Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: improve organizational performance Page 1 of 5

Where can I buy The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine?

Performance Management Company is the designer and main distributor of the team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We started using the exercise in 1993 and decided to package and sell very usable designs of this game without the normally required certification or annual licenses or per-participant fees.

Users would buy the exercise at a one-time coast, receive the delivery and training information in powerpoint, pdf and other common formats and access as much free support as they desired. Over the 26 years of distribution, we have packaged the training and support information so that very few questions are directed our way.

(I miss many of those conversations and even the people who promise to call me after a purchase generally never call! I can name names, but I won’t…)

Performance Management Company was started in 1984 by Dr. Scott Simmerman and Joan Simmerman. PMC was initially a training and consulting firm focused on people and performance, with customer service quality being a driving theme. You can read a good deal of the biography and details at this link on LinkedIn. We became a home-based business back in 1998, the same year that we started our initial website, www.squarewheels.com.

PMC has been supported technically by our son-in-law, Chris Fisher, who operates the websites and fixes all sorts of technical issues that Scott and Joan generate when doing blogs, designing websites, doing security, and fixing emails and dealing with hosting problems.

More recently, Jeff Simmerman has joined the business.

Jeff’s responsibilities have been around the redesign of the old Seven Seas Quest team building exercise to design a brand new game, Quest, with a Dutchman-like interface and a focus on what we call Dis-Un-Engagement or Disruptive Involvement. That game is in final design stages and we do not even have a web page for it yet, but Jeff has completed the delivery materials and is working with the printer to make it available very soon.

You can find prices for our various team building simulations by clicking on the link:

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

including our four different versions of the Dutchman game.

You can find solid information on the RENTAL version of the exercise on our website, also.

 

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.

 

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

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®

 

Too Busy and Somewhat Disengaged – an illustration of workplace reality

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

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

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

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

Too busy to improve the Square Wheels

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

Really too busy to improve the Square Wheels

Which of these do YOU like more? 

And how might this really reflect reality in your workplace?

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

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

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

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

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

Original Square Wheels One image to the present usage

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

 

Performance Management Company (PMC) has no affiliation with the LEGO® Group nor does it use materials or methodology from LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® or other related organizations. None of our images knowingly reflect any copyrighted or trademarked materials of any other organization.
The LEGO Group does not sponsor, authorize or endorse any of these materials. 
Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
and all materials produced by PMC remain the intellectual property of PMC.

LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO® Group®

Our new website is at www.SquareWheels.com

 

Round Wheels of Today are the Square Wheels of Tomorrow – Thoughts on Continuous Continuous Improvement

Simple thoughts on how things really work in most organizations, set up as a haiku:
In any work environment, leaders (aka wagon pullers) often lose track of what is happening at the back of their wagons.They are insulated and often isolated and it is important to remember that,
“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”
(John LeCarre)
Similarly, workers (at any level of the organizational hierarchy) will lose sight of the missions and visions and become less aligned to goals and expectations. They simply will not have the current leadership vision of where they are going and what lies ahead of them.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any path will get you there.”
(Lewis Carroll)
Here is a Dr. Seuss-style poem on The View at the Front and the Back and the issues of alignment and motivation:
Dr. Seuss poem on employee motivation and vision
Periodically checking in and talking about issues and opportunities is useful as well as motivational. Having smart management systems with clear expectations and solid feedback systems are critical, but so are occasional alignment conversations, because that view at the back is very different than the wagon puller‘s view at the front.
When it comes to productivity improvement and innovation, the ideas are also pretty straightforward. The Round Wheels of Today will, inevitably, become The Square Wheels of Tomorrow. There is a need for continuous continuous improvement of systems and processes and how people are managing roadblocks and new ideas. Thus, the necessity to step back from the wagon on occasion to see what new ideas should be implemented.
 
The exemplary performers in any organization are essentially using Round Wheels in a world of Square Wheel Wagons. They simply do things differently. And they can share those best practices with their peers, improving group performance. But the group has to feel involved and engaged, because:
“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”
(Scott Simmerman)
So, we will encourage you to work to better involve and engage and align your people, at any level of the organization, to shared goals and expectations and to focus on the reality that they all have ideas that can be implemented to improve organizational results.
Our last haiku and recommendations thus looks like this:
haiku on performance improvement and engagement
People WANT to be involved and engaged and feel part of the team, they want results of the group and their personal contributions to be appreciated. Square Wheels is a very simple approach to involving and engaging people and focusing them on things that can and should be improved.
PMC offers an online training program at The Square Wheels Project and also a stand-along toolkit of powerpoints, handouts and instructions, something we call the Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit.
Please also note that we are also sharing reprintable posters of these scenes and frameworks for free through our poems blog and newsletter.

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 Square Wheels LEGO 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®

 

Every Company Should Own One – The Bombproof Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine Teambuilding Exercise

We can start this blog with the simple thought that:

Motivation and collaboration require improvement in most organizations and making those improvements offer Big Impacts on actual results.

Even in the very good, highly collegial workplaces, one can always make additional improvements or re-energize things, generating even more alignment to shared goals and objectives.

This post is about how EASY it is to facilitate a real team building program, not some (oftentimes silly unfocused) team bonding process. There is a big difference: team building will impact organizational results and help to change actual behavior and commitment to doing things differently. Bonding activities can be fun, but change nothing.

Team BUILDING exercise generate change and improved results. Bonding does nothing.

Let’s talk about teamwork and apologies for the length and breadth of this post, but I felt that clearly stating the details would enable better understanding of what we are doing and why we are doing it:

It is clear that workers and supervisors and managers are basically un-involved and un-engaged in so many workplaces, worldwide.  Management effectiveness AND the workplace environment / culture that are behind this problem. Better teamwork and alignment are solid solutions.

These are NOT some “senior management leadership issue” that can be corrected by doing more engagement / motivational surveys or skill assessments or by doing more senior executive development. These are problems at the shop floor, at the interface between supervisors and workers, that drastically needs improvement to really impact performance.

A few statistics and bullet points:

Rick Bell shared some statistics in the March 2017 issue of Workforce magazine about how badly workers are being supervised that are truly mind-numbing:

  • 35% of US workers would forgo a raise to see their boss fired
  • 3 of 4 workers say that their boss is the worst / most stressful part of the job

Gallup added a somewhat different framework supporting these same issues related to performance and teamwork

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

The solution involves improved communications, collaboration and teamwork. Helping people focus on a shared mission and vision with appropriate expectations, and basic leadership at the front lines can have broad impacts. We need to do something differently in the workplaces to make positive impacts and generate the momentum for organizational improvement. Having a pot-luck lunch or going go-kart racing will do nothing to generate change.

There is a simple, bombproof, inexpensive solution to many of these issues, and that is our proven team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. It is inexpensive and dynamic and it focuses on collaboration to impact measured results. Here is a 2-minute video from a session with Dow Chemical:

Teambuilding with interactive experiential exercise, Lost Dutchman

This “game” neatly models a collaborative organization and a Selfless Leadership approach to involving and engaging people. It gets players to make choices and then allows for a discussion and debriefing around what really needs to be done differently by the group to improve results. The play generates real opportunities to discuss and resolve real workplace issues, creating “considered alternatives” to what has been happening.

There are also powerful links to workplace motivation and communications themes.

People that are uninvolved and frustrated need solutions that involve Dis-un-engagement and Dis-un-empowerment. Those problems need to be discussed, changes made, and new solutions implemented. The Lost Dutchman exercise allows for real discussions about choices and possibilities because dealing with team problems is what makes teamwork effective in the workplace.

Team Building with Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

So, we think every organization needs to have a go-to team building program they can use throughout the organization to set up shared goals and common expectations about collaboration and innovation. And unlike most such exercises, we sell this exercise with a one time cost and a satisfaction guarantee.

My colleague in India, Mr. Solomon Salvis shared some good reasons why people have bought the Dutchman simulation and will continue to run the game:

  1. To develop the internal capability of the Learning and Development team. Most organizations are not equipped with an awesome experiential learning tool like Dutchman, which makes their training dull and boring, or probably sub-optimized.
  2. Most programs conducted internally in an organization are classroom training sessions. There is no fun element. Dutchman creates awesome personal and team-based learning and is awesome fun as well.
  3. Most senior managers in an organization do not want to sit through a long and dragged-out training session.  Our Dutchman’s simulation which is just a half day, works very well to keep the engagement and energy levels high for the seniors and demonstrate the many positive impacts of alignment to shared goals and plans. Senior managers can readily play in mixed groups of management, too, which has a variety of positive impacts.
  4. Most classroom training sessions can take only 20 – 30 participants at a time, beyond that the program/training becomes ineffective. Dutchman’s is one of the rare simulations which can accommodate 50 / 100 / 200 / 300 +  participants at one go and still have the engagement/excitement levels as high as possible.
  5. The scalability of Dutchman allows for sessions that can contain front line workers as well as managers and even senior managers as active participants in an effort to optimize results. This IS a reality in organizations and these kinds of interactions are impactful, but few take the time to build this kind of overall collaboration and shared goals. These debriefings are powerful.
  6. Most training teams / trainers / training leadership who have used Dutchman in the previous organization tend to buy the game kit when they move into a new organization, since they know the product and its impacts very well. They are comfortable with the many flexible designed outcomes and it is tried and tested. The exercise is 100% bombproof (and it is 100% satisfaction guaranteed!).
  7. Lastly, apart from just the fun element, Dutchman debriefing brings incredible learning and reflection for the participants, making the transition to implementing improvements more likely. This kinds of discussions should be part of any debriefing:
Teambuilding debriefing questions for implementation

These are some of the transitional debriefing slides to improve discussions about accountability.

Solomon also added:

Yesterday, we conducted the simulation for 125 participants of Sapient, a leading IT consulting company. The participants haven previously gone through many training sessions and various simulations, but when they experienced Dutchman’s Gold Mine, they gave us an awesome testimonial and acknowledged this was by far one of the best sessions they had attended and that it was quite different and unique from all the other simulations they had attended.

Sapient Technology Lost Dutchman Team Building Video

Sapient’s game testimonial – 120 players

For most organizations, one of our versions supporting 18 or 24 people should make solid economic sense. Dutchman is sold at a one-time cost and can be used repeatedly. It’s easy to learn how to deliver and has a variety of expected outcomes:

  • Tabletops choose not to plan very well or use all the information available to make their choices and decisions
  • Teams generally choose to compete against each other rather than to collaborate. Collaboration optimizes overall group success while competing generates a winner and losers
  • Nobody asks the Expedition Leader for Assistance.” Teams choose not to ask for help or perspective or advice, even though that is one of the key themes of the introduction. They essentially choose to sub-optimize results and not keep leadership involved in their work
  • Tabletops come to agreement quickly on their strategy and they are not very open to changing their approach if new information becomes available.

The flexible debriefing focuses seamlessly on the benefit of planning to improving results and the choice of collaboration with other teams and leadership to optimize results in the exercise and the results in the workplace. It is quite easy to use the examples from the play in the players discussions about what workplace improvements can be made and how supportive leadership can help improve impact and results.

The exercise is packaged with extensive training and orientation materials, so much is included that very few purchasers ever bother to contact us for the free coaching that is available to support the delivery. New users tell us that about 2 hours of preparation is needed for their first delivery.

For an organization, the very most senior leadership might have a team building program for all of their direct reports. Issues of communications, collaboration and alignment to missions and visions would be made clear. PLUS, this would be fun. It does NOT require outside facilitation nor the involvement of organizational training staff. (And you can see the obvious advantages of developing ownership involvement.)

Those players would then be able to run the game with their staffs. The transfer of training is straightforward and the desired outcomes for their debriefings can directly result from the top management team and their discussions.

Lost Dutchman is a very inexpensive, high impact organizational tool that translates neatly and effectively into any organizational improvement and communications / alignment process.

Coaching support for delivery is freely available and our 25 years of experience with supporting organizations globally would be beneficial and impactful.

Click on the image below to see a 2-minute video about how most senior managers think about the exercise (this one delivered for Kaya Limited by SimuRise and Solomon Salvis). It is but one of hundreds of examples about how people feel the exercise can impact their organizations:

This is my game, one first played in 1993 and continually updated and improved through play and debriefing and continued redesign. I personally believe that every organization should experience The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.

And many of us think that every organization should OWN their own exercise for internal use. (The cost/benefit to you would be outstanding and it can help organizations accomplish so many of your goals around active involvement and engagement of your people toward collaborative accomplishments, shared objectives and active ownership involvement, which translates to motivation and teamwork.)

We will support you in that, for sure, and we have been at this for a very long time. Teamwork and support are what I do,

 

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

 

 

 

 

 

Google’s Unexpected Discovery that Soft Skills Create the Most Success

Think Google, think Research, and think Leadership. And then cogitate on the factors that Google found MOST linked to their most successful managers, the ones who have prospered within their organization.

Consider what it means that these were the top characteristics for success at Google:

  1. Being a good coach;
  2. Communicating and listening well;
  3. Possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view);
  4. Having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues;
  5. Being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and
  6. Being able to make connections across complex ideas.

The surprise for Google was that these are all soft skills rather than the hard skills or STEM abilities (science, technology, engineering and math) they originally thought would be more valuable for success. Google collected this data through its 2013 Project Oxygen and then did another study in 2016, Project Aristotle, that analyzed data on inventive and productive teams and found that the best teams exhibited such soft skills as:

  • Equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of one’s teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence.

And, at the top of the list:

  • Emotional safety. No bullying. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard.

Also aligning with the findings of Google’s data was a recent survey of 260 employers (from small to large to powerful) by the nonprofit National Association of Colleges and Employers. One particular survey found that communication skills ranked in the top three most-sought after qualities by job recruiters.

Most valued was:

  • An ability to communicate with one’s workers, and
  • An aptitude for conveying the company’s product and mission outside the organization.

Are you honing your own soft skills for better workplace success? Reaching out to your employees and involving them in moving forward is seemingly a win/win for everyone as it helps to create a safer, happier and more productive workplace for all:

If you’d like a remarkably easy and unique way to increase your facilitation and workplace interaction skills and generate focused conversations that will lead to ideas for workplace improvements and create better employee engagement, we offer two very inexpensive and practical ways for doing so:

  1. Try our Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit that includes everything needed to ensure your success at facilitating a productive and safe session that will promote involvement and a sharing of ideas.
  2. Join The Square Wheels Project, an online learning platform that gives you both the tools and the training for generating interactive discussions around ideas and opportunities for improvements.

If you would like to read the complete Washington Post article containing the information referred to in this email about Google and its findings regarding soft skills and STEM hard skills, you’ll find it here.

Bringing people together to learn from each other and have a voice gives them a sense of ownership and value that helps to create a more successful and satisfying workplace for all involved. So take the initiative and get your crucial soft skills rolling to inspire a better future!

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

Building Leadership Skills and Being Successful

As we build more tie-ins from our teambuilding games into the themes of Selfless Leadership (which I much prefer as a framework more than the more common Servant Leadership label), I have been reading and thinking a lot more about leadership skills and the notion of improving people and performance.

So many things lead to the same conclusion about personal effectiveness, that being better able to involve and engage people in their personal growth and to be able to align them with workplace goals and objectives improves impact. Those are the natural precursors to improving teamwork and impacting results.

One interesting article was Zdravko Cvijetic’s in Medium that discussed 25 essential leadership skills — it started with the metaphor of playing Super Mario and the key behavior of gathering “mushrooms” to help you grow and excel. While that mushroom metaphor reminds me of the old, “Keep them in the dark and throw a lot of “fertilizer” on them” framework of command and control, his thought about gathering more skills to improve impacts is certainly an effective anchor point.

I would encourage you to read his post and to select a few things to work on. As I did, it reinforced my notion that communications with others and the idea of framing better goals and expectations is a solid one for managers. It also reinforced my thoughts about generating better workplace collaboration and teamwork around those shared goals and expectations and the reality that changing the language of the workplace is a simple way to generate improvement.

At PMC, we play with LEGO and images and metaphors as simple tools to generate active involvement and engagement, to get people talking about issues and opportunities. This was one of my reactions to the Cvijetic article, that these tools and related language can become one of those tools for success. Asking people for their ideas is what generates perspective, innovation and active involvement.

Image on perspective and innovation

And being able to generate active personal involvement is a key to generating intrinsic motivation, because we all know that,

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

Ownership is a key feature of motivation and being better able to generate that active engagement is one of the key leadership skills for today’s workplace. Plus, the skill in gaining personal perspective and generate a team initiative to implement improvements is valuable.

Lost Dutchman Gold Mine teambuilding theme

•  You can purchase a simple Square Wheels toolkit that teaches engagement skills here, cheap! Click on the link.

•  Or, you can take our 30-minute online course in facilitation skills and also download the materials to lead conversations about improvements. Click on the link to see the course overview.

Regardless, the issue about replacing the Square Wheels® is a solid one. There are lots of them out there, working as they thump and bump along, that could and should be replaced.

The Square Wheels Project Round Wheels

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

Servant Leadership – Two Great Quotes

My partner sent me two quotes by Max De Pree, who published one of the most excellent books on leadership that I have ever read. Heck, we gave signed copies of it to all of the people in my Leadership Greenville class, which was a really classy thing for him to do. (And, I remember interviewing with Herman Miller because I was so impressed with their company, back a few years after I started Performance Management Company back in 1984.)

So, I got into my powerpoint file of Lost Dutchman LEGO scenes and thought to illustrate them. A team of us are moving forward with our efforts to repackage the exercise to mesh congruently with a full-day training program on Servant Leadership and the kinds of supporting behaviors that are inherent in our exercise.

A ax DePree quote using Square Wheels and teambuilding

and

Max Depree quote on leadership and followers

Working up the links to the approach of improving perceived support of managers and workers and of senior managers with their support staffs is an important part of how we view the focus on collaboration and teamwork in organizations. There is simply too much competition and too many people feeling like losers to really generate collaborative optimization. Mining as much Gold as WE can is the main theme of Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.

The Servant Leadership model offers us some solid links and we are moving forward with this packaging framework,

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

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

Connect with Scott on Google+

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

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

 

Is it teamwork that falls flat in most organizations?

My friend Brian Remer posted up a short article he entitled, “Two Team Elements for Instant Success,” and in it, he writes of the issues of shared Identification and Interdependence. You can see his thoughts on his newsletter.

In it, he says:

A sense of shared Identification refers to the positive ways individual team members relate to one another. The more interests and experiences they have in common, the more affinity they feel to each other. These commonalities can be associated with culture, history, experiences, interests, beliefs, language, and so on. The more unusual the examples of Identification, the stronger the ties within the group are likely to become.

Interdependence refers to the way a team works together to accomplish its goals. Group goals should match individual goals so that the efforts of everyone are integral to team success. The team needs to see the value of being a team; that their work could not have been accomplished by disconnected individual activities; that it makes a difference to be a member of this team.

To foster Interdependence, emphasize cooperation and recognize each team member’s contribution to the shared goal. Provide opportunities for the team to work together and be successful. Talk about the importance of their efforts and describe how their goal could not have been accomplished without every person’s input.


I think Brian makes good points. But I also think that this thinking is somewhat short-sighted and narrow when applied to an organization, which tends to be my focus. Sure, teamwork is important within a workgroup, but I also think that these two dynamics only work with small groups. That is the focus of his writing, work teams, but it should not be the focus of organizational leadership.

A Transaction:

With an old consulting friend who is now internal and senior with a large bank’s leadership development organization, I just shipped her my Professional Version of my team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. She has a session planned for tomorrow, so getting her the materials to her quickly was important.

THREE MONTHS AGO, we started positioning the sale with Purchasing. She had the approvals and the requisite information. I sent my details, tax structure, etc. And nothing… A week ago, I shipped her all the materials. I am STILL not set up as a vendor and they have NOT paid me for the exercise.

She has emailed and called Accounts Payable a number of times over the past months, and they finally sent her forms that she forwarded to me on Friday, including a number of materials relevant for non-US companies, a registration for sales of personal services, a non-vendor payee for direct deposit, a minority business registration, and yes, a W-9. She simply wants to purchase a GAME, with no personal services or related. It has a fixed price and I am the sole-source vendor.

After three months, no one is Payables has contacted me, even though I “registered” on Saturday with them and they have had my email address for months. It certainly feels like they are treating me (and her) as adversaries, even though all she wanted to do is buy a team building exercise that she had used for years with her former company. Ironic, huh? But it is actually not that uncommon, from my past experiences. There are many adversarial dynamics in large companies.

It is this common lack of collaboration between her training and development organization and different groups within the bank that reaffirms that:

Interdepartmental Collaboration is an oxymoron.

And it is that kind of choice and focus that causes a great deal of lost productivity and friction. She HAS the authorization from her boss to purchase the materials, and they have the budget. But a group like Purchasing plays its own games and focuses on its own processes to even actively block other groups from being productive. WHY?

My Big View says that the top managers are more likely to be competitive more than collaborative. Departments compete against each other as much as they work together to get things done.

The irony is that we clearly smoke this out using Lost Dutchman, the exercise she is trying to purchase, Dutchman gives teams the opportunity to collaborate with each other to optimize the overall results. It is about a shared focus on, “Mining as much Gold as WE can,” with “we” meaning the group, and not each tabletop.

The tabletops play great. There are seldom issues of shared Identification and Interdependence in how they plan and play. They bond up right away and operate reasonably effectively together. They process and handle the transactions pretty well. Their teamwork is good and it happens fast because of the nature of the challenge they face. It is this choice of working with the OTHER teams that is always the issue — and the real opportunity that is available for performance improvement of the entire organization.

Brian is right, but it is small group thinking. The bigger context of how organizations really work would suggest that shared organizational visions and goals, that are clearly understood and evidenced in organizational behavior, that are the keys to real teamwork and collaboration.

And maybe my friend needs to do some sessions that involve these Accounting people along with other departmental leaders and managers. It would probably have a wide variety of impacts on overall performance results,

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

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

Connect with Scott on Google+

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

 

 

 

Branding, Change, Marketing and Square Wheels

We sell simple tools for communications and engagement and have been doing it now for 25 years. We had a consistent brand image for 20+ but then decided to shift and now we are faced with the perplexing problem of shifting again. I am guessing that this is a common problem but also asking for some perspective and dialog, since what we do is about communications and engagement. (Can you see the paradox there?)

Stay tuned if you want to receive a free engagement toolkit!

My trademark is Square Wheels®. And started out using this image as an engagement and development tool in the context of,

“How might this illustration represent
how organizations really work?”

The original image, with so little context, works wonderfully as a Rorschach test, in that people projected their beliefs onto it and the responses from a group of people were pretty amazingly diverse and creative. It always worked to generate great ideas about issues of the things that did not work smoothly and the Round Wheels that already existed and could be implemented. The year was 1993 and the image looked like this:

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of PMC and © 119.This wagon rolled forward for a LOT of years and lots of miles, with me presenting sessions in almost 40 countries and initially selling transparency-based books and then powerpoint illustrations as toolkits for change, motivation, etc. It got me to be known as, The Square Wheels Guy.

But more recently, things happened and we started shifting over to using LEGO® blocks and Technics people to represent the themes and ideas, creating various scenes and frameworks that continues today and have moved into our other product designs and toolkits that continue to evolve.

Those images and scenes anchor to the same metaphor but represent themselves this way:

Square Wheels One LEGO image by Scott SimmermanAnd we think this is a big improvement. The goal of showing the image is to generate active involvement and diverse thinking about how things work and what things might be done differently. The key points are quite obvious and people project their thoughts about their workplaces onto the visual.

These conversations around what it might represent as an organizational reality tend to focus on people, engagement, active involvement, innovation, leadership, motivation and similar. They are about issues, opportunities and implementation. They are about innovation and best practices and collaborative dis-un-engagement.

And we package a number of very simple toolkits as well as an online course so that supervisors and team leaders can learn facilitation skills. We have also used the LEGO scenes to create some stop-motion videos, which are easy to do and which would be much harder with line art.

This is NOT rocket science, to show an image and generate a discussion. It is a powerful but elegantly simple tool to generate real discussions about perceived workplace issues.

In our efforts to broaden exposure, we engaged with an organization to sell an Icebreaker toolkit around this theme to their customer base, which is different than mine but very congruent. It is a framework for collaboration and co-marketing that seems to have no downside.

As the two companies discussed this Icebreaker possibility, her staff came up with the idea of using a different representation of the Square Wheels® theme and suggested using an image that looked like this:

An alternative version of Square Wheels OneSo, I am faced with a marketing decision with a variety of factors.

  • Does the above image represent an improvement or is it simply a dilution of my intellectual property?
  • Is the image itself going to generate better discussions about organizational reality and issues and opportunities, since it IS a very different scenario and has different features.
  • Is the last image going to get the positive reactions from discussion participants like the first two does?

And another set of questions:

  • If you were to change the latter image, how would you change it to improve its effect in generating engagement and ideas?
  • Which image do you personally prefer and why?

Your thoughts on the above would be most appreciated, and if you share a useful informative considered opinion or idea as a comment, I will send you a free toolkit to play with,

 

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Visit The Square Wheels Project at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

© Performance Management Company, 1993 – 2017. All Rights Reserved.
PMC has no affiliation or relationship with The LEGO® Group®

Please Note: The offer of a free Square Wheels Toolkit is limited to the first twenty (20) people who share a relevant and useful comment about the image dilemma and its resolution.

 

 

“It makes sense to us” – Thoughts on disengagement and customer service quality

A trip to the library should be enlightening, and I read a lot of books so I go at least twice a month. I usually have my card and the transaction process for checkout works fine. That is unless you bang up into a dis-engaged person running a rigid transaction processing system that is NOT customer oriented.

I had a book on reserve that had a pickup deadline and I was returning that day from a camping trip, pretty scruffy as well as somewhat disorganized, but certainly relaxed. Then I made the mistake in thinking that just because I was a regular customer to this small branch, the transactions could be accomplished without my library card.

I thus went into the library with:

  • a book checked out in my name (it was a science book – who reads those?)
  • a book reserved on the shelf with my name
  • no wallet, it being temporarily lost among all my camping gear that was on the floor of the garage, so no picture ID or library card.

So, could we simply do this transaction? Nope. I was required to have a picture ID. They said that someone could have stolen the book I was returning to pretend they were me so that they could steal a book that no one would know that I had reserved. (That somehow made sense to them and I guess there must be a big black market in stolen library books by friends of people who get books from the local library that I am unaware of.)

They also call this their Privacy Policy, as if there was some aspect of my personal privacy that they were protecting.

And when I asked them to comment about the policy, one that focuses only processing and handling transactions and not on helping customers, one of them said that they like it as it is and that, “It makes sense to us.”

(The library management, BTW, drives the policy and the supervisor was no more helpful than the clerk. Even showing her a picture of my mother’s driving license (Mom is 98 and does not drive, but her ID is valid) and with the same last name was not sufficient to indicate my probable personal identity, nor was the fact that my phone list shows “OWNER – Scott Simmerman” as the first entry in the numbers and it requires my thumbprint to even open the phone!)

Image of customer dissatisfaction policy

“It makes sense to us!'”

Really? Does that process make sense to customers? I mean, what is my exposure here from a privacy standpoint? The Federal Government set up a commission that is demanding the states release voter names and social security numbers and addresses and voting affiliations and voting history to supposedly prevent future in-person voter fraud (which exists in a tiny percentage) but my LIBRARIAN is going to protect by privacy by not lending out a reserved book in my name without a picture ID?

How would any potential thief even know that the requested book was in my name on the shelf? And some internal thief could certainly just take the book and walk out if the marketplace was that lucrative for stolen library books, right?

Solution:

A simple solution is that the leadership of the library would be to get the clerks to improve their service by calling the customers by name.

I see the person that cuts my hair a lot less than my library visits and THEY always call me by name… That is a fairly common thing and positive thing for organizations with a small customer base and repeat customers.

The team should realize that some reasonable security is important, but that some judgement can also apply. I just put a picture of my drivers’ license on my phone (there was one on there but with 30,000 images, I simply could not find it quickly). And, I am asking each clerk to repeat back my account number when I check out a book. I am thinking of testing the system again without a proper ID…

The leadership should allow their people to act with judgement and sort through the situation logically and allow intelligent and reasonable deviations from their policies, procedures, rules and regulations. They could have asked me for some history of what I had borrowed in the past, or my address or phone. But they made NO attempt to think through how I might be verified. They simply said NO.

The library is not the DMV, where people might be trying to get fake IDs. It is The Library! They have books and tapes, not jewelry or gold coins. Nobody is trying to really steal from them, are they?

The leadership could CHOOSE to do things differently and the management could dis-un-empower the clerks to deal with their taxpaying customers in a bit more friendly way.They should not have stupid, inflexible systems that frustrate their taxpaying customers or their employees.

I am also publishing a short letter on this in the local newspaper, since I cannot be the only person this has happened to and we DO pay for their books, building and salaries, right?

I also came back to this and redid the graphic just a little. They really DO need to have some Disruptive Engagement and arrive at a  better customer service quality standard. Processing and handling transactions is NOT service quality, meeting expectations actually defines it. Managers need to have policies that empower people to make good decisions, not simply defend a bad policy!

positive disruptive engagement and customer service empwerment

 

For the FUN of It!

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

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

 

 

 

Positive Disruptive Employee Engagement for Innovation and Motivation

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

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

 

Let me reframe that:

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

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

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

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

illustrated quote of Leonardo da Vinci using Square Wheels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Visit The Square Wheels Project at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

 

 

 

Dr. Seuss on Disruptive Engagement

Even Dr. Seuss would understand about the issues and opportunities around the positive impacts of supervisors leading more active involvement to make impacts on people and performance. The data are simply so clear that people DO have ideas for improvement but that no one in the organization facilitates the process of capturing those ideas. Thus, there are large gaps in innovation and quality and productivity because possibilities simply are not realized.

I’ve blogged elsewhere about the general idea of Disruptive Engagement but I thought that one image, simplifying to the stupidly understandable level, might generate some actual thinking about choices and doing things differently! (grin)

The Square Wheels Project Dr. Seuss framework

People have ideas for improvement, the Round Wheels are already in the wagon. But they interact with their supervisors, who generally choose to NOT do things differently because of risk or time or task interference or the lack of collaboration from other departments. “I’m here from Human Resources to help you,” is such a “reality joke” in so many places because they are structurally unable to help, too.

If things are going to improve, it is going to be the people who choose to improve things. And it is going to come from increased collaboration and alignment to shared goals. Do some effective team building (see why I hate outdoor activities)!

Facilitate Dis-UN-engagement and Dis-UN-empowerment with your people by choosing to actively involve them in some workplace improvement activities. Visit The Square Wheels Project for some simple tools and support,

 

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Visit The Square Wheels Project at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com


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

 

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