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

Category: employee motivation Page 1 of 24

Dealing with Spectator Sheep — Because you can!

Spectator Sheep. You know who they are and what they do – they stand on the outside of what is happening and voice their opinions: Naaaaaaaa. Baaaaaaa.

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Nothing is quite good enough and nothing works well enough and they are not satisfied with the current state of things.

But how about a little reframe around this problem…

One of the primary workplace motivators is the dissatisfaction with the way things are.

People sometimes see issues with how things work and get frustrated with systems and processes that do not seem to make sense or that do not align with their goals and objectives. This builds up a negative residue over time and people do get frustrated with the way things remain.

Similarly, some people are always looking for things that they can improve, and hope that others might feel the same way and that bosses are listening. But when they don’t, that builds up a residue, also.

Lastly, some people just “sort” things for the negative – they just look for things that are wrong rather than seeing things through those old rose-colored positive outlook glasses. And they say what they think; it just comes out flat and maybe negative. It is not that they are bad people, but they just see things differently. And they can often be frustrated because things could be better.

So, things generally work like this:

Really too busy to improve the Square Wheels

So, of course people can act like Spectator Sheep and surely you will hear the Naaaaaaaah, Baaaaaaaah refrain.


Here are some ideas for re-directing and engaging or re-engaging (my guess is that these same people used to be engaged and slowly dis-engaged over time):

1. Ask for and try to understand their perspective. Often, they just want to be heard and be respected. They may simply see things differently than you or others. Try to get some clarity as to what they are thinking. Plenty of research says that most workers in most organizations do not feel that their managers listen to their ideas. They may see something as a Square Wheel and wonder why things continue to thump and bump along the same old way…

2. Align them to your perspective. Make sure that the missions, visions, goals, objectives and expectations are clear (and make sure that your measurement and feedback systems are in alignment with the above!).

3. Ask for and write down their specific issues. You may think you understand what they said but what they said is not necessarily what they meant or what you understood them to mean.

A: You must know that you know that I know change is needed now.
 B: Yes, I knew that.
A: I knew you knew. But I wanted to know that you knew what I know and that I knew.
 B: Yes, but I didn’t know that you wanted everyone to know, just me knowing you knew.
A: I didn’t know that. So, what do you think? What do I need to know?

4. Obviously, request any specifics and details. “A Desk is a Dangerous Place from which to View the World” – the natural isolation of a manager is different from the hands-on day-to-day reality of the worker and congruence is necessary here. You need to know what they know and their thinking in order to generate better alignment and increased productivity and performance from them.

5. Focus on solutions and get them involved. If it makes sense, see who else in the workplace might share this perspective and maybe you can form a performance improvement team to share the perceived issue(s) and to help address this issue. Allow these people to feel part of the team and work to change their direction. “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” so get them actively involved with you on making improvements and implementing change.

Re-Direct and engage!

In my experience, spectator sheep are good people who are frustrated because they see things differently than everyone else (or most other people, some of which may also be dis-engaged but do not voice their opinions). Continuous improvement is a continuous process — view it as continuous continuous improvement — and understand that active involvement in problem solving and solution implementation is engaging and motivating for most people.

And at the very least you may quiet some of the negativity, if that person feels like their ideas have been heard and considered.

And don’t say, “Naaaaaaaaaaaaaa…..”

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman CPF, CPT is still managing partner of PMC

Scott is developer of the Square Wheels® images and the board game version of Lost Dutchman. The virtual, remote version of the exercise is about to be released (August, 2021)

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

You can reach him at scott@squarewheels.com and you can see his profile at LinkedIn

 

 

Godzilla, Bambi and Innovation and Creativity

Why does innovation and creativity sometimes seem so hard to generate?

This is an old issue with workgroups and seems especially to be the case now that so many people are working remotely.

It continues to be difficult to involve and engage them in generating ideas for workplace improvement or for involving them in design thinking or other kinds of developmental situations. Why do people just seem generally uninterested in helping their organizations make improvements?

Thinking about this in the context of digital implementation in general and remote workers in particular, it seemed to come down to the issues of ownership and engagement, that those organizations doing a good job of keeping connected with their people seem to be doing a better job of overall innovation and active involvement.

It reminded me of two things:

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

and

“Godzilla Meets Bambi.”

Yeah. I expected a, “huh?” response. So let me explain a little and keep things simple.

A critical factor in motivation is ownership. So the first quote references the reality that people who do not feel ownership or at least active involvement in problem solving cannot be expected to care as much as people who do. And, sometimes we simply do not do a very good job of doing things with people, choosing more to (unintentionally) do things TO them. People naturally resist things done to them, pushing back in different ways.

So, we might expect more innovation and creativity from those people who feel involved and engaged by the issues and opportunities in their workplaces. This is really an art in managing remote workers to generate those reactions, but asking and involving is usually more effective.

This first thought led to the second, which is actually the name of a 2-minute video I did 10 years ago to help explain these thoughts. It uses a short series of my Square Wheels® illustrations to explain why workers are less likely to be involved.

I tried to be funny but also real as well as entertaining and informative.

The link to Godzilla Meets Bambi is here:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOZk6UOii6M

Your thoughts and reactions are most appreciated.

 

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

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

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine goes online / virtual

This week, we will see an operational ONLINE version of our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. First developed as a board game in 1993 and sold and delivered globally, we have been working with a software development company to bring the same dynamics of play generated in face-to-face game deliveries into a mode that allows for remote players to engage in collaboration, strategic planning and fun as they put together their plan to Mine as Much Gold as We Can!

 

As more and more companies get back to a more normal operational framework, we will continue to sell and support our board game versions for groups of 3, 4 and 6 tabletops of six players each. We will also continue to sell our Professional Edition which allows for basically unlimited numbers of tabletops.

Lost Dutchman – Virtual is designed to operate with pods of 6 teams, with up to 4 players per team. It will play on the common browser platforms and have extensive communications capabilities for collaboration between the players on a team, between the teams, and between the pod Facilitator and everyone.

For those people who already facilitate the exercise, this online version should be a nice addition to your team building toolkit. Play will be very similar to what you already like and the learning curve for operation will be quick. For those new to the game, you can expect extensive online training and support materials, plus live support from our team (including my son and me).

Jeff Simmerman has been driving this forward. He has applied his online game playing experience over the past two decades to the look and feel of the virtual version. I should also note that he first helped me deliver the game at age 12, so he knows it really well. Jeff fully understands all aspects of play and design and has developed the exercise so that all of our extensive library of debriefing questions still apply. So, if you have a solid debriefing already packaged, you will be pleased to know that you can most likely continue to use that same focus, only without the players needing to be in one room!

We are not quite ready for our network of users to access the exercise, but we are moving fast-forward as best we can. Much of the distribution and execution of the licensing will be through our long-term colleagues at The TEAM Approach. We are also finalizing our agreement with our long-term Japanese associates, WorkHappiness, to bring their Zipangu version (LDGM reset into Japan) of LDV online and to support their use of LDV.

If you have any thoughts or questions, send us an email,

For the FUN of It!–

Scott Simmerman, Ph.D., CPF, CPT – “The Square Wheels Guy”
“Retired” Managing Partner, Performance Management Company – 864-292-8700
1520 S McElhaney Road, Greer SC  29651  USA

Scott@SquareWheels.com

– Tools, games and presentation materials at
<www.performancemanagementcompany.com>

 

A Joke on the issues of Implementing New Ideas

We’re playing around with a bunch of new  tools to help supervisors manage their remote workers and overall team more effectively, wrapped around our Square Wheels® images. And, in my framing work, I thought of an old joke that I wanted to share about some of the difficulties in implementing improvements.

And, in thinking about that, I thought to share it with my readers.

So, here goes:

This guy was driving down a dirt road when he looked to his left and a three-legged chicken was running next to the car. Interesting, he thought but he also thought he would drive faster. He sped up but so did the chicken. So, he sped up a bit more but so did the chicken. Finally, he’s doing over 50 miles per hour and the chicken is staying with him.
Then, all of a sudden, the chicken speeds up and cuts in front of him and runs onto this farm road.
Well, the guy slows down, backs up and goes down the road to reach the farm house where a farmer steps off the porch and comes up to the car.
“Man, did you see the speed of that chicken?”
“Yep.”
“And did you see that it has three legs?”
“Yep. We breed them that way.”
“Why?”
“Well ever have people over for dinner and you want three drumsticks?” 
“Sure. That actually makes good sense. How do they taste?”
“Well, we don’t rightly know. We’ve never been able to catch one…”
(speaking of Square Wheels, I have been unable to get the correct formatting on this post. Sorry.)
The theme is that sometimes, what appears to be a really good idea can be pretty hard to actually implement.
What really good “3-legged chicken” ideas might we have to run around? How might you use this joke to lighten up a difficult meeting about implementing changes within an organization? How can you use the joke to stimulate a discussion about your organization’s issues and opportunities?
  • What plans might the farmer and driver make?
  • How do we make a great idea into a success by doing a better job of planning at the start?
… and so forth.

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.

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

Square Wheels Tools for Managing and Leading Remote Workers

There are massive shifts happening right now, some are trends that are simply continuing and some are having significant impacts on people and performance. In millions of workplaces, people who have had desks are not expected to continue to contribute by working remotely. That transition is going to be unbelievably painful for millions of workers and their supervisors.

My network of consultants and trainers are now discussing how we can help people better handle these changing conditions by providing some very simple tools and some very simple training to impact communications. We think that our Square Wheels® themes can be made into simple webcasted interactive discussions.

So, we are just beginning to pull a wide variety of resources together to share ideas about what we can do and what we can implement. My current view is to package things like the old “brown bag luncheon” tools, with images and animations to help jumpstart discussions on various issues, present and future.

Impacts should be on worker (and manager) motivation, dealing with change, innovation and designing better workplace systems and processes, implementing improvement, team building and collaboration and other issues that are being faced by managers. And the tools will be simple, like this haiku I did a while back…

haiku Better Tomorrow

If you are interested in playing with us as we develop these things, please let me know by email. I may see comments but may also be slow to react to them.

These tools will strongly align with my “Manager as Motivator” thinking, whereby we support people managing people with simple engagement processes and implementation tools and ideas.

Scott Simmerman – scott@squarewheels.com

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

 

“Why are team-building activities conducted?” – An answer to a Quora Post

This question was asked in Quora, where I posted up a response. Your thoughts?

The Big Answer is “organizational improvement.” That can take the focus on improving collaboration to impact innovation or creativity or customer service or similar. It can take the focus of re-aligning (or aligning, even) people toward shared goals and objectives, missions and visions and that sort of thing. And different events can help people focus on optimizing performance results.

In many organizations, “interdepartmental collaboration” is an oxymoron, in that the objectives of different groups within an organization are often adversarial, since they tend to have opposing or at least different goals and objectives, measurements and rewards.

A well-designed team BUILDING initiative can accomplish a lot, and get people moving in the same direction. It is NOT the solution, though, since there are lots of cultural issues that might need to be addressed. In most organizations, there are good individual rewards for good performance, which do not generally drive collaboration, communications and teamwork.

Team BUILDING is also quite different than team BONDING. You can build bonds by going out drinking together or to a strip club (I jest, but one does see such events posted in Twitter with a hashtag of #teambuilding!) or by having fun events and get-togethers. You would be hard-pressed to find those things having any impact on measurable results, however.

A good team building exercise with a good supporting framework for post-event improvement can do a lot to impact motivation and results. Check out, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” to see one example of how an event can be structured for organizational improvement.

My thought was to share a simple framework around the goals of accomplishing some real team building around shared missions, visions, goals and behavior. Increasing collaboration between departments is a very high impact behavior that can be accomplished.

A focus on improving teamwork and better aligning people in organizations to shared goals and missions has many positive impacts. After all, the goal should be, “To mine as much gold as WE can!”

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.

 

Teamwork: Things Can All Play Out with Everyone Being Comfortable!

You Don’t Have to Build, Shoot, Cook, Find Things, Find A Way Out, Be Physically Challenged or Be a Loser, Sing, or Even Be Especially Clever! You Don’t Even Have to Sit Still Unless You Want To!

The above points can all be true, however, given today’s climate for sensationalizing corporate adventures and team building scenarios, too many people are placed in situations that lead to personal discomfort and feelings of inadequacy, thereby creating scenarios that do not lead to organizational improvement or improve team effectiveness.

And why? What necessitates overdoing something that could so much more easily be handled with care and consideration for everyone’s comfort while also creating a fun and solid learning experience? Why not simply create a fun environment that supports teamwork and performance improvement? Why test individuals in a team building environment?

Learning happens best when people feel secure and the challenges presented are within their abilities. Of course, pushing people beyond what they think they can do may build confidence if they succeed, but this isn’t a necessary option for strengthening organizational culture or building a more collaborate workplace.

Thirty years ago, I was intrigued by a team building game for organizations that offered both fun and learning all done within a tabletop setting. This is the kind of stuff most of us grew up with—board games. Seeing this as a unique and purposeful learning tool, I enthusiastically became the first USA facilitator / seller for it.  However, with repeated developmental deliveries, I quickly realized that their game design fell short of reaching the full potential that I felt it could fulfill.

This is how The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building exercise came to be because after suggesting to the creators of the game that I was representing, that it needed more substance and a better design within in order to create that all important “ah ha!” that happens when a connection is made from one thing to another, they refused to make changes to their game. (more)

Recognizing the strength and inherent qualities of using a boardgame as an organizational learning tool, I began my journey with the designing and continuous continuous improvement of Dutchman. I wanted it to be the memorable game that I knew would work not only as a pleasurable experience but also one designed with the proper mechanics so that players would understand how their game behaviors and outcomes align with what happens in their workplace.

Now, all these decades later, Dutchman still remains a relevant and universally appreciated approach to getting people away from their workplace so that they can experience camaraderie, an engaging challenge, teamwork, group and leadership dynamics, competition and collaboration factors, strategic planning and elements of communication that happen though the play of a compelling game. (user survey) Its dynamic debriefing, however, is what truly makes Dutchman loved and trusted by our users because it gives participants insight into how their behaviors are crucial to organizational and personal change and improvement.

Our users love Dutchman. Many have run it for dozens of years
for a variety of developmental purposes.

Yes, lots of people enjoy the great outdoors and various types of challenges that offer a different twist from their day-to-day experiences, but the beauty of a game like Dutchman is that it doesn’t put people in a compromising position should they feel unsafe or unfit or too old to enjoy what is put in front of them. Everyone has played board games and while Dutchman would be described as much more than just a game, it is a more familiar setting than climbing ropes, shooting arrows, walking over hot coals or being locked in an escape room. And, it’s an easy bombproof tool to set up and deliver, as it includes all the instructions and ideas that will make it successful. You can even use your own personnel to facilitate the game!

A quick overview of Dutchman:

  • Everything needed is included in the game materials (you may wish to add your own props for décor to the room)
  • No need for participants to bring special clothing or equipment for the game
  • No physical challenges will be placed on anyone
  • Total time required for Dutchman introduction, play and debriefing is about 3.5 hours
  • No teams lose or die in this game; it’s about optimizing for the best outcome
  • The debriefing is flexible and can be designed to address specific issues or ideas
  • It’s inexpensive to run and can be either rented or purchased
  • Dutchman plays with any size group from 8 to 800+
  • It’s a valuable investment in organizational improvement

And, quite simply, it creates a feel-good-for-all learning experience for your organization without jeopardizing anyone’s comfort zone!

Here is the last bit: We FULLY support you in your purchase or rental of the exercise. You get unlimited free help through emails or calls to reach the point where you feel comfortable in running the exercise and focused with your key debriefing themes and targeted desired outcomes. Actually, we wish more of our users would talk with us, something that our very extensive included support materials seems to preclude.

Your goal is to, “Mine as much as WE can!
Our goal is to, “Make teams optimally successful.”

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®

 

Design Thinking: Who ARE those customers

Attending an Agile workshop this morning, my thinking was on Design Thinking and how many of those processes neatly support the Agile approaches to innovation and implementation. What we are seeing so often is an active resistance to even the basic ideas around implementing improvements. But, as I have seen since starting my consulting and training efforts back in 1978, “What else is new?”

The critical success factor often seems to be “perspective” or “reflection.” Outside of the technical and the processes involved, nothing gets done until things get implemented. The viewpoint of the leader, the wagon puller, often remains the same as it has always been and they are often not going to embrace the improvement initiative. They are looking forward at what needs to be accomplished today much more often than they are reflecting on the ideas of others about what might be improved in the future.

The workplace thus seems to roll forward along these lines:

Design Thinking and Implementation in the workplace of reality

As I shared in another blog, there are a variety of reasons for why people do not share ideas for improvement in most organizations, and very few GOOD reasons…

Square Wheels research on why people are not engaged

(Click on the image to see more about this original research)

The statistics are about workers’ perceptions of managers but the reality is that this also reflects the managers view about their managers and their managers view of the senior managers…

The simple summary is that managers need more reflection about how their workplaces perform and the understanding that many people are motivated by participating in workplace improvement initiatives. Managers can facilitate the generation of ideas and can benefit when those ideas produce positive impacts. We can see that in Agile kinds of improvement initiatives where teams quickly design and test new frameworks for implementation and they can be seen in design thinking kinds of initiatives focused on new products, change and productivity.

The Round Wheels already exist,
but need to be implemented more better faster.

The Round Wheels of Today will become
The Square Wheels of Tomorrow.

You can take a 30-minute online facilitation skills training program, called The Square Wheels Project at Udemy for $20, complete with handouts and powerpoint presentation tools.

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance ManaagementOr, you can purchase a simple toolkit with a wide variety of supporting instructional ideas around facilitating workplace improvement.

Both of the above are designed for supervisors and both of these are easily embedded into communications and training initiatives to support organizational improvement. We have been working with Square Wheels as tools to impact people and performance since 1993 and can do a variety of things to support any kind of innovation and implementation initiative.

 

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 a fun animation about innovation and improvement here.

See another great teambuilding game: The Collaboration Journey Challenge

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
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®

 

 

Contributing Improvement Ideas. The BOSS is the biggest issue

I plan on doing a whole series of posts around some survey results by my friend and colleague, Lynn Woods at IdeaSpies. Her data focuses on some of the issues around management and innovation and active involvement. My goal is to write a LOT more about this in coming blogs about people and performance and frame the issues around how we can facilitate ourselves out of this mess…

So, CAN people contribute more ideas to their workplaces? Not surprising. People do have ideas, if managers would bother to ask them, right?

Square Wheels Data on Active Involvement for Innovation

DO Managers value those ideas? Well, that data shows that the attitudes of the Boss don’t seem too supportive. Hell, over 10% said it is RISKY to do so. And, if the supervisor were actually interested, they would probably not be “too busy” or find it “too difficult.”

Square Wheels research on why people are not engaged

I am going to put almost ALL of this on the management and the perceived actual culture they have created for the workers. Is innovation and workplace improvement of systems and processes not important to the long-term, overall success of the organization? Is not employee motivation an important issue?

And what are we getting when the management team seems to make the sharing of worker ideas a RISK to the workers, to have them believe that their supervisor is simply not interested in those things?

The Most Senior Management should be VERY concerned about data like this, because their long-term success in innovating improvements and involving and engaging and aligning their people to strategic goals and objectives seems very much at risk.

For the past 35 years, I have been working on very similar themes of active involvement and ownership of improvement ideas in organizations and for the past 25 years, we have offered really inexpensive and effective communications tools to address these kinds of issues. You can see more information about our Square Wheels facilitation toolkits here:

square wheels facilitation toolkits for leadership development

Check this approach out. Use it on Spring Forward Monday to better involve your people. We even have an online facilitation skills course on Udemy that shares training frameworks, specific ideas and the worksheets and powerpoints to generate active involvement and improved communications,

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 our 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®


You can find a link to Lynn Wood’s data here: https://www.ideaspies.com/employee-innovation-survey-results2/.

Delivery Tips for Lost Dutchman Teambuilding Exercise

While delivering The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine game is straightforward, new users often have simple questions about how that game works or how it can be enhanced. Two customers were asking me similar questions yesterday so I thought that a blog post might allow a little more leeway for an explanation and also allow those interested in the exercise to learn a bit more before they make a purchase decision.

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine makes the finals of the International Business Learning Games competition

There are different versions of the exercise that handle different group sizes, with the LD6 version handling up to 6 tabletops of players. If you are running a session with 20 players, you might choose to play with 4 teams of 5 or 5 teams of 4, for example. How do you decide?

  1. Having more players at a single tabletop will make the actual teamwork of the players a bit more challenging. Even though each player will have an assigned role, the more players, the more discussion and the more difficult the decision-making might be. Getting 5 people to agree is slightly more difficult than 4, in our experience.
  2. With more tabletops, you tend to generate more competition between the teams. Even though the goal is, “to mine as much gold as WE can,” teams will often compete rather than collaborate. So, if your desire is to focus on improving collaboration among the tabletops so that you can demonstrate that collaboration positively impacts results, you might play with more tables.
  3. If the focus is on personal communications and decision-making styles or similar in the debriefing, we might suggest the larger tables; you might play with 3 tables of 6 players if you only had 18. And we would suggest you never play with more than 6 players, since there simply is not enough work for that extra person and they often then become disruptive to the group overall. It does not generally seem to improve collaboration.

This same kind of design decision disappears in larger deliveries of 50 or more people, since there will be plenty of tabletops! And, with very large groups and the play in “pods” of 10 tables in each pod, you will often see competition happening between pods!

Weather plays a role in the game because it makes the resource consumption during play a variable. If a team chooses The Low Country Trail to go to the mine, they encounter wet weather which creates mud and increases consumption of Fuel. And the number of Arctic Blast that might occur, using up more Fuel and also Supplies, is also unknown. So, for a Battery, a team might choose to get one of the Weather Reports.

These Weather Reports are accurate, but only available on Days 5, 10 and 15 and are essentially useless since they are not available during the planning time before the game starts and play begins. While it is good information, it is not worth the cost. Each Weather Report COULD be shared between ALL of the tabletops if teams ever chose to do so — in my experience, they are very seldom shared. and teams often keep batteries and then do not use them during play. And they are ONLY available on those Days, not earlier.

The Videos are an essential part of the game design. Both are only available during planning time before the start of play and each contains resource cards and information that directly influences results. With 5 teams, we might play with 3 of The Mine videos available and 2 of Tortilla Flat. Thus, not all teams could directly acquire the resource cards and information about play.

Teams acquiring a Mine Video get resources that can replace Tent Cards, and thus relieve some of the limitations. Each team gets $750 worth or resources in their Grub Stakes, which is “limited but sufficient.” Adding Cave Cards allows a team to get more Supplies and Fuel and to even be able to share resources with other teams if they are fully collaborating. (Sometimes they will trade/sell another team a Fuel for a Gold if that team needs fuel to survive!)

Teams acquiring the Tortilla Flat Video get Turbochargers that allow them to move twice as fast for the rest of the game, and they get Turbos that could also be shared with other tabletops with the same effect. With two TF Videos in play, you would have one available for every team if they are shared.

Gold Cards have a couple of uses.

Most often, facilitators are choosing to use painted gold rocks along with gold mining pans for the tables to use to acquire gold when mining in The Lost Dutchman’s Mine. Teams like the heft of the rock and the gold mining pan adds a nice touch to the theme of gold mining at the tabletop along with the toy jeep and bendable figures and similar. But especially with a very large group, moving about with a large quantity of heavy rocks and the bulk of the mining pans is a delivery choice. The option is to give each team a Gold Card to symbolize the gold being mined.

The gold cards can also be a simple discussion aid. I will often distribute them as:

  1. A reminder of the main theme of mining as much gold as WE can, the cards being something they can take with them.
  2. A communications tool where they can choose to put their name on the back and then writing something that they could choose to do differently after the workshop, which can then be returned to them a week later.
  3. A communications tool where they can write another person’s name on the card with a signed commitment of what they could try to do differently to support that other person’s efforts post-workshop. I might tell Bobby that I will have two of my people join two of his to solve some interdepartmental glitch or similar…

We designed The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to be a flexible experiential team building exercise to generate powerful debriefings focused on improving organizational results. It has a variety of clean metaphors about behavioral choices that players and teams make and generates measurable results showing the benefits of collaboration versus competition.

———————————-

Some thoughts on Scarcity

One of the new purchasers will run her first game with senior managers in a workshop about Scarcity and how that mentality can affect things like collaboration and the optimization of overall results. We see that same kind of “hold the cards tightly” thinking after downsizing efforts and similar organizational trauma where some self-preservation thinking might come into play that overrides a collaborative culture.

We often refer to this as, “My Team, My Team, My Team” thinking, which is not focused on interdepartmental collaboration or helping overall performance of the organization.

Scarcity Mentality can be seen when teams get Spare Tires and Batteries before they leave, just in case. Spare Tires are a form of security for a “just in case” mentality and anyone asking the Expedition Leader if they might get one would find them advised they are not needed.

Scarcity mentality in the play of the exercise can revolve around the acquisition of Tent Cards and how any surplus Supplies and Fuel are treated by the teams. If one team is in dire need of a Fuel Card, they might trade one Gold Card (worth $2500) for a couple of $10 Fuel Cards. It is not uncommon and occurs when the survival of the first team is in question at the end of the exercise.

Of course, since the role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful, that same team could also simply ask for assistance and you could give them a $10 Fuel Card to insure their survival and the contribution of their gold to the overall results.

If the teams are fully collaborative, they could share some of their Cave Cards and two of their Turbochargers if they had a video. With a scarcity mentality, they would most likely hold on to all of those cards and NOT share them with the other tabletops. This dramatically and measurably sub-optimizes your overall results.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman

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

 
You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Square Wheels Cartoons and Quotes Supporting a Gratitude Attitude

Joan generated her illustrated annual Thanksgiving Message to our newsletter subscribers so I thought to share it here for a more general audience. We wish all of you the best for these days and the whole year. So, here we go:


As Thanksgiving approaches, we’ve added our Square Wheels cartoons to some insightful quotes that support the idea that continually expressing gratitude and being thankful can lead to a happier, more productive and improved workplace.

Square Wheels One representing “How Most Organizations Really Work” is shown below, but if you’ll read further, you’ll find some inspiring thoughts for how gratitude and thankfulness can create a smoother journey forward for everyone:

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”  ― William Arthur Ward

Square Wheels and showing pride of ownership

 

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” — John F. Kennedy
Square Wheels cartoon about onboarding

“The more you practice the art of thankfulness, the more you have to be thankful for.” ― Norman Vincent Peale

Workplace Square Wheels LEGO image

 

“A moment of gratitude makes a difference in your attitude.”
― Bruce Wilkinson

Square Wheels LEGO image of celebration and gratitude

 

“The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”  ― Robert Holden

Intrinsic Motivation comes from making improvement in Square Wheels
“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.” ― Ernest Hemingway

mentoring the change from caterpillar to butterfly

And, a couple of other well-known characters have this to say:

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”
― Willie Nelson

“What if today, we were just grateful for everything?”
― Charlie Brown

Enjoy your Thanksgiving! And enjoy the remaining year,

 

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®

 

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