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

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Positive Disruptive Employee Engagement for Innovation and Motivation

It is funny, if you google the word DISRUPTIVE, most of the associated descriptive links will be on negative things and that the main positive framework is the link to Disruptive Innovation, where it spins around to be The Good Thing.

When I use the term, “Disruptive Engagement,” many people’s’ first reactions seem to be that it must mean chaos and that chaos is bad. On the other hand, what we are framing is the positive aspect of active employee involvement that will be generated from the bottoms up, from the interactions and ideas of workers and supervisors. Disruptive impacts are on the corporate control and management systems that are generally working against engagement.

 

Let me reframe that:

Positive Disruptive Employee Engagement will actually translate to active involvement, intrinsic motivation, facilitative behavior by supervisors and managers, and a broad swath of innovation from a wide variety of hands-on perspectives. If you will step back from your organizational wagon, you are likely to identify Best Practices.

Best Practices are those things that a few people are actually doing that makes them exemplary performers. Some people are exemplary performers because — wait for it… They do things differently than everybody else!

Translating to my lexicon, exemplary performers generally use Round Wheels in a world full of Square ones. They choose to do things differently. They have developed a more efficient or more effective ways to do things. Often, they break — sorry, BEND — the existing rules, policies and procedures to do things #morebetterfaster than other people. And the absolutely crazy thing is that most managers are not really sure what these performers actually do. And few other workers ever bother to try to model those behaviors and actions and processes.

Those old Square Wheels® continue to thump and bump, predictably and safely unless we decide to look about doing things differently. People cannot make different choices if they do not have considered alternatives, and those will not come from sitting around doing the same old, same old. The need is for perspective, along with a desire to do things differently, which comes from cognitive dissonance.

illustrated quote of Leonardo da Vinci using Square Wheels

Recognize that we need to actively search for opportunities for improvement and better ideas, and not just sit around expecting things to change because someone else will change them.

If not YOU, who? If not NOW, when?

“If it is to be, it is up to me,” should be the mantra of all supervisors everywhere, along with the recognition that there is NOT going to be a lot of help from elsewhere to get things done, to motivate people or to make the improvements that are necessary to continue the innovation and productivity improvement prospects. Supervisors are pretty much on their own when it comes to people development and process improvement and motivation in most organizations.

What I am proposing here is for people to step back from the wagon and look at how things are working and what possibilities exist. Supervisors can ask the questions and listen for the ideas, proposing that people consider different alternatives and choices in what they do.

But the ideas come from the people and are not simply more stuff rolling downhill from somewhere else. The supervisor facilitates, rather than lectures. The participants discuss their issues of possibilities, fear of risk-taking, problems of implementation and the issues surrounding peer support and teamwork.

The ideas are around changing perceptions about possibilities and about shared learning around choices. The skills needed are straightforward and focus on asking for ideas, asking for commitment and asking about progress as things roll forward. Problems are around generating active ownership of the improvement ideas and managing actual and perceived roadblocks to implementation.

Can’t we all just work together to get things done?

 

For the FUN of It!

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

Scott and Dan Stones built The Square Wheels Project as an LMS, sharing tools and training to support Disruptive Engagement in the workplace.

Visit The Square Wheels Project at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

 

 

 

Disruptive Engagement – 6 Blogs and 4 Illustrations

Engagement is anchored to empowerment, and organizations need dis-un-engaged and dis-un-empowered supervisors in order to optimize performance and productivity. I say this simply because supervisors manage workers and workers do all the work and because data after data show that un-engagement and un-empowerment are two main themes of so many workplaces.Disruptive Engagement and Empowerment Square Wheels image

As I thought about how corporate engagement is generally run, it seemed to me that more local control would allow more impacts, that more supervisor control at the workplace level might offer more opportunities to impact active involvement and actually involve and empower people. Too much seemed to be driven tops-down rather than bottoms up. So, I detailed my thoughts in an article about thinking locally:

Engagement – Think Local, Act Local

And that writing started me thinking about the whole negative reality of tops-down, corporate “engagement” that my 40 years of business management work has never shown to work very well. The thought was that disrupting this approach might be interesting.

Corporate Engagement Hasn’t Worked – Why not try Disruptive Engagement?

So, what IS Disruptive Engagement? Nothing fancy. It is simply about allowing the supervisors and managers to remove the things that their people perceive to be getting in the way of improving their workplaces. Often these are perceived roadblocks, more than real ones and Best Practices will show that the solutions are often already in place and working in isolated cases.

Disruptive engagement supervisors and motivation

Well, That got me thinking about what to actually do to accomplish this kind of initiative. The ideas already exist and it is more about developing a culture that does a better job of minimizing fear and optimizing discussions.

Disruptive Engagement, Supervisors, Empowerment and Performance Improvement

But a reality are the issues of allowing the supervisors the time and ability to actually do things differently. There is simply so much task interference from meetings and reports and measurements and other factors to really allow them the coaching time or the time to facilitate implementation of ideas.

FREE The Supervisor – thoughts on Disruptive Positive Active Engagement

and

The Hubcap Report – a note on Task Interference and Supervisors

What we need are good conversations and the improvement of facilitation skills to better actively involve workers.

Radical Candor and Disruptive Engagement

The solution actually does appear to be relatively simple and straightforward, if organizations really consider these issues of engagement, motivation, empowerment, innovation, and teamwork to be of importance. It sure seems like they are important, so why do we choose to not do things differently? We talk and talk and measure and measure and meet and meet but seldom have any direct contact or influence on the workers.

Disruptive Engagement and Radical Candor by Scott Simmerman

Why can’t we do this?

For the FUN of It!

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

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

 

 

The Hubcap Report – a note on Task Interference and Supervisors

These days, my focus continues to be on people and performance, with more consideration around The Supervisor and their work to dis-un-engage and actively involve their people in workplace improvements. I blogged last week about the concept of Free The Supervisor.

If we want to improve engagement, the only people who will do this are the ones that have direct contact with the employees. All the rest is window dressing and no amount spent on surveys will accomplish anything without the vesting of those front line managers.

The reality is that so many things get in the way of them doing anything differently. And I am actively collecting data in this regard, trying to identify some of the things they do that block them from doing new things. And a conversation with David Zinger of the Employee Engagement Network this morning got me thinking of one of those classic examples of this kind of meaningless required goop.

The Hubcap Report

Note: This actually happens to you, if you are a manager, but you call it something else and the names and faces are changed.

I am working with one of the Bell operating companies working on the outside plant that supports the telephone wires and all that stuff. In particular, I am working with one of the supervisors and his manager and looking at ideas for impacting motivation and performance results. We have really good support from the management team to try to do some things differently and I have good access to the managers.

So, early for a scheduled meeting and sitting in the District Manager’s office and talking with his secretary, I spy what looks to be an interesting series of notebooks labeled Hubcap Report. So, I ask her about them and she pulls the latest one down. Inside are a series of bi-weekly reports from all 12 garages listing the trucks with a check mark if they have hubcaps. Years of reports.

Digging down, one of the former DMs in visiting a garage noted that some of the vehicles were missing hubcaps so he had asked the garage managers to get them fixed and to send him a report. That request became a process, done by each supervisor every two weeks, signed off by their manager and forwarded to the District Office where they were stored in this notebook. The current DM never even knew they existed and the secretary simply filed them, not knowing how silly they were to keep doing.

How many of YOUR supervisors are completing reports and sending them upward, with no clear purpose and minimal impact?


And, on meetings and time and costs in general, HBR had a report about an analysis of a large organization and the costs to prepare senior executives for their peer-group weekly meetings. Note that little actually gets done from these meetings, other than the sharing of information and the occasional planning of a new strategy. THESE ARE COSTS, NOT IMPACTS:

In this particular company, a total of 7,000 person-hours per year were spent in weekly executive committee meetings at which 11 senior staff members provided updates on the business to themselves. To prepare for these meetings, these senior staffers held 11 of their own unit staff meetings consuming 1,800 person-hours each, for a total of 20,000 hours per year.

To get ready for the unit meetings, a total of 21 managers working for the senior staffers held their own meetings, 21 of them, for a combined total of 63,000 hours per year. Of course these unit meetings, being important, required “prep meetings” themselves, often involving supervisors.

There were thus 130 prep meetings in total, consuming a total of 210,000 hours per year. T0 summarize, it looks like this:

  • 7,000 hours: Weekly executive committee meetings.
  • 20,000 hours: Weekly senior staff unit meetings.
  • 63,000 hours: Weekly meetings of the staff to the senior staff
  • 210,000 hours: Weekly prep meetings for the staff to the senior staff.

FREE THE SUPERVISORS!

Help them to see out of the box they find they are in. Give them some perspective and even some hope that things may get better.

Roadbloc Management Square Wheels Toolkit for Managers

And look for simple solutions to some of the issues. Look at the things you can eliminate. Stop doing the things that do not have real impact. Maybe even BLOCK some of the extra-departmental information requests that will have NO positive impacts on YOUR team’s results. It is simply so easy for someone in staff to ask for information and so easy to take up your people’s time with those requests.

Start doing some active involvement. Start doing some team building — our Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine activity is fabulous. Take a look at the communications and engagement tools at The Square Wheels Project. But whatever you DO choose to do, do something that will improve motivation and performance!

Any kind of real collaboration and employee engagement at the front lines is likely being blocked by things that have little impact on your organization.

Use this process of facilitating dis-un-engagement to implement some real improvements,

For the FUN of It!

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

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

 

Managers – How Square Wheels can impact their workplaces

I got three fast notes from an HR director from an Indian company this morning. He and I had started chatting about organizational development and he wondered how my tools could impact the workplace, if they worked for managers, which one would be best and the difference between the downloadable and the LMS. And this happened in four successive short emails…

So, I started responding and realized it would make a good blog, since the focus is on helping managers impact organizational performance, and keeping things simple and straightforward.

So a few thoughts to frame this discussion:

  • All of my products are designed so that managers can deliver them without any support from Training or HR. That simply makes sense, given how isolated those departments can be from organizational reality. They are simply too busy doing other things of a higher priority to directly help managers.
  • Managers NEED tools to help them improve active involvement and clarify organizational alignment and deal with issues of people and performance.
  • Simple straightforward packages that do not require heavy train the trainer or psychological principles are much more useful than the complicated models that we often use in consulting or training. Simple tools to address real problems in straightforward ways are simply better, if they can be made available.
  • Tools to involve and engage workers for process improvement and innovation or to help actively involve and engage them in productivity increases are practical, and those that build teamwork and collaboration are even more important over the long run.

Managers need to be better motivators and workers need to be more innovative and productive and motivated.

But managers and supervisors are often incredibly over-burdened with other responsibilities and priorities that it makes their interpersonal communications very hard to accomplish. One survey said that managers have more contact with their remote workers than they do with the people who share office space with them.

What I have been writing about lately is the theme of Disruptive Engagement, with the premise that ideas coming from the bottoms up are so much more likely to actually occur than things driven from the tops down. You can read more about that in my other posts on leadership and innovation.

And managers have to be more actively engaged in their workplaces and with their people. To illustrate, Gallup found that managers working for engaged leaders are 39% more likely to be themselves engaged and that employees working for engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged, something they referred to as The Cascade Effect.

Of course this makes logical sense but the numbers are pretty startling if you consider the flip-side and the issues around working for UN-engaged leaders and managers. Gallup also reports that 51% of managers are not engaged and that 14% are actively disengaged. Scary.

With The Square Wheels Project, we offer an online training program that any supervisor can take to improve their group facilitation and team building skills and they also get a Square Wheels Toolkit of powerpoints and worksheet handouts to capture ideas and generate considered alternatives for improvement.

With the Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Toolkit, we offer a complete and easy to understand powerpoint-based training program, basically the materials supported by The Square Wheels Project but without the online training videos and other supporting modeling of delivery ideas.

The idea is to hold workplace meetings focused on identifying things that do not work smoothly for people and then identifying possibilities for improvement. I mean, what worker, where, does not have ideas to make things work more better faster? But nobody listens to them and few bosses seem to care, so those ideas simply languish. The beauty of Square Wheels is the generality of the metaphor – things thump and bump but Round Wheels are already in the wagon. Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!

So, now that we have people talking, things can progress like this, with the first image representing a compendium of workplace realities, present day:

Square Wheels Project Motivational Reality in the workplace

But then we start talking and acting on ideas:

Active workplace improvement starts things rolling

And, if we follow through and keep communicating as well as involving and engaging other people (recruitment), we can see more of some things like this:

More weeks and more celebrations of improvements in organizational development

Idealistic? NO. There are thousands of examples of this kind of impact, person to person. While there is no silver bullet since organizational cultures and issues around trust and leadership vary so widely, the reality is that Ask and Ye Shall Receive actually works quite well when one involves and engages teams of people in the improvement of their own work environment.

Lastly, we need to upskill the workers and managers on their issues of Dis-UN-empowerment and Dis-UN-Engagement, which is otherwise called Roadblock Management. People need the tools to mentally manage the issues that appear when any kind of change process is happening and having peer support for improvement is a valuable factor. We have a simple toolkit and model for Roadblock Management, too!

Roadbloc Management Square Wheels Toolkit for Managers

As I said earlier, we do not believe that all this stuff is rocket science. There is an elegant simplicity in our approach, one that negates a lot of the apparent complexity that often prevents people from moving forward. Our tools are all about rolling forward more better faster.

My understanding, based on a doctorate in behavioral neurophysiology and early consulting work with people like Ed Feeney and Tom Gilbert and Ken Junkins drove me to believe that performance feedback is the breakfast of champions and that active involvement and ownership is what drives real motivation. Using Square Wheels® to create a perceptual gap between how things are and how they could be (Round Wheels) is simple cognitive dissonance.


For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best team building exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Twitter @scottsimmerman

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

 

FREE The Supervisor – thoughts on Disruptive Positive Active Engagement

Free The Supervisor might be my new chant as I continue to research and discuss and consider the reality of most workplaces. In a simple phrase, “They Get Pressed.”

Remember – The ONLY people who actually produce any income for an organization are the workers. All of the management function as overhead costs. And who actually manages the workers?

Here is a defined, analyzed, job and task description of the job of Supervisor, from the ReferenceForBusiness.com website (abridged because it was WAY too long and detailed):

The Role of The Supervisor:

Supervisors play an important role in the business environment. Their primary job is to see that the work performed by employees is completed on time and at the highest level of quality. In order to complete this task, they must know the production process and have an understanding of human behavior. Theirs is a pressure-filled job.

It is their job to write reports, letters, memos, performance appraisals, and the gamut of documents that businesses need to operate. They must be equally comfortable in communicating with chief executive officers and assemblyline production workers. They must be able to run effective meetings. They must carefully monitor the organization’s goals, strategies, tactics, and production schedules. They must be cognizant of union rules where applicable. They must be trainers, confidants, computer experts, goal setters—in short, supervisors must be well-rounded employees who are willing to accept the responsibilities required to keep a company running.

Job duties include

Supervisor as Communicator.
Supervisor as Trainer.
Supervisor as Student.
Supervisor as Goal Setter.
Supervisor as Evaluator.
Supervisor as Human Resources Specialist.
Supervisor as Computer Expert.
Supervisor as Producer.
Supervisor as Adviser.
Supervisor as Idea Champion.
Supervisor as Environmental Watchdog.
Supervisor as International Manager.

But, as I shared in other articles and blogs, and despite corporations spending billions of dollars in survey fees and executive and management time focused on improving active involvement and motivating the workers to improve productivity and performance, the Supervisors still do not apparently get it, since results do not improve. Let’s blame them for the performance problems, right?

No! Let’s look at task interference, our measurement and expectation systems, what we give feedback about from the management team (if asked about engagement once every few months, you can expect a focus on engagement every few months…).

I keep hearing about EMPOWERMENT as a driver of engagement, yet a simple observation will show that most people in most organizations are un-empowered. So, who will do the DIS-un-empowerment and focus on the removal of perceived and actual roadblocks other than The Supervisor? (Certainly not HR!)

SO.

  • Why not try to make the Supervisors a bit less constrained and a lot more able to do what they want to do in regards to actively involving their people, building teams, solving workplace improvement issues and things like that?
  • Why not look to FREE them up from some of those duties listed above. Let’s do away with performance appraisals (by any name) and let’s reduce the clerical burden.
  • Let’s free them up from all the administrative minuscule and even give them some training. Let’s give them more skills and more confidence to use those skills through support from their managers.
  • Let’s make them more like Facilitators than Bosses (since BOSS spelled-backwards is self-explanatory).

Disruptive engagement supervisors and motivation

There is no one simple way to do this; there are lots of ways to do this but we have to make the choice to make things happen. Look, the very brave supervisors already do this now, and you know who they are. They are the ones with the exemplary results. I mean, how else can you explain those results?

Taking a quote from Conant, “Behold the Supervisor who, like the turtle, only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.

Let’s get the supervisors and their people to break the things that are already broken and get more motivated because they can fix things and make improvements,

For the FUN of It!

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

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

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

 

Disruptive Engagement, Supervisors, Empowerment and Performance Improvement

I listened to a great presentation yesterday by Mercer on managing engagement, the need to focus on key metrics but the reality of driving behavior at the very bottom of the organization, which is what engagement is. Nicely presented, with great graphics. And I look forward to getting a copy of the information, statistics and related materials.

On the other hand, it seemed to have nothing actionable. It focused on senior managers and HR and organizational statistics and surveys and never once directly mentioned the Supervisors, to my recollection, as being involved in this “involvement and empowerment and engagement stuff.”

It is totally clear that workers and supervisors and managers are basically un-involved and un-engaged in so many workplaces.  And it is management effectiveness AND the workplace environment that is behind this problem. It is NOT a “senior management leadership issue” that can be corrected with more surveys and more executive development.

To illustrate:

Gallup:

  • only ONE IN FOUR employees “strongly agree” that their supervisor provides meaningful feedback to them, that the feedback they receive helps them do better work.
  • Only 21% of employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.

DDI reported

  • 87% of first-time supervisors feel frustrated, anxious and uncertain about their new role
  • Only 11% said they were groomed for that role through some developmental training or program.

Rick Bell shared some statistics in the March issue of Workforce magazine about how badly workers are being supervised

  • 35% of US workers would forgo a raise to see their boss fired
  • 44% of employees say they have been emotionally or physically abused by a supervisor
  • 3 of 4 workers say that their boss is the worst / most stressful part of the job

Again:

It is NOT a “senior management leadership issue” that can be
corrected with more surveys and more executive development.

The issue here is basic supervision, basic leadership at the front lines. People are uninvolved and frustrated, so the solutions are about Dis-un-engagement and Dis-un-empowerment. *

The solution requires involving workers in workplace improvement for both process improvement and more self-determination and personal growth. It is about demonstrating that the supervisor is actively listening and helping to implement ideas. It is about the workers and the management team removing roadblocks that are perceived to be operating that are blocking engagement and the ability to act empowered. Simply, it is about facilitation and feedback.

*Note – I do not believe that it is possible to directly engage or empower someone else. You cannot change their internal workings, directly. What you can do is address their perceived issues and determine what they think blocks their acting in a more involved manner. Roadblock removal is kind of like coaching, only it can be done in a group or team setting. It is accomplished by ASKING FOR THEIR PERCEPTIONS ABOUT HOW THINGS WORK and what they might try to do differently. Remember that “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and that “Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled.”

The Square Wheels Project is a simple online training program focused on using the metaphor of Square Wheels® as a tool for communicating about issues and opportunities, and it is accomplished by teaching the supervisor basic facilitation skills and providing a simple and bombproof tool for leading discussions. It also supports these supervisors with peer-level communications about issues and questions and dealing with problems and politics.

The Solutions:

We do not share any silver bullets about how to fix these problems. You can see some additional thoughts around implementation in this other blog post. Every organization has its own blend of communications and cultural issues. But the removal of perceived roadblocks to implementing ideas for performance improvement is intrinsically motivation and a way to address common fears around implementing change. (See Dan Stones article about overcoming team fears here)

But, operationally, it looks something like this: Let people play with Round Wheels since they are currently operating on Square ones…

positive disruptive engagement and Square Wheels becomming round ones

So, without cost or training or doing anything but downloading two pdf files, go play with this idea. Below is the really simple explanation of how it works.

Print out the two card-based worksheets. (SWs One 2017 What Might Be Cards to Print and SWs One 2017 How Does Cards to Print)

Square Wheels card

 

 

 

 

 

Cut each of the pages above into 10 relatively similar-sized “business cards.”

1 – Give a “how does this represent how things really work” card (left) to each person in your meeting and have them discuss the image in small groups. Let them consider possibilities. Ask them to share their thoughts.

2 – After discussion, give one “what might be some of our Square Wheels” card to each person and then ask them for some of their thoughts.

3 – Process the ideas as you wish. Do not defend the status quo but consider these thoughts and ideas as possibilities. “What else?” is a good response.

If you like what you see, which might start out with some discussion about the problems of processes and leadership and teamwork and ideas in a general workplace situation and the transition into what some of the issues might be in your workplace, you will get some idea of the power of this metaphor for changing thinking, language and goal-directed performance improvement.

We have a variety of workplace improvement tools available for purchase, all framed around the idea of changing people’s perceptions and behavior, driving improved teamwork and communications, and generally working to disrupt the way things are and create a more positive workplace.

 For the FUN of It!

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

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com


Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

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

Disruptive Engagement and Radical Candor by Scott Simmerman


The Performance Management Company blog is found at www.PerformanceManagementCompanyBlog.com

The Square Wheels Project is found on Udemy, and you can access this online supervisory facilitation skills training program, complete with downloadable powerpoint slides, printed handouts and other support materials at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

Dr. Scott Simmerman holds a doctorate degree in behavioral neurophysiology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a Certified Training Professional through the IAPPD and a Certified Professional Facilitator by the International Association of Facilitators. His LinkedIn bio is extensive and found at http://www.linkedin.com/in/scottsimmerman

Thoughts on Facilitating Best Practices Discussions

The idea behind this post is to outline a process to actively involve and engage a group of senior managers in the effort to elicit, share, discuss and ideally implement some of their best business practices. We had the chance to involve 8 different companies operating under one parent organization with the goal of improving teamwork and collaboration, but to really look to generate commitment to change.

General thoughts and ideas:

  • The theme is the discussion of best practices and things that teams could implement after the session.
  • The thought is that best practices already exist, and that these people have some new ideas to discuss.
  • The reality is, seriously, that, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world” (John LeCarre) and that, “Nobody ever washes a rental car.”
  • Learning best occurs when one actively interacts in a collaborative intellectual environment and that one needs to look at things from a different perspective.

Framework:

My basic belief is that few things work smoothly and that there are always better ideas within the organization. People are working hard, often too hard, and seldom choose to step back and look for ideas for improvement. Fear is also an issue, in that people do not want to look stupid or be wrong. My colleague, Dan Stones, framed it up with this image and a solid blog post about overcoming the fears that are paralyzing teams (blog post is here).

Fear negatively impacts people, teamwork, and performance

One of Dan’s key points is that communications is critical to involving and engaging people for improved teamwork and the impacts on performance and things like innovation. And another is the fear is the mindkiller, that fear is what limits people from being involved and engaged and actively participating and thinking about improvements in their workplaces.

Square Wheels:

I’ve been playing with a metaphor about how organizations really work since 1993, using this in a wide variety of developmental situations globally. The idea is framed up visually and allowing people time to consider possibilities is very useful in changing thinking patterns, generating some behavioral flexibility and making it a reality that no one has all the answers, that the collective body of knowledge about how things work is what is important.

So, let me propose that people at a meeting like this take 20 to 30 minutes at the start of the brainstorming and best practice discussion session to look at an image and then do most of the following:

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

  • Think. How might this image reflect on how things really work in most organizations?
  • Allow thinking time for personal consideration of issues and perspectives.
  • Change the language of continuous continuous improvement and best practices.
  • Put the leadership and support people in a proper place for perspective – not doing things but stand there, observing.
  • Share a metaphor and a simple language they can use with their people (and do a bit of train the trainer for their facilitation).
  • Produce and use a language of innovation and organizational improvement.
  • Model and teach an approach to facilitating discussions, and
  • Set the stage for a great deal of interactive discussion about possibilities and thoughts on what represent current best practices or possibilities.

The Tool and The Process — The process is deceptively powerful but is also straightforward and simple to execute:

   How might this represent how organizations really work?

Allow people to think for a minute without discussion and then have a discussion at the tabletops set for 5 or 6 people. To save time, instead of allowing each tabletop to share their key thoughts and ideas, you can give each table this image in the center of a sheet of easel pad paper and allow them 5 to 8 minutes to capture their ideas and post on the wall in one area of the room.

Someone from each table or the facilitator would then briefly summarize some key learning points and some main ideas, understanding that tables probably generated a lot more varied and different ideas, simply because each table and each person sees things differently.

Key points of the basic image –

  • Wagon works to hold cargo
  • Leader pulling efficiently
  • Workers pushing efficiently
  • Wagon rolling on Square Wheels, which work but not smoothly
  • Round Wheels already in wagon
  • Little communications, little perspective and everyone too busy to stop and LOOK at things

The next steps then become organizational, whereby the tabletops are asked to generate a list of some thing they consider Square Wheels, things that work but that do not work smoothly. A key here is for the understanding that, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world” and that they are typically VERY far from the hands-on experiences of the workforce; the reality is that they have a tops-view but not much actual knowledge of what can be addressed or done differently.

The goal is for each tabletop to generate THREE or four SPECIFICALLY DESCRIBED Square Wheels in a language that would leave no question as to what they were referring to if looked at by someone not at the conference 6 months later.

ALL those sheets get posted, all over the room (and away from the first sheets) and then we do voting.

  • Every person is given four green-colored stick-on-dots and asked to vote by posting on what would have the BIGGEST IMPACT on profitability if addressed.
  • Every person is given four red-colored stick on dots and asked to vote on what they think is the MOST IMPORTANT issue for the company over the next 2 years.

(The Rule is that they cannot vote on their own work)

Then, people are given a break time that is focused on “forced browsing” and looking at issues and opportunities and with a goal of finding something that they wanted to spend some time working on. They casually can individually review the thoughts or discuss ideas with others, un-managed and un-constrained. This can generate insight as well as continuing to enhance the ownership.

Then, when the group reconvenes, people are asked to self-organize into workable teams of no more than 5 to 6 people to play with ideas around the issues and opportunities they chose to work on. More than one group can work on the same problem. You can use SWOTS or other kinds of 4-frame worksheets or any other mode to capture ideas.

Each problem selected could be given a very specific hashtag (#sws-521-bxk for example, on the top of the final recommendation worksheet product) and people could be asked to post additional ideas as certain work is discussed on issues not their own or whatever. Thus, ideas could be shared through Twitter for later followup. (Note that there are lots of ways to do the back-end collection of information and to generate some collaborative team followup.)

But the idea is to teach them how to do an interactive facilitation of workplace ideas for improvement. The Big Idea here is to have them understand the process and for that leadership team to do a similar conference with their own people and organizations, with a broad mix of wagon pushers and pullers involved and focused on ideas for improvement.

Senior management facilitating ideas is a powerful additional way of Managing by Wandering Around, especially when they are facilitating and not forcing their ideas on the organization.

Basic Philosophy of all this:

A Desk IS a dangerous place for ideas to be generated, since front-end wagon pullers tend to be very removed from the hands-on operational reality of how best practices really work at the hands-on worker level. It is the exemplary employee who is using those best practices and who knows specifically how to optimize results and get things done at an operational level. We need more sharing at that level to make improvements in performance and to generate innovation.

  • IF there IS a good idea coming down from the top, we often miss the opportunity to involve and engage the people in workplace improvement to support it AND that idea is generally resisted.
  • In some workplace cultures, every idea from management will meet active resistance and sometimes even sabotage from the employees.

But, if that idea is from the employees, it is often pretty easy to support their ownership and give them what they need to manage roadblocks to implementation.

By involving people and gaining their perspective and ideas, we can go #morebetterfaster and increase motivation and engagement and drive down fear of contributing.

#morebetterfaster performance improvement poster by Scott Simmerman

Let me end with my favorite quotes:

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, Ph. D., CPF, CPT – “The Square Wheels Guy”
Performance Management Company – 864-292-8700
3 Old Oak Drive    Taylors, SC 29687
Scott@SquareWheels.com

– Tools for Training and Development
<www.performancemanagementcompany.com>

Dr. Simmerman is a Certified Professional Facilitator (IAF) and a Certified Professional Trainer (IAPPD)


Performance Management Company (PMC) has no affiliation with the LEGO® Group nor does it use materials or methodology from LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® or other related organizations. None of our images knowingly reflect any copyrighted or trademarked materials of any other organization. The LEGO Group does not sponsor, authorize or endorse any of these materials. 

 

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark and The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine™ is a trademark  of Performance Management Company and all materials produced by PMC remain the intellectual property of PMC.


Additional information about improving facilitation skills and about using the Square Wheels image tools can be found at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

Dan Stones is the operational partner on The Square Wheels Project, a Udemy-supported course on facilitation skills and my general theme of Disruptive Engagement. (https://performancemanagementcompanyblog.com/2017/05/11/corporate-engagement-hasnt-worked-why-not-try-disruptive-engagement/ )

The url for Dan Stones’ blog post on “How to Overcome the Two Fears Paralysing Your Team” is https://medium.com/@dan_stones/how-to-conquer-the-two-fears-currently-paralysing-your-team-6becf1c13a13

 

Corporate Engagement Hasn’t Worked – Why not try Disruptive Engagement?

What is your reaction to these statements?

  • “I’m from Human Resources and I am here to help you.”
  • “I’m from Management and I am here to help you.”
  • “I’m from Training and I am here to help you.”

Most of us workers can probably name names and share lots of personal experiences about having received that kind of “support” in our workplaces, where all that help was not able to change much of anything. Outsiders cannot help insiders very much because of organizational dynamics, regardless of good intentions.

Tons of statistics show that engagement still stinks, workers feel un-respected and un-involved and motivation basically sucks in so many workplaces. We’ve spent 50 years trying to drive this stuff tops-down with little to show for it other than the costs of our good intentions. (And, sure, there are exceptions, but I am speaking to the generalities and commonalities so often observed and expensed.)

People are un-engaged, often actively so. What does it take to do some DIS-un-engagement? Not much, I think. Data says that people want to improve things. The manager should be the motivator, right?

We do lots of surveys with the intentions of making improvements – those initiatives are generally always positive. HR wants to have positive impacts, managers want to improve results and Training and Development really does want to improve skills., dynamics of leadership, and impact collaboration. But it is simply the case that few things driven from the top will make much of a difference at the bottom. Why?

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

It’s just basic human nature. Few people take good care of things that they do not own, and that same ownership applies to how they approach their jobs. Sure, if that rental car is completely trashed, they might clean it up a little so they are not embarrassed, but that does not translate to any kind of exceptional care. They would do things differently if they felt ownership. If people do not feel a sense of participative involvement, it should even surprise you that they do anything more than the minimum.

So, what DO you do? Maybe it is to look for ways to do things from the bottoms-up. Maybe that supervisor can change the nature of how they actively involve people in their workplaces, asking for ideas for improvement or for better ways to collaborate or share information or resources. They become facilitators, they involve and actively engage and support innovation and chaos.

People unmotivated for work

INvolving and engaging people for workplace improvement

Asking for ideas for workplace innovation and improvement

Implementation is chaos

There exists no proven process or designed formula for how to accomplish this; there are too many variables. But the simple, basic idea is that each supervisor take the responsibility for asking their people for workplace improvement ideas and facilitating discussions of possibilities. This generates ownership involvement and active participation. From those ideas, you then determine an approach or approaches to implement them, with the supervisor managing the resources of time and money and roadblocks and interdepartmental collaboration to allow the natural teams to generate some successes.

How to move forward? Do some facilitation skills training and discover and clarify how the best-implemented programs of improvement were accomplished within your organization in the past, since those best practices are more likely to align with the culture and feel more comfortable to people. (It is also useful to look at the failures and find the features of those initiatives that made it unsuccessful.) Learn from your organization and repeat the successes / avoid the failures.

implementation of disruptive engagement

I’ve been playing in organizational performance and people performance since 1978 with a degree in behavioral neuropsychology and I remain frustrated with how little progress has been made. We HAVE all the tools, but we do not seem able to get them into the hands of the people who need them most. Managers only manage, while supervisors supervise the actual work. It is the supervisors who need to understand the corporate goals and then have the ability to align the behavior of their workers to those goals and objectives.

Why is all this so hard? Why can’t we just ask for ideas and involve people in the improvements that they already want to make?

The Square Wheels Project is our newest attempt to put practical and effective tools into the hands of the supervisor so that they can involve and engage their people in the improvements that are possible. We have an online course in facilitation that includes powerpoints and handouts as well as a focus on teaching the skills.

Take a look at the opening page of the 30-minute course and see if something like this might work for you or someone you know. Consider trying the course as a pair of people to support each others’ learning and understanding and initial trials at generating impacts and conversations.

Contact me if you want a discount! Help me leave a legacy…

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

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

 

 

 

 

What is it with “Engagement?” Why can’t we drive it forward More Better Faster?

I was shocked and amazed to see, after we have spent billions of dollars on surveys and assessments and trainings of various kinds, that workplace engagement continues to be an issue and that only about a third of people seem to care about their workplaces.

It is amazing because there are thousands of books on leadership, amazing quantities of published works on organizational alignment and missions/visions, as well as how-to books like Good to Great and even way back to Managing Excellence-themed works — they all seem to show that the issue of generating shared expectations and teamwork looks pretty straightforward. Just DO It, right?!

But works such as Lenconi’s “The Trouble with Teams” shows that there are issues. Heck, an old article I read documented the ideas around Theory F, that FEAR was a good tool for managers to use to manage performance. (I mean, yeah it happens but to do it as a conscious strategy around workplace fear seems to be a reach!).

Gallup just published a report that showed that only 35% of male managers in the US are engaged in their jobs. Repeating: only 1/3 of males who are managing and leading other people are themselves engaged. (It is better for women – 41%, and it also shows that the teams working under women are also more engaged).

I remember an old one-liner, said to be Utah Jazz coach Frank Layton, talking with a talented but under-performing player: “Son, what is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?” to which the player supposedly responded, “Coach, I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Now whether or not the story is accurate, it does reach out to the issue that lots and lots of managers, supervisors and workers don’t seem to know or to care. So what can we do differently? Well, the answer to the engagement issue sure seems to be the involvement narrative. People that are told what to do simply push back; I know it and you know it because we all do it pretty naturally, almost biologically.

This is also supported by the idea that nobody ever washes a rental car. Talk to an owner of a rental car franchise to get some amazing war stories of what went out and what returned. Talk to someone who owns rental property. We simply cannot simply expect people who have no ownership to take the same responsibility as the ones who hold some proprietary interest in it.

There is a general lack of respect, and we have seen the number of people quitting their jobs to exceed the number who were terminated in the past. There are all sorts of issues around how people are treated, informed and involved:

  • Statistics find that 86% of engaged employees say they very often feel happy at work (against 11% of the disengaged). And, 45% of the engaged say they get a great deal of their life happiness from work (against 8% of the disengaged). (Gallup)
  • 46% of new hires leave their jobs within the first year, generally because of their managers and how they are treated
  • 63% of those who do not feel treated with respect intend to leave within 2 years (it is hard to capture data on those who actually do, but one can guess that they contribute at the “minimal expectations” level
  • Only 29% of UK employees believed their senior managers were sincerely interested in their well‐being; only 31% thought their senior managers communicated openly and honestly; only 3% thought their managers treated them as key parts of the organization and no fewer than 60% felt their senior managers treated them as just another organizational asset to be managed. (Towers Watson)

A Solution seems to be pretty simple:

Supervisors should be asking and listening. They should be asking their people for ideas about what needs to be improved to make their workplace more efficient and effective and those ideas should be considered for implementation. A solid approach to facilitation helps clarify the issues and opportunities, identify best practices and good ideas, and would help drive ownership involvement, teamwork and alignment to shared goals and expectations.

Is this a Perfect Solution? Probably not, because there is a lot of stuff cascading down from above that impacts motivation and morale and how things are prioritized. But does it make sense at the local level, where the supervisor interacts with the worker? Most certainly. This is the leverage point, but the supervisors generally do not have the skills to manage this and HR and T&T are generally too lean to offer much help.

The Square Wheels Project facilitation training for supervisors

What we are doing with The Square Wheels Project is teaching some simple, straightforward facilitation skills using an image that allows people to share their thoughts and ideas. We are sharing ideas about how to make these meetings highly interactive and effective, and suggesting how to structure the collection of ideas and the development of implementation strategies. And we are setting up a peer-coaching and peer-support approach to help supervisors actually move forward and do some things differently.

And we are keeping things very simple and straightforward: Show the image, ask tabletops for reactions and thoughts, identify some operating Square Wheels, select some to work on and generate some Round Wheels solutions. Implement.

We are focused on engagement, but we are also driving innovation, intrinsic motivation, teamwork and a lot of other positive team building and team bonding kinds of things. We will also support learners with ideas on managing roadblocks through a similarly engaging process.

Engagement Cannot Be Rocket Science. Involving people in workplace improvement ideas simply cannot be as hard as the big consulting firms, looking for the big consulting contracts, would make it appear. Ask, and Ye Shall Receive!

If you want to see more, go to www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com to view a short introductory video.

And if you would like to collaborate with us in some way, connect directly with me,

For the FUN of It!

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

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Presenteeism – They are IN but they are OUT

I was reading some news feeds and came across the word, “Presenteeism” in an HR thread. The term was new to me, but since I was gathering some notes around the theme of involvement and engagement, it resonated. The common use is seemingly around working while sick and is seen as the opposite and related problem to absenteeism.

I think the term is much bigger than that and that presenteeism is much more prevalent than commonly thought. I want to expand and relate the term to issues of people and performance in general.

Repeatedly, we see that only about 1/3 of workers are engaged with work. Others are not engaged and some are even anti-engaged to the point where they are actively working against the organization. You can see a bit more on this if you read my blog about sabotage or if you google “workplace sabotage” or even search on issues around part-time employment problems. Those anti-organization workers are few in number and often known, since they tend to actively act and speak against the company and its management (but not always).

Individuals suffering from Presenteeism are a more common issue. I remember back in my college fraternity years that when we wanted to take a break during an active beer drinking game, we would announce, “I’m in, but I’m out,” effectively saying that we were still playing but that we were going to take a break for a bit.

The concept is actually getting a good bit of study from the academics. Wikipedia offers:

Scholars have provided various other descriptions of the concept. For instance, Simpson claimed that presenteeism is “the tendency to stay at work beyond the time needed for effective performance on the job.” Aronsson, Gustafsson, and Dallner wrote that it means attending work even when one feels unhealthy. In a recent review of the literature, Johns highlighted the lack of agreement between the many definitions. The author claimed that many of the definitions lack utility and that the term is most often defined as going to work while ill. He further noted that definitions of presenteeism, which are centered on attending work while sick, have received more evidence of construct validity. In other words, when defined as coming to work while sick, presenteeism seems to relate more to logical outcome variables and correlates.

I am going to expand the concept to refer to the employees who are, IN but OUT when it comes to their everyday active involvement in their workplace, to the large percentage of people who are not at either end of the engagement curve, the ones that are not actively engaged or dis-engaged. These people in the middle are the people that organizations should be focused on, the ones who can contribute a bit more to the results than they currently choose to do. They have the skills to perform, just not the motivation or peer support.

SO, how does one reduce Presenteeism in their organization? There is a LOT of research that says that the concept is pretty simple and straightforward and I will summarize it in four simple rules:

  1. Ask them for their ideas
  2. Ask them for their ideas
  3. Ask them for their ideas
  4. Ask them for their ideas

Visually and operationally, presenteeism reduction can look something like this:

Presenteeism Prevention with Square Wheels LEGO

Stop the everyday pushing and pulling of the wagon and let people sit down and play with ideas for a bit of time. They will often discover or share new ways of doing things that might make an impact on processes but will surely make an impact on engagement.

My simple rule of thumb is that the activity of management asking their people for ideas about improving their workplace, and then dealing honestly and openly with suggestions is the most straightforward way to deal with presenteeism. (This is not about doing some survey where everything in anonymous and results get buried but the active, face-to-face interface of supervisors and workers or managers and supervisors.)

If you feel that the boss cares for you, you are much more likely
to care for your work and the work of others.

If you would like to see a short video about how this can actually be accomplished, click on the 13-second video offered below. We are trying to keep this simple and easy in regards of how it can help motivate and engage people:

Your efforts to dis-un-engage people can be very straightforward – you can act to get them more involved and you can help them remove perceived roadblocks.

‘For a more detailed, operational overview of these ideas, take a look at this more elaborate, explanatory video below. Note that you can do that by exposing YOUR workplace wagon and asking people for ideas about what things might work better and what ideas and resources might already exist. Again, the research on this suggests that 2/3 of the people in workplaces feel their boss is not interested in their thinking, a prime causal factor of Presenteeism:

You can find our simple toolkit for decreasing workplace Performance Presenteeism by clicking on the image below:

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

My goal is to provide simple but effective tools for impacting people and performance, and I am not sure how I can be any more simple and straightforward. It is up to YOU to be more effective,

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 scott@squarewheels.com

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

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

 

 

 

Facilitation and Motivation – Ideas for workplace improvement

“Fear is the Mindkiller,” was repeated incessantly in the Dune books of Frank Herbert. Fear is numbing and generally not useful. Overall, the “Fear of public speaking,” remains America’s biggest phobia – 25% say they fear speaking in front of a group.

Clowns are feared (8% feared) and are officially scarier than ghosts (7%), but zombies are scarier than both (9%). Funny, eh? And research says that Democrats are nearly twice as likely as Republicans to have a fear of clowns, which might explain some of the interesting political events we find today. (Chapman University survey)

Watching workers working for nearly 50 years and trying to get a grip on the issues of engagement and motivation lead me to this conclusion:

Fear, the mindkiller

is a real fear in workplaces and for many managers — probably impacts people and performance more than most senior managers (who have to be accomplished presenters) more than one thinks. A lack of general confidence with facilitation skills can decrease leadership effectiveness, absolutely.

What we often do is promote that good worker into a Supervisor, because of their technical knowledge and their tendency to get things done. But are these new leader / managers actually good at involving and engaging their people for continued workplace improvement? Or are they just trying to keep things moving forward and more pressured to do things themselves? Do we actually give them training and development support to impact their leadership behavior?

Let’s also add in some additional leadership fears such as fear of loss of control and fear of not having the best ideas and all that other “am I worthy of this” personal competency thoughts and we can readily generate a list of reasons why so many managers simply find it hard to:

Ask for Ideas

for ideas.

It really is understandable. There are a lot of common fears about leading and involving and engaging and asking might indicate that you do not know…

At the same time, it is my consistent discovery that so many workplaces tend to look something like this:

Square Wheels Facilitation

The people are working hard, pushing and pulling their wagons, but it is the same thing, day after day and week after week. No wonder that Sirota Research found that 85% of new hires say that their morale declined significantly after spending 6 months in their job and that employee engagement remains so poor (Gallup, Mercer, and others).

We are apparently not doing a lot of asking
and probably doing a lot more telling!

My guess is that the reality of how organizations are working is not so much like that shown in the above illustration but seemingly more like what we share in the one below:

Square Wheels for improving facilitation

So, what is really so hard about facilitating a group discussion? Not a whole lot, actually, speaking as someone who was a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) by the International Association of Facilitators and who has been leading organizational improvement workshops teaching simple facilitation ideas since 1978.

Really, it is really simple, really. Seriously, it is really really simple:

  • Share an illustration with them that has printed on it, “How might this illustration represent how organizations really work?” And let them think about it and then discuss it in small groups.
  • Ask them to share their ideas and let them think, share and work.
  • Ask them to share how some of those same ideas might represent how things work in their work initiatives.
  • Ask them what we might try to do differently and if anyone is already doing something differently than everyone else.
  • Ask them if they could try to implement a change in how they do things or to recommend something that you might change to make things work better.

That, in a nutshell, is motivational engagement facilitation.

You can read lots more about facilitation, engagement and intrinsic motivation in my blog posts, since I often talk about these issues and opportunities as being straightforward. You can also read about Russian Poets and nutshells and Hamlet, if you want, since all this stuff does connect to motivating people and improving how things work. And, you can find a simple, free guide to facilitation by clicking below:

Elegant SolutionsFacilitating Engagement – an overview

The simple reality is that the Round Wheels already exist in wagons everywhere, but our people are seemingly too busy to stop and step back and identify issues and opportunities that are really visible and often relatively easy to fix. You can make that happen!

So here is some really simple advice for supervisors and facilitators:

Things I can do to improveSauare Wheels poster on Motivation

For the FUN of It!

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

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

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

Better Roadblock Management – Dis-Un-Empowerment and Square Wheels

My regular readers know that I use images and metaphors to express a lot of my thinking. My basic metaphor for how things work looks like this:

Square Wheels One LEGO Main Image in LEGO by Scott Simmerman

Square Wheels are the way things really work, and the Round Wheels are already in the wagon. Don’t just DO something, Stand there!

For 20+ years, I have been playing with issues of empowerment and engagement and team building, using cartoons and games to drive out desired behavior and produce better communications and alignment to goals and missions. I take the low road on all this, working hard to keep things really simple because I find that things ARE really simple.

In moving from my line-art representations to using these LEGO block images and themes, I am working to upgrade some of the simple toolkits we sell and support. Right now, we have the Square Wheels Icebreaker Toolkit (the very simple communications tool) packaged and on the website.

And I am working on the materials for the Roadblocks Management Toolkit, which will be a large expansion of the existing one that has worked so well to dis-un-empower people and workplace improvement ideas. I thought to put a “work-in-progress” update here as a blog post, with the offer that if you purchase the OLD toolkit, I will update you with the new one, at the OLD PRICE!

The model is rebuilt, using LEGO pieces to represent the roadblocks, with images in powerpoint to generate discussions along with worksheets for use in processing the ideas. The OLD one works fine, and the new one will work better. Save a few bucks and get the NEW one at the old price if you act now.

Square Wheels LEGO POSTER Roadblocked

There is more to come, and a slideshare program and maybe a short video describing how things can change and how managers can more effectively involve their people in workplace improvement ideas, along with team building and coaching frameworks,

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 scott@squarewheels.com

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

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

 

Implementing Improvement – Ideas on Brainstorming

“Nobody ever washes a rental car!”

That is my anchor point for doing anything that involves organizational change and improvement. If one is to expect anything to happen, we must insure that there is buy-in and participation and engagement. But how do we actually generate a sense of ownership? Surely, it will not come when we tell people what to do — that only generates resistance (or compliance). It does not involve and engage them in any meaningful way even if they understand the reasons why those changes are being made.

One often hears that we need to “empower” the participants to actually go out and do something. Well, I strongly disagree with that possibly happening – how does one ever empower anyone to actually DO anything if they simply do not want to do it? Coercive measures are not an acceptable alternative in most situations.

(Note: We can generate behavior change by altering the mechanism by which people get feedback on their performance. That is a much better option than working with any kind of extrinsic reward system. Read more about that here and here.)

At the same time, many factors lead me to believe that there are a variety of opportunities for workplace improvement among individuals and among small groups, simply for the asking. There is a strong general motivation to make improvements if people feel the gap between what happens now and what could or should be happening. Cognitive Dissonance is but one framework that supports this framework of generating intrinsic motivation for improvement.

(You can also see a great animation of the concept of DRIVE, as framed by Dan Pink – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc )

But in the workplace in general, and especially in today’s risk-averse and “job enhanced” environments, the real key to rolling forward is not something like feedback or empowerment; I think Dis-Un-Empowerment is what needs to be addressed. We can involve and engage people and help them to identify issues and deal with the implementation of processes that help them manage roadblocks.

Generally, all of us make choices all through each day as to what we will do or not do. We will often choose NOT to do something because we perceive difficulties or perceived roadblocks (example: “He won’t support that idea because he did not support the last idea I had…”).

Most people can think of LOTS of things that would get in the way of implementing some idea or ideas for improvement (“It might be against policy.” “There probably won’t be any support / resources for that.”)

One key role of training (and management and coaching) is to act to REMOVE the perceived or potential roadblocks that are un-empowering to people acting individually or in groups. That can be accomplished by getting pre-ordained support from managers not in the workshop, having managers come into the training session to hear the ideas and manage the roadblocks (and have THEIR roadblocks managed – we know from lots of contacts that many managers and supervisors are more roadblocked than their people!) and for the trainer to have a very good background understanding of what can be done and how it can be accomplished.

One of the things we miss today are trainers with the extensive background in how to implement and then measure the effectiveness of the training in workplace improvement initiatives. There are many factors operating there including pressures of time and cost, which is one of the reasons that outside consultants can often get things accomplished when inside support people  cannot — they also have the power of money and top management support behind them. But that is just a limitation and not a roadblock for the internal consultants.

Knowing how the most successful PAST improvements were  implemented will give good insight into how the next FUTURE improvement might be implemented. There are cultural keys that offer perspective on these kinds of things.

So, how do we get the best results from brainstorming ideas?

Creating a gap between how things are now (Square Wheels thumping and bumping along) and how things could be operating (Round Wheels already exist) is a motivational force. And defining an implementation strategy for making small and continuous changes and improvements clarifies responsibilities often making change and improvement very doable.


But the real key is generating a feeling of ownership involvement. Too many people “rent” their time to an organization and go through the motions of maintaining their employment, rather than buying in to improve workplace improvement. The statistics on engagement and on “ready to leave for a new job elsewhere” are pretty discouraging when viewed from a position of leadership…

Yet most people do want to make a positive impact on the work they do and the workplace around them. They WANT things to be better, if we will let them do so. But they feel little ownership. According to a November 2011 analysis of its database of 5,700 employers representing 5 million employees, human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure.
(I address this in a more recent article on Presenteeism.)

Un-Engagement should concern all of us interested in productivity, people and performance.

You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement by searching the blog. Another article is here. And here is an article on ownership.

What we CAN do is a better job of asking for ideas and generating possibilities for improvement from employees’ ideas. If they feel that they have a part in the issues and involvement in designing solutions, their involvement level will increase. Here are some suggestions and alternatives to simply doing what we do and generating the same results:

1 – Discuss the roadblocks that they feel are getting in the way of improving their performance. (You can find a number of articles of mine around different approaches here.)

2 – Ask them how to improve profitability. It is common that many people do not really consider costs and impacts on a daily basis and asking them to look at these issues might generate some good discussions about the purpose of their efforts in the overall organization.

3 – Discuss the impacts of other organizations on their ability to get things done. While this often tends toward the negative issues, there will also be some positive ones if you probe for them. Best practices of certain individuals in other departments will be seen and can be reinforced. Focusing on what is positive can help you build a better working relationship with other managers, for example, while you also look to address improvement issues.

4 – Get them to “Step Back” and look at their operations as if they were brand new employees and have them comment about what is not clear and what best practices might exist. Or, you can set this up as an accomplishment and chain backwards for things that were improved: “It is 2020 and our department was judged Best in the Business! What did we do that got us that recognition?” This approach tends to minimize roadblocks in their perceptions, since results were fait accompli.

Understand that it is impossible for a manager to have all the answers or to know all the issues. The workplace is really complicated and all sorts of things change on a regular basis. Plus, some people will construct better ways of doing things — Best Practices — that can be identified and shared throughout your workplace. Improvements can be generated by peer support for change.

And think about this:

Dr. Seuss Square Wheels Lego poem image by Scott Simmerman

If you are looking for simple and effective tools to generate involvement and engagement, click on the icon below:

See our new Square Wheels Icebreaker CLICK NOW icon

For the FUN of It!

Scott DebriefDr. 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: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

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

Challenging Mediocrity – Continuous Continuous Improvement

Dan Rockwell shared another good post, this one on pursuing excellence and dealing with mediocrity. Ever since Tom Peter’s and Bob Waterman published In Search of Excellence (1982), I have found that concept to be a really solid and inspiring one to use. And one does not often hear the word “excellence” used much these days when talking about leadership or organizational improvement. Those thoughts of Peter’s have been strong influencers of my work for the past 30 years, the things like MBWA and sticking to the knitting.

Dan’s summary bullets included these:

  1. Ask teams, who believe in the mission, where they can be better. Don’t point out their failures. Let them point out their aspirations.
  2. Every time you feel like pointing out a problem, ask, “How can we make that better?”
  3. Never allow conversations about issues or problems to end without finding some corrective action. At the least, set a “make it better” meeting.
  4. Ask, “What can we do about that,” when someone points out a problem or shortfall.
  5. Reject the need for big solutions. The need for big solutions is the reason teams end up doing nothing, except complaining.
  6. When someone says, “That won’t work,” ask, “What might help?”
  7. Focus more on where you’re going than where you’ve been. Apply Pareto’s 80/20 principle.
  8. Think of the pursuit of excellence in terms of people, then systems. How can you maximize talent and passion?

(You can find Dan’s whole list here)

While the Excellence book did get panned because of some of the companies they selected, the principles that Peters and Waterman expressed seemed really solid ones and I think if more companies did these kinds of things, we would probably see higher levels of employee engagement and innovation today. Those eight key points, taken from the Wikipedia article, are:

  1. A bias for action, active decision making – ‘getting on with it’. Facilitate quick decision making & problem solving tends to avoid bureaucratic control
  2. Close to the customer – learning from the people served by the business.
  3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship – fostering innovation and nurturing ‘champions’.
  4. Productivity through people- treating rank and file employees as a source of quality.
  5. Hands-on, value-driven – management philosophy that guides everyday practice – management showing its commitment.
  6. Stick to the knitting – stay with the business that you know.
  7. Simple form, lean staff – some of the best companies have minimal HQ staff.
  8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties – autonomy in shop-floor activities plus centralized values.

Most of these are people / philosophy issues, as I see them. And people ARE about performance!

My personal approach for the past 20+ years is to view people and performance issues within the realm of my Square Wheels frameworks, which I think meld really nicely with Dan’s thinking. Languaging around Square Wheels for issues and Round Wheels for possibilities takes a lot of the negative out of improvement discussions, since we can all accept that the Square Wheels are everywhere and the Round Wheels already exist.

So here is a little ditty on Mediocrity that I spun up for this blog.

Square Wheels images like these are the designs of Dr. Scott Simmerman

Don’t let all those Round Wheels seem like roadblocks to your performance improvement or your journey forward. There are ideas for performance improvement everywhere and managing improving excellence is a simple process of working with people with a degree of alignment and collaboration.

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 scott@squarewheels.com

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

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

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123″ a>

Some New Thoughts on Trust and Devils Advocate

My plans are to develop a solid whitepaper on the benefits of challenging existing assumptions and challenging status quo, with the goal of finding solid ideas that merit implementation or to identify issues in generating innovation and process improvement. There is a LOT of data and a LOT of success stories around all this that I want to elaborate on and share.

So, the note-taking and quote-taking continue and I am waiting for the brain to say, “You got it, now go!” So far, no such auditory trigger has been pulled. So I muddle with the meddling. And I wanted to get something up on this useful topic.

What I AM doing is continuing the framing of the issue. I must keep the framework and tools really simple, because lots of data also suggest that supervisors and managers are way overloaded and functionally unable to add much new to their plate of responsibilities.

My thought is that facilitating this process with the Square Wheels tools makes really good sense, since the approach really does not require any significant facilitation skills training or other costly roadblocks. If the manager wants to do things, they can simply choose to do them.

My oft used quotes are that:

  • Trust is the residue of Promises Fulfilled. (Frank Navran)
  • The Round Wheels are already in your wagon. (Scott Simmerman)
  • A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. (John LeCarre)
  • Nobody ever washes a rental car. (Scott Simmerman)

ALL of these lend themselves to the reality that the supervisor has to be the one to involve and engage their people in workplace improvement ideas in order to generate intrinsic motivation and process improvement, and the ideas already exist and people can develop a sense of ownership that will support their implementation.

So, I developed two simple Posters using my LEGO cartoons to help frame the issue. The issue is a simple one: Most workplaces have unengaged people simply doing the work of pushing their wagon and it needs to be acceptable for them to question the reality with management on occasion. This can generate new ideas as well as improve teamwork and intrinsic motivation for working.

LEGO POSTER Devil's Advocate simply

But one HAS to stop pushing and pulling in order to have the mental time to even consider options.

LEGO SWs One POSTER Devil's Advocate Challenge

The TRUST aspect of this comes from behavior. If you can make promises and commitments about implementing the ideas of the workers, if you can form empowered teams and allow them to operate in a way to make those improvements, you build the trust between you one wheel at a time. Approaching the workplace like this allows you that opportunity to act congruently, set clearer expectations about desired results and outcomes, and to give recognition for steps of improvement.

(Click here to see a supporting article on Trial and Error Thinking)

Trial and Error Blame Frame color red

What we do with our Square Wheels toolkits is offer up a simple-to-use and very inexpensive toolkit for involving people and generating their thoughts around the Square Wheels (what is not working smoothly) and their Round Wheel ideas for possibilities for improvement.

Good ideas spin up easily from this approach and the materials themselves lend themselves to engagement and involvement, since the approach is to simply use the cartoons to ask for ideas.

Tools for Involving and Engaging PeopleIf you want to improve engagement of people and improve performance, you cannot wait for HR to offer up some solutions. Get a grip on things by letting go of the rope.

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!

I will guarantee that these tools work for engagement and innovation and that they are simple to use. They come complete with all sorts of backup materials and there are dozens of blog posts within the PMC Blog that offer ideas for facilitation and framing,

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 scott@squarewheels.com

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

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

 

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