Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: Articles on Teamwork (Page 2 of 13)

Leadership, Teamwork and Making Progress

My approach to motivation and engagement is based on this image of how things really work in most organizations:

sws-one-main-final-tiny-133

Nothing fancy or earth-shattering, just people working to move their wagon forward, with a few possibilities for improvement…

We have:

  • isolated Leadership
  • uninformed or un-aligned workers
  • inefficient processes that do not work smoothly
  • poor or difficult communications, and
  • round wheels that already exist in the wagon that could be implemented to make things work more better faster.

We have been playing with this theme and different illustrations about how things really work as a way of involving and engaging managers and workers in the process of continuous continuous improvement, that the process of stepping back from the wagon serves many purposes. People have ideas and implementing those ideas improves how things work along with engagement. Leadership does get isolated from the hands-on reality and communications is an important factor in every workplace.

My friend in India, Shantanu, emailed me this picture, with no context and no explanation, heck not even a source. And looking at it for a couple of minutes gave me all sorts of ideas and inspirations and questions and comments.

Working Hard from Within the WagonWhat do YOU think is happening here?

This WILL take a minute or two to register and for some different alternatives to come to mind. Who is that guy in the bed of the truck and what is he actually accomplishing? Bunches of possibilities, but my thought is that this kind of thing happens very often in nearly every workplace!

poster-reality-round-already-in

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

 

 

 

Bad Team Building Ideas for Trust and Performance Improvement

In the midst of redoing a game design that requires additional components for discussing workplace trust and issues of performance improvement, I spent last night looking at a variety of dynamics around generating and maintaining trust between individuals, trust among team members, trust between team members and ideas for accelerating the quality of trust and collaboration. I did get some new ideas and there was some creativity going on as I did it. At the same time, there is not a lot of stuff out there that is very helpful for game design.

Some are simply good discussions, like Kevin Eikenberry’s video you can see here:

kevin

I like Kevin’s work and thought his ideas were good but nothing really grabbed me for the design work.

SO, I went into Google and searched for trust exercise to see if there were any more ideas, frameworks or insights I might spin into the new simulation and Google popped me into a page of images. And all my good research intentions spun quickly downhill into these writings. I will admit that this was a fun one to put together, with a bunch of giggles! Yet, I also hope that this post will be illustrative of what I see are some real issues around doing team building activities with real people in real workplaces.

The first image that jumped out at me from Google’s images was this one:

trust 1

The image was attributed to Riana Green / flickr.com and the link was to Psychology Today and an article on Floating, Trust and Religion. I am not really understanding any of this but you can find the blog if you click on the image. Should the link to team building and trust escape you, let me simply note that it escaped me, also. But it DID get me looking at more images as my curiosity was piqued.

The wag in me said to myself, yep, a lot of the results of team building exercises
in corporate situations DO in fact look like the image above,
but then I quickly struck that thought from my mind. (grin)

Okay, the next picture that leaped out was this one:

trust 2

The image was from ashleylatruly.tumblr.com but the link no longer worked. Yeah, I am guessing that the activity underlying the above image did have some components of trust built-in although I am not sure what they were nor would I suggest doing this in any kind of corporate context with a mannequin much less an actual person. But who am I to judge, right?

Yeah, this next one is certainly around trust. It is also one that I would suggest not be done casually out on the organization’s front lawn. But, yeah, this would certainly build trust; I am just not sure it would translate all that well toward improved corporate performance. And I am still thinking of how to put this into a board game…

trust 3

That takes us to these other kinds of activities, so much fun for teenagers but maybe a little less appropriate workplace adult organizational improvement programs. I am reminded that US Department of Labor statistics that show about 1 in 7 women past the age of 65 are still working and by 2024, that is predicted to increase to almost 1 in 5 or more than 6,000,000 workers in total. I would think that doing any of the team activities pictured below might be somewhat problematic (and I note that there will also be six different decades represented within many workforces).

baaadteambuildingand trust 5

 

 

 

Both the above sure seem like fun, however there may also be that issue of “appropriateness” in relation to the various organizational cultures out there and issues of sexual harassment and similar. Just imagine the “most senior managers” nuzzled up with the younger female employees. Or the discomfort for any variety of ages of people or new hires placed in these physically close positions.

And, with this chair thing below, with 7 people standing on two metal chairs and two people UNDER those chairs and our general issues around obesity, what could possibly go wrong???

trust 6

I’m reminded of the Tony Robbins Firewalks and his related motivational speeches by this short segment on The (Stephen) Colbert Report (click here). This was prompted by the different events where people had burned their feet to apparently prove something to themselves. Frankly, I think kayaking offers the same kind of benefit but without the fire. But I digress…

Then, we get into the Trust Building Professional Level Activities, where people who are both fit and somewhat already down the road toward collaboration and teamwork show that they can take their professional and physical development to new levels in situations such as those pictured below. As toward being “low ropes” kinds of organizational development activities, you may also find them a bit out of bounds or out of reality!

trust 7

and

trust 8

Remember that ALL these images came from my Google search for trust exercise. I did not make this stuff up and remain merely the archivist for collecting and organizing these ideas.

I DO believe that there ARE some things that we can do to build more trust and collaboration in the workplace, but they are just not like these pictured.

What strikes me the most about the above pictures and situations is my uncertainty as to whether everyone clearly understands all of the issues around doing effective organizational development including the regard for employee comfort and also avoiding lawsuits and other things detrimental to profitability and to the collaborative cultures we are trying to build. There are #baaadteambuilding things going on out there that make some of us simply shake our heads in wonder about who thought that up and who agreed to it?

Better alternative ideas do exist to what has been shown here! If you need some, connect 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.

 
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.

Note: These might all be excellent activities and exercises, but I try to write on themes of organizational development and team building and collaboration, and most of the things I share above are meant to poke fun at people who do not seem to truly understand issues of organizational culture and diversity and issues of age and personal preferences. I try to never make anyone uncomfortable with the kinds of things we choose to do as group activities. I have been in some that I did not like, whatsoever, over my years of experience.

Facilitating? What are we accomplishing?

I play with LEGO. Yeah, and I do it in my training sessions too, focusing on the theme that things can be improved.

While cruising around, I read a solid post by Pere Juarez Vives called The Art of Facilitation, in which he put a little LEGO scene together. Cute. But it also tends to illustrate one of my issues with what is viewed as facilitation: It is not simply about playing with things but needs to be focused on the engagement aspect of work and on the issues of identifying issues and opportunities and then doing things differently.

Pere Facilition LEGO Scene

What Pere does is focus on the key points of the International Association of Facilitators basic premises, which is fine. It is an excellent organization and I went through their Certified Professional Facilitators (CPF) certification many years ago. You can click on the image to go to his writings.

I liked how he framed his post around the role of the Facilitator and how he aligned the key points to the IAF framework for professional facilitators. But I also have issues with that framework, since so much more facilitation is done by (or should be done by) managers and supervisors of people in the workplaces. Gallup just showed that US Engagement is at a 5-year high but recognize that it was still only at 34%, and that this is a LOT higher than what is seen in most countries. Engagement still represents a critically important issue for workplace motivation and innovation.

While some of these professional, arms-length practices are good, I always clang with them when I do a facilitation with managers, since I WANT them to leave with the same skills and techniques and approach that I did TO them — they get it, now I want them to DO it and those ideas are fundamentally mis-aligned with IAF focuses; they are viewed as un-professional in a way!

Facilitation is all about engagement, and there is simply too little engagement in most workplaces and with most Bosses. Meetings and discussions offer a wonderful opportunity to ask about issues and potential solutions. Thus, when I work with these managers, I want them to learn from me what I did and how I did it so that they can leverage the knowledge with their people.

Primarily, I do this with my Square Wheels® metaphor, which is amazingly fluid and flexible. Here is a little poem I did about teamwork:

Square wheels image in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
A key principle is ownership, which I express as, “Nobody ever washes a rental car.” Participating in a discussion builds ownership involvement. So, getting these managers to lead similarly is my key focus in so many situations.

I also use the Square Wheels metaphor about how things really work, with the idea that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon. These days, I illustrate those things using LEGO.

The reality is that it is NOT about playing with things, but about generating workable ideas and then having the motivation and momentum to actually implement them. So many facilitations simply do NOT accomplish things when people go back to the same work with the same pressures and parameters.

So, I suggest that you step back from your wagon and consider the possibility of doing something differently for a change.

Check out yesterday’s blog on thinking out of the box, for example.

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

 

Debriefing Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine – The Numbers

For the past 20+ years, we have been supporting a team building exercise focused on inter-team collaboration and the sharing of resources and information with the goal of optimizing organizational results. We know from our users, a global network of consultants and internal trainers, that the exercise is unique as well as highly effective.

Our users are a highly experienced group, with 70% using 6 or more different team building exercises in their organizational development work. Most (89%) have run the exercise multiple times and 36% have run it more than ten times. (You can see a summary of our 2016 User Survey here)

So this paper was designed as a “high-level” document overviewing basics as well as advanced interpretations linking behaviors and game results to issues of organizational performance and alignment to shared goals and objectives. The goal of play is to drive real change in the workplace based on perspective, observations and commitments.

The attached document might be of interest if:

  • You already own The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine
  • You are interested in how a team building game can be used to link to desired future behaviors and drive alignment and collaboration
  • You are already using another team building simulation and are looking to make improvements in your debriefing or your evaluation of play or ready to choose my game for use, instead!

One of our customers, a senior manager at a large public utility company, asked for my thoughts on her debriefing of the results when she delivered the exercise to her 100 direct reports. What evolved was a highly detailed review of how the results generated in play could be interpreted and discussed. While some of this information is included in the packaging of our exercise, I thought to include it here should our existing customers want to see these details.

Linking Measured Game Results to
Organizational Development Opportunities

Design features in Dutchman allow teams to acquire additional informational resources that help them optimize their results. Basic planning will allow every team to be successful and contribute. But collaborating with the leadership team and working across tabletops will allow them to mine even more gold. Acquiring the extra information allows their team to improve outcomes even more, and to choose as to whether they will assist another team or teams in the quest to mine even more gold.

You can see an intro to the Lost Dutchman’s exercise by clicking on the image below:

video overview of Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

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

Optimal Debriefing of Experiential Learning and Team Building

More than 20 years of working with organizational performance improvement and team building and experiential learning has taught me a few things, I think. So, I wanted to share some reflections around how to optimize the impacts on individual and group learning.

There has always been a discussion in the experiential learning literature about the need for focused debriefing versus the inherent learning that naturally occurs. After all, how much time needs to be spent talking about the obvious?

One might think that the experience itself would be sufficient for learning to occur and that no debriefing is necessary since the key learning points are all so obvious. The other perspective is that a focused discussion and reflection are paramount for learning to occur.

Overall, I think that the key is BALANCE. Key learning points should be discussed, with the reality that some people will learn more than others and that individuals within a group will each see different things, depending on their perspectives and experiences. But spending too much time in too much detail will dull the brain and cause a loss of interest and engagement.

I take the position that individual reflection and group discussion are integral to understanding from any event and especially for building a shared commitment to doing things more better faster
(or at least differently than before!).

Learning can occur within an individual simply as a result of some experience. But I also think that reflection and discussion generate much richer learning.

As an example, let me use my Square Wheels® illustration as an example. One person looking at the illustration may come up with 2 or 3 insights as to possible meanings, where another might find 10 to 15 learning points. Commonly, a group of people feeding off each others’ ideas and comments can readily identify 30 or more key points.  And, they will have more fun doing it.

How things work in most organizations = Square Wheels images LEGO

So, reflection and some discussion DO generate a richer learning environment and one that is more likely to generate some impetus for change.

My personal belief is that an exercise like Lost Dutchman is an excuse to do the debriefing and that the exercise is merely the platform for the group learning that will occur.

The authors of “The Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators” (Pfieffer and Jones, 1983) felt that it was “axiomatic” that the processing of the experiential learning program “are even more important than the experiencing phase”. These authors even urged facilitators to take care that the activity “does not generate excess data”. Rappelling a mountainside or descending whitewater in a raft with 5 others would be the kind of experiences which would “generate excess data.”  Too much, in fact, to capture and categorize, and not much real learning would occur.

Experiential exercises offer the benefit of links to preferred information gathering and decision-making styles.  It can match with the kinesthetic, visual and auditory learning styles and confirming systems.  The various roles can also benefit when a team applies the different thinking styles to the information processing and risk-taking situations.

So, one of the benefits of an exercise like Lost Dutchman is the clean design and straightforward metaphors that allow for a relatively structured debriefing of individual and group experiences.  In all of our game designs, we pay attention to business issues and opportunities and thus structure our suggested debriefing approach to allow groups to focus on realities of the workplace as well as the applications for the future. The themes and relevance are designed to be obvious.

collaboration generates optimal results in Lost Dutchman

At the same time, shared experiences also allow the facilitator to link the program to their existing and preferred tools. Should someone be using DISC, for example, they might use the game at the start as a tool to set the stage for a discussion of possible styles or at the end to test out applications of others preferred styles toward themes of teamwork and problem solving.

If people are focused on strategy implementation, they can use the issues about confusion regarding the overall goals of the exercise – “to mine as much gold as we can” in the case of Dutchman — to discuss the reality that choosing to compete will sub-optimize overall group results, the main cause of why “interdepartmental collaboration” is an oxymoron in most organizations. The game experience helps link the choice in the game to the reality of workplace choices, helping to define what could be done differently.

a user testimonial about team building exercise

By taking the time to debrief the program, you gain the benefit of group perspective and individual learning. What you got from the game is thus less likely to be lost among the informational noise and data. And a team focused on how they handled risk, for example, will most certainly generate different insights than simple reflection by an individual; the nature of the discussion and the different viewpoints will allow more objectivity and perspective.

Years ago, I jumped a 130-meter bungee jump in New Zealand, the Nevis. It was risk-taking in some ways. But a failure to debrief on decision making and perceptions of safety and other issues did not occur and there was not a lot of learning that occurred, in reality. I see this same kind of thing in the actual learning from a lot of different outdoor adventure activities – learning will come from the debriefing and reflection and not simply from the experience itself.

picture by Robert Young

It is when the activity and its review are combined, facilitated and discussed among teams that the real benefit of the event occurs – the learning that occurs with possibilities for personal and social development. Future-pacing possible outcomes is also beneficial.

Dutchman creates a learning event which includes some interdependent elements:

  • new and challenging collaborative decision-making
  • new group team building events and
  • various learning modes related to decisions
  • various information processing needs

The challenge is to discover ways of merging these learning elements into real individual and organizational improvement. In the short term, a single element may dominate the experience, but ultimately this dynamic form of learning depends on the harnessing and intermixing of these many elements and learning that come from reflection and discussion.

I hope that this is helpful and that you can apply it to your own learning and development events for building teamwork and improving people and performance,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games Scott small picand 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

 

Holiday Teambuilding Meeting Thoughts and Ideas

Rethinking Your Company’s Holiday Celebration Event – Thoughts and Ideas for Maximizing Impact

As the holiday season is fast approaching. many organizations are into their planning for their holiday parties and meetings — sometimes with the hope of improving communications and collaboration and maybe having a bit of fun at company expense. And why not, since people do need to come together to improve working relationships and since the daily workplace these days offers so few “water cooler conversations” and a lot more of the less personal “emails across the cubicle” kinds of connecting.

Two relationship things also stand out insofar as impacts on business results:

  • According to Towers Watson, highly-engaged companies have 44% higher operating margins. This probably comes as no surprise, since people who feel connect act more connected. We all know engagement is good for the bottom line.
  • Sirota’s ongoing research continues to positively confirm that the biggest single influence on employee attitudes is the behavior of their immediate manager. Improving that relationship is critical to build alignment and rapport.

So, doing something to build relationships is important in addition to fun. And if you have not held a holiday event for economic reasons, maybe this is a good time to consider doing something that has business improvement impacts along with other positive impacts on people and performance. For some workers and managers, such a business training event will be something new and for others, a reminder of how things could be if we all focused on those shared goals and desired outcomes. Show them that you are committed to improvement by hosting a performance improvement event.

The big question for executives is this: How can you focus on impacting engagement, collaboration and teamwork and improving communications in a cost-effective and impactful way, one that makes business sense?

These will not happen simply because people share food at a pot luck. They come in, get food, eat, and then often walk away.You can expect things to actually look something like this:

Results don't chahge with dinners

And, people will also tend to hang with their friends instead of make better connections with other people elsewhere in the organization. Can I hear you say, “boring?” Or at least un-impactful…

One key is to “play with performance” and generate some common thoughts and feelings about the workplace and possibilities for improvement.

There are any number of ways organizations approach this opportunity to bring employees together. Money is spent entertaining people most often through food and social festivities that not everyone approaches with a positive attitude. Be it a gathering around a sporting event or other entertaining activity, a casually catered party, an employee pot-luck feast or even a more formal after-work affair, the end result is that the typical get-together so often flows into the same people who normally talk with each other generally grouping together causing little real inter-organizational interaction or kinds of discussions. And, you can pretty much guarantee that not much real impact will occur insofar as changes in behavior or improvements in any kind of results.

As a Christmas gift, why not do an effective team development exercise, one designed to identify areas where people feel the organization is competitive and not collaborative and one designed to produce alternative choices and increased engagement in your shared mission and goals? Invest in a fun learning event designed for workplace improvement. Your people will sincerely appreciate having the chance to talk about issues and opportunities and implement changes in how things get done.

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

Our Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise is ideal as an overall energizer that not only allows people time to enjoy some fun and camaraderie but elegantly sets up a superb learning event. The play of the game culminates with a powerful debriefing, linking game behavior to workplace issues and can focus on outcomes specific to your own organization.

If cost is an issue, you can relax knowing that Dutchman is one of the best values out there as far as cost per participant. You have options available that include either purchasing the game (at a one-time cost) or renting the game. The decision is yours to make and you also receive a satisfaction guarantee or your money back.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a full-blown, extensively supported team building exercise / simulation, one that generates a great deal of fun and collaboration but that also serves as a framework to discuss business improvement ideas. It is easy to learn how to deliver, with a couple of hours of preparation time required and any amount of support available from me, the program designer and developer. You can schedule this event the same day as your office party, using it as a ramp-up energizing activity.

Dutchman is ideal as part of your company’s holiday celebration because it:

  • Brings employees together in a way that strengthens camaraderie, provides a fun and unique experience, and leaves people feeling optimistic about their workplace.
  • Gives something back to the organization through Dutchman’s highly acclaimed Debriefing discussions and focus on collaboration and improving organizational performance.
  • Is inexpensive! Simply rent the game and receive all the instructions, materials and support needed for any number of people. Check here to find out the cost of renting for your group size. Purchasing Dutchman is also an option.
  • Creates a fun Southwestern theme that can also be applied to your festivities through both food and decor. For instance, a barbecue luncheon or Southwestern dinner menu with decorations to match.

You’ll have the success of a globally-appreciated exercise with your
satisfaction guaranteed!

And there are no issues with timeliness, as in, “Can we do the game this year?” It takes a couple of hours of preparation time, even for a large group. All you need is a venue that will allow for tables of 5 to 6 people each and a projection screen. We can send the complete, packaged exercise (including accessories) and we can coach you in design and delivery, including your focus on achieving your specific desired impacts and outcomes.

If you have questions about how this might work, please give me a call and I would love to understand your issues and desired outcomes and talk about whether the exercise would be a good fit. We get rave reviews from users and have been selling and supporting this program for more than 20 years in all kinds of organizations, worldwide.

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 themes of People and Performance is here.

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a Certified Professional Facilitator (IAF) and a Certified Professional Trainer (IAPPD) and he has been supporting the exercise since it was developed back in 1993. Rest assured that you can do this!

 

Robots and Work – Where will you fit in?

Square Wheels theme of Scott Simmerman

If you have not read the thoughts of Geoff Colvin on the rapid rise of workplace robotics and the impacts on people and jobs, you need to. Fortune magazine had a nicely done adaptation from his book, Humans are Underrated, and the information is really thought-provoking.

And here is another good article about robots and jobs you might find interesting.

Robots are taking over. At a lunch social get-together recently, a woman introduced herself and talked about finishing school and working as a pharmacist at one of the Walmart stores. Good job and apparently reasonably well-paying. But as we discussed what her work actually entailed, she was essentially counting pills and putting them in bottles labeled by the computer. And while she said that her special competencies included being able to talk about the medication and its interactions with other drugs, all I could think of was the way my Medicare Drug Plan fulfillment company did all that with an automated phone call and a computer printout showing the specifics of my simple prescription.

Remember the show Jeopardy and the IBM Watson computer back in 2011? That amazing artificial intelligence is now being packaged and sold to medical organizations because the intelligent system can scan the millions of published articles and databases and do a lot better intuitive investigative work on diagnosis than any team of physicians could possibly do. Computers are now complex thinking machines — even Siri on my iPhone is pretty amazing at intuiting and then learning the kinds of questions I ask and the information I need, getting better and better over time as it learns.

This trend toward “artificial intelligence” is both exponential in nature as well as inexorable. Many of the “sports stories” we read online are done by computers taking information and generating the article — there are no humans involved other than in some of the data collection.

I took two MOOCs, one on designing online learning courses using Moodle and one on blended learning techniques. Basically, I am learning to teach over computer rather than doing it in the classroom, and many of my training materials will be delivered in an interactive, collaborative online way, rather than me standing up in front of a group somewhere. I am actively trying to work myself out of work!

With an upcoming trip to Ecuador, I am working through a free online course (Duolingo) to teach me Spanish. If I move there, I may enroll in a language school taught by an actual person to really get a hang of the nuances and idioms, but the basic stuff is pretty easy to learn online. And there are lot of impacts on people and performance when training can be designed by computer without a lot of input from people and delivered instantaneously over mobile devices on demand.

So, the question becomes what tasks and activities can people continue to do, with the assistance of these computing machines and this newfound intelligence? Where will people continue to be important for production and performance?

The most common job these days is truck driver — there are about 2.9 million people moving trucks from one place to another and getting paid for their efforts. But rapid advancement in “self-driving automobiles” is finding that machines may be better at inputting data and making decisions than people. They respond faster, have better sensory input, process information a lot more effectively and they do not get drunk or distracted by kids in the back seat or pretty girls or handsome guys on the sidewalk. They can share data and make predictions and basically operate a lot more efficiently. And we are just beginning to use this technology; it will get better and better and will be totally different in 10 years than it is right now — and right now, it is pretty good.

When do we let computers do the surgical interventions on people rather than human doctors, who are subject to nervous movement and distractions and who do not – even now – have anything like the control of small movements that can be accomplished with robotics? They can perform with precision and can work 24 hours a day.

Where is human judgement going to be more valuable than that of the computer information processing on the data that is collected?

Colvin focuses on the key issue of empathy.

Maybe our training and organizational development activities need to focus a lot more on that kind of social interaction quality?

Me, I am going to continue to work in the areas of teamwork, collaboration, engagement and innovation using my teambuilding games and my LEGO and line art Square Wheels themes. We will use learning technologies to make the materials more accessible and to deliver some of the training, such as our plans with our basic supervisor facilitation training using the cartoons to generate ideas and involvement. I want to improve the quality of the interactions between people as a way of improving performance and even generating more workplace happiness.

As Colvin says, “Being a great performer is becoming less about what you know and more about what you’re like.”

Interesting stuff,

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

 

Amazing Continuous Improvement from Debriefing

One of my new customers is Novartis, who used my Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise with their scientists to look at issues of improving teamwork and collaboration and innovation successes. Two trainers and I talked on the phone for over an hour, debriefing some of the things they saw and framing up future deliveries around different desired outcomes. There are lots of possibilities around how to build the game into their existing team building courses as well as to look for ways to impact more of the interdepartmental issues.

Frankly, I absolutely love those kinds of conversations, since they often generate things that I might clarify better in the game’s instructional overview materials as well as new ways to frame ideas.

I wrote about how clients innovated the game in other blogs. INPO reframed the Best Practice metaphor of the TurboCharger to better emphasize the strategic planning theme for their desired outcomes, for example. And they also turned me on to the basic benefit of having a designated Devil’s Advocate to help an organization see other sides of the issues to improve implementation.

We’ve been playing with the design of Dutchman for over 20 years now and the metaphors in the design are pretty well-polished. One of the metaphors ties into planning and resource management issue. (You can find a detailed blog about issues of planning and optimizing here.)

As part of their resources, we make a Spare Tire available, with the storyline that it helps protect their vehicles against “Ice Shards,” sharp spikes of ice that can damage their tires. They are also told that, “Ice Shards are very rare.”

The reality is that Ice Shards never occur, and that the cost of that Spare Tire is the same as the cost of resources to manage one day in the Mine. Having a Spare Tire then actually costs them a full day of mining gold, since their resources are, in fact, “sufficient but limited.”

We also play with a FAKE Arctic Blast on Day 17. Teams can discover that there will be TWO Arctic Blasts that occur in the middle of the game. These cost the teams extra resources, which is no big deal if you plan for these to occur. With me tossing in that FAKE extra one on Day 17, nearly every team would run out of resources and die. They simply do not have sufficient cards to get back.

The idea I got from Jessica and Natasha was that I could add Ice Shards to that fake Arctic Blast, at least temporarily making a team feel that having that Spare Tire was a benefit. That feeling would be short-lived, though, as the Just Kidding words scrolled onto that slide, but it would also add a tidbit more to the potential discussions around strategic planning and resource management and similar.

The insight is that ideas for improvement are ongoing. One might think that, after 20+ years of designing and refining something that you would have taken care of all the different possibilities. But no, there are always new ideas and new ways of doing things. And work in the real world has even more of these, if we simply open our eyes and listen with both ears.

So, I share this idea for our existing LDGM customers who can email me and ask for this updated slide (or create your own in the powerpoints). And, I share this thought for those of you who are looking for a Most Excellent experiential team building exercise, one that focuses on collaboration between teams and that works with any size group.

(In this blog post, I get into a number of nuanced delivery ideas.)

You can see a bunch of our user testimonials in this slideshare program

LDGM Testimonial bubble Advantage Bank 100

Let us know if we can help your organization in any way. Our tools are simple to use and highly effective and you will find our pricing to be really reasonable.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

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.

Teams, Teaming and Teamworking

There have been a number of articles around the idea that teamwork does not work to improve organizational performance. Teambuilding is seen as a complicated and expensive endeavor that does not pay off.

And I can see why people might say that, given some of the team bonding kinds of activities that many people label “teambuilding.” Just because people are active in some activity does not mean that their actions will actually improve organizational performance or increase collaboration. Team BONDING is not team BUILDING, not by a long shot.

If you follow #baaadteambuilding through google or twitter searching, you can see some of the things that a few of us working with team building tools have found SO bad as to deserve special tracking in twitter.

  • A “Bubble Bounce” in which everyone bundles up in bubble wrap to bounce off the floor and walls?
  • A PediCab tour of a city (good if everyone is physically fit and not handicapped, maybe, but what about the disabled)?
  • Pub Crawling (as if the people might not embarrass themselves or do something really stupid on what is legally company time), or (seriously)
  • Pin the Tail on the Donkey?

Team building should have impacts on actual workplace behavior, framing up innovation or change or collaboration. It should be focused on observable improvements, generating the commitment to change, and maybe even have some measurable impacts on results. It should not be viewed as “fun and games” or as social networking. Those might be nice to do, but hard to use for measuring a return on investment.

Hey! I will admit a vested interest in the issue, since I design and sell interactive exercises focused on issues of engagement and collaboration between teams. But there IS a lot of crap “training” out there calling itself teamwork — my particular pet peeves are things like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes courses. There are lots of similar “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together, interacting to define things to improve, collaborating to fix problems, etc.

Golf as team building? Sorry. Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play in golf all about working together for shared results. (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole or doing that pub-crawl thing, but not during play of the game, most certainly. Heck, you are not even supposed to talk much of the time!

Bowling? Maybe.
Cooking? Maybe.
Darts? (NO!)
Cat Bathing? (just kidding on that one…)

And, just now in twitter, I see where a company is offering up, “Ireland’s largest inflatable obstacle course, The Big Daddy.” Seriously, we are supposed to believe that bouncing through some inflatable challenge course is going to make us work together #morebetterfaster ? Sure, that might be fun, but I am guessing they don’t want obese people, pregnant women, wheelchairs, or people who carry knives and swords. But, like go-kart racing, it is framed as teambuilding.

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then expect people to work together and collaborate. In so many organizations, with lots of research supporting this, many of the people are not engaged. One should not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people who really do not care about their workplace or about shared results.

But we can motivate people in our organizations and workgroups. People want to work together if the situation can support it, and they want to feel successful and not be scared by the risks of performing.

Motivate people through success

In high performing workplaces, you will also see a collaborative culture where people work together to handle issues and solve problems. Granted, that approach may not work too well in places like Real Estate, Mortgage Lending or Stock Market sales, but we do see a strong need for collaboration and commitment where things like production or product design or customer service come into play.

Take any group of people, give them some common goals, measure them on shared performance, and allow them the ability to help each other and you have the basics for a workplace situation where teamwork will arise. Then, do some activity that demonstrates the benefit of collaboration on the overall results — something like, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Then, debrief that activity and discuss the choices that people made along with the choices they COULD have made, link it to the issues they see in their own workplace, and allow them to make commitments to each other (peer support) and you are highly likely to see improvement (if there is a bit of followup after the session).

Think of all the activities that we engage in where real teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment.

And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Celebration plane color green

Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. And improvement is a continuous activity requiring visible support from the management team.

Sure, individuals can excel, but only through collaboration and engagement and motivation can we get a group of people to high levels of accomplishment and performance that they can celebrate and then continue to impact.

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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

 

Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car – Ownership and Herding Cats

Nobody ever washes a rental car is a phrase I have been using in workshops and in my writings since the mid-80s to describe the basic issues around ownership involvement and engagement. The basic concept is simple: people do not take care of things very well unless they have a feeling of ownership about them.

The reason I bring this up is funny, in a way. I had written a chapter for a to-be-published book and the editor makes the change giving the attribution of this quite to someone who published an article in 2002. That was a bit insulting, actually, that she made the change without asking me. Just Do It is not always a good strategy when making changes to someone else’s hard work. Plus, she also added the comment that the phrase was actually “in dispute.”

Seriously? Of course, someone in a workshop will pipe up something like, “I washed one once” when referring to their own car-renting experiences, but under a followup question, they also admit that they did it because they totally trashed the car and were worried that the rental agency would fine them or something, or that their spouse was so appalled by the awfulness of the exterior that he or she would not get into that car!

The explanation actually reinforces my point precisely. People do NOT take very good care of things they do not own. The reality is that some people might actually wash a rental car, but they sure don’t take good care of them. It reminds me of the old joke:

What goes faster than any police car, handles speed bumps and potholes like a Humvee, corners faster with more screeching tires than a drifting WMV, and can crash through small trees and bushes like a tank?

Give up? It’s a Rental Car!!

If you have ever owned a house you rented, you will know precisely what I mean. Or, if you ever lent someone some of your tools or a book, you may come to understand that the ownership has just been functionally transferred…

“But Scott,” you might say, “You write on issues of people and performance, about organizational improvement. What is this “rental car” stuff?”

Simply put, you cannot expect the people to support you to buy into ideas for improvement and change unless they have some ownership involvement in generating those ideas or in putting together an implementation plan. It might look something like this:

square wheels image by Scott Simmerman

On the left, we have typical organizational reality – leader pulling and people pushing and not much alignment, engagement or communications.

On the right, we have people actively involved in making improvements to the situation, with the obvious support of the manager and others. Taking time to be involved generates engagement, can help to implement better processes, and can generate peer support and even more organizational successes down the road.

Lastly, let me end with the line-art illustration we first used in 1993 to illustrate this concept. The cartoon is actually named, Nobody ever washes a rental car, and it addresses one other issue of successfully implementing change and improvement. It looks like this:

square wheels image by scott simmerman

In this case, you might consider that the wagon is now  beginning to roll downhill faster than the wagon puller finds comfortable. When people feel pushed, they generally push back and resist the change. It is ownership, again, but in a situation reverse to the above. Managers can also resist changes and ideas brought to them from the teams. It is a natural thing for those who are facilitating change and innovation.

If you are interested, we sell a simple and straightforward toolkit for impacting employee ownership:

square wheels image toolkit

Leadership is not a simple thing. So, Heads up! Engage them where you can.

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.

You can find some powerful tools for impacting corporate teambuilding and improving organizational performance at our website, featuring The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and our Square Wheels tools:

teambuidlng products by scott simmerman

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

Simple thoughts on Rewards and Performance

I thought to weigh in here with a few thoughts on reinforcement and performance. I am going to keep things really simple and straightforward and try to address a few misconceptions.

As background, a doctorate in behavioral neuropsychology and many years of working on animal behavior and rewards, plus 10 years of doing “behavioral consulting for organizational performance kinds of things,” both external and internal with small and big organizations. Add to that about 40 years of reflecting on organizational cultures and performance.

I view the issue in a very simple way: square wheels lego by scott simmerman

Simple Thoughts:

  • That which gets rewarded gets repeated.
  • Behavior is modified with things that are perceived as rewarding, be they rewards or simply feedback related to behavior.
  • Immediate rewards are far more effective than delayed rewards.
  • Most performance feedback is delayed and relatively ineffective – see these 3 posts (articlearticlearticle)
  • Contingent rewards are those that can be directly related back to behavior by the performer.
  • Extrinsic rewards are ineffective for most people in the workforce. What is an effective extrinsic reward varies greatly among individuals.
  • Punishment generates a wide variety of unanticipated (but expected) negative behaviors (including sabotage)
  • Like Punishment, extrinsic rewards can generate all kinds of unanticipated and negative behaviors among the body of the workforce, sometimes called Superstitious Behavior.
  • Negative Reinforcement is the removal of a negative stimulus — it is NOT at all the same as Punishment. (You behave and I get off your back is a negative reinforcement situation. You behave and I get on your back is punishment.)
  • The existence of other people in the workplace tends to complicate the simplicity – peer support is very powerful and maybe the most powerful reward system in place in the workplace.

People sometimes perform in the hopes that they will get recognized by the boss. In so many situations, that is superstitious behavior, like blowing on dice before throwing them or saying some kind of “okay baby” kind of verbalization which you link to the behavior.

What we know from 50 years of research is that intrinsic rewards are much more effective than any possible extrinsic ones. People do things mostly for their own reasons and all we can do is impact those things in some modest ways — they behave because of their values and expectations more than rewards, for the most part. We even know that small rewards are much better than large ones if they are extrinsic.

In so many workplaces, things are so bad that some managers think an annual appraisal of performance might be an effective motivator of specific desired behavior on a daily basis.

We also know that such formal appraisals rarely change actual performance; what is effective is the goal setting for the self-attainment of the individual and the issues around clarifying expectations and generating alignment to shared goals.

A post today shared the tweet that recognition should happen with 24 hours of someone accomplishing something. Sure, that is better than none or something a week later, but even 24 hours is not very good. Imagine learning to play the piano if you could not hear the notes for even 2 minutes!

Yes, something is better than nothing, but delayed reinforcement is hardly effective in any real sense, at least to reward some specific behavioral result.

What can happen is that people imagine that they will get some management or peer recognition, and that predicted result can be modestly rewarding. When that does NOT occur, though, expectations are reduced and the next occurrence will have less effect.

Far better than an extrinsic reward system is a solidly designed and implemented performance feedback system. Take a look at the simple feedback analysis that should generate some ideas about possible changes in performance management in the workplace. Changing the actual feedback in an effective way is a wonderful motivator for self-improvement and change.

Some Simple Ways to Motivate:

  • Involve and engage them in team-based organizational improvement initiatives or innovation initiatives where they have no fear of failure and get regular positive attention from the management team as well as each other.
  • Allow people to get actively involved and develop a sense of ownership in some aspect of their work that is important to them.
  • Be careful of not telling too much, Few people like to be told what to do – give them some framework and ask them for how to best approach things. Coach more than manage / manipulate. Nobody ever washes a rental car. Do things with them more than to them. People resist when pushed.
  • Clarify their roles and align them to shared goals and visions and help them to have clear expectations as to what is desired and feedback about how well they do on a constant basis.
  • Make them feel as if they are valued contributors to the work effort and have a positive impact on group results. Remember that 50% of the people in any workgroup will be above the group average but that 50% will also be below that average; note that ALL people contribute to results.
  • Look for ways to allow individual growth and skill improvement. People like to improve their competencies and performance. Support personal growth and allow for differences.

None of this is rocket science. Remember that YOU probably got promoted to management because you responded well to extrinsic motivators, which is the most common way organizations structure work environments. But also remember that not everyone likes extrinsic rewards in the same way. Extrinsic rewards are most likely NOT motivating many of those people in the lower half of the workgroup. (See more on extrinsic motivation here and here.)

These are my thoughts on the issues around motivating people and improving workplace performance results. Results differ based on any number of factors, but these are the basics. I hope that you got ONE good idea from going through these learning points.

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

 

We sell a variety of simple Square Wheels® tools for improving engagement and communications.  Square Wheels Icebreaker is simple to use

 

Make Your Off-site Team Building Event Pay Off

Organizations hold off-site meetings to generate more alignment, introduce a new strategy initiative, build increased collaboration and related goals. The Big Idea is that the expenditures for these meetings will generate a return on that investment. I will loosely define one overall goal as “team building” and I will suggest some ideas and frameworks that will actually accomplish some of that.

These events and meetings should involve and engage participants and generate a better sense of ownership and involvement about what they might choose to do differently: “more better faster cheaper.” But inspiration alone won’t cut it and lectures and presentations will sometimes distract people from their emails. People will often drift off from a presentation and knowledge does not always translate into behavior change. Just explaining things will only have a modest impact on results or generate any change in behavior, as you have probably witnessed.

Human beings are paradoxical creatures.
What I know does not directly translate into what I do.

We judge ourselves by our intentions.
We judge others by their behavior.

And we are known to have that common behavior of overestimating our own performance when good measurements are not good.  This cognitive bias for over-estimating even has a term: illusory superiority.”

Examples abound:

  • In one study, 84% of the students predicted they would cooperate with their partner, but only 61% actually did. The irony is that their prediction of other student’s behavior was close to actual.
  • people with a below-average IQ tend to overestimate their IQ
  • In a survey of faculty at the University of Nebraska, 68% rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability.
  • In a similar survey, 87% of MBA students at Stanford University rated their academic performance as above the median.
  • For driving skill, 93% of the US drivers put themselves in the top 50% of all vehicle operators.

We will not delve into all the reasons for this; the information is nicely covered in a Wikipedia article. Here, let’s focus on practicalities when it comes to costs and impacts and generating commitment and change.

Here are some ideas and possible solutions that represent my personal biases along with 30 years of experience in these kinds of settings:

Have really solid goals and expectations for what you want to see done differently.  Communicating ideas and data might give someone the chance to be seen, but it is a pretty costly way to move that information. Think about the past and what worked well insofar as meeting goals and actual outcomes – what kinds of things helped attendees do something differently after the meeting to solve problems or improve results.

1 – Communicate before the meeting with the facts, information and relevant data that people will need to do things differently. Give them the tools and pre-thinking review time to allow the data to link with any new information or stimulate new ideas. Most people think better with time for processing and consideration and new ideas generally link to old information.

2 – Put the right people in the seats. Maybe you do need everyone to attend, but maybe you don’t. If your meeting is a celebration junket, that is different than if it is a key meeting to drive out a new strategic plan. The people who are there should be the people who need to be there! Everyone else is either costly or distracting or both.

3 – Let their feets get them off their seats. Do things that get them moving around and interacting in some kind of focused way. Breaks can be useful, but people are often off doing their own things with phone calls and emails instead of talking with each other about shared issues and desired changes. While some would suggest prohibiting cellphone use during the meetings, I think we should try to treat attendees as something other than third-grade students and allow them responsible use — you never know when they might have some real business emergency with a real business impact and you DO want them in the room and not out in the hallway expecting some call. Phones do have a vibrate setting!

4 – Design facilitated engagement and involvement. Don’t just do things TO people but insure that your sessions involve and engage them. Do things WITH attendees if you can. Solicit their ideas and their input. Challenge them to help solve business problems instead of presenting them with solutions, if you can.

Nobody ever washes a rental car

Be sure to do things to share ownership. People are more likely to take risks and challenges if they are invested in the situations.

5 – Allow people to work in teams but also collect their notes and thoughts. You can use worksheets or easel-pad brainstorming and mindmaps and similar tools. You can use dot-voting and other consensus-building activities. You can use twitter and other interactive media or collaboration software, if the group is comfortable with that approach. (You might encourage all of them to bring their laptops / notepads or smartphones to certain interactive work sessions.)

Leadership and presenters should be asking questions and generating perspective and sharing missions and visions more than they should be standing there “yelling and telling,” no matter how charismatic they are. Like John Le Carre wrote,

A desk is a dangerous place
from which to view the world

The more hands-on, broadly experiential the base of information, the more ownership involvement and real-world information you can generate, the better the impacts.

6 – Structure followup on the ideas that are generated and push people to do things differently. There are any number of ways to generate commitment and your current organizational culture and experience should offer you ideas about what kinds of things work (and what kinds of things do not). You might have each person post one good idea into email or on a specifically designed note card collected by the senior manager. You might organize natural teams to collect and look to help implement good ideas. Department heads might be tasked with generating 5 good ideas for change and improvement, along with action plans and a project management template of some kind.

But DO something. Make some things happen and attribute those positive results to the leadership and through the organization as experiences have shown to be successful. Too many meetings just end; they do not generate efforts at improvements, much less impact results.

If you are just meeting to meet, with no other expected changes, then consider communicating through podcasts or other techniques and save a whole big bunch of money in travel expenses, time and salaries. Your meeting should generate actions that impact results.

Summary:

The reason I write this post is that I have seen some events that really fail to generate what they could, simply because of the “powerpoint presentation culture” that exists in so many organizations. Similarly, I hear about programs that do the simply “fun team building” kinds of things, the electronic spin-the-wheel “Wheel of Fortune” games or the Jeopardy or treasure hunt activities, none of which will generate much real teamwork or real problem-solving or behavior change.

Since 1993, we have been developing and supporting an actual business simulation exercise with real impacts on teamwork and planning and which structures debriefings focused on shared missions and visions, expectations and teamwork. A differentiating feature is the anchor point to inter-team collaboration, rather than the more common competition between teams. For so many organizations, “Interdepartmental Collaboration” is an oxymoron rather than an implementation strategy. Generating real collaboration is of very high value to most businesses.

We offer a most excellent team building exercise that you can purchase for repeated use or rent for a one-time event.

Lost Dutchman Gold Mine Logo with three icons

There are literally dozens of articles about the exercise here on the blog. Directly connect with me if this might be of any interest to your organization. I will try to share my thoughts and ideas about features and benefits of this exercise. It is straightforward in its delivery and not difficult to facilitate and link to a variety of desired outcomes. My coaching and design collaboration are free.

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

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Sweet Feed for Herding the Cows: Ideas for Improved Organizational Results

There is a lot written out there about motivation and all sorts of complicated theories that are similar in difficult to landing a vehicle on a moving comet. Yeah, we can do it, but it does take a bunch of real rocket scientists to accomplish, along with a lot of computers and mathematics and a good bit of luck.

We often hear of really difficult issues of alignment when faced with implementing strategy or change or accomplishing organizational innovation. So let me take a moment to back up from all the complexity and share a simple conceptual model of how to get things moving in the right direction.

Okay, I admit to having a doctorate in behavioral neurophysiology, so I actually do understand that brain science stuff. But my role in life is to simplify things, not explain the neurobiological chemistry of all this stuff…

Okay. You have a lot of cows in the pasture and you need to get them all to some new place. The normal strategy we see is that we get all the cowboys in an all-hands meeting and we talk about situational issues and engage them in some cattle-driving. This appears in a lot of different ways but overall, I think of it as getting the cowboys on their horses and having them ride at the far edge of the herd, making a lot of noise and generating a lot of activity and fear.

If we do this “right,” we can get the cows moving through the gate at the opposite end of the pasture somewhat quickly, albeit with a loss of a few cows, high levels of frantic movement and a good bit of stress from them hearing all the shouting and gunfire. And it might also be fun for the cowboys, if they do not have to do this every month or so.

Sweet Feed and a more effective approach:

A different theory would say that it is not necessary that you motivate ALL the cows at the same time, since you really cannot do that anyway. But you can also help to involve and engage a few of the leader cows to support your efforts and that this will actually engage the rest of them.

So, you get up in front of the cows nearest the gate (the ones closest to your actually new desired goals or direction and the ones who can actually see where you want them to go) and you entice them by tossing out a little sweet feed tossed between them and the gate. “AH,” say those cows. “This looks like an interesting situation!” and you gradually draw them forward toward the goal, which gets closer and closer. This actually does not take a long time, once they notice the incentive. (Note: This can take longer if they do not trust the people between them and the gate!)

The reality is that the other cows, also nearer the gate than the ones at the back, will also get curious as to what is happening and will follow the lead cows. As the distance increases between these two sets of cows and the others, you might also have a few cowboys at the back stir things up a little bit, but not so much as to cause a stampede. The cows in that larger group will be observed to close the distance to the front cows.

Pretty soon, you have them all moving forward, since we can predict a normal bell-shaped curve for most measures of most things in most organizations. The shape of the curve will remain relatively constant and this will include the distance between the top performers / front cows and those at the back that will move with the group but less quickly than we might like.

Scott Simmerman being confused by a graph showing performance and #s of cows

Scott Simmerman being confused by a graph showing performance and numbers of cows. Seriously!

A shift to the right of the median (line down the middle) will simply move the whole curve to the right.

We tend to make this “performance thing” really complicated and we can add all sorts of behavioral models, intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, measurement and appraisal systems and we can overlay all of those on different change models, personality and information sorting personal inventory measurement systems, and all that other stuff we do to block most change from occurring.

For me, I find we get change when we:

  • Make the vision of the future more attractive
  • Increase the discomfort with the way things are now for individuals and groups
  • Do things to make people feel successful with their change and improvement efforts
  • Create positive peer support for the desired changes and strategies

Nobody ever washes a rental car” and we cannot simply expect people to change because we are pushing them to move by using cowboys, gunshots and other organizational noise. We can do some simple “sweet feed” kinds of things to improve their individual engagement and involvement as well as to do some teamwork kinds of things to get people moving forward together.

We improve our results by getting our individuals to want to improve their results. Sure, we can do things like building smaller pastures to have fewer cows to move and we can also add electric fences and cowboys in Humvees to decrease how many are involved in chasing the cows forward.

Or not. So:

Give people a reason to change. Help them move forward.

Hope you found this fun. My old friend Ken Junkins used this story back in a situation with some managers maybe back in the early 80s and I thought it was a solid and interesting metaphor that has gotten a few of my own spins tossed in to make it clear.

I liken the situation, shifting my metaphors a little, to the people simply standing and not engaging or participating. They are simply standing!

Square Wheels image of Lego Team

What we need to do is get them more involved and engaged in actually doing things and making changes.

LEGO Square Wheels image of teamwork and innovation

People want to change the wheels of the wagon to make things work better. It is relatively easy to engage them in fixing the things that they think need fixing. And their testing of the waters and initial successes in making improvements will help them to make more improvements down the road.

 

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

Simple, Powerful, Effective Team Building Simulation

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine continues to generate really positive feedback from customers. Since 1993, it has been continuously improved and refined to the point where it runs seamlessly, generates wonderful reflection, and clearly mirrors the organizational culture of the players.

We just had a situation where a senior line manager again rented the exercise for a team building and organizational development session she was leading for her team. The company is an electrical utility and she had about 50 managers in her new organization that she wanted to work with. The Lost Dutchman game was part of her overall goal of getting to know her people better and building some trust.

She had rented the Dutchman game in her previous assignment and had liked the outcomes and discussions it generated. This time, she liked it even more!

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

The team building exercise sets up situations where players and teams have a variety of choices, and their strategic planning and collaboration within and between teams generates measurable results and a return on investment. When a team plays well, they generate good results. When the team chooses to try to beat the other teams, we generally see measurable sub-optimizing impacts on overall results.

Here are the comments from a young church leader, who had experienced the exercise as part of the DeVos Foundation work with leadership development and the inner city and who then used the game to impact his church and generate much better alignment and team building:

testimonial on The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game

People make choices, and we debrief on the choices made and how those same choices relate to their workplace, their alignment as team members of the group, and how choosing to compete impacts the culture as well as the customer. The goal of the exercise is to Mine as much Gold as we can and the role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful. ALL of this relates very directly to workplace improvement.

We love to get this continuing stream of positive comments and testimonials about how the play of the game impacts people and performance. It is confirmation that our plans have generated positive impacts and changes,

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.

 

Purposeful Meeting Openers and Icebreakers: Relevant and Congruent

In my experience, many trainers and consultants focused on involving and engaging participants use some sort of warm-up exercise, with the idea that getting people “warmed up” in some way will help them learn the material more effectively or bring more energy to the training itself.

One LinkedIn discussion had a trainer wanting to start a class focused on “workplace improvement best practices” and was looking for some relevant activity to get things started. The goal was to have something fast and simple but that would also generate some cognitive dissonance and frustration anchored to them not being able to finish a task on time. His goal was to use frustration to generate an initial motivation to correct their existing workplace issues.

In my experience, motivation already exists in most workplaces with most supervisors on performance improvement issues. There are often a variety of ways to identify and implement improvements and best practices but a key is to generate the intrinsic motivation to actually do something differently. I am also pretty sure that generating frustration as a desired outcome of this activity was not the best idea, since many of those attending were probably already frustrated by their workplace or by the fact that they were now in some “training program” when they should be working.

In other words:

  • He was asking for ideas about how to make the trainees frustrated because they could not get some exercise / task done well in the allotted time.
  • My thought is that their workplace was like most others and that the managers were already frustrated with these same issues of quality and timeliness.

My other thought was anchored to the simple idea that getting people frustrated may not be the best way for starting a training class. Beginning a program, negatively, does not generally get people positively motivated and the potential reactions can be somewhat uncontrollable.

Some other people in LinkedIn also elaborated on some of the possible unintended outcomes of such an activity, too. (The conversation got pretty bloody but we also think we saved him from a huge strategic mistake, on which he agreed!!).

The other half of my thinking pounded on the very common use of “irrelevant icebreakers” as a complete waste of time — you know, the goofy meeting openers that are not related to the issue or desired outcome of the session and play on people telling three truths and one lie about themselves or the most interesting thing about their hometown or stating something that no one would ever guess about them. (you can find a long list of such goofy actual activities here)
(https://performancemanagementcompanyblog.com/2012/11/02/motivation-training-and-icebreakers-keeping-it-real/)

I’m in agreement with a lot of other consultant trainers, especially about all that psychology stuff and what happens in training. One psychologist shared his approach of having people literally “draw a pig” that represented things in their organization. (The reference to “pig” as being too close to corporate operations and management these days with all those raises and salaries of CEOs in excess of 300 times the workers as well as the growing pay gaps, policy issues, etc.)

My psychology and engagement framework would use an illustration like that below as a tool to get people to project their ideas about how their organization really worked onto an image. It works like an inkblot test – there is no reality but people push one onto the image, one that also allows them to share some thinking about the issues and opportunities that already exist. And it is really fast and tight.

The image shows a wagon rolling along on Square Wheels® while the cargo is round rubber tires. (There are other aspects of leadership, motivation and vision along with best practices. Plus, the image and its discussion gives people an anchor point for focused conversation and discussion, present and future. The term “Square Wheels is simply shorthand for things that do not work smoothly.)

Square Wheels - How organizations really work Metaphor organizational improvement

The idea is to get individuals thinking about issues and groups collaborating and sharing ideas about the illustration – brainstorming with an organizational behavioral anchor. Groups can also be motivated through a little competition to make a longer list (facilitation) and what players do is to project their beliefs about their own organization onto the illustration (the Rorschach or inkblot effect).

If you are going to take their valuable time in a class, why not focus on issues of innovation and teamwork and involvement about their workplace, and not some completely unrelated thing like 3 Truths and a Lie or Dragon Tag or some such “energizer.”

Using the cartoon as an anchor to the reality of how things really work, we get them talking about their issues — the things that do not work smoothly — and the ideas that already exist within the context of making the wagon move more effectively. This approach also allows discussion without the attack on management or structures. It has proven itself to be “developmentally neutral” and non-political in that regard.

The behavior and ideas and issues in play can then be linked to a lot of different kinds of content for your training session, and the activity thus made congruent and relevant.That is something that cannot be done with so many of the very general icebreakers — it is hard to make the transition of doing one and then quickly linking to a real business purpose. (Sure, you can use some words but their actual behaviors are generally off target and non-congruent — how does making up a funny name relate to workplace improvement?)

Best practices are Round Wheels.

The focus on the training and performance improvement might be linked to making Square Wheels roll more smoothly. You can coach people on identifying SWs and generating round ones, while generating dissociation and second-position perspective. Issues of change and implementation (stopping the wagon and changing the wheels) can be part of your, “What are we going to try to do differently after we leave here?” discussion. Sharing round wheel ideas is easy and this begins a process of continuous continuous improvement.


Learn more about the Square Wheels Icebreaker.

You can find another article on this issue of effectively using trainee time and optimizing impact by clicking on this link:

Blog Icon for Icebreaker link

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
and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+DrScottSimmerman

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

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