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

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Facilitation. Why? Ownership Involvement and Employee Engagement

As I was updating some of my orientation thoughts in some of the toolkits I sell, I got into thinking more about why I do what I do and why I think it is so darn important for organizations. Like everyone, much of my present-day thinking builds on my early experiences, so I think about how Dorothy Irons “beat” me into a great customer-service bellhop and how much I learned in my first organizational consulting experiences.

There have been other writings about Dorothy, but one simple thing she did every day was ask this new employee (me) what guests were coming to the hotel and how many in the party and what room they were in (we scheduled all that – we only had 65 rooms at the resort). It did not take me long to figure out that she was always going to ask me that and that I needed to look at the reservations first thing every morning. Simply put, that little bit of preparation allowed me to guess pretty well as who just pulled into our parking and allowed me to grab a room key and meet them at the car. And that pleasant little surprise (for them) got me Great Tips! Over the years, I taught that kind of service commitment in my consulting and training business.

My experience as a consultant (1978) was grounded in involving and engaging workshop participants to define the issues and opportunities in the workplace and then generate some working pilot programs to see if they could incorporate those ideas into improvements that had impacts on results. I did the workshops and then worked on the shop floor to help implement, MBWA, support, reinforce and correct things as needed.

Most of these pilot tests they implemented were successful and they linked to measured improvements ($$). The weakness was that I did not involve and engage the workers’ managers sufficiently to get them to want to do the simple things needed to maintain them. When I was no longer there, things often slowed to a halt (even with the measurable payoff!).

And the paradox of that continued — As my experience grew, I would often “short-cut” the engagement workshop process to save time, not realizing that this was also reducing the ownership-involvement of the participants. Even though making improvements made sense, “they” were not always interested.

Thus, I became very aware that ownership was a critical key to improving and sustaining effectiveness. And the resulting cartoon looked like this:

Pretty predictably, leadership will resist change if they are not INVOLVED AND ENGAGED in that change

So, you work hard to get the people involved and engaged in the theme of making improvements in the workplace and you get the wagon ready to start rolling downhill and what do the managers do? The feel the pressure at their backs and they dig in their heels. The resistance can take active or passive forms, but it is resistance, nevertheless.

Facilitation is the key. And having the supervisors and managers DO that facilitation is another key. This is one of the reasons why training so often fails: Managers are not supportive of the training and the new behaviors because they have no active stake in the improvement or they feel that they are observers and not participants.

Strategy Implementation so often fails because the Most Senior Managers generate the strategy and simply expect the supervisors and managers to buy in and take risks and learn new behaviors and all that.

That will work, right?  (No!)

Get my toolkit on Facilitation for $35 at the PMC website

On Dissociation and Innovative Thinking – Stepping Back from The Wagon

On a LinkedIn group discussion on innovation and “Thinking out of the box,” I posted up some of my thoughts about the metaphor. Basically, I have never quite liked that old “Box” anchor point, and I remember the old “Joshua in the Box” McGraw Hill training video from back in the 70s — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CkSd5oYi_U

Working with groups around organizational improvement and creativity, I prefer using the Square Wheels cartoons and related metaphors for these workshops.

Readers of my blog and visitors to my site will understand that the Square Wheels One illustration is used for a lot of things:

How things really work in most organizations - they roll on Square Wheels

The basic metaphor is a wooden wagon rolling on Square Wheels with a cargo of round ones. It is a truly effective projective inkblot-like tool to get people thinking and discussing issues and opportunities.

If I am doing some more senior manager intellectual kinds of work, it can  sometimes be beneficial to get into the “psychology” of how this works:

  • Associated Position: Most of us go through life “associated” in that we see things through our own eyes; after all, that IS how we view the world.
  • Dissociated Position: Counseling psych will tell us that it is VERY useful to view things from a dissociated position — like we are watching TV, since that is a less emotional way of looking at things.

So, I’ll talk about “Stepping back from the wagon,” and NOT seeing things from the view of the wagon puller (lovely vision of the future) or the wagon pusher (boards and hands), but from the viewpoint of the VIEWER of this situation (the participant’s view of what is happening).

The View at the Front and the related View at the Back.

That dissociated viewpoint is what allows one to see different issues and opportunities. Stepping back from the wagon allows us to see things much differently than if we are looking at “the job at hand” in most situations.

And almost always, the Round Wheels are already IN the wagon. But if we keep pulling and pushing like we always have, we will not ever see them!!

Have fun out there!

Scott

Ideas, Innovation and Strategy Implementation – Getting Things Done More Better Faster

I have loved this quote since I first heard it 15 years ago at a conference:

If we’re not getting more better faster
then they are getting more better faster,
then we’re getting less better
or more worse.

— Tom Peters

Ideas are simply that, “Ideas.” The key to success lies in effective implementation. It is the same with corporate strategy implementation.

Research by my old Singapore pal, Robin SPeculand, shows that 90% of all strategy implementation programs fail. It is an issue of identifying the strategy and then having the ability to implement it. BOTH are obvious requirements but not everyone is good at all things. And failures to successfully implement are quite costly, since they tend to move into “organizational memory,” making future efforts even more difficult. Awareness is important, but so is executive leadership behavior!

In most organizations, people find that their managers will put the NO in innovation, roadblocking their individual efforts to make improvements. Take this simple statistic as proof: A Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. (And, 2007 were the good old days when it came to employee engagement and morale, it appears. If anything, things have gotten much worse with initiatives such as “Job Enlargement” being more common these days.)

Take a look at this data from an article by Les Leopold:

US Actual Wages vs Productivity-Enhanced wages from Les Leopold

On the one hand, productivity is improving. On the other, the compensation has not been increasing and the pin seems to have hit the balloon in the American workplace as well as elsewhere.

The pin finally hits the balloon and people are angry

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.

And there are broad issues of employee engagement and morale operating in most organizations these days. So it would seem obvious that there are some positive leverage points in the workplace that we can use effectively to improve how things are working to improve performance and morale and take a competitive advantage with new business strategies.

The real key is the successful implementation of ideas, either from the view of the entrepreneur or the manager looking to improve performance. If the senior managers have good ideas, they can generate involvement and engagement from their management team on designing successful implementation strategies. This is a tool for employee engagement as well as a way to improve organizational performance and long-term competitiveness.

For almost 20 years, I have been using a simple cartoon to describe how organizations really work — it is an inkblot for leading discussions as well as a metaphor for how things tend to roll along.

Consider that we are using a wooden wagon. A leader is pulling with a rope and people are behind the wagon, pushing it forward. It is rolling along on wooden Square Wheels, but with a cargo of round rubber tires.

SWs One green color thin

Someone in a workshop once said, “Those who do have no clue. Those who lead miss the need.” I think that describes the reality – the view at the back of the wagon (boards and hands) is different than the view at the front. The hands-on people KNOW that things are not working smoothly but have no ability to make the changes. The wagon puller is focused on meeting current goals and there is little time to stop and chat.

The round wheels already exist. In most organizations, the exemplary performers are already doing things differently and their sharing of best practices would be beneficial, if only we had the chance to stop, step back from the wagon, and discuss issues and opportunities.

I successful entrepreneurial businesses, you can see that the good idea(s) are shared with the people and that there is an engaged and involved workforce working to make those ideas a reality. This is the essence of entrepreneurial leadership, IMHO. It is really hard to go it alone, even when your idea is “most fabulous.” You need others to share the vision (and perspective) and to have a sense of ownership and involvement to generate the motivation and peer support to succeed.

Last key point: Nobody ever washes a rental car.

Without a sense of ownership involvement, it is not likely that people will be motivated, and thus the many issues around implementation and rollout of those good ideas will be roadblocks instead of challenges.

The Round Wheels of Today, are the Square Wheels of Tomorrow.

There will always be opportunities for people to implement and sell better ways of getting things done and improving performance. It is really about wheels and about people…

so, “Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!”

Step back from your wagon, scan the issues, and look for things that could be done differently. Then, involve and engage others in discussions about how to do things differently and how to implement these ideas.

See more on this at http://www.SquareWheels.com and see toolkits of illustrations at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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

On Brainstorming and workplace productivity improvement

I recently responded to a LinkedIn post on the theme of Brainstorming. And I am reminded about how some people are new at this while I have been facilitating performance improvement discussions for nearly 40 years (gee, can it really be that long?)

“Times fun when you are having flies.” (Kermit the Frog)

One of the keys to success in these kinds of activities is to generate some peer support for the ideas and “lightly” use the ground rules — but NOT to make the rules so tight that people feel that the rules are more important than the ideas. I have seen some “control freak facilitators” focus so much on the rules that people feel that NO comment can be made other than the sharing of an idea. I really feel that this serves only to limit contributions. The session CAN be a debate, if it is done with the intention of generating NEW ideas and different viewpoints.

I allow some divergent discussion, but I also will lightly use the Rule of 80 / 20, which simply says the obvious: “80% of the discussion will occur in the first 20% of the time and the remaining 20% will take 80% of the time. So, anyone can call “80/20″ and we can then move on to more ideas…” (That really works well, in my experience!)

It is MOST important, I think, that the ideas be anchored to some business improvement issue and that people have a chance to get their creativity juices flowing before the discussion gets going.

The tool I use is Square Wheels One, which is readily available on my website. One does not require a tool but this process of generating ideas through projection is certainly a solid one for creativity.

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

I present that as, “How most organizations really work,” so as to not make them defensive (the word “your” added in there is pretty much guaranteed to generate some resistance and defensiveness!). A KEY is to allow them, “One Minute of Silent Contemplation Time.” This enables the slower information processers to think about possibilities before getting swarmed by the faster ones. It also allows for divergent thinking to arise — different people will go off in different directions.

With tables of no more than 6 people — more will decrease collaboration and participation — you allow them to first think individually and then allow them to discuss their different issues and ideas. I let this run until the energy begins to dissipate and then move it to a group discussion. You can use easel pads for each table, dot-voting for best ideas and all sorts of other frameworks for getting everyone involved in all ideas.

THEN, you can begin to tighten the thinking and bring them closer toward focusing on key issues and ideas — we call this “funneling.”

Getting people involved helps generate better ideas as well as ownership involvement and engagement


If you build a sense of energy and involvement and peer support for ideas in your openings, and anchor the activities toward “business improvement paradigms,” I think you will find that your brainstorming will be much improved. If people feel safe in sharing their ideas about a funny wagon with obvious improvement opportunities, they are MUCH more likely to participate in the sharing of their ideas about specific business improvement concepts in the open discussions.

Everyone needs to participate, mainly because, “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and it is not so much about ideas as it is about the IMPLEMENTATION of those ideas afterwards for most organizations.

Between the idea and the reality,
Between the motion and the act,
Falls the Shadow.

T.S. Eliot

You can see more about Square Wheels at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

For the FUN of It!

(BTW, I am a certified professional facilitator by the IAF and have been facilitating and implementing ideas for workplace improvement since 1978. )

Motivating People, Motivating Teams

Extrinsic Reward Systems are Perpetuating Workplace Problems

There! I said it as clearly as I can. And my response was not my fault: I just read another one of those posts in LinkedIn about, “How to Motivate your employees.”

The typical answers tend to look like this, which is discouraging since we know it does not work in the real world of managing people and performance:

How to Motivate People red color

So, I popped into the comments section and added a few thoughts about how managers can be more effective and motivate more of the people within any workgroup..

The Dan Pink presentation at TED (search “Dan Pink RSA” for the most interesting version which I think is this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc ) and Dan’s book, “Drive,” and Alphie Kohn’s classic work, “Punished by Rewards,” all detail why our beliefs in how to use rewards is not working and is also somewhat reckless.

My personal belief on all this is a bit odd, but possibly correct. There is a lot of both research support as well as the personal comments of most people about reward systems that supports the view that extrinsic rewards are motivating, but what they actually motivate may be far different from the kinds of performance that people want in their work.

Here goes:

Those people who are Most Rewarded by the extrinsic reward systems installed by most organizations to reward most behaviors are the ones who are seen as Most Cooperative and Most Effective when viewed through the results and outcomes of those operating in those same reward systems. In other words, if we have a reward system and some people respond well to them, they are motivated by the rewards. We should also promote them to jobs in management, since they have measurably good performance.

SO, who else to promote than the people who respond best to extrinsic rewards in a system that operates on extrinsic rewards? We would obviously not even consider the average performer in such a system for a promotion, right? So, after a series of such decisions for promotions, what we generate is a selection of the top 10% of the performers being promoted, and the top 10% of those individuals being selected for promotion to the next level.

Remember that the boss’ boss’ bosss all respond to extrinsic rewards and are the ones who keep getting selected for upward mobility. The result is a pretty amazing uniform select population at the top that does not possibly come close to the average beliefs and frameworks of those average performers in the workplace. Top performers are seen as being,  “most like me,” when viewed by the boss.

Okay toss in a couple factors like: “Women in the Workplace.” Or some requirement for “diversity” and we create problems in symmetry.

Mighten these others be viewed as “Not Much Like Us,” when these extrinsic reward filters are used? Might there be a difference in how the different sexes and cultures and all those different people are viewed when results are filtered through these extrinsic reward systems that most companies use to reward “Good Performance” and desired results? Many average people are obviously NOT motivated by extrinsic rewards designed to motivate the average performers.

Dan Pink’s materials should get your attention. He shares research that shows that extrinsic rewards often DECREASE performance in many situations such as those we face in this country these days and when it comes to how the workplace really operates. It is interesting stuff and you can view a 10 minute video of a presentation here.

If one is picking grapes, rewards for bushels picked per day might make sense. People will be motivated to pick grapes. But you sure better put in some controls on quality, or you will wind up with rocks and stems and all sorts of non-grape things in there if you reward “weight” or numbers of grapes with no regard to other factors. And people that work fast may not work safely. And vines may be damaged, inducing long term negative impacts.

Engagement is one key to helping generate involvement and performance improvement. Effective leadership is another. Dis-Un-Empowerment will work. Improve the effectiveness of the performance feedback systems.

I have added two new blogs – one is about the issues of managers in the workplace and on statistics about what the bad managers may choose to do differently. It is based on Gallup research and ascribed to Jim Clifton, CEO of that organization. You can view that post at this link. Another post that might be of interest is my blog (and associated article) on how to engage and motivate the people in the middle of the organization. You can view that blog here.

Remember, “The Round Wheels are already in the Square Wheeled wagon!”

SWs One - How Things Work

It is a LOT easier to involve and engage and help motivate the people that are already trained and who already know how things work. They have ideas for improvement, so involve and engage them.

Scott small pic

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 atscott@squarewheels.com

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

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Managing Big Groups Interactively

A post in one of my lists asked for ideas about running large groups, but did not share anything about specific desired outcomes, just that the group was more than 100 people.

So, I posted up these general ideas around what are a zillion possibilities.

..

We have been doing large group interactive team building events for 20 years, so there are a lot of ways to make this work.



I focus on doing fun things, with direct links to business improvement. It is about engaging people in the process and giving them a sense of ownership that makes these events stick in their minds and generate the possibility for actual behavior change down the road.



large group teambuilding fun

Giving people the chance to participate is engaging

People do want to interact and share their ideas, rather than casually watch some powerpoint presentation while processing their email on their cell phones (if they can get away with it). I have seen very senior executives sitting at a front table actually processing their US Post Office mail while “attending” to someone on their staff’s presentation (really!).

Without knowing anything about desired outcomes, let me make a few general suggestions.



– Round tables of 6 – anything other than that will sub-optimize results. More people = less interaction and an increased likelihood that one person will dominate a discussion. Square tables unconsciously generate seat dominance for a few people — you cannot get around it.



– Interactivity and tabletop discussion as part of the design.

- Capturing ideas on paper and posting on the walls. With large groups, it is hard to allow much “shout out” and you just capture a tiny bit of the discussed content. Paper postings allow more information to be shared and later captured.

– Forced Browsing of all ideas by all people — we use “Dot-Voting” whereby each person gets 3 or 4 colored dots that they need to use to vote on best ideas. They cannot vote on their own work…



…and frameworks like that. I will commonly facilitate sessions of 150 to 200 people and have done these same things with groups as large as 600.



Mostly, I use my Square Wheels® cartoon illustrations and my team building games like “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” for generating active involvement.



Remember the simple concept that, “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and that creating a sense of ownership involvement is a critical component of a successful interactive program.


Do you have any ideas you can contribute to this question?

Selling Lost Dutchman – some discussion tips

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine is about mining goldWe have a lot of users of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine worldwide, and many people are really good at connecting the play of the game and the team building dynamics it generates to the issues of organizational improvement of their clients and prospects.

But people have been asking me for some tips. Some key words and phrases might include:
• Improving employee engagement
• Focusing on collaboration to optimize overall group results
• Measurable behavioral outcomes
• Debriefed to business goals and objectives
• Leadership is explicitly there to help teams be successful
• Played worldwide with top management as well as front line workers
• Memorable and engaging, Colorful and Fun.

But remember, Dutchman was designed not as a fun game but as a business improvement simulation / exercise to generate discussions about the issues of workplace competition and the benefits of collaboration between operational units to optimize overall results.

It is much different than one of the little “ropes course” kinds of “team challenges,” not that those are bad, but they are not really all that good when trying to tightly link to organizational improvement, in my direct experience.

Firewalking – a team event?
Paintball is goofy for team building – why not use real guns?
Acid River and the Spyderwebs and The Wall and similar are nice little problem solving exercises, and fun to solve, but
• Do they have real connections to work and workplace improvement?
• Do they have measurable outcomes?
• Do they focus on how to motivate people?
• Do they link to any sorts of skill improvement or improving decision making or strategic planning?
• Do they link to organizational risk-taking?
• Do they tightly focus on what people can do to optimize company performance?
• Do they generate ideas for changes in culture or motivating teams?
• Are they really worth the cost of taking people away from work?

We use Lost Dutchman as an experiential business simulation. The design makes it easy to link to performance improvement.

Hope this helps.

Thoughts on Teamwork and Engagement

This is about issues and opportunities around people and performance.

Maximum organizational effectiveness comes from aligning people to work together on shared common goals and providing them with the information and resources to get things done. In most cases, organizations function reasonably well within departments, with managers meeting goals and expectations. There are issues, but they are not departmental because shared goals and measurements as well as group expectations by management tend to give reasonably good levels of performance and innovation. People tend to be good problem solvers and will work together fairly well.

There are a variety of statistics clearly demonstrating that team-based behavior can offer a wide range of positive impacts on organizations of all kinds:

  • Globally, only 1 of 5 workers is giving full discretionary effort on the job. We often call these “exemplary performers” but they are simply engaged
  • Almost 4 of 10 workers are disenchanted or disengaged – they are not performing to their capability
  • In the US, only 3 in 10 feel engaged and the same number feel disenchanted or disengaged – they are not contributing much nor getting satisfaction in their jobs
  • Only 1 in 10 respondents agreed that senior leaders in their companies actually treat employees as vital corporate assets
  • The more engaged employees are more likely to stay with an organization, but 40% are “passive job seekers.”
  • Fully half of the disengaged have NO plans to leave the company nor are they even passively looking for other employment! (scary!)

There are strong connections of engagement to company results:

  • Companies with high employee engagement had a 19% increase in operating income and a 28% growth in earnings per share
  • Companies with low levels of engagement saw a drop in operating income of 32% and a decline of 11% in earnings per share  (from a TP one-year study of 50 companies)

Moreover,

  • Companies with high engagement had a 3.74% increase in operating margin and a 2.06 net profit margin
  • Companies with low engagement had a -2.01% decline in operating margin and a -1.38% net profit margin (from a TP study of 40 companies)

Can we hear a Thump Thump? Are we really making progress?

There are lots of statistics around clearly demonstrating why we need to improve. In other posts, I will share some ideas for making things improve. There are many things we can do.

Scott Debrief

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

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

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Issues of Ownership and Engagement

Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car

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

 
Do you wash your rental car?

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

But, Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some simple thinking on innovation and involvement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improving Service Profitability by Engaging Employees

Service Sells. It is as simple as that.

A 2009 Gallup study found that organizations with engagement scores (top quartile) had 18% higher productivity and 16% higher profits. And there has been a lot of data since then that supports all of those conclusions.

While companies talk about engaging their customers and employees, many have taken cost-cutting measures or “job enhancement” initiatives that reduce employee morale, creating a demand for more work in less time. The number of “actively disengaged” workers has risen to as much as 24% in companies where layoffs have occurred. (Watson Wyatt’s Employee Engagement Index)

Every production of genius must be the production of enthusiasm. 
— Benjamin Disraeli —

Improving existing service quality demands a focus on meeting and even exceeding customer expectations. But it is nearly a universal truth that, “It’s hard to care for customers if you don’t feel the company cares for you.” A few employees will always go above the norm, but that is the exception.

One would logically assume that we know this. But there are issues of risk taking and perceived reward that come into play.

51% of executive respondents in a global survey occasionally or frequently bent organization rules to be more productive and 32% said they did so to make a quick decision, close a sale or retain a customer. (from Training magazine)

But recognize the flip side of these statistics. You wonder about the results from those who chose not to be responsive to customers or make decisions quickly!

It is important to create a strong and obviously committed management team along with a culture of engagement and involvement to recruit players for service quality improvement. Most people would rather just process and handle transactions than take the risk of making decisions that might result in their exceeding customer expectations.

When the economy improves, many studies indicate that a large percentage of current employees plan to leave – the grass does appear to be greener elsewhere for them. At this same time, companies may start to do things to retain existing customers as well as attract new ones. Expect workplace turmoil, as companies begin to expect new employees who have been conditioned by the old culture to keep their heads down.

Trust is the residue of fulfilled promises.

What to do (simple stuff, really):

  • Build trust and commitment – lots of ways to address this.
  • Clarify the missions and visions in real and honest frameworks, as these things affect employees.
  • Engage or re-engage existing employees and retain new-hire- enthusiasm for the job.
  • Create some sense of individual opportunity, but rely on intrinsic motivators as much as extrinsic ones.
  • Provide for training and for personal growth. Use job-enrichment techniques to give people a sense of meaningful work.
  • Communicate and encourage teamwork and collaboration. Build inter-organizational commitment to shared goals and objectives.
  • Create ownership involvement.

The tools for organizational improvement most likely already exist within the organization – it is not about inventing some new approach or doing some things that other people may have found successful.

The knowledge of what needs to be done can be found internally. People DO have shared, positive experiences and many managers have been and could be more engaging and involving. Allow the managers the freedom to involve and engage their people and to feel less exposure and risk for trying to make needed improvements. 

We often have these “sheep” going in the wrong direction and sounding like, “Naaaaa. Baaaaaa” in the workplace. It has been my experience that the ideas already exist but not everyone is listening or working together. If people only had the chance to share them and trust others to act appropriately, they might realign themselves to shared common goals and objectives.

Most organizations have a tremendous built-in base of knowledge. Get the people working with you. Focus on aligning people to the visions and goals and clarifying expectations.

For a bit more on managing expectations of customers, you might find this of interest – click on the image to see that blog:

The Service Maturity Model of Dr Scott Simmerman

And, lastly, remember that Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car, so a feeling of ownership is critical.

You can see more on these thoughts about service quality improvement here.

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.

© Performance Management Company, 1993 – 2015

 

Benefits of Experiential Exercises in Organizational Development

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

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

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

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

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

Change Management, Innovation and Employee Engagement

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/articles

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

Managing and Leading Innovation and Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing implementation and change MAY be slightly different from

The Six Phases of Project Implementation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start things simply. Take some small steps:

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

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

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

signature-simple-process-why-sws

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

 

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