralizing. All the while they are expected to deliver different results!
  • It is not just any staff members who are part of a redesign team but it must be your top performers, as they are the ones who really know how the process works. The hands-on people know, the staff think they know.
  • The leaders are responsible for giving staff members the ability to implement, both real and perceived. They must create time, for example, by eliminating work that is no longer value added; provide budget to support the new strategy; create the space for individuals to discuss and reflect on the implementation; make it socially acceptable to participate and encourage individuals to break  old habits and adopt new ones.
  • Individuals pay attention to what their immediate boss pays attention to. Leaders must ask, “What have you done this week to implement the strategy?” in order to expect people to do things differently.

Robin and I are working together on a few things around improving organizational effectiveness and I hope that my ideas and frameworks will help Robin make his tools even more effective. He has been using my Square Wheels cartoons for “spot color” in some of his programs and presentations and he has been using my team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for some of his executive awareness work.

My goal is to package up my new game, The Search for The Treasures of Gobekli Tepe, as more of an executive development exercise with a solid anchor to the strategy implementation side of things so that we can use Dutchman more for the implementation rollout and the Square Wheels for the specific tools to use to improve communications between the supervisors and workers, something to improve engagement.

Dutchman works and it is nice to have Robin as a friend and colleague who supports my work.

Robin LD testim 100

I am hoping that we can help organizations generate a lot more Dis-Un-Engagement / Engagimentation in the workplace and do a lot less of the Godzilla Meets Bambi kind of reactivity.

At some point, Robin will get all this work up and online. I will update then.


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

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Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

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Large Group Team Building Events – Using Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and Square Wheels

I was asked about using the Lost Dutchman game for working with large groups a few minutes ago so I thought to share some ideas. These days, I do only a few training events and presentations a year, mostly for when I go to kickoff a new exclusive contract with a collaborating company in foreign lands or when I see a good challenge or high impact event. I love this stuff and it has been 28 years in the business, now. It is hard to believe but we first started presenting The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine in 1993 — 20 years ago and it is better than ever!

There are few interactive, participative and engaging team building exercises that work really well with large groups. (I will note that I can deliver Square Wheels sessions for large groups, interactively and with a great deal of participation, but those sessions are just not as FUN and Memorable as the Dutchman ones…)


And I will admit that I really do like using the game with large groups, since it works really so well with large groups and I will often be able to get the most senior leaders actively involved with me in its delivery.That tends to generate their level of ownership involvement and commitment toward both the delivery as well as the required followup needed to actually implement the ideas that are suggested and the impacts that are discussed.

I guess my most favorite “trick” is to get the organization’s Most Very Senior Manager (see pictures below) to actually lead the post-game discussion of:

“What might mining as much gold as we can mean to our organization? What things can we choose to do differently?”

The responses to that from the direct reports are usually right on target and meaningful and they would not even bubble up if the participants did not think that they were at least somewhat doable and that they would obviously need the involvement and active support of that senior leader. It is the perception of roadblocks and impediments that seem to be the most common roadblocks and impediments!

Plus, I like working with the senior managers most of all, and if we are doing a  large group team building event, let’s say 150 to 200 people, I can often get the senior leadership team to actually go through and debrief the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building training event with me before we actually do the training on how to co-deliver and support the game in the venue and then afterwards.

Followup is the breakfast of team building champions!

Doing these kinds of sessions also has a certain level of challenge for me and it does leverage my time pretty nicely. Often, my simple credibility as developer of the exercise seems to lend itself to having a good deal of impact on the issues that the organization faces to improve collaboration and performance.

When you can get the senior leader of the organization up front and asking what people can do differently, that is really neat:


Or when you can get the President of the organization on the floor, in a cowboy hat (below drinking coffee), trying to “Help Teams be Successful and Maximize ROI,” that is great to reference in the debriefing as well as when he wears his cowboy hat to management meetings to talk about optimizing organizational performance results:


Since we sell our Professional Version of the game to organizations and consultants, they also find the game easy to play and useful for engaging participants in discussions of issues and opportunities for improvement. Many of our user-base runs the game with large groups and one client company (Wipro in India) ran one session with 870 people in one game! The testimonial we get are routinely excellent:

Kyla LD testim 100 Brown LD Testimonial 70

You can read more about delivering the exercise to large groups in other articles on our blog. This one shares some ideas about actually delivering the exercise for large events and was written to support owners of the exercise.

You can find out a LOT about this exercise from my Square Wheels website by clicking here and more about pricing and purchasing the exercise at

Rent Lost Dutchman

My role is to help team be successful and maximize Return on Investment! 

How can we help YOU?

Scott Simmerman, wearing his Coaching Hat and preparing for Lost Dutchman

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

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Testimonial on LDGM from a consultant user

He has used our game for a number of years in different kinds of consulting situations, not so much for training. The key is to generate some alignment of the management team toward shared goals and collaboration:

Russ LD testim 100

Some of the best feedback we get about the strength and effectiveness of this exercise focused on collaboration is from those who only use the exercise on an occasional basis, to meet some key need.

Scott Mud and Sheep in green

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

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Here is what Russ said:

Outstanding Results!

I use this product to help build successful teams. The lesson taught is one no one will ever forget. I have used this program a number of times and have always gotten great results. You will love it!

Russ at Aspen Business Group, Glenwood Springs, CO

Thoughts on Millennials, Workplace Aging, Conflict, and Innovation

Three different articles this morning got me thinking about the workplace. One was by Lisa Woods about ideas to manage conflict in the workplace. It is posted up in her Managing Americans blog at this location and was referenced in a LinkedIn posting. It focuses on positive ways to look at and deal with conflict as it occurs.

The second piece was about the aging workforce. It referenced a book called The 2020 Workplace, which is about how the workplace will look.  It is by Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd.  The basic point is that our aging workforce will push 5 different generations of workers into the workforce soon.

I also recently posted on the issues of team performance, collaboration and managing workforce age diversity in my blog. In it I focused on some ASTD research about how people are choosing not to retire and how that is impacting the workplace, which is actually getting OLDER rather than younger as people deal with the economic uncertainties of our times. (Read this blog article here.)

It says, in part:

And. according to a new survey by the Conference Board, two-thirds of workers between the ages of 45 and 60 are now planning to DELAY their retirement and work longer. That’s a 20-point jump from 2010 – when only 42% of workers had plans to put off their retirement. Job losses, low salaries, and declining home values are some of the main reason why Americans can no longer stick to their retirement plans and plan to keep working.

The new workplace will apparently have 5 tribes, each bringing their own technical and cultural perspectives and each with its own worldview. These groups will have to co-exist and also collaborate in order for companies to generate desired outcomes and results. Think about the elderly customer who calls into customer service and gets the young kid, or the young kid that calls in and gets one of us Oldsters to handle their problem. There are all sorts of opportunities for mismatching and poor communications. The Millennials may see their co-workers as simply elderly:

Millennials have different views of Traditionals

While the older workers may not appreciate all that the younger workers represent:

Millennials may appear to be Potato Heads

Getting the younger workers to get up to speed on how things work may be an interesting challenge, since many workplaces have traditional ways of structuring and managing transactions.

Are training people really ogres?

“Traditionalists” are probably a bit more resistant to new technologies — teaching my mom how to use a cell phone has been interesting. Using the remote control is sometimes even a challenge when the one-button push gets out of synch and some devices are going on while others are going off! Coaching over the phone is fun. So, imagine the Traditionalist calling in and being told they need to give their pin number and access their account online in a conversation with a person who has been online and had a iPhone since they were two.

While the younger workers feel like so much is old-fashioned and not up to modern standards, some questions may arise as to whether we are using the newest of technologies:

Questions always arise if we are using new technology

Similar issues arise as systems and process get upgraded and no longer work like they used to. Some of the older workers may simply feel pressed to adapt to new technologies that are uncomfortable, so there may be some issues of resistance:

Defense wagon yellow 70

To make progress we need to consider workplace conflict a GOOD thing. It generates discomfort with the way things are now and also helps generate “considered alternatives,” things that might be done differently if we choose to do so. But, if an alternative is not considered, it cannot be implemented — it is good to have people thinking out of the boxes we are in… Conflict supports that, for sure.

Having a workplace in some level of conflict is what generates creativity and innovation and forces changes in how things work.

At the same time, a clarity of mission and vision, alignment of measurements and feedback systems to support the generation of desired results, plus sufficient non-direction and the ability to build intrinsic reward mechanisms is important.

We cannot just bring new workers into the workplace and set them free to do what they do. After all, they have no idea as to how we got to where we are and what our history looks like. We have, in so many workplaces, a long history of successes.

Cave Wall yellow 70

And we have a management team that has helped to bring us to our current point. Consider that good, but that it also represents a solid opportunity for a lot of organizational and leadership development. We need some new tools and some new approaches to getting things done.

Cave Wall Writing yellow 70

The reality that there will be FIVE generations of workers in the workplace by 2020 is mind-boggling, and that the workplace will actually keep AGING as people keep working instead of retiring (all sorts of drivers). I posted up some thoughts and statistics about this before: ( ).

So, let’t look to drive MORE conflict and chaos, but let’s make for some effective conflict managements to help direct the focus and energies in our workplaces. We do that by being tight on missions and goals and purposes but being a little looser on processes and procedures. And keep people throwing mud at the wire fence — it is the only way to see what might work.

Conflict is good. Manage it well.

And let’s figure out how to get there from here!

Rainbow Wagon green 70

Our Square Wheels toolkits and our team building games offer some powerful, bombproof and inexpensive ways to improve teamwork and impact organizational effectiveness. Talk is cheap, but directed focus on issues and opportunities is effective in generating alignment and collaboration.

Spring of improvement and change poem


Addendum – from an article at

Older workers doing better than younger counterparts, study suggests
(by Joe McKendrick in SmartPlanet, with Scott’s rewriting)

There has been a lot of discussion about the plight of older workers and their supposed disappearance from today’s hyper-competitive economy. Anecdotal stories of age discrimination abound. A study funded by the Social Security Administration, however, shows older workers are more educated, more productive, and make more money than ever before. And with the increasing numbers of Baby Boomers hitting age-60 mark, these trends are accelerating as few choose to retire because they can’t.

Older workers also earn premiums over younger workers, and tend to have the same educational levels. 20 years ago, only 20% of workers who were high-school dropouts remained in the workforce past age 60, versus 60% of those with doctoral or professional degrees. This metric stays essentially the same for men, but has risen for women. Plus, since average educational levels are rising for older workers, greater labor participation rates are coming with it for non manual labor workers.

Employees between the ages of 65 and 69 have had 30%-point gains in income between the years 1985 and 2010. In addition, 70-to-74-year olds saw their income grow at least 28% points higher since 1985. The issue is that they are not allowing for a lot of hiring of younger workers

Incomes of workers 25-29 dropped 7%, and those in the 45-49 group dropped 1% since 1985.


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

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Here is a bit more interesting information: This from

A new survey of employers finds the cost of replacing a ” Millennial” employee — an individual in his or her 20s — ranges between $15,000 and $25,000.

Cost to replace a Gen-Y employee: up to $25,000

by Joe McKendrick

That’s the conclusion of a survey conducted by Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, and, an online career service.

Actually, the cost of replacing any employee across the generational spectrum is high. A recent study by the Center for American Progress puts this number at about 20% of anyone with a salary up to $75,000 or less. By this estimate, assuming a Millennial employee is making about $50,000, this means a $10,000 replacement cost — a little more conservative than the Millennial Branding estimate, but still something to ponder for organizations.

What adds to the Gen-Y replacement cost is their greater proclivity to job-hop: the Millennial Branding study finds that the average worker under the age of 30 changes jobs every two years, compared to the five-year job-hopping rate of Gen X-ers (30 to 50 years of age),  and seven-year-itch of Baby Boomers (50 years or older).

The major costs associated with replacing employees includes training and development, interviewing, job posting/advertising and on-boarding.

Also, as Millennial Branding put it: “Considering that approximately 40% of companies currently employ 50 or more millennial workers, these costs are expected to rise dramatically over the years to come. With current data showing more than 60% of millennials leaving their company in less than three years, employers are facing a very expensive revolving door.”

What can be done to keep to attract, rather than repel, needed talent?  Some thoughts:

Don’t compartmentalize the solution within a “program”: Millennial Branding states that some companies have “retention programs” to keep employees in the fold. However, keeping people engaged and excited about a company means a cultural change across the board, a different way of looking at management — or even better, a more management-free workplace.

Promote entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship: Nothing creates passion and personal responsibility more than being able to build one’s own business. Provide ways to ensure incentives and rewards for innovation. Don’t be afraid of employees even proposing disruption — creating a product or service that turns the mainstream business on its head.

Remove the barriers between employees and customers: Organizations that remove employees from meaningful engagement with the customer risk souring those employees. As a great example, look to the customer call-center function — a hotbed of turnover. Those companies that provide career tracks, training, and decision-making discretion to customer-care representatives see far less turnover than those that just want warm bodies at the call stations. At another level, employees caught up in a bureaucracy — and are far removed from customers — also are likely to be disenchanted.

Use social media: In its report, Millennial Branding points out that while 62% of HR professionals use job boards and corporate websites to recruit millennials, only 9% use LinkedIn, 3% for Facebook and 1% cited Twitter as a resource for recruiting purposes. You have to go where they live.

Some testimonials about our Team Building Exercise, Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

We think that The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is an absolutely great team building exercise that allows anyone to help their organization focus on issues of collaboration, optimization of overall results, and improving how organizations implement change and strategy. It links to our Square Wheels tools, elegantly, and thus is a great tool to use for building employee engagement and the implementation of creative ideas for improvement and innovation.

And we are not the only ones that feel that way. Here is one from an internal trainer, one from a international consultant and one from an executive assistant who ran the game with her company’s senior leadership team (and got rave reviews from them!)

Kyla LD testim 100

Andi LD testim 100

Assistant LD testim 100

We find that people who have used some of the competitive products in the marketplace (and by competitive, I mean that they DO generate competition when they should be generating collaboration) are either much more expensive or not as flexible or just not as good (or all three). You can click here for a comparison of Dutchman with Gold of the Desert Kings, for example.

If you want to learn more about the exercise, please visit our website. Or, better yet, give me a call at 864-292-8700. I generally answer my phone most hours of most days and would love to chat about this stuff.

Russ LD testim 100

Herb LD testim 100

Greer LD testim 100

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Flying, Skills, Performance Management and Performance Appraisal – Crazy Thoughts

Sometimes, you just have to jump. Things come together to force you to do something. Sometimes, it is easier to just step up and do things. Sometimes…


Once upon a time, there was a man named Clarence who had a pet frog named Felix. Clarence lived a very modest life based on what he earned working retail but he never gave up his dream of being rich. One day, hit by sudden inspiration, he exclaimed, “Felix, we’re going to be rich! You will learn to fly!”

Felix was terrified at the prospect. “I can’t fly, Clarence! I’m a frog, not a bird!” Clarence, disappointed at the initial response, told Felix: “Your attitude isn’t helping matters. I think you can benefit from some training.”

So off Felix went to a three-day course where he learned about the history of aviation, the basics of aeronautical engineering (e.g., lift, thrust, drag, etc), gliders, parasailing and the lives of famous fliers. (For obvious reasons, the instructor did not mention Icarus, but they did talk about Why Geese fly in a V.)

After the training and on the first day of the “flying lessons,” Clarence could barely control his excitement (and Felix could barely control his bladder). Clarence pointed out that their apartment building had 7 floors, and each day Felix would jump out of a window, starting with the first floor and working his way up to the top.

After each jump, Clarence and Felix would analyze how well he flew, isolate the most effective flying techniques and implement the improved process for the next flight. By the time they reached the top floor, Felix would surely be able to fly.

felixthefrog Felix pleaded for his life but his pleas fell on deaf ears. “He just doesn’t understand how important this is,” thought Clarence. “He can’t see the big picture.”

So, with that, Clarence opened the window and threw Felix out. He landed with a thud. They discussed and analyzed his performance…

The next day, poised for his second flying lesson, Felix again begged not to be thrown out of the window. Clarence opened his pocket guide to “Managing More Effectively” and showed Felix the part about how one must always expect resistance when introducing new, innovative programs. With that, he threw Felix out the window again. THUD!

On the third day (on the third floor), Felix tried a different ploy: stalling. He asked for a delay in the “project” until better weather would make flying conditions more favorable. But Clarence was ready for him: He produced a timeline and pointed to the third milestone and asked, “You don’t want to mess up the schedule, do you?”

From his performance appraisal feedback, Felix knew that not jumping today meant he would have to jump TWICE tomorrow. So he just muttered, “OK, let’s go.” And out the window he went.

Now this is not to say that Felix wasn’t trying his best. On the fourth day he flapped his legs madly in a vain attempt at flying. On the fifth day, he tried “visualization.” He tied a small red cape around his neck and tried to think “Superman” thoughts. It didn’t help.

By the sixth day, Felix, accepting his fate, no longer begged for mercy. He simply looked at Clarence and said, “You know you’re killing me, don’t you?”

Clarence pointed out that Felix’s performance so far had been less than exemplary; failing to meet any of the milestones he had set for him. With that, and knowing that there was one more floor, Felix said quietly, “Shut up and open the window.” He leaped out, taking careful aim at the large jagged rock by the corner of the building.

And Felix went to that great lily pad in the sky.

Clarence was devastated. His project failed to meet a single objective he set out to accomplish. Felix not only failed to fly, he hadn’t even learned to steer his fall; instead, he dropped like a sack of cement. Nor had Felix heeded Clarence’s advice to “Fall smarter, not harder.”

The only thing left for Clarence to do was to conduct an after-action-review and try to determine where things had gone wrong. After reviewing the records and giving the data much thought, Clarence smiled knowingly and said, “Next time, I’m getting a smarter frog!”


Maybe you can use this thought and tell the story to people who need to hear it!


For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Ph.D. CPF, CPT is still managing partner of PMC, but sort of retired…

Scott is developer of the Square Wheels® images and the board game version of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

Scott has presented his concepts in 47 countries and collaborates with consultants and trainers worldwide.

You can reach him at and you can see his profile at LinkedIn


On Performance, Teamwork, Millennials and Collaboration

I got an email flyer on workforce development from ASTD this afternoon and thought to paste a reaction to some of their thinking, which I think tracks reality pretty well in this case.

The point that they made was that there are these Millennials in the workforce and they should be getting a lot of attention in regards to how we accomplish training and development and build teams and all that. They do tend to have different styles and different values. The social connections and use of technology are different and do represent some opportunities.

On the other hand, we see that Millennials as well as most other workers are also somewhat un-engaged and not greatly aligned and motivated in many workplaces. They are likely to get trained and then jump ship. There was an article online about Apple and how they are burning people out and the shift is to simply work there to get that on the resume instead of looking at them for “lifetime employment.”

(Boy is “lifetime employment” an oxymoron these days, or what!?)

You can see some ideas about involving and engaging people in my article called, “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…” on my articles page by clicking this link.

The thing that what caught my eye was this comment:

Despite these younger employees in the workforce, the workforce actually isn’t getting younger.  It’s moving in the opposite direction — the workplace is getting OLDER. Because of recent economic crisis, many workers have delayed their retirement plans and continue to work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of those 55 and older that remain in the workforce rose to over 68%. (In 1987, that number was 54%.)

Yes, the number of people over 55 working in organizations is 7 in 10.

And. according to a new survey by the Conference Board, two-thirds of workers between the ages of 45 and 60 are now planning to DELAY their retirement and work longer. That’s a 20-point jump from 2010 – when only 42% of workers had plans to put off their retirement. Job losses, low salaries, and declining home values are some of the main reason why Americans can no longer stick to their retirement plans and plan to keep working.

Thus, you have the “young guns” of eager, networked creatives entering in the workplace and you also have the established, grizzled (in my case!) people who have their ways of doing things, who have a great deal of tacit knowledge about how to make things work and get things done, and who might be somewhat resistant to change. How do you identify and resolve some of the conflicts? How do you build alignment and collaboration? How to you increase engagement?

How do you manage both groups, who are quite different? The answer is simple: Involve and engage and form teams and allow them to work together to strategize, design and implement new ideas and new innovations.

We have great team building programs that are designed to involve and engage people and generate momentum for improvement. Our flagship team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, is the best exercise in the world — from what our extensive user base keeps telling us — for generating inter-organizational alignment and collaboration.

And our various Square Wheels toolkits and games like Innovate & Implement all work to generate a shared language of continuous continuous improvement in how things work and can be used to generate alignment and improve readiness to change.

Your managers should be your motivators.
Your people should be involved and engaged.

You can read a lot about our approaches to organization improvement, dis-un-engagement and engagimentation, and our general thoughts on innovation in the many different blog posts. At last count, there were nearly 200 posts on a wide variety of topics around people and performance in here.

If your organization can meet the challenges of this workplace environment, it should give you a significant advantage over the companies that will be stuck in the mud of performance and change.

Mud color yellow

We know that both groups can be highly productive and impactful — why not work to make them ONE coherent team aligned to your missions, visions and goals.

The skills needed by your management team, at every level, are those of facilitation and engagement. Good feedback and measurement systems can improve your likelihood of success with behavioral change. Doing things the same way will give you the same results.

For less than $50, you can have a tool to get started.
Check out our facilitation toolkit here.

P.S. – It is also true that 69%t of employed respondents are considered job seekers—meaning they’re actively seeking a new job or open to the idea. (See the Forbes article here)

Lastly, have some BIG FUN out there, yourself!

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

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Extrovert, Introvert, and the Power of Quiet

Brian Remer sent me an email years ago with a connection to his neat online newsletter and I thought to kind of reprint some of that again with some of my own comments, ideas, and resources. Brian starts out discussing Susan Cain’s book called, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, abstracting the contents and going on to add a few of his personal perspectives, productive frameworks and exercises.

Reading it, it seemed that it related nicely to our team building work using the Square Wheels images and our various team building simulations.

The basic idea is that everyone has ideas and perspectives and something to add, but that the dynamics of a group may be such that people appear to be uninvolved or non-contributory, even when they have great ideas that would be beneficial. They simply have a different style of working with other people’s ideas and working in a group, often when they do not have sufficient time to thoroughly consider ideas.

Some of these same concepts and thoughts appear in a different article, “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…” that focuses on the benefits of better engaging the 50% of the middle of any organization. (Click here to download that article.)

I Quit Article Icon

Brian’s abstract can be seen on his newsletter page at, focusing on generating the more active involvement of the more quiet people in the workplace. He reviews Susan Cain’s concepts of introverts in the workplace. What I somewhat disagree with are these comments:

Cain criticizes what she sees as an excessive use of teams in education and business saying it puts introverts at a disadvantage and reduces the number of creative ideas. She recommends giving people time to work alone, providing private space for contemplation, and using online brainstorming in which sharing ideas by text slows everyone’s thinking to a more thoughtful rate.

Is there really an excessive use of teamwork in education and business? (Wow. I did not see that coming.) My 30+ years of working with people and performance would suggest that many of the “teambuilding” and “Icebreakers” are simply delivered with a lot less focus on “team” such that the more effusive extraverts and faster information sorters tend to simply conversationally overpower the others.

My approach has always been to use smaller groups of 5 to 6 people and to give “quiet contemplation time” to the tabletops, to help those participants to consider ideas before they are discussed within a larger group. This provides people with more thinking time as well as allowing more generative solution and processing. We also use facilitated exercises such as, “What are some Square Wheels that our organization needs to address,” as discussion templates for these group discussions.

In my view, not everyone wants to be The Stand-Up Presenter of the tabletop’s ideas — most would rather have someone else do it.

But I do find, and my observations support, that everyone in these small groups will participate without much prompting — and it is natural for everyone to contribute. The reality that everyone with part of the task will participate to contribute to the group’s successes.

In our Lost Dutchman team building exercise, tabletops have assigned roles and tasks for each of the players and, with these small groups, it is impossible for people to not be involved and engaged. Each person does feel that they contribute to the tabletop’s efforts and our debriefings are more powerful because of this. We simply need of this active involvement and participation in more of our organizations.

Check out Brian’s writings and read some of his suggestions about how to approach the issues and generate some productive silence. Solid stuff, for sure.

And, you can see our newly created pictorial overview of how The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine works to involve and engage everyone in the effort to Mine as much Gold as WE can! Find that Pictorial here.


For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company




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