Performance Management Company Blog

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

Month: June 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

Dis-Un-Engagement – Improving Motivation and Facilitating Workplace Improvement

Solutions to performance improvement are not always obvious and apparent and selecting an optimal approach often requires careful analysis and planning. Sometimes, the solution requires training of a skill while other times, it is simply about choosing an implementation strategy that is more effective in supporting behavior change.

In the case of workplace engagement, we are spending billions of dollars annually in surveys and training that is supposed to improve the feelings of involvement on the part of employees. Yet nearly every research study shows that many organizations and many people in most every organization, are dis-engaged and uninvolved.

In a 2012 Gallup research paper, involving 1.4 million people and almost 50,000 organizations, it clearly demonstrated the impacts of an involved workplace, studying 9 different performance outcomes. Here are the results when one compares the top 25% of organizations with the bottom 25%:

  • 37% lower absenteeism
  • 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
  • 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
  • 28% less shrinkage
  • 48% fewer safety incidents
  • 41% fewer patient safety incidents
  • 41% fewer quality incidents (defects)
  • 10% higher customer metrics
  • 21% higher productivity
  • 22% higher profitability

Many suggest that firing and hiring is the best solution to the issue of un-engaged workers. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, suggests firing the 7,000,000 managers who are toxic and are poisoning 70,000,000 workers. Others blame the workers for the problem and suggest that hiring new people is the solution. (Ironically, Sirota Research found that it takes about 8 months for new hires to regress to the average performance levels of the rest of the workers. So, it seems you have to accomplish a lot of things in a narrow window of time.)

Let me propose a somewhat different framework:

If you put a gun to their head, could people do things differently?

This is an old thinking test that is attributed to Bob Mager that I first heard of back in the late 1970s. It is at the core of the issue of whether training is required for some behavior to occur. Could managers do a better job of engaging if their life depended upon it? My thinking is clearly YES and OF COURSE. But it seems very evident, looking at statistics, that they are choosing not to do so.

So, my reframing question is a simple one:

Can Each One Reach One?

Can each supervisor reach one non-engaged person in their workforce and take some action to involve and engage them? Without waiting for extensive training done by some outside organization or Human Resources? Can every single individual supervisor simply choose to do something differently?

Won’t people in the workplace naturally coalesce around the simple theme of making things better? Don’t most people have issues they would like to correct and ideas for improvement? Don’t most people like to solve puzzles and problems?

My approach is anchored with an illustration and a process of involving and engaging people to share their thoughts and ideas.

Our first illustration (1993) looks like this:

SWs One green watermark

while our new approach uses this image:

Square Wheels One is a metaphor for performance improvement by Scott Simmerman

And the lead-in question is a really simple one:
How might this represent how most organizations really work?

Without detailing the very simple training around how to facilitate the discussion and process the ideas for identifying and prioritizing the Square Wheels or designing approaches to successfully implement the Round Wheels and celebrate the successes and impacts, the basic concept is that any supervisor can be taught the facilitation skills and frameworks to make such a discussion process easy and straightforward.

With a little bit of customization, one can easily align the most successful implementation strategies to the organization’s culture of best practices and optimal ways to introduce new ideas in the workplace.

With a little imagination, the approach can be linked to the existing feedback and measurement systems to generate sustained improvement and congruence with existing expectations and desired results.

The approach that I envision is to initially get the buy-in from senior management to use this illustration and the concept that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon to develop an online training course on facilitation skills using these illustrations.

The program can be targeted to specific desired organizational outcomes around process improvement, service quality improvement, team building, innovation, process improvement or it can simply be used to generate some clear understanding of the issues that are perceived to be un-engaging and frustrating in the workplace and to allow team-based organizational improvement.

We would customize worksheets for collection of the general ideas as well as specific ones that people would like to work to improve. Issues not solvable at the supervisor level can be collected for manager resolution or escalated to higher levels of the organization as well as across organizational boundaries.

From these discussions, it is easy and straightforward to collect Best Practices that can be shared across teams of people doing similar jobs. It works well for addressing inter-departmental issues, since the language of Square Wheels is easily understood as something that works, but that does not work smoothly and efficiently.

The conversations also set up the reality of continuous continuous improvement, since the Round Wheels of Today will inevitably and invariably become the Square Wheels of Tomorrow.

Solution: I envision that we co-develop a simple online training program that would take a supervisor about an hour to complete and one that would offer them some options for how they might use the illustration in their workplaces, with individuals for coaching or for team building problem solving and roadblock management.

Square Wheels are the protected intellectual property of Performance Management Company and we have two decades of experience in using them for a wide variety of organizational development purposes.

I do see this issue of Dis-Un-Engagement as a specific approach to dealing with the less than involved and engaged employees, a group thought to represent roughly 70% of all workers across organizations. Your best managers may have higher levels of engaged people; your worse ones have more opportunities for improvement.

We can improve workplace facilitation of ideas, generate higher levels of intrinsic motivation, and do a better job of innovating.

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/


Square Wheels® are the protected intellectual property of Performance Management Company and we have two decades of experience in using them for a wide variety of organizational development purposes. Please respect our copyrights and trademark.

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

 

Defusing Conflict to Improve Communications and Engagement

Workplace performance and productivity are critical issues for so many of us during those 30 to 60 hours that we put in every week at work. And communications is such a critical aspect of how the environment feels. Sometimes, things go really well and everything clicks. Other times, things seem to thump and bump and rattle…

Two thirds of American workers say that communication bottlenecks or a simple lack of information negatively affects productivity and performance. And there are things we can do to improve things.

Let’s start with this well-known picture:

Brewer Obama

The above is a great picture of communication between President Obama and Governor Jan Brewer taken in Arizona taken in 2012. Following this encounter, the AZ Governor said, “I was trying to be gracious!” and she also called Obama “thin-skinned” on national TV. (Wow, think of how she would act if she were angry or frustrated!  And how is “employee morale” throughout the entire state of Arizona these days? Think that there is a precedent for potential violence among the citizens if the leaders are communicating so graciously with others?)

Non-verbal communication conveys very strong messages and often gets us into trouble, especially when we are attempting to de-escalate an angry person.

While we tend to focus on verbal communication, logic and reason to calm others, there are also some environmental things you can look to do. If you find yourself in a confrontation or argument and discover that nothing that you say is working, it just may be the immediate surroundings and your body language that are having an influence. It may also be a chain of previous communications that this one is anchored to in either or both parties.

We all interpret non-verbal communication differently. A certain gesture or posture may be anchored to the past experience of the other person and trigger an unexpected or unanticipated response. There are also some gestures that commonly show aggression that other person will respond to, such as pointing your finger at their chest or face (or poking them!).

Our life experience, our belief system and our judgments collectively help us interpret both words and body language. So, we never know what is going to trigger the other person’s hostility or an aggressive reaction. We all have personal histories and anchors to emotional states that can be triggered by other people’s behaviors, much like the screech of car tires reminds some people of accidents and pain.

The best idea is to be situationally aware and to have some ideas about what you can choose to do differently within that conversation, what we can call “behavioral versatility” or “behavioral alternatives.” These will be both verbal and non-verbal choices.

Remember that if you are uncomfortable with confrontation and conflict, the chances are high that you will show some of this with your non-verbal and even verbal behaviors. Planning on such a conversation, you might consider some of these possibilities for the conversation:

  • Be prepared and think things through beforehand. Gather your thoughts about the information you need, desired outcomes that are acceptable, the likely perspectives that they will have that might be different from yours and other related frameworks. Consider possibilities and have a goal of gaining resolution.
  • Find a neutral place, generally away from others who might contribute to the emotionality of the scene. For some people, that might be a public non-workplace location like a coffee shop or similar. For others, a more private conference room or similar. Do not choose to isolate yourself if you expect any kind of physical threat to occur.
  • Develop a neutral posture and position so your weight is evenly distributed over your feet. Respect their personal distance and stand at least two feet away from the person that you are attempting to de-escalate. This neutral stance will give you a stronger presence and will be more comfortable. Understand that different cultures have different personal distances, so be aware of both.
  • If you are nervous or uncomfortable, try to push down on your toes to distract you as well as gain some control. Think about it as pushing the emotion and adrenaline out of your body. This is a simple approach to decreasing tension.
  • Prepare yourself to look the person in the eye even if you are uncomfortable with this. Most people who are nervous or afraid of conflict will look down or away and thus not seem serious. At the same time, do not overdo the eye contact, since sustained eye contact is a predator behavior and our brains are wired to see that as being aggressive!

A reality of this is that if you are comfortable with dealing with conflict and have a knack for de-escalation and confrontation, you may be seen as the aggressor and immediately put the other person or the group on the defensive – that expectation can work for you or against you, depending on the situation and the other person’s beliefs. Pushing will generally result in resistance, so be aware of that possibility. You are looking to resolve the conflict, not stomp it!

Being friendly is good and generally useful. Being flippant and unconcerned will most often work against you and increase their emotionality about the situation. Smirking is not normally conducive to effective communicating. You are trying to generate or maintain rapport with the other person.

bush smirk

If you are aggressive in the way you de-escalate conflict, here are a few tips to follow:

  • Avoid pointing your finger and ensure that your hands are empty.
  • Avoid smiling or smirking as it may be seen as mockery or condescending behavior on your part.
  • Be at the same eye level. If you are taller, suggest that you sit.
  • Ensure that your posture is upright and relaxed. Uptight or overly erect posture can be seen as extreme or commanding.
  • Relax your facial muscles as much as possible and relax but pay attention.
  • Look into the other person’s eyes no more than 85% of the time. Constant, continual eye contact can escalate the situation because it is a sign of aggression.

The person who is angry often simply wants to be heard and have their beliefs listened to. 

Until they feel like someone understands, they will remain angry and frustrated. What you say and how you react are important in de-escalating the conversation and you will do this through what you say and your non-verbal communications. Something triggered their initial behavior and that needs to be addressed before the situation can be resolved.

Listen to what they are telling you; it is important to them and often a lot more important than you think it might be. “Blowing them off” or simply “Winning the argument” is not going to solve the problem or address the issues.

Note that if you simply want to get them angry so they quit or you can fire them, do all of the above to simply increase your ability to annoy them.

Lastly, do NOT do ANY of this stuff at home with spouses or teenagers, since that can get very expensive. Finding a new place to live is also time consuming…

Two last thoughts:

It’s not about the nail” is a great short video on two people talking and problem solving.

And:

It takes two to tango. It also takes two to play paintball.

Scott small pic

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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A softball cartoon on employee engagement…

John Junson, a cartoonist working with David Zinger at The Employee Engagement Network, just published his 365th cartoon around issues of employee engagement and the reality of the workplace.

I thought this one was really cute and could certainly be used generically to stimulate discussions about some of the issues people face when dealing with managers. That interface to manager to worker is where the leverage really occurs in generating teamwork and innovation and personal growth.

So, I share that illustration here:

295

I am into metaphor, and the idea of a window on the world and a live plant are certainly. I think I might have her holding her arms up in a “touchdown” kind of gesture and someone said that the hind portion of the boss on the left side might have some skin showing, since he IS showing his (arse) by behaving as he is. But maybe I am just a little too direct, ya think?

You can get to and join this free network of 10,000 people focused on people and performance at http://employeeengagement.ning.com/

You can find some writings and other information about the impacts of increasing active involvement in the workplace at this recent blog, which connects to some of my other writings on this issue.

DO have some fun out there. Do some things differently today than you normally do and see if you can make a small positive difference to someone.

Each One, Reach One.

And realize that this engagement issue is only somewhat about other people and bad HR processes — it is a lot more about your people, their active involvement, related intrinsic motivation and the leadership behaviors that you choose to show that allows all of us to operate more effectively with our teams.

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Employee Engagement for Everyone – a book by Kevin Kruse

Until Friday, the 28th of June, 2013 (thus this timely post!), you can download Kevin’s new book on engagement for free off of Amazon. It is a Kindle book and Amazon also offers a free reader for your computer or phones or whatever. I just downloaded it, scanned it, clicked to his links, etc.

Kevin focuses on personal engagement and choices we make. Funny thing, but I spent much of last night working and re-working my “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly” article and poem, which I will upload to here this week. That is also about personal choices:

1pterourusglaucus

Two caterpillars are rolling along and a beautiful butterfly floats by.

The one caterpillar says to the other,
“You’ll never get ME up in one of those things…”

Well, sometimes change IS inevitable and sometimes we do not understand that we have are involved in that process. Engagement is one of those things that is essential for organizational success and those of us who are working in better working environments are more likely to personally prosper.

Kevin’s focus on choices and personal growth is one component of the overall engagement picture, in my beliefs. You can grab his book at this spot on Amazon.

Kevin also shares a pretty broad base of stats on the issues around engagement and the impacts it has on organizational performance. You can find those statistics on his website here.

My take is that the people at the back of the wagon do not have as many choices and opportunities as they might and that the leadership of the team needs to step back and look for opportunities to involve and engage people. I think that the leaders have a whole lot more influence over the kinds of things that can be changed to make the workplace a better one for people and processes.

Perception of how things work SWs One

We can do things to improve the workplace. And I think that a LOT of it has to do with how leaders involve and engage their people.I think the supervisors can do more to help people implement more of the best practices and fix more of the inefficient processes and systems that impact so much of the workday. I think that it is this leadership team that has the impact on team building and the growth of the people in the workplace. Coaching, mentoring, supporting, encouraging, and allowing people to improve themselves.

I see supervisors and managers improving their involvement and engagement skills and doing more to influence the work environment in positive ways. That is the leverage point for most workplaces; depending on the individuals to choose to be more involved might make sense, but it will not happen on its own. Those self-developing people are already self-developed, in my opinion. The key is generating supervisory change, as I see how things really work.

Butterflies make good wagon pullers

And, like Kevin,  I really do think that there are different choices that can be made.

Caterpillars can fly lighten up round

We use our Square Wheels cartoons and tools and our team building games as simple debriefing frameworks for involving and engaging people. The goal is to help them identify the things they can choose to improve and to build peer support for that continuous improvement.

Choosing to be involved and that working in teams for shared goals in intrinsically motivating and it also what Kevin is discussing.

For the FUN of It!

Discuss what you might do differently

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Seriously? Are we making progress yet on engagement?

I will admit to being a little frustrated when it comes to workplace issues of people and performance lately. I am engaged in a few LinkedIn discussion group threads on the issues of training and support for engagement and motivation and on the issues of leadership and motivation in the workplace. It seems we are spending a LOT of money but seeing little result.

My take is that we are doing the same things and expecting the same results, something that looks like this:

Rat Cage Making Progress Yet yellow

Few in leadership are apparently expecting anything to really change, even though there is a lot of talk about the issues and the benefits. Gallup shared this data, which I simply republish again, today, from 1.4 million people and almost 50,000 organizations:

Employee engagement affects nine performance outcomes, comparing the top 1/4 to the bottom 1/4 (so a very broad, general comparison). Top-quartile performing organizations have:

  • 37% lower absenteeism
  • 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
  • 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
  • 28% less shrinkage
  • 48% fewer safety incidents
  • 41% fewer patient safety incidents
  • 41% fewer quality incidents (defects)
  • 10% higher customer metrics
  • 21% higher productivity
  • 22% higher profitability

So, how about we simply focus on something simple:

Each One, Reach One.

Every supervisor should focus their attention on reaching one of their less-engaged people and doing something to try to involve and engage them in workplace improvement. Take one of the middle of the pack and ask them what things might be in need of improvement to make their job better or easier. Ask them for ideas about the things that get in the way of them performing.

The idea is Dis-Un-Engagement

This is not rocket science. Can’t we expect our team of leadership, our front line supervisors, to have sufficient skills NOW (not after some anticipated training program that we can do 6 months from today) to actually impact one or two of their people this week? Can we not expect those supervisors to maintain some level of motivation of those people for a few weeks (intrinsic, not through extrinsic rewards) — after all, isn’t that really supervision (and not control!)?

Is this too much to ask? Can’t the managers of these supervisors do ONE thing to help engage the supervisors in a performance improvement initiative and ask them what might be done differently?

Can’t we start a positive improvement program without all the hubbub of getting Training and HR and Most Senior Leadership involved? Isn’t this probably in line with the Mission Statement anyway?

I know that I could choose to do One Thing Differently today if I wanted to. And that would make a difference in what happens around here.

Nah. I think I will go get more coffee… Nothing here needs changing, right?

I think that all things look just fine and peachy from where I sit…

bummed out guys

For the FUN of It! (Seriously!!)

Scott Debrief

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Engagement, Productivity and Work Happiness

There are just SO many statistics supporting why we should be improving organizational engagement and involvement. Right now, is seems to be “relatively okay” but that is certainly not really good enough. We can easily do a lot more if we can just get Senior Leadership as well as front line supervisors to better understand the issues and opportunities.

It feels like some senior managers really get this and are frustrated because so little seems to move the needle higher. And I know that a lot of front line supervisors are frustrated simply because the workplace environment sucks and the employees’ morale and productivity and quality could be so much higher. Everybody seems to be blaming everybody else. It seems as though things work like this:

Double Pullers

Or, maybe, they seem to work more like this:

Double Pushers Workers

Either way, it appears that we could be doing more, right? It seems like we are wasting a lot of energy that might serve other purposes. I mean, why can’t we make it look more like this:

Celebration plane color green

Data? Plenty of data. This from Gallup (2012) with 1.4 million people and almost 50,000 organizations:  Employee engagement affects nine performance outcomes. Compared with bottom-quartile groups, top-quartile performing organizations have:

  • 37% lower absenteeism
  • 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
  • 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
  • 28% less shrinkage
  • 48% fewer safety incidents
  • 41% fewer patient safety incidents
  • 41% fewer quality incidents (defects)
  • 10% higher customer metrics
  • 21% higher productivity
  • 22% higher profitability

Is that not clear enough that there are benefits in doing things differently?

ASTD says we are spending around $200,000,000,000 for training and development –yet we can’t make some improvements in engagement? Seriously?

We cannot get each supervisor to reach ONE employee a week to help that employee become more engaged? Seems like even firing one supervisor or one employee for non-engagement might have more of a positive affect than what we are doing now…

Seriously.

Scott small pic

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Top Performers Least Engaged Workers? Low Performers Most Involved?

In 4 of 10 companies, low performers were more engaged than the high performers, a paradox that has some big implications for your organization’s long term results. The people who are bringing you the least impact are more engaged than your best performers, who need involvement and engagement for you to retain them. Yeah, motivation is a funny thing!

John Baldoni shared some survey data from LeadershipIQ on the HBR Blog Network, which has a nice pdf analysis of the data. It IS thought provoking. John wrote this up well and gave me permission to repost, so I will keep this whole post short and link to it with some other blog posts on my thinking. I will retain his links and add my cartoons! Here is what John wrote:

Some of the most engaged employees in your organization are your worst performers. And some of the least engaged are your highest performers.

This conclusion comes from new research by the consulting firm, Leadership IQ. The study “matched engagement survey and performance appraisal data for 207 organizations.” According to CEO Mark Murphy (who I interviewed via email), “We had long suspected that high performers might not be as engaged as has traditionally been assumed. But seeing that, in 42% of cases, high performers were even less engaged than low performers was a bit of a shock.”

This conclusion runs contrary to conventional wisdom as well as many studies (including this one from Gallup) that show high engagement — that is, how much employees are committed to their work — correlates with better bottom line results, including productivity and profitability.

You could think of these low performers as hamsters on a wheel, spinning fast but actually going nowhere.

Rat Cage Making Progress Yet yellow

Conversely, high performers may be coasting like swans on a pond, just gliding by. You don’t see their effort because it’s below the water. As Murphy says, “in our study, high performers gave very low marks when asked if employees all live up to the same standards.”

Overlay - duck color

While low performers may be more engaged, their efforts may not be as productive, especially since it’s the higher performers — disengaged though they may be — who are doing all the work. The underperformance of the former undermines the effort of the latter. This is especially true, according to the study, when low performers are not held accountable for poor performance. These employees may not even know they are doing a poor job.

Naturally when poor performers are allowed to slide by, it erodes the morale of high performers who feel, again according to the study, “helpless about the trajectory of their careers.”

 (Read Scott’s blog about “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…”)

“We had seen plenty of cases where managers avoid dealing with low performers (because they believe the conversation will be difficult), and instead assign work to the employees they enjoy — i.e. high performers.,” says Murphy. “And as a result, they end up ‘burning out’ those same high performers they enjoy so much.”

While I find Leadership IQ’s findings linking high engagement to poor performers to be contrarian, it is not usual for good performers to feel lost in the system. This is a comment I hear not infrequently in my coaching work.

So what to do about it? Murphy offers two suggestions. “First, leaders need to set very explicit, and behaviorally-specific, expectations for performance. These expectations need to define and delineate good, great, and even poor performance so employees and managers can clearly define and differentiate best practices, teach those practices to others, and then hold people accountable accordingly.”

Doing this, according to Murphy, “gives high performers confidence that their manager understands the meaning of ‘high performer’ and it holds the manager accountable to actually differentiate employees on the basis of their performance.”

Second, Murphy suggests regularly monthly leadership meetings (perhaps lasting no more than 20 minutes) that ask managers about what’s going on in their workplaces and how motivated they feel. As Murphy says, “If a company CEO were told that their best customers were unhappy, it’s a safe bet that CEO would be on a plane within hours. If we truly believe that people are our most important asset, shouldn’t we pay a bit more attention to the engagement of the best of those people?”

Senior management needs to communicate more clearly, hold people at every level accountable for results, and actively invest time and resources in the talents of high performers.

All too often companies do not know their employees are unhappy until they leave. Exit interviews reveal that they leave because they did not believe anyone cared. Research has confirmed the old saw that people leave bosses, not companies. That makes holding bosses accountable for employee engagement critical.

Senior leaders need to do a better job of teaching managers how to be better managers. And they also need to apply such standards to themselves.

———————————–

I trust that you find this data and John’s framing of it to be of interest and use, as I did. If we expect workplace performance to improve, engagement and involvement are an easy way to address these opportunities. Doing another survey is not going to help us. Focusing on Dis-Un-Engagement is much more likely to pay dividends.

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Managers. Leaders. Engagement. Involvement. Not! (And what we can do)

For the past two weeks, we have 50 or so people engaged in a LinkedIn conversation about:

“We’re spending $200 billion on training. Why can’t we involve and engage people in the workplace?”

And there have been 54 very solid comments thus far. The thread starts with this simple framework:

ASTD shows data saying that $200,000,000,000 billion or so is being spent on training and some of that is on leadership development and management training and all those things. I was reading a 1982 management magazine and it talked about the same issues in the same workplaces. Gallup has surveyed 4 million people over the years and pretty consistently finds NO improvement. 

Mercer (2012) found that engagement declined from 23% to 13% if I read their research right. Sirota (1997) stats show 85% of employees report their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job.

Some people feel that it is a training issue and that we can better train people to be more involved and engaged. But others reframe this around the reality that the training is probably fine, but it is the back-end, post-training, workplace environment that is at fault and that the training does not stick. Issues are around the lack of feedback and followup and reinforcement of the newly learned skills.

Some people feel that it is the workers themselves who are choosing to not get involved and engaged and the issue is one of hiring — that if we improved the hiring practices, the difficulties would be lessened. They blame the learner for the issues, framing it as the learner choosing not to engage.

Others focus on the lack of motivation of the workers (and the managers) and that there are not the support systems in place to sustain involvement and engagement. Many put the responsibility on the supervisor and managers to do things differently and that the workers are actively being un-involved and dis-engaged. People may not get solid performance feedback, or have career paths or a sense of cause or community and there are a variety of approaches to impact those kinds of issues.

Others feel that this non-engagement in the workplace may be caused by the workplace itself and that the environment might be generating problems, like a lack of good computer systems might simply generate tons of frustration or that the workplace environment itself is a problem. There might be a negative or toxic environment:

– A 2011 Massey University (NZ) survey of 96 organizations found more than HALF had experienced workplace violence. (New Zealand??? Really?) 

– In the United Kingdom, research found that 53% of employees had been victims of workplace bullying and that 78% had witnessed such behavior.

That kind of workplace surely would not be one that would involve and engage an average person. There might also be a lack of job security or opportunities for personal growth.

The issue of organizational culture was a common one, in that a competitive environment was not conducive to teamwork and one focused on extrinsic rewards for the most successful competitors will not be acceptable to the average or below average worker. Some workplaces are too political and show favoritism and those kinds of things which are dis-engaging to many.

And then we get into the issue of toxic managers. That may be the supervisor or it may be the Senior Vice President, it may be in my line of authority or that butthead in Accounting. It is more of a perceptual thing when it is that senior person, since they generally have so little contact with the actual worker. But those things do cascade down through an organization and the impacts of replacing a really toxic senior leader with a really inspiring and effective one might take years to show an impact.

Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled. (Frank Navran)

It was suggested that we need to take more of a systems approach or even an approach linked to Learning Organizations. A focus on Lean might mean the elimination of many of the frustrating forces that operate on production in some cultures.

We do know that “Leadership” is pretty awful. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, goes through all their research and takes some really hard line positions about this issue. I frame his comments up in a blog with links to his posts –https://performancemanagementcompanyblog.com/2013/03/23/managers-biggest-contributors-or-biggest-problem/

Clifton suggests firing 7 million managers, basically. My take is twofold:

•  Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and just annoys the pig. 
•  If you put a gun to their head, could they do things differently?

I will wrap this discussion up this way: I think that a LOT of the problem is simply about choice and choices. I think a LOT of people can simply choose to do something differently and that it would make a very significant difference in terms of improving performance and productivity and in its impacts on innovation and engagement. All those “workplace things” that could make the job could be addressed to make for a more better faster place to spend so much of our time.

There ARE some really great companies, some really great workplaces that build some really great employees doing some really great things for some really great bosses. Can’t we just learn from them? Do we have to always re-invent the wheel?

I think Rodney King was right: “Can’t we just all get along?”  Where’s the love?

We are not on some dead-end street. We are at a crossroad. We may be up to our axles in mud, and there are two miles of ditch for every mile of road, but we can make the choice of getting out of the ditch and up on the road. We may be thumping and bumping on wooden Square Wheels, but the Round Rubber tires are already in the wagon.

Let’s — each of us — look to do some things differently. Let’s look to Dis-Un-Engage and re-involve the people so that they feel like they felt when they were newly hired into the organization. That potential still exists somewhere. We can put some round wheels on the wagon.

Engagimentation = engagement plus implementation

Let’s look toward our management practices and change the ones that the workers feel really NEED to be changed; this could include systems and processes and it could also include the toxic managers — and we can give them choices about behavior more better differently, too. We can give them training and support and coaching if it requires new skills on the part of these “old dogs.” We can teach them some better tricks. We can help the caterpillar to fly…

Mentoring Color Icon

Scott Simmerman

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Implementing Changes after Team Building Events

As I have written elsewhere, companies are spending around $200,000,000,000 annually on “training” based on analyses by the American Society for Training and Development. And a variety of posts in discussion threads on LinkedIn indicate that the “team building game delivery industry” remains fairly robust. Lots of companies are doing events to improve teamwork and collaboration.

But are they really generating successes?

Dissatisfaction with the impacts of team building seem high when companies analyze the impacts of that spending. People may remember all the fun they had or the awful weather they endured or the dangers they faced with the paintballs, but few of these activities tightly link to organizational change back at the workplace. The buzz about Firewalking claims that it is life-changing, but few organizations can demonstrate improved workplace productivity as a result of such events.

Performance Management Company’s approach to team building exercises has always been different (since 1993). We focus on themes like project management or strategic planning or interdepartmental collaboration through metaphor and tight, easily facilitated game design. In The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine,

  • we provide people with limited but sufficient resources,
  • force people to analyze information in a challenge to optimize results,
  • make tabletops evaluate and share risk, and
  • then to execute a plan of action within time limits.

The exercise rewards sharing of physical information between tabletops to optimize measured results and links choices and behaviors directly to measured results, much like what occurs in the workplace.

Where Dutchman differs from most other activities is in the debriefing, where we can discuss and evaluate issues like the emotions that result when a challenge occurs, the tendency to compete rather than collaborate, the measured impacts of not sharing information on ROI, and other business factors related to how people and teams perform in the workplace.

shared goals

(actual worksheets have smaller illustrations and more room for capturing ideas)

The Dutchman game is loaded with a variety of debriefing questions and worksheets that help any facilitator make serious connections between ideas and implementation. The question compendium allows one to easily customize the debriefing to focus on specific desired developmental outcomes.

Mining Gold Means

 

What Energizes

 

The main goal in Lost Dutchman is to drive the implementation of new behaviors that will better support improved performance results. Yes, it is fun and challenging, but it is tightly anchored to real-world behavioral change themes for teams and departments. No fluff.

(And it can handle very large groups, elegantly and effectively.
More on that here. And some testimonials are here.)

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Going Postal – Workplace violence and Engagement

As regular readers know, I write a lot on the themes of employee productivity and workplace engagement. We’ve focused a lot of thinking energy on themes of generating active involvement and employee ownership involvement as a way of generating the intrinsic motivation to drive more success. Also, there has been a heavy focus on the manager as facilitator and what they might choose to do differently to impact people and performance.

Going Postal,” made it as a descriptive phrase for “losing it” — in American English slang, according to Wikipedia, it means becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment. The expression derives from a series of incidents starting in 1983  in which US Postal Service workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police and general public. Between 1986 and 1997, more than forty people were gunned down in at least 20 such incidents of workplace rage.

A Bing search on “going postal cartoon” turned up over 3000 cartoons (many are a hoot!) and a google search showed 206,000 hits on the phrase (but no numbers for the cartoon images). Clearly, this is a mainstream theme. Why?

Workplace Rage is the end result of workplace frustration, and there is a lot of that these days. Statistics from different sources show that many workplaces are frustrating and sometimes intimidating…

  • In the United Kingdom, research found that 53% of employees had been victims of workplace bullying and that 78% had witnessed such behavior.
  • 52% of Americans have “witnessed, heard about, or experienced a violent event or an event that can lead to violence at their workplace.
  • A 2011 Massey University (NZ) survey of 96 organizations found more than half had experienced workplace violence.
  • In Taiwan, 13% of all employees frequently suffer from heavy pressure in their work, and 24% have emotional problems, such as anxiety, depression, irritability. 

And those factors can explode:

In Minneapolis in 2012, a man killed 5 co-workers, a UPS driver and himself after he was fired from his job at a sign company. He was given a warning the week before the attack for being chronically late — 35 workdays in a row in August and September – and his manager wrote him that his constant tardiness a problem that needed to be “rectified immediately.” While being fired, he pulled out a gun and started shooting, killing the company’s founder, three other Accent employees, and a UPS driver before killing himself. And the lateness was an early signal that things were not good insofar as morale…

The workplace shooting situation is so common that the safety video, “RUN. HIDE. FIGHT.”  has 2.3 million hits. Clearly people are concerned about this issue and there is a good bit of harassment and intimidation in the workplace globally. (I will post some of that stuff up and link to it here, at a later time)

There are lots of causal factors. And solutions are varied.

The issue would seemingly be addressed by improving workplace engagement and teamwork. If people felt more positive support for their efforts, one would logically conclude that normal people would be less frustrated and volatile.

If the managers did a better job of communicating and listening to ideas for improvement, there would be more continuity and involvement among the people. If workers felt that managers were interested in helping them make improvements, the numbers of dis-engaged and actively un-involved would drop.

A lot of the un-engaged workers are pretty visible. I call them Spectator Sheep:

Spectator Sheep poem

What does it take to involve them? Generally, not that much. My experience says that they want to be heard and have their grievances considered.  They want their managers to listen to what they see as problems or workplace issues and, often, allow them to work with others in teams to help modify or impact those concerns.

Performance Management Company offers a series of simple to use illustrations and team building exercises to directly address the issue of Manager as Facilitator. We have been developing and marketing these programs since 1993 and they have global use and you can see a few of them here.

We have packaged simple Square Wheels toolkits and facilitation guides to help generate active involvement and ownership.

Discover the Road haiku

Our flagship team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, is directly focused on building collaboration and on implementing workplace change and improvement.

Managing Mud

Users say that our products are exceptionally easy to use and highly effective. Give me a call and I will be pleased to share ideas and possibilities,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – You can reach Scott at 864-292-8700 or at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Sabotage, Defense, Engagement and Workplace Collaboration

Here are some issues and statistics and framework around the issue of employee workplace sabotage, which can take many forms, and some relatively straightforward solutions. Overall, the issues of teamwork and peer pressure can work for you, ideally, or can work against you as we frame up below.

The Situation:

Research says people are uninvolved and dis-engaged. Numbers show people are unappreciated and not motivated by extrinsic rewards. Many feel ignored and stagnant, not getting training or feeling that anyone cares. Writers talk about people whining (which I think is because they are not focused on doing anything they think is important) and that they won’t even take all their scheduled vacation days because of job security issues (other post on that here).

Yeah, it sure must be fun to work in a lot of places these days. Plus, we are seeing a lot fewer full time jobs and jobs with benefits and a lot more part-time jobs with no benefits and with variable hours… More and more people are working part-time — Between 2007 and May of this year, the number of part-timers jumped from 24.7 million to 27.5 million. A 2013 Gallup poll shows that one in every 5 workers is now part-time. For many, less than full-time work is creating conflict and all kinds of issues. According to the US Labor Department, as many as 1/3 of all part-timers are involuntary ones.

Reasons are many, but one seems to be “ObamaDodge,” whereby big employers avoid having to give healthcare to people who work less than 30 hours a week to bypass the Affordable Care Act.

Large employers like Regal Entertainment Group (franchise owners of Five Guys, Applebee’s and Denny’s), and the owner of Papa John’s pizza chain and a few other chains have announced plans to side-step new requirements that businesses with over 50 full-time-equivalent employees offer their full-time workers access to a qualified healthcare plan or pay a penalty. (There has been a lot of media and general public pushback, too.)

The healthcare law defines a full-time employee as anyone working more than 30 hours a week, so the boss simply cuts workers’ hours and hires additional part-time staff to make up the difference. Stafford notes that as many as 2.3 million workers across the country are at high risk of having their hours slashed to below the 30-hour mark. Half of retail workers in New York City were part-time, and only 10 percent of part-timers had a set schedule week to week and part-time workers are far more likely to be paid minimum wage (13%) than full-time workers (2%)

When I started a turnaround in my new job as Senior Vice President for a retail company, we had all kinds of issues to deal with, including store manager turnover of about 250% — we did not bother to measure salesperson TO because too many of them were quickly being promoted to store managers. AND, we had millions of dollars in “inventory losses.” Some of that was caused by the chaos and confusion in the stores, and some of it was most certainly THEFT by Employees. They were simply getting even, was the reason most of them gave…

If people feel attacked, we know from history that they will band together to fight back. The reaction of being pushed is to push back and the pin will eventually touch the balloon and things will pop. That is expected.

Pin Hits Balloon red color

The American Psychological Association reports a variety of ailments associated with underemployment, including depression, anxiety, psychosomatic disorders, low subjective well-being and poor self-esteem. There are workplace impacts for those kinds of feelings as they relate to customer service and teamwork with others. Researchers have found that full-time work is critical not only to the mental well-being of workers, but to their physical health as well. A decrease in physical health is another way that forced part-time workers suffer.

Once the group feels like it is being attacked (instead of supported and involved and engaged and compensated fairly), one can often expect that they will circle the wagons and try to defend themselves from the attackers. That is also a signal that all is not well in the workplace and that they are not completely convinced that pulling and pushing the wagon efficiently and effectively is in their best interests. If they run out of bullets, they will head for the hills!

Defense wagon yellow 70

But, if they feel pretty solidly supportive of each other, a slightly different scenario is possible, one that we are seeing in a few large companies. That one looks like this:

FortVanderWeilen th

Here, they start taking the wagons apart to use the wood for the walls and the wheels for barricades. They may demonstrate a sense of solidarity, and create a more permanent adversarial structure and culture. It is somewhat predictable — and look at the news about striking workers at WalMart – On May 28, around 100 workers in FL, MA and CA walked off their jobs for a series of “prolonged strikes.” Many of the striking workers traveled to Wal-Mart’s annual shareholder meeting in Arkansas last week. (article)

But it gets bigger than this. Just as my store managers did things to their company, workers everywhere have ways of “getting even.” Let me excerpt from my blog on  “Thoughts on Management,” which is basically about sabotage and comes from a manual produced by the US Army back in the 1940s, with this part talking about what employees can do to sabotage companies:

(1) Work slowly. Think out ways to in­ crease the number of movements necessary on your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one, try to make a small wrench do when a big one is necessary, use little force where considerable force is needed, and so on.

(2) Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can: (with examples)

(4) Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and ask to have them repeated more than once. Or pretend that you are particularly anxious to do your work, and pester the foreman with unnecessary questions.

(6) Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

(8) If possible, join or help organize a group for presenting employee problems to the management  See that the procedures adopted are as inconvenient as possible for the management, involving the presence of a large number of employees at each presentation, entailing more than one meeting for each grievance, bringing up problems which are largely imaginary, and so on.

There are SO MANY ways to cost companies money and increase your pay per unit of time worked. You can also be indifferent and unresponsive to customers or not fix things such as misplaced stock items on shelves or all kinds of things.

The solution:

You are probably going to be unable to fix a lot of the structural issues that companies have, but you can sure document the local impacts they have and push for improvement. You may not be able to reduce employee turnover, but you can certainly track the actual issues caused by new people on the job. Some of your analysis should include:

  • The cost of advertising for new people
  • The cost of initial paperwork and screening
  • The costs of interviewing  – costs of time spent doing that and costs of time not available for doing other important things
  • The costs of on-boarding or initial job training on systems and processes
  • The potential increased costs for job-related injuries or accidents
  • The costs of coaching and on-the-job training time
  • The costs of errors of new employees, including customer satisfaction issues, slower response times, mistakes and materials waste, misplaced inventory, and all sorts of innocent things that people do when new on a job
  • The costs of management supervisory time (yours)
  • The costs of advanced skills training — sometimes there are 6-week courses on learning how to process transactions and work computer systems correctly
  • The costs of NOT working the above computer systems correctly

There are many other similar kinds of costs incurred by organizations. Some of these also involve inter-departmental kinds of problems and you might also include theft or other kinds of negative impacts from the disgruntled as well as the new.

And, as result of all this training, there is also the eventual statistical likelihood and reality that this New Hire will simply be an average employee. Down the road, you may be looking to replace them!

Often the better and more skilled employees choose to go elsewhere for employment (and the below average ones are not actively looking) and you may be losing talent on a net overall basis. The best ones may also go to one of your competitors…

Sometimes, newer previously skilled employees will demand a higher wage and benefits than the “normal employee” and that is guaranteed to cause problems down the road.  Paying new employees wages equal to long-term employees is also problematic.

So what do you do?

You probably need to make the case, or at least support the existing case that things need to be improved, that doing the same thing will generate the same results. And you can choose to do things differently, yourself.

Nearly every research study shows that an involved and engaged workforce shows fewer negative issues with the above and shows lots of positive impacts on numbers like profitability and reduced customer turnover. If employees are presently un-engaged or at least not actively engaged, you have about 70% of your workforce that you can address and encourage.

Extrinsic motivators do not work. They possibly might have short-term positive impacts on some people, but they always have negative long-term impacts on everyone. Compensate them fairly on an overall basis.

Allow people to solve roadblocks and make improvements to systems and processes. Give them the tools and resources.

Allow them to address interdepartmental issues that impact their performance results.

Improve the performance feedback so that they have a better idea as to how they are performing in comparison to their own goals and your expectations. You can find a simple analysis checklist here. PMC sells simple toolkits for improving communications and engagement.

Provide some team building activities and build a sense of group (remembering all the stuff at the top of the article, be sure to have a fairly solid environment before forming, “The Collective” — remember the Borg?). PMC sells some great, inexpensive and bombproof team building simulations.

Have engaging and informative meetings and discussions, as groups and a one-on-one coaching and mentoring discussions.

Be there and supportive, not away and adversarial.

There is no silver bullet for any of this. Understanding the problem is a first step toward designing YOUR solutions. There is no one else who can really help you, when push comes to shove. HR cannot do it, senior managers cannot do it, consultants (certainly) cannot do it —

If it is to be words

and

If not you who words

If you are looking for some tools for improving engagement or for improving involvement and motivation to make workplace improvements, we sell some simple tools. Our specialties are in the areas of employee involvement and team building, but with a focus on performance improvement.

Square Wheels are simply great tools

Have Fun out there!

Scott Debrief

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

Connect with Scott on Google+
Reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com and 864-292-8700

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

 

Note: some of the basic statistics taken from
http://www.alternet.org/labor/part-time-jobs-and-economy

Roll Better Ideas Forward – Improve Engagement and Innovation

The old brainstorming process works. It just does not work very well. And there are lots of ideas about how to make it better. In past blogs, I’ve  shared a number of ideas and techniques to improve the quality and quantity of ideas. You can see this recent post, for one set of thoughts:  “On Brainstorming and workplace productivity improvement” – the link.

Woody Allen called the brain his second most favorite organ.

This is your brain.

Brainstorming is pretty well understood and is a common technique used by people for idea generation. It originated back in 1942, with a BBDO ad executive named Alex Osborn who used the approach and coined the term “brainstorming.” He used these four rules of involvement and engagement:

1. Focus on quantity. More ideas are better and you can always separate the good from the less good
2. Withhold criticism. There are no bad ideas in a brainstorm and you want to just keep things flowing.
3. Welcome the unusual ideas. Look at things from every perspective and withhold judgment.
4. Combine and improve ideas. Things are synergistic and a bad idea can generate a good one. Recapitulate and juggle thoughts.

This approach is so common that I would guess 50% of supervisors could tell you the rules and they are often presented First Thing when facilitators use the technique. It has not changed much. The only real issue is that this is not the best way to generate involvement and engagement and ideas.

Research says that some of the best ideas actually come when people are alone and doing “considered consideration” of issues and opportunities and working in groups at a fast pace may miss some of the better ideas. An article last year in the New Yorker shared some fundamental ideas about how to optimize impacts. (find “GroupThink, The brainstorming myth” by Jonah Lehrer here)

Basically, research has shown that groups using classic brainstorming approaches generate fewer ideas than people who work alone and then assemble and pool their ideas. 

What seems evident from this and other research on idea generation and innovation is that the best ideas and solutions to organizational issues seem to come from group discussions about ideas generated in isolation.

This research supports what it is that makes our Square Wheels One illustration such a great engagement tool, since it sets up a short solitary time for idea generation followed by some group processing of ideas and sharing of different perspectives and it changes the language of talking about organizational issues.

Getting people to talk about issues and opportunities is getting them to consider options and possibilities, and the power and strength of this visual metaphor allows them to return to these same organizational improvement issues down the road. You put their brain on fire!

Your brain on fire after brainstorming

Your brain on fire after brainstorming

The Square Wheels are everywhere, and so are the Round Ones. And once you start this process of issue identification, positive group processing, peer support, commitment to implement and the resulting praise and recognition for successes or movements toward success, you generate a more positive and engaging work environment.

All through the use of a metaphor about how organizations really work. Square Wheels One is the illustration that sets up the discussions of how things really work in most organizations and helps people to project their thoughts and ideas about their workplace on to the visual. They can work individually for a few moments and then collaborate as a group to expand their viewpoints.

SWs - Why use SWs RWs

The reality is that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon.
We just need to take some time to look for things to implement!
Sharing improves engagement / innovation and impacts teamwork.

Celebration color green train

The most revolutionary solutions spring from group discussion of ideas hatched in isolation. Let Square Wheels cartoons work for you.

(Brain on fire from CartoonaDay.com)

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman sells inexpensive and powerful organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Thoughts on Management

A post in LinkedIn turned me toward looking for a document. I found it in as

Simple Sabotage Field Manual by United States.
Office of Strategic Services

It was published in 1944 and it is a real gem! You will laugh yourself through it as a manual of how to consider working in large corporations. By all means, do NOT allow non-management people to see this guide, since it might give them some ideas!

A simple summary has tidbits like this:

A few instructions from the 1944 Simple Sabotage Field Manual:

  1. Managers and Supervisors—To lower morale and production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.
  2. Employees—Work slowly. Think of ways to increase the number of movements needed to do your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one; try to make a small wrench do, instead of a big one.
  3. Organizations and Conferences—When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large and bureaucratic as possible. Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
  4. Telephone—At office, hotel, and local telephone switchboards, delay putting calls through, give out wrong numbers, cut people off “accidentally,” or forget to disconnect them so that the line cannot be used again.
  5. Transportation—Make train travel as inconvenient as possible for enemy personnel. Issue two tickets for the same seat on a train in order to set up an “interesting” argument.

You can find  and download the whole thing here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/26184/page-images/26184-images.pdf
and I encourage you to NOT waste a lot of your valuable office time reading it. This seems like better bedtime reading, more like a spy novel!

The sections on Managers and Employees – on pages 33 and 34 — is a hoot! So, I repeat some of that content here:

Google ChromeScreenSnapz001

(b) Managers and Supervisors 

(1) Demand written orders.

(2) “Misunderstand” orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can.

(3) Do everything possible to delay the delivery of orders. Even though parts of an order may be ready beforehand, don’t deliver it until it is completely ready.

(4) Don’t order new working materials until your current stocks have been virtually exhausted, so that the slightest delay in filling your order will mean a shutdown.

(5) Order high-quality materials which are hard to get. If you don’t get them argue about it. Warn that inferior materials will mean inferior work.

(6) In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers of poor machines.

(7) Insist on perfect work in relatively un­important products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw. Approve other defective parts whose flaws are not visible to the naked eye.

(8) Make mistakes in routing so that parts and materials will be sent to the wrong place in the plant.

(9) When training new workers, give in­ complete or misleading instructions.

(10) To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.

(11) Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done 

 (d) Employees 

(1) Work slowly. Think out ways to in­ crease the number of movements necessary on your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one, try to make a small wrench do when a big one is necessary, use little force where considerable force is needed, and so on.

(2) Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can: when changing the material on which you are working, as you would on a lathe or punch, take needless time to do it. If you are cutting, shaping or doing other measured work, measure dimensions twice as often as you need to. When you go to the lavatory, spend a longer time there than is necessary. Forget tools so that you will have to go back after them.

(3) Even if you understand the language, pretend not to understand instructions in a foreign tongue.

(4) Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and ask to have them repeated more than once. Or pretend that you are particularly anxious to do your work, and pester the foreman with unnecessary questions.

(5) Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.

(6) Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

(7) Snarl up administration in every possible way. Fill out forms illegibly so that they will have to be done over; make mistakes or omit requested information in forms.

(8) If possible, join or help organize a group for presenting employee problems to the man­agement. See that the procedures adopted are as inconvenient as possible for the management, involving the presence of a large number of employees at each presentation, entailing more than one meeting for each grievance, bringing up problems which are largely imaginary, and so on.

(9) Misroute materials.

(10) Mix good parts with unusable scrap and rejected parts.

Yeah, we can have real fun with this, identifying current “best practices” within your organization and looking for those strategies and skills currently being tested!

Have fun out there!

Brando

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Lessons from The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a game on teamwork and collaboration

There are many lessons that can be learned from playing team building games, and we feel that our products generate more than their share of great learning opportunities. Reactions are as varied as the groups of people that play and the kinds of cultures they represent. It works for very large groups as well as really small ones. Dutchman is quite flexible in how it is delivered.

Microsoft WordScreenSnapz001

One neat thing about Dutchman is that the organizational culture will show itself measurably and clearly — if people are highly competitive with each other, we see it in the dynamics of play and the lack of measured collaboration. If the culture is analytical, we see that in the inventory numbers at the end. If there is distrust among people, that shows itself clearly in that people will resist the help of other teams or even the game leadership. It is easily discussed in the debriefing and those issues can be challenged and alternatives discussed for implementation.

Microsoft WordScreenSnapz002

If you are interested in the possibility of using Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine as a team building or motivational exercise for a retreat, large event or even purchasing it for use within a training program, I can help you make a good decision in a few-minute conversation about your group, your goals, and your desired outcomes. If Dutchman is not a good fit, I would certainly offer other recommendations that might mesh with your goals with some other vendors and consultants. There are many good options out there.

These are some of the most common and important issues and outcomes from the play of The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine:

Collaboration, even when it is encouraged, can be difficult to achieve

  1. There is a big difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. Safety does not generate good results and it can measurably sub-optimize results
  2. Many people will choose competition rather than collaboration as a strategy and a few of those on a team will make the team less collaborative
  3. Openly encountering and assessing the risks involved and seeing a clear benefit is vital to generating collaboration in both the game and in the workplace

There are three Most Important Resources: Time, Information and Each Other

Time:

  • Decisions made up front often have the greatest impact on final results. Planning time is often time well spent
  • Strategies and plans are often forgotten when in the midst of pressures for results.

Information:

  • We must understand the challenge, plan for necessary resources, prioritize our activities and value our resources in order to optimize results
  • Decisions, no matter how good, are made based on considered alternatives; if little or no information is available, good decisions are impossible.

Each Other:

  • Activity is no replacement for productivity and accomplishment; Peer support is often an essential component of critical thinking and action
  • People can add better perspective to risks and barriers to performance; shared risk is more easily endured

Decision-making, combined with clear understanding of the goals and objectives, will often help to optimize performance, productivity and results.

  • Team consensus generally leads to better decisions if it is focused; unfocused consensus leads to mediocrity and compromise
  • Your past experiences will color your decision-making and risk taking and teams will often take more considered risks than an individual.
  • The best goals are  specific, attainable and realistic, measurable, clear and agreed-upon by your teammates.

In the Lost Dutchman exercise, we clearly state the goal as being to mine as much gold as WE can. It is common, though, based on the above factors, that tabletops will often frame “we” as “My Team, My Team, My Team” because that is commonly how things work in the workplace. Each team is often designed to be an independent one, and thus collaboration is not actively encouraged nor managed.

My Team, My Team color

In the game, as well as in most workplaces, performance is optimized when cross-functional and interdepartmental teamwork is the norm. The exercise reinforces that, clearly showing the costs of competition.

My Team needs to be OUR Team,
and “all of us” is much more than “most of us.”

This is done well with Dutchman, since it so clearly and measurably rewards collaboration and communications with leadership and with other teams. Collaboration was a main design feature in how the game was constructed. We can neatly measure collaboration in different ways.

Many of our users tell us that  Dutchman is the best team building exercise in the world, and we have a lot of testimonials that support that conclusion. It will soon be 20 years that this game has been in play (and in continuous continuous improvement).

Frankly, talking about Lost Dutchman with prospects and users is one of the best things that I can do in a day. I feel really fortunate that we could put all this together into such a well-playing team building simulation that fits worldwide. It generates clean results and very actionable ideas for implementation. And users have told me that the, “ah ha’s!” continue to happen long after the session.

You can find out more by clicking on this link or on the gameboard below:

LDGM 1 80

If we can help you with this, let us know,

For the Fun of It!

Scott Debrief

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Tons of Good Writings, so why is improvement so hard? Part One

This is the first of two articles that hammer on the issues around supervision and how they affect engagement and performance. Spending billions for decades, why can’t we actually make improvements in organizations?

I’ll admit to being a pack rat when it comes to articles and interesting ideas. Next to me in the den is the January 1982 issue of Management Review with articles about how FEAR is common in management approaches to people and performance (Machovec and Smith), one on team management and motivation (Littlejohn) and another on closing the gaps in human performance (Bolt and Rummler).

1982 – and a rereading of them shows the articles highly underlined (this seems to be before the invention of the highlighter!) and all the key learning points are really solid. No surprises. On my floor is a 2002 article about collaboration and team building and how organizations need to improve alignment and focus more on collective intelligence — “All of Us know more than Any of Us.”

Like many of you, I have a few hundred books, going back to include Tom Gilbert’s Human Competence (1978 and since republished) and so many other great books by so many authors like Drucker and Peters. Thousands of old articles, and now, thousands of new blog posts, websites, eBooks and all that. Guess I go back the dinosaur age but I sure feel younger than that…

Google ChromeScreenSnapz001 So, what is so darn hard about managing and leading people? Why are companies spending two hundred BILLION dollars every year on newer and newer training programs, blended learning, computerized personality surveys and assessments and all this other stuff? (I outline some of the statistics and some of the issues in an older blog post you can find here along with Part Two of this thinking in a separate blog.)

My older blog article starts with:

In 2010, employers spent more on employees’ development than ever before: businesses in the United States spent $171.5 billion on employee learning in 2010, up from $125.8 billion in 2009, according to ASTD in their recent survey. Apparently, companies are seeing a benefit in investing in the development of their people and that there may be payoffs for that in terms of employee retention and improved performance.

It goes on to talk about some of my thinking about training and coaching and generating commitment. I do not see all this as being all that hard. One supervisor being coached and mentored to teach and support one front-line worker at a time. Sure there is all that technical stuff to teach, but so many basic statistics point to the reality that employee turnover is high due in large part because they do not feel as if they are effectively managed.

I mean, you can find some really elegant stuff out there. Amazingly well designed, logical, superbly crafted training and development programs. But like executives trying to implement strategy, 90% of those initiatives are viewed as failures by the people within the organization and they generally fail to generate any real results. (Am I being too hard here? Maybe, but $200,000,000,000 is a lot of money to find engagement of workers to be less than 30%. Ya think?)

We are spending tons of money on “outdoor team building adventure training” and not seeing any real improvement in business results. (I write my thoughts about why in a whole series of blog posts)

Wouldn’t you agree that you could structure a workplace environment that would involve and engage ONE person to improve their performance? I mean, some combination of improving the feedback they get from their behaviors (see my article on feedback and an analysis of high performance feedback systems) and do the mentoring and coaching needed to fully involve and engage them in making improvements in results?

Can’t you get ONE supervisor to accomplish that change and get ONE of their people to improve their performance? And couldn’t they do that more than one time, like maybe 10 times?

Collaboration. Instead of running around outside solving problems with strings, balls, sticks and buckets, or shooting at each other with paintball bullets or walking on ropes or hot coals or getting soaked on a full-day trip onto some whitewater river, couldn’t you spend half a day in a training room with an exercise that clearly demonstrates the benefits of resource management, strategic planning, project management, alignment, involving leadership and coaching, and collaboration between teams?

We got one of those in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We sell these to companies and consultants with a one-time cost. And I will guarantee that you will get results and that the program will match your desired outcomes. It’s not cheap, but it IS one of the best values in the world of training and development.

We’ve been selling this game for organizational improvement initiatives for 20 years. We’ve had one game returned and no negative comments (that return occurred because the trainer did not get permission to deliver the planned training course.)

When it comes to people and involvement, why are we not simply asking people to be more involved, to share their ideas for what needs to be improved? We do not need a lot of surveys — a simple brainstorming session will produce a lot of the real perceived issues and opportunities for management to act on.

Like Rodney King said so long ago,

“Why can’t we all just get along?”
Why can’t we work on shared goals and objectives
and support better performance?

Celebration plane color green

The Round Wheels are out there!
They are already in the wagon.
Step back, identify and implement.

You can find Part Two by clicking here

Scott Simmerman

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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