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“Spring Forward Monday” For Workplace Improvement

Monday’s, most typically, are the least favorite day of the work week but the Monday following the Daylight Saving’s “spring forward” time change, arguably, should be considered the worst of Mondays being that people find it even more challenging to face this workday since they are still adjusting to having lost an hour from their lives the day before. According to numerous studies, the attitudes and happenings around this lost hour cause this Monday to be particularly low in workplace productivity.

What might you be doing to counteract the loss of productivity that will most likely occur in your workplace on Monday, March 14, 2016?

Square Wheels Spring Forward Monday with feet and plane 1

At Performance Management Company, we’re always looking for opportunities that can bring about employee engagement and workplace improvement for better organizational success. Realizing that Monday, March 14th is that special kind of day that needs a good reason for getting up and going to work, we’ve got a concept and solution for turning it into a rewarding workplace happening day and we’re calling it,

Spring Forward Monday!

What is the Spring Forward Monday Concept?

Managers and leaders can gather their employees together and seize Monday, March 14, 2016, as day for workplace improvement by inviting ideas, innovation and involvement for improving workplace practices. By doing so, people can get away from their desks and become energized by taking part in a process that can make a positive difference for everyone.

How Can You Do This?

It’s simple. Facilitate a session that will stimulate and engage employees in sharing their perspectives and ideas for making a better workplace. Doing so will give them a feeling of empowerment and an opportunity to create improvements and increased workplace happiness.

If you’d like a way to successfully approach this, we designed The Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit for just this type of occasion with everything needed to create an interactive and engaging session with serious outcomes. The gist of this Toolkit is the Square Wheels One illustration that elegantly generates thinking, creativity and humor as people react to it and its lead-in statement, This is how most organizations really work.”

Here’s a quick, illustrated video showcasing 
how facilitating
Spring Forward Monday 
in your workplace will cause people to 
“Wake up and Energize for Improvements.” 

You can purchase this Toolkit here for only $24.95, for a one-time cost with unlimited use with any number of people.

This Toolkit provides both the original black and white line-art Square Wheels One illustration and the new Lego image of Square Wheels One
giving you the choice of using either version.
Square Wheels One - copyright 1993, Performance Management CompanySquare Wheels image using LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Here’s what’s included in Toolkit:
  • The Square Wheels One illustration (in both the original line-art and its Lego image)
  • A Leader’s Guide for facilitating the session
  • Participant Worksheets/Handouts
  • A collection of Square Wheels Lego Posters that can be hung in the workplace as anchors to the insights gained.

All yours for only $24.95!

Whether you choose to use this Toolkit or prefer to consider another way to approach the Spring Forward Monday concept, it surely makes sense to make a difference in everyone’s present and future workdays through involving them and energizing them in the journey forward.

Make Monday, March 14, 2016 your
Spring Forward Monday!

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.

A Square Wheels Quote on Meaningfulness

Since much of my thinking involves the workplace and engagement and productivity, and my blog IS about People and Performance, I thought to increase your understanding of how things really work with a simple illustration and quote.

It’s also Friday the 13th so I also thought that people might be searching for meaningfulness in the world around us. SO, here is a simple illustration of one of my most favorite and useful quotes when one is searching for meaning in the events of the workplace:

A Square Wheels quote about meaningfulness by Scott Simmerman

Remember that caterpillars can fly if they would just lighten up.

And remember that we all need a little levity and a better understanding of how things got to be how they are and where we are heading in the future. It should be obvious that we can make changes to make improvements,

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

We CANNOT expect involvement and engagement if we play the Blame Frame Game

How can we motivate people when we make them defensive? How can we expect innovation and process improvement if we are not actually encouraging people to share their thoughts and try new things?

Attack creates defensiveness; and appraisal and constructive criticism can certainly represent an attack in the perception of the workers:

Defense with © Square Wheels Image

If we ask managers how they manage, they tend to give all the right answers. But is that really their tendency to act and perform in reality?

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

square wheels image of Trial and Error

When we ask them to comment on the illustration, they tend to focus on what is wrong, rather than what else might be done, The ratio of negative to positive is about 8 : 1 and, if anything, the peer support appears more clearly in reactions to the different negative themes.

In other words, eight comments focused on the negative and what they did wrong for every one good thing the managers might spot, such as they are stepping back and looking for more improvements and that the horse, will in reality push a wagon.

Mothers usually call this “constructive criticism,” but I am not sure what good purpose it serves to continually point out what people are doing wrong, “even if it is for your own good.” as we so often hear as kids and teenagers (and workers, in so many instances!).

What the managers tend to do looks like this:

and this will not serve to improve motivation or make things better. If anything, this blame frame will make innovation harder and decrease the likelihood of people trying to be involved and engaged.

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

ALL of us need to focus more on the innovative steps to improvement and the reality that change is a requirement in the workplace. So is support and encouragement — every book on leadership will comment on that but that is not congruent with the behavior of many managers.

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

Note – clicking on the images will take you to some different, related posts.

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 at scott@squarewheels.com

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

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Leading People by Involving and Engaging – some resources

Motivating, aligning and engaging people are critical tasks of managing, but also something that seems to need consistent attention from leaders at every level of the organization.

In my 30+ years of working with people and performance, an Engaging Leader is one who facilitates and sustains an inclusive and supportive workplace for those who they lead, so that people become increasingly active participants in organizational and performance improvement. They take an incremental, long term view and look for a better future for the workgroup and the individuals.

How does a leader better involve and engage people? In my view of the world, they increase the shared vision of the future. It looks something like this:

The View from The Front is different than the View at the Back. And people DO have ideas for workplace improvement that can be implemented with teamwork.

The View from The Front is different than the View at the Back. And people DO have ideas for workplace improvement that can be implemented with teamwork.

You do not need to be a professional facilitator to involve and engage your people in workplace improvement. One just needs to get them working with you to identify issues and opportunities; generally, they will be self-motivated to make things better. And, you can build their intrinsic motivation and increase their creativity by helping them move forward. You can help them to implement their ideas and we have the tools, small packages of self-directed communications bundles that are simple as well as inexpensive.

We Sell Simple Tools for Engaging Employees

You will find that these easy-to-use, engaging tools are designed for leaders to facilitate communications, motivation, collaboration, innovation and teamwork. Examples of these toolkits are:

Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit
A powerfully simple tool to get people engaged in the journey forward. This basic program is for anyone wanting to facilitate workplace improvement
and involve and engage people to impact intrinsic motivation.

The Square Wheels Coaching for Improved Performance Toolkit
Coaching is about involving and engaging and changing the picture of how things can be. One needs to develop a sense of ownership and deal with issues of perceived roadblocks to generate alternative choices.

Manager as Motivator – A Square Wheels Toolkit
A complete program for Facilitating Employee Involvement and Implementation of Ideas. A train-the-trainer kind of bundle for trainers and more senior managers to use to teach their managers involvement and motivational skills.

Innovate & Implement
A solid learning tool. It puts as few as 3 people (but works with an unlimited number of players) in a situation where they have to work together in a challenging, time-limited game focused on collaboration and communications.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Goldmine Team Building Game
This is our flagship team building exercise and you can find dozens of supporting articles here in the blog that explains its very unique capabilities and applications. It has received worldwide acclamation as a Game for Team Building, Communications, Strategic Planning, Collaboration and Leadership Development that works with all kinds of organizations and groups.

Any of these along with the other products on our website are proven tools for reaching out to and engaging employees in the process of continuous, continuous improvement.

Here are some of my Blog Articles around the Idea of Engaged Leaders who help generate a motivated and innovative workplace.

If You Aren’t Leading and Engaging, What are You Doing?

LEGO, Square Wheels, Innovation, Leadership and Stuff

Fear is The Mindkiller – Thoughts on Facilitation and Engagement

Facilitation? Me, a Facilitator? Me, a MOTIVATOR??

Decision Making, Creativity, and Implementation

Teamwork and Square Wheels and Implementation

Can Creativity be Taught? Illustrated Thoughts

Focusing Attention on Performance Improvement through Interactive Engagement

square wheels business haiku on intrinsic motivation

If we can help you, connect with me. I am easy to reach and can offer some pretty realistic and straightforward ideas and solutions to many performance improvement and team building issues that we find in the workplaces of the world.

Square Wheels Intrinsic Motivation illustration

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. 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.

Intrinsic Motivation and Engagement – Training is NOT the answer

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

I read that in an old John Le Carre novel 20 years ago and it stuck with me. It is just one of those quotes that just makes some sense out of why so many things can be improved. Using my metaphor for how Square Wheels really work in the workplace, we have something like this:

ideas are goodconnected with:

Square Wheels ideas are good implementation

A reality of organizations and training globally is something like this:

Square Wheels Engagimentation Progress 700Mand that also relates to:

Square Wheels Engagimentation Progress Down 700M

Engagimentation is my term for Dis-Un-Engagement, which is acting to remove the things that people perceive as un-engaging. It is simple roadblock management when you reduce to the ridiculous, but it can be done in a way that actually generates intrinsic motivation and the sense that the organization is listening.

I think that the typical Training looks like this, an attempt to build individual strengths:

Muscle Building yellow cartoon

The reality of going back to work generally looks like this:

SWs One Muscle Puller yellow © border

Because we cannot generally address organizational structural and process issues in much of our training, and because of issues like resistance to change and a lack of overall workplace engagement, we have a wide variety of performance based issues. Here is an article on the problem of how we manage people and here is an article about workplace intrinsic motivation from other popular blog posts of mine.

One possible solution to these issues of ownership involvement and problem solving and intrinsic motivation would be better facilitation of ideas for performance improvement from the workers. We offer some simple cartoon-based tools for that purpose.

Square Wheels are simply great tools

Lastly, remember to have some fun out there!

See our poems and quips blog

square wheels author

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

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

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

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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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Followup, Followup, Followup — The Only Way to make Improvements

Guilty of it myself, much more often than I would like.

We do some training and expect things to change.

What is wrong with this picture is that while we might impact knowledge, we do not really implement any change or improvement in results.

Gosh, I know that feedback is the critical part of performance (not reinforcement per se) and that changes in feedback are the ONLY way that anything will change for any length of time.

(You can read more on performance feedback here)

What I have been doing lately to impact the effectiveness of the play of our team building exercise that focuses on collaboration is to further develop our debriefing cartoons to include some anchored to poems and that could be used to keep people thinking about issues and opportunities and about the commitments they made to do some things differently.

Obviously, without some way to measure change and improvement, we will not have much sustainability from any training event. But, with the leadership team asking about changes and improvements and ideas, it does keep the issues and opportunities more in the forefront.,

I do NOT have a silver bullet for making all things right. But we do offer some simple, elegant tools like Lost Dutchman and Square Wheels to help organizations implement improvement.

Here are a few of the series, that is still under development. If you are a Lost Dutchman owner-user, pop me a note and I can assemble the illustrations for you and send them along,

LD boots in rain poem question

LD Grub Stake 2 poem and questions

 

LD Chaos Confusion poem and questions

 

LD Land Rush feather poem question month

 

 

 

I trust that you like these. Feel free to bounce back with your own poems and suggestions, and note that I have about 50 of these right now, with more to come,

For the FUN of It!

Scott LD

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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Tribal Wisdom and Organizational Improvement – Thoughts on dealing with a dead horse

Organizational engagement, workplace involvement, and leadership facilitation are all parts of an organizational alignment strategy. And while much has been written on the issue, we need to remember that many of the old strategies and tactics taken to resolve organizational issues are not new ones.

The Navajo nation is said to have a saying that rings true when one thinks of so many people in so many workplaces:

Navajo Not possible to awaken

HR can do all it wants to, but if the people at their desks are choosing not to be involved or engaged or high-performing, no amount of spending will make any difference.

Let me illustrate with a different tribe and a different perspective. If one looks at employment practices in many places, they may appear to be designed to not generate involvement or engagement. I am reminded of Samuel Goldwyn and his reported,

“When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”

NOT engaging people kinda reminds me about that Dakota Indian tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, in business we often try other strategies with dead horses and unengaged people, including the following:

  •   Buying a stronger whip or whips.
  •   Changing riders or changing the leadership team.
  •   Restructuring around the issue: “This is the way we always have ridden this horse.”
  •   Appointing a committee to study the horse, riding, training and support systems.
  •   Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
  •   Increasing the standards for riding dead horses to exclude poor performers.
  •   Appointing a tiger team to revive the dead horse.
  •   Creating a training session with the desired outcome of increasing riding ability / best practices.
  •   Comparing the state of dead horses in today’s environment.
  •  Change the requirements declaring that “This horse is not dead.”
  •  Hire contractors to ride the dead horse.
  •  Harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed.
  •  Declaring simply that “No horse is too dead to beat.”
  •  Providing additional funding to increase the horse’s performance.
  •  Do a Case Study to see if contractors can ride it cheaper.
  •  Purchase a product from a TV vendor to make dead horses run faster.
  •  Declare the horse is “better, faster and cheaper” dead than alive when stored on a bullet train.
  •  Form a quality circle to find uses for dead horses.
  •  Revisit the performance requirements for horses.
  •  Say this horse was procured with cost as an independent variable to test financial system strength.
  •  Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position (again).

Please note: I am not picking on dead horses. I am just relating to Dakota Indian tribal wisdom, and using the metaphor of a dead horse, apparently. You can substitute your own animal or inanimate object like a desk or supervisor in the above explanation.

We make choices all the time. We ought to be choosing to better involve and engage people for workplace improvement and performance.

As Scott Adams said in The Dilbert Principles,

Mission - all good companies have one

 

and as Max DePree said in his neat little book, Leadership is an Art:

Max DePree - cannot become

 

Let’s do more to awaken our people and to help them work together more effectively. Let’s look for ways to improve engagement and increase intrinsic motivation for workplace improvement. The potential is out there!

Performance Management Company sells simple tools for involving and engaging people in workplace performance, including management team building exercises like The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and our series of Square Wheels toolkits.

Check them out, sign up for our blog, and have some fun out there, too.

 

scott tiny casual

 

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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Motivating People and Performance – Three Simple Ideas

A lot has been written about generating higher levels of performance to produce better results. And a lot has been written about improving engagement and involvement to improve innovation and employee retention. A further lot has been written about improving teamwork among employees and management.

None of this is rocket science and none of this actually requires much of a budget or the involvement of the training department or human resources. None of this even really requires any support of senior management, although that should be an expected occurrence in organizations trying to implement improvements. What it does clearly involve is the active engagement of line managers.

Here are actually Three Big Simple Ideas.

  1. Build involvement and engagement by facilitating a series of meetings on visions, missions, goals, expectations and feedback. (also known as Alignment.)
  2. Create some teams and allow them to accomplish things related to that alignment.
  3. Improve facilitation skills and use involvement to generate participation.

Let me briefly expand and explain how you can take your people to a higher level of performance. And this will not cost anything. If you email me by clicking on this link, I will send you the free Square Wheels tool that you can try, with no obligation. But remind me of the offer from your reading this blog!

square wheels image

1 – Build involvement and engagement by facilitating a series of meetings on visions, missions, goals, expectations and feedback.

The statistics are clear: Some or most people in many or most organizations do NOT really understand the overall goals and objectives of the organization – at best, this is 4 of 5 people but it is generally not that high. Data are clear on this, even though most managers would say that it is not likely in their organization. Your people might know their jobs, but they often do not understand how what they do fits into the bigger picture. Thus, we often see departmental squabbles when the customer is the one who is really impacted, which indicates an alignment issue.

Let’s say that your company is implementing a new strategy and your group is part of that process of making some changes to better align with these new goals. What are reasonable expectations? My friend Robin Speculand at Bridges Consultancy in Singapore has some global statistics that are numbing:

  • 90% of strategies fail to deliver even 50% of their objectives.
  • Only 5% of employees have a basic understanding of the company strategy
  • Only 2% of managers are confident that they will achieve 80% or more of their strategy’s defined objectives.

So much about the success of such initiatives are simply about facilitation and communications of visions, missions, goals, and expectations and changes in feedback and measurement systems.

This alignment process is not a difficult one, but it is something that really needs to be accomplished. And, you should do this through questions and tabletop discussions and not

2 – Create some teams and allow them to accomplish things related to the above.

You’ve got to have a problem that you want to solve;
a wrong that you want to right.

Steve Jobs

It has got to be something that you’re passionate about because otherwise you won’t have the perseverance to see it through.
Steve Jobs

There are dozens of ways to build teams. Basically, they need to have some kind of challenge that they want to address and some kind of organizational support that they feel will allow them to address the issue. We use the simple process of facilitating Square Wheels One to both involve them creatively as well as get them to share and agree on some specific Square Wheels that are operating.

This produces cognitive dissonance, a motivation to close the gap between the Square Wheel and some possible Round Wheels. One of the keys is their perceived likelihood of getting the support needed to address that implementation. Cultural and company cultural differences will lead to different strategies and tactics to address this opportunity. And I have written extensively around issues of implementation throughout the nearly 300 posts in this blog.

Teams will form naturally in most workplaces if they are allowed. And there are all sorts of models that can be overlaid for the long-term, like Kaizen or Lean. Find one that works already in your organization — no sense reinventing that particular wheel!

3 – Improve facilitation skills and use involvement to generate participation.

The issue is generally not one of compensation or similar cultural roadblocks to performance. The Kelly Global Workforce Index from in June, 2013 said:

  • 45% of workers in The Americas agreed that they receive equitable compensation for their work.
  • 44% say they would perform at a higher level if compensation were tied to performance / productivity.
  • Reframing that, 55% of the workers feel that they do not receive equitable compensation (one can assume most feel undercompensated) and 56% of them are saying that they could accomplish more if they were better motivated.

If you are interested in more statistics on these kinds of issues, Part IV of my post on managing and leading change summarizes a lot of data about people and performance. You can find Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly – Part 4 here.

The issue is relatively simple. You have to stop TELLING them things and begin to ASK them more about their understandings and their ideas. You can save time by lecturing, but you lose all the energy that arises from involvement and ownership.

Lastly, remember that a transfer of ownership involvement is a key step in getting the people involved and the momentum for change. Make this improvement opportunity theirs, since:

Nobody ever washes a rental car!

I’ve said it a zillion times: People do not take care of things when they feel no ownership involvement. If it is their idea, they own it. If they talk in defense of a position, they own it. If you can get them sharing ideas and deciding to do things differently, they own it. And all you need to do is provide the support and resources to help them get things done.

square wheels author

 

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

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

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

 

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Dis-Un-Engagement – Improving Motivation and Facilitating Workplace Improvement

Solutions to performance improvement are not always obvious and apparent and selecting an optimal approach often requires careful analysis and planning. Sometimes, the solution requires training of a skill while other times, it is simply about choosing an implementation strategy that is more effective in supporting behavior change.

In the case of workplace engagement, we are spending billions of dollars annually in surveys and training that is supposed to improve the feelings of involvement on the part of employees. Yet nearly every research study shows that many organizations and many people in most every organization, are dis-engaged and uninvolved.

In a 2012 Gallup research paper, involving 1.4 million people and almost 50,000 organizations, it clearly demonstrated the impacts of an involved workplace, studying 9 different performance outcomes. Here are the results when one compares the top 25% of organizations with the bottom 25%:

  • 37% lower absenteeism
  • 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
  • 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
  • 28% less shrinkage
  • 48% fewer safety incidents
  • 41% fewer patient safety incidents
  • 41% fewer quality incidents (defects)
  • 10% higher customer metrics
  • 21% higher productivity
  • 22% higher profitability

Many suggest that firing and hiring is the best solution to the issue of un-engaged workers. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, suggests firing the 7,000,000 managers who are toxic and are poisoning 70,000,000 workers. Others blame the workers for the problem and suggest that hiring new people is the solution. (Ironically, Sirota Research found that it takes about 8 months for new hires to regress to the average performance levels of the rest of the workers. So, it seems you have to accomplish a lot of things in a narrow window of time.)

Let me propose a somewhat different framework:

If you put a gun to their head, could people do things differently?

This is an old thinking test that is attributed to Bob Mager that I first heard of back in the late 1970s. It is at the core of the issue of whether training is required for some behavior to occur. Could managers do a better job of engaging if their life depended upon it? My thinking is clearly YES and OF COURSE. But it seems very evident, looking at statistics, that they are choosing not to do so.

So, my reframing question is a simple one:

Can Each One Reach One?

Can each supervisor reach one non-engaged person in their workforce and take some action to involve and engage them? Without waiting for extensive training done by some outside organization or Human Resources? Can every single individual supervisor simply choose to do something differently?

Won’t people in the workplace naturally coalesce around the simple theme of making things better? Don’t most people have issues they would like to correct and ideas for improvement? Don’t most people like to solve puzzles and problems?

My approach is anchored with an illustration and a process of involving and engaging people to share their thoughts and ideas.

Our first illustration (1993) looks like this:

SWs One green watermark

while our new approach uses this image:

Square Wheels One is a metaphor for performance improvement by Scott Simmerman

And the lead-in question is a really simple one:
How might this represent how most organizations really work?

Without detailing the very simple training around how to facilitate the discussion and process the ideas for identifying and prioritizing the Square Wheels or designing approaches to successfully implement the Round Wheels and celebrate the successes and impacts, the basic concept is that any supervisor can be taught the facilitation skills and frameworks to make such a discussion process easy and straightforward.

With a little bit of customization, one can easily align the most successful implementation strategies to the organization’s culture of best practices and optimal ways to introduce new ideas in the workplace.

With a little imagination, the approach can be linked to the existing feedback and measurement systems to generate sustained improvement and congruence with existing expectations and desired results.

The approach that I envision is to initially get the buy-in from senior management to use this illustration and the concept that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon to develop an online training course on facilitation skills using these illustrations.

The program can be targeted to specific desired organizational outcomes around process improvement, service quality improvement, team building, innovation, process improvement or it can simply be used to generate some clear understanding of the issues that are perceived to be un-engaging and frustrating in the workplace and to allow team-based organizational improvement.

We would customize worksheets for collection of the general ideas as well as specific ones that people would like to work to improve. Issues not solvable at the supervisor level can be collected for manager resolution or escalated to higher levels of the organization as well as across organizational boundaries.

From these discussions, it is easy and straightforward to collect Best Practices that can be shared across teams of people doing similar jobs. It works well for addressing inter-departmental issues, since the language of Square Wheels is easily understood as something that works, but that does not work smoothly and efficiently.

The conversations also set up the reality of continuous continuous improvement, since the Round Wheels of Today will inevitably and invariably become the Square Wheels of Tomorrow.

Solution: I envision that we co-develop a simple online training program that would take a supervisor about an hour to complete and one that would offer them some options for how they might use the illustration in their workplaces, with individuals for coaching or for team building problem solving and roadblock management.

Square Wheels are the protected intellectual property of Performance Management Company and we have two decades of experience in using them for a wide variety of organizational development purposes.

I do see this issue of Dis-Un-Engagement as a specific approach to dealing with the less than involved and engaged employees, a group thought to represent roughly 70% of all workers across organizations. Your best managers may have higher levels of engaged people; your worse ones have more opportunities for improvement.

We can improve workplace facilitation of ideas, generate higher levels of intrinsic motivation, and do a better job of innovating.

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

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

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


Square Wheels® are the protected intellectual property of Performance Management Company and we have two decades of experience in using them for a wide variety of organizational development purposes. Please respect our copyrights and trademark.

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

 

A softball cartoon on employee engagement…

John Junson, a cartoonist working with David Zinger at The Employee Engagement Network, just published his 365th cartoon around issues of employee engagement and the reality of the workplace.

I thought this one was really cute and could certainly be used generically to stimulate discussions about some of the issues people face when dealing with managers. That interface to manager to worker is where the leverage really occurs in generating teamwork and innovation and personal growth.

So, I share that illustration here:

295

I am into metaphor, and the idea of a window on the world and a live plant are certainly. I think I might have her holding her arms up in a “touchdown” kind of gesture and someone said that the hind portion of the boss on the left side might have some skin showing, since he IS showing his (arse) by behaving as he is. But maybe I am just a little too direct, ya think?

You can get to and join this free network of 10,000 people focused on people and performance at http://employeeengagement.ning.com/

You can find some writings and other information about the impacts of increasing active involvement in the workplace at this recent blog, which connects to some of my other writings on this issue.

DO have some fun out there. Do some things differently today than you normally do and see if you can make a small positive difference to someone.

Each One, Reach One.

And realize that this engagement issue is only somewhat about other people and bad HR processes — it is a lot more about your people, their active involvement, related intrinsic motivation and the leadership behaviors that you choose to show that allows all of us to operate more effectively with our teams.

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

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

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

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Top Performers Least Engaged Workers? Low Performers Most Involved?

In 4 of 10 companies, low performers were more engaged than the high performers, a paradox that has some big implications for your organization’s long term results. The people who are bringing you the least impact are more engaged than your best performers, who need involvement and engagement for you to retain them. Yeah, motivation is a funny thing!

John Baldoni shared some survey data from LeadershipIQ on the HBR Blog Network, which has a nice pdf analysis of the data. It IS thought provoking. John wrote this up well and gave me permission to repost, so I will keep this whole post short and link to it with some other blog posts on my thinking. I will retain his links and add my cartoons! Here is what John wrote:

Some of the most engaged employees in your organization are your worst performers. And some of the least engaged are your highest performers.

This conclusion comes from new research by the consulting firm, Leadership IQ. The study “matched engagement survey and performance appraisal data for 207 organizations.” According to CEO Mark Murphy (who I interviewed via email), “We had long suspected that high performers might not be as engaged as has traditionally been assumed. But seeing that, in 42% of cases, high performers were even less engaged than low performers was a bit of a shock.”

This conclusion runs contrary to conventional wisdom as well as many studies (including this one from Gallup) that show high engagement — that is, how much employees are committed to their work — correlates with better bottom line results, including productivity and profitability.

You could think of these low performers as hamsters on a wheel, spinning fast but actually going nowhere.

Rat Cage Making Progress Yet yellow

Conversely, high performers may be coasting like swans on a pond, just gliding by. You don’t see their effort because it’s below the water. As Murphy says, “in our study, high performers gave very low marks when asked if employees all live up to the same standards.”

Overlay - duck color

While low performers may be more engaged, their efforts may not be as productive, especially since it’s the higher performers — disengaged though they may be — who are doing all the work. The underperformance of the former undermines the effort of the latter. This is especially true, according to the study, when low performers are not held accountable for poor performance. These employees may not even know they are doing a poor job.

Naturally when poor performers are allowed to slide by, it erodes the morale of high performers who feel, again according to the study, “helpless about the trajectory of their careers.”

 (Read Scott’s blog about “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…”)

“We had seen plenty of cases where managers avoid dealing with low performers (because they believe the conversation will be difficult), and instead assign work to the employees they enjoy — i.e. high performers.,” says Murphy. “And as a result, they end up ‘burning out’ those same high performers they enjoy so much.”

While I find Leadership IQ’s findings linking high engagement to poor performers to be contrarian, it is not usual for good performers to feel lost in the system. This is a comment I hear not infrequently in my coaching work.

So what to do about it? Murphy offers two suggestions. “First, leaders need to set very explicit, and behaviorally-specific, expectations for performance. These expectations need to define and delineate good, great, and even poor performance so employees and managers can clearly define and differentiate best practices, teach those practices to others, and then hold people accountable accordingly.”

Doing this, according to Murphy, “gives high performers confidence that their manager understands the meaning of ‘high performer’ and it holds the manager accountable to actually differentiate employees on the basis of their performance.”

Second, Murphy suggests regularly monthly leadership meetings (perhaps lasting no more than 20 minutes) that ask managers about what’s going on in their workplaces and how motivated they feel. As Murphy says, “If a company CEO were told that their best customers were unhappy, it’s a safe bet that CEO would be on a plane within hours. If we truly believe that people are our most important asset, shouldn’t we pay a bit more attention to the engagement of the best of those people?”

Senior management needs to communicate more clearly, hold people at every level accountable for results, and actively invest time and resources in the talents of high performers.

All too often companies do not know their employees are unhappy until they leave. Exit interviews reveal that they leave because they did not believe anyone cared. Research has confirmed the old saw that people leave bosses, not companies. That makes holding bosses accountable for employee engagement critical.

Senior leaders need to do a better job of teaching managers how to be better managers. And they also need to apply such standards to themselves.

———————————–

I trust that you find this data and John’s framing of it to be of interest and use, as I did. If we expect workplace performance to improve, engagement and involvement are an easy way to address these opportunities. Doing another survey is not going to help us. Focusing on Dis-Un-Engagement is much more likely to pay dividends.

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

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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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/

 

Flying by the seat of your pants – NOT the way to Engaging Employees

In the process of writing a new newsletter on the criticality of supervisors in organizations, I was looking for some statistical anchors. And while doing that, I got invited to be on the board of the IAPPD, the International Association for People and Performance Development. So, I recommended a couple of other people for them to consider for a similar slot and that got me using Bing to search for those stats — who pops up but David Zinger, one of the two people I recommended. Yeah, a small world…

And that link took me to an article that I really liked from July of 2007, one that I repost in here with a link back to his blog.

An Employee Engagement Six Pack

Are you flying with a six pack of employee engagement?

In this case, I don’t mean half a dozen beers.

The essential instruments in a light aircraft are often referred to as the 6- pack:

  • airspeed indicator flight-instruments
  • attitude indicator
  • altimeter
  • turn coordinator  
  • heading indicator
  • vertical speed indicator

Do you monitor 6 strong “indications” of your employee engagement to get you successfully to your destination?

  1. Airspeed indicator – how fast can you move towards your goal?
  2. Attitude indicator – is everyone maintaining a strong and positive attitude and avoiding too much wobble?
  3. Altimeter – how high can you climb with fully engaged employees?
  4. Turn coordinator – are you responsive to change to turn back to employee engagement if you begin to drift off course? Can you feel exhilarated while making a steep turn?
  5. Heading indicator – do you stay vigilant about where you are headed?
  6. Vertical speed indicator – how quickly can you climb to new levels of employee engagement?

Grab a coffee, jump into the workplace cockpit, and prepare to take off with these indicators of employee engagement. Of course, you could also grab a six pack of beer or root beer and have a down-to-earth discussion about employee engagement with the team of people you work with.

——————
Simple and clean. Having the right instruments and measuring the right kinds of things is important for managing people and performance. Knowing where you are and where you are going allows you to align the right resources and provide the right levels of support and training to accomplish your goals.
My thinking increasingly leans toward the criticality of the supervisor in generating workplace improvement and overall performance. I sense that we can do a much better job of this, and that we need to focus more attention on the initiatives to dis-un-engage and actively involve so many more people in our workplaces.
 Scott small picDr. 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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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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