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

Category: workplace performance improvement Page 2 of 14

Poem on Performance Improvement and Training

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

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

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

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

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

Poem on Training by Scott Simmerman for The Square Wheels project

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

2017 – A Year of Choices, Engagement and Innovation

We are at the cusp of a new year and this tends to be the time when people consider new possibilities and new thoughts on doing things differently. In that context, let me wish you a Happy Round Wheel New Year and hope that you can give your people the gift of engagement and workplace happiness.

Here, I am working up some new initiatives, and writing a Square Wheels novel around workplace innovation and implementation, one that uses the themes of involving and engaging people for their innovation ideas as well as building on Robin Speculand‘s upcoming book on excellence in execution.

My efforts will work on the bottoms-up side of motivating people for improvement while his focus is on strategy implementation from the tops down. Both will combine in the intrigue and challenge of implementing workplace change in a difficult environment, with the requisite Spectator Sheep continually voicing their opposition to anything new and the Mavericks looking to fight the systems and processes because they do not work smoothly.

The leverage point is that interface between Brad, the manager, and Paula, the consultant. Brad is frustrated, that typical motivator for change, and Paula has untried, simple, engaging approaches to involve and align work teams.

Wrapping it around two illustrations for this Happy Round Wheel New Year, it looks like this:

The Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott SimmermanThe Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott Simmerman

DO have fun out there, and DO step back from the wagon and ask for ideas. What you gain is priceless: the active involvement and teamwork of people focused on implementing their own workplace improvement ideas. Generating the intrinsic motivation for self-improvement and team innovation. Improving leadership and trust through increasing organizational alignment to shared missions and goals.

The Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott Simmerman

Make 2017 about continuous continuous improvement, since the round wheels of today will become the Square Wheels of tomorrow.

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

 

 

A Round Wheel Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

The Square Wheels Project is about facilitating engagment and improvement

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

Are Managers simply BAD or is it the Workplace

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Square Wheels Project image on perception by Scott Simmerman

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Square Wheels, Dr. Seuss and “suck” or “muck?”

As we develop more and more thoughts on The Square Wheels Project, our course to teach facilitation and engagement skills to supervisors using an online LMS and our Square Wheels® tools, I will occasionally digress and do something like a Dr. Seuss poem around one of the images.

With this particular one, though, I could not decide on the best wording so I ask my team and of course, I got two different answers so I did up a third one to confuse things even more…

Let me know which of these you like best. Maybe Dan or Chris can set up a poll; that is beyond my pay grade, I think!

Anyway, here are one, two and three:

Square Wheels LEGO graphic images by Scott SimmermanSquare Wheels LEGO graphic images by Scott SimmermanSquare Wheels LEGO graphic images by Scott Simmerman

So, if you have a most liked, let me know.

The Square Wheels Project continues to roll along,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

Innovation and Thinking – Cognitive Dissonance and Creativity

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

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

Square Wheels too busy to improve

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

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

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

Square Wheels performance improvement tools

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

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

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

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

Our goal is to get people to step back from their wagons and look for new or different or better ideas to make improvements. Perspective is a key to choosing to do things differently. And once people identify and label something as a Square Wheel, they are driven to find the round wheel to fix it.

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

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott 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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Leadership, Teamwork and Making Progress

My approach to motivation and engagement is based on this meme of how things really work in most organizations (both images, old and new):

 

Square Wheels metaphor for organizational improvement

Nothing fancy or earth-shattering, just people working to move their wagon forward, with a few possibilities for improvement…

We have:

  • isolated Leadership
  • uninformed or un-aligned workers
  • inefficient processes that do not work smoothly
  • poor or difficult communications, and
  • round wheels that already exist in the wagon that could be implemented to make things work more better faster.

and literally dozens of other key learning points about how people process and react to information.

We have been playing with this theme and different illustrations about how things really work as a way of involving and engaging managers and workers in the process of continuous continuous improvement, that the process of stepping back from the wagon serves many purposes. People have ideas and implementing those ideas improves how things work along with engagement. Leadership does get isolated from the hands-on reality and communications is an important factor in every workplace.

My friend in India, Shantanu Chakravorty, emailed me this picture, with no context and no explanation, heck not even a source. And looking at it for a couple of minutes gave me all sorts of ideas and inspirations and questions and comments.

Working Hard from Within the WagonWhat do YOU think is happening here?

This WILL take a minute or two to register and for some different alternatives to come to mind. Who is that guy in the bed of the truck and what is he actually accomplishing? Bunches of possibilities, but my thought is that this kind of thing happens very often in nearly every workplace!

poster-reality-round-already-in

For some extra thinking, spend 40 seconds looking at this animation and then spend another 2 minutes thinking about all the possibilities:

 

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

BOSS: Spelled Backwards

Boss. In organizations, a lot of people know precisely who that is. And that can be a positive or a negative, as I will try to explain.

My dad owned a small trucking company in South Jersey for nearly 50 years and he was the boss, for sure. He made all the decisions, ran the office, did the collection, gave his customers bottles of hooch every Christmas and ran the company as a one-man band. He had a half-dozen trucks and he did well enough to buy a summer house that gave our family a place to be at the beach, boats and cars and all that. From that perspective, my dad was a good boss.

On the other hand, there is an aspect of BOSS that is not so good. You would sometimes see it in how he might interact with a driver. Orin was always stopping in on prospects to generate new business and my dad generally never wanted to talk with him, telling me to tell Orin he was not around, for example. Or if there was a problem, the conversation tended to be one-sided. My dad did not generally appreciate the thoughts and ideas of the guys who worked with him.

“I’m the boss, here” generally infers complete control and a bit more yelling and telling than asking and listening. Boss translates to Ruler, the Decider, someone who has all the bucks and they stop right there. I see the word “autocratic” in the management haze, the imperial-ness of the boss as a person.

  • I see The Boss theme happening in an organization where 60% of the employees feels that no one listens to their ideas or respects them for their work or personal accomplishments.
  • I see The Boss theme in organizations where 10% or less of the employees see themselves as actively engaged but the vast majority rating themselves as un-involved or even “Actively Dis-Engaged” and choosing not to be involved and engaged, with the correlated high levels of absenteeism and turnover. And even some sabotage (see this post of mine).
  • And, I see The Boss as someone who simply knows that they have the right ideas and approach and that they could not possibly benefit from any training on listening skills or engagement or innovation facilitation.

In those cases, BOSS spelled backwards probably is a pretty good explanation of their overall attitude and approach to employee involvement and engagement.

John was one such animal. He was The Boss, president of a company that asked me to help improve their customer service. We did some initial work and then had one of their first ever Manager’s Meetings, an all hands deal at a golf resort where we had scheduled some work sessions around some golf. You might have guessed that John was a Big Time Golfer, which is why a golf course was selected for a business meeting, and why meetings were actually scheduled around his tee times.

And, in that meeting, John actually said, while sitting there going through his mail (I was so shocked that I wrote it down!) as we were talking about employee ideas for improving the organization,

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

John obviously saw himself as, The Boss.

And my one-liner back is,

Boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory.”

John was not there the following year, since his charter by the board of directors to improve operations and customer retention was not going that well regardless of what we tried to do at the lower levels.

A Customer Service Fundamental:

It’s hard to care for customers
if you don’t feel the boss cares for you.

Perceptions are important, and if workers don’t feel right about the company, it is hard to get them to do those things that exceed customer expectations. It is hard to get them to feel motivated to perform at moderate to high levels. Sure, the top performers perform, but they always do that for intrinsic reasons until they burn out and leave. Note that average employees are often involved in Presenteeism. the situation where they show up and accomplish the minimally accepted level of work and performance competence.

Aldo note that the poor performers are actively un-involved and sometimes intentionally sabotaging the work. Why not choose to do some things differently to get a result that is #morebetterfaster?

So, you might simply reflect on the simple themes in, “Hey Boss!” Asking for and listening to ideas from your people does not involve a lot of training or skills, just the positive intention to treat them effectively.

It can look something like this:

active involvement and engagement with Square Wheels

Any questions? Just ask me, because I am The Boss!

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

Innovation and Change: BIG Sale on Square Wheels!

A conversation turns into an idea and then an illustration is produced. That seems how creativity and innovation flow around here. A comment about buggy whips and top hats becomes an image about change and survival. Take a look at this simple illustration, but do take a moment to actually consider the realities.

BIG Specials on Square WheelsDO take a moment and consider what is happening…

The two stores on the left are closed because the business simply disappeared. Somewhere, someone is making buggy whips because there are still a few horse and buggy wagons rolling around. Heck, one company makes LED whips for your off-road vehicle so it can be seen in the dark! Another “buggy whip store” sells men’s clothing in Nebraska and they do not even have a website but only a FaceBook page. So it looks like that business buggy whip business has kind of disappeared…

Scan to the right and you will see The Big Sale going on at Harry’s Square Wheels Wagonry Store. Harry has been in business for a long time, has a great inventory of new wheels in a variety of colors. He can probably even order you chrome ones!

But note that his former employee, Susan, has opened up a new store, one selling tires. Susan and her partner Sally have limited inventory and small volume at this point. Susan and Sally got the idea one day when at work, and they decided to act on their idea and make these things more available. (Yeah, Harry has met Sally, finally.)

Square Wheels LEGO Intrinsic sitting stop

It was actually a big moment for the ladies, and they thought that they could capitalize on that idea and make round tires into a business. Personally, I have to wish them a LOT of success, because the idea is great, but having the ability and resources to implement the idea is what is important. Asking questions and generating involvement is a key success strategy for implementation.

We offer The Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit for a meager $25 and we are nearly ready to launch our LMS MOOC to share some ideas and frameworks for how to use these simple illustrations and this direct approach to involve and engage people for workplace improvement.

Click here to read about Presenteeism, the reality that about 50% of most workers in most workplaces are “In, but Out” when it comes to their active involvement or the thinking that their boss listens to their ideas. It has been a workplace statistical constant since I started in the people and performance business in 1978.

The ONLY way to address the issues of un-engagement of the majority of a workforce is to involve and engage the Supervisors in the involvement and engagement process of their people to align to organizational visions and values and to focus them on improving their own workplace. I have never seen even a single workplace where people did not have good ideas for improvement.

It is NOT within an HR capability to fix this, nor one of Training and Development. It cannot be addressed with a survey or a videotape of the CEO talking about these things. LOTS of things can be done, but the rubber meets the road where the supervisor sits with the people.

It is a simple concept of providing them with bombproof tools and asking them to ask for ideas. Why not?

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
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
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Presenteeism – They are IN but they are OUT

I was reading some news feeds and came across the word, “Presenteeism” in an HR thread. The term was new to me, but since I was gathering some notes around the theme of involvement and engagement, it resonated. The common use is seemingly around working while sick and is seen as the opposite and related problem to absenteeism.

I think the term is much bigger than that and that presenteeism is much more prevalent than commonly thought. I want to expand and relate the term to issues of people and performance in general.

Repeatedly, we see that only about 1/3 of workers are engaged with work. Others are not engaged and some are even anti-engaged to the point where they are actively working against the organization. You can see a bit more on this if you read my blog about sabotage or if you google “workplace sabotage” or even search on issues around part-time employment problems. Those anti-organization workers are few in number and often known, since they tend to actively act and speak against the company and its management (but not always).

Individuals suffering from Presenteeism are a more common issue. I remember back in my college fraternity years that when we wanted to take a break during an active beer drinking game, we would announce, “I’m in, but I’m out,” effectively saying that we were still playing but that we were going to take a break for a bit.

The concept is actually getting a good bit of study from the academics. Wikipedia offers:

Scholars have provided various other descriptions of the concept. For instance, Simpson claimed that presenteeism is “the tendency to stay at work beyond the time needed for effective performance on the job.” Aronsson, Gustafsson, and Dallner wrote that it means attending work even when one feels unhealthy. In a recent review of the literature, Johns highlighted the lack of agreement between the many definitions. The author claimed that many of the definitions lack utility and that the term is most often defined as going to work while ill. He further noted that definitions of presenteeism, which are centered on attending work while sick, have received more evidence of construct validity. In other words, when defined as coming to work while sick, presenteeism seems to relate more to logical outcome variables and correlates.

I am going to expand the concept to refer to the employees who are, IN but OUT when it comes to their everyday active involvement in their workplace, to the large percentage of people who are not at either end of the engagement curve, the ones that are not actively engaged or dis-engaged. These people in the middle are the people that organizations should be focused on, the ones who can contribute a bit more to the results than they currently choose to do. They have the skills to perform, just not the motivation or peer support.

SO, how does one reduce Presenteeism in their organization? There is a LOT of research that says that the concept is pretty simple and straightforward and I will summarize it in four simple rules:

  1. Ask them for their ideas
  2. Ask them for their ideas
  3. Ask them for their ideas
  4. Ask them for their ideas

Visually and operationally, presenteeism reduction can look something like this:

Presenteeism Prevention with Square Wheels LEGO

Stop the everyday pushing and pulling of the wagon and let people sit down and play with ideas for a bit of time. They will often discover or share new ways of doing things that might make an impact on processes but will surely make an impact on engagement.

My simple rule of thumb is that the activity of management asking their people for ideas about improving their workplace, and then dealing honestly and openly with suggestions is the most straightforward way to deal with presenteeism. (This is not about doing some survey where everything in anonymous and results get buried but the active, face-to-face interface of supervisors and workers or managers and supervisors.)

If you feel that the boss cares for you, you are much more likely
to care for your work and the work of others.

If you would like to see a short video about how this can actually be accomplished, click on the 13-second video offered below. We are trying to keep this simple and easy in regards of how it can help motivate and engage people:

Your efforts to dis-un-engage people can be very straightforward – you can act to get them more involved and you can help them remove perceived roadblocks.

‘For a more detailed, operational overview of these ideas, take a look at this more elaborate, explanatory video below. Note that you can do that by exposing YOUR workplace wagon and asking people for ideas about what things might work better and what ideas and resources might already exist. Again, the research on this suggests that 2/3 of the people in workplaces feel their boss is not interested in their thinking, a prime causal factor of Presenteeism:

You can find our simple toolkit for decreasing workplace Performance Presenteeism by clicking on the image below:

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

My goal is to provide simple but effective tools for impacting people and performance, and I am not sure how I can be any more simple and straightforward. It is up to YOU to be more effective,

For the FUN of It!

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

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

– you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

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

 

 

 

Facilitating? What are we accomplishing?

I play with LEGO. Yeah, and I do it in my training sessions too, focusing on the theme that things can be improved.

While cruising around, I read a solid post by Pere Juarez Vives called The Art of Facilitation, in which he put a little LEGO scene together. Cute. But it also tends to illustrate one of my issues with what is viewed as facilitation: It is not simply about playing with things but needs to be focused on the engagement aspect of work and on the issues of identifying issues and opportunities and then doing things differently.

Pere Facilition LEGO Scene

What Pere does is focus on the key points of the International Association of Facilitators basic premises, which is fine. It is an excellent organization and I went through their Certified Professional Facilitators (CPF) certification many years ago. You can click on the image to go to his writings.

I liked how he framed his post around the role of the Facilitator and how he aligned the key points to the IAF framework for professional facilitators. But I also have issues with that framework, since so much more facilitation is done by (or should be done by) managers and supervisors of people in the workplaces. Gallup just showed that US Engagement is at a 5-year high but recognize that it was still only at 34%, and that this is a LOT higher than what is seen in most countries. Engagement still represents a critically important issue for workplace motivation and innovation.

While some of these professional, arms-length practices are good, I always clang with them when I do a facilitation with managers, since I WANT them to leave with the same skills and techniques and approach that I did TO them — they get it, now I want them to DO it and those ideas are fundamentally mis-aligned with IAF focuses; they are viewed as un-professional in a way!

Facilitation is all about engagement, and there is simply too little engagement in most workplaces and with most Bosses. Meetings and discussions offer a wonderful opportunity to ask about issues and potential solutions. Thus, when I work with these managers, I want them to learn from me what I did and how I did it so that they can leverage the knowledge with their people.

Primarily, I do this with my Square Wheels® metaphor, which is amazingly fluid and flexible. Here is a little poem I did about teamwork:

Square wheels image in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
A key principle is ownership, which I express as, “Nobody ever washes a rental car.” Participating in a discussion builds ownership involvement. So, getting these managers to lead similarly is my key focus in so many situations.

I also use the Square Wheels metaphor about how things really work, with the idea that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon. These days, I illustrate those things using LEGO.

The reality is that it is NOT about playing with things, but about generating workable ideas and then having the motivation and momentum to actually implement them. So many facilitations simply do NOT accomplish things when people go back to the same work with the same pressures and parameters.

So, I suggest that you step back from your wagon and consider the possibility of doing something differently for a change.

Check out yesterday’s blog on thinking out of the box, for example.

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Video: Facilitating Improvement

LEGO. iPhone. Square Wheels. Engagement. Innovation. Involvement. Ownership.

See what comes to mind when you watch this 45-second video.

And we would love your comments about your thoughts as to what is happening and what happens, or the final outcome of this effort or the next steps the team might take (like looking for another round wheel)?

Chris Fisher, my son-in-law and technical guru, worked this up and gave it to me yesterday. I think it is great, but what you think is probably more important:

 

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

The Neuroscience behind Square Wheels: Behavioral Neurobiology

The Science of Brain and Behavior, explained through LEGO and using Square Wheels images for anchoring ideas and concepts

Neuroscience is “hot” right now in the leadership development and organization improvement literature and I got one of those “doctorate thingies” in behavioral neurobiology* from UNC-Chapel Hill a long time ago, before this “brain science stuff” became popular as a solution to business and training problems. The basic reality and an insight to some training people is that the brain is actually involved in learning and memory and a variety of other human behaviors. We have actually known this for a long time… 😀

Scott Simmerman quote on neuroscience (grin)

Wikipedia defines Behavioral Neuroscience, as the application of the principles of biology to the study of physiological, genetic, and developmental mechanisms of behavior in humans and other animals. The American Psychological Association publishes Behavioral Neuroscience®  for original research articles as well as reviews in the broad field of the neural bases of behavior. They are seeking empirical papers reporting novel results that provide insight into the mechanisms by which nervous systems produce and are affected by behavior.

Me, I don’t publish many empirical papers these days… I design team building games and use cartoons and I blog and try to publish readable, actionable thoughts on people and performance issues. But I DO study behavior and I do know about the brain and so I thought to elucidate a couple of understandable pedagogical conceptualistic  frameworks that underpin my use of stupidly simple illustrations and how they relate to things like communications, engagement, learning, facilitation, creativity, change and quality. My one word to describe the underlying key principle is “perspective.” Change perspective and you change a lot of things.

Generating change is a complicated thing to accomplish and there are some great books written about it, with “Immunity to Change” by Kegan and Lahey (2009) being a really solid work and a good read. I think that perspective is also key to Daniel Kahnemann’s book,”Thinking, Fast and Slow.” And I still like the elegant simplicity of Peters and Waterman’s “In Search of Excellence.” All these books (and so many others) work by generating a more objective view of behavior and the working environment around it, much like what behavioral counseling is designed to accomplish (“Please, tell me about that…”).

Let me use LEGO to show you how the brain works:

First, we have a whole big bunch of input from all of the senses, information that comes in all at once with little structure or organization. It looks a bit like this:

LEGO Neuroscience 1 - How the Brain Works using LEGO

If that looks too complicated and confusing, maybe flipping it upside down will make it clearer?

Scott Simmerman LEGO Model of NeuroscienceWhatever…

Anyway, what all that electrical activity you have heard about really does is to allow different areas of the brain to add some structure and pattern and “brain-shape” to the information, prioritizing some information and ignoring other input. It uses the brain’s learned preferences, along with some innate / cognitive biases, for putting things into categories and cubby holes and relating one thing to another, something we call categorization and association. Memory storage is based on link new information to old and creating some blocks.
(Note: biases and storage link to lots of explanatory info on Wikipedia, if you want to click through…)

Structuring looks like this, which is not so confusing:

A LEGO Model of how the brain sorts information

Once the brain has learned a few things, which actually happens pretty early in life and which continues for most people their entire lives  is that we begin to see some patterns in things. Alzheimer’s, dementia and some other cognitive disorders are generally disruptions in information storage and retrieval, where these processes no longer work smoothly. Over time, more and more gets linked and related based on personal experiences and memories. This is normal learning; over time, more and more things get linked and the flexibility of sorting information decreases as these biases filter out more and more. Their behavior becomes more rigid and some tunnel vision can affect their perceptions.

If people start using a new model or framework through which to filter information, we can change how things are viewed and sorted. If they learn the metaphor of Square Wheels, for example, new information sorting can take place. Square Wheels can be framed in a metaphor about things that work but that do not work smoothly. Now, you can see them scattered among the blocks below, representing some new categories for how information can be filtered:

Square Wheels LEGO model of brain functioning

For those of us that are focused on process improvement and doing things more better faster, we will also look to identify some best practices or other choices that we might then label Round Wheels. Generating peer-level discussions of issues and opportunities and resorting and re-categorizing can refresh the learning process and generate more active involvement and engagement.

When there is something that is thumping and bumping along as a Square Wheel, most of us will think about ways to improve it. Seeing the gap between the way things are and the way things could / should be is motivating for most people, who will consider ways to close that gap. Leon Festinger discussed this kind of approach in his theory of Cognitive Dissonance. That might then look like this as they begin to consider some Round Wheel possibilities:

Round Wheels already exist

Now, obviously, your brain is not built from LEGO, at least for most of us, and I am being relatively simplistic in my descriptive model of basic neurophysiology. There are underlying structures in the brain that handle information in different ways, adding speech and comprehension and motor skills and all other sorts of output processes to the input of information.

But the basics DO apply, in that people’s brains focus on repetition and patterns and things that mesh in with past learnings are more readily integrated into what we know — ideas that are radically different are paradigms that are simply ignored. (See Joel Barker’s work video on Paradigms (from my pals at Star Thrower), based on the research of Thomas Kuhn and published in the 1960s.

Okay. Enough already on The Brain. How about some ideas on people and performance and how all this applies to the workplace!

Okay. The use of my Square Wheels images is really well-grounded in a variety of principles of learning and thinking that you might find interesting. So, I will try to share some of the underpinnings as to why such a simple approach can be so powerful and effective. Think about it!

NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) is a tool that helped me understand more of the links of behavior to how the brain handles information. My training took me to the Master Practitioner level and I led ASTD’s NeuroLinguistic Network for a couple of years a long time ago. It shares some interesting tools, like the Information Sorting Styles approach to thinking patterns. NLP focuses heavily on using dissociation as a tool to generate perspective. I call it, “stepping back from the wagon” in my simple approach and frame the concept of collecting ideas and generating participative involvement like this:

Don't Just DO Something, Stand There

Only by stopping the action and looking at how things work can you possibly identify new or different ways of doing things. By dissociating from the current reality, it is possible to see new relationships and gain new perspectives. Plus, if this is done with a shared approach, with more than one person adding ideas and viewpoints, the impact can be more better faster and the ideas can have more breadth and depth.

Dissociation and perspective also serve to decrease the emotional aspects of managing and leading change. In counseling, being able to simply view the situation without all the heavy emotional hooks is a desired outcome. The same thing occurs in the workplace. Talking about the THINGS that do not work smoothly is much less emotional than addressing issues that might be taken as a personal attack and thus generate defensiveness and active resistance. This is another reason why using Square Wheels as a metaphor is so effective.

Most of you are familiar with inkblot tests, properly called Rorschach tests. The visual has no reality but people will project their ideas onto that image based on their own information processing. (Look, a squirrel!) A related psychological test is the Thematic Apperception Test, which has situational drawings and people are asked to tell a story based on what they see happening. Both of these tools push people to put personal viewpoints and frameworks onto the images, which have no “internal construct” of their own. They are not pictures, but images that allow for differing perceptions and interpretations.

We do the same thing. Heck, this LEGO block is not even a wheel; it is actually a window! But it works for us as an image to use on the wagon, and if we calONE Yellow Square Wheel SWs LEGO 70l it a wheel, it must wheely be a wheel, right? (And I remember the time when I presented the illustrations to a software development group, who identified the Square Wheel as the Windows platform they were programming on! That was a hoot, as well as a surprise…)

Perception is a key to understanding. And people benefit by having a language on to which they can hang ideas. If the word for it does not exist, it is really hard to categorize it. That is another reason why Square Wheels work in the workplace, since they give everyone a common anchor point against which to pull and push around ideas for improvement. By its very nature, it could and should be improved and something that gets labeled a Square Wheel sets itself up for improvement.

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” is a relevant quote from Henri Bergson. Having an image against which to overlay systems and processes allows for a better understanding of the issues around performance improvement.

There are two other aspects to perception that link to the theme of motivation. One is that having some vision, preferably shared with others is important. Knowing where you are going is beneficial. The second is ownership, in that having a sense of active involvement and engagement is important. I can illustrate with another of the Square Wheels images along with one of my most favorite organizational development quotes.

The View at the back of the Square Wheels wagon

The View at the back of the wagon is not motivating

and

SQUARE WHEELS LEGO IMAGE OF MOTIVATION 

Metaphors such as the Square Wheels / Round Wheels dichotomy are easily remembered and incorporated into workgroup language. The simple basic concept of a Square Wheel, something that works but that does not work smoothly, combined with the perception that the Round Wheels already exist in the wagon sets up a motivation for continuous continuous improvement **

Stepping back from the wagon allows a sense of decreased emotion while expanding perceptions, and often “considered alternative choices.” The latter are critical in order to conceptualize a different future. If you cannot see alternatives, you cannot choose from them. Simple.

Daniel Kahneman Illustrated Quote with Square Wheels and LEGO

and

Square Wheels LEGO image ALl of us know more

My goal was to present our simple concept of organizational involvement and transformation, the Square Wheels theme, which is general and flexible and adaptable to a wide variety of personal and organizational development situations. People have a generally favorable memory of LEGO and play, and the links to the issues of combining different perspectives on issues and opportunities lend itself to improved communications.

I will switch to this metaphor to close this out:

Caterpillars can fly lighten up round

I think we can all improve all things if we just take the time to lighten up and look at things from a different perspective,

 

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

Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

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

* back before we became enlightened, we called it “physiological psychology.” Heck, the whole department is now called, “The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience” even though the website is still psychology.unc.edu so go figure… I might as well try to move into the mainstream of popularity.

** Idea from the Department of Redundancy Department and the concept that the Round Wheels of Today will, invariably, become the Square Wheels of Tomorrow. Failure to continuously improve is a design for disaster. Think of land-line telephones and MySpace.

 

Collaboration – Abstracts of Blog Posts of Scott Simmerman

Collaboration offers big benefits to organizations. It directly impacts motivation and engagement and innovation. Yet teams will often not collaborate, and often simply because they choose not to. The reality (and most people’s experience) shows there is more competition than collaboration in most organizations, which is a double edge sword.

What I wanted to do herein is share some of my thinking about these issues, to share a resource to stimulate your choices about these issues. My tools address these opportunities for improvement pretty elegantly.

Why do teams compete? Collaboration offers more positive benefits?

People continually make choices, selecting responses from their existing set of “behavioral alternatives” and often simply choosing to do what they have done before. The book, Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman does an excellent job of sharing the research on decision making and thinking and I expand on his thoughts in this blog.

This post focuses on some common reasons why teams compete and frames up some of the key learning points derived from session debriefings of our teambuilding simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We find that a better understanding about their choice and choices, generated from their own behavior, generates powerful impetus to make changes in how things work.

Sabotage, Defense, Engagement and Workplace Collaboration

Disengagement is but one of the stages of disgruntled employee attitudes, and active disengagement can often generate actual workplace sabotage. This can manifest in a variety of ways, from encouraging other people to mis-align with corporate values to actual adversarial behavior. It can generate work slowdowns, increase sick days or even sick-outs, theft, poor customer service and other negatives. Some general frameworks for solving these issues are discussed.

Interdepartmental Collaboration’s Vital Link to Organizational Profitability

This overviews and connects to an article I published in HR Management Magazine that frames up issues of interdepartmental collaboration and the impacts on organizations. You can download and distribute the article, if that is of interest.

Collaboration and Teamwork and dealing with Mud

I use the metaphor of mud in both my Square Wheels toolkits as well as my Lost Dutchman team building game. Mud is the glop that most workers and most managers need to get a grip on, since it generally appears everywhere and it tends to simply bog you down and make even simple things more difficult. Some managers are better “mud managers” than others simply because they choose to do things differently. These best practices can be shared.

On Collaboration and Decision-Making

This focuses on the general idea of US and THEM, and that the reality is that they are us! It shares some simple thoughts on alignment and the benefits of having a diversity of opinion on things. The reality is that ALL of us know more than ANY of us and that collaboration greatly benefits the quality of our decision making. Involvement also generates ownership, which is important to implementation.

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

More Better Faster – Thoughts on collecting ideas for improvement with #morebetterfaster

There are a LOT of really good ideas out there focused on personal and organizational performance improvement. Some are thoughts about coaching other people or ideas around the concept of flow. There are many different collections of ideas about what best performers do differently such as these ideas from Dan Rockwell along with many other good thinkers.

There are instructional videos on a wide variety of personal improvement approaches and so many other resources. There are great videos on motivating people and generating teamwork and performance improvement like the TedX ones as well as YouTube.

So, I thought that I would start a hashtag collection using

#morebetterfaster

and twitter to see if we might generate a useful collection of ideas, articles, themes, tools, etc. Want to contribute?

square wheels lego image by scott simmerman

Feel free to pop in some twitter ideas with the hashtag, #morebetterfaster, and let’s see if we can make something useful.

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

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