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

Category: manager as motivator Page 1 of 14

A Joke on the issues of Implementing New Ideas

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

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

So, here goes:

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

Square Wheels Tools for Managing and Leading Remote Workers

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

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

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

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

haiku Better Tomorrow

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

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

Scott Simmerman – scott@squarewheels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. He is a CPF and CPT and holds a doctorate in behavioral neuropsychology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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

 You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

How do I generate new and improved outcomes in meetings?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

Play the Fool, Achieve Hero Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Design Thinking: Who ARE those customers

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

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

The workplace thus seems to roll forward along these lines:

Design Thinking and Implementation in the workplace of reality

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

Square Wheels research on why people are not engaged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

For the FUN of It!

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

See a fun animation about innovation and improvement here.

See another great teambuilding game: The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

 

 

 

Contributing Improvement Ideas. The BOSS is the biggest issue

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

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

Square Wheels Data on Active Involvement for Innovation

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

Square Wheels research on why people are not engaged

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

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

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

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

square wheels facilitation toolkits for leadership development

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

For the FUN of It!

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

See the our teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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


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

MORE on being “Too Busy” to implement new improvements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We're Too Busy to implement improvement

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

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

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

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

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

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

But is that really reality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe.

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

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

Poster Square Wheels Too Busy to Improve

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

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

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

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

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

Email me at Scott@SquareWheels.com,

 

For the FUN of It!

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

 

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

Too Busy and Somewhat Disengaged – an illustration of workplace reality

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

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

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

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

Too busy to improve the Square Wheels

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

Really too busy to improve the Square Wheels

Which of these do YOU like more? 

And how might this really reflect reality in your workplace?

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

The Square Wheels Controversy – LEGO or Line-Art?

Since 1993, I have been presenting workshops internationally using a series of line-art images around the concept of Square Wheels. They can represent things that work but that do not work smoothly and they beg the question about what round wheels can replace them. Users and audiences consistently tell us that this is the best metaphor for organizational improvement or personal growth that exists anywhere.Testimonial on Square Wheels metaphor use

Generating the understanding that Square Wheels represent how things really work is incredibly easy and people get the concept readily. Cognitive dissonance then becomes one of the driving forces underlying the subsequent generation of Round Wheel Ideas for Improvement. The gap between the impact of the SWs provides motivation to decrease dissonance and improve the idea.

The controversy exists between our use of the old line-art drawings by Roy Sabean and the newer LEGO scenes, as you can see below:

Square Wheels metaphor for organizational improvement

We did a short online survey of users and the reactions were split as to which image was preferred. We asked our LinkedIn network as to their reactions and the feedback was also split. Some people prefer the old image and some prefer the new one, and there are a number of factors that underly this split.

People who prefer hands-on kinds of experiential exercises might prefer the LEGO, since they can bring the metaphor into connection with other elements or frameworks like LEGO Serious Play®. Others prefer the line art for its elegant simplicity. Other people’s reactions are mixed.

I do not think that there would be actual differences in application and usages, which can include facilitating innovation and creativity, aligning goals and values, generating active involvement and for coaching workplace improvements. We have extensive experience with both and they work seamlessly.

Facilitating discussions of issues and opportunities can also function as a team bonding or even a team building process if one then uses the discussions as an impetus for planning and then implementing new ideas.

The LEGO versions make generating stop-motion animations an easy and interesting process and we have a workshop design to use phones and inexpensive animation software to capture storylines around process improvement. The LEGO scenes make for more colorful posters and worksheets.

We would love to have your comments on the different approaches and we will send you one of our LEGO animations in exchange for a comment and signing up to our blog. Your input would be valuable and useful,

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-based 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®

Square Wheels metaphor about performance improvement

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®

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disruptive Engagement generates motivation and active involvement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

 

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®

 

Innovation, Motivation and Supervisory Facilitation – The Square Wheels Project

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

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

Square Wheels too busy to improve

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

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

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

Square Wheels performance improvement tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

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