Performance Management Company Blog

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

Tag: collaboration Page 1 of 2

Teamwork Works! Teambuilding has Positive Impacts.

There have been a variety of articles and posts on different leadership development groups taking the position that teamwork does not work to improve organizational performance.

Huh? Seriously?

I would be hard pressed to think of one situation where some kind of teamwork wasn’t necessary to produce an optimal result in some relatively complex situation. Teams and teamwork are how things get done, so taking a position that team building does not have any impact on results and performance seems a bit goofy, right? There are troubles with teams and they do not always work smoothly, and creating a team is not always the best solution to solving a problem, but it is certainly a good one, in general. There is no question that diversity of perspective and ideas gives a better result on most problems in most situations.

Yeah, sometimes we have situations like this:

Square Wheels and competitionbut that is not to say that teams do not work!

But maybe it is the kind of team building training that is the issue behind few observable improvements? Maybe there are some less effective approaches in play.

Last night, I saw an advertisement for Booking.com that was about “The Annual Company Retreat” — It is pretty much a hoot! Click on the image below to see this 30-second commercial (by Booking.com).

Annual company paintball teambuilding retreat booking dot comI think this pretty clearly shows how a LOT of people see teambuilding combined with paintball — does teambuilding need pain, suffering, losers and winners?

Hey! I will admit a vested interest in the issue, since I design and sell interactive exercises focused on issues of engagement and collaboration between teams. And there IS a lot of crap training out there calling itself teamwork — my particular pet peeves are things like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes and other similar “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together, interacting to define things to improve, bonding together to fix problems, etc. Sure, the events themselves are challenging, but does river rafting really build a team of people focused on improving the business?

And Golf as team building? Gimme a break — Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play is crucial to their overall success (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole, but not during play, most certainly. Bowling? Maybe. Cooking? Maybe, if one is running a big commercial kitchen in a restaurant or hotel…

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations, IMHO. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then expect people to work together. In so many organizations, and lots of research supporting this, many of the people are not engaged and many are DIS-engaged. One might not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people.

But we can motivate them. People want to feel successful and not be scared by the risks of performing. We need to get them to a new place, mentally.

Motivate people through success

In high performing workplaces, you will see a collaborative culture where people work together to handle issues and solve problems. Granted, that approach may not work too well in places like Real Estate, Mortgage Lending or Stock Market Sales, but we do see a strong need for collaboration and commitment where things like production or product design or customer service come into play.

Take any group of people, give them some common goals, measure them on shared performance and allow them the ability to help each other and you have the basics for a workplace situation where teamwork will arise. Then, do some activity that demonstrates the benefit of collaboration on the overall results — something like, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Then, debrief that activity and discuss the choices that people made along with the choices they COULD have made, link it to the issues they see in their own workplace, and allow them to make commitments to each other (peer support) and you are highly likely to see improvement (if there is a bit of followup after the session).

Think of all the activities that we engage in where teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment — sports is but one endeavor. And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Celebration plane color green

Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. And improvement is a continuous activity.

Sure, individuals can excel, but only through collaboration and engagement and motivation can we get a group of people to high levels of accomplishment and performance that they can celebrate and then continue to impact.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman Debrief

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

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

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What is Performance Management Company

What is PMC – who are we?

Founded in 1984, PMC is dedicated to collaborating with an international network of trainers and consultants to help create applications to impact engagement, teamwork and organizational performance.

Performance Management Company was founded in 1984 by Scott Simmerman, Ph.D., who is Managing Partner. Back in the old days, performance management referred to “behavioral engineering” kinds of applications, focusing on alignment, feedback and contingent reward systems to generate peak performance for individuals and organizations. That is our heritage, continually looking for what we can choose to do differently to improve performance, generally through increased employee engagement and intrinsic motivation.

Through the years, the company’s base has evolved from consulting to creating and selling products supporting management and organizational development. Sales are worldwide, to organizations and individuals looking for simple tools.

PMC is dedicated to collaborating with a network of trainers and consultants to help create new ideas and applications for products. I continually try to do more than the customers expect, which comes from my 20 years of working on service quality improvement.

The more formal bio says something like this:

Combining work experience in business consulting and retail management with a doctoral degree in psychology and university teaching from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Scott initially created Performance Management as an organizational consulting business. However, the focus of the business changed to designing and selling resources because of a single cartoon called simply, “Square Wheels One.”

From that, Scott created the interactive Square Wheels® illustration series consisting of over 300 cartoons now packaged in different Square Wheels® toolkits, available as complete training packages. Also developed were two different Square Wheels – based team exercises.

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

One of Scott’s premises is that if people enjoy a learning experience they will more readily retain key points.

The fun, fast-paced, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” game was created with this belief in mind. Serious learning points such as collaboration, communication and quality are all entwined with participants having a good time while playing this team building game. It has, hence, become one of the leading team building exercises in the world.

Our materials can be readily reviewed at the Performance Management Company website. My older site — www.SquareWheels.com — has a lot of articles and other supporting information, but it is also a bit dated and not maintained. And, in addition to this blog, I also added the “Poems on The Workplace” blog where I am approaching 200 different poems, quips, business quotes, haiku and all sorts of other simple things about people and performance, illustrated with cartoons and other images. Check it out!

Scott and Joan Simmerman operate PMC as a home-based business since the late 1990s, keeping our costs low and work environment conducive to high quality and responsiveness. All products sold and presentations come with a satisfaction guarantee or monies are returned. PMC works enthusiastically with purchasers of its products to help support their success and satisfaction. And, we get great testimonials from users as well as clients:

Speculand LDGM Testimonial

and

Client Testimonial on Dutchman team building game

Users of PMC products include a global mix of Fortune 100 companies and multi-national organizations as well as small businesses, schools, universities and independent consultants.

Total PMC Client Logo Compendium

Scott is only occasionally available to do speaking engagements and facilitations these days, but people remember his presentations because they are unique, interactive and engaging. This adds up to his consistently being a top-ranked and internationally recognized presenter. His topics include themes of Change, Team Building, Motivation, Productivity, Innovation and Communications, all within a general framework of leadership. Visit his presentation website at www.ScottSimmerman.com.

Since Scott began sharing Square Wheels and his other products, he’s delivered workshops, retreats and seminars in India, South Africa, Egypt, England, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Mexico, Canada, Mauritius, New Zealand, Dubai, Japan, South Korea and all around the U.S — 38 countries in all thus far.

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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Slideshare Overview of Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, a team building game

In the past few weeks, people have been asking me for a fast overview of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, something more than what is on the PMC website and a fast and clean overview that they could share with their prospects who are interested in teamwork and building collaboration or integrating an exercise into their leadership development materials. They wanted a descriptive overview and not a sales piece, which they would do independently.

The result was a Slideshare program that has just been uploaded, one that covers the basic setup and framework, and includes the key goals and desired outcomes, and goes through a solid overview of some of the key debriefing themes and tabletop questions we use.

Slideshare Dutchman icon

The play of the Lost Dutchman game is really designed as, “an excuse to do a debriefing.” By design, we put metaphors in the game that would easily link to issues within organizations in any debriefing of the behaviors and outcomes resulting from playing the simulation:

  • Turbochargers represent Best Practices, better ways to do things than what are in general use now.
  • Mud represents the organizational glop, the bureaucratic goo, the cultural practices that tend to take more energy to deal with.
  • The Goal is to Mine as much gold as We can,” with the “we” referring to the entire group led by the game’s Expedition Leader and not the more competitive “My Team, My Team, My Team” approach for a tabletop.
  • The Role of the Expedition Leader is to Help Teams Be Successful, so that the game leadership can act to help and encourage, with the reality that teams generally do not ask for help.

Overall, we designed the exercise so that players can make mistakes but continue in their play until the end. All teams are successful, but some are more successful than the others. We show the results randomly instead of ranking tops down, simply because ALL the results contribute to the overall total ROI — and we also task the top performing teams with questions about why they chose to not assist or support the lower performing teams.

We’ve got tons of testimonials about the effectiveness of Lost Dutchman in a wide variety of organizational settings on a global basis. Feedback from our many users supports our belief that Dutchman works elegantly as a most powerful and easy-to-deliver team building game that addresses the issues of strategic planning and collaboration  within and between teams. Below is one of many testimonials and others are also, here, on our website:

Stamm LD testimonial

Thanks for taking the time to read through this. You will find dozens of other Dutchman articles in my blog  around the general themes of improving teamwork, working with large groups, ideas for debriefing and similar.

Energize and positively impact future performance of your own teams, organization or clients with this worthwhile game.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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

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

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Tons of Good Writings, so why is improvement so hard? Part One

This is the first of two articles that hammer on the issues around supervision and how they affect engagement and performance. Spending billions for decades, why can’t we actually make improvements in organizations?

I’ll admit to being a pack rat when it comes to articles and interesting ideas. Next to me in the den is the January 1982 issue of Management Review with articles about how FEAR is common in management approaches to people and performance (Machovec and Smith), one on team management and motivation (Littlejohn) and another on closing the gaps in human performance (Bolt and Rummler).

1982 – and a rereading of them shows the articles highly underlined (this seems to be before the invention of the highlighter!) and all the key learning points are really solid. No surprises. On my floor is a 2002 article about collaboration and team building and how organizations need to improve alignment and focus more on collective intelligence — “All of Us know more than Any of Us.”

Like many of you, I have a few hundred books, going back to include Tom Gilbert’s Human Competence (1978 and since republished) and so many other great books by so many authors like Drucker and Peters. Thousands of old articles, and now, thousands of new blog posts, websites, eBooks and all that. Guess I go back the dinosaur age but I sure feel younger than that…

Google ChromeScreenSnapz001 So, what is so darn hard about managing and leading people? Why are companies spending two hundred BILLION dollars every year on newer and newer training programs, blended learning, computerized personality surveys and assessments and all this other stuff? (I outline some of the statistics and some of the issues in an older blog post you can find here along with Part Two of this thinking in a separate blog.)

My older blog article starts with:

In 2010, employers spent more on employees’ development than ever before: businesses in the United States spent $171.5 billion on employee learning in 2010, up from $125.8 billion in 2009, according to ASTD in their recent survey. Apparently, companies are seeing a benefit in investing in the development of their people and that there may be payoffs for that in terms of employee retention and improved performance.

It goes on to talk about some of my thinking about training and coaching and generating commitment. I do not see all this as being all that hard. One supervisor being coached and mentored to teach and support one front-line worker at a time. Sure there is all that technical stuff to teach, but so many basic statistics point to the reality that employee turnover is high due in large part because they do not feel as if they are effectively managed.

I mean, you can find some really elegant stuff out there. Amazingly well designed, logical, superbly crafted training and development programs. But like executives trying to implement strategy, 90% of those initiatives are viewed as failures by the people within the organization and they generally fail to generate any real results. (Am I being too hard here? Maybe, but $200,000,000,000 is a lot of money to find engagement of workers to be less than 30%. Ya think?)

We are spending tons of money on “outdoor team building adventure training” and not seeing any real improvement in business results. (I write my thoughts about why in a whole series of blog posts)

Wouldn’t you agree that you could structure a workplace environment that would involve and engage ONE person to improve their performance? I mean, some combination of improving the feedback they get from their behaviors (see my article on feedback and an analysis of high performance feedback systems) and do the mentoring and coaching needed to fully involve and engage them in making improvements in results?

Can’t you get ONE supervisor to accomplish that change and get ONE of their people to improve their performance? And couldn’t they do that more than one time, like maybe 10 times?

Collaboration. Instead of running around outside solving problems with strings, balls, sticks and buckets, or shooting at each other with paintball bullets or walking on ropes or hot coals or getting soaked on a full-day trip onto some whitewater river, couldn’t you spend half a day in a training room with an exercise that clearly demonstrates the benefits of resource management, strategic planning, project management, alignment, involving leadership and coaching, and collaboration between teams?

We got one of those in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We sell these to companies and consultants with a one-time cost. And I will guarantee that you will get results and that the program will match your desired outcomes. It’s not cheap, but it IS one of the best values in the world of training and development.

We’ve been selling this game for organizational improvement initiatives for 20 years. We’ve had one game returned and no negative comments (that return occurred because the trainer did not get permission to deliver the planned training course.)

When it comes to people and involvement, why are we not simply asking people to be more involved, to share their ideas for what needs to be improved? We do not need a lot of surveys — a simple brainstorming session will produce a lot of the real perceived issues and opportunities for management to act on.

Like Rodney King said so long ago,

“Why can’t we all just get along?”
Why can’t we work on shared goals and objectives
and support better performance?

Celebration plane color green

The Round Wheels are out there!
They are already in the wagon.
Step back, identify and implement.

You can find Part Two by clicking here

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/

 

Teamwork, Communications and Optimization of Performance

My friend Lou Carloni has been sharing ideas about people and performance for many years and a post I received from him this morning was one that got my full attention. The focus of it was on the issues of team communications, and, of course, I will add my normal spin around experiential learning and organizational performance.

Lou’s firm was hired to study communication needs in the Baltimore-Washington Region and they interviewed, surveyed, and held focus groups with over 1000 business professionals. The question asked was,  “If your organization had only enough money, resources, and time to perform training in one area of communications which area would it be:  Reading, Writing, Speaking, or Listening?”

  • Reading and Writing combined received 5% of the vote;  
  • Speaking received 40%;  
  • Listening received 55%.  

I agree with Lou on suggested solutions. One of them was to Get There In Person.

It is not just words, it is how those all come together to drive involvement and engagement, how the issues are framed and how possible solutions are discussed. It is really hard for most leaders to truly understand all the current issues faced by performers working to meet and exceed expectations of management and customers. It is just too easy to keep doing things the same way they were done before, what I always refer to with this illustration:

SWs One green color thin

The real impacts come from managers who get in front of people, asking about issues and opportunities. Lou suggests that words alone account for only 8-10% of the message in interpersonal communication; the spoken sounds account for 30-40% of the message; and the non-verbal elements account for 50-60% of the real message you are trying to send. While you might agree or disagree with the numbers, the presence of the manager up front, listening and supporting is the key.

We accomplish this with our Square Wheels approach and offer a variety of tools and toolkits to assist in the process of facilitation. I have blogged often about this in here and you can find inexpensive Square Wheels Tools on our website. We also support a variety of different team building exercises like Collaboration Journey and Innovate & Implement that are designed to involve and engage people in problem solving. All these products can be delivered by managers with their work teams.

Lou also talked about Gaining Power With The Person. To this I would also add, The Team, since people do work collaboratively in most workplaces. This connects to developing rapport and trust. One way to accomplish this with individuals, teams and groups is through our team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. In this design, the Expedition Leader exists as a person interested in optimizing ROI and results.  The expressed goal of the game is to Mine as Much Gold as WE Can!

The reality is that the tabletops do not plan well, do not collaborate and communicate with other teams, nor do they bother to ask the Expedition Leader for advice or assistance. The game leader, just like the workplace leader, exists to support individuals and teams, but the choices people make are more often to go it alone and not ask for help. In the game, and in the workplace, this measurably sub-optimizes results.

We sell a variety of different Dutchman games, at different price points, for repeated organizational use. You can find out more information about the Lost Dutchman game by going to our website.

Performance feedback is a critical component of good performers and good results, but my work with organizations has continually shown that a wide variety of improvements can be made to impact performance results. You can find a free Feedback Analysis Tool through this blog post.

Lou also talked about Skills versus Attitudes, and I am not sure that these two things are operating against each other or part of a series of competencies that are all important. I am working up an article on Flow for the blog and for the articles section of my home page. Skill is important and there is a continuum of them and skills interact with the perceived challenges people face. Flow is when these mesh together…

I will not reflect herein as to how I see differences between Lou’s thinking and mine on this other than to say that I prefer the way Bob Mager deals with the question. Lou’s website is:  http://www.smbcinc.com

Hope you found this of interest and use,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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

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Innovate & Implement – an exercise linked to getting things done

We’ve been playing with the design of a package focused on innovation for a couple of years. Since creativity and innovation are not primary focuses of mine, this game languishes a bit in my development of it, even though it works really great. It is a full, developed, and effective program that I simply need to play more often with my workshop groups.

It is a board game playable by 3 or better 4 people. Each table is separate from the others in that there is no collaboration or that kind of framework, other than what the players at the table do. I tried to model the issues around common problems that teams face when they try to solve problems and implement ideas and, like most of my other games, it is loaded up with metaphors.

I&I Check it out words

We give each team the instructions and they have to pull together to develop a plan of action and coordinate efforts. As the game progresses, they get more and more efficient with their actions, and make more and more progress.

The goal is to move about the board and enter rooms and solve problems. Once they find the Round Wheels, they can then return home and end the game. Some measure of luck is involved, but it is more about efficiency and effectiveness. And while they can ask for help and find additional information “from a Training Class,” the work harder to avoid that than they do on learning anything!

You, as facilitator, can keep the players “tight to the rules and policies” or allow them to bend them a little to play better and faster. You, in a real sense, influence the Innovate & Implement game culture.

The debriefing of the game is excellent, and we package the exercise complete with our other Square Wheels tools to allow you to either integrate the game with your existing innovation or implementation processes or to build a complete program around the exercise with our other outstanding tools.

I&I Bundle Contents

And you always have Scott to assist. He freely offers his consulting and coaching time to insure that you have the product you need integrated with the learning that you want.

Scott and I&I w title

The simplicity of this exercise would allow your supervisors to play it with their people to involve and engage them and generate the intrinsic motivation and teamwork to go forward and identify and solve their workplace issues and then develop an effective plan of action for implementation.

This package is a great value at $495 and you can see more information about the exercise at our website. Click here or on the game board icon below:

I&I gameboard 20

This is a fully developed, completely supported package of excellent tools!

I&I Game Folder image

For the FUN of It!

Muscles slide in background

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

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

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Collaboration and Teamwork and dealing with Mud

People and Performance — Here are some simple poems and frameworks to get people thinking about issues and opportunities. The goal is to generate one good thought or insight into doing things differently.

Let’s start this with a simple poem to embellish the theme with a bit of my thinking about how things often work. So, here is an image / poem which stimulated the overall design of an illustrated article. Isn’t that how innovation really works for all of us? Anyway, here we go:

Mud Jeep yellow poemThis cartoon image comes from our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and is an integral part of our debriefing package. Players must deal with all sorts of mud to generate their successes.

In the game, mud on one of the selected routes to the mine causes teams to use extra resources and energy, just as it does in the real world. They know that it will cost that extra Fuel, but they are surprised by that nevertheless. Mud is the glop that people have to deal with so often in the workplace, taking the form of bureaucracy, politics, culture and the other things that do not support innovation and improvement. Mud simply bogs one down and costs extra energy to deal with it.

Mud also occurs when people choose to compete rather than collaborate, since one group will often create problems for another group that shares the same overall goal. This happens clearly in the Dutchman game. It also happens all the time in organizations — we call it Interdepartmental Collaboration! Mud is a pain to deal with — some might find it to be cement while others find it to work more like grinding paste, that grit that wears things out.

So, that first poem then got me working on the next few little ditties:

Alligators and sharks totally wired poem

They are out there too, like Spectator Sheep:

Spectator Sheep poem

So, things can then look something like this when it all comes together:

Mud Jeep RWs Alligator Sheep poemWe can make improvements. We must make improvements. Solutions abound. Ideas are everywhere. We just need people to consider other alternatives and choose to collaborate and cooperate and look to do things differently.

But progress forward requires employee engagement and involvement, leadership perspective and a team effort. We simply have to get the conversation rolling forward smoothly, along with shared goals and teamwork:

Spring of improvement and change poem

(Yeah, I do have fun with this stuff!)

For the FUN of It!

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 easily at scott@squarewheels.com

US and THEM – a poem about teamwork and collaboration

US and THEM - a poem about teamwork and collaboration

The lyrics of Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” are somewhat about teamwork and leadership — I love the tune (still humming it!). And I have used this cartoon of US being built up full of THEM for 20 years. In Lost Dutchman, a tabletop of people will choose to work together on the shared goal of, “Mining as much gold as we can,” and miss the them of “Mining as much gold as WE can,” which is the purpose of the game from the standpoint of the Expedition Leader. Each team’s success is important, but the overall success is more important, right?

That first lyric talkes about “US” being ordinary people. Ordinary men can do extraordinary things and it is all about the choice and choices people make. But we need to understand that Us is We and that They is Us. We’re all in this together and need to be more aligned, with better leadership.

They - 4 people Pointing

The song lyrics are below, and you can listen to it on YouTube here

Microsoft PowerPoint001

I think we need to remember that our workplaces are full of such “ordinary men” and that each of us has the potential to perform at high levels. What we need are good “Generals” who lead us boldly forward toward a shared vision of the future, but who also engage us and have a real sense of what is happening. After all, as I have written before,

Desk is danger red quote round

and what we need is something that looks like this from the back of the wagon:

View Front at Back with Mission

Have fun out there, and remember to involve and engage.

Muscles slide in backgroundDr. 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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New Square Wheels tools for improvement are on the way, focused on building teams and increasing employee engagement.

Team Building and Collaboration for Performance Improvement

A variety of recent emails and phone calls have gotten me re-energized. It seems as though a whole new bunch of people have gotten interested in doing our Lost Dutchman teambuilding exercise with their managers and staff to help them focus on overall organizational improvement and alignment. I say that because these are people who seem to be new at doing this, not the usual crowd that I hear from who have, “been there and done that” and who are just looking for a better tool.

Herb LD testim 100

And, we are seeing more companies in Asia using The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” as a major part of their strategy implementation efforts. Based on the work of Robin Speculand in Singapore, we know that most strategy implementation efforts fail, and that is often because of low levels of organizational alignment, interdepartmental conflicts and a lack of overall collaboration to work through the risky stages. Dutchman works exceptionally  well for those kinds of change initiatives.

So, I’ve been able to put my Coaching Hat on my head and talk about the different kinds of things that they can do. Three of these contacts were going to be doing large events (250, 100-200-500, and 1100 (really!) and thus I shared my Best Practice of getting all of the Most Senior Managers into one room for a full day to deliver The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, debrief the game based on the kinds of collaboration and teamwork shown by these leaders, and then to discuss how these senior managers would like their people to play together.

Robin LD testim 100

Sure has been fun, being in this business of helping people have lots of positive impacts on other people!

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 atscott@squarewheels.com

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

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Generating LESS Collaboration? Really?? And how about even MORE Collaboration!

I am sitting in a restaurant with a not-to-be-named old friend and customer and we are talking about why he sometimes uses a competitive product in his team building trainings. His comment is basically that, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine generates TOO MUCH collaboration among the players and between the tabletops.”

And my response was basically, “Really? How can one have too much collaboration among people in the workplace?”

It turns out that I did get his point. Basically, Lost Dutchman sets up measurable improvements when players work together and share information as well as resources across the tabletops. They need a good plan of action and an overall solid strategic plan to manage their own resources, so the game rewards that. But the game also makes extra resources available to a team even though there is no additional benefit to them. Those same resources could be shared and would have great benefits to another team, however.

What we are talking about is a Turbocharger. A team acquiring this resource can move two blocks a day instead of one block, thus going twice as fast as normal. If the team acquires the information about the Turbochargers, they get THREE of them, instead of the single one that they can use. Thus, they gather two extra ones that are not usable and that have no intrinsic value.

ImageImageImage

But my friend did a lot of work with sales organizations whereby the other salesmen were NOT normally collaborating with others. They were not competing, precisely, but they did share common territories and had some overlap in customers. Think of the sales people in a car dealership, for example, who represent the same company and products but who have their own base of customers / prospects and where “sniping” is not a positive outcome.

So, he was using Gold of The Desert Kings, which had some of the same kinds of game dynamics but where teams were more obviously in competition to beat each other and where the overall success of all the teams was less emphasized. Heck, teams that planned badly even died, which might have some relevance to certain workplaces. He used GDK even though he knew that Dutchman was a better exercise for the group. He wanted something that did not reward inter-team collaboration so heavily, since that was not the norm for some of his training sessions.

And he also liked Dutchman more because it was faster to play and easier to debrief. But it was just too collaborative in design…  He was clearly conflicted.

But a moment later, the solution appeared: “Why don’t we design it with only ONE Turbo, so that we reward strategic planning and they can still mine more gold as a team, but it doesn’t set up that much inter-team collaboration as a game dynamic?”

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Seemed like a simple idea then and it remains a simple idea now.

It is just one more of the examples of how we can make slight modifications to The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to make the game more in line with desired outcomes. Instructions for creating these single-Turbo versions are included with the game materials,

For the FUN of It!

PRIDE – Issue or Opportunity?

One of the illustrations I have used over the years to focus on organizational paradoxes is this one:

Pride in Work is a good thing. But is Pride focused on Performance? How do these things relate?

I use this to get tabletops to discuss, “What is happening here?”

So, what IS happening in the illustration above?

One thing we can do is allow people to “polish things up,” but does that really pay any dividends? Does a clean break room refrigerator actually translate to results that will sustain the numbers of people in the workgroup and to performance improvement?

Maybe. But I think that too few organizations take that motivation of Pride and translate that into teamwork and workplace results. Too often, the group is focused only on the group and we sometimes see HIGH levels of pride translate into something that looks like this:

Interdepartmental Collaboration often looks like this. High levels of My Team, My Team can generate too much focus on MY Teams success and not enough on the organization. Really. Seen this too often…

What is happening here is why the term “Interdepartmental Collaboration” is so often seen as an oxymoron in most organizations. Oxymorons are words that do not really fit well together like Jumbo Shrimp, pretty ugly, free love, Great Depression and my personal favorite, religious tolerance…

The issue is that one team, wanting to win and generally succeeding, will not make another team’s journey any easier if they can have their way. Sharing success is seen as counter to succeeding and being seen as successful.

Teamwork and collaboration between teams are key issues in organizational improvement and generating optimal results. Our team building exercises are nearly all focused on generating competitive behaviors and discussing the choices that people make to compete rather than collaborative performance optimization.

Working together and sharing ideas can improve performance of ALL the wagons, not just the one in the lead.

Work together, Have FUN!

 

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

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

Motivation, Collaboration, Engagement and Dis-Un-Empowerment*

Dis-un-empowerment: The removal of those performance-influencing factors (real or believed) that are thought to be un-empowering by the individual or individuals.

And we can define Motivation as the absence of de-motivating factors.

The concept of empowering people is really a difficult one – lots of things have been written about it over the years but it requires the active involvement of senior managers, a whole lot of trust between managers and employees, and often some significant changes in workplace culture.

Plus there is the reality that one cannot really empower someone else – try it with a teenager if you need any proof of this!

I posted my first article on this subject back in 2006 and got a lot of interesting feedback about this simple but effective approach to involving and engaging people in an activity to improve morale, motivation and real performance.

We take the simple and somewhat obvious position that most people are far from actually being empowered or more properly, acting empowered. There are tons of statistics that support this notion.

So what are we actually talking about here? Let me start with a few simple examples of engaged and motivated people:

1) At a major hotel chain, employees are wearing buttons that say, “Yes I can.” I ask the front-desk clerk if she could give me a button because I am speaking that next morning on customer service and she says, “No, I can’t.”

She really did want to give it to me, but she said wearing the button was required as management’s policy, that they were expected to have one on, the hotel didn’t have extras and that she would be yelled at by her boss for not having a button. Caught in a dilemma, she was not able to do what the company or customer wanted her to do. (I did persuade her to give me the button and I used it in my session, explaining the dilemma she faced. Heck, I even invited her boss to sit in for free (but he did not!)).

The paradox is that management is telling her to act one way while asking her to follow a policy that blocks this request.

2) At McGuffey’s Restaurants, employees and managers wore buttons saying, “The Answer is Yes.” Unlike the above, ask anyone for a button, and they’ll give you their very last one, knowing this response is the expectation of top management. The employees are simply trusted to act appropriately. This attitude infected all kinds of behaviors, with waitresses making a quick run to McDonalds to buy a customer’s kid a Big Mac, raising money for charities or driving to the grocery store to buy anchovies for my Caesar salad.

Top performers, the ones who build positive long-term relationships with customers, will often bend rules and make decisions for the long-term good of the customer relationship when necessary. They tend to retain customers and build loyalty. At the other end of the spectrum, many people will blindly follow policies, procedures, systems and all those constraints that they believe are imposed on them from all over the place, significantly impacting performance.

Many people in the workplace are un-empowered and thus un-responsive and roadblocked by their perceptions of what the organization wants. Or they are roadblocked by their own beliefs about their capabilities. Or, they simply do not know how to get things accomplished.

My answer to performance improvement is simple and straightforward – let’s remove those things that individuals and groups feel are blocking their responsiveness and performance. That is not to say that we change all the policies and procedures, but that we discuss the approach of the top performers in the context of the organization.

If people are un-empowered, then let’s remove the things that might be blocking performance. Let’s work to limit the perceived roadblocks and provide some useful strategies and tactics to work around things inhibiting better results, on an individual and group basis. Thus,

Improvement is all about people; people dis-un-empowered to make decisions to the benefit of the customer and the company. And we know from decades of behavioral research that peer support can work wonders on individual performance, if we allow or encourage it.

What is Dis-Un-Empowerment and how do we Implement?

There are two issues to dis-un-empowerment, the organizational ones and the personal ones. Personal dis-un-empowerment issues are sometimes less clear, while it is easy to get consensus on common organizational ones.

Astronaut Scott Carpenter gave a nice analogy about walking in space. Years of training, simulations, and practice in weightless conditions as well as hundreds of hours of discussion and preparation did not adequately prepare him for the reality of standing in the doorway of the spacecraft with black infinity in every direction. He thought he could do it, but he froze. Wouldn’t you? There are direct parallels to dis-un-empowering people.

The American Society for Quality Control reported that while two in three workers said they had been asked to become involved in workplace decision-making, only one in seven felt they had the power to make those decisions. And if they don’t feel dis-un-empowered to make decisions, they won’t make them. And a Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. 

Why don’t most people feel able to make improvements? Because they are uncomfortable doing things differently than they have done them before. Most people will resist change.

“The only change people like is the kind that jingles in their pockets.”
my friend, Jerry Brown

“Change is good. You go first.
Dilbert Principles

Note that almost every organization has a few top-performing employees doing exactly what is necessary to generate results. They are the people that have the highest productivity and profitability.

Exemplary performers manage roadblocks much more effectively and tend to have clearer perspectives and focus on what your customers require. They also tend to focus on doing the small things that truly make a difference in building a client relationship with the customer. But also recognize that they often bend the rules to do what is right — thus delivering the highest perceived value.

A few years ago, Frank Navran had the opportunity to observe the role that perception plays in people’s ability to manage obstacles. Frank was involved in a performance improvement project and asked to observe a work group to identify the behavioral, attitudinal and/or skills and knowledge differences between the exemplary performers, average performers and poor performers.

The intent was to identify those differences so that an intervention could be devised to make the average and poor performers more like their exemplary peers to raise overall unit performance levels.

What ensued was rather frustrating for the consultant and the client. Aside from the actual performance results there were no noticeable behavioral differences. The only apparent difference was the workers’ response to the question, “What is keeping you from performing at a higher level?

  • The exemplary performers said they had fewer than 3 perceived roadblocks to higher performance levels.
  • The average performers identified 6 roadblocks each.
  • The poor performers cited 12 or more reasons why they could not perform at a higher level.

Their significance was twofold:

1. As all employees worked under near identical conditions nothing differed except their perception of the number of obstacles to exemplary performance facing them.

2. The differences seemed to be more perceptual than real. This lead the consultant to the hypothesis that in this client’s organization the performance difference might be related to the employee’s perceptions about his or her own power to remove the roadblocks to higher level performance.

Further testing proved him right. In addition, the consultant observed that employee perceptions fell into four sets or categories that could be generalized and applied to other cases. These can be drawn as a Square, of course:

Category 1 – BRICK WALLs

Some roadblocks are truly unalterable. There are things in the real world facing people that inhibit their performance which they are not likely to change: the effectiveness of a foreign competitor’s product, the slumping national economy, the international exchange rate, the organizational structure at the organization, the funding and paperwork processes for new product development, etc. These are all factors which affect employee performance but are well beyond individual or collective control. Characterize these as brick walls: immovable and real.

Category 2 – PARTITIONs

The second category of roadblocks are those that can be managed through with effort, time, money and/or additional personnel, or other resources. The individual employee might make some degree of progress in overcoming this particular inhibitor to performance. Often a small group of employees can make even more progress collectively. And, most importantly, this type of roadblock can be managed in large part or totally, if supervision or management gets involved. This type of roadblock is characterized as a partition, since a partition, if pushed from the bottom, might move slightly, but if pushed from a higher level will often topple. These are real roadblocks which the employees require assistance to remove.

Category 3 – PAPER WALLs

The third category was reminiscent of a football game where the home team burst through a paper barrier to the cheers of the crowd at the start. Until tested, this roadblock often looks impenetrable. Workplace examples are common, and include the belief that the boss will not approve, that it won’t be supported by another department, that it is “policy” or the way things have always been done, etc.

But people discover that these beliefs aren’t true when they test these perceptions. Others have done things differently and are doing things differently. But, unless tested, this roadblock is just as effective in preventing performance as the first two. These are manageable, but also real.

Category 4 – MINDSETs

This type of roadblock is the most troubling to management. It represents the untested beliefs and perceptions. When people believe they can’t, they are correct. These roadblocks are de-actualizing and restrictive, yet arbitrarily so in that they really do not exist. Interestingly, these are generally the most common of all the different types and the ones that block the below average performers from improvement.

Using the Model

It is always fascinating to observe how different employees manage the different roadblocks they face. Top performers, as a group, are generally not impeded by many of the things that get in the way of average or poor performers. Their model of how things really work appears to be more proactive and behaviorally-oriented. They are generally more willing to test the roadblocks to see which are which and are often quick to refer the Category 1 and 2 roadblocks to management whereas they push through the 3s and 4s.

Average performers, on the other hand, are sometimes stymied by roadblocks in many cases. Some may stubbornly push the 1s and try to get them to move even though they do not have the power to do so. They may often spend a lot of individual time on the 2s, trying to generate change and feeling good when they manage to get past them; this behavior, while well-intentioned, may not be time and energy effective!

Poor performers can generate long lists of roadblocks that get in the way of getting things done. They face innumerable hurdles in their everyday job and can constantly point out the things that cause their performance levels to be low.

How to deliver the theme:

So, here’s an empowering exercise that you can easily do to help reshape the thinking of the poor performers and generate new alternative behaviors among the average ones.

Use a flip chart and masking tape and start a meeting with the question, “What are some of the roadblocks to getting things done around here?” or similar. Allow the group to brainstorm and write everything down.

(Note: You might want to set the Rules as, “All comments are okay, everything gets written down and we discuss the specifics of each idea when we complete the list. No negative reactions are allowed in this part of the meeting.”)

Capture all of the ideas without reframing or rewording, since changing wording might change the meaning or it may be perceived as a “put-down” to an employee with less than perfect language skills who might then not participate any longer. You can also ask for clarification after you write it down, making notes on the page.

Ask individuals, if necessary, to generate the participation of everyone, but expect more roadblocks to come from the average and poor performers. Write them all down. You may also prompt, when the going gets slow, by saying something as, “How about the interdepartmental things?”

Post up the sheets as they become filled and do not be surprised to get 10 or more pages (my personal record: 22 pages!). The more the better. Really!

Once the list is essentially complete, share the model of Roadblock Management with them, describing the categories and the general frameworks of each.

Now, go back through this list and have the group categorize, as best they can, the nature of each of the roadblocks. Let THEM do this — that way it is their list and not yours!

What you will discover is that 80% of the roadblocks will be 3s and 4s and that the top performers will often offer everyone suggestions as to how to manage the 2s more effectively. The Category 1 roadblocks are those that you should volunteer to escalate and some of the 2s might be addressed by a team of your people, including some of the poorer performers.

Celebrate any ideas for improvement and attempts to address specific problems. And be sure to get out of the way as the group and individuals now engage in some dis-un-empowerment.

© Performance Management Company, 1998 – 2010 All Rights Reserved.

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

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

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Employee Engagement, Kaizen and Japan

I will admit to being sometimes confused, as I am now…

My recollection is that one of Japan’s contributions to the world of quality was Kaizen and its focus on continuous improvement of production. Unlike the American approach of Big Innovative Leaps, Kaizen was accomplished through the generation of lots of ideas from employees, generating a more gradual improvement over time.

One stat from my files was that a manufacturer in 1986 got 6 million ideas from the employees (and one individual contributed 15,681!). One would logically think that Kaizen and engagement would be pretty tied together.

When I looked to confirm these same ideas in the TowersPerrin (2008) report on employee engagement, a pie-chart showed that only 3% of Japanese employees are engaged and 25% enrolled – that 16% are disengaged.

The numbers for the US are 14%, 42% and 11%, Hong Kong as 5%, 36% and 13%, PRC – China as 16%, 51% and 6%,and South Korea is 8%, 45% and 7% respectively for these same categories. Granted these are different cultures, to be sure. But such a small percentage of engaged employees for Japan?

country engaged enrolled disenchanted disengaged
Japan 3 25 56 16
US 29 43 22 6
Hong Kong 5 36 46 13
China 16 51 27 6
South Korea 8 45 40 7

We are not seeing that data like we used to see. Is it that the older workers in the big corporations have simply lost touch with the younger generation, who are so incredibly different? I posted up a blog recently about Millennials and issues of an aging workforce here – the statistics are not what you think they would show for the US workforce, but reflect the issues of the economy and the tenuous nature of “retirement income.”

So, I am confused. Anyone have thoughts or insights into these numbers and this situation? Is Kaizen still being done and can / will people make suggestions even when they are not involved and engaged with the company itself?

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

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

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Implementing Improvement – Ideas on Brainstorming

“Nobody ever washes a rental car!“

If one is to expect anything to happen after any training, they must insure that there is buy-in and participation and engagement. One often hears that we need to “empower” the participants go actually go out and do something. Well, I strongly disagree with that – With a doctorate in psychology and 30+ years of consulting and training experience, I have no clue as to how to empower anyone to actually DO anything.

I believe that there are many many opportunities for workplace improvement among individuals and among small groups. There is also some general motivation to make improvements if people see a gap between what happens now and what could or should be happening. Cognitive Dissonance is but one framework that supports this idea of intrinsic motivation for improvement.

But in the workplace in most organizations, and especially in today’s risk-averse and “job enhanced” environments, the real key to rolling forward is not something like feedback or empowerment; I think it is Dis-Un-Empowerment that needs to be addressed and implemented.

Most of us make choices all through the day as to what we will do or not do. Often, we choose NOT to do something because we perceive roadblocks (example: “He won’t support that idea because he did not support the last idea I had…”).

Most people can think of LOTS of things that would get in the way of implementing some idea or ideas for improvement (“It might be against policy.” “There probably won’t be any support / resources for that.”)

One key role of training (and management and coaching) is to act to REMOVE the perceived or potential roadblocks that are un-empowering to people acting individually or in groups. That can be accomplished by getting pre-ordained support from managers not in the workshop, having managers come into the training session to hear the ideas and manage the roadblocks (and have THEIR roadblocks managed – many managers are even more roadblocked than their people!) and for the trainer to have a very good background understanding of what can be done and how it can be accomplishes.

One of the things we miss today are trainers with the extensive background in how to implement and measure the effectiveness of the training when it comes to workplace improvement. There are lots of factors operating there, which can be one of the reasons that outside consultants can often get things accomplished when inside ones cannot — they have the power of money and support behind them.

Knowing how the most success PAST improvements were  implemented can often share insight into how the next FUTURE improvement might be implemented. There are cultural keys that offer perspective on these kinds of things.

Creating a gap between how things are now (Square Wheels thumping and bumping along) and how things could be operating (Round Wheels already exist) and defining an implementation strategy for making small and continuous changes and improvements often makes change and improvement very doable.


But the key is that feeling of ownership involvement. Too many people “rent” their time to an organization and simply choose to go through the motions of keeping employment, rather than buying-in and being sufficiently engaged to improve workplace improvement. The statistics on engagement and on “ready to leave for a new job elsewhere” are pretty discouraging… But good managers generate it while average ones do not.

After all, how many of the readers of this blog are ready to jump ship right now if another offer came along and how many are actively searching for new employment? The stats say about half…

How many are brainstorming new ideas to start businesses or taking a class to be more marketable in the very near future?

And most people do want to make a positive impact on the work they do and the workplace around them. Many really WANT things to be better, if their managers will let them do so. It was Peter Drucker who said that managers basically prevented people from doing their jobs in many cases.

Things are NOT good — According to a November 2011 analysis of its database of 5,700 employers representing 5 million employees, human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure.

That should concern all of us interested in productivity and performance.

You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement by clicking on the link and thus searching the blog.And, an article is here.

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There.
Look for ways to make things better!

=Square Wheels Icebreaker icon

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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Involving and Engaging, Consensus, and Dot-Voting for Facilitating Engagement

Guess I got into a “writing mode” today, since I was on one of the LinkedIn discussions again and generated a lengthy response to that same issue of followup on brainstorming to get things implemented.

What I shared were some ideas on building consensus. What the heck, here is what I wrote:

I like Ger’s “Silent Consensus” approach. Funny, though, in that I cannot imagine ME being that silent for that long!!

I do a similar thing with “Dot Voting,” where I give each person 3 or 4 (depending on group size) colored sticky dots and have them vote on pasted up easel pad sheets of an issue (and later, some ideas for resolving that issue). So, each person has three Red Dots, for example, and they are to vote their dots (all 3 on one, one on each of three, whatever) for the Most Important Issue, say. The only rule is that they cannot vote on their own work.

We might then vote with three Yellow Dots on those issues that are “the most political or culturally difficult” or some such framework.

We might vote Green Dots on the issues that have the Most Profit Potential or Blue Dots on those that are The Most Important. My only strategy is to use different dots and have the color be somewhat meaningful in a natural way. The categories might be anything.

My session focuses are generally on innovation (Square Wheels as how things are and Round Wheels as to ideas for improvement) or on teamwork and collaboration or leadership or motivation.

I do an exercise on Roadblock Management where I focus on Dis-Un-Empowerment (article here) — identifying the different roadblocks that might exist knowing that the top performers are roadblocked less and use different strategies for dealing with them than those used by below-average performers. (Note: remember that half the people in the group will actually be “below average performers” – technically it is “median” but average is the common vernacular.)

One can use colored dot voting for identifying the Main Most Difficult Structural Roadblocks (red ones) down to the ones that people (mistakenly) believe to get in the way of action (pink dots).

It is the same basic idea as Ger’s. I just use a technique of “anonymous forced browsing” and add it to my consensus-building work. Visually, one sees which ones get votes and which ones do not get much support. Thus, One Person’s Main Bug will show itself as “not too important to the whole group” if it gets few or no votes. That (negative) peer pressure is useful in moving things more midstream…

My technique also forces everyone to participate in the voting.

After all, “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and getting people involved and engaged is a main theme of really helping ideas get implemented and acted upon.

Hooray for Ownership! The more the merrier.

——-

The Dot-Voting or Multi-Voting technique is simple, flexible and easily used — and it works seamlessly.

It is fast and something that I sometimes use as part of the group break – they can head out immediately if they need to and vote on their return or they can vote and then get coffee or whatever. You generate some forced browsing of more than their own ideas, which helps build some shared ownership of issues and opportunities. All one needs is a list from each tabletop that requires some reaction from the participants. It really helps alignment, too.

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games Scott small picand 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

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