Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: innovation (Page 1 of 10)

Team Bonding. Engagement. Innovation – an Animated Square Wheels Icebreaker

Interested in a simple-to-use, engaging, experiential framework to generate active involvement in workplace innovation? Want to show a very short animation and then get people immediately talking about innovation and culture?

You will find our 40-second stop-motion animation about people and performance fantastic. Show it to facilitate people thinking about workplace improvement and then generating innovating ideas about workplace issues and opportunities.

This is a very simple discussion tool, one that operates very differently than most warm-up routines that focus on funny name tags or some silly effort to “warm people up for something.” It is a much more practical approach to filling this valuable time with relevant interactions and a generated focus on your desired outcomes.

Getting people focused on possibilities of implementing change and improvement has been the main focus of our Square Wheels® illustrations for the past 25 years. We give supervisors and managers, executives and trainers a bombproof and simple metaphor to enable people to share their ideas about what issues are at hand and what improvement ideas might be considered as alternatives to the way things work now.

How does this work?

At the core of the concept is the simple idea of a wagon rolling on Square Wheels with a cargo of round tires. It sets up the idea of choice and choices and considered alternative ways to doing things. PMC started with a line-art image and have evolved to using LEGO® as a way of enabling discussions:

Square Wheels team bonding image for team building and innovation

We would show the image and ask people, “How might this represent how organizations really work.”

Viewers would then project their beliefs onto the image and consider a wide variety of different possibilities. Collectively, a team of people would share very diverse views, which made discussions useful for team bonding as well as generating requisite team building if one moved to defining specific workplace Square Wheels and finding some Round Wheels to attempt to implement. Implementation of ideas is always a key to effective team building initiatives.

What we developed with a simple stop-motion approach with LEGO is a 35-second story, one that has no actual reality but one that would be interpreted differently by people viewing the scenario. Pulling those thoughts together through a simple facilitated discussion process is easy, and the projective aspect of different perceived realities dramatically broadens the ideas. They are quickly generating shared beliefs about what is happening, with shared thoughts on workplace improvement opportunities being one desired end result.

Watch the animation by clicking on the image below:

What do YOU think happened? 

Understand that the richness of thinking comes out when groups of people discuss their individual perceptions and thoughts about what transpired. A single person will tend to have a single view. A group will generate a shared consensus of what happened. (Note that this is a scenario and there is no reality!)

Note that there are general themes of:

  • Vision
  • Change
  • Resources
  • Innovation and Creativity
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Technology
  • Communications
  • Trust
  • Coaching and Facilitating

and that the facilitator’s comments and questions can push the group to focus on different aspects of this animation, depending on your initial framing of the video and on your desired outcomes.

Some examples of introductory, set-up comments might be:

Teamwork and Change: “I want to show you a very short video about a work team and I would like you to look for some key themes about how organizations really work to implement change.”

Setting up a Training Program: “Here is a short video. Let’s watch it and discuss. After we make some comments, we can look at it again. My goal is to relate the happenings in the video to our training…”

Innovation and implementing improvements: “In this short video, you are going to see a variety of things happening. Let’s talk about implementing improvements and change after you look at it.”

General warm up: “React to what you saw, let’s discuss those perceptions and then let’s show the video clip again…”

If you wanted to debrief this video into some actionable kinds of thinking or desired outcomes, you might prompt participants with some open-ended questions such as:

  • How did the action start? 
  • What might have caused them stop pushing and pulling, initially?
  • How did the action end? What was the last thing that happened?
  • What were their reactions to what happened? What did the Pushers see and do? What did the Puller see and do?
  • When did they feel most successful?
  • When did they feel most challenged?
  • What important things happened? What were the key points in the learning process?
  • What happened with the Square Wheel at the back of the wagon?
  • What might some of their insights have been?
  • What was the Wagon Puller’s reaction?
  • How might the people have felt about their efforts to replace a Square Wheel with a round one?
  • What was the Ranger semi-truck about? / What were their reactions to the truck?
  • What other possible endings were there? What might happen next?

If you think you might find this to be a very workable tool for your toolbox of engagement and innovation materials, hop over to our website by clicking on the icon below:

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®


Two of PMC’s team building simulations are finalists in the 2018 International Business Learning Games competition, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and the Collaboration Journey Challenge.

 

People, Performance, and Robotics – Let’s focus on PEOPLE!

Thoughts on getting things done as we see more and more use of artificial intelligence in more and more workplaces…

Square Wheels, People, Performance and Artificial Intelligence

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

Robots are replacing people in a lot of jobs. At a lunch social get-together recently, a woman introduced herself and talked about finishing school and working as a pharmacist at one of the Walmart stores. Good job and apparently reasonably well-paying. But as we discussed what her work actually entailed, she was essentially counting pills and putting them in bottles labeled by the computer. And while she said that her special competencies included being able to talk about the medication and its interactions with other drugs, it is the computer that is generating the paper documents inserted into the order.

All I could think of was the way my Medicare Drug Plan fulfillment company did all that with an automated phone call and a computer printout showing the specifics of my simple prescription and the included cautions about use.

Watson, the intelligent system, runs The Weather Channel and is increasingly used in medical diagnostics, since it can scan the millions of published articles and databases and do a lot better intuitive investigative work on diagnosis than any team of physicians could possibly do. Computers are now complex thinking machines — even Siri on my iPhone is pretty amazing at intuiting and then learning the kinds of questions I ask and the information I need, getting better and better over time as it learns.

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

I took two MOOCs, one on designing online learning courses using Moodle and one on blended learning techniques. Basically, college professors and trainers are learning to teach over computer rather than doing it in a classroom. Many of my training materials will be delivered in an interactive, collaborative online way, rather than someone standing up in front of a group somewhere.

We have a neat little online training course focused on facilitation skills for supervisors, teaching how to use our images and metaphors to involve and engage people. Cheap! And really effective.

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

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

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

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

Colvin focuses on the key issue of empathy.

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

Me, I am going to continue to work in the areas impacting PEOPLE and their performance, working on teamwork, collaboration, engagement and innovation and other human factors and using my teambuilding games and my LEGO and line art Square Wheels themes. Go Play!

We will use learning technologies to make the materials more accessible and to deliver some of the training, such as our plans with our basic supervisor facilitation training using the cartoons to generate ideas and involvement. I want to improve the quality of the interactions between people as a way of improving performance and even generating more workplace happiness.

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

Interesting stuff,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

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

Spring Ahead with Motivated Action on Monday, March 12th

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

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

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

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

How does it work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

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.

 

 

Managers – How Square Wheels can impact their workplaces

I got three fast notes from an HR director from an Indian company this morning. He and I had started chatting about organizational development and he wondered how my tools could impact the workplace, if they worked for managers, which one would be best and the difference between the downloadable and the LMS. And this happened in four successive short emails…

So, I started responding and realized it would make a good blog, since the focus is on helping managers impact organizational performance, and keeping things simple and straightforward.

So a few thoughts to frame this discussion:

  • All of my products are designed so that managers can deliver them without any support from Training or HR. That simply makes sense, given how isolated those departments can be from organizational reality. They are simply too busy doing other things of a higher priority to directly help managers.
  • Managers NEED tools to help them improve active involvement and clarify organizational alignment and deal with issues of people and performance.
  • Simple straightforward packages that do not require heavy train the trainer or psychological principles are much more useful than the complicated models that we often use in consulting or training. Simple tools to address real problems in straightforward ways are simply better, if they can be made available.
  • Tools to involve and engage workers for process improvement and innovation or to help actively involve and engage them in productivity increases are practical, and those that build teamwork and collaboration are even more important over the long run.

Managers need to be better motivators and workers need to be more innovative and productive and motivated.

But managers and supervisors are often incredibly over-burdened with other responsibilities and priorities that it makes their interpersonal communications very hard to accomplish. One survey said that managers have more contact with their remote workers than they do with the people who share office space with them.

What I have been writing about lately is the theme of Disruptive Engagement, with the premise that ideas coming from the bottoms up are so much more likely to actually occur than things driven from the tops down. You can read more about that in my other posts on leadership and innovation.

And managers have to be more actively engaged in their workplaces and with their people. To illustrate, Gallup found that managers working for engaged leaders are 39% more likely to be themselves engaged and that employees working for engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged, something they referred to as The Cascade Effect.

Of course this makes logical sense but the numbers are pretty startling if you consider the flip-side and the issues around working for UN-engaged leaders and managers. Gallup also reports that 51% of managers are not engaged and that 14% are actively disengaged. Scary.

With The Square Wheels Project, we offer an online training program that any supervisor can take to improve their group facilitation and team building skills and they also get a Square Wheels Toolkit of powerpoints and worksheet handouts to capture ideas and generate considered alternatives for improvement.

With the Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Toolkit, we offer a complete and easy to understand powerpoint-based training program, basically the materials supported by The Square Wheels Project but without the online training videos and other supporting modeling of delivery ideas.

The idea is to hold workplace meetings focused on identifying things that do not work smoothly for people and then identifying possibilities for improvement. I mean, what worker, where, does not have ideas to make things work more better faster? But nobody listens to them and few bosses seem to care, so those ideas simply languish. The beauty of Square Wheels is the generality of the metaphor – things thump and bump but Round Wheels are already in the wagon. Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!

So, now that we have people talking, things can progress like this, with the first image representing a compendium of workplace realities, present day:

Square Wheels Project Motivational Reality in the workplace

But then we start talking and acting on ideas:

Active workplace improvement starts things rolling

And, if we follow through and keep communicating as well as involving and engaging other people (recruitment), we can see more of some things like this:

More weeks and more celebrations of improvements in organizational development

Idealistic? NO. There are thousands of examples of this kind of impact, person to person. While there is no silver bullet since organizational cultures and issues around trust and leadership vary so widely, the reality is that Ask and Ye Shall Receive actually works quite well when one involves and engages teams of people in the improvement of their own work environment.

Lastly, we need to upskill the workers and managers on their issues of Dis-UN-empowerment and Dis-UN-Engagement, which is otherwise called Roadblock Management. People need the tools to mentally manage the issues that appear when any kind of change process is happening and having peer support for improvement is a valuable factor. We have a simple toolkit and model for Roadblock Management, too!

Roadbloc Management Square Wheels Toolkit for Managers

As I said earlier, we do not believe that all this stuff is rocket science. There is an elegant simplicity in our approach, one that negates a lot of the apparent complexity that often prevents people from moving forward. Our tools are all about rolling forward more better faster.

My understanding, based on a doctorate in behavioral neurophysiology and early consulting work with people like Ed Feeney and Tom Gilbert and Ken Junkins drove me to believe that performance feedback is the breakfast of champions and that active involvement and ownership is what drives real motivation. Using Square Wheels® to create a perceptual gap between how things are and how they could be (Round Wheels) is simple cognitive dissonance.


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 team building 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

 

Disruptive Engagement, Supervisors, Empowerment and Performance Improvement

I listened to a great presentation yesterday by Mercer on managing engagement, the need to focus on key metrics but the reality of driving behavior at the very bottom of the organization, which is what engagement is. Nicely presented, with great graphics. And I look forward to getting a copy of the information, statistics and related materials.

On the other hand, it seemed to have nothing actionable. It focused on senior managers and HR and organizational statistics and surveys and never once directly mentioned the Supervisors, to my recollection, as being involved in this “involvement and empowerment and engagement stuff.”

It is totally clear that workers and supervisors and managers are basically un-involved and un-engaged in so many workplaces.  And it is management effectiveness AND the workplace environment that is behind this problem. It is NOT a “senior management leadership issue” that can be corrected with more surveys and more executive development.

To illustrate:

Gallup:

  • 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.

DDI reported

  • 87% of first-time supervisors feel frustrated, anxious and uncertain about their new role
  • Only 11% said they were groomed for that role through some developmental training or program.

Rick Bell shared some statistics in the March issue of Workforce magazine about how badly workers are being supervised

  • 35% of US workers would forgo a raise to see their boss fired
  • 44% of employees say they have been emotionally or physically abused by a supervisor
  • 3 of 4 workers say that their boss is the worst / most stressful part of the job

Again:

It is NOT a “senior management leadership issue” that can be
corrected with more surveys and more executive development.

The issue here is basic supervision, basic leadership at the front lines. People are uninvolved and frustrated, so the solutions are about Dis-un-engagement and Dis-un-empowerment. *

The solution requires involving workers in workplace improvement for both process improvement and more self-determination and personal growth. It is about demonstrating that the supervisor is actively listening and helping to implement ideas. It is about the workers and the management team removing roadblocks that are perceived to be operating that are blocking engagement and the ability to act empowered. Simply, it is about facilitation and feedback.

*Note – I do not believe that it is possible to directly engage or empower someone else. You cannot change their internal workings, directly. What you can do is address their perceived issues and determine what they think blocks their acting in a more involved manner. Roadblock removal is kind of like coaching, only it can be done in a group or team setting. It is accomplished by ASKING FOR THEIR PERCEPTIONS ABOUT HOW THINGS WORK and what they might try to do differently. Remember that “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and that “Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled.”

The Square Wheels Project is a simple online training program focused on using the metaphor of Square Wheels® as a tool for communicating about issues and opportunities, and it is accomplished by teaching the supervisor basic facilitation skills and providing a simple and bombproof tool for leading discussions. It also supports these supervisors with peer-level communications about issues and questions and dealing with problems and politics.

The Solutions:

We do not share any silver bullets about how to fix these problems. You can see some additional thoughts around implementation in this other blog post. Every organization has its own blend of communications and cultural issues. But the removal of perceived roadblocks to implementing ideas for performance improvement is intrinsically motivation and a way to address common fears around implementing change. (See Dan Stones article about overcoming team fears here)

But, operationally, it looks something like this: Let people play with Round Wheels since they are currently operating on Square ones…

positive disruptive engagement and Square Wheels becomming round ones

So, without cost or training or doing anything but downloading two pdf files, go play with this idea. Below is the really simple explanation of how it works.

Print out the two card-based worksheets. (SWs One 2017 What Might Be Cards to Print and SWs One 2017 How Does Cards to Print)

Square Wheels card

 

 

 

 

 

Cut each of the pages above into 10 relatively similar-sized “business cards.”

1 – Give a “how does this represent how things really work” card (left) to each person in your meeting and have them discuss the image in small groups. Let them consider possibilities. Ask them to share their thoughts.

2 – After discussion, give one “what might be some of our Square Wheels” card to each person and then ask them for some of their thoughts.

3 – Process the ideas as you wish. Do not defend the status quo but consider these thoughts and ideas as possibilities. “What else?” is a good response.

If you like what you see, which might start out with some discussion about the problems of processes and leadership and teamwork and ideas in a general workplace situation and the transition into what some of the issues might be in your workplace, you will get some idea of the power of this metaphor for changing thinking, language and goal-directed performance improvement.

We have a variety of workplace improvement tools available for purchase, all framed around the idea of changing people’s perceptions and behavior, driving improved teamwork and communications, and generally working to disrupt the way things are and create a more positive workplace.

 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


Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

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

Disruptive Engagement and Radical Candor by Scott Simmerman


The Performance Management Company blog is found at www.PerformanceManagementCompanyBlog.com

The Square Wheels Project is found on Udemy, and you can access this online supervisory facilitation skills training program, complete with downloadable powerpoint slides, printed handouts and other support materials at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com

Dr. Scott Simmerman holds a doctorate degree in behavioral neurophysiology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a Certified Training Professional through the IAPPD and a Certified Professional Facilitator by the International Association of Facilitators. His LinkedIn bio is extensive and found at http://www.linkedin.com/in/scottsimmerman

Corporate Engagement Hasn’t Worked – Why not try Disruptive Engagement?

What is your reaction to these statements?

  • “I’m from Human Resources and I am here to help you.”
  • “I’m from Management and I am here to help you.”
  • “I’m from Training and I am here to help you.”

Most of us workers can probably name names and share lots of personal experiences about having received that kind of “support” in our workplaces, where all that help was not able to change much of anything. Outsiders cannot help insiders very much because of organizational dynamics, regardless of good intentions.

Tons of statistics show that engagement still stinks, workers feel un-respected and un-involved and motivation basically sucks in so many workplaces. We’ve spent 50 years trying to drive this stuff tops-down with little to show for it other than the costs of our good intentions. (And, sure, there are exceptions, but I am speaking to the generalities and commonalities so often observed and expensed.)

People are un-engaged, often actively so. What does it take to do some DIS-un-engagement? Not much, I think. Data says that people want to improve things. The manager should be the motivator, right?

We do lots of surveys with the intentions of making improvements – those initiatives are generally always positive. HR wants to have positive impacts, managers want to improve results and Training and Development really does want to improve skills., dynamics of leadership, and impact collaboration. But it is simply the case that few things driven from the top will make much of a difference at the bottom. Why?

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

It’s just basic human nature. Few people take good care of things that they do not own, and that same ownership applies to how they approach their jobs. Sure, if that rental car is completely trashed, they might clean it up a little so they are not embarrassed, but that does not translate to any kind of exceptional care. They would do things differently if they felt ownership. If people do not feel a sense of participative involvement, it should even surprise you that they do anything more than the minimum.

So, what DO you do? Maybe it is to look for ways to do things from the bottoms-up. Maybe that supervisor can change the nature of how they actively involve people in their workplaces, asking for ideas for improvement or for better ways to collaborate or share information or resources. They become facilitators, they involve and actively engage and support innovation and chaos.

People unmotivated for work

INvolving and engaging people for workplace improvement

Asking for ideas for workplace innovation and improvement

Implementation is chaos

There exists no proven process or designed formula for how to accomplish this; there are too many variables. But the simple, basic idea is that each supervisor take the responsibility for asking their people for workplace improvement ideas and facilitating discussions of possibilities. This generates ownership involvement and active participation. From those ideas, you then determine an approach or approaches to implement them, with the supervisor managing the resources of time and money and roadblocks and interdepartmental collaboration to allow the natural teams to generate some successes.

How to move forward? Do some facilitation skills training and discover and clarify how the best-implemented programs of improvement were accomplished within your organization in the past, since those best practices are more likely to align with the culture and feel more comfortable to people. (It is also useful to look at the failures and find the features of those initiatives that made it unsuccessful.) Learn from your organization and repeat the successes / avoid the failures.

implementation of disruptive engagement

I’ve been playing in organizational performance and people performance since 1978 with a degree in behavioral neuropsychology and I remain frustrated with how little progress has been made. We HAVE all the tools, but we do not seem able to get them into the hands of the people who need them most. Managers only manage, while supervisors supervise the actual work. It is the supervisors who need to understand the corporate goals and then have the ability to align the behavior of their workers to those goals and objectives.

Why is all this so hard? Why can’t we just ask for ideas and involve people in the improvements that they already want to make?

The Square Wheels Project is our newest attempt to put practical and effective tools into the hands of the supervisor so that they can involve and engage their people in the improvements that are possible. We have an online course in facilitation that includes powerpoints and handouts as well as a focus on teaching the skills.

Take a look at the opening page of the 30-minute course and see if something like this might work for you or someone you know. Consider trying the course as a pair of people to support each others’ learning and understanding and initial trials at generating impacts and conversations.

Contact me if you want a discount! Help me leave a legacy…

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Engagement – Think Local, Act Local

I was reading an article on adapting things like HomeKit and Echo into the way people interact with their homes. Alexa is pretty cool, but there are issues around its inability to recognize voices and there have been instances of voices on TV actually telling the system to order products online and the reality that a burglar could simply tell the system to turn off security alarms. The point that author Seyi Fabode was making was that one of our most basic needs is for security and safety, both at home and in the workplace where so many of us spend so much time and emotional energy.

MY thinking about his thinking was framed around a workshop I attended by Brad Thomas with my local ATD group yesterday morning. Brad was focusing on the implementation of full-company engagement systems and his excellent talk was anchored somewhat to these local issues but mainly focused on the corporate commitment to generating and acting on large amounts of employee feedback to frame up issues and opportunities.

In that Big Picture Corporate Model, things needed to cascade down from the top and that HR departments had to rethink how they focused so that they could actually bring human resource capital into play for their operational counterparts, that they could not simply remain the paper pushers they are in so many places. HR needed a seat at the corporate boardroom table to focus on the people side of improvement initiatives. It seems like an awful amount of senior management engagement and systemic change was a requirement before ANY actions could occur.

And when you have, as I once did, senior executives out there saying (or believing) things like this about people / engagement / involvement and being actively working to generate innovative ideas:

“That’s like asking the vegetables how to design a refrigerator,”

you pretty much KNOW that you are not going to be successful working from the tops downward forward. (And, yes, there are senior managers who could not care less about employee involvement and ideas — we seem to have one in the White House if you need an example.)

These two things clanged for me about an hour ago. Big Corporate Solutions trying to solve the issues of the worker / supervisor interface. What could possibly go wrong? Well, as results seem to consistently show, pretty much everything… Overall, statistics seem to show that OD things look pretty much like this:

Corporate engagement programs don't work well

From this month’s issue of Workforce magazine (3/17), Rick Bell shared some  statistics and anchor points. Supervisors clearly improve their leadership and engagement skills. Some tops-down corporate program to improve overall engagement will simply not get traction:

• 35% of US workers would forgo a raise to see their boss fired

• 44% of employees say they have been emotionally or physically abused by a supervisor

• 3 of 4 workers say that their boss is the worst / most stressful part of the job

Other statistics supporting the idea of local control / local influence include:

• “Communication and connection are the cornerstone of relationships – a quarter to a third of employees believe their managers seldom or never listen to them, understand their issues, seek their input and ideas, or help them to resolve the issues and challenges they face. This persistent gap presents both a challenge and an opportunity to leaders and managers.” (Leadership Management Australasia’s LMA survey, April 2016)

• Only about 1 in 3 US managers are engaged in their jobs, and about 1 in 7 are actively DISENGAGED. Employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers. (Gallup)

Bell and others share these statistics, however, so there IS opportunity here if we can improve the interaction between workers and their managers. A short list of opportunities and benefits looks like this:

  • Managers are the Number 1 way that people feel supported by their organization
  • Managers influence 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores
  • Close to 60% of Americans say they would do a better job if they got along better with their boss
  • Close to 70% of those polled said they would be happier at work if they got along better with their boss, with the breakdown equal among men and women, but younger workers in their 20s and 30s were even higher (80%)
  • Over half (55%) of those polled, think they would be more successful in their career if they got along better with their boss
  • Only 4 in 10 of Americans will thank their boss on National Bosses Day with most believing that their boss wouldn’t care enough to bother
  • About 10% said they would use the day as an opportunity to talk to their boss and improve the relationship

——————————————–

Try this:

Have a conversation with someone who works in an organization and ask about how they feel they are being managed. I had two such conversations with people in my pool league two nights ago. Absolutely eye opening!

——————————————–

So, what IS a viable solution? Understand that the Big Corporate Improvement Program Initiatives seem doomed to fail unless organizations impact that supervisor / worker interface and make it more supporting and effective. And you can probably figure out that working to engage workers working for the 1 in 7 managers who are actively DIS-engaged within their own organization is simply a waste of money and resources.

Throw some mud at the wire fence!

Break away from the Big  Corporate Program Mentality and do some Guerilla Engagement. Give some of your better supervisors the tools they need to improve their effectiveness. Allow them to improve their interactions with their people and to improve their facilitation and involvement skills.

The Square Wheels Project is an online training program designed FOR SUPERVISORS who need some training and some tools to improve communications. The Spring Forward Monday Toolkit is a package of tools (handouts, powerpoints, posters and instructions) to give supervisors the framework for a series of meetings and implementation action plans for simple ideas for workplace improvement and innovation, to allow more teamwork and active involvement.

Square Wheels - How organizations really work Metaphor organizational improvement

The Square Wheels Project is not THE Solution to anything, but it does represent a most excellent alternative to the initiatives that are generally not working very well, a step forward in the effort to improve communications.

Square Wheels Project Draggin Slaying Supervisor

But some facilitation skills training can certainly help your managers to become better motivators and better leaders. Help them lead on-site workplace innovation and improvement initiatives at the very bottom-most layer of your organization, where most things are actually happening. Do things differently and let them lead!

Solve the small problems in simple ways, keeping a sense of safety and security in place with your supervisors feeling a minimal amount of risk for doing something differently. Look for some “small answers” to local issues and build things from the bottoms up. Make real improvements where you can, instead of looking for Big Answers from a distance.

Addendum: Since initially publishing these thoughts, I have begun to focus on a framework of Disruptive Engagement, which takes in much of this thinking and adds more data and rationale. You can find those blogs by clicking on the two images below.

Square Wheels by Scott Simmerman of Performance Management CompanyDisruptive Engagement and Radical Candor by Scott Simmerman

 

Our stupidly simple tools are designed help any manager get some really effective, performance-focused improvement conversations going using better facilitation skills and our metaphors, plus our online help and networking,

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 Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group


The two newer blogs can be found by clicking on the links above or by going to:

Corporate Engagement Hasn’t Worked – Why not try Disruptive Engagement?

or

Radical Candor and Disruptive Engagement

 

Spring Forward Monday™ is March 13, 2017 – A Square Wheels® Solution

Okay, March 13 is a Monday. But it is also the Monday after Sunday morning’s loss of an hour’s sleep as we set the clocks ahead each Spring. AND, it will be one of the low productivity workdays, since you know people will be dragging. (How many do you think will go to bed an hour earlier on Saturday night? Plus, there are lots of statistics on the measured impacts!)

Spring Forward Monday should be engaging and motivatingSo, with most people dragging, and this to be a known problem, why not choose to do something differently? Why not recharge their batteries and increase involvement (known to be low in general) and motivation (generally low) and teamwork (sometimes very spotty) by having a meeting focused on their issues and their ideas for improvement?

Choose to be a Draggin’ Slayer. Seize The Day! Choose to focus on rebuilding some energy and gaining ideas for improvement.

Spring Forward Minday illustration on involvement by Scott SimmermanYou can probably expect some low energy from your people. But our experiences show that this will be short-lived as people get involved with the Square Wheels® metaphor as a vehicle to discuss issues and problems — and there are lots of Square Wheels out there! Simply talking about perceived Square Wheels will generate many Round Wheel solutions to make things roll more better faster.

Square Wheels is a metaphor to use on Spring Forward MondayPeople want to make improvements and people will work on teams to look at the ideas for improvement and offer ideas for implementation. It is just that they need the collective thinking of the group to really understand the issues more clearly and to better define some solutions.

Spring Forward Monday - A Square Wheels / Round Wheel opportunity for engagementAnd it is a fact that people are pretty good problem solvers, when they know that something IS a problem and they have perspective and resources and support. They can find solutions and if the solutions are their idea, they will be more motivated to implement those ideas. It is an issue of ownership and active involvement; you really cannot push them to make improvements you think are needed, since they resist your changes…

Nobody ever washes a rental car.

Square Wheels are designed by Scott Simmerman and are a tool for innovationSo, it is about choice. Your choice to simply continue to do things the same way or to involve and engage your people to look at things from different perspectives and define some issues and refine some ideas for workplace improvement. This kind of session can be held at the front-line worker level or even among the top management team, although workplace realities would suggest that the people pushing the wagon know a lot more about the realities and problems than the wagon pullers.

Most organizations do have the tendency to work like this and we will note that our experience proves that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon — those good ideas already exist. It is simply a matter of identification of the better ideas once the bad ones are recognized for what they are.

The reality is that the Square Wheels® actually DO work, they just do not work smoothly…

Square Wheels One is a metaphor for performance improvement by Scott Simmerman

Square Wheels® One is our main illustration about how things really work.

So, with that perception about how things really work, you can use your imagination to guess at what might be done differently. You can choose to be a Draggin’ Slayer on Spring Forward Monday™ or continue to let things thump and bump. You can choose to improve involvement and engagement by involving and engaging your people in a new vision of how things can roll to the goal.

People WANT to be involved. Even the ones that say they don’t will get involved and engaged, since they so-often complain about how things are working and this is the perfect venue for them to contribute! So choose to involve everyone. Let people make some better choices and own the process of implementing workplace improvement.

Square Wheels engagement on Spring Forward Monday by Performance Management CompanyIf we have gotten you interested, here are some simple resources. One is a 2-minute video overview of the whole idea.

Spring Forward Monday Video Overview of Square Wheels

You can also purchase a complete $25 toolkit to support your effort with our metaphors and materials. The package contains:

  • The Square Wheels One image
  • A Leader’s Guide for facilitating the session
  • Participant Worksheets/Handouts
  • A collection of Square Wheels Posters that can be used as anchors to the insights gained as the group rolls down the road.

Spring Forward Monday Square Wheels Toolkit for involvement and motivation

And, you can access The Square Wheels Project to complete a 30-minute optional course on facilitating workplace improvement through facilitation. It is a general course, but focused on our metaphors and worksheets. And it costs only $10 as we gain traction for our approach to organizational performance improvement and motivation of workplaces.

The Square Wheels Project is about facilitating engagment and improvement

We are working hard to make this simple tool available directly to supervisors and managers who need simple and effective tools for motivating their people. Doing this on Spring Forward Monday™ would be a nice touch, but doing one of these sessions any time would be impactful.

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 Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Save

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Facilitating Workplace Improvement: Herding Cats and Frogs

A couple of really good discussions on facilitation and implementation of strategies and innovation and some basic conversations about people and performance got me thinking again about The Issues of Workplace Reality:

Getting things done around here
is a lot like herding cats.

It is possible to accomplish that, but with me with an 8-month old uncontrollable and insane kitty and with me working on Robin Speculand’s Compass Model for workplace strategy implementation (and seeing lots of statistics around failures and challenges), I am once again reminded that the metaphor links to many issues of workplace engagement and alignment.

If you have never seen it before or need a refresher, you really ought to watch this great old 1-minute EDS commercial about the satisfaction gained from successfully herding cats:

Herding Cats - EDS Commercial“Herding cats. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy…”
“I’m living a dream…”

Funny stuff, for sure and worth watching!
(Clicking on the image above will open up in Youtube.)

My British friend, Barry Howell, used the phrase “herding frogs,” in a conversation, which got me into expanding my thinking. Not everyone in the workplace is a feline, which of course makes things more difficult to manage, right? Herding frogs seems to be a more common metaphor there, maybe because they aren’t so much into herding cattle as in the US.

So, what does herding frogs look like? Here is a video of The Great Frog Capture in California. Do NOT try this at home!

FrogsMetaphors!! I just love using those kinds of very visual,
kinesthetic phrases to anchor reality.

Then, I saw a link to an absolutely wild short video about stampeding ducks. Seriously. Click on the image and be amazed. And again, do not try herding ducks like this at home or at work!

Stampeding Ducks

Lastly, I thought to add a really beautiful video of sheep herding in New Zealand. This one is awesome! Courtesy of Tom Whittaker:

Herding sheep videoThe only issue that I would have with workplaces is that there would be little innovation and few people doing things differently. You would not have exemplary performers in any real sense. Plus, herding sheep is not workplace reality, for sure!

Trying to implement change and improvement and motivating people is not an easy task, as shown in the above examples. And while ducks will be imprinted to follow an individual or other ducks and sheep are naturally herd animals easily controlled with a few sheep dogs, managing people is simply not so easy. People ARE creative when we allow them to be. People are great problem solvers if they recognize something as an issue. And people need leadership.

There is one more graphic that speaks to getting things done and facilitating improvement and that looks like this:

Baby Elephant Teamwork Quote wordsWe need to have the time and energy, as leaders, to deal with the new baby elephants! We cannot simply add one more thing on top of all the other things and expect it to be given the attention it needs.

Most strategy implementations fail not because of a poor strategy, but because the implementation plan does not prioritize that implementation nor take into account all the time and energy needed to get things to be different. Plus, while it seems easier simply to tell people that they need to do things differently, that behavior generally results in active resistance by many.

We need to develop alignment, teamwork, collaboration and a sense of ownership, along with prioritizing the time and effort required, in order to move people to different performance places.

Cats, frogs, sheep and elephants.
Will Herding Zombies be next?

(Actually, the answer is YES, since my colleagues want me to get my Zombie Strategy Implementation Game into beta so they can mess with it. There do seem to be some Zombies among the very disengaged populations common in most places. Not all have turned, but some seem to have done so!)

Solutions are not simple. But you may find our approach to involving and engaging people for workplace improvement to be pretty straightforward.

We share some simple tools for involving and engaging people for improving workplace performance at The Square Wheels Project.

Using our Square Wheels images and themes and facilitation approach, you can generate alignment to shared missions and visions, ask about issues and opportunities and define strategies to implement and manage change. Check it out!

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

Poem on Performance Improvement and Training

For two dozen years, I have used a “strength building” illustration as step one to discuss how training is not always a good solution to performance improvement problems. It is the old Bob Mager, “If you put a gun to their head, can they do it?” kind of framework in that it separates a skillset from a motivation. Simply put, if people can do the job, they don’t need more training to do the job.

Training is a good thing if skills are deficient, but we often see new people demonstrate the skills as they are coached but then not demonstrate those same skills over time. Something else is happening and workplace systems and processes are often a good place to look for new Best Practices and ideas to improve motivation and teamwork.

So, while training is a GOOD thing, and often one of those reinforcers for workplace performance, it is not THE solution most of the time.

My suggestion is to step back from the wagon and change perspective. Ask people for ideas and listen to issues and opportunities. That is the nature of The Square Wheels Project.

So, here is a little ditty poem about those issues and opportunities. I hope you like it!

Poem on Training by Scott Simmerman for The Square Wheels project

Note that training WILL often generate a 2 or 3% improvement in performance since the wagon pushers WILL be a little stronger!
But maybe that time could have been better used for engagement…

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 Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

A Round Wheel Happy New Year!

We had a Christmas Day brunch at one of the finer hotels here in Greenville and, to put it simply, things did not roll very smoothly. There were any number of service quality issues from beginning to end, starting with a “10 minute wait” that was 35 minutes (we sat outside where it was nice and not in the stuffy crowded lobby) to the food quality / timeliness issues to having our table swept when we went back to the buffet (even the silverware and glassware and I had to re-serve our water because there was no one there…) and to having to wait 20 minutes to get the check.

Giving specific feedback to the restaurant manager generated a nice conversation with the General Manager /Partner of the property. I expected nothing and was simply sharing information, but he sent me an email a bit ago inviting me to another event. It was both unexpected and unnecessary — maybe we will followup and do it. But getting something for free was not part of my effort to share information to enable better performance.

Anyway, I wanted to cheer things up a little and since the Square Wheels image was something he and I discussed, I thought to do up a Happy New Year Poster.

A HAPPY NEW YEAR Square Wheels poster about people and performanceThe key point is that people know what they could choose to do differently or #morebetterfaster if they simply had a better sense of why it is important. It does not take much effort for a team of people to implement better solutions and improve how things work. The idea of stepping back from the wagon (and also ignoring the Spectator Sheep) is important to get the overall perspective to find and implement some new ideas.

If YOU have some Square Wheels issues around people and performance, visit The Square Wheels Project and pick up some simple facilitation skills along with some simple tools to use. The Round Wheel solutions already exist; it is about identifying issues and implementing solutions,

The Square Wheels Project is about facilitating engagment and improvement

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 Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Monkeys, Management and Motivation – Simple Ideas

Ah, the Internet… And StumbleUpon. Blogs. And research on behavior. And Creative Genius. And themes of leadership and productivity and employee motivation.

I love it when it all comes together…

Way back in 2012, what seems like at least a decade ago, I was reminded of the monkey metaphor of William Onchen (HBR, originally in 1974!), who wrote about their management, care and feeding. Solid stuff.

Dan Rockwell, in his most excellent Leadership Freak blog, reminded me of some of that today. He talked around “whose monkey is it” and framed up the pronouns in a way to get you to pay more attention to what is being said. There are three different ways to listen to the discussion and the pronouns you use in discussing that little critter:

  1. ‘You’ – The monkey stays in their zoo. They own the issue. Responsibilities are theirs.
  2. ‘We’ – The monkey is a shared. “We will fix this.” Responsibilities are shared. Beware of adding unnecessary layers of complexity by sharing too many monkeys with team members.
  3. ‘I’ – The monkey moves to your cage. You own this issue. Responsibilities are yours.

And my curiosity caused me to click on a “Cognitive Science” link on StumbleUpon 3 years ago because it showed the following (copied with permission) research and metaphor.

article on managing monkeys by scott simmermanIn his article, the story about the situation and the behavior continues. In mine, I think you probably get where I am headed…

A key point is behavior and to consider how certain workplace behaviors get started and maintained.

The behavior of a group of monkeys is sustained by the organizational culture and the environment around it, and probably not even by any consequence system that still exists.I think that the behaviors generated years ago are often still in place and continuing to influence teamwork and collaboration and even best practices.

Jason Wells talks about the concept of  filiopietism, or the reverence of forebears or tradition carried to excess, but prefers another term: the tragic circle. (He moved his site but you can see his illustrations by clicking on this link The Lesson of the Monkeys )

And I agree. He links the concept to the behaviors of societies, and I think that the concept links even more directly to workgroups where there are extrinsic rewards and punishers for specific behaviors.

There are many such practices in workgroups that get carried on long after the original event. Techs at a car dealership client of mine would all yell, “What?” when one of them would yell out, “Hey, Stupid!”My guess is that a manager, once upon a time, was calling for one of them and yelled out the phrase and it just got established as a little “reminder ritual” for all of them (including the actual good-guy manager!!).

Most people in most workplaces are UN-Engaged. Why? You can’t know precisely, even when you look at it from all different kinds of angles. There are all kinds of local reasons. My take on it is that dis-engagement is being caused by something, maybe something that is inadvertent, but still a causal factor acting in the environment. It might be something as simple as “a banana” — the issue of some loss of trust or some shared negative corporate memory. And until we address the root cause, it will continue. Nothing will improve and little will change over time. The monkeys will simply continue to sit there…

uncontrolled impacts of extrinsic rewardsSure, one “Senior Corporate Leadership Answer” to the Monkey Problem is to get all NEW monkeys and start all over but that is a costly and difficult solution to implement. And some of the thinking may still carry over during that transition. Some organizations actually do that, moving from one place to another to shake things up and get new people.

But a more better simple alternative is to engage them (the people participants) in some discussions about what and why and look for new alternatives that can be implemented or problems that can be addressed that simply reinforce the situation at hand. So, “Yes, we have no bananas” (audio – vocal starts at 1:10, from 1923 (history) ), but we do have people who have a level of commitment to performing.

We need to do some serious Dis-Un-Engagement in the workplace, working with teams to identify the things that are getting in the way of people being engaged and actively removing them from the situation. Doing the precise same things, introducing one new monkey after another, will not make any difference.

Our new facilitation training for supervisors shares a straightforward approach for dealing with such issues and opportunities. You can see our approach, which uses my metaphor for Square Wheels at:

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance ManaagementThe tool is focused on discussing issues and opportunities, and the approach is to generate open discussion of the things that could work better, the issues of the culture and visions, and the generation and implementation of better ideas. It focuses on asking and listening and on generating ownership involvement,

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 Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Are Managers simply BAD or is it the Workplace

This will be a short post, with a link to a solid article and one illustration.

Gallup had an article that is depressing: www.gallup.com/businessjournal/200108/damage-inflicted-poor-managers.aspx

It is about the DAMAGE caused by bad managers. It is a short but hard read, saying in part:

Managers who don’t know how to meet the engagement needs of their team become a barrier to employee, team and company performance.

And a disturbingly high percentage of managers around the world are not meeting the needs of their employees. Actively disengaged employees (24%) outnumber engaged employees (13%) by nearly 2-to-1, according to Gallup — implying that at the global level, work is more often a source of frustration than fulfillment.

If work looks like this, which it seems to, can’t we actually DO SOMETHING to change the rope? Can’t we make things more involving and engaging by simply asking people for their ideas for improvement?

The Square Wheels Project image on perception by Scott Simmerman

That is what we are trying to teach with The Square Wheels Project: a simple facilitation process to allow supervisors to ask for ideas for improvement.

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 Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

WHAM! The Square Wheels Guy sees a Round Wheel

I shared this story with a couple of associates last night and both said I should blog about it. The situation is where some guy (me) who deals in Square Wheels and Round Wheels finally makes an improvement because he finally sees something as a Square Wheel, something operating that way for almost a year. Seriously…

My house has one room set up as an image production area and we got some green screen cloth and used a 5 foot by 3 foot table as the base on which to set up our various Square Wheels scenarios and images. We have good lighting sources and a tripod for using my iPhone to take pictures. We even have a remote control so we can keep the camera still while we do some stop-motion movies. (We will start publishing some animations in January – an amazing fun way to be creative and get some key learning points across.)

Santa flying with elves watching and Round Wheels on the Square Wheel sled

Anyway, I thought that we had production down to what was a science. Simple set up, hit some light switches and get out the iPhone, with auto upload to the cloud and downloading to my computers. Neat!

But there were small problems. In some shots where we had wider images, like with Santa and the reindeer plus some elves at the back, we were getting the sides of the screen to come into view at the back. That resulted in me having to move LEGO more toward the back to control the angles and image quality.

On Thursday, Joan and I were shooting Santa shots (new poem will be published) and I sat there and heard voices in my head saying, “Why don’t we rotate the table so that it changes from 3′ wide and 5′ long to being a more usable 5′ wide and 3′ long?”

Why was it 3 x 5? Because the table fit neatly along the 5 foot wall to the left and we had a light box sitting on the table when we first started. But then we moved the table away from the wall when we went from shooting within the box to a back-screen open arrangement. We kept changing backgrounds, raised the height of the table and did other things but we never bothered to rotate the table. It worked as it was, but it did not work smoothly. It took 5 minutes to make a really useful fix…

My own Square Wheels metaphor winds up whacking me in the side of the head. A better solution has been there for MONTHS, but I simply could not SEE it because I was used to the way it was working, Neither Chris nor Joan saw it either, and Chris helped me with all the initial set up and has taken half the pictures.

Square Wheels Image production facility The Square Wheels Project

The message and key learning point is simple:

The Round Wheels are already in the wagon.

Improvement often just requires us to stop, step back, and LOOK for ideas to make things better, rather than simply doing the same thing over and over and somehow expecting better results.

I do TRY to live my own metaphor and look for those Round Wheels.
But apparently, “not always,”

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 Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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