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

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A poem on Intrinsic Motivation and Continuous Continuous Improvement

I stated playing with some of the Square Wheels cartoons and doing some short poems over the past week or so. I guess it is kind of like taking a break, but I am also playing with my creative thinking and the like. Doing these “poems” has been fun, but will certainly not win me any awards!

One of the best of the cartoons in my series has always been one that I call, “Intrinsic Motivation,” since it seems to capture so much about improvement and self-generated motivation to succeed. As I played with this in workshops and generated a lot of conversations and comments, what stands out is the reality that implementing your ideas generates a lot of the right stuff. Ideas and themes about intrinsic motivation might include:

  • Making things work more smoothly, better or faster
  • Taking Pride in one’s accomplishments
  • Succeeding in the challenge of putting a round wheel on the wagon, probably not with a lot of support from the leadership
  • Doing something good even though it may not get noticed by others
  • Doing something for the right reason and for the Big Picture
  • Simply feeling good about oneself when you succeed at something you challenged yourself to do
  • Feeling positive about making an improvement that impacts others or that may lead to other impacts on people and an organization
  • Using a new idea successfully

The list actually goes on and on, but the above tend to be the main frames for why implementing a Round Wheel in a world full of Square Wheels is simply a good thing to do. Questions are often along the lines of, “Will that one wheel actually make any difference or be noticeable?” and my reactions have been along the lines of making any improvement is a positive action and while one wheel may make little overall impact, implementing the first one is a lot harder than implementing the second or the third.

One begins to change the culture, just a little, by having a success and feeling that you made a difference. Will the leadership know? Maybe not. Should they know? Of course. And they may figure out something has changed positively, eventually. Maybe it will simply take another person at the back of the wagon to do the same thing on the other side…

But making a difference IS making a difference. It has to start somewhere…

Thus, my little poem:

Intrinsic better and better poem

Innovation can occur anywhere, and implementing innovations is critical to long-term success for most organizations and workplaces. Improvements can be little things or big things, but building a culture willing to try to do something differently will have a variety of positive benefits. Consider the culture where any change or any improvement is not supported. Yeah, that can look something like this:

No Headway poem rat cageor this one:

Big Foot Smush

If we want to motivate people, we need to ask for their ideas and generate their engagement and involvement in workplace innovation. Just bring in “workers” to do the same constrained job, day after day, will get you what we seem to have already gotten in so many workplaces, the dis-engaged and the un-involved.

There are LOTS of ways to do things differently.

 

For the FUN of It!

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

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Training and Development cannot fix performance problems – Some Square Wheels

Companies spend money to improve results. They spend BILLIONS on doing surveys on organizational engagement and they spend BILLIONS on training and development classes. Often, they call these kinds of training “hard skills training” because they are focused on job-related skills and show immediate impacts.

Hard skills are often defined as those that produce immediate and tangible results – measurable stuff. The desired results are well-defined, visible, and instantly obvious and usually involve a human being gaining mastery over an inanimate object such as a machine or a computer system.

This as opposed to “soft skills” like leadership development or facilitation / engagement skills. You know, those “easy” things that may not have any impact. Team building or creativity / innovation might not be measurable, so it might have less value to an organization, seems to be the rationale…

The reality of most kinds of training, though, is that they focus on skills and not so much on how things really work. I can teach you some skill and improve your use of it. The idea is that you will immediately perform better or with more power. Let’s say, for example, that I do some weight training to improve one’s capacity to move our wagon forward. I will expect some measurable gains from that training and development and I can measure things like body mass or number of bench presses made possible.

Training builds personal strengths and capabilities

Training builds personal strengths and capabilities

The reality of that training, then, should be expected to look something like this:

T&D Before After square ©

(I think you can see where my thinking is headed.)

I believe we need to involve and engage the whole performance team in some discussions about issues and opportunities. The issue is one of Engagimentation, using soft skills focused on employee engagement and then focusing on removing roadblocks and aligning the organization to actually implement changes and improvements. It is this collective effort that will better impact results.

Training (and by definition, Human Resources) cannot really impact a lot of the realities of how organizations really work. All they can do is set the stage for improvement. It is the direct action of the management team to generate change and install those good ideas. You can read a bit more about this in another blog post you can find here.

Engagimentation

For the FUN of It!

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

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Engagement and Involvement: What Would Santa Do? Engagimentation!

I thought you might like this little story about Santa and the Elves and his reindeer and how he put together some teams to improve motivation and innovation.

dull Santa1This is a research report from an arms-length investigator and all facts and details can be confirmed by contacting Mrs. Santa Claus, Administrative Manager, Santa’s Workshop, North Pole. No email was made available to us at this time…

Santa Surprised

Santa wasn’t so jolly upon finding his Sleigh not ready for its Big Day!
“So,” he demanded from his Reindeer, “How’d you let it get this way?”

“We asked the Elves to help cause it’s too banged up to fly with ease
but they told US to fix it, they were busy, and then ignored our pleas!”

Santa went straight to the Elves and asked why they hadn’t heeded
his Reindeers’ concern about his Sleigh; the work it needed.
In reaction to this, the Elves yelled, “Because we’re overworked!”
And it was at that exact moment that Santa became mightily irked!

This lack of teamwork had Santa feeling stumped!
He needed a way to get them collaborating and pumped.
So, he used teambuilding he’d heard through the grapevine
called, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Santa to the LDGM Mine

Reindeer and Elves were mixed together and put into teams
and played Dutchman with energy, competition and beams!
By game’s end, they realized that their tendency to compete,
gave them less ‘Gold’ than if collaborating had been their feat.

Santa sled, just starting to fly color

Invigorated with a solid commitment, as a team, they turned
to fixing Santa’s Sleigh as they talked about what they’d learned.
“Since now we know working together benefits all,” said a Reindeer,
“Let’s show Santa his sparkling sleigh to bring him Christmas Cheer!”

Act finally together

What Santa did and needs to continue to do is Engagimentation. This is the process of engaging people with their ideas for improvement and then working with them to implement those same ideas. An inexpensive Square WheelsToolkit is available.

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.

Check out The Square Wheels Project, our LMS for teaching Square Wheels facilitation skills to supervisors and managers.

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group
Poem by Joan Simmerman and line art by R. Sabean

Godzilla Meets Bambi – Simple thoughts on creativity, innovation and leadership

Here is what happens if I let my brain wander around. I got online today and saw a post that got me clicking on some different things and eventually migrated over to my YouTube page at PMC864.

Looking at a couple of different things, I clicked on my Godzilla Meets Bambi video and was reminded how cute this 2-minute animated video was. For a first cut at trying to be funny, entertaining and informative in one swoop, I think you would find it pretty good. I should probably illustrate it with my LEGO images and I DID see a Godzilla toy in the stores before Christmas.

The link is here:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOZk6UOii6M

Godzilla Meets Bambi - On Leadership

Just me, having a bit of fun and messing with Godzilla. And there seem to be too many Godzillas and not enough Bambi’s in many of today’s workgroups, ya think?

Your thoughts and reactions are most appreciated.

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.

Note: Scott’s New Endeavor to have an impact on people and performance is a short online course on facilitating workplace involvement and engagement. You can see the tools at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com:

The Square Wheels Project is about facilitating engagment and improvement

 

It’s Not My Fault – Why Engagement is Not Working

Some really scary stuff is how much money companies are spending on Engagement Surveys and how little is happening as a result. Bersin & Associates came out with a  report this year entitled, “Employee Engagement: Market Review, Buyer’s Guide and Provider Profiles,” (yes, it can be yours for $995) and here is what jumped off the page for reporter John Holton:

The research shows that organizations currently invest approximately $720 million annually in engagement improvement, including both outsourced and internally developed programs. Only 50 percent of the potential market has been tapped, with half the organizations stating an interest in engagement programs actually investing.”

Frankly, if one adds in all the time spent by people reviewing the numbers and the reports and generating ideas and “action plans,” the number would be a LOT higher than a billion dollars.  Organizations are trying to improve employee engagement and getting data about how they are doing — Bersin projects that the costs will eventually be a LOT higher — $1.53 billion. And if things simply continue, companies will have little to show for the spending other than a check-box on some Human Resources Management Competencies List that they have asked for ideas or some such thing.

Employee engagement has actually significantly DECLINED
from 24% down to 13% in the past two years
(Mercer, 2012).

Obviously, there is little visible impact from all this spending so this “engagement fad” should be doomed to go away. What is worse than that:  What truly lousy messages does all surveying and meetings send to the base of employees who feel they are underpaid and ignored? Employees KNOW that these surveys cost a big bunch of money and they SEE that year after year, their input gets ignored while the company does not have the money for any pay increases…

So, what do we actually do? Well, I am sure that precise solutions will vary. But you can pretty much rest assured that doing nothing differently will guarantee you the same results.

You may remember The Six Phases of 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

This is how many people view how organizations respond to teamwork and the implementation of improvements. Obviously, that changes when people are asked to go through such a process the second time!

But let me suggest a pretty simple and straightforward concept:

  • Ask people what is un-engaging or needs to be done differently
  • Give them a model to deal with the different kinds of issues, because there is not one solution for all kinds of problems
  • Allow them to prioritize what needs to be improved in terms of themes like impact, timeliness, cost, difficult to accomplish, etc.
  • Allow them to individually solve problems that they can solve individually
  • Allow them to form teams where group thinking and peer support would help them move forward on particular issues and opportunities
  • Recognize efforts, successes and accomplishments
  • Look to alternative approaches toward redoing things that are perceived as unsuccessful
  • Focus on continuous continuous improvement

I call this Dis-Un-Empowerment and I look at the overall situation as one of Engagimentation. Functionally, it looks like this:

Engagimentation = engagement plus implementation

Make people feel successful and work as part of the team to implement their ideas — and let them feel that they are contributing to the overall success of the organization and their co-workers. Build a sense of collaboration and teamwork.

At the same time, look up! The horse represents an even “more better” way to approach the situation and the cargo jet represents the future. There are always improvements that can be made and people will feel accomplished if they are allowed to be part of the idea and implementation team.

Implementation is the key, and an analysis or review of your best past practices with implementing change and strategy will probably give you good ideas about what kinds of things work best within your culture. Looking at failures can also provide you with good information about what things do not work.

This improvement requires the active involvement of the managers in the identification of workplace issues — not just from a survey where not everyone will be candid or involved. It then requires them to engage people in defining what can and should be done differently, not just holding a meeting and going back to doing the same stuff…

Doing Nothing poem

We need to start really working to involve and engage our people in meaningful workplace improvements.

Engagimentation Rat Cage

Or not.

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

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Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny: Thoughts on Successful Implementation

“Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny” is a famous (although somewhat flawed) framework from old-school biology that actually offers a useful perspective and framework on how to successfully implement any organizational or personal improvement process. As Statistician George Box stated,

All Models are Wrong. Some Models are Useful.

This is quite useful from my standpoint. And I will get to how it relates to successful implementation of improvement strategies in a moment, after this lesson in the history of biology…

The concept of the title asserts that the embryonic developmental stages of a living organism (ontogeny) mimic and demonstrate the evolutionary history (phylogeny) of that organism’s ancestors. (Recapitulates meaning “repeats” in this instance.)

John Moore, an eminent historian of science, attributes the statement to Ernst Haeckel, in his book Generelle Morphologie, published in 1866. To a certain extent, the idea seems true prima facie. (see the corollary, below)

For instance, the embryos of all vertebrate animals include gill slits (or gill bars, at least) in their necks at a certain stage of development. This, of course, reminds us that their ancestors were fish and only fish actually use these slits in the adult condition; other animals modify them for other uses. (In humans, for instance, the gill bars become bones of the inner ear.)

Back in the 19th century post-Darwin, it was believed that nearly all of the sequence of embryonic developmental anatomies were a true recapitulation of evolutionary stages of overall species development.

We now know that it just doesn’t hold true that faithfully, even though most species do share a lot of chromosomes. Nevertheless, there is a kernel of truth in the idea; certainly evolution rarely makes a totally new structure without modification from some previous structure.

Well, So What? — (You may be asking!)

Well, consider the developmental stages of your new project and its requirement for initial success as well as long-term implementation. Most programs fail — we know this from lots of statistics as well as experiences. My restatement of the principle for organizational development would simply state that:

The successful development of any NEW program of performance improvement or change is most likely to recapitulate the successful development of your organization’s PAST successful programs.

If you are implementing a NEW program, it would make very good sense to study and understand the factors that made the older (and successful) programs work instead of trying to invent or implement a totally new way of doing things. People and organizations are more comfortable with the old established parallel styles and practices and are more likely to reject the new untested ideas, schemes and frameworks. (Think old, comfortable slippers…)

comfortable old shoes of Scott Simmerman

At the same time, a study of the unsuccessful programs and failures can be educational in that it can identify factors that lead to the death of the initiatives (and occasionally the torture of the participants!).

poacse94ow1couh

Would you like to hop and pop in a pair of shoes such as this? Well, your new program might look like this to many of the people who have worn those same shoes in the past and got blisters and worse from the experience. Making your “new” improvement program look and feel like the “old successful” ones will be of great benefit.

I hope this helps — step back from the wagon before running forward and spend a little time discussing the frameworks and key parts of some of the past successes. The past impacts the future, for sure, and we can certainly learn from those experiences. This concept has repeatedly helped me when the goal was assisting some organizational transformation. By identifying the critical success and failure factors, one is almost guaranteed a more successful implementation.

Remember that the most common stages of a Project are generally:

  1. Enthusiasm
  2. Disillusionment
  3. Panic about Progress
  4. Search for the Guilty with a Blame Frame
  5. Punishment of the Innocent
  6. Praise and Honor for all Non-Participants

(Please note that the above 6 phases are a joke….maybe!)

 And then there are the Six Phases of a 2nd Project:

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

Please note the following:
Discussion of 3rd project tabled for later discussion. Much later… 

In reality, the General Success Factors involved in the successful implementation of programs often include, but certainly aren’t limited to:

  • Top management involvement (direct and visible)
  • Development of trust among all participants
  • Active engagement and involvement of participants building to a sense of ownership involvement
  • Linking to previous successes of the organization, the department and the individuals
  • Perceived low risk of implementation (actual and perceived)
  • Low cost / exposure of a trial implementation
  • Understanding of need for continuous continuous improvement
  • Focuses on a critical factor necessary for the organization’s success
  • Lots of involvement of personnel, cross-departmental
  • Hoopla, catchy name, fun, visibility, etc.

 (Nah, no cute little words spelling out anything… I was just kidding on that last one. If the program is to be a serious effort at performance improvement, it should have a serious name!)

* A corollary to the idea is that all vertebrate embryos are very similar in their earliest stages, and that they then diverge to individual shapes in later stages. That also is nearly true. But recently there has been an attack on the original proposer of the idea, that same Haeckel. He made now-famous comparative drawings of fish, amphibians, birds, mammals at comparable embryo ages, depicting the remarkable similarity they seemed to show in earlier stages. If you open a biology text, there is a good chance of seeing these drawings. It is now believed that Haeckel deliberately mis-drew these, to emphasize the similarity and downplay the differences that are truly present. The whole idea isn’t baloney, but Haeckel apparently went beyond normal science to make his point more acceptable. (For more on this, see Science, Vol. 277, page 1435, for Sept. 5, 1997).

(Thanks to John Snyder for his input on the scientific basis and history of this model. John is a retired Professor of Biology at Furman University. I have taken liberally from John’s ideas. This last paragraph is from John’s note to me about the biological information.)

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.

 

 

Improve Your Engagement of People: The Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit!

If you are looking for a simply toolkit to impact people and workplace performance improvement, here is a great solution. Using our Square Wheels illustrations as part of an interactive discussion about issues and opportunities is really straightforward and quite easy, actually.

My little company, Performance Management Company, has been focusing on improving results through team building and employee engagement, involvement and ownership activities for decades. Since 1984, it has been offering its tools and simple approach to companies everywhere and offers a high impact toolkit in an unusually collaborative way.

PMC is supporting collaboration with its customers by offering our easy to use, bombproof and powerful Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit. It is a flexible and engaging set of simple tools to get people talking about issues and opportunities.

This complete training package sells for $49.95 and contains:

  • A Facilitation Guide with clear and simple instructions for use
  • A PowerPoint file containing 64 slides of images, notes, and ideas – ALL you need to roll forward (more than you need, actually!)
  • Ready-to-use handouts for generating involvement and engaging participants in the concept, including:
    • –a Worksheet for mind mapping ideas generated by the main Square Wheels idea
    • –a Round Wheels Worksheet for identifying 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. This is background as well as an optional handout.

You can see more about the toolkit and its contents in a one-minute video here.

The approach is anchored to the Square Wheels One illustration that is a proven, powerful tool for promoting a participative learning approach, the concept pushes 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.

We can use the Square Wheels theme to set up all kinds of discussions.

RWs Sig File iconWe can also use the themes to get people to discuss possibilities and generate ideas for improvement, discuss ideas for implementation, and improve their active involvement in making changes occur:

Intrinsic Motivation color green

Facilitating Square Wheels is an easy process, something that we discuss in detail in the supporting documents in the toolkit. It is simple for a manager to use the materials to engage the workers on innovating ideas they have for workplace improvement. It changes the language of innovation and change and sets up cognitive dissonance — an unwillingness to allow things to remain as they are.

You engage and thus motivate people to make some of
the changes they feel will improve their performance!

You can see a 2-minute video about why Square Wheels work so well here.

It’s my ardent belief 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, it’s my hope that by your setting the price for this Toolkit, you’ll enjoy a keener sense of ownership/motivation for its use as well as discover, first hand, how this simple cartoon can create an empowering situation for participants as it stimulates  communications, ideas and improvements around workplace issues.

Intrinsic feel really good downhill PG

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 in 38 countries.

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 easily reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly

For 20 years, I have been playing with my Square Wheels cartoons and using the metaphor in a variety of training programs on managing and leading change, involving and engaging individuals and teams in performance improvement, and focusing on individual and team intrinsic motivation.

One of my most fun as well as powerful tools is around the metaphor of “the change from caterpillar to butterfly” and the paradox of how one might lead that change.

I start with the basic Square Wheels illustration and then, after I get those key themes and ideas anchored down, add in the storyline that there are two caterpillars sitting on the wagon. A beautiful butterfly floats by and the one caterpillar says to the other caterpillar,

“You’ll never get ME up into one of those Butterfly things!”

From here, it just gets crazy as I identify a whole series of punchlines to the joke, not the one that most people get and simply stop thinking about. And I discuss how this process of “stopping the thought process” is what often gets in the way of continuous continuous improvement at work and in personal development initiatives.

You can download a pdf file of the article, Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly, by clicking this link.

The article gets into my model for managing and leading change, talks about the use of the Square Wheels illustrations as tools for facilitating personal and organizational development and focuses on making improvements. Another document you might like is the poem about the transformation of caterpillars into butterflies

Teaching Caterpillar poem

This is a solid metaphor, and one where our Square Wheels tools work beautifully. You can also purchase a very extensive powerpoint-based training program on Managing and Leading Change here, which builds nicely on these metaphors and works to involve and engage people in the change process.

For the FUN of It!

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

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Stress as a Motivator? Cognitive Dissonance and Square Wheels!

In the LinkedIn discussion mentioned in a previous post, the question arose as to whether stress was motivational and if it has a link to creativity. The question was expressed as:

What impact do you think stress has on innovation – does it hinder or help the creative process? Does Stress work like the “fight or Flight” response?

I think that this is more than a fair question and my response and reactions are pretty straightforward.

Two framing questions that I would ask are, Whose stress is it?” and “How MUCH stress does it generate?”

If the performer sees a gap between where they are and where they want to be, that will usually generate “a stress” — consider it a motivational drive. That can be very positive since it is self-generated. It is healthy if that gap is perceived to be something that can be closed and the goal achieved — it is one of the things that is involved in self-generated, intrinsic motivation.

I think of that old work on “Cognitive Dissonance” (Leon Festinger in the 1950s) that clearly explains and researches this issue. He focused on gaps and the  discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. In a state of dissonance, people may feel emotions of frustration caused by the differences in their goals, thoughts and actions and that people are motivated to close that gap.

An example of this would be the conflict often seen in smokers who, knowing that  smoking is unhealthy and annoying to others, will often change their feelings to not caring or to thinking that the smoking is worth short term benefits. A general view of cognitive dissonance is that a person is biased towards a certain action even though other factors favor different alternatives. It is this gap that sets up the possibility of change — without this perception, little motivation exists.

Festinger in his 1956 book When Prophecy Fails, which chronicled the followers of a UFO cult as reality clashed with their fervent belief in an impending apocalypse. Festinger subsequently published a book called “A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance”, published in 1957, in which he outlined the theory. Since then, Cognitive Dissonance has been one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology because it is simple and straightforward.

The theory says that people have a bias to seek congruence and alignment among their thoughts, engaging in a process Festinger termed “dissonance reduction.” This can be achieved in any of three ways:

  1. lowering the importance of one of the discordant factors,
  2. adding consonant elements, or
  3. changing one of the dissonant factors.

What we do with our Square Wheels illustration is to set up a Rorschach Inkblot Test-like condition by showing the Square Wheels One illustration and asking people how it might represent how things really work in most organizations. With that very general introduction, and a few minutes of thinking time, individuals and groups of people will identify a variety of key themes about the cartoon and how things work. Since the cartoon is unreferenced and very general, people project their beliefs and thoughts onto it.

Once that has occurred, and the themes and thoughts are anchored and discussed, we can then simply ask the participants to suggest what might be represented by those Square Wheels in their workplaces, with Square Wheels being defined as the things that do not work smoothly. Next, we can have discussions about possible Round Wheels (there are many ways to facilitate these discussions to generate desired outcomes).

It is this creative cognition of a Square Wheel and the associated relationship of some Round Wheel(s) to it that generates the cognitive dissonance, the gap between how things are and how they could be. It is that gap which helps generate the motivation to change, to remove the Square Wheel and add the Round One into the situation. This IS a stress, but not a debilitating one.

And if this discussion is done at tabletops with 5 or 6 participants, there is often enough “creational mass” to generate some commitment to implement the idea or improvement.

We find that Square Wheels illustrations work pretty much everywhere. I have used them with Most Senior Managers in large multinationals as well as in workshops with managers and front-line employees. We have delivered this concept in schools, pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies and all sorts of industries and in sessions with hundreds of people representing every level of management.

Ideas for improvement are simply ideas — the key is generating enough motivational stress through cognitive dissonance and peer support so that things get implemented and changed and improved. These cartoons are unique in their effectiveness as organizational development tools — Fast, Simple and Effective.

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

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You set YOUR price for our Facilitation Toolkit – Square Wheels Roll!

Square Wheels illustrations have been used worldwide for almost 20 years as tools for presentations on managing and leading change and involving and engaging people to make commitments to improve the workplace and others. Using these cartoons, you can make a powerful impact and leave a lasting memory — as people remember these presentations decades later! Time after time, I’ve received verbal and written proof of this.

Update: We never seemed to get any traction with this offer for setting your own price, so we stopped it. Maybe I did not blog about it enough or people felt that our regular retail price was a good value. One person actually paid MORE than retail, which was really appreciated as a great gesture.

If you are curious about our toolkit, drop me an email at scott@squarewheels.com.

The metaphor of the Square Wheels Wagon is useful and bombproof. You show people a cartoon and allow participants to think about it and then discuss their ideas in small groups. You allow people to project their beliefs onto the cartoon to help build their ownership images and then allow them to apply that image onto their workplace through identifying the things that do not work smoothly along with their ideas for improvement.

You can download a complete Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit from our website and get the PowerPoint illustrations, instructions for use and for facilitation, in general, and worksheets you can print and use to have an effective 30 minute meeting or set the stage for a series of meetings focused on identifying, solving and implementing workplace improvement ideas and building intrinsic motivation of your people.

Heck, you can just use the handouts and not even need any LCD projector or other supporting equipment and be just as effective in involving and engaging everyone.

You can see how identifying something as a Square Wheel pretty much guarantees that your people will find some Round Wheel solutions and workarounds, because that is just how our brain works and people are much better problem solvers than problem identifiers. And you can see how the tabletop discussions generated allow people to gain some peer support for actually implementing the ideas.

Millions of people have never tried the simple act of facilitating with our Square Wheels cartoons and we think that they all represent potential users. My own presentations using these materials in 38 countries along with hundreds of testimonials from consultants and managers, worldwide, allow me to feel quite confident that you can use these illustrations in your improvement initiatives in the workplace, and elsewhere, for coaching improved performance and impacting organizational and personal momentum. So, go ahead and try out one of our very unique tools!

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

 

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.

Team Building and Collaboration for Performance Improvement – Large Event Management

The past week has been really interesting, since I have had the chance to talk to a lot of people who are now going to start doing some team building within their organizations. Normally, my conversations are generally with consultants and trainers who have been doing these kinds of things and are looking for some new tools and approaches. Many of those conversations were with the, “been there and done that” crowd who were simply looking for some new and better tools.

But this seems to be a new group, rookies in the organizational collaboration and team building arena who have the chance to get things started right. And THAT is really neat!

(Has it really been that long since the average organization has conducted any team building events? Really?)

So, we have been discussing doing team building events with managers and staff and working with slightly larger groups than a training class.Scott Simmerman, wearing his Coaching Hat and preparing for Lost Dutchman

And I have been able to put my Coaching Hat on, and my Event Planner Hat, and offer up some ideas for optimizing impacts. Three of these contacts were going to run large groups (250, 100-200-500 and 1,100 (really!) and I shared some of my learned Best Practices for maximizing impact.

Basically, that approach involves getting all the Most Senior Managers into one room for 3/4 of a day. The session starts with a normal delivery of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, debriefed along the normal lines of collaboration and teamwork and planning. But then, the debriefing shifts to asking about the kinds of behaviors they would like to see from the people at the large event. That is always interesting, and the focus is on the shared mission and vision and generating alignment to goals, objectives and expectations.

Then, we TRAIN this group of Most Senior Managers to be able to support the delivery of the exercise. This group serves as the Provisioners and the Co-Expedition Leaders, operating in the environment where, “The Goal is to mine as much gold as we can.”  Oops — that should read “WE.”

The exercise is about getting help along with information and on collaborating and sharing information and resources to optimize results. But what these leaders see are people choosing NOT to get available planning information, to compete rather than collaborate among tabletops and to choose to not get help from the leaders who are there to help!

By having these real Senior Managers in this game delivery role, it is a great learning lesson on how to implement change and support high performance. One cannot simply TALK about it, they have to behave consistently and congruently. While a few of the teams will have precisely what they need to perform at a high level, those same teams will often choose NOT to collaborate, to thus “win” the game at the cost of negatively impacting overall organizational results.

Anyway, it is really neat to see these kinds of large events start happening again, since they can be powerful events to engage people in change and improvement and to lead them out of the current “engagement doldrums” that we seem to find ourselves.

Have some FUN out there yourself!

Scott

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