Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: Continuous continuous improvement Page 3 of 4

On Integrity and Customer Service and improving business results

Sometimes, it is really great getting surprises. My 0ld friend, Frank Navran, emailed me the other day saying that he had used my name and ideas in an article and asked if it was okay. He had actually published the article already so I guess he was not asking for permission! (That is fine by me, actually. Nice to have good, trusted friends out there!)

It was on ROI – not Return on Investment but Return on Integrity. Frank writes quite well and has used my ideas before, so I opened up the file and was surprised and pleased. It’s nice knowing that one has left some legacy and some impacts with the efforts that we give so that is another real positive for him in sending this to me.

This is one of the clearest posts I have seen on the theme of leadership and integrity and how they impact business and people. You can click on the link below to download the article.

Navran on Customer Service Maturity Model and Integrity

The article is about Frank’s personal experiences as a manager and consultant and how integrity has been such a strong factor in the success of his clients’ organizations and the driving force for repeat business. Frank builds on my simple and straightforward concept of Service Maturity and talks about building loyalty among both employees and customers.

The model has three levels, each of which builds on the other, from left to right:

Simply put, there are three levels of service, each of which needs a strong foundation of the other. The first is the effective processing and handling of transactions, the second is the meeting of expectations and the third is about care, working to exceed expectations and build customer loyalty. Meeting expectations is fine but if someone finds it cheaper, they can be lost as customers.

I think that you will find Frank’s writings on integrity to be most interesting. Frank has been working with performance leadership and ethics for the past 20 years and is well known for his ideas and effectiveness.

The permission to post is from Frank Navran and is as follows:
© 2011 Navran Associates, © 2012 Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics

You can read more about building service profitability and engaging employees in a lot of other posts, but you might find this one of interest:

Improving Service Profitability by Engaging Employees

My work with customer service improvement started back in 1980 and it is somewhat disappointing to see that we have made a good bit of progress in the processing of transactions in so many organizations, but not as much as one would hope in meeting or exceeding expectations. Those few that seem to get it do quite well in the marketplace.

Most of my recent writings have been about general workplace performance and productivity themes, being less focused on service quality. The issues overlap greatly, since it is hard to care for customers if you don’t feel the boss cares for you.

You might also like this article on People as an Asset:

 

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.

materials © Performance Management Company, 1993 – 2015

Engage-Ability: Some thoughts on people and performance

There has been a lot of things being asked about engagement and involvement as well as issues around employee motivation in my various LinkedIn groups, with many of the posts proposing some pretty complicated stuff. For some people, the process of engagement is not a simple one in that there are lots of process steps and details to attend to and all that.

Sometimes, or maybe that should be “often”, a consultant or company will develop a specific process and flow to how the situation works based on their personal experiences. I think the motivation for this tendency to increase the detail and embellish the model is to have something that is recognized and rewarded by the learning community as unique, as well as something that can be sold to prospects. So, simple things tend to become more complicated and complex.

For me, I guess that would be my Square Wheels illustration tools and our team building games built around those cartoons as well as our team building games such as Lost Dutchman. Yeah, I have built those things to support organizational improvement initiatives and they are things we sell. One has to make a living somehow… And the products do tend to aggregate complexity and details.

At the same time, though, I recognize that there are a LOT of tools and approaches that work to impact people and performance. And it is often the simple and elegant that have the most impact. Keeping it simple keeps it useful and bombproof.

If you look out at the world, you will see really bad statistics about engagement and morale and individual motivation and wonder about what the problems really are. But is engagement really that difficult? I think that most people are engagable and that this is not rocket science.

I’ve been playing with Dis-Un-Empowerment for a dozen years — it is basically the idea of working and asking people what things get in their way (generate a list of things that are roadblocks or that are un-empowering) and then working with that list to better understand the issues (as well as the individual beliefs and concerns) and then working with individuals (coaching) and teams to help manage them. It is really pretty simple when done as a facilitated process — Yelling and Telling will generate completely unsatisfactory results. (I discuss in detail in PMC Newsletter Four)

Our model for understanding and dealing with roadblocks to performance improvement

Dis-Un-Engagement is a similar concept. We can look at what workplace things are causing people to be un-engaged and simply work to remove them. The issues and factors are usually pretty clear and survey after survey gives you lists of the most common things that people say need to be done.

  • If people report that management does not seem to listen to them, what would your solution be?
  • If people report that they do not know what is happening in the company and that no one keeps them informed, what might be done?
  • If people say that the poor performers seem to not get any attention and that the bad performance is not corrected, might we come up with an action plan to deal with that perception?

Engage-Ability is a simple little framework about how engage-able ARE people in the workplace. And the answer is REALLY – they ARE really engage-able if we work at it. But we tend to make things so hard.

Consider the new employee and this simple factor: 85% of employee morale sharply decreases after their first 6 months on the job.
–Sirota Survey Intelligence, June 2006

That does not take a lot of analysis or conceptualistic cogitation. We DO things to people that generates “regression to the mean” and the new, enthusiastic employee is brought down to the average of everyone else. And a LOT of those people just do not seem to care, anymore…

For most employees, the Pin will eventually hit the Balloon.

According to a November analysis of its database of 5,700 companies representing 5,000,000 employees, Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure. That should concern us. A November report from SHRM showed that employees were only moderately engaged at work, with an average score of 3.6 on a five-point scale. And according to Corporate Executive Board’s Human Resources Practice, only one in 10 workers were putting in high levels of discretionary effort in third quarter 2011.

My take on things is that workers are making educated and calculated decisions about their workplace and how they are treated. They are trying to be like everyone else, in many cases. They are looking to see if the management cares for them and values their efforts.

But managements are somewhat unhooked as to the realities of these issues and can be blind to some simple things that they could do differently. I think this statistic tells a lot, based on the results of 19,700 interviews completed by the Saratoga Institute:

  • Employers who think their people leave for more money: 89%
  • Employees who actually do leave for more money: 12%

People ARE engage-able. People can get more involved and committed to accomplishing things. People DO like to work in teams, when risks are minimal and the potential (personal and team) rewards are good. That does NOT mean money compensation, but it does mean that the intrinsic motivators are present.

And Trust is the Residue of Promises Fulfilled.

Making improvements will happen on an individual basis and be connected to the interface of supervisors and workers. Managers need to ask more (based on a lot of data) and tell less.

According to an article by Kenneth Kovach in Employment Relations Today, when employees were asked what they valued most about their jobs in 1946, 1981 and again in 1995, the top three things they reported remained the same:

  1. Interesting work
  2. Full appreciation for the work they’ve done
  3. A feeling of being “in” on things

And from the WorkUSA 2000 survey of 7,500 workers conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, reported in T&D 3/2000, the 7 Key Factors that drive employee commitment:

  • Trust in Senior Leadership
  • Chance to use their skills
  • Job Security
  • Competitive Compensation
  • Quality of Product/Services
  • Absence of Work-Related Stress
  • Honesty & Integrity of Company’s business conduct

This ain’t rocket science, folks. It is basically about treating people well, giving them respect, providing training and fair compensation for their efforts and doing what we say we will do as organizational leaders. People ARE engage-able!

What we need are more of the management team willing to take the time to ask and listen and involve. Caterpillars can fly, if they would just lighten up!

You can see some of our tools for managing and leading and involving and engaging at our website by clicking on the image below.

Square Wheels are simply great tools

For the FUN of It!

<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

 

Dis-Un-Engagement – thoughts for impacting employee engagement in the workplace

A series of different LinkedIn posts in my lists have focused on the general theme of “employee engagement.” Some focus on asking about reactions to definitions of engagement, some focus on the relevancy of focusing on improvements and their relation to profitability and results, while others seem to just be information or publicity-focused and do not seem to add much value to people reading the post.

I saw one post today and two yesterday that I responded to and thought, well, what the heck, post something up in here. SO, here we go with Dis-Un-Engagement. I think it looks something like the illustration below:

Some people know that I have used a concept of Dis-Un-Empowerment for many years and I am thinking now that it actually has many of the same general applications to many aspects of improving workplace engagement.

We talk about and see a lot of data on engagement but most people are un-engaged.The statistics and surveys show that they are not actively nor emotionally nor behaviorally involved in the workplace on a regular basis. They are un-hooked and un-involved and seem to choose to be so. It is not like they have no opportunities because the same surveys show that some of the people in that workplace ARE involved and engaged. That difference is informative, actually.

No amount of banter will change their choices and a LOT of their behavior to become engaged may actually get punished or otherwise emotionally isolated by the management team in the way that ideas are put down or jokes are made about some people’s “contributions” and in SO MANY other ways in the workplace. Many people grew up being bullied or simply being average and our schools do not always do a great job of building the self-esteem of students. Then, they come to the workplace…

You cannot engage me just like you cannot empower me. I mean, go ahead and try; I will wait…

Okay, never mind. But please accept the reality that you cannot do something TO me that empowers me — it is about the choices that I want to make — internal stuff as much as the external stuff.

What we need to do is identify the things that are BLOCKING engagement and do things to remove them. A “non-ever-meeting-responder” might be asked directly for their thoughts and ideas on fixing a problem in a team meeting, for example. I do not have to generate that list for you. There are a zillion ways to get people MORE involved and some additional involvement will generally translate into a bit more engagement.

If you read the literature, such as the survey results from the Big Consulting Companies, there are some VERY Expensive ($$$$$) Tools and Techniques you can get from them to improve things measurably. If you read the Big Consultants’ sales materials, you will need to spend money hiring them to come in and evaluate the results of your corporate Engagement and Involvement Program and then do regular surveys to insure that you are making progress (I am not big on acronyms but should probably take the time to make up some funny ones like “Corporate Response Activity Program” or some such thing.)

OR, your company could choose to do something completely silly like ask the managers to ask the people for ideas for improvement and ask that each employee generate at least one idea about what might be done differently and do this in meetings as well as using some back-of-the-door posters in the bathrooms to collect those anonymous comments.

Yeah, this would improve engagement if it is done honestly. And yes, some disgruntled employees might share some ideas that show that they are disgruntled. But at least they would be engaged in sharing those ideas!!

This stuff all adds up over time. Ask and Ye Shall Receive (more engagement than you had before).

Then, work on the “Dis” part of the above and do things to remove the roadblocks and improve the choices…

That’s my 2 cents worth of stuff… I have written a good bit on dis-un-empowerment over the years so you can google that to see more on this general line of thinking along with some specific ideas for what you can actually do cheap ($).

.

Organizational Positive Self-Talk – Ideas for Improvement

Cleaning out some old filing cabinets, I came across my NLP folders, which contained a lot of articles and ideas and notes and different kinds of programs. mostly from the late 80s and early 90s. Good stuff, still. So, I thought to reread a couple of articles that I had saved.

One of them was on the benefits of positive self-talk as it relates to performance improvement. The ideas were well researched and well presented, and it got me thinking about organizational and team-based improvements as it relates to how we frame things.

These days, the statistics and stories all point to a lot of organizational engagement issues. The numbers are not good and many are frustrated with how things are and how things are working from both the perspective of the worker as well as the management team.

One of the key points in the article was how we “language” things — do we self-talk negatively about the current state of things? For many (or most), the answer is Yes. We talk about problems and fears, we focus on what is wrong and not on moving things forward or making improvements. And this does not lead to improvements in morale or intrinsic motivation or anything really positive — the research says that it leads the other way and that our inner attitudes are shaped by our thoughts.

Experts as well as the research suggest that, “more than three quarters of everything we think is negative, counterproductive and works against us.” And, if anything, this is probably more true today in the workplace than in the good old days of the 1980s…

The brain basically does what we tell it to do (my doctoral degree was in behavioral neurophysiology). So, how we think is critically important to the choices we make. So, how do we change things? How do we reprogram our thinking patterns.

Again, the research says that we need to frame things differently, that we make different choices in how to think about things. It is actually pretty easy to frame things differently and each of us has full control of our own thoughts as well as some degree of influence on other people. You cannot stop thinking of things, but you can choose how that thinking represents itself.

Square Wheels One represents how things really work...

Square Wheels represent how things really work…

My suggestion, after doing the reading, some thinking, and some additional research, is to change our model of thinking.

What we need to do is focus on what we can do differently in the future. Yes, we may be rolling on Square Wheels at the moment,  but what Round Wheels might we try to implement and how might things change or improve if we were to do so?

We have lots of choices and alternatives and the ideas already exist for most of us. If we flub a sales call, our thinking should focus on what we did well (what worked smoothly) and what we could do better next time. If we’re kayaking and flub a drop on the river, the review of that run of the rapid should focus on where we should have been in the boat and what we should have done to navigate that rapid successfully. Heck, in the river, you can even go back and do it again within a few minutes. Doing it successfully builds the confidence you need to run the next rapid well.

Intrinsic motivation comes from feeling successful and wanting to continue to improve how things work.

Intrinsic motivation comes from feeling successful and wanting to continue to improve how things work.

This is all about how we think about things and the choices we make. Intrinsic motivation comes from building on past successes to generate future ones.

If you are managing people, you can acquire a simple toolkit of cartoons to involve and engage people in talking about possibilities for the future. You can find this facilitation toolkit at http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/Square_Wheels_Facilitation_Toolkit_p/10.htm

We also have a more formalized toolkit for coaching individuals and groups that you can find at http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/Square_Wheels_for_Coaching_p/17.htm

For the FUN of It!

The Customer sets the price for our Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit!

Please note: We stopped this promotion a while back. People continued to pay our retail price for the toolkit, understanding it was a great value as is. Thank you for that and have fun out there!

We just sent out a Press Release on customers setting their own price:

Taylors, SC – (5/10/12) Performance Management Company is supporting collaboration with its customers by offering them an opportunity to “name their own price” for the Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit. This complete training package normally sells for $49.95 and contains:

  • A Facilitation Guide with instructions for use
  • A PowerPoint Presentation containing 64 slides, notes, quotes plus illustrations / cartoons
  • A variety of ready-to-use handouts for generating involvement and engagement including:
  • –a Worksheet for mind mapping ideas generated by the main Square Wheels concept
  • –a Round Wheels Worksheet for identifying ideas and opportunities for improvement
  • –a Key Learning Points Summary Handout of Square Wheels themes for implementation
  • The “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly” article by Scott Simmerman, focusing on managing and leading change for organizations and individuals

Based on the Square Wheels One illustration that is a proven, powerful tool for promoting a participative learning approach, it allows people to “step back from the wagon” and disclose their views about how things are really working, engage each other in a creative discovery process and use the diversity of ideas and perspective to generate thinking, innovation and communications. It’s a great facilitation tool for leadership development skills, employee engagement, team building and motivation.

Why use Square Wheels? Round Wheels aready exist!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels illustration series, believes that “Nobody ever washes a rental car” and that people become more engaged and motivated if they feel a sense of ownership in the journey forward. Therefore, Scott hopes that by your setting the price for this Toolkit, you’ll enjoy a keener sense of ownership/motivation for its use.

You’ll find the Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit (an Asian version is also available with some of the illustrations more “Oriental” in appearance) on our website at www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com or go there directly with this link.

Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Performance Management Company and has presented his Square Wheels Illustrations series for Organizational Improvement and Team Building Games such as “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” in 38 countries. The products are available at www.performancemanagementcompany.com

People basically liked this idea, thinking that we have really great and simple tools for engagement and performance improvement. The amazing thing is that so few people paid only a little — most people paid the full price and a couple paid even more for it! THAT was most surprising. Guess they had seen the tool and felt it was a really good value.

If YOU need a great tool for involving and engaging people, give our Square Wheels tools a try. Click here for more information.

Scott Simmerman

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

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

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company. Materials copyright © PMC since 1993. All rights reserved.

Facilitating Engagement, Alignment and Involvement with Cartoons

Sometimes, I think that everyone already knows what I do and how simple it is to do and how well it works to involve and engage people in workplace improvement and get their ideas about what things need to be done differently.

Then, I have a phone conversation with someone and I cycle right back to the beginning, and I start talking about how simple and straightforward it can be to involve people because they want to solve problems and improve their workplace, given all the time then spend there… And THEN, I realize how much fun this all is and how wonderful the approach I have taken for the past 20 years really works.

Okay. The Situation:

The people are demotivated and unengaged (lots of statistics). And the theme of building some teamwork is suggested by the boss’ boss. Only there is no budget and no time. And no support from Training. “Just get it done!” we are told…

Okay. Pay $50 and get a toolkit containing worksheets and cartoons and instructions on how to use a simple cartoon to generate discussion of issues and ideas about what is not working and what could work better.

The toolkit starts by having you share an image just like this:

Ask: “How might this represent how most organizations really work?”

Then you can pretty much let things flow undirected. Let people think and consider, let them play with the ideas at hand and the issues and opportunities. We’ve figured out a lot of different ideas and frameworks for facilitation and structuring the resulting issues and opportunities, with handouts like, “What are some Square Wheels we deal with” and “What are some Round Wheel ideas to fix this Square Wheel” and stuff like that.

But a few colored marking pens and some easel pad paper are pretty much all you need to generate the gap between the way things are and the way they should be and to generate the teamwork and energy and focus needed for most people in most organizations to be motivated to close the gap

Heck, you can even select one person who has natural leadership skills and just let them self-direct the group in rolling downhill and forward.

I read these articles about how difficult it is to engage people in the workplace and how people are resistant to change and how to motivate people and all that. All it does is make things SEEM really complicated and confusing.

I will bet you can do all that with just the cartoon above. Ya think?

Oh, almost forgot. The Square Wheels One illustration above is how things work in MOST places. Here is how things tend to work in Asia:

 

Yep, that is just a little joke.

Have fun out there.

Scott Simmerman

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

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

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Nobody ever washes a rental car – Thoughts on engagement and ownership

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

I’ve been using this phrase for dozens of years, since it elegantly and simply illustrates a very real opportunity for significant increases in employee engagement, organizational improvement, performance improvement and so many other aspects of improving organizational results.

It’s a really great anchoring statement and I have used it many times as the title of a presentation. But it also generates confusing reactions in some people.

It’s a metaphor! It is not a statement for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or some Rule of Life. And it is funny — I have actually had people raise their hands in seminars to explain that they have actually washed a rental car in the past. Once in a while, they admit to being WAY overly compulsive and obsessed. More generally, they illustrate my key point…

The point is one of ownership — people do not take care of things they do not own. I can often illustrate this by asking participants if they have ever owned a rental property. Some of the tenants were exceptional and left the place better than before they rented it. But most share my experience: tenants at a house I owned nearly burned down the house with a chimney fire, pretty-much destroyed the wood floors, punched holes in the walls and left nail holes in nearly every wall. The rose garden and the camilla tree were gone, with the former used as for parking and the latter just destroyed (by motor oil dumped around it, apparently).

Ownership — If you own something, you tend to take better care of it. That is all I mean. Let me illustrate.

If someone in the workplace comes up with an idea and presents it to the manager and the managers enables them to try it, they most likely will, right? But, if the boss comes up and says, “Let’s now do things this way,” the general response will be for people to resist the change and generate reasons why it won’t work, right?

Statistics say that most executives believe that the most difficult aspect of any organizational improvement initiative is employee resistance.

Nothing corners better, handles bumps and speedbumps, treats potholes and curbs with disdain, accelerates faster and breaks harder than a rental car. (right?)

Who owns the idea? Not the employee, right? So, why wouldn’t they resist the idea? After all, they need to change, learn to do something differently than they have been doing it, have a higher risk of failure and will probably see a drop in their productivity in the short term. What’s to like about all that?

And there is another paradox at work, as shown below:

Leaders will resist changes they feel are done TO them.

On consulting projects in the past, ideas that I helped the workers implement were often resisted by the managers, who felt that things were not under control or moving too fast or similar. This happened less and less as my experience improved and I could generate a level of their involvement that would balance the issues of resistance on both sides of the wagon.

I’ve expanded on the issue of ownership elsewhere in my blogs such as here on innovation and here on leading meetings.

There are lots of ways we can do things differently to better involve and engage people in our needed improvement initiatives. But pushing and pulling is not the best of strategies. Sitting, talking, explaining and asking is often a much more effective way to get things rolling…

Put the wagon up on wheels for a while and consider alternative ideas generated by everyone.

Have some fun out there, too.

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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On Trial and Error, Blame Frames and Gotcha’s: Engagement? Innovation? Really?

In the “Keeping Things Simple – Involving and Engaging” blog, I shared a cartoon that we call, “Trial and Error”:

square wheels image of Trial and Error

Take a moment and look at the cartoon and react to what you see before moving on, please. Just consider what might be happening above.

Okay? Take a moment. Seriously…

When I show this illustration to managers and ask for their reactions, the ratio I get is about 8 : 1. In other words, eight themes focused on the negative and what they did wrong for every one good thing they might see. Mothers usually call this “constructive criticism,” but I am not sure what good purpose it serves to continually point out what people are doing wrong, “even if it is for your own good.” as we so often hear as kids and teenagers (and workers, in so many instances!).

I think we, as managers, are trained to look for business improvement opportunities and to look for things we can improve. That is fine. well and good and serve solid business purposes. But when this gets expressed to our “teenagers” as Non-Support, we cannot expect others to just go along with that. Most people do NOT like the taste of castor oil, even if it IS for our own good!

What managers tend to do looks like this:

We embed the good with the blame and the people are more likely to run over the top of the hill and hide than come back to the wagon and continue to make improvements. Sure, their first attempt was pretty quirky and maybe they missed an idea or two about how they could get things done better.

But they also added a horse to the situation — more horsepower, as it were. And YOU probably have not considered whether this might actually work. What if the next step simply looked like this:

Allow people to do things and celebrate their successes.

Improvement is a continuous process, one that requires celebration of what is accomplished and continued reflection on possibilities and potential shifts in resource utilization. One might thing that there is a train in their future?

———————————–

Update:

I added a short article on Devil’s Advocate roles and building Trust as it relates to organizational improvement. You can see it by clicking on the image below:

LEGO SWs One POSTER Devil's Advocate Challenge

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

 

Defense is not good for Innovation – Thoughts on Engagement for Innovation

There was an interesting thread on the Innovation Excellence group on LinkedIn, one that talks about an Anti-Innovation Checklist posted by Holly Green. You can see that post at www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2012/02/23/3/

In think her 10 bullets are good, but it feels like she missed the bigger picture of the reality that employee engagement is more all-encompassing. I think there is more to it.

The list is about what is wrong and not about what to do to address the issues and make improvements. She talks about “unrealistic expectations” in the sense on management looking for “a killer product” while I think that performance improvement is more about having performance goals and objectives that do not allow much thinking, much less alternative thinking.

Consider the customer, which we should all be doing all of the time anyway. The customer calls with an issue and the position of the employee is so often one of defending the turf rather than listening to the problem for some idea as to how to improve the product.

For the past 4 days, I have been having what are apparently a series of different problems with U-Verse and my TV and internet and wireless connections here. Five different technicians have visited the house. And a wide variety of different phone calls to various places around the world.

I can test the connection, but I am limited to running a “speed test” — they show me various computer screens that give them a LOT more data about the connection and such information including history. All I can say is “the TV locks up and un-synchs” or “Safari pauses and locks up.” One would think that someone might develop some application or process that would allow ME to make a more informed phone call to Victor in India, right?

Customer-driven innovation? NO way — they are too busy to meet their performance numbers to listen for better ideas as to how to do things… There is no real mechanism for making improvements. They are too busy solving the problems at hand.

As I so often write, my view of how organizations really work looks like this:

But maybe things more realistically look like this in most workplaces:

SWs One How Things Work ©

How things REALLY work in many workplaces

And how things REALLY work in many workplaces

and when we add senior management, maybe this is more of a normal reality:

It is the perception of how things work that is most important.

It is the perception of how things work that is most important.

A logical result of the situation generally depicted above will often then look like this:

People will circle the wagons and defend themselves…

and continued attacks also generate more predictable results:

That thus reminds me that I wrote up a poem about this:

Square Wheels Defensive wagon poem

And that reminds me of a quote from Dante that many might think should appear over the door of the buildings in which they work:

What to do? I don’t have one of those 5-step or 10-bullet lists. Mine is one pretty simple one, although there are five rules:

ASK — ASK — ASK — ASK — ASK

Ask for ideas for improvement. Allow people to get involved and engaged and to share their ideas. Support them as they try to implement improvements, recognizing that many have long histories of failure or punishment linked to their attempts to make things better. Recognize that they cannot be empowered and that many are un-empowered.

So take actions to dis-un-empower them. Form teams. Share ideas. Act as if their ideas are important. Let them generate their own intrinsic rewards for making things better.

We sell a simple toolkit for facilitating involvement and engagement. Click on the link below to see how it works:

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

 

And, if you would like to see more about our outstanding team building exercise, we offer a slideshare overview here:

Slideshare Dutchman icon

The key idea in all this is for leadership to get out of the way and let them make improvements. Let people play with the wheels…

Square Wheel Playing haiku

 

Give them hope and support. And ask for their ideas,

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

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

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

Chickens, Teaching, Honesty, Thinking and Innovation – a story

An acquaintance who is always sharing stories and jokes sent me a good one. And the more I thought about it, the more convinced I am that it would be a good one to use in a leadership development training session.

Guess my thinking is grounded in the work I am doing around Strategy Implementation and how it is not the strategy but its execution and engagement of everyone in the organization to commit to doing things differently. It is not always easy and people think differently about things, which would appear to be problematic on the surface, but something that is critical for implementation success based on all sorts of research.

Anyway, the story goes like this:

My Favorite Animal

 Our teacher asked what my favorite animal was, and I said, “fried chicken.”

 She said I wasn’t funny, but she couldn’t have been right, because everyone else laughed. My parents told me to always tell the truth. I did. Fried chicken is my favorite animal. I told my dad what happened, and he said my teacher was probably a member of PETA. He said they love animals very much. I do, too. Especially chicken, pork and beef. Anyway, my teacher sent me to the Principal’s office.

 I told him what happened, and he laughed, too. Then he told me not to do it again.

 The next day in class my teacher asked me what my favorite live animal was. I told her it was chicken. She asked me why, so I told her it was because you could make them into fried chicken. She sent me back to the Principal’s office. He laughed, and told me not to do it again.

 I don’t understand. My parents taught me to be honest, but my teacher doesn’t like it when I am.

 Today, my teacher asked me to tell her what famous person I admired most, I told her Col. Sanders.

 Guess where I am now…

I thought that the story was cute. Did you? I definately took the position of the student, but then realized that there were other positions and other principles working here…

I thought of the different viewpoints of the student, the teacher, the parents and the principal and how it related to their thinking about what is important and meaningful. Each would of course have different ideas about what should happen around the situation.

Is anyone wrong in their reactions? What do the differences in roles make in how the information is processed? What is the real desired outcome of the whole activity, and then frame up the whole activity from the positions of the different parties.

Think about how this all relates to people working in organizations who are being asked about improving customer service or implementing a new way of getting things done or who are trying to innovate or develop new products. By nature, everyone takes different posittions based on their roles and how they perceive they are to influence and impact that student.

Which role do YOU take in educating others? I LOVE fried chicken, but so very seldom eat it. Do doughnuts have legs?

Have FUN out there!

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

Metaphors as Tools for Organizational Improvement

Ah, LinkedIn. Sometimes, a post in there just triggers some good thinking on my part (or at least makes me generate a response which I can then use as a blog piece…). This time, it was a post on the Power of Metaphors.

A lot of what I do is all about metaphor – it is about using my Square Wheels One cartoon as an inkblot test to generate perceptions and also about using a facilitation process to elicit and process ideas for organizational improvement and personal development. Call it “facilitative coaching” or some such thing…

Here is what I said in my response:

‘We’ve been playing with a metaphor of a wooden wagon being pulled by a guy with a rope and being pushed from behind by people who cannot see where they are going. The wagon rolls on wooden “Square Wheels” while the cargo of the wagon is round rubber tires.

The metaphor resonates in all kinds of different situations, from boardrooms (where the rope is very very long) to the shop floor (where the View at The Back is very common among workers and supervisors) to situations of counseling and coaching (where “stepping back from the wagon” is most helpful, to the situations where people need to discuss the best practices that already exist and put the wagon up on blocks for a while to play with different ideas.

The pretty darn consistent message that I get from people is that they will remember the workshop many years later. In December, I met a senior manager at a company in Mumbai who remembered a session I delivered in 1994 at an ISPI meeting. I don’t mean that he remembered attending a session that I delivered, I mean that he remembered the cartoons I used and the issues and opportunities that I discussed.

Metaphors are most powerful, and especially when one uses them in a way that is active and not simply the passive receipt of the story. I tell a Moose Joke (you can get the slides free) to close many of my sessions and that is well received. But few people will remember it.

When they sit and contemplate the Square Wheels One cartoon, and generate ideas as a tabletop of participants, and then list the Square Wheels that they perceive are operating in their workplace or their situations and then generate some round wheel possibilities and share them amongst the others to find some Best Practices, those things are remembered really well.

And having fun playing with ideas is important. After all, caterpillars can fly if they would just lighten up!

If only I could remember how to swing a golf club that well…

For the FUN of It!”

Yes, I DO think that we can use storytelling and other kinds of metaphorical interventions to allow people to think of new ways of doing things. And you must know that “their ideas are always better than your ideas.”

By that, I mean that they can come up with ideas that they own and with that ownership, they are much more likely to actually DO something differently regarding that situation, rather than simply nod their heads and pretend that you have their commitment. It is why the issue of commitment so closely ties to the issues of involvement and engagement.

I think metaphors are a great way to lead people forward and to generate the ownership and peer support that will more effectively drive intrinsic motivation toward mastery and improvement.

We can help people move forward by involvement and engagement and new perspectives

Or maybe this one would be a better depiction:

Leaders can lead and involve and engage and implement

Have fun out there!

(see our tools on coaching at http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/Square_Wheels_for_Coaching_p/17.htm)

Progress is not all about Training. Motivation and Processes.

For a long time, I have played with a couple of cartoons that reflect my thinking about training and improvement. And I also believe that most people know the answers to most questions if we can ask the right question at the right time. The Round Wheels are already in the wagon, in my thinking.

A zillion years ago, the performance improvement consultants I worked with used to use the old Bob Mager (I believe) determiner:

•  “If you put a gun to their head, could they do it?”
(This was also known for the non-coercive types as,
       “If you gave them a million dollars, could they do it?”) 

That gave rise to an illustration I often used about Motivation and People and tended to reflect the either-or views of people and performance that are common with most managers in most organizations:

Beliefs about how one motivates people in the workplace

Many people believe that there were two choices – Rewards or “Aversive Control.” But the former generates a need to repeat / increase to get people re-motivated (and has all kinds of other negative side effects (see the work of Alfie Kohn and Dan Pink) while the latter has all kinds of other negative side effects (look at all the examples of it in relation to population control and policing). Aversive control generates compliance, when the people feel that they are being under that direct influence; remove the perception of control and behavior shifts quickly… There is a ton of research on compliance and punishment and conditioned helplessness that supports the fact that punishing kinds of things depress performance and motivation in all kinds of negative ways.

So, we come back to the issue of performance: Can the person DO the job or NOT? The “gun” test is merely a mental exercise: Does the person have the knowledge and capability to do the job right now? CAN they do it? 

If not, then is TRAINING one of the solutions?

(If there is a capability issue, that the person will be unable to do the job, then the alternatives are different and might include role changes or job aids. I will never be able to dunk a basketball and I have tried and tried. But provide me with a mini-trampoline and the situation would change! For a while, there was a professional roller-blade basketball league — can you imagine dunking on roller blades? There was also that trampoline-based basketball league. Yeah, baby!)

So, TRAIN THEM if they can do the job post-training. Training builds up personal strengths and capabilities, as shown below:

Training builds personal strengths and capabilities

But training itself is NOT the solution to most organizational problems. Training might help make incremental improvements as shown below:

Having more personal strength will improve performance, somewhat

But it will also NOT solve workplace issues and opportunities. In fact, management sometimes takes this opportunity to make other workplace improvements to generate more results:

Well, it IS an idea. But will it actually work?

Well, it IS an idea. But will it actually work? (Note: The wheels will not turn far before they hit the other wheels. But it looked good on paper!

The key to a lot of workplace improvement is engagement, involvement, process improvement, feedback about performance results and the sense of pride and teamwork that comes from celebrating successes.

We need to take time to step back from the wagon and to also celebrate our successes as a team. Peer support and positive feedback are key factors in motivating people.

I don’t know the solutions to most workplace problems.

But I do know that most people in most organizations know most of the things that need to be done differently to make significant improvements in performance while driving motivation at the same time. Involve and Engage. 

Funny Thoughts and Ideas on “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly”

Some thoughts of mine on how I work around some of the issues of managing and leading change.

One of my approaches is where I show a cartoon with two caterpillars sitting on the Square Wheels wagon and talking about a beautiful butterfly floating by…

The one caterpillar says to the other caterpillar:
     “You’ll never get me up in one of those things…”

Over the years, I have been playing with this theme and using the joke to set up a discussion about how to deal with resistance to change and how to involve and engage “the caterpillars” in a discussion of possibilities for improvement. But I also learned a valuable lesson when presenting one day many years ago in a workshop in Hong Kong.

People did not laugh at the joke, which proved to be a great learning lesson for me when I finally realized what had happened and what was happening. Now, I set the story up with the following slide, which I use to communicate that the participants are now about to receive a learning lesson:

I set all this up with a simple slide from one of my favorite athletes, who was quoted in Sports Illustrated in 1990. On losing to Tim Mayotte, he said:

When I told the joke, people did not laugh and I thought it might be a cultural issue (their English was excellent but they were primarily Chinese) so I asked them to talk about it at their tables for two minutes, which they did with an increasing amount of animation and laughter. Only when I asked them for the answer did I learn something VERY important:

What happened to me happens to everyone. I read the joke one day in a Reader’s Digest magazine and linked it into my presentation. The punchline to the joke HAD to be: “The caterpillars are resisting change that is inevitable.”

What I found out in Hong Kong is that my assumption was most assuredly NOT correct and that there are a wide variety of creative and innovative thoughts on pretty much any situation. People do NOT view things similarly. And that diversity of opinion generates a great deal of possibilities.

The correct answer to most performance improvement situations is to say, NO when someone asks you if you know something. That way you generate a possibility for a new idea that you had not considered.

Dr. Ted Forbes was at Darden School of Business in the 90s and he and I were chatting on the phone. He asked me if I knew about caterpillars and butterflies and I said, “NO” even though I knew a great deal about lepidoptera (moths and butterflies, the scientific name):

Ted said,

Thus, by listening to his thoughts, I got a new one liner, one that links up wonderfully to my metaphors around the Square Wheels Wagon being up to its axles in mud. Mud is that mess we all get in with the bureaucracy and overall “gooeyness” of how most organizations really operate.

Similarly in a conversation with Diane Mashia, then with PayChex:

The possibilities for improvement are limitless, but generally limited by our thinking about how things are, not about how they could be if we made different choices and had different alternatives.

In another post, I will ask for some reactions to some of the different punch lines from, “You’ll never get me up in one of those things!”

Hope you like the concept. You can read more about the whole concept in the article, “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly.” (Click here to download)

Have FUN out there!

Some Punchlines on “Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly!”

For nearly 20 years, I have been playing with this theme of caterpillars, butterflies and change along with using a joke to set up a discussion about perceptions and thinking and limits to improvement. One of the realities is:

(That is “The” as pronounced “Duh.”)

Many managers appear to be resistant to new ideas for workplace improvement based on employee perceptions and surveys done since I was a boy. It may be that they KNOW the answer (or are expected to know the answer since that is their perception of their job and the implementation of their ego) and they thus functionally limit themselves to new information as well as limit motivation and ownership.

Let me tell you what happened to me and ask you to rate some of the comments people made. In a workshop in Hong Kong, I said:

There are two caterpillars sitting on the wagon and a beautiful butterfly floats by. The one caterpillar says to the other:

“You’ll never get ME up in one of those butterfly things.”

People did not laugh at the joke so I asked them to talk about it for two minutes and give me their reactions and thoughts. They were English-speaking Chinese and I was not sure that they understood the joke, so I simply asked them to discuss it. For two years, I had always thought my joke was about active refusal / resistance to change.

Surprisingly, they generated a lot of ideas. Which do you think was their best punch line to the story?

You may vote more than one time, if you like.

And I know the one that generally gets the most laughs as well as generates the most thinking about how things really work.

Hope you like this. And I will appreciate seeing your responses.

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