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

Tag: Dr. Scott J. Simmerman (Page 1 of 3)

Sweet Feed for Herding the Cows: Ideas for Improved Organizational Results

There is a lot written out there about motivation and all sorts of complicated theories that are similar in difficult to landing a vehicle on a moving comet. Yeah, we can do it, but it does take a bunch of real rocket scientists to accomplish, along with a lot of computers and mathematics and a good bit of luck.

We often hear of really difficult issues of alignment when faced with implementing strategy or change or accomplishing organizational innovation. So let me take a moment to back up from all the complexity and share a simple conceptual model of how to get things moving in the right direction.

Okay, I admit to having a doctorate in behavioral neurophysiology, so I actually do understand that brain science stuff. But my role in life is to simplify things, not explain the neurobiological chemistry of all this stuff…

Okay. You have a lot of cows in the pasture and you need to get them all to some new place. The normal strategy we see is that we get all the cowboys in an all-hands meeting and we talk about situational issues and engage them in some cattle-driving. This appears in a lot of different ways but overall, I think of it as getting the cowboys on their horses and having them ride at the far edge of the herd, making a lot of noise and generating a lot of activity and fear.

If we do this “right,” we can get the cows moving through the gate at the opposite end of the pasture somewhat quickly, albeit with a loss of a few cows, high levels of frantic movement and a good bit of stress from them hearing all the shouting and gunfire. And it might also be fun for the cowboys, if they do not have to do this every month or so.

Sweet Feed and a more effective approach:

A different theory would say that it is not necessary that you motivate ALL the cows at the same time, since you really cannot do that anyway. But you can also help to involve and engage a few of the leader cows to support your efforts and that this will actually engage the rest of them.

So, you get up in front of the cows nearest the gate (the ones closest to your actually new desired goals or direction and the ones who can actually see where you want them to go) and you entice them by tossing out a little sweet feed tossed between them and the gate. “AH,” say those cows. “This looks like an interesting situation!” and you gradually draw them forward toward the goal, which gets closer and closer. This actually does not take a long time, once they notice the incentive. (Note: This can take longer if they do not trust the people between them and the gate!)

The reality is that the other cows, also nearer the gate than the ones at the back, will also get curious as to what is happening and will follow the lead cows. As the distance increases between these two sets of cows and the others, you might also have a few cowboys at the back stir things up a little bit, but not so much as to cause a stampede. The cows in that larger group will be observed to close the distance to the front cows.

Pretty soon, you have them all moving forward, since we can predict a normal bell-shaped curve for most measures of most things in most organizations. The shape of the curve will remain relatively constant and this will include the distance between the top performers / front cows and those at the back that will move with the group but less quickly than we might like.

Scott Simmerman being confused by a graph showing performance and #s of cows

Scott Simmerman being confused by a graph showing performance and numbers of cows. Seriously!

A shift to the right of the median (line down the middle) will simply move the whole curve to the right.

We tend to make this “performance thing” really complicated and we can add all sorts of behavioral models, intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, measurement and appraisal systems and we can overlay all of those on different change models, personality and information sorting personal inventory measurement systems, and all that other stuff we do to block most change from occurring.

For me, I find we get change when we:

  • Make the vision of the future more attractive
  • Increase the discomfort with the way things are now for individuals and groups
  • Do things to make people feel successful with their change and improvement efforts
  • Create positive peer support for the desired changes and strategies

Nobody ever washes a rental car” and we cannot simply expect people to change because we are pushing them to move by using cowboys, gunshots and other organizational noise. We can do some simple “sweet feed” kinds of things to improve their individual engagement and involvement as well as to do some teamwork kinds of things to get people moving forward together.

We improve our results by getting our individuals to want to improve their results. Sure, we can do things like building smaller pastures to have fewer cows to move and we can also add electric fences and cowboys in Humvees to decrease how many are involved in chasing the cows forward.

Or not. So:

Give people a reason to change. Help them move forward.

Hope you found this fun. My old friend Ken Junkins used this story back in a situation with some managers maybe back in the early 80s and I thought it was a solid and interesting metaphor that has gotten a few of my own spins tossed in to make it clear.

I liken the situation, shifting my metaphors a little, to the people simply standing and not engaging or participating. They are simply standing!

Square Wheels image of Lego Team

What we need to do is get them more involved and engaged in actually doing things and making changes.

LEGO Square Wheels image of teamwork and innovation

People want to change the wheels of the wagon to make things work better. It is relatively easy to engage them in fixing the things that they think need fixing. And their testing of the waters and initial successes in making improvements will help them to make more improvements down the road.

 

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

Simple, Powerful, Effective Team Building Simulation

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine continues to generate really positive feedback from customers. Since 1993, it has been continuously improved and refined to the point where it runs seamlessly, generates wonderful reflection, and clearly mirrors the organizational culture of the players.

We just had a situation where a senior line manager again rented the exercise for a team building and organizational development session she was leading for her team. The company is an electrical utility and she had about 50 managers in her new organization that she wanted to work with. The Lost Dutchman game was part of her overall goal of getting to know her people better and building some trust.

She had rented the Dutchman game in her previous assignment and had liked the outcomes and discussions it generated. This time, she liked it even more!

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

The team building exercise sets up situations where players and teams have a variety of choices, and their strategic planning and collaboration within and between teams generates measurable results and a return on investment. When a team plays well, they generate good results. When the team chooses to try to beat the other teams, we generally see measurable sub-optimizing impacts on overall results.

Here are the comments from a young church leader, who had experienced the exercise as part of the DeVos Foundation work with leadership development and the inner city and who then used the game to impact his church and generate much better alignment and team building:

testimonial on The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game

People make choices, and we debrief on the choices made and how those same choices relate to their workplace, their alignment as team members of the group, and how choosing to compete impacts the culture as well as the customer. The goal of the exercise is to Mine as much Gold as we can and the role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful. ALL of this relates very directly to workplace improvement.

We love to get this continuing stream of positive comments and testimonials about how the play of the game impacts people and performance. It is confirmation that our plans have generated positive impacts and changes,

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.

 

The Art of Reframing and the Power of Positive Possibilities

A few months ago, I crafted up a blog for Diane Crampton that I thought I should also publish here in my blog. I called it,

Recovering the Powers of Positive Possibilities – Ideas and Anchors for The Leadership Art of Reframing

Research shows that new hires rather quickly lose that initiative and spark and that they generally regress to the average morale of the group within a short period of time (Sirota Research, 2010). In other words, they had that motivation and they lost it because of how they were managed!

1SWs One Recover what we lost seuss

Recovery. Noun. 1) The act or process of returning to a normal condition, especially from sickness, a shock, or a setback; recuperation; 2) restoration to a former or better condition; 3) the regaining of something lost; 4) the extraction of something useful from materials or a situation which is otherwise useless or poor.

So, let’s talk about Recovery. If you step back from the wagon, you will see that this illustration both represents how things really work in most organizations and that it represents a whole big bunch of issues and opportunities.

Many Round Wheels are already in the wagon, so one key to identifying the issues is simple:

 Don’t Just DO Something. Stand there!

In haiku, it might read something like this:

2SWs One Haiku dawn breaks with noises

click on this image to open our poems and haiku blog

So, this is a blog around some ideas for dis-un-engaging people. The basic idea is pretty simple:

“Potential Possibility for Performance Productivity Practices Already Exist, and Square Wheels are everywhere!
Find them, Engage People, and Fix Things!

3Real men mud haiku

But don’t find the wheels yourself! Find the wagon pushers and have them find the wheels, identify the possibilities and implement their own solutions. The rationale is quite simple:

People resist the changes done TO them but develop ownership involvement for their own ideas about making things better.
Nobody ever washes a rental car.

People need to be engaged and the role of manager is to help remove all those things that have been disengaging them in their work. If they have some ownership of the solutions and they see possibilities for improvement, they will put forth more effort to succeed. As the two next illustrations might show, it is about motivation and active involvement:

Square Wheels image and Dr. Seuss poem on performance

But the reality is that the manager is an unknown factor in all this in most workplaces. Surveys show that people often feel their ideas are ignored or that they are under aversive control. They will show a lot of compliance behavior, not what we want for involvement and engagement. There is often an issue of trust. And, “Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled.” (Frank Navran)

The suggestion is that managers do a better job of simply asking for ideas for improvement and productivity and that they do a better job of listening and empowering people to actually implement those ideas. What we suggest is that you take the ideas about what is not working smoothly and reframe them into possibilities that can be implemented.

Square Wheels image and poem on performance

If people point to something as a Square Wheel, people will naturally generate a round wheel alternative based on their cognitive dissonance. The real question is one of motivation, reflected as, “Why bother; no one cares…”

Managers need to be identified as coaches and mentors, in addition to their other roles. They need to act as if they care about improvement and about people. Managers should be looking ahead, identifying possibilities and future outcomes, and involving and engaging their staffs for the long pull ahead.

Square Wheels image of Mentoring Change Haiku

Below should be part one of your thinking about people and performance. The focus is on the front end of the process of generating higher levels of involvement and building strengths. Doing some training and some team building will allow people to develop their own ideas and potential as well as improve workplace results. We have one of the truly best team building simulations focused on alignment and performance. Click on the image below to see The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.

Square Wheels image of muscle building improvement

If we continue to do the same thing, we can pretty much expect the same results.

The key is to Involve. Engage. Enlist. Align. Expect. Impact.

And generate more fun and involvement out there among the people who we depend on to get things done,

 

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 are a trademark of Performance Management Company

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Copyright 2013, 2014  Performance Management Company

Off-Site Meetings, Teamworking and Engaging People for workplace improvement

In a LinkedIn thread, we started discussing company activities and teamwork. My thoughts are along the theme that building teams within an organization is not the same as doing a lot of things that are called teambuilding. What I did was show this picture in a discussion called “Teamwork? Why is this called TEAMwork?” and comment:

Every so often, I am simply struck by what some people call team building. I have written extensively in my other blog about things like go-kart racing, golf, bowling, firewalking and other activities and how a connection to team building behavior and organizational performance change is tenuous at best.

FUN is not team building.

CHALLENGE is not team building.

Teamwork High Ropes Guy

One of my friends talked about her teambuilding experiences thusly:

Hi Scott! I think these activities help build teams when people *choose* to get together and do fun things together; not because the company forces them to do so. The reason certain coworkers will choose to do things together on their own is because the working environment is open and friendly and lends itself to people *wanting* to get to know each other outside of the office. The best team building activities I’ve ever experienced were completely voluntary and informal.

I read a thought this morning that helped me frame this up a bit more clearly in my mind.

It is a simple reality that building a community within an organization is not the same as building real teamwork.

Forming a softball team can have the benefit of helping people get to know each other so as to improve that sense of community; it may help improve communications and trust. But it is not going to help the team build a better sense of alignment to the organization’s goals and visions, nor will it improve systems and processes to have impacts on performance metrics.

The kinds of problem-solving faced by the second baseman when considering whether to throw the ground ball to first base or second base (one out, tie score, 3rd  inning) or the person forty feet off the ground standing on a board is not thinking about improving customer service or generating a sale or shipping an order. Teamwork is adding brains and engagement to business process improvement, more than doing a firewalk or winning at paintball.

I’ve written a lot about the issues I have with things like bowling or golf paid for by company funds and framed as “team building events.” A company started here in Greenville SC with indoor go-karts framed up its first advertisement with it being “a year-round team building opportunity.” Racing about in go-karts is a team building event? How will that impact organizational performance? How will that improve collaboration and decision-making?

There was a lot of media a while back about the Internal Revenue Service and such a formal event they structured. You can read about it here under the title,

IRS needs Large Group Team Building instead of $27,000 Innovation Speakers
Google ChromeScreenSnapz003

IRS Line-Dancing – click to see the video

They spent a gazillion taxpayer dollars on a huge fancy choreographed event, hiring “motivational speakers” (an oxymoron – do any actually motivate you?*) and took time to “train” a whole bunch of people to do different things like the line dancing above (team building, I guess) when they could have done something like The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for maybe a total of $10,000 (including a leadership development session for senior managers) and generated some serious discussions about organizational and departmental goals, choices about collaboration and improving communications, discussions of shared risk and leadership of others, etc.

* I can remember attending a corporate event years ago when a famous football quarterback / restaurant owner was paid $40,000 to speak to a group of employees and vendors about his experiences with customer service. Does anyone really think that any listener walked away and did anything differently? It was a photo-opportunity for the company execs to get pictures taken, though.

Just as icebreakers to energize can be a waste of time and energy when they are completely unrelated to the training goals and session subject (see Motivation, Training and Icebreakers. Keeping it Real),  organizational team building activities should have a real connection to improving the organization.

Note: You can find a solid article on ideas for success for off-site team building event management ideas on this blog post.

That is not to say that company activities aren’t good things to do, because they are. But when limited budgets for organizational improvement are spent on picnics, bowling, softball and other community-building activities, you can miss the opportunity to do things that actually make impacts on people and performance. Do both, if you can.

Note:  We rent and sell an absolutely world-class team building exercise focused on alignment and inter-organizational collaboration. It is called, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and there are many posts in my blog about the exercise and its design features.

Here is a recent testimonial that I thought to add:

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Renting the game is a really inexpensive way to have a great large group event team building at a very inexpensive price. Read more about renting Dutchman here:

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

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.

 

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The Future of Work, The Future of The Workplace

It’s dangerous for me to sit and read, sometimes, since my mind goes off into different dimensions. I was reading a couple of articles in Smithsonian and Mother Jones and it had me thinking about The Workplace and The Future and the reality that if we continue to do things the same way, we are going to find ourselves living in, as the ancient Chinese saying, “interesting times.”

I see a real paradox in business’ push for innovation and creativity meshed with how so many treat customers and employees. The ones that do treat the latter well tend to be demonstrably more innovative and profitable over the long term. All that data is very clear. Productivity is much higher: “Employees aren’t being asked to create a product, they are being asked to do the work previously done by four people in half the time it took just 10 years ago.” (Cliff Stevenson)

And a new client has just completed a company-wide survey showing all the many kinds of task-interferences getting directly in the way of actually demonstrating leadership skills among her managers. (She promised me the data, so more to come on that, for sure). We are demanding a LOT of people in the workplace, so much so that it is hard for them to do any workplace innovation or for managers and supervisors to do much to build collaboration and teamwork to make improvements in inter-departmental kinds of things.

SO, there I was with my mind spinning. And the thought was to try to illustrate a series of posters about the future of work and the future of the workplace…

Here is the first of them:

Square Wheels LEGO images are the works of Dr Scott Simmerman

The funny thing is that this really seems true, with lots of data to back it up. Companies and workgroups continue to do the same things, over and over, and expect improvements to occur. A few companies are doing things so differently and better than their competitors that they have significant, sustainable differences in operational data and in things like creativity and innovation.

After initially posting this up, I am back an hour later adding another to this series. This is also characteristic of a lot of workplaces:

A Square Wheels LEGO image of how things work - by Scott Simmerman

While some just plod along like they always have, thump thump thump thump.

AND LOOK AT ALL THE PROGRESS WE HAVE MADE!

But the reality is that the Round Wheels already exist and we can choose to do some things differently to make improvements. You can CHOOSE to do things more better faster. Innovative Ideas are at hand, if only you might step back from the wagon!

You might also find this slideshare to be of interest. It was suggested that I link to it. The focus is on making the office environment more worker-friendly and supporting through the use of lighting, furniture and design. Click on this textlink.

Check out our Square Wheels Icebreaker Toolkit – $20!=Square Wheels Icebreaker icon

(And pop back in here to see more in this series of thoughts. I will put them up individually in the poems blog and try to add more into this post.)

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

 

Innovation, Infrastructure and Africa – Square Wheels or Round Wheel Choices

For the past 10 years or so, I have been reading the works of my pal, Brian Paxton, in South Africa. His writing is insightful and I often send him notes about things that link to his thinking about Africa and its opportunities. Here is one that I received this morning in his Mbendi newsletter, notable because I think it hits directly on the kinds of thinking I see as problematic.

Before I share his writing, though, let me frame it up with this idea:

How things really work in most organizations...

In the above, the team proceeds to continue to do things the same way and getting the same result. They work hard and DO meet the goals that are set, but these same old goals and systems and processes generally keep them doing the same kinds of things.

The above is illustrated in what Brian shares:

————–

THE WORLD AFTER 2020 – INFRASTRUCTURE DREAMING

In these days of fast advancing technology, one of Africa’s key competitive advantages versus the rest of the world is that it is very much a green field. Not literally of course, because you have places like the Sahara Desert, but figuratively.

Take communications for example. Twenty years ago, at the advent of the cell-phone / Internet revolution, Africa’s telephone infrastructure, where it existed at all, was decidedly antiquated. Today the majority of Africans have cell phones – I have vivid memories of seeing a red-clad Masai in the wilds of Tanzania herding his cattle while talking on his phone. East Africa pioneered cell-phone payment systems largely eliminating the need for banking infrastructure, branches, ATMs and all.

New cheap smart devices can deliver education, entertainment, news, medical diagnoses, prices and a whole lot more to Africans without requiring all the obsolete copper, paper and corporate infrastructure developed nations still have to amortize.

A regular MBendi newsletter reader recently pointed me to an article on the Guardian newspaper website. It seems that at some times of the day Queensland wholesale electricity prices fall below zero as 1,100 MW of solar panels on the roofs of 350,000 buildings across the state churn out electricity. Of course those same buildings are also connected to dirty coal-fired plants via a complex system of transmission and distribution cables, all of which, likewise, requires amortization, so there’s a tussle developing between the utilities wanting a return on capital and their customers wanting cheap power.

Now, if Queensland is sunny, Africa is even sunnier with a countryside largely unblighted by transmission lines and coal-fired pollution. In our last newsletter we mentioned that solar street lights are to be installed in all towns in Nandi county, Kenya. Last week NYSE-listed Chinese company Jinko Solar, the fourth-largest solar PV manufacturer in the world, opened an R 80 million manufacturing plant in Cape Town which can produce solar photovoltaic panels equivalent to 120 MW each day. So, in the electrical power arena, it would seem that Africa too enjoys an advantage through its lack of traditional power infrastructure and there are some, albeit cautious, moves afoot to capitalise on this.

But not so fast. Last week the US government convened a meeting of the leaders from 54 African countries to discuss USA-African trade and investment. With great fanfare the US government used the occasion to announce that it is to invest billions of dollars in African infrastructure, particularly electrical power generation where General Electric will lead the charge. Chinese leaders chimed in to propose working hand in hand with the Americans on African infrastructure. Meanwhile down in South Africa, state investment in infrastructure is seen as a way to stimulate the economy, starting with yet another massive coal fired power station, a nuclear power plant and additional railways to ship coal locally and abroad. Not only do none of these projects take advantage of Africa’s green fields but they will leave the continent with expensive, soon-to-be-redundant infrastructure.

But that’s not the only problem. While the USA claims to be investing billions in African infrastructure, the payments will go largely to American suppliers and consultants with just a fraction paid to local manufacturers. In East Africa there’s a protest groundswell developing at the news that 5,000 Chinese workers are to be shipped in to build a railway; perhaps the Ethiopians have told them about the thousands of Chinese workers who weren’t repatriated when major projects finished there. We’ve all had the experience of buying a computer printer then finding replacement ink cartridges cost as much as the original printer; I hope someone sane is factoring in all the running and maintenance supplies needed from the donor nations after this generous donation of infrastructure goes live.

Back in 2002 BAE Systems, aided and abetted by the UK government, foisted an expensive and totally unnecessary military radar system on Tanzania. The whole shady deal turned out to have involved bribery and corruption so much so that in 2010 the UK’s Serious Fraud Office handed down a £29.5 million fine on the company. Companies from around the world who, with the support of their national governments, supplied South Africa with arms in the late 1990’s are suspected of similar malpractices.

All these big infrastructure projects – unlike solar panel or cell phone investments of individuals – carry the same potential for the decision making process to be perverted by bent carrots and sticks, especially by opaque governments. With Russia tipped as being the favourite of South Africa’s atom-minded cabinet, maybe that’s why President Zuma didn’t condemn Russia’s takeover of the Crimea as he lambasted Israel’s Gaza incursions in a supposedly trade-related speech in Washington?

Africa would be a better place if a group of experts could sit down and rationally plan how best to plow Africa’s rich green fields. Start with a glorious vision; take a sober view of where we are at present; and then build a logical plan to take us from here to there. This is a much better approach than simply gratefully accepting what is foisted on us by others in their interests even more than ours.

In my words, the Square Wheels are everywhere but the Round Wheels already exist in the wagon. We can repeat the same old models for electrical infrastructure or we can look to NEW proven models that would seem to make a lot more sense. They need to step back from the wagon to see things differently and to generate alternative choices that make the best sense and that optimize the journey forward.

(An irony is that GE’s Turbine manufacturing is located here in my home town. I think they are a great employer and I have many friends working there. But are the same Square Wheel Turbines what Africa really needs to move their wagon forward?)

Y9u can reach Brian Paxton here  – MBendi Information Services <brian@mbendi.com> and you can find and subscribe freely to his previous (great) newsletters here: http://www.mbendi.com/mbendipr/newsletter/website/index.htm

 

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

Faster Play = Longer Debriefing

When initially designed 25 years ago,  The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine was to have a solid front-end that challenged teams to put together a plan of action managing their limited resources and to push players to work together to develop a shared strategy and plan of action. The Intro was focused on them making specific choices around collaboration and strategic planning.

(note: this post is actually written for users of the exercise, but it also speaks to our overall design thinking and features and benefits of Lost Dutchman over some competitive products which you might be familiar with.)

We also wanted this planning time to set the stage for play and the processes for playing out those team decisions to be clean, fast and simple. While some people have questioned the strategy of having a really simple “play” of the game, this has proven itself to be a good decision — faster play allows a longer debriefing time, and debriefing is where we generate commitment to change and manage post-exercise expectations and implementation.

We chose to use 20 days for play with a simple design that allowed the days at the end to be as short as 30 seconds each even in fairly large team events. It was the initial team decisions that either facilitated a lot of success and some low-stress play or some less-than optimal decision-making and planning that generated high-stress and scrambling for resources to succeed. By design, every team mined gold, but the teams with the better planning got better results and could also assist the others.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Basically, I found that it was best to give a detailed overview, with a good bit of redundancy, so as to maximize understanding. In this way, the players could make the best decisions possible to maximize the results and have the fewest mistakes. Heck, I even found that by adding “Most Common Questions” as a slide set at the end of the Intro to review the key points that I had already made saved me delivery time, since those were questions commonly asked of me that delayed getting started.

My thoughts were around optimizing play and minimizing the dumb mistakes and being detailed enough to enable players to get a good start in the 15 minutes of planning time given. It was also found that by shortening or deleting things, such as the time spent in generating the suggested Team Roles, the disorganization caused them to take even longer in getting started. Having roles enabled them to listen to the instructions more carefully and allowed them to get moving with the planning right away.

My associates in India asked how they could take the normally 45 minute Intro and set-up and reduce it to 15 minutes because their client had “a tight schedule.” Their thinking was that shortening it would have no impact on the team building, subsequent planning and play. They had this schedule for an upcoming session of 140 people:

  • Intro and briefing – 15 minutes.
  • Planning – 15 minutes
  • Play– 50 minutes
  • Break – 20 minutes and
  • Debriefing – 50 minutes.

Well, I like challenges… So here are some thoughts about the dilemma:

The actual team building process occurs during the initial stages of the game in the 15 minute planning period. A long, detailed and a bit redundant introduction gives every player all the details of play and even some tips for optimizing results. Everyone knows all the rules and details, thus the discussion is not about what but about how to execute. They all should be equal participants in the discussion of strategy and overall decision-making and therefore would all share in ownership of the end result.

There are no really good, simple ideas on speeding things up the Introduction. I played with this a LOT during the first 10 years of playing and selling the exercise and found this to be true: If you keep something out of the Introduction, it either generates a question that takes at least as long to answer or it creates a problem with misunderstanding and a playing mistake they blame on YOU.

My focus on delivery has been to generate an effective and efficient way to present the information so that players are clear about the details of the rules at the start of their planning. I have found it to be faster to go slower and be more redundant in the Introduction. This way, players and teams make better decisions and play with better results and have fewer questions and run into less difficulty at the end. (Or, at least they have all the information on which to make a less than optimal decision (grin) ).

My finding is that speeding up by shortening the Intro information can slow things down in different and unexpected ways or causes more mistakes and poorer play and all that… Plus, it helps in the debriefing if all the players understand all of the operating rules and have better understanding and perspective on the choices and the impacts.

(They all “get” the planning metaphors of The Videos, for example. They were all offered the opportunity to acquire one or both before heading out and it was their choice to get or not to get them. The Videos are not a surprise in the debriefing, just the information that was in them and the reality that it could be shared with other teams.)

Okay, some ideas for speeding play and saving time:

Start on Time –

Demand that the session starts when scheduled and that everything is ready to go. Generally, this means delivering the game the very first thing in the morning. If there is breakfast, ensure that the hotel or center staff is there to help clear away the dishes and that there are stands around the room where plates can be taken. Have the tabletops all set up, including the tables for the Provisioner.

It is scary how often these programs with known “tight timing” issues do not start on time. This is especially true if there is some manager that. “needs to say a few things to the group before you get started.” I have lost 30 minutes or more from these “few minutes” while the content of that introduction could have been in an email to everyone. Often, these managers are not professional when it comes to presenting in a timely and efficient manner so it is YOUR responsibility to get that part of the program done quickly.

If you are starting after lunch, be sure to have someone who works for you on the lunch floor pushing the timing so that people can come into the room. Make the room inviting, with music and a slide show of pictures or something similar. Get them in and KEEP them in until you are ready to go.

And, again, do not allow for a few minutes of “more introduction” by anyone other than a professional presenter who knows the meaning of “ending on time” for their part.

NEVER EVER play the game at night with alcoholic beverages. Those sessions are absolute disasters – and no one will remember anything the next day.

Team Roles
One idea might be to not assign roles during the Intro and let teams figure that out during the planning. That saves a bit of time, but the teams will be less organized. Thus, decisions might take longer if roles are not clear.

However, if you do that, DO stress the selection of the team Trader but maybe not the others. Having one person be accountable for bringing resource cards to the Trading Post is critical to efficient delivery.

The alternative is to assign teams and tables prior to the session, and you can also suggest team roles in that assignment, You can list table # and team member names with roles on the sheet. (Make the most senior manager the Team Trader, though — they do the most work and get isolated! See this blog for more information on players and roles and assignments.)

Pods
And DO separate the groups into distinct pods for large group events. If you have 120 people, you could play with 2 pods of 10 teams each or 4 pods of 5 teams each. It is certain that the pods of 5 teams each will play faster than pods of 10. You would also need more floor support, but that would help to answer questions and respond to problems more quickly. It would be easier for a Provisioner to spot a team that is having trouble with a smaller pod, and thus direct help toward that tabletop.

Team Size
In my experience, smaller teams play faster — if you can set up as groups of 4 players per table, the planning and the play will go faster. So, a session of 24 people would play faster with 6 tables of 4 rather than 4 tables of 6 players each. But that takes more support from your team of delivery people with larger teams. It depends on how many support people you have but the more experienced help on the floor, the easier to solve problems. (Note – I use senior managers to support my large group events! See this blog for rationale.)

(If you do that, use a different Team Roles Form than the one showing 6 job roles at the tables and in the slides.) Maybe have only the Leader, Trader, Analyst / Supply Expert and Collaborator…

Decisions of smaller tabletops will be faster and usually better — but they MUST understand all the rules and themes and issues.

For those of you with 24 people, having 6 teams of 4 will be faster than having 4 teams of 6, for example.

Floor Delivery Support
You can trade off SUPPORT PEOPLE ON THE FLOOR against covering things in PowerPoint Intro. The less you talk about, the more questions and the longer the “15 minutes of planning time” will take. This is especially true in a large group as in this session of 140.

If you do shorten the Intro, be SURE to have knowledgeable co-Expedition Leaders on the floor for each 3 or 4 teams. It will change the dynamics some…

Breaks
My way of speeding things up is to have NO BREAK at the end of play – telling players that team play should allow individuals to take a break for bathroom or drinks during play. Cookies and coffee and the like can be in the room or even served to the tables by staff.

A “scheduled 20 minute break” (with 140 people) can run out to 30 minutes or more, which is very common with large groups. And it is probably the people last to arrive back that need the debriefing key learning points more than the others.

Large groups are much less manageable from a time perspective if they leave the room. Make them Break during the Play of the game, not afterwards. Make it impact their team, not you and the rest of the group!

Results
Minimize the review of game results but use the results summary and overhead projectors to allow everyone to see all the results from all the teams. That generally reduces questions about “who won” and why and allows you to focus on the issues of optimization.

Focus on the differences between the high and low teams and ask if the higher performing teams had resources that they could have shared that would have generated MORE RESULTS FOR YOU — not a winning score for one team…

I often do NOT show the Perfect Play summary of woulda-shoulda, but do focus on the fact that there were 3 Turbos that could be shared so that 3 teams could have used the Turbo to return in 4 days, as opposed to less than 3 (look at total TF Videos to see the number of Turbos available versus the number actually used (get that off the Tracking Forms at the Trading Post). THAT is probably the most important number for the entire group — that plus the days back early because of resource mis-management and bad planning decisions.

The Turbos are the Best Practices that generate better results with the same effort and they represent the leverage generated by collaboration among teams in the workplace. There were sufficient resources, but a good plan of action with engaged and involved teammates helped maximize results for the team — why not for the group? What would they need to do differently in the workplace…

Debriefing
I deliver the game as a learning event, not as a fun activity. Thus, for me, “The play of the game is an excuse to do a debriefing on choices, behaviors and the issues of engagement and collaboration.” Thus, I will demand that I have the full time allotted to the play and that we start on time

And I try not to lecture nearly as much as I try to allow tabletops to discuss specific issues and opportunities. I facilitate the game much more than I “teach” from it – their thoughts are more congruent to their issues than any idea that the game Expedition Leader might have.

If possible, I try to coach the most senior manager to engage people in a discussion. This is sometimes dangerous since their preferred style is to talk at the people, not engage them. I have had to cut off such attempts at “training” more than a few times, generally with something such as, “Why don’t you spend 5 minutes and discuss that key learning point at your tabletop?” (And then take back the control of the debriefing…)

Turbos are best practices that can be shared – thus it begs the question, “What turbochargers are available that we could share with other groups within the company?”

(You can view a long slideshare on debriefing experiential exercises, framed around Lost Dutchman, by clicking on the image below:)

LD Slideshare Debrief cover

My debriefings generally focus on the dynamics of team interactions and desired collaborative behavior. My illustrations and questions anchor most of the debriefing to the desired client outcomes for the event. On occasion, they just want to have fun — I can usually persuade the leadership to get more value by increasing things like collaboration or sharing ideas around motivating others as part of a leadership development theme.

For large events, we discuss desired outcomes a lot prior to the event so that everyone involved in the delivery design is on-board with what we are trying to accomplish. In play, I most often end with tabletop discussions around, “What does mining (more) gold mean to us as an organization?”

corporate team building ideasLastly, do all that you can do. (You cannot do any more than that!)

Work as best as you can to meet the commitments that were set, but realize that you may not have all the control you need to make this optimal. Various things will decrease your available debriefing time. Senior managers may feel the need to espouse on certain issues they think are critical — and they probably are — but that can cut into your plans.

And have FUN out there with the delivery. If you have fun and work the issues, they will have fun and also work the issues.

If you have any thoughts or ideas about improving the speed of delivery, we would love to hear from you. Anything we can do to increase the debriefing time is a worthwhile alteration, in my opinion. Many of the changes suggested above will have impacts on the dynamics of delivery, I think. SO be careful out there!

YOUR thoughts on all this would be Most Excellent!

Note: Thanks for reading this far. To improve and impact our debriefing and make the exercise even more memorable, we are in the midst of adding LEGO characters to our Introduction and some of our Debriefing materials in all versions of the exercise, with the thought that the game can better tie in with our Square Wheels® approach or be more congruent with consultants using LEGO Serious Play tools or simply using LEGO in general. We have NO affiliation with The LEGO Group or any other organizations and we are using the “useful article” approach to issues around intellectual property.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, Surprised 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

Scott’s blog on People and Performance is here.

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

 

PMC's Team Building Activities – Comparison Matrix

The pressure is on — people want me to bring forth my new game design on strategy implementation, trust and collaboration. This is the one that focuses on capturing Slinks before they turn into Zombies and about gathering the things needed to start a new civilization. (And this scenario is sounding more and more like the real world every day!)

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is still our flagship team building game. We get testimonials like this one on its effectiveness every week.

LDGM Training Consutant Testimonial

The Seven Seas Quest exercise was designed to followup on Dutchman but it is also an outstanding stand-alone exercise in its own right. Innovate & Implement exercise anchors to our Square Wheels tools for involving and engaging people, as do our two Collaboration Journey exercises.

Play of the games is pretty straightforward and the designs solid, based on a lot of feedback from users plus my own propensity to put a LOT of informational resources and detailed delivery materials with each game. I do not think anyone has ever complained about not enough information about presenting and debriefing.

And, the reality is that ALL of my games are focused on simple and straightforward debriefing. The metaphors are always clean and easy to link to issues of organizational performance such as leadership or collaboration or planning.

To help explain the different products, our website has a  “Team Building Games Comparison Chart” that tries to outline the basic keys such as number of players, desired outcomes and applications, benefits and similar. We have games that work for 4 people and most games can scale up for hundreds.

And we even show the actual price (it’s interesting that so few of our competitors will actually post the prices of their games; they seem to be almost embarrassed by the costs) as we feel we have the best cost to benefit ratio in the world for the kinds of products we design, sell and support. Plus, we sell all of our exercises “unemcumbered,” without the per-participant or annual licensing fees so common in the industry for full-blown simulations like ours.

AND, we’ll often customize for free if we think that work will result in a better team building product that we can distribute…

You can see the full Comparison Chart on the PMC website by clicking here – a version is added below but I am guessing that it will not be readable because of its size.

We think the current products carry forward into a lot of different kinds of organizational development initiatives. If you have any questions or ideas, I am easily reached and I answer my own phone (which seems to surprise many callers but is the way it SHOULD be for such important decision making as product selection and team building).

More fun is in store for all as I work up some new designs and I love it that we can design and offer these games that link so well to workplace issues at a low cost and as a great value.  

If you have any issues that you might like to see addressed with an interactive and engaging exercise, please drop me a note. My friend Brad wants to build a game on corporate sustainability for an executive development program he conducts at Furman University. And we have also played with the design of an emergency preparedness exercise.

Comments and suggestions are always appreciated!

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

A Desk is a Dangerous Place – Thoughts on Innovation and Implementation

I responded to a LinkedIn post about the issues of innovation. It was started by a professor who deals with Very Senior Executives and who talked about starting their sessions with sticky notes and 5 minutes for ideas for improvement. The comment was that executives generate 70% of their notes about products.

That makes sense. I think that most executives think more about THINGS than they do about the process of making things better. Doing the latter will often involve change and structural reframing which are often problematic and involve all sorts of effort and involvement. Products? Yeah, that is a lot less complicated…

Let’s see, let’s do a new teambuilding board game focused on trust and zombies…

My thought was that the basic framework of the activity might change a little, to be more group-process focused and to use an inkblot of some kind to generate broader perspective around making organizational progress. It seems to me that a little restructuring of the activity might generate a broader picture of how things really work.

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

That is for sure. The quote was embedded in a John LeCarre book I read a couple dozen years ago, but it stuck with me. You bring the executives together and you give them yellow stickies and ask what they would change. Of course, few will think about how things are working.

A different approach might be to show them a picture of a wagon rolling on square wheels with a cargo of round tires. The wagon pusher looks forward and pulls a rope while the wagon pushers look at boards and hands. That, many agree, is a much more representative model of how things work in most organizations. So, I would show this image with this question:

Square Wheels One Main Question How might this represent

  • Leaders lead. That is all they see themselves doing.
  • Pushers push. That is their job.
  • Few things seem to work smoothly from a hands-on kind of reality.
  • The view at the back is very much different than the view at the front.

So, asking people to project their ideas onto that wagon generates all sorts of ideas about issues and opportunities. Some might focus on the round wheels (products) but they simply cannot ignore the reality of motivating and engaging the wagon pushers if they are to make progress.

Plus, we suggest that the executives (or workers) work as tabletops of 6 so that the truly awful ideas get little support and the good ones generate some ownership involvement.

Plus, it is NOT simply about ideas. We know, based on all sorts of research, that 9 of 10 strategy or change improvement initiatives fail, often because of poor alignment and communications. And don’t push YOUR idea down and expect ME to support it — the reality is that, “Nobody ever washes a rental car” and if you do not share ownership involvement in the creation or at least the implementation strategy, you will simply generate all sorts of resistance.

I know that I do not have The Answer. But I do know that the round wheels almost always exist in the wagon.

Don’t just DO something, Stand There!

I make some supporting suggestions here in another blog on people and performance:  https://performancemanagementcompanyblog.com/2014/08/07/7-things-you-should-do-differently-to-build-better-teamwork/

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company

.

Team Building with Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

After 22 years in the global organizational improvement marketplace, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine still continues to receive the highest kudos from users. Below is feedback just received from new user Barry Howarth, Director of The Engagement People in the UK, who bought the Pro Version of Dutchman a few weeks ago and had this to say after his first run with it:

The event went brilliantly and the feedback was very positive so I am very happy!! The other tasks worked perfectly and the debrief brought the whole thing together.

“Dutchman” is a truly inspirational piece of work which manages to be fun and engage delegates while driving a massive amount of learning at all levels in an organisation.

Barry has plans to run a sessions of 200 people this month. Meanwhile, Robin Speculand, Strategy Implementation Specialist in Singapore and a long-term user of Dutchman has this to say:

I have been using the Lost Dutchman for 19 years and it never fails as a business simulation to stimulate the participants and create excellent learning. Its close link to business reality makes it a winner as well as the energy it creates. I have run it at 8 pm at night after a full day and the energy is just as good as at 8 am.

While some organizations have cut back on team building kinds of events, we’ve found that Dutchman remains one of the marketplace strongholds for helping organizations build collaborative teams. This is simply because it performs beyond the typical team building fun and games. Its quick playing adventure leads to a strong Debriefing that links game play to organizational issues and makes all the difference in exceeding learning expectations.

You can find a complete overview of the exercise by clicking the icon below:

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine overview slideshow

You can review the framework for Debriefing this and other experiential learning teambuilding exercises by clicking on this icon:

LD Slideshare Debrief cover

If you have the desire to use Dutchman in your organization or to introduce this as a workshop or event to your clients, we’d love to help you make that happen because we know it will make a turnaround difference in the workplace.And it is truly one of the best games for big events, lending itself to aligning large groups to organizational goals or to generate ideas for implementation.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

By using Lost Dutchman in a training and development event, you’ll be giving people a learning experience that has been used to create positive impact, worldwide since 1993, one that continues to exceed expectations because of how well it works to cause performance and organizational improvement to take place.

I guarantee that the Dutchman exercise does everything we say it does and I have 22 years of customers and testimonials to support that guarantee. Please also feel free to connect directly with me to ask questions or to get clarification on the offer or the exercise or any of our other products and services.

You can find a link to a compendium of blog posts about using the exercise and in presenting large group team building events here

WrightPatt LD Play

And let me add one other thought. I really make a big deal out of client support. I will go WAY out of my way to help someone, whether is is customizing some of the materials for a special focus or simply answering questions. I developed and did a webcast on facilitating the game for a very large group of people who were running the game all over the US — we had 50 people on the program and I did it from a McDonald’s half way down to Tampa since I was on the road when it was most convenient. Purchase a game from me and you get as much support as you need! Dutchman is MY baby!

So, please feel free to connect directly with me at Scott@SquareWheels.com or 864-292-8700 to ask questions or to get clarification on the offer or the exercise or any of our other products and services.

For the FUN of It!

Scott DebriefDr. 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 with programs delivered in 38 countries for 30+ years.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com or 864-292-8700

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

 

7 Things You Should Do Differently to Build Better Teamwork

This is most assuredly NOT the First Rodeo for the vast majority of my readership. Many of you have been managing teams and engaging people for years and have even been an employee of a few Best Bosses during your worklife and you have probably had a few others that you probably “learned from.”

We all have our own models of leadership and involvement. We have all reflected on what we currently do and how we do it so that change is simply a matter of choice. We could all choose to do something or some things differently to improve our personal effectiveness, right?

So, please write in the Seven Things that YOU should be doing differently! Now!

And it would be great if you can use the comments section to share those ideas with others. Have fun and DO give this some thought, since it is YOU who lead your people! And we all deserve some time for reflection, so maybe this can be it!

LEGO SWs One Boss Hey What © 80

What are your 7 Thoughts for personal leadership improvement?

I know that You know that you can make some different choices to improve t hings. But, here are some prompts and thinking stimuli:

  • What two things can you do differently or better to involve and engage your people?
  • What can you do right now to improve alignment and intrinsic motivation of three of your people? Better alignment to a goal = improved performance and engagement.
  • What can you do to increase the quality of performance feedback or the quantity and quality of the recognition that people receive? Better feedback = improved performance and engagement.
  • What can you do to improve teamwork and collaboration?
  • What other thoughts and ideas do you have for two things you could choose to change in your leadership behavior?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

See more of my thinking on people and performance that use my cartoons and themes by viewing my blog on poems and quips. Click on the cartoon above to go to that website on poems, quips and performance in the workplace.

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

Entrepreneurial Terror – How can anyone else understand?

One of my most favorite articles of all time is one by Wilson Harrell, then an editor of Inc. Magazine, that focused on the issues around being an entrepreneur and published back in 1987.

If you have not read it, I suggest that you do, since it speaks to the unspeakable and relates to what one feels as one starts a business. He called that membership in The Club of Terror!

The post is extremely well-written and clear as a bell — the tones still resonate for me and I am completing my 30th year of being in business for myself. He says things like this:

Now, I realize that you didn’t bargain on this when you started your company. Terror is something that entrepreneurs don’t expect, can’t escape, and have no way of preparing for. You won’t find any college course on the subject — Handling Terror 101 and 102, or whatever. Nor are there any on-the-job training programs. To my knowledge, nothing has ever been written about it, either, and few people even talk about it. The truth is that those of us who have experienced entrepreneurial terror seldom admit to it. As a result, it remains a deep, dark secret.

and

Above all, don’t take terror home with you. No matter how sorely tempted you are, do not under any circumstances share terror with people you love, unless they happen to be partners in your company. It will only make them despondent and maybe even sick. They put up with enough just living around an entrepreneur. Besides, you need the experience.

and concluding:

My own belief is that the ability to handle terror, to live with it, is the single most important — and, yes, necessary — ingredient of entrepreneurial success. I also believe that it is the lonely entrepreneur living with his or her personal terror who breathes life and excitement into an otherwise dull and mundane world. From that perspective, the Club of Terror is a very exclusive one. Welcome.

You can click on the icon below or this link to read the article in its entirety:

Elegant Solutions

http://www.inc.com/magazine/19870201/4032.html

I hope you like this as much as I do.

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

Is Work Funny or What? Paradoxes in Perceptions

I am a serious guy when it comes to people and performance, which is why I lean toward using games and cartoons. They are simply More Effective than, well, being SERIOUS!

So, let me take a serious poke at people and performance by using a cartoon and you tell me whether I nail it for you, or not.

Let’s say that work looks like this:

SWs LEGO Puzzled Boss horse puller

How? Why? Where? What?

Some thoughts (and I know that you can come up with more of them):

  • We have a wagon rolling on Square Wheels. These wheels work but they do not work smoothly.
  • We have people pushing the wagon forward but they probably cannot see where there are going nor what they are really doing.
  • We got a wagon puller, just out of training, using a white horse. All supervisors have white hats and ride white horses, right?
  • We have Round Wheels in the wagon. It is not like a better idea does not already exist, it is just that the wagon puller may not be aware of it or have a clue as to how to implement it.
  • We have no idea about communications at the back, between the back and the front, or any other things that might be happening.
  • We have a puzzled guy just standing there and not apparently doing anything. He could represent senior management. He might be a consultant. He could be from Accounting or Human Resources!

Most of those involved are sincerely interested in getting their jobs done. But it is commonly found that they do not feel like they are part of a high performance team.

WHY are we doing this and why are we doing this this way? Because maybe:

  • this approach to doing things represents the way things have always been done around here.
  • this way represents the reason the guy on the horse is ON the horse, that a good idea of moving from triangular to square was rewarded!
  • this represents a huge improvement over how we used to do things — dragging the wagon was, well, a real drag!

HOW will we make improvements? I think that is very simply a matter of everyone taking a look at things and maybe thinking that some alternative just might exist. Is there a budget? Can the wagon pushers and puller actually have the time to stop and fix anything?

WHERE the heck are these people going with these wheels? Are they for internal processes or has some customer ordered them to use on their wagons? Or, are those wheels going to be installed on the new 747 cargo planes another customer is acquiring, something that will have all sorts of implications and ramifications.

And where might some of those Round Wheels actually be used to benefit our own people and our own performance.

WHAT we need to do seems pretty clear. Step back from the wagon and take a couple of seconds to see if the fog of work clears.

WHO? YOU!

And if not You, Who?
And if not Now, When?
IF IT IS TO BE
IT IS UP TO ME.

We sell simple toolkits and interactive team building games to drive increased motivation for change and improvement.

Tools for Involving and Engaging People

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

Trust is Revealed by implementing Round Wheels

Dan Rockwell had a really great blog this morning, one that I wanted to reframe and reanchor and repurpose into a short piece on engagement and motivation. I will excerpt some of the key points I saw but I refer you to his complete blog that you can see here:

FirefoxScreenSnapz001

As Dan said, handled well, problem solving can have the following benefits to the organization:

  1. Strengthen connections.
  2. Intensify focus.
  3. Enhance vulnerability.
  4. Fuel urgency.
  5. Clarify responsibility.
  6. Increase opportunity.
  7. Instigate growth.
  8. Disrupt status quo.
  9. Extend skills.
  10. Develop character.
  11. Amplify self-reflection.
  12. Grow capacity.

Poorly handled, problems distract, defeat, and, eventually destroy. And a lot of the result is influenced by the history of the previous transactions between people and management. If the manager has a history of acting trustworthy and being honest and open and dependable, the reactions can be much different that if a low level of trust exists.

My Poster on this looks like this:

LEGO SWs One POSTER Trust is Revealed

How do your people react to the “What” question? Do they see you honestly involved and engaged in discussing their ideas or do they simply see you reacting as if you are being bothered?

Trust is revealed in the way that you handle problems. And remember that today is yesterday tomorrow, so you can always choose to start the process of building trust and rapport with your teams. See Dan’s article for some additional ideas about dealing with the issues. My work here is done! (grin)

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

Keeping It Stupidly Simple – Thoughts on Teams and Teamwork

In a recent LinkedIn thread on leadership, Bob Whipple posted up a short note on “4 Essential Elements for a High Performing Team.” Bob said:

There are four common denominators of high performing teams. When these elements are present, teams are almost guaranteed to be efficient and rewarding for the members. The elements are:

1. A common goal – so all members pull in the same direction
2. Trust – so members are not playing games with each other
3. Good leadership – so that the team is fully engaged
4. A Good Charter – so the consequences of social loafing are spelled out in advance

In my experience, most groups understand the need for the first three (although only a small percentage actually have all three), but the fourth element is often not in place. It is critical to have a Team Charter that spells out expectations and that all members agree on the consequences if a member does not pull his or her fair share of the load.

Pretty Darn Simple and to the point. The Rule of 80/20 and Occam’s Razor both focus on keeping things simple.

My post was actually the first one and very much supportive of Bob’s thinking, where I shared thoughts about how easy it is to form a team:

A lot is made about personal styles for personality or decision-making or astrological signs but the four bullets above will generate pretty solid teamwork. Sure, one can nuance things and add factors and frameworks, models and surveys and all sorts of other things that CAN be helpful.

But how many teams never get started because they have not been through the training programs or certified to be team leaders or (even) team members, as if HR is running the show? I mean, really?

Put a bunch of kids on a baseball diamond with a ball and a bat — heck, some of them might even have gloves — and they will start working together as a team. They may even FEEL like a team. They know the rules of play, share a goal, trust each other (more or less) to do their jobs of fielding and batting and come together a little better if one person serves as captain.

This team stuff ain’t rocket science, but so many sure try to make it an expensive and time-consuming proposition. Sure, we can make teams work better but let’s face it: with the incredible sorry state of engagement we see in today’s workplace, with 85% of employees saying their morale declines significantly after spending six months on the job (Source: Sirota Survey Intelligence March 2007), don’t you think that a little teamwork might help things just a little?

And ANY performance improvement is worth the cost of involving and engaging people in a shared mission with clear expectations and necessary resources.

Ben Simonton, who says a lot of really smart simple things, added:

But how does one do it like create trust or what are the actions that constitute good leadership?

The answer is simple – listen to what employees want and respond to their wants to their satisfaction or better even if it means telling them why they cannot have what they want. Only in this way can we make the corporate culture align to the values of employees.

But, as expected, the consultant gang among us starts posting up about all sorts of additional requirements for success including things like training in Emotional Intelligence (which should take a few weeks)

But what happens over time is that we begin, as they say in the South, “to pick fly shit out of the pepper.” The conversations begin to focus on narrow and even more narrower points, make the discussion overly complicated, add model after model after theory and personal experience to the discussion and muddy the water.

I tend to view things through a pretty simple lens and to me, a lot of potential organizational improvement and team building situations basically look something like this:

SWs LEGO Boss Gang with Skis and RWs 2 90

Am I that wrong about this view? Aren’t most leaders somewhat isolated and don’t most people have ideas that would make for workplace improvement?

Do we HAVE to make things complicated with models designed through rigorous testing by the best academic researchers in the world and published by HBR and the academic press in books we will never read before we simply ACT?

Give them a ball and let them go play!

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, Surprised 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.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
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