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Coaching and the Parallels to Running Whitewater Rapids

Some thoughts on the Rating of Difficulty of Coaching and Whitewater River Running

Some people feel that running whitewater rapids in a kayak is a lot like coaching difficult performers. Sometimes the rapid is an easy one that you can just float through without a lot of preparation or even much observation. In other cases, where the water and the “drop” is a bit more difficult, it may make sense to get out of the boat, walk along the shore and take a look at what you are about to encounter so that you can plan a route through with the highest likelihood of success.

In the case of very difficult whitewater, you may want to have a good deal of information about the situation available, have a plan for other observers to share their thoughts on how to succeed and even have a plan for someone to throw you a rope if things get really tight. And sometimes scouting that rapid is in order so that the difficulties can be avoided or responses can be planned.

So here is how rapids in a river are rated insofar as difficulty:

Class 1: Easy. 
Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few general obstructions exist and all obvious and readily missed. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.

Saluda

Class i – II Saluda River (SC)

Class 2: Novice. 
Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily avoided, if desired, by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and assistance, while possibly helpful, is seldom needed.

Class 3: Intermediate. 
Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open boat like a canoe or flip a kayak. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good control in tight passages is required; large waves may be present but may be avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable, especially for inexperienced participants. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims and water up your nose!

Class 4: Advanced. 
Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn into quiet waters may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require “must-make” moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting often necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills. A strong roll is highly recommended.

Class 5: Expert. 
Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids with drops that may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is recommended but even this may be difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is often difficult even for experts. A very reliable roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential.

Class 6: Extreme and Exploratory. 
These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. After a Class 6 rapid has been successfully navigated many times and routes and strategies become known, its rating may be downgraded to Class 5 and the difficulty is actually lessened and the required “moves” become known.

Coaching is a lot like whitewater play

If you have the skills, you can have fun in the difficult stuff. This is called a pop-up! Wheeeee…

In the next post that appears here, I will describe how coaching situations can be matched up to these ratings, and how the strategies for running white water rapids can be useful in planning and executing these coaching sessions.

 

Scott in Dancer

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

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

 

Coaching and the Parallels to Running Whitewater Rapids, Part 2

The Whitewater of Coaching Improved Performance (Part Two.)

You can find Part One of this article by clicking here

Okay, so let’s talk about these as they relate to improving competence and results in the workplace as these ratings relate to coaching. Obviously, some situations are much easier and less risky than others, with the more difficult ones requiring more thought.

Class 1 situations are pretty simple and have a high likelihood of a positive outcome. You do not need much preparation and planning and you can get this done relatively easily – you can float through these types with little emotion or adrenaline. An example might be a new employee who you are coaching on how to use the software or a database they need for doing their job. Or, a new process is introduced and you are spot-checking quality or completeness of the work and have a few comments to one of your people about specific improvement. You will seldom find yourself “swimming.”

Some serious calm water - EASY!

Some serious calm water – EASY!

Class 2 situation might be one where the person has been doing the job for a while and thinks that they understand all sides of the situation and how fast they need to work, but the reality is a little different from your perspective. They might be at the old work standard rate while you need them to perform more efficiently.  You may not need to collect any information other than an example or two and there is not a lot of emotion or reaction predicted. This is the kind of discussion that you might want to have away from the workplace but not one of those held in a closed-door office.

But you definitely want to think things out first and not go in unprepared. You might want to check the information against other data or another person just to be sure. It is possible that you will have to move a bit out of your planned channel to get to the end of the situation.

Class 3 situation should not be your first coaching experience, since some degree of planning and preparation is generally helpful and you may want to rehearse your moves prior to floating into the river. You should have some skills in changing the direction of the conversation, since the rock (an excuse) might necessitate some maneuvering. You may find yourself out of the current (in an eddy) where making progress is not possible until you re-enter the main flow.

In these situation, you will want to scout the rapid first, maybe discover the kinds of previous discussions and difficulties management may have had with the individual as well as look at performance data, training histories and other materials. Once you’ve run these kinds of rapids a few times, your skill level increase generally is very helpful for keeping discussions on track, keeping emotions at a manageable level, and being prepared to “roll” back up should you find yourself upside down.

One can generally self-rescue from a Class 3 rapid but it may require a bit of swimming and life preservers and helmets are required! Just thinking about a Class 3 situation is enough to generate some level of adrenaline, but good planning and some solid skills are generally all that you need.

Class 4 coaching situations are best done when you have solid Class 3 skills. Redirecting in the heavy current of sideways distractions and some up and down boat movement, even a waterfall or two, is important to navigating successfully. You most definitely want to check out the rapid before paddling in – and it is often good to watch others run these kinds of situations in order to develop a set of strategies and tactics that will allow you to be upright at the bottom.

With a strong roll, you will be able to move from being upside down and back into a controlling mode when things go wrong but you will need to precisely handle yourself so that you do not flip over again right away. Self-rescue is most difficult and you should be able to stop the conversation, take a time out for getting your breath, before you reenter the fray. This takes both knowledge of when and how to pull out of the mainstream and into an eddy (slow moving calm place) as well as when to reenter the flow – skills not easily learned but that come with practice.

Liken a Class 4 Coaching Event to a performance improvement discussion with the workplace’s Union Rep or someone of similar perceived stature in your workplace. The situation is one that is manageable, but you do not do this as your first try after your training class. And you want to be sure that the risk and the reward are comparable in nature before venturing in. Getting water up your nose and bouncing your limbs off the rocks while cascading downstream is not the most pleasant situation. At the same time, looking back upstream after successfully negotiating a Class 4 Coaching Event is a for-sure confidence builder and proof that you have developed some fine skills.

Cautionary Note: Running the rapids is a workplace endeavor; do not try running these rapids with your spouse or children! They have a tendency to be able to move the rocks around while you are in the current, creating unexpected hazards that are difficult to manage.  

Classes 5 and 6 – Realize that these situations will exist in the workplace. An example might include coaching your boss’ boss about what they need to do differently or trying to initiate a major new process improvement amongst a group of long-term workers that may reduce their numbers. Generally, one can hear a Class 5 or Class 6 rapid from a long distance away by the roar it makes as water cascades in major falls, pouring over large rocks and creating large unpredictable waves.

Lava Falls or Crystal Rapid on the Colorado are runnable rapids that you can actually hear echoing through the canyon a mile away; they sound like a freight train without the whistle and you get goose bumps on your arms and the hair on the back of your neck starts to stand up long before you are close enough to even get out of your boat to go scout them. It is impossible for someone not to realize that they are there and that they represent a very special situation.

ONE of the big holes in Lava Falls on the Colorado River

ONE of the big holes in Lava Falls on the Colorado River

Like the big water surfers at the North Shore of Oahu during Pacific storms, there are people who LIKE to play in these monsters and deal with the ensuing chaos. But they are near-professional in their skill levels, real experts with many years of practice and often with great personal coaches in their own histories.

wave_large1Being in superb physical condition with good reflexes is also a great help in boating, and probably relates to how you need to be prepared for some of the more serious coaching situations. Consider training and planning for your improvement opportunities based on the difficulty of the predicted waves you will encounter.

Lastly, recognize that people do have fun running rivers! This is ME, under control and having fun! But you have to be in the right place, too. Planning all that stuff upstream helps you be successful on the downstream side of things…

Scott Simmerman running a Class V whitewater rapid - Bull Sluice on the Chattooga River

PMC sells a variety of simple to use but powerful training and development tools to trainers and consultants worldwide. Visit our website for more information.

One example is this illustration, which can be used for coaching because it sets up a conversation about “things that are not working smoothly” with the understanding that “Round Wheels are already in the wagon.”

Using the metaphor and the visual helps the person being coached to avoid the emotionality and feelings of being attacked in a performance discussion focused on implementing improvement. “What are some Square Wheels — and what are some possible Round Wheel solutions?”

Square Wheels One LEGO image by Scott Simmerman

This is very serious stuff, these discussions about people and performance. But actively involving the other person in a conversation about issues and opportunities is how you improve their involvement and engagement in doing things better.

Note: Scott began rafting on the Chattooga River in 1975, shortly after the movie, Deliverance, (Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight) was filmed there. Progressing from rafts to canoes to kayaks over the next 20 years, he spent about 5 years in serious pursuit of big water and high adrenaline, running most of the big waters in California and elsewhere and having run the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River on 3 occasions. Scott fully understands the implications of, “The older we get, the faster we were” and therefore limits his whitewater to much more manageable levels these days. He is a skilled coach and occasionally teaches an effective course on confronting poor performance, a skill level past one of coaching – the real Class 5 and 6 stuff.

Scott in Dancer

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

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

Note: Scott began rafting on the Chattooga River in 1975, shortly after the movie, Deliverance, (Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight) was filmed there. Progressing from rafts to canoes to kayaks over the next 20 years, Scott spent about 5 years in serious pursuit of big water and high adrenaline, running most of the big rapids in California and elsewhere and having run the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River on 3 occasions. Scott fully understands the implications of, “The older we get, the faster we were” and therefore limits his whitewater to much more manageable levels these days. He is a skilled coach and occasionally teaches an effective course on confronting poor performance, a skill level past one of coaching – the real Class 5 and 6 stuff.

Issues of Ownership and Engagement

Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car

This is an overview of Square a Wheels  Newsletter 
on Issues of Ownership and Engagement

 
Do you wash your rental car?

Ownership is about active involvement and engagement and generating a sense of personal and team commitment. It clearly shows itself in Customer Care when the individual does more than you expect and positively surprises you – the behaviors that build customer loyalty. It shows up everywhere.

But, Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car!

Well, not precisely, because 5% will for various reasons. But the idea should stimulate thinking about engagement and involvement needed in every work place.

Ownership is a key factor in why unmotivated people often succeed after they quit and then become business owners running their own companies. It is also why some managers generate much higher workplace performance than others. Ownership is the magical process whereby workers turn from spectator sheep into motivated and engaged tigers — It is because they care about things.

It is not easy, since there can be a lot of issues of trust and clarity of mission and competition and alignment as well as interpersonal problems. But all of them can be addressed in a pretty straightforward manner, by giving people a stake in the action as well as gaining their active involvement. More thoughts in the newsletter.

“Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There.“

This statement, above, describes the action that we have been teaching as a basic tool of innovation and change since the early 90s. Too often, we are so busy pushing and pulling the wagon, just like always, that we do not step back and look at things from a displaced perspective. Once we do, we can see that things are rolling on Square Wheels while the cargo of the wagon are round rubber tires.

Very often, people who perform better than others — the exemplary performers of any organization — will already be doing things differently than the others. The round wheels in so many situations are already identified and tested and implemented and refined. But the majority of the people, and especially the poor performers, just keep on keeping on and doing what they have always done and their Square Wheels remain in place.

Innovations can occur quite naturally. Some of us are nearly always looking for ways to do things differently so that it is easier. Tom Gilbert expanded on a framework of “laziness” back in the late 70s in his book, Human Competence. I have always liked that concept: Because we are naturally lazy, we will always be looking for the easiest and most efficient way to do things.

Why not look for the downhill route instead of pushing and pulling the wagon uphill (and sometimes through the mud)?

By involving and engaging people in the identification of the things not working smoothly and through the sharing of best practices and round wheels, we do a better job of engaging and involving the workforce. Engagement is a key to motivation and sustaining high performance. Or, putting the Round Wheels to use!

Some simple thinking on innovation and involvement

Here is a surprise for you: Big Ideas don’t come from some special place, unless you consider the regular employees “special,” which seems to be an uncommon thing in most organizations.

Ideas are not invented out of the blue and they sure don’t come from the top – the best ideas come from hands on people who are dealing with issues of customer dissatisfaction or have hands-on the systems and processes that are thumping and bumping along. Good ideas might also come from the managers, who are listening to issues of the employees getting the work done and who can synthesize those ideas into actionable items for improvement.

If you are trying to make improvements an ongoing business strategy – doing what I call “continuous continuous improvement” – you need to set the expectation that the status quo isn’t set in concrete and the systems and processes need constant updating. It’s what we refer to simply as, “The Round Wheels of Today are the Square Wheels of Tomorrow.”

One has to manage the trust and expectations downward while pulling the ideas upward. Gravity is found in most organizations, where people sometimes see ideation as simply more work. It is easier not to bother than to try to push ideas through perceived communications barriers. That is why we need to add some lightness to the scene, to add some helium to the idea bubbles and not simply allow the pin to hit the balloon and burst motivation and trust (this won’t give you much in the way of positive impacts, by the way).

Most often, a simple concept operates: Ideas for improvement are meant to come from the top of the organization, where things are more clearly understood. We refer to this using a quote I will attribute to the novelist John le Carre – “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

Ideas from the top might be good, but they are often impractical and costly to implement from an actual dollar standpoint as well as from the point of the cost of human capital. Change pushed on people gets resisted and rejected.

If you want to actively engage and enlist people in improvement efforts, it is far simpler to simply ask them, in an ecological way, for their ideas. Employee engagement is simple to accomplish, if people know where they are going and feel that there is support for innovation.

Recognize that your exemplary performers are already doing things differently than everyone else.

There are no simple answers. And there are also a lot of ways to get this done. The key: simple, ongoing communications focused on listening to ideas to solving problems and improving the workplace.

Organizational Communications: The Mission — In The Beginning

I came across this “story” called “In The Beginning” many many years ago and thought it was pretty representative of how communications can get garbled as things move up the chain of command. I have had participants in workshops try to read it out loud, having never seen it before, and they and the other people just begin to giggle at first and then to laugh out loud. It IS really funny as well as representative.

 

Top management may think they know what is happening down in the organization but that is really a myth and not close to reality, unless they are actively moving out and about away from their desks and doing things like MBWA (from Tom Peters, “Managing by Wandering Around”). Frankly, I have always liked the MBWA approach – talking to the people who are actually doing the work to see what they need to improve and to see how things are going — and used to use that a LOT when I was doing the management consulting part of the business process improvement process.

The real issue is one of understanding the perspective of the employee and their view of the world and and their view of their work. Engaging employees and enlisting their energies is very difficult if the level of understanding and trust is low. The gaps can be real! A recent stat found that 35% of US workers would choose to forgo their raise if their boss would be fired — that is really startling!

So, here is a story about one way these gaps between organizational reality and the perspective of the workers can be shaped by management:

In the Beginning was The Vision
And then the Assumptions
But the Assumptions were without Form
And the Vision was without substance.

And Darkness was upon the faces of the Workers
As they Spoke amongst themselves, saying:
“It is a Crock of Shit, and it Stinketh, badly.”

So the Workers went to Supervisors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Pail of Dung, and none may abide the Odor thereof.”

And Supervisors went to Managers, and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Container of Excrement, and it is
so very Strong that none may abide it.”

And Managers went to Directors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a vessel of Fertilizer, and none may abide its Strength.”

And Directors went to Vice Presidents and sayeth:
“It contains that which aids plant Growth, and it is very Strong.”

And Vice Presidents went to Executives and sayeth unto them:
“It promoteth Growth, and it is very very Powerful.”

And Executives went to the President, and sayeth unto him:
“This powerful Vision will actively promote Growth and Efficiency of our departments and our company overall.”

And the President looked upon the Vision
and saw that it was good.

Thus the Vision became The Reality.

There is almost always a gap between the views of hands-on workers and the Most Senior Management. As I like to say, the “View from the Front” is different than the “View at the Back.”

square wheels illustrations view front back

What we need to do is clarify the Visions for the hands-on workers to make it current and real. We need to actively involve them in the reality of where they are going and how they can contribute to the overall goal.

And we actually have a really great and recently updated Mission Statement Development Toolkit that is built around our Square Wheels illustrations and using the Fast Networks and Dot-Voting engagement techniques. You can check it out in the Square Wheels section of our organizational development tools. You can find a blog post on dot-voting (multi-voting) here.

We sell some organizational team building and communications toolkits at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Benefits of Experiential Exercises in Organizational Development

We sometimes have the opportunity to debrief managers and trainers on the themes of team building and how using experiential exercises can improve organizational performance. After playing, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we received these responses from some of these groups:

What are some benefits of experiential exercises in training and management development?
•  Gets team members involved and actively learning
•  Speeds Learning and generates perspective
•  Can directly apply to real-world situations
•  We can take others’ roles and share their feelings
•  Fun – and is thus much more memorable
•  Makes us more open to other people and their ideas
•  It improves communications
•  It is easy to see our behaviors in our play so it is easier to discuss our thinking and rationale
•  It produces shared experiences
•  It stimulates thinking and reflection
•  It is much more memorable and engaging than lecture
•  We DO things, and then we discuss our reasons and ideas
•  People see themselves in the mirror
•  It increases power and impact of the key ideas

What are the costs of poor teamwork to our organizations?
•  Company objectives cannot be achieved
•  Increased Staff costs (unnecessary politics, poor internal communication, increased turnover and recruiting costs, increased training costs, poor internal relations, decreased morale, decreased trust / increased mistrust)
•  Increased Production Costs (time, increased waste, decreased innovation and efficiency, reduced quality, reduced productivity)
•  Reduced Profitability (loss of customers and image)

There is nothing better than candid responses from line managers and front-line staff when talking about real work issues in the workplace.

See more information about our different team building exercises on our website.

Spectator Sheep – Engaging and Involving Poor Performers

I saw a post in one of my online training groups and it was talking about organizational deadwood. Granted, it is an issue in a lot of companies, but my take is to view it as an opportunity more than a problem. So, I started that conversation thusly:

First, remember that the deadwood was once a growing tree. Remind yourselves that a Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. And that is NOT an uncommon kind of statistic according to my friends in research/surveying companies.

So, envision a wooden wagon rolling along on wooden Square Wheels® and being pulled by a guy with a rope that both isolates him from the wagon itself and also functions as a shock absorber. The wagon is thumping and bumping along, as it always has. The people at the back of the wagon are pushing, and their hands-on activities are giving them “feedback on the journey forward.” But that is it; they cannot see where they are headed. Understand that the cargo of this wagon is round rubber tires.


Thump thump, thump thump, just like always.

But paradoxically, the work team will meet their performance goals because the goals were set on this paradigm. Okay, maybe they need to improve 5% this year, but maybe that is possible. The new guys always push the hardest anyway and it does not take a whole lot of skill to perform the job.

NOW, envision on the side of the hill, the Spectator Sheep. You know who they are: they are the ones not actively involved in this effort, the ones who stand around going, “Naaaaaaaaa. Baaaaaaa.” You know they are there and that they also express their opinions fairly regularly in meetings and on the job, right?

Spectator Sheep Yellow round borders(There are multiple causal factors that we do not need
to be concerned with at this point, either.)

MY view is that these Spectator Sheep actually DO care, but they are frustrated. They see things differently from Pushers and Pullers — their arms-length perspective keeps them asking, “Why are they doing this that way?” After a while, they give up with the discourse and specific suggestions and just drift into the Naaa Baaa framework – it’s more fun that way as well as less effort for them.

(These may be those people who are not engaged but who have no intention of leaving your employment. In some companies, this represents a significant number of employees, based on surveys.)

But I also see these guys as tigers under protective sheepskin coverings. They have the motivation, they just express it differently. AND, they are headed in the opposite direction. But they have a desire to change and they see a gap between what is happening and what is possible — these gaps are motivating (look up “cognitive dissonance”).


Ah, if we could only change their direction and get them going in the same way as the wagon is rolling now. If we might only engage and involve them in the process of improving the journey. If we might only use their energy to help implement change and improvement. If we could only get these (likely) below average employees to improve their performance up to the median of the rest of the participants.


Want leverage for innovation and performance improvement? LOTS of statistics support the reality that the poor performers can contribute more, a lot more, than one can get by continually demanding improvements at the top.

What we need to do is RE-engage that deadwood, since there is still life there. Easy, no. Trust is the Residue of Promises Fulfilled and there is probably a bit of history stored up in the tree rings that needs to be addressed. But these are still valuable and skilled employees, for the most part.

But I also realize that this is not typical thinking on the part of most managers. There are rings in those trees, too.

Remember those old Saturday Night Live skits that John Belushi performed, where he would do all this insightful stuff and then end it with “Naaaaaaa” and reject the whole stream of ideas? It reminds me of what happens in so many workplace meetings…  “Naaaaaaaaaa…..”

Anyway, Spectator Sheep are real, and we can do a much better job of involving them in workplace improvement. They DO have good ideas and a different perspective on things and some simple realignment is often all that is really required. Give them a sense of ownership involvement, too,

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.

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

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

Change Management, Innovation and Employee Engagement

Some of Scott’s Thinking on employee engagement and the issues of innovation and change:

Change is a constant in the workplace: there is always something… Sometimes change appears to be happening too fast and sometimes it seems much too slow, given the business needs.

What I have been doing for 20+ years is teaching a VERY simple yet actionable model for understanding change, identifying leverage points and action plans and facilitating the process in such a way that the participants can identify things that they can do differently as well as engage others.

The key is to focus on employee engagement and ownership. If people are involved, they are more likely to be engaged and feel some sense of commitment to getting things done.

I use a simple tool, my Square Wheels illustrations and metaphor to set things up.


The wagon rolls on a set of wooden Square Wheels carrying a cargo of round rubber tires. The process continues this way because of a few different factors, such as the square wheels actually working (just like they always have), and the lack of perspective (“Don’t just DO something, Stand There!). 

The reality is that stopping the process and implementing improvement takes time and is not always successful. Plus, the round wheels of today will invariably become the Square Wheels of tomorrow.

The intent of this facilitation is to involve people in stepping back from the wagon and seeing the obvious – the round wheels already exist and should be implemented to make long-term progress and not simply to meet the goals for today.

From there, I will often introduce the concept of Mud, the glop that gets in the way of moving forward. This can include organizational restraints (perceived and real), politics, culture or simply the difficulty in changing.

I show the wagon and the people up to their “axles” in this mess and how hard it is to make progress. For me, “mud” is a great metaphor and I use it with the theme, “Get out of the ditch and up on the road” to introduce the issue of choice and choices. We choose what we do. Deal with it. (“If it is to be, it is up to me!”)


(“Mud” can also be grinding paste, cement, and other things. On my website at www.squarewheels.com, you can also find recipes for making Gack out of things like Elmer’s Glue and borax – Gack is a gooey mess called a “colloidal suspension.”)

“The best “Mud Managers” do things differently. What is it they do?”

…is a great question to ask people, since it generates alternative behaviors and alternative thinking in their discussions, often anchored on best practices of the exemplary performers in the room at that time. (Peer coaching!)

At some point in the design, we will move toward my model of change, involving the current level of discomfort with the way things are now, the attractiveness of the vision of the future, the individual or groups’ previous history with change and the peer support for improvement.


These four things are all actionable and under some control of the manager. It can involve teamwork or simply group process techniques for identifying issues and opportunities. But once something (a process, generally) is anchored as a Square Wheel, it almost always generates an implementable round one — this nicely taps into the cognitive dissonance model of Festinger, I find.

Change does not have to be done TO people and is best done WITH them, having them involved in the different aspects of environmental and social support.

If you want to read more about this, you’ll find my article that includes these ideas, “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly” at:

http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/articles

Plus, if you’d like to make any comment or discuss any of this, it would be most welcome.

Managing and Leading Innovation and Change

There are LOTS of statistics around issues of improvement, and most of them could be positively impacted if we stepped back a little… Organizations abandon 50% to 70% of strategies because the strategies fail to take hold in the organization or achieve desired results in the time expected. Only 30% of strategic initiatives succeed, on time. This may certainly apply to related issues of change and innovation.

Research shows that you achieve strategic speed by focusing on people (surprise, surprise!), but many leaders mistakenly pursue speed mainly by manipulating processes, systems, and technologies in a bid to become more efficient.

The three most important people factors around the issues of managing and leading innovation and change are thought to be:

  • CLARITY is a shared, clear understanding of the situation and the direction in which you’re headed.
  • UNITY is whole-hearted agreement on the merits of that direction and on the need to work together to move ahead.
  • AGILITY is a willingness to turn and adapt quickly while keeping strategic goals in mind.

 (the above are taken from an “Inside Training” email, 8/11/10)

Company cultures and the related issues of trust and ownership are critical. Some find it much easier than others. Having shared successes in the past most certainly helps moving things forward in the future.

More commonly, many people find that discovery and ideation more often go through these three stages:

  1. Initial ridicule
  2. Violent passionate opposition
  3. Acceptance as the obvious solution.

I liked the concept of Scott Adams in The Dilbert Principles:
    “Change is good. You go first.

Managing implementation and change MAY be slightly different from

The Six Phases of Project Implementation:

1 – Enthusiasm for the initiative
2 – Disillusionment with initial results
3 – Panic as things fall apart
4 – Search for the Guilty
5 – Punishment of the Innocent
6 – Praise and Honor for the Non-Participants

In those kinds of company cultures, there is also often followup / fallout from that first project as organizations try to benefit from their learning experience.

The Six Phases of a second project might then be viewed as

1 – Mild enthusiasm combined with unexpressed general concern
2 – Search for volunteers
3 – Avoidance of involvement
4 – Search for anything positive

Discussions of a THIRD project are generally tabled for later discussion. MUCH later… 

In reality, there are ways to successfully implement innovation and improvements. The actuality will differ from organization to organization for a number of reasons, but most generally, it would seem to be HOW the organization reacts to the issues and problems found in continuous continuous improvement. Are the successes rewarded (intrinsically and extrinsically) and are the failures positively viewed (by ALL) as learning experiences and activities to set the stage for future attempts?

Remember that there are seldom actually failures in projects. There are just non-successes that most will try to distance themselves from given the normal cultural responses and reactions.

To change this, we have to change things, we need to do things differently to lead innovation and improvement.

My change model is about clarity of mission (and all that related stuff), being uncomfortable with the way things are now, having peer SUPPORT for the changes and having a previous success(es) with making individual change.

We can accomplish all the above with employee engagement and facilitated interaction at the supervisor level.

My approach is to share the model with people in a facilitation and then get their active involvement in what we need to do differently. I allow them to clarify what is not clear in the mission and what we might do to better support each other, for example. An open discussion builds trust and support (and links right back to the model in an obvious way). Minimize Surprise.

Start things simply. Take some small steps:

I try to generate increasing involvement in the analysis and recommendations of next steps as we roll forward. They get better at it over time and with increasing trust in each other.

If the mission is not clear, or we need to generate one, I use a simple approach (see this for the toolkit for developing a mission statement). Or, I might later work to manage perceived roadblocks (see this for more information about our toolkit on roadblock management). 

     Remember this simple fact: We improve by building on successes.

signature-simple-process-why-sws

<a rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123">Scott on Google+<a>Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

Thoughts on Purposeful Meeting Openers and Icebreakers

One of my LinkedIn groups had a post where the trainer wanted to start a class focused on “workplace improvement best practices” with some kind of a meeting opener or icebreaker designed to make the supervisors frustrated because they could not get the exercise task done well in the allotted time. He was asking for ideas.

I suggested reminding them of their current workplace situation, since I thought that their workplace was like most others and that the managers were already frustrated with these same issues.

My other comment was that the idea of getting people frustrated may not be the best way for starting a class session. Beginning a session, negatively, does not generally get people positively motivated in a class and the potential reactions can be somewhat uncontrollable. Some other people elaborated on some of the possible unintended outcomes of such an activity, too. (The conversation got pretty bloody but we also think we saved him from a huge strategic mistake, on which he agreed!!).

The other half of my thinking pounded on “irrelevant icebreakers” as a complete waste of time — you know, the goofy meeting openers that are not related to the issue or desired outcome of the session and play on people telling three truths and one lie about themselves or the most interesting thing about their hometown or stating something that no one would ever guess about them. (The list goes on and on…)

I’m in agreement with a lot of other consultant trainers, especially about all that psychology stuff and what happens in training. One psychologist posted up his approach of having people “draw a pig” that represents things in their organization. Some may find the reference to “pig” as being too close to senior management these days with all those raises and salaries of CEOs in excess of 300 times the workers and climbing!

But in that “psychology” frame, I use my Square Wheels® wagon illustration to get people to project their ideas like an organizational inkblot test. The cartoon shows a wooden wagon rolling along on Square Wheels while the cargo is round rubber tires. (There are some other aspects of motivation and vision and the like).

SWs One 300 © green words

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

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

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

The behavior and ideas and issues in play can then be linked to a lot of different kinds of content for your training session, and the activity thus made relevant.That is something that cannot be done with so many of the very general activities — it is hard to make the transition of doing them and then linking to a real business purpose. (Sure, you can use some words but the behaviors are generally off target.)

Best practices can be Round Wheels. The focus on the training and performance improvement might be linked to Square Wheels. You can coach people on identifying SWs and generating round ones, while generating dissociation and second-position perspective. Issues of change and implementation (stopping the wagon and changing the wheels) can be part of the “What are we going to try to do differently after we leave here?” discussion. And on and on.


Learn more about the Square Wheels® Icebreaker.

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

Blog Icon for Icebreaker link

For the FUN of IT!

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

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

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Employee Engagement, Kaizen and Japan

I will admit to being sometimes confused, as I am now…

My recollection is that one of Japan’s contributions to the world of quality was Kaizen and its focus on continuous improvement of production. Unlike the American approach of Big Innovative Leaps, Kaizen was accomplished through the generation of lots of ideas from employees, generating a more gradual improvement over time.

One stat from my files was that a manufacturer in 1986 got 6 million ideas from the employees (and one individual contributed 15,681!). One would logically think that Kaizen and engagement would be pretty tied together.

When I looked to confirm these same ideas in the TowersPerrin (2008) report on employee engagement, a pie-chart showed that only 3% of Japanese employees are engaged and 25% enrolled – that 16% are disengaged.

The numbers for the US are 14%, 42% and 11%, Hong Kong as 5%, 36% and 13%, PRC – China as 16%, 51% and 6%,and South Korea is 8%, 45% and 7% respectively for these same categories. Granted these are different cultures, to be sure. But such a small percentage of engaged employees for Japan?

country engaged enrolled disenchanted disengaged
Japan 3 25 56 16
US 29 43 22 6
Hong Kong 5 36 46 13
China 16 51 27 6
South Korea 8 45 40 7

We are not seeing that data like we used to see. Is it that the older workers in the big corporations have simply lost touch with the younger generation, who are so incredibly different? I posted up a blog recently about Millennials and issues of an aging workforce here – the statistics are not what you think they would show for the US workforce, but reflect the issues of the economy and the tenuous nature of “retirement income.”

So, I am confused. Anyone have thoughts or insights into these numbers and this situation? Is Kaizen still being done and can / will people make suggestions even when they are not involved and engaged with the company itself?

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

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

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Executive Compensation, Employee Motivation, and The Future

I was going through some old transparencies (really!) and came across some old statistics from an April 15, 1991  issue of Time Magazine. an article that I used in some training presentations.

  • American CEOs typically make two to three times as much as their counterparts in Canada, Japan or Europe.
  • Top executive pay rose 12% to 15% last year as profits of the Fortune 500 dropped 12%.
  • CEOs at America’s largest companies made 160 times as much as the average blue-collar worker in 1989.

Today, it looks more like this:

  • US: 300:1
  • Europe: about 25:1
    Japan: maybe 10:1 in general.

What’s amazing is the arms race to the top which we have witnessed in the US; look at how CEOs have used the system to move ahead over time:

US, 1965: 24:1
US, 1980: 40:1
US, 2009: 300:1

This is combined with a paradox which they have created whereby they screw up, drive down stock prices and get paid nonetheless, with golden parachutes and the like, all while installing “pay for performance” for the troops (Carly Fiorina at HP and many others). Executive comp guru Graef Crystal did a study in 1997 with over 800 mid and large companies and found that 98% of the variance in pay had nothing to do with performance…unbelievable, and only worse since then.

The average CEO in the US made 262 times the pay of the average worker — oops, I almost said “earned.” Lots of people have not tied earnings to performance.

How about these:

Thomas M. Ryan at CVS Caremark: $30.4 million (2009 Compensation)
Starting Cashier: $8/hour, $20,800/year
One CEO gets the salary of 1,461 entry-level employees

(Ryan is now gone and Larry J. Merlo is now CEO. His package is about $15 million – stock is up 36% and he owns $44 million of that! (Forbes data) )

Randall Stephenson at AT&T: $29.2 million (2009 Compensation but down to only about $23,000 in 2011…)
Starting Sales Associate: $10/hour, $26,000/year
One CEO = 1,123 entry-level employees

Robert Iger at Walt Disney: $29 million (2009 Compensation)
Disneyland Hotel Housekeeper: $10/hour, $26,000/year
One CEO = 1,115 entry-level employees

Apple CEO Tim Cook looked to make about $377 million in 2011 after making only $59 million in 2010 — but much of that was in restricted stock. His salary is a mere $900,000…

The highest paid executive in Japan is Carlos Goshn who used to head Michelin here in Greenville, SC. He made about $10 million as President of Nissan, about 162 times the hourly pay. Nissan is certainly a global company.

Forbes had this to say (4/10/2010):

For the second consecutive year we have a new name atop our list of the most valuable bosses: Jeffery H. Boyd of Priceline.com. Over the past six years Boyd has been paid an average of $2.9 million per year, while delivering a 46% annual return. Since he took office as chief executive in August 2002, Priceline made an annual 49% return to shareholders, which is towering over the 6% annual return of the S&P 500 over that period.

At the bottom of our performance/pay rankings is Joel F. Gemunder of Omnicare, showing a six-year annual return of -6%, lagging in comparison with its sector, and with an 8% annual return since he took over as top executive in May 1981, which trails the S&P 500. Over the past six years he has been collecting a paycheck averaging $14 million a year.

Frustration in the workplace is pretty high and affects employee motivation. At what point does the pin hit the balloon for the average worker?

Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman has been Managing Partner since 1984 and states that his total compensation, including stocks, lunches, automobiles and all other perks is much less than those people mentioned above.

He admits to liking the business and having fun.

 

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

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

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Implementing Improvement – Ideas on Brainstorming

“Nobody ever washes a rental car!“

If one is to expect anything to happen after any training, they must insure that there is buy-in and participation and engagement. One often hears that we need to “empower” the participants go actually go out and do something. Well, I strongly disagree with that – With a doctorate in psychology and 30+ years of consulting and training experience, I have no clue as to how to empower anyone to actually DO anything.

I believe that there are many many opportunities for workplace improvement among individuals and among small groups. There is also some general motivation to make improvements if people see a gap between what happens now and what could or should be happening. Cognitive Dissonance is but one framework that supports this idea of intrinsic motivation for improvement.

But in the workplace in most organizations, and especially in today’s risk-averse and “job enhanced” environments, the real key to rolling forward is not something like feedback or empowerment; I think it is Dis-Un-Empowerment that needs to be addressed and implemented.

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

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

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

One of the things we miss today are trainers with the extensive background in how to implement and measure the effectiveness of the training when it comes to workplace improvement. There are lots of factors operating there, which can be one of the reasons that outside consultants can often get things accomplished when inside ones cannot — they have the power of money and support behind them.

Knowing how the most success PAST improvements were  implemented can often share insight into how the next FUTURE improvement might be implemented. There are cultural keys that offer perspective on these kinds of things.

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


But the key is that feeling of ownership involvement. Too many people “rent” their time to an organization and simply choose to go through the motions of keeping employment, rather than buying-in and being sufficiently engaged to improve workplace improvement. The statistics on engagement and on “ready to leave for a new job elsewhere” are pretty discouraging… But good managers generate it while average ones do not.

After all, how many of the readers of this blog are ready to jump ship right now if another offer came along and how many are actively searching for new employment? The stats say about half…

How many are brainstorming new ideas to start businesses or taking a class to be more marketable in the very near future?

And most people do want to make a positive impact on the work they do and the workplace around them. Many really WANT things to be better, if their managers will let them do so. It was Peter Drucker who said that managers basically prevented people from doing their jobs in many cases.

Things are NOT good — According to a November 2011 analysis of its database of 5,700 employers representing 5 million employees, human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure.

That should concern all of us interested in productivity and performance.

You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement by clicking on the link and thus searching the blog.And, an article is here.

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There.
Look for ways to make things better!

=Square Wheels Icebreaker icon

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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Team Building in Mumbai, India. Square Wheels and Dutchman

“I love it when a plan comes together!”

This is an old quote, used in every show, from The A Team TV show. George Peppard and Mr. T both used to say it. AndI love it when a plan comes together, too!

Working with EduRiser, a consultant and training company who is now my exclusive business partner in India and environs, we will be doing a full-day delivery of Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman on December 17 at the ITC Grand Maratha Hotel. And what a kickoff, since we are planning for about 200 people for a Dutchman game!

This will be my first trip to India and I am excited about it. This one mostly business, but I am also heading to Delhi in April for some Himalaya hiking and a few seminars to spice things up.

The focus of this session will be on engagement and collaboration to optimize results. We will be focusing on how to engage and motivate people with facilitation skills and tools and my plans include working on workplace dis-un-empowerment, risk-taking, and innovation, along with my usual team building, continuous continuous improvement and alignment work.

We will focus on experiential learning and have very targeted debriefings on themes of leadership and alignment:

If you are interested in more information about how I approach these issues and leadership development in general, understand that we sell all the tools and techniques in our Square Wheels bundles and our team building game sets. Little extra support is needed from me, but I will surely provide it if needed.

<a rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123">Scott on Google+<a>

Working with my colleagues at EduRiser to keep things rolling during Lost Dutchman

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

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