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

Category: Change Facilitation Page 1 of 13

Decreasing Resistance to Change — The Finger, Arm and Leg Exercise for facilitating discussion

In The Dilbert Principles, Dilbert said, “Change is good. You go first.”

That one little quip captures the essence of trying to do something differently. Change is commonly resisted and often actively resisted, combined with a variety of reasons and excuses. People tend to rationalize the many reasons why something cannot be changed. Let me use a simple example of teaching someone to play pool.

In pool, one holds a cue stick and attempts to hit the cue ball into an object ball and then into a pocket. It is a fun and simple game and everyone can play. The balls are stationary until you hit one into another. Obviously, how and where one hits on the cue ball influences the level of success; striking the cue ball consistently and accurately hitting the object ball allows one to pocket more balls than hitting randomly.

So, there are skills around holding and swinging the cue stick related to the position of the head and eyes and arm and what is called “a bridge,” which is the placement of the hand closest to the cue ball which holds the cue stick for aiming. HOW one forms the bridge influences how stable the bridge is and how accurately and consistently one can then strike the cue ball. Some bridges are MUCH more stable than others and experienced players do this little thing MUCH better than people starting to learn the game.

But, the reality is that once people get comfortable with their bridge, they become resistant to changing / improving their hand position. One would think changing a hand position would be a simple thing; but repetition and habit generally make the newer player actively resistant to learning a newer or better way of doing this. This is generally a consistent kind of resistance to learning. So, in teaching pool, bridging is one of the first things to be addressed. And the active resistance is clear.

There is a simple exercise that works great to expose those things that underpin this active resistance and to increase the probability of change. So, I start by holding both hands up, fingers apart and wiggling and then fold my hands together, interlocking my fingers. When I do this, my left thumb is on top but the other person (or people) will do theirs randomly; it does not seem to be related to handedness, in my experience. Some people simply do it with their right thumbs winding up on top. So, ask them which thumb they put on top.

Then, unfold your fingers and wiggle them again and interlock them the other way, so your other thumb is on top. Ask the other person to do this. And observe the process. Most people will fumble with this a bit. Some might even have to try it again. ALL will feel uncomfortable. Why?

Because they probably have never before interlocked their fingers this new way.

Many will need to actually concentrate on doing this differently. They will actually study their hands and fingers and carefully look (probably for the very first time) how they have their fingers interlocked.

But do not stop here. What you then do is fold your arms across your chest. Ask them to fold their arms. Then, after they are comfortable with this, you will fold your arms exactly the opposite, so that things are not like they were at first. (I encourage you to practice this a few times before you demonstrate because it IS difficult to do for many people!) If your left hand is under your right upper arm and your right hand is over your left biceps, for example, reverse it so your right hand is under and your left hand is over. (If you try this right now, you will see why some practice is necessary, so practice it a few times so you can appear to do this easily.)

You will see, in all likelihood, the other person flounder around with this. Ask them why and they will probably give you some reason or other but the reality is that things are more difficult and uncomfortable when you have never done them differently than you normally do. (The phenomenon can be termed behavioral flexibility — note that there are a dozen ways one can make a bridge in pool, each used in different circumstances so being comfortable with doing a bridge differently is a real skill!)

The third part of this is optional to do but easily demonstrated, or even discussed. When people cross their legs (and there are a few different ways to do this like at the ankle or over the knee), they will “naturally and normally” change leg positions because staying in one position cuts off the blood flow and becomes painful. People learn to cross their legs differently because of this and they do not ever consider leg position and reversal an issue. (Pain / discomfort is a good motivator for change!)

Okay, so, it you have actually DONE the above exercises and interlocked your fingers and arms differently, you will have undoubtedly felt the discomfort associated with doing things differently. Perfect! And you now understand clearly that dealing with discomfort is always associated with change and that being less uncomfortable being uncomfortable is a really good learning point, something that can help you better deal with change in the future.

Now, in the example above, I went through how all this related to teaching someone how to improve their pool game. I hope it helps you with your game, too!

But the ideas underlying sharing these simple exercises are that you can use them with others in your efforts to improve workplace performance, to help decrease active resistance to new ideas and to the feelings common when one implements new ideas. Do this with others and have some fun making people re-assess their thoughts and reactions. Apply this to your leadership efforts.

 

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. He is a CPF and CPT and holds a doctorate in behavioral neuropsychology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Scott is co-Founder of The Square Wheels Project and currently working on being retired in Cuenca, Ecuador while still supporting a variety of business improvement projects.

 You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

How do I generate new and improved outcomes in meetings?

Yesterday, I answered a Quora question about effective workplace team building activities and how to best impact people and performance. Today, I was asked to respond to the above question, so I thought to share those simple thoughts herein, also.

How DO you generate better innovation in meetings? Here is what I said:

Dilbert said, “Change is good. You go first.”

And that seems to be one of the critical issues in getting new things thought of and good ideas implemented. Push people to think out of the box and look at issues and opportunities from different perspectives than usual. Lots of different ways to do that or tools you can use to push divergent thinking or alternative generation. (My Square Wheels® images represent one way to facilitate this.)

But also keep in mind that, “Nobody ever washes a rental car” and that the feeling of ownership is a critical factor if you intend to generate commitment and drive teamwork and implementation. The issue of implementation can get complicated as well as political, but building good expectations and setting up feedback / measurement systems.

Different people will see things differently, so facilitating a discussion where different alternatives are discussed is important. Note that some people will immediately jump to The Answer and even do Godzilla Meets Bambi on other people’s ideas, so having some kind of voting process is useful. Again, all sorts of different ways to accomplish that.

(Side note: Godzilla Meets Bambi is a short video I produced 10 years ago that is about these same kinds of issues and the reality of what can happen if desired outcomes do not align with organizational realities. You can see that short animation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOZk6UOii6M

Having someone play Devil’s Advocate as an assigned / shifting role can also be useful to unsure that ideas are viewed from different perspectives. Sometimes it is just too easy for people to go along with an idea without due diligence.

And deciding on “Expected Next Steps” and timelines is useful. The clearer The Path, the less confusion and the more buy-in. Minimize surprise. Generate a clear picture of doing something new or, “morebetterfaster*” than you are currently doing things. Make the vision of the future more attractive, rather than threatening.

There is no silver bullet. It is all about ideation, buy-in, planning and execution. Be sure there are sufficient resources (time, money, leadership) to give people the feeling that the new initiative can be successful. (And note that it often takes YEARS to change organizational cultures!)

 

So, I hope that you found this short overview and response to be of some value. You can find the Quora post with other replies here.

* Tom Peters is thought to have said, “It’s really simple. If we are not getting more better faster than they are getting more better faster, than we’re getting less better or more worse.” (article here)

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, Seven Seas Quest, Saviors of Cultura

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

Play the Fool, Achieve Hero Leadership

David Riklin caught my attention a while ago with one of those quotes that says a lot more than it says. So, I added it into my catalog of Square Wheels® Posters and something to add to our Culture Wall idea of motivational and developmental Square Wheels themes.

Organizational alignment and culture change can look like this, in actuality:

(If you would like a free high res version of the above, email Scott@squarewheels.com)

Shared conversations about missions and visions, and shared perceptions about issues and opportunities can allow a group of people to align together to work on implementation. This builds teamwork and engagement.

Workplace conversations related to the perceived issues can be part of your effort to dis-un-engage people, to identify and remove those things that are decrease engagement and generate frustration or withdrawal. You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement, motivation and workplace performance improvement here.

I’ve been playing with communications tools for 25+ years and these toolkits on Square Wheels are cheap and amazingly flexible. They are useful when getting managers to be more motivating and work great for innovation and creativity facilitation.

You can also see a cute animation of “Continuous Continuous Improvement” here:  https://www.squarewheels.com/

You can see us playing with Santa’s Performance Improvement Culture Wall in this cute little blog post.

For the FUN of It!

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

See my 90-minute teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Thoughts on Missions, Visions and Values

I am working with a consultant in India around impacting people and performance using our Square Wheels tools for communications and active involvement. In our discussion, she mentioned that her client wanted to generate better alignment to 13 values, including:

• Entrepreneurship
• Ambition
• Long term focus
• Ownership
• Hard work and Drive
• Rewarding Success
• Non-Conformist Intellectual Capital
• Openness and Transparency
• Continuous Transformation Spirit

They are also apparently in the process of fleshing out the meanings of the above, the desired behaviors that would make these more visible and impactful within the organization. When I took a moment to think about these, some alarm bells started ringing in my head as I remembered a similar kind of event way back when…

But changing organizational culture and creating meaningful and actionable missions and visions is also an art form, with a variety of potential problematic issues and possible unintended negative consequences. It is not fairy dust and a magic wand and something easily accomplished in a tops-down framework.

So, I started an email response and then thought, why not write a blog post that might be useful for this communication. The focus is on communicating visions and values needs to be done in a really organic, honest and impactful way. So, let me share a really good example of what to do and why:

The retiring chairman of a regional company was looking to leave a legacy of values as they were transitioning to a new management team. He wanted to keep what he felt were their people and performance strengths and put these into a visible statement of visions and values, to make his legacy into a very meaningful framework for the next decade.

From senior management discussions, the leadership team generated a list of bullet points as potential items for this new statement of mission. Logically, they wanted to test those themes with their management. My consulting company was tasked with running two-day “Leadership Development” sessions across the organization to discuss those values and discuss the behaviors that were essential and congruent. One of the resources we used was Max DePree’s “Leadership is an Art” book (1987) — a truly magnificent work that is eminently readable. (Here is one, used, for $5.)

One of Max’s numerous great quotes from the book that I have used for 30 years is,

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”


We were testing bulleted items in the context of both doing leadership development and discussing high performance management frameworks, to build on their existing strengths. It was a pretty elegant program design by my old colleague, Kenneth Junkins.

One such item was:

“We manage with uncompromising integrity.”

Sounds good. How was it judged? Not all that well, from the perspectives of these front-line managers who were probably not allowed to participate in as much decision-making as they would have liked. One of them reframed this, reworded it, to become:

“We manipulate with inflexible righteousness.”

Maybe this needed revisiting, do you think?

Since that time, this one incident has continued to remind me to actively involve the people who will be impacted by policies and procedures to check and verify, test and evaluate, before moving forward.

The concept of “Unintended Consequences” is reframed by legal people as a failure to be diligent and a failure to look at potential specific outcomes that are, in fact, predictable. Step cautiously, is my suggestion. Ask, evaluate, and be sure to get a variety of perspectives.

 

For the FUN of It!

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

Check out my Square Wheels Stupidly Simple Facilitation Toolkit, on our website. It is a complete program, for $25.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

Purpose, Blind Spots, and Next Questions

Three new “posters” using the same Square Wheels One image all came together in my head this morning, as a way to tell a real story about what managers need to consider doing differently to impacting people and performance. These are all part of my “culture wall” thinking about how we can share images and ideas to get everyone thinking about innovation and improvement. Plus, keeping it simple!

The first thought is about clearing the way about what we are doing and why. What IS our purpose in working and rolling things forward? And are we really making any good progress in that regard?

What is the real purpose of our works?

Sure, we can all work hard at pushing and pulling and meeting our goals and desired outcomes, but are we doing things in the best and brightest way? Do the wagon pushers share the same goals and purposes as the wagon puller? Are we communicating the desired overall outcomes clearly and are we taking advantage of all the available resources?

The next idea is the simple concept that we all have blind spots in how we view the world around us and that we can make better decisions the more we see and consider. Are we taking advantage of hindsight and considered ideas about how things are really working or are we letting our biases and past experiences blind us to new realities and new paradigms of operation?

Do we have blind spots in how we think about performance and teamwork?

The idea and inspiration for the above came from an excellent article about thinking  and making smart decisions published on Farnham Street. There are all sorts of anchors to ideas for doing things more better faster and for making better decisions by expanding the visible universe.

In other words, “Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!”

The last idea in this short series anchors to the idea of continuous continuous improvement and the reality that we need to KEEP changing and improving, that this is not a one-stop-shop kind of endeavor.

Asking The Next Question is the key to continuous continuous improvement

Asking one question is a really good idea. And asking a followup question about implementation or next steps or other issues and opportunities is what will help to generate that active involvement, trust in listening and acting, and generating real improvement. There are LOTS of available ideas around improvement in your workplace, if only the managers would ask (and then listen) and the employees felt better about offering their thoughts. And there are some pretty simple things to do to improve innovation if we can change some perceptions and behaviors.

We have been focusing on the issues around active involvement in workplace improvement since 1978 and playing with these simple ideas of using metaphor and facilitation to help impact people and performance. I wish that we had somehow had more impact, since the issues and opportunities seem so straightforward.

Square Wheels metaphor for organizational improvement

 

Why can’t managers simply ask their people for ideas about improvement? It would go such a long way and have so many positive impacts…

For the FUN of It!

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

Square Wheels resources explained on our website.

See the powerful Square Wheels teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

 

MORE on being “Too Busy” to implement new improvements

GENERALLY, most workers in most organizations will say that management does a pretty poor job of listening to them. And most supervisors feel that their managers generally do a pretty poor job of listening to THEM!

Being as I love using illustrations and images to represent the status quo, this common scenario seemed like a good subject to take on while also reframing some workable solutions.

Let me begin with my friend, Haken Forss’s, development of a LEGO-based scene of an old reality. I ran across his image online a few years ago which led to us having a very influential conversation about our businesses and how we illustrate and communicate.

My works around this started back in 1993 when introducing our illustration called Square Wheels One:

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of PMC and © 119.

We had trademarked Square Wheels® and began using this image, worldwide, featuring it in my presentations and toolkits for facilitation and engagement.

Square Wheels One generated quite solid interactive discussions about workplace improvement and communications and teamwork, so much so that I have a collection of about 300 one-liners from this image alone. It was amazing how well it worked and how well the concept was remembered. It was a simply approach to changing the thinking about people and performance.

At some point, a colleague sent me a warning that my theme was being used illegally and that I should check it out. That began a really fruitful and positive interaction with the consultant (Hakan Forss) who generated this illustration and used it in a blog post:

We're Too Busy to implement improvement

Our conversations led to my using LEGO bricks and figures to represent a wide variety of the line-art scenes and situations that we produced in the over 300 Square Wheels representations drawn by Roy Sabean. And from there, we generated stop-motion animations and a broad variety of poster quotes, poems and haiku.

The anchor point for my thinking has always been people and continuous performance improvement. SO, let me take the image concepts and rampage through some ideas about what might be different in the workplaces of the world.

1 – My first point is that nearly everyone identifies with the Square Wheels One image as a workplace reality. We show it as, “How might this represent what really happens in most organizations?” And very quickly, people and tabletops go from talking about their general perceptions about work and communications and structure into discussing  their perceived issues of lack of vision, continuous un-improvement, and the isolation of wagon pullers from their everyday realities. And it is funny how even very senior managers will often see themselves at the back of the wagon!

People often see themselves as victims of organizational non-progress, maybe.

2 – In Hakan’s image, someone appears with a different solution. But even the pusher at the back rejects this new idea. They and the wagon puller are too invested in the current operation to even consider the possibility of doing something differently. They are simply too busy trying to reach their shared goal of moving forward and “GO AWAY” seems to be the message. “We are NOT interested.”

I think that is a common reaction for many viewers of Hakan’s image. They readily relate to the perceived reality that they, too, are just too busy to consider things.

But is that really reality?

3 – Our initial redo of this idea, using the PMC style of LEGO scenes, looked like this:
Too Busy to Improve original art

We then thought to add the conversational bubbles, but in our view of how things really work in most organizations, the people at the back were NOT resistant to the idea. Maybe this is because in the PMC paradigm of the line-art and the LEGO, they had the cargo of ROUND wheels inside the wagon and were hands on enough to be a bit frustrated with how things were working and with general communications.

We believe that most Round Wheel ideas for performance already exist among the wagon pushers of the world, and that in many workplaces, those exemplary performing wagon pushers are already using round wheels in their Square Wheel world.

4 – Sitting with Joan and playing with powerpoint, our first edit generated this as a reality of perceptions around this scene:Too Busy to make improvements says the boss of Square Wheels

Some person with a new idea suggests it to the manager who is simply too busy to even consider doing something differently. It is not a hostile kind of reaction, just indifferent. This was our first take on a caption, somewhat influenced by Hakan.

But we added one more comment, the “Really” that is coming from one of the wagon pushers. This could be a reaction of disbelief? But one that might not be heard by the wagon pusher.

Maybe.

5 – Some continued reflection and reframing and integrating the image with thinking about people and performance then generated what I think is a more realistic commentary, one where the workers would appreciate an opportunity to make improvements but where that common issue of listening between the pushers and puller is problematic. (Plus, there is that issue of rejection of ideas by managers.)

So, the image reshaped itself to look like this and become one of my posters:

Poster Square Wheels Too Busy to Improve

Susan, in this image, is obviously not an outsider, like the character I see in Hakan’s image. She is someone who works for the wagon puller but also maybe someone whose ideas are not highly valued. Research shows that many workers are discounted in this way.

In my father’s trucking business, he had one truck driver who was always stopping by businesses on his way home looking for new business and sharing those contacts with my father, but these contacts were not followed up by my dad, based on how he reacted to Orin’s notes and comments when I listened to their conversations. My dad would actually tell me to tell Orin that he was not around!

I think a lot of bosses discount the ideas of their employees. On the other hand, look at the reaction of the wagon pushers: Might they be interested in doing something more better and faster?

This is just an idea that bubbled up as I played with these ideas. There are always things we can do to go #morebetterfaster and to accomplish more.

If you want to reflect on the theme in the poster or place it in your workplace for contemplation and discussion, simply send me an email to receive an email of it as a high resolution image.

Email me at Scott@SquareWheels.com,

 

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.

 

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

Too Busy and Somewhat Disengaged – an illustration of workplace reality

For the past 25 years, we have been playing with various Square Wheel® images around people and performance. And a number of people, including myself, have commented on Hakan Forss’ reframe of the Square Wheels theme into LEGO. His works were what actually got me moving from the line art that we have been using since 1993 into representing scenes and situations with LEGO characters.

Joan was playing with a new newsletter and we just took a bunch of new pictures. I then imported into powerpoint to add some conversational bubbles and we now have two versions around the workplace issues of being both too busy and somewhat distanced from reality.

For many wagon pullers, they work hard but are not always connected to the work at hand.

YOUR thoughts on which illustration you like best would be neat to see. Joan says I say, “Really?” too much, to which I generally say, “Really?”

Too busy to improve the Square Wheels

And my more preferred version, which in my view of things, represents a pretty common reality about thing seem to work in most organizations:

Really too busy to improve the Square Wheels

Which of these do YOU like more? 

And how might this really reflect reality in your workplace?

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Teamwork, Thinking, Learning and Active Involvement

Experiential exercises have significant impacts on individual and organizational learning and development. Experience, as well as research, says that participating and practicing is 15 times more impactful than sitting in a classroom. So, no wonder we are seeing more and more people use experiential exercised to generate reflection, teamwork and learning.

Being involved and engaged is, well, being involved and engaged.

The visual, auditory and kinesthetic anchors for memory are all hooked up and operating, making the connections needed for later processing, storage and retrieval of the experiences.

A temptation was to go off into a “neuroscience” kind of explanation, since that is all the rage these days. I have a doctorate in behavioral neurophysiology from Chapel Hill back in 1977 and have been consulting on people and performance since 1978, and

None of this neuroscience stuff is all that practical
when one needs to simply learn about behavior. 

Sure, it sounds really good, but is it really helpful to know how that amygdala you have is involved in your emotions or how the hippocampus is involved in distributing neuronal impulses or even how the Broca area of the dominant cortex or the Wernicke area of the posterior section of the superior temporal gyrus are involve in speech? (grin) . (This is all true, but so what!)

Motorola University in 1996 published an interesting chart that I reproduce here not knowing how to get permission for use but thinking that it can generate some useful thinking:

Learning Pyramid

Me, I would have flipped it upside down, so that Teaching Others was at the top but that is MY learning and memory preference showing up, I guess. And, there is a good deal of controversy over the numbers and the meanings, something I will choose not to get into for this post. Let me simply state the obvious:

Being involved and actively engaged in the learning process helps generate better retention and understanding.

Learning, linking and understanding are neurologically determined — the brain is what controls the process and it is good that it is semi-automatic (since if it required much thinking or typing, not a lot of us would ever get it!).

Our brain uses chemical and physical changes in proteins and membranes to build the electrical circuits that make all this “living large” stuff possible. It works pretty seamlessly, and when it doesn’t, we all realize the consequences (Alzheimer’s, dementia, aphasia, coma, and the like. Heck, even growing older has measurable negative impacts for most of us. I was going to cite a reference, but I forgot what it was…).

What our brain does is encode our experiences into memories. If there is some boring lecture going on, guess what is probably not going to be recalled? If you are energetically participating in some mental or physical challenge, doesn’t it make sense that more things will be remembered?

Knowing that something might be useful later adds an important touch — helping someone hang a backpacking hammock works quite well when you know that you will be hanging your hammock the next day. Learning to start a fire with fire sticks or a flint striker is remembered when you know you will head off on a survival venture that afternoon.

Memory is about storage and subsequent retrieval. It is about encoding and categorizing and accessing the meaningful information later. Knowing the context for that learning is generally helpful.

In some of my team building deliveries, the group might have been through a course or a series of lectures on something or other. Let’s say that the subject is Project Management and the participants are shown a methodology for gathering information prior to planning a program. When we play The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, the funny thing is that the “learned” information or skills are often NOT transferred to the information gathering tabletop processes required to produce high levels of game performance.

So, in the debriefing, we review the choices made, generate discussions as to how the tools could be used, and then often project future scenarios or even do some problem solving whereby those tools are used. This kind of active debriefing process generates a motivation to learn and the kind of VAK needed to anchor the skills in place. We also encourage a diversity of ideas and reinforce differences in thinking styles, since these generate better options so often. The debriefings often focus on divergent thinking and questioning ideas. And this is MUCH different than simply lecturing them on what happened and what they should have learned. Their reflection makes it theirs and not yours.

Most people in most organizations are not observed to actually apply things they learned into workplace performance change and improvement. This learning transfer issue is a common problem with classroom training — people KNOW how to do things but choose to keep doing them as they did before.

Implementing change without changing feedback and measurement systems is also pretty hard to accomplish. Coaching can work, but coaches are often not available immediately after training has occurred.

What we suggest is an active kind of situation to involve and engage people, one that sets up a solid discussion of behavioral choices made along with thinking about possibilities. That activity might include projection, team-based agreement on desired future behaviors, some discussions about how improvements might be measured, personal commitment to doing things differently combined with some level of followup and coaching, and other things to help to anchor in the learning as well as generate new, sustainable behaviors in the future.

Generally, people remember their own behavior, and they tend to remember their mistakes and bad choices a bit more easily than all their good reactions and responses. In Lost Dutchman, we try to generate energy and emotion in our activities by adding pressures of time and scarcity of resources or some level of competition. Ideally the competitive situation has a balance of collaboration and cooperation built-in.

If organizations can better use these kinds of engaging activities, they can expect more learning to occur and more commitment to change to result.

Some ideas:

non-agreement bliss poem

Thumbs Up teamwork poem

My team, My way poem copy

 

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

 

 

 

I’ll bet you can’t identify even HALF of the Key Learning Points!

We’ve been playing with a metaphor of Square Wheels for 25 years, starting with a simple line-art drawing by Roy Sabean and eventually winding up using LEGO® to represent, “How things really work in most organizations…”

From the original line art below left, I actually captured 250 unique comments, thoughts and ideas about the illustration. This included some one liners like, “We are not like that; we push our wagon uphill” and

a) “The Square Wheels were invented by a woman!” (man)
b) “but the men are stupid enough to do things that way.” (woman)

Original Square Wheels One image to the present usage

Joan, Chris and I put together a stop-motion video that was great fun. And we recently used that at the top of the homepage for our newly revised website, one that was first on the internet in 1998. (It was in dire need of updating!)

Some of my Facebook friends pointed out some of the key learning points and I added some others. Then, I had the thought of putting it up here and asking people to comment on what they see, what metaphors are included, and how this relates to how organizations really work. The video is 39 seconds. So take a look and tell us what you see.

Hint: A Spectator Sheep appears at the 35 second mark. Spectator Sheep are those that have nothing to really contribute to things and who stand far away, voicing their opinion about things: Naaaaaaaaa Baaaaaaaaaa !! Some people say that there are Spectator Sheep in their workgroup or among the management team…

This is the first upload I have done of one of our stop-motion videos. We have a dozen or so of them that we have been playing with. It is one of the benefits of using the LEGO bricks to create scenes. If you like this, we can share some others.

 

In the comments section, we would love to see your thoughts on the bullet points, the key concepts that we play with around people and motivation and continuous continuous improvement.

Note for background about the main scenario: The wagon puller has been pulling and the wagon pushers have been pushing and the view at the front has been much different than the view from the back for the duration they have been working together. They have been using the Square Wheels because they work and their challenge was to deliver the round wheels to their customer. For some reason, they are taking a break from things…

 

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

 

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 of Performance Management Company
and all materials produced by PMC remain the intellectual property of PMC.

LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO® Group®

Our new website is at www.SquareWheels.com

 

Employee Engagement is OVER? Maybe that is a good thing!

An email from Mercer/Sirota today was headlined, “Employee Engagement is so over! Ok, maybe not quite” and I was somewhat thrilled by that statement and the recognition of a new reality.

I say this because for so many managers, the term “employee engagement” really translated into, “doing a survey and then having to do something about that survey to show my compliance with what the leadership wants.”

It was NOT about really improving motivation or impacting ownership or increasing innovation. The “Corporate Employee Engagement Initiatives” all seemed more like HR’s requirement to focus on employee retention and holding managers somewhat accountable for something over which they had only modest control.

Many BILLIONS of dollars have been spent, with most of that on doing extensive annual or even bi-annual all-employee surveys and then having senior managers meet or retreat to discuss the results, make some plans to do something or other, and lastly about how to hold people accountable. (Does this feel like a positive environment yet?)

And, if one looks at 25 years of RESULTS from the above efforts, we continued to find, year after year, that very little changed. Engagement sucks, and it is not because the surveys were bad (they had incredible construct and face validity) or that the planning meetings and measurement systems were faulty.

They failed because they never really got honest and sincere buy-in of the supervisors and their managers to make honest impacts on the workers. There was never any real trust in these efforts from worker to supervisor or even supervisor to manager. (Other surveys show that clearly.)

My thought is that the ONLY thing that is going to work to make real impacts on active involvement and the generation of ownership in the workplace is some Disruptive Engagement. Only when the supervisors have some confidence in their facilitation skills and see some flexibility and choice within their jobs will they really feel they are allowed to try to do something differently.

Disruptive Engagement generates motivation and active involvement

This is NOT about that myth of “empowering” the supervisors, because one person simply cannot empower another person to do anything.
I cannot empower you and you cannot empower me;
nobody can actually empower anybody! 

What it is about DIS-UN- empowerment, the removal of the roadblocks and systems / processes that prevent action.  Most managers pretty much KNOW they are not empowered to act or make changes, something which will only change when their perceived risk is decreased and their roadblocks are removed.

So, it will be a good thing when we stop wasting all that time and money on the measurement of something that maybe should not be measured. It takes money and time away from doing more constructive and effective things. I will not be sorry to see the “Industry of Engagement” go away and be replaced by a focus on generating active involvement and improved communications between workers and managers.

If you put a gun to their heads, the supervisors could choose to do things differently — heck, if you removed the gun that many feel is already pointed at their heads, they would probably choose to do things differently! Most of them do not really want to work in adversarial business environments.

The managers should be the motivators. The good news is that some really are and really do a great job of involving and engaging their people for real workplace improvement. But this is not done through a survey and is often done away from one. Active involvement is tough to really measure; you know it when you see it and some managers simply do a better job, day in and day out, of communicating with their people.

So, let’s maybe try to do more of that?

Let’s begin to make some different choices as to how we actively involve and engage our workers and our supervisors in the workplace,

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

 

Innovation, Motivation and Supervisory Facilitation – The Square Wheels Project

There are plenty of good tools out there for generating new ideas and momentum about innovating in the workplace. We want more innovation and engagement but we seemingly do little to generate it. Workers work and supervisors supervise and we have little in the way of stimulating thought and implementing better workplace improvement processes.

Surveys continue to indicate that people feel they are too busy and that their organizations do not support risk-taking, thus they are dis-empowered to even implement proven best practices.

Square Wheels too busy to improve

The reality is that we DO operate on Square Wheels® and there are a wide variety of Round Wheels available for implementation in ANY workplace. What is required is some time to consider possibilities and some motivation to try to do things differently, what I term #morebetterfaster.

And I would like to think that our Stupidly Simple Square Wheels® engagement approach is one of the best ones for generating a discussion of issues and opportunities. You share an image, have tabletops discuss their perceptions, link to your workplace and focus on selecting Square Wheels to address and Round Wheels to implement. The discussion smokes out all sorts of things and allows for the top performers to share some of their best practices for getting things done. The ownership-involvement is also a powerful tool to help implementation and followup.

In our approach, which is readily facilitated by the managers, we set the situation that the people are pushing the wagon with Square Wheels and the cargo represent better ideas for improving the journey. Square Wheels represent the thing as they work now, with the idea that they DO work but do not work smoothly. Round Wheels already exist, so it is more about implementation than invention.

Square Wheels performance improvement tools

There are all sorts of linkages and it is really easy to facilitate a discussion of real workplace issues and opportunities. It opens mental doors and windows to allow the fresh air of performance improvement discussions.

In addition to the toolkit, we also developed a very simple and very inexpensive facilitation skills training program to teach supervisors and managers how to facilitate discussions and to involve and engage people for workplace improvement purposes. It all comes together at The Square Wheels Project.

My newest thought for how to illustrate the benefits looks like this:

Brains, Square Wheels and Round Wheels, an image by Scott Simmerman

Our goal is to get people to step back from their wagons and look for new or different or better ideas to make improvements. Perspective is a key to choosing to do things differently. And once people identify and label something as a Square Wheel, they are driven to find the round wheel to fix it. You can also think of it as Disruptive Engagement, since it all happens at the front-line levels of an organization, away from the controlling influences of HR and senior management.

Your thoughts on this simple process would be great! You can also check us out at TSWP to see how we are rolling all this forward. These images and the approach are a truly effective as a tool for organizational improvement, coaching and simple innovation, created

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Team Coaching – Facilitating Engagement and Innovation

A lot is written and a LOT of people call themselves coaches, so it is not like we do not have those skillsets readily available in our business community. But, so many workers are dis-engaged, un-involved and demotivated. It seems to me that more supervisors should do more coaching or be better coaches, right?

So much around coaching seems to be around visions of how things should be and the subsequent playing with ideas about how to implement new behaviors or to change those paths we are on. The key in coaching and individual is to generate some sense of perceptual reality to relate toward desired goals and outcomes.

It would seem that one goal of leadership might be to generate an understanding of perceived and actual issues underlying performance problems and to generate some group involvement in addressing and solving those issues. Involvement is key simply because,

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

Doing things TO them will invariably generate some level of resistance; in a workgroup with an existing low level of trust and rapport, it will tend to generate active resistance.

So, an activity I will frame up as Team Coaching involves stopping long enough to generate a conversation around awareness of those issues and opportunities, understanding that the view from the front is different than the view at the back.

Square Wheels Poster on Team Coaching and Facilitating Engagement

If you are looking for some simple tools to generate conversations, check out our Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit by clicking on the image above. We will guarantee that it works seamlessly and easily.

We also have a variety of images framed as Posters, focusing on different themes or with haiku or poems or quotes. Check out my other blog, Poems on the Workplace,

 

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

 

Breaking Down Workplace Roadblocks for Increased Productivity and Happiness

If you’re a manager or supervisor, you can easily dis-un-empower yourself and the people you work with and easily gain new perspectives and successful outcomes for dealing with perceived workplace roadblocks — those things that hinder our production or completion of jobs/tasks.

Our Managing Workplace Roadblocks Toolkit is designed around an easily communicated Roadblocks Management Model that categorizes roadblocks into 4 types and shares strategy for dealing with each.

This Toolkit is a great coaching tool and works elegantly in a team setting. Along with introducing the Roadblocks Management  Model, the idea is that some people are better roadblocks managers than others and when they are given the opportunity to share their exemplary strategies for managing their roadblocks, the likelihood increases that others will become more adept and confident with managing their own.

We include facilitation tips and all the resources you need to actively involve and engage your people in workplace improvement.

This complete Toolkit is $49.95 and contains:
  • Leader’s Overview and Guide
  • Roadblocks Management Model
  • Presentation PowerPoint
  • Handouts and Worksheets for Participants
  • Other Pertinent Articles and Slides

Lead people to better success with the Managing Workplace Roadblocks Toolkit that works to increase productivity, workplace happiness and personal satisfaction as people learn how to better manage roadblocks hampering their successes.

You might also find this article on Positive Disruptive Engagement to be related, relevant and interesting:

AND, like all of our other products, you can contact me directly if you desire to chat about issues and opportunities,

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

 

Spring Forward Monday – Focused Innovation and Engagement Tools for after Daylight Savings Time

Spring Ahead with Motivated Action on Monday, March 12th

What is Spring Forward Monday It’s a special day for improving productivity, increasing employee engagement and promoting learning and new ideas for moving forward.

When is it?  Monday, March 12, 2018, (the day following Sunday’s Spring Forward time change on March 11th).

Who should do it?  If you are a Supervisor or Manager, this is for you! Take the initiative and create Spring Forward Monday with your employees. Gather your people together and inspire them in a learning quest, be it through a “hands-on” learning experience or by inviting them to share their ideas for improvements.

Why do it?  The purpose of Spring Forward Monday is to take this normally lackluster day (due to the resulting negative affect from the previous day’s time change) and turn it into a day of energy and motivation that will make a valuable difference for everyone involved.

How does it work?

  • Facilitate a session that gets people talking about what they feel could work better and how. This is motivating and engaging and great ideas can come from it.
  • Introduce some serious and fun learning by setting up teams to play a board game or simulation. People are motivated by active learning experiences.
  • Shake up the workplace by doing something outside of the usual daily routine. Even a simple meeting that involves food can stimulate people!
  • Inspire people by doing something positive with them.

Spring Forward Monday’s outcome will make a difference, not only in that day’s energy level but also for the future, because great and valuable ideas happen when people are invited to share their perspective or enjoy a solid learning experience together.

There are lots of ideas out there for getting people involved, giving them learning experiences and turning a “blah” day into a motivating day!

If you’d like some solid ideas for creating your own workplace’s Spring Forward Monday, we offer some  tools and ideas that are worth using:

  1. Try our Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit that includes everything needed to ensure your success at facilitating a productive and safe session that will promote involvement and a sharing of ideas.
  2. Join The Square Wheels Project, an online learning platform where you’ll receive both the tools and the training for generating interactive discussions around ideas and opportunities for improvements.
  3. Use one of our team building exercises such as The Collaboration Journey Challenge or The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.These games put participants in situations that link to their real-life work scenarios and offer excellent learning outcomes

Turn Monday, March 12, 2018, into a superb day by planning an engaging approach to learning and creating a happier and, thereby, more productive workplace!

 

For the FUN of It!

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

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.comRead Scott’s blogging on people and performance improvement

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

Thanksgiving Progress – People and Performance

Thanksgiving here in the US translates well to the workplace when a “table is set” with the purpose of asking employees what they are thankful for in their workplace and then taking the discussion a step further by asking for their ideas and suggestions for workplace improvements.

For anyone supervising others, finding ways to ensure that their employees have a voice in their workplace and what can be improved would seem essential in creating a feeling of thankfulness and, therefore, increased workplace happiness and productivity. Actively being involved is often simply about being active in asking for issues and ideas.

Unfortunately, surveys show that employees are not experiencing workplace happiness and this negatively affects the organization, as a whole. What can you do to increase workplace satisfaction and active engagement for your employees? Here are a couple of actionable ideas:

1.  Be a “good” leader. Set clear expectations concerning rules, job performance and alignment to workplace goals and objectives.
2.  Make sure employees feel valued. Reach out and connect, personally, with them.
3.  Create a productive atmosphere. Be aware of the overall atmosphere and physical area and how it might affect productivity.
4.  Get people involved. Make them feel a part of the whole by asking for their input.

How do you make a difference? Create your own workplace Thanksgiving scenario (and not just around Thanksgiving but at any time!) by gathering your employees around a table where they can comfortably share ideas for workplace improvements:

Do this on your own or with the help of our Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit that guides you in easily facilitating a session using the Square Wheels One image (shown below, left), a simple tool that generates active involvement and engagement to get people talking about issues and opportunities using the language of Square Wheels (things that don’t work smoothly) and Round Wheels (things that work MoreBetterFaster).

Square Wheels One LEGO image by Scott Simmerman

Ask for ideas and get them to make suggestions and to discuss possibilities. Everyone should be encouraged to share their thoughts and perspectives.

This tool has been appreciated, worldwide, for over 20 years because it so easily generates participation around ideas for improvements. Included in the Toolkit is a Leader’s Guide, a Presentation PowerPoint, Participant Handouts and Posters. It’s designed to increase facilitation skills. Or, you can take our 30-minute online course in facilitation skills where you’ll improve your skills through online video training and download the Square Wheels Toolkit to lead conversations about improvements and innovations. Click on the link to see this course overview.

Adding a Thanksgiving feeling to your workplace by gathering your people together creates an essential discussion towards making a positive difference in workplace happiness and appreciation. And remember to thank them,

 

 

For the FUN of It!

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

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.comRead Scott’s blogging on people and performance improvement

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

May you enjoy your Thanksgiving with lots
of good feelings rolled into it! 

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