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

Tag: employee engagement

Square Wheels – Going Viral on People and Performance

Jonah Berger’s recent book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, is about why things go viral in today’s social media world. He is a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business and in 2009, his team conducted a study of the most-emailed articles in the New York Times over a 6-month period. Berger compiled those findings, along with other information research on building brand popularity, to generate 6 key principles for going viral.

So, the challenge is to figure how to roll out the Square Wheels. (Do I need to put Obama pulling with The Clintons pushing or what? Do I need to do some little graphic images that everyone can share around? Do we do a Square Wheels video game like Angry Birds, where workers can shoot down Square Wheels and bad bosses? Do I need a One-Minute-Manager book on motivation? How can we move this forward?)

Berger’s 6 principles are:

  • social currency (peer popularity of the idea);
  • triggers (daily reminders of the idea or product);
  • emotional resonance (how much the idea or product inspires a deep emotional reaction);
  • observability (high visibility of a product essentially sells itself);
  • usefulness (we want to share useful information); and
  • storytelling (a narrative surrounding the idea or product provides stickiness.) 

Sounds like we have a pretty solid anchor point with something like this:

Perception of how things work SWs One

And the theme certainly sets the stage for usefulness and observability. After all,

  • The Square Wheels really ARE Everywhere! and 
  • The Round Wheels are already IN the wagon!

We also have a good storyline around the perception that the above is like most workplaces, as shown by the lack of engagement by a majority of workers, along with their feelings that no one is listening to their ideas. Involvement is a key motivator, for sure!

RWs Sig File icon

or maybe a Haiku of some kind:

Discover the Road haiku

This IS a storyline around people and motivation, around involvement and engagement, and around continuous improvement of the workplace. It is about involvement and engagement and about intrinsic motivation and performance feedback. But it raises a question of reality:

Intrinsic Improvement Haiku

The cartoons are sold in simple-to-use toolkits at our website, complete with ideas for facilitation, handouts, powerpoints and all that stuff. You can also buy coffee cups and refrigerator magnets with the the message about possibilities for improvement.

After all, managers should see lots of performance coaching opportunities as they work to develop their people. They should be looking at potential as well as dealing with issues and opportunities for improvement, something that looks like this:

Mentoring Color Icon

We all can support, coach, mentor and try to support the caterpillars as they struggle to become the butterflies of the future.

Like this. Share this. Help me make these Square Wheels more visible so that we can try to put more Round Wheels into play around the world,

For the FUN of It!

Elegant Solutions

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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Spring into Innovation – Some Thoughts about Involvement and Motivation

There are a lot of blogs and groups focused on the themes of innovation, and so many know so much that it continues to be mind boggling.

There appear to be two main camps, one that says that Innovation Occurs in Big Leaps and one that focuses more on what I have been calling Continuous Continuous Improvement for many years (that label from the Department of Redundancy Department!).

The Big Leaps People tend to use a specific set of creativity and structured innovation tools and an “outsider’s approach” and look for huge quantum jumps in things. These kinds of innovators get most of the attention from Fast Company and Wired and the venture capitalists and represent the Heros of the Universe. For people with this viewpoint, creativity is a learned skill and one that often takes on a very structured approach to opportunity identification. Think of the creative meetings at advertising agencies that push for the Big Idea on TV and reward those extravagantly.

Sometimes, that One Big Idea just appears out of nowhere and is so enticing that people can raise millions of dollars from others who see the potential. That is why some of the big software companies spend bazillions on some new idea from some small company long before it shows that it generates a cent of profits or is worth even a tiny portion of a bazillion dollars.

Celebration plane color green

Sometimes, we can be focused on our wagons while only the horse sees the idea of the cargo plane. (So, the solution is to hire the horse?)

But there is another kind of innovation that gets my interests, since it has so many impacts on people, performance and the workplace. It has links to leadership and motivation and organizational development.

Me, I like the writings of people like Sidney D’Mello, my new professor friend who focuses on confusion as a key to learning and retention. People learn more when they are placed in a situation where some problem solving is required. I like the literature on facilitation and collaboration that enable people from different viewpoints and backgrounds to get together to consider possibilities of doing things differently. In those kinds of workshop sessions, we get an occasional Big Leap, but more often, it is framed around the improvement of existing work processes.

Intrinsic Motivation color green

Improving existing work processes can have BIG impacts on motivation, performance results and innovation, however. That one small, implemented improvement can make a BIG positive impact on one person who has been frustrated in dealing with that issue, and it can be the first step forward of many more. Seeing that idea implemented by one person can help reassure the other people that the organization is willing to consider doing things differently, which can then involve and engage the others in rolling forward.

So, now that Spring has Sprung here in South Carolina, we are enthused by a new addition to our games and toolkits.

31

This interesting new development is the completion of our team building and creativity game, Innovate & Implement. This is a fun, fast-playing board game designed to enable innovation and get ideas implemented into the workplace. We get players into a problem-solving framework whereby they need to work together and deal with different kinds of common organizational roadblocks.

Take a narrative pictorial tour of Innovate & Implement by clicking on the link. It is a fully-packaged organizational intervention designed to involve and engage people in generating new ideas for doing things better and faster.

Good ideas exist but to implement them, people need motivation to overcome barriers and issues. This is why I&I is more than just a game–it works to engage and enlist people and teams in improvement initiatives.

Open a window for innovation and implementation in order to impact your employees and organization with positive, refreshing improvements. And have more FUN out there!

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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Managers – Biggest Contributors or Biggest Problem?

An outstanding article got published today by Jim Clifton, the CEO of Gallup. If you have not noticed the transition of this company over the years, it has moved from its stereotyped base as a “polling organization” to one that is tightly focused on issues of workplace improvement. This article by Mr. Clifton appeared in LinkedIn and is mindblowing.

Jim CliftonYou can find the article here: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130322105453-14634910-beware-of-managers-from-hell

The data — 1,390,941 workers compiled into one database — says that of the 100,000,000 or so full time workers in the US, 30,000,000  (30%) are engaged and inspired at work and 20,000,000 (20%) employees  are actively disengaged. It’s that old Henny Youngman line, “…Take my wife. Please!” reframed to, “…Take my boss… Please!” in the case of the 20 million who – again – are ACTIVELY dis-engaged, un-involved and un-inspired.

Henny Youngman( See Henny Youngman perform on Ed Sullivan (1966). )

The point that Youngman makes is that he wishes things could be different (he is actually joking, and it is funny!). The point Jim Clifton makes is that leadership in management is a critical factor in employee motivation and performance, and that good managers are a lot different than bad bosses in how they impact the workplace and the US economy. He is not joking and nothing is funny about allowing things to simply continue the way things are…

As Clifton says,

Here is my big conclusion: A workforce of 100 million employees in America requires a 10-1 ratio of managers to teams. So, for the U.S. to be perfectly managed, it requires 10 million great supervisors and then 1 million great managers of those supervisors. Pick the right people for these roles, the ones who know best how to engage their people, and the country will rise up economically like never before.

But the problem is, given my 10-1 ratio, there are, in my estimate, only about 3 million great managers inspiring and motivating those 30 million engaged employees. That’s just not enough great leadership.

 We do NOT need 3 million great managers leading people; what we need are a few million fewer Bad Bosses un-leading them! In other posts in my blog, I discuss dis-un-engagement and the issues surrounding the unmotivated middle of the workforce. We can impact them in many ways. In my post about the seemingly unmotivated, I discuss my thinking on what we can do differently to make improvements. It is not rocket science. In my post about Pogo, it is about this simple concept:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Like  Mr. Clifton, I believe that we must make changes in how people are managed. His approach is focused on engagement, and so is mine. He takes the position that the three key issues of importance, based on their survey results are:

1.     At work,  I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. This is the single-best survey item you can ask an employee. If they score high on this, it means they have been assigned a job for which they have the talent to excel. Mastering this begins with companies identifying employees’ strengths and putting them in the right roles.

2.     There is someone at work who encourages my development.

3.     At work, my opinions seem to count.

I take the position that most people are un-engaged and un-involved and that every manager and supervisor needs to focus in DIS-un-engagement and the implementation of ideas — Engagimentation. It is a simple concept of facilitating ideas in the workplace and then working to implement those ideas by better managing perceived and actual roadblocks. The tools are simple and the approach is straightforward.

Reality of how things work SWs One

and the possibilities that exist for making the workplace a better place:

Rainbow Wagon green 70

Engagimentation

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.

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Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…”

I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…” is my anchor point for what seems to happen often in the workplace. It may be a sudden thing, where the pin hits the balloon and the worker finally snaps and decides that they are quitting — but often, before actually leaving, they will placehold their current work as they will look for another job. Or, it may simply be that the person burns out, gets totally blase about things and just does not care to try very hard anymore. Then, they will simply work to meet minimal expectations.

In this post, I excerpt some of the key thoughts and data points in my article about workplace performance. You can download a copy of the full article from box.com by clicking on the image below:

I Quit Article Icon

What I will do herein is highlight some of the key points about how to engage the dis-engaged or to accomplish what I talk about as Engagimentation.

We can start with how it all starts, with a statement of how things are working:

imagine a workplace

Yeah, just imagine that! Let me know if you actually find one of those because they would be a good role model for the rest of them. I can imagine that things work pretty well there and that they are profitable. It is a nice thought. But research shows that it is far from the average workplace of today,  where surveys consistently show the majority of people as dis-engaged and only casually involved. Surveys of managers show that many think that people would be happy to just have a job (and they are); but happiness with being employed does NOT translate into productivity and performance results.

Stats show 85% of employees report their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job (from Sirota Survey Intelligence) and 49% of workers say they constantly have their antennae out for new job opportunities — even when they are happy in their current position. Few feel their current employer is giving them a fair deal in terms of advancement opportunities (Kelly survey).

We start with an energetic, positive and committed new hire who becomes one of those people who simply disappear and are working to simply get by and noticing if something better might come their way. Focused on meeting the minimally-acceptable standards of productivity and quality, they seem no longer much interested in much. They are not the first person you call on when something needs to get done. And there are a lot of them in most workplaces.

The article has a series of statistics that back up the basic idea that the majority of people in the workplace are simply choosing to underperform because they are just not “into it.” They are not bad employees, they are just not giving what they could and it shows up in a variety of ways. Think of them as: Average. Middle. Muddling. Mundane. Un-exceptional. Un-engaged.

Some Common Situation Causal Factors could include:

  • Being Restrained: One area of concern is around the mis-fit of policies, procedures, rules and regulations. They may become frustrated because they are restrained in how they accomplish things. They might want to be more helpful to customers or they may see possibilities of improvement that are either rejected as ideas or simply brushed aside.
  • Being Ignored: They may simply feel that they are ignored. They might not have feedback systems that provide effective information about their performance and those results may be invisible, in their opinions, to their management team. They might feel that they need training (or they are sent off to training for no apparent reason). And when they do extend forward, no one notices or comments; it changes nothing.
  • Not on the Team: Or, they may feel as though they are not part of the team or the in-crowd. People at the margins tend to become marginal. As part of a team, they often feel that their efforts contribute to the overall good. But with no sense of such involvement, they tend to become less involved, quickly.
  • Accidental Adversaries: Another factor was discussed by Peter Senge in his work on learning organizations and involved a series of small negative events that, in the bigger overall situation, would become more and more annoying over time. Repetitive small “pinches” could eventually be disruptive. There was not one event or one thing, just a bunch of little things that added up. It should not be surprising that these loops could be common between workers or between an individual and a supervisor and that, left unattended, they underpin a motivational problem.
  • Punishment, defined as a negative consequence that occurs following some behavior, is another issue in many workplaces. We are not talking “public disgrace” here or corporeal punishment; we are more often talking about little comments or perceived slights or the threat of negative consequences that could occur in response to behaviors.

When people are strictly following policies, procedures, rules and regulations, they will not be productive. (Yes there are situations like safety where strict compliance is important, but less so for customer service, manufacturing or similar kinds of activities). In fact, most work slowdowns are anchored in people following things overly precisely and carefully.

What do we do? How do we motivate these people?

Re-engage them. And understand that this will take time and effort. You cannot do this to them, but you can do it with them. Change and improvement take time, but the capability is there. Remember that, “Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled” (Frank Navran) and that you need to build your base moving forward.

Re-frame the solution into the simple context of Dis-Un-Engagement. This is the process of working with them to identify the things that are unengaging them and do things to remove those factor, in reality and in the perception of reality. The key is to be seen doing things differently. (I am not talking about faking it; I refer to the reality that many beliefs they might have are simply not true but if they feel that they have some control, these factors become less important.)

Dis-Un-Engaging is re-motivating by de-un-motivating!

Identify the past and present things that are currently un-engaging people and use facilitation and teamwork to identify those factors and issues that can be changed, added or reduced that will help to eliminate or minimize these performance issues and change the culture.

Actually, this is really straightforward and accomplished by:

  • removing the perceived (common) or actual (sometimes) things that are un-engaging people and teams, you serve the purpose of re-engaging and re-energizing them;
  • facilitating, you generate active involvement. You lead and engage;
  • creating a new sense of vision and mission about the future;
  • using teams to solve problems, you build the teamwork support, energy and resources needed to supply the peer pressure to improve and sustain.

Many believe that this is all there is to motivation:

How to Motivate People red color

clicking on the image will take you to another article on motivation

There are always threads in my LinkedIn groups focused on the above. Many organizations try to control people’s behaviors extrinsically, a highly difficult process fraught with all sorts of potential negative side effects. Money works, but there is a continuous need to increase its amounts to get the same results over time, and you will get a lot of competitive responses between people that have negative side effects and interfere with teamwork. Plus, extrinsic incentives will only motivate the top performers, in most situations.

In B, we will get performance. But it will be compliance-focused and not exceptional. And, do NOT turn your back, since various kinds of retribution and sabotage are common.

Recognize this simple reality:  People WANT to succeed.
We simply have to help them come back in and re-engage.

You can start with something easy like this:

Visioning 2019 Engagement

And simply listen for how people want their workplace to be. They will talk about the different problems that were fixed and the way they were engaged and involved to fix things.

After that works and you get a grip on the kinds of things that are seen as issues, you can help define how things work and get after those things that need improvement. Our approach has always been to ask for issues and opportunities using our Square Wheels illustration toolkits:

SWs One - How Things Work

But there are lots of things you can do and how you can do them. My approach is to use the above and then get them thinking like this:

Intrinsic motivation comes from feeling successful and wanting to continue to improve how things work.

Intrinsic motivation comes from feeling successful and wanting to continue to improve how things work.

We want the group to feel like they understand the issues and can deal with them effectively. The key is to implement some improvements and possibly use teams to help with that process. Do things differently! Success makes Continued Success more likely.

Engagimentation = engagement plus implementation

Doing more surveys without doing anything to involve and engage people tends to feel more like this:

Working hard, turning corners, working hard, turning corners, working hard...

Companies spent $700 million on engagement surveys. They got close to nothing in return – engagement is dropping most places.

Don’t just have more surveys and more discussions. Involve and engage the people in the organization — especially those in the middle — to improve performance results of all kinds.

You can download the complete article on workplace engagement by clicking this sentence. Your feedback would be appreciated.

Scott on CoachingYou can also find a 3-minute video on my YouTube page that explains the concepts around coaching and improving average performance and the idea of moving the overall performance curve to improve results at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cohrhcYpDCk

For the FUN of It!

Discuss what you might do differently

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/

 

 

Addendum – There is a really interesting “I Quit” letter going around, reportedly from a woman auditor who quits PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) because of people, structure, culture, and job growth. She pulls no punches. You can find that, with a long series of comments from other people, at http://gawker.com/this-is-the-best-i-quit-email-youll-read-all-week-1467082884

 

Is HR the Puppet Master or the Puppet?

There was a great post this morning by Dan Rockwell on his blog, part of which I reproduce here simply because it is a great subject as well as a target of some of my cartoons.

Dan wrote (some snipped):

My worst experience with HR is a broken confidence. She smiled and listened and within an hour violated my trust.

Human Resource personnel are among the most criticized people in business.

HR is criticized for:

  1. Treating humans as resources.
  2. Not understanding positions they’re filling.
  3. Managing paper better than people.
  4. Subservience to policy and procedure.
  5. Defensive, CYA postures.
  6. Lack of operational experience.
  7. Working for the C-Suit, not the people.

New potential:

HR matters because people matter.

“I don’t know about you, but I love HR.” Dr. Vik (Doc) in “The Culture Secret.”

“They are underrated, over-criticized, and underutilized.” Doc says, change the name from Human Resources to Human Empowerment (HE). The job of HE is, “Maximizing human potential.” Doc goes on to say, “HE could be the single biggest champion of your companies Culture.

New ideas for HE:

  1. Focus more on development.
  2. Become more human. Since when does serious work prohibit smiling?
  3. Sit in the seats of workers and do their jobs.

My take is that HR pretty much does what the C-Suite instructs it to do. I wrote:

Well, as they say, “Good Luck with all that.”

It is NOT HR’s fault, it is the C-suite that does to them what it wants and focuses them on the psychopathic side of running a business. Our Generally Accepted Accounting Practices treat people as a cost on the ledger of life. That crap all cascades down.

Over my 30 years, I have seen some attempts to address it in one company or another. The average company will SAY something like, “Our people are our greatest asset,” but then go look for some of that.

Because senior managers like extrinsic rewards, the whole operation works that way. Because senior managers like golf, they do teambuilding around a golf resort. Since people are often disposible, they treat them like paper tissues (I will go no further in that description).

I once had the CEO of a company at a retreat with his top managers blurt, “Asking employees for ideas is like asking the vegetables to design a refrigerator.” (He was not trying to be funny…)

Executives are SO far isolated from the workers that they have little clue as to who they are or what they do. Why should they treat them with respect?

How can a chain of 5000+ retail stores operate with none of the workers qualifying for any benefits — no health care in a company that labels itself a pharmacy?

Look at the people on minimum wage – 80% work for billion dollar companies that are profitable. Some even help their new hires apply for Medicaid and other government benefits designed to help the poor — and these are the new hires.

Let’s not place all the blame on HR. Lots of guilty parties making a lot of financial decisions to support the stock prices, not the people. Are there good exceptions? Surely.

and

Addendum: It is about Money. That means it is about Taxes and reducing costs. Does that really seem like a good base for building people skills and investing in organizational development? Any wonder why “Re-Engineering” took off and the focus changed from improving the processes to reducing headcount.

I always liked this: “How long can we go lean and mean until we become gaunt and dead?” (source unknown)

to which Dan responded:

Seriously, I think you’re nailing an important component of this issue. It seems to boil down to the idea that HR is the “puppet” of people at the top. We know people are reluctant to give up power once they have it.

I think that many organizations run something like this:

Puppet Master One color yellow

and larger organizations tend to look more like this as the control cascades down from leadership:

Puppet Master Two color yellow        Puppet Master Three color yellow

And things can get really crazy as top managers try to gain even more control over how things work and who does what when.

Puppet Master Four color yellow

So, what is the role of HR in all this? Is it to simply help senior managers control the behavior of the employees or is it to help the employees generate a sense of self-worth and to create some engagement and involvement in what happens in their workplaces? Is HR there to help the corporation control “all things people” or simply to help keep costs under control and manage “Human Resources,” you know, the people who do ALL of the Actual Work in the organization?

It is an interesting paradox, for sure.

manager puppet poem

BIG manager puppet poem

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, team building facilitator

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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Ideas and Engagement – Building a Culture and Engagimentation

A LinkedIn discussion thread started with:

What do you think are the main barriers for an employee to come up with a new idea?

Some of the comments were spot on, I thought:

“Great question! My answer: Layers and layers of management from C-Level to Micro-managers, more layers and layers of processes intended to create productivity but actually reducing it, politically – the ever present need for everyone to include their thumbprint of ownership of an idea and finally, FEAR: “if it was such a good idea, someone would have done it already”.” (Jerry Braccia)

“Context and clarity would be the main two. Context in terms of employees understanding and being encouraged to participate in creative and innovative thinking in something more than just the ‘suggestion box’. Clarity in terms of understanding the ‘where to from here process’ for new ideas, and knowing each idea simply needs to benefit the organisation, and not necessarily be an industry changing world first!” (Brad Kerwin)

But then some leaned toward putting the blame on the employees and the workplace climate of not sharing and the wasting of time focused on rumors and money or trying to get the favor or the boss. Blame was even focused on the issues of perceived respect or the lack of training.

Me, I have a different approach when it comes to gaining the ideas of employees so I posted up this response:

Don’t think about an elephant!

That work?

The premise seems to be that people are somehow choosing not to come up with an idea in some of the posts. If YOU are working at a job and some aspect of it does not seem to work smoothly, how can you NOT come up with a better idea as to how to make things work more smoothly? The elephants are all around the workplace.

But it is NOT the issue of there being no ideas, the issue is that no one seems to want to listen to them. People will “rumor” about good ideas just as much as they will rumor about workplace crapiola.

I use one of our tools and show them a wooden wagon rolling on Square Wheels. The cargo are round rubber tires. And nearly everyone (including most senior managers) seem to agree that it is how things really work in most organizations.

The Square Wheels represent “things” so the discussion tends to lean far from the issues of personality. The round wheels simply represent “ideas”. Not all of them are good (the wheels do not have rims or there is no air in the tire). But there are LOTS of ideas when one uses group processes to involve and engage people.

The issue is that everyone is too busy doing things like they have always done them and there seems to be no time nor resources to do anything differently. Or, the issue is an interdepartmental one and we know how well interdepartmental collaboration works (an oxymoron, for sure, in many organizations.

It is NOT a dearth of ideas (even for new product development), but an issue of engagement and implementation of those ideas. I call it Engagimentation and it involves generating a vision / goal, managing resources and expectations, and allowing the people to try the new ideas in a low-risk, high support kind of context.

That is just how I see things, and that view has held up over 20+ years and 38 countries and counting…

For the FUN of It!

My thinking is that the supervisor can work with the people to design case studies around problems and value and help people focus on roadblock management and collaboration. We accomplish this with the use of our Square Wheels illustrations along with our team building tools.

SWs One - How Things Work

Generating a culture of collaboration and innovation and defining the best approaches to implementing ideas in the workplace is pretty straightforward, in my thinking. People want to be involved and be asked to participate. Peer support can be a powerful motivator of collaboration and engagement. Engagimentation is a pretty simple thing, really, but you have to stop pulling and pushing to allow people time to see what is happening and talk about alternatives. You can read more about it here in my blog.

But if we keep doing the same things the same way, you can pretty much expect the same results.

Addendum – I came across a good infographic with a nice way of showing a lot of data and ideas and information. Check it out at:

http://brandongaille.com/employment-engagement-methods-and-dirvers-for-stategic-employee-engagement

Here is a small part of the graphic:

Google ChromeScreenSnapz001

Check it out! Engagement is not rocket science — it is actually quite straightforward and can be accomplished if the culture is supportive of these kinds of initiatives. It MUST be seen as VALUABLE.

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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Facilitating Engagement, Alignment and Involvement with Cartoons

Sometimes, I think that everyone already knows what I do and how simple it is to do and how well it works to involve and engage people in workplace improvement and get their ideas about what things need to be done differently.

Then, I have a phone conversation with someone and I cycle right back to the beginning, and I start talking about how simple and straightforward it can be to involve people because they want to solve problems and improve their workplace, given all the time then spend there… And THEN, I realize how much fun this all is and how wonderful the approach I have taken for the past 20 years really works.

Okay. The Situation:

The people are demotivated and unengaged (lots of statistics). And the theme of building some teamwork is suggested by the boss’ boss. Only there is no budget and no time. And no support from Training. “Just get it done!” we are told…

Okay. Pay $50 and get a toolkit containing worksheets and cartoons and instructions on how to use a simple cartoon to generate discussion of issues and ideas about what is not working and what could work better.

The toolkit starts by having you share an image just like this:

Ask: “How might this represent how most organizations really work?”

Then you can pretty much let things flow undirected. Let people think and consider, let them play with the ideas at hand and the issues and opportunities. We’ve figured out a lot of different ideas and frameworks for facilitation and structuring the resulting issues and opportunities, with handouts like, “What are some Square Wheels we deal with” and “What are some Round Wheel ideas to fix this Square Wheel” and stuff like that.

But a few colored marking pens and some easel pad paper are pretty much all you need to generate the gap between the way things are and the way they should be and to generate the teamwork and energy and focus needed for most people in most organizations to be motivated to close the gap

Heck, you can even select one person who has natural leadership skills and just let them self-direct the group in rolling downhill and forward.

I read these articles about how difficult it is to engage people in the workplace and how people are resistant to change and how to motivate people and all that. All it does is make things SEEM really complicated and confusing.

I will bet you can do all that with just the cartoon above. Ya think?

Oh, almost forgot. The Square Wheels One illustration above is how things work in MOST places. Here is how things tend to work in Asia:

 

Yep, that is just a little joke.

Have fun out there.

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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Nobody ever washes a rental car – Thoughts on engagement and ownership

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

I’ve been using this phrase for dozens of years, since it elegantly and simply illustrates a very real opportunity for significant increases in employee engagement, organizational improvement, performance improvement and so many other aspects of improving organizational results.

It’s a really great anchoring statement and I have used it many times as the title of a presentation. But it also generates confusing reactions in some people.

It’s a metaphor! It is not a statement for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or some Rule of Life. And it is funny — I have actually had people raise their hands in seminars to explain that they have actually washed a rental car in the past. Once in a while, they admit to being WAY overly compulsive and obsessed. More generally, they illustrate my key point…

The point is one of ownership — people do not take care of things they do not own. I can often illustrate this by asking participants if they have ever owned a rental property. Some of the tenants were exceptional and left the place better than before they rented it. But most share my experience: tenants at a house I owned nearly burned down the house with a chimney fire, pretty-much destroyed the wood floors, punched holes in the walls and left nail holes in nearly every wall. The rose garden and the camilla tree were gone, with the former used as for parking and the latter just destroyed (by motor oil dumped around it, apparently).

Ownership — If you own something, you tend to take better care of it. That is all I mean. Let me illustrate.

If someone in the workplace comes up with an idea and presents it to the manager and the managers enables them to try it, they most likely will, right? But, if the boss comes up and says, “Let’s now do things this way,” the general response will be for people to resist the change and generate reasons why it won’t work, right?

Statistics say that most executives believe that the most difficult aspect of any organizational improvement initiative is employee resistance.

Nothing corners better, handles bumps and speedbumps, treats potholes and curbs with disdain, accelerates faster and breaks harder than a rental car. (right?)

Who owns the idea? Not the employee, right? So, why wouldn’t they resist the idea? After all, they need to change, learn to do something differently than they have been doing it, have a higher risk of failure and will probably see a drop in their productivity in the short term. What’s to like about all that?

And there is another paradox at work, as shown below:

Leaders will resist changes they feel are done TO them.

On consulting projects in the past, ideas that I helped the workers implement were often resisted by the managers, who felt that things were not under control or moving too fast or similar. This happened less and less as my experience improved and I could generate a level of their involvement that would balance the issues of resistance on both sides of the wagon.

I’ve expanded on the issue of ownership elsewhere in my blogs such as here on innovation and here on leading meetings.

There are lots of ways we can do things differently to better involve and engage people in our needed improvement initiatives. But pushing and pulling is not the best of strategies. Sitting, talking, explaining and asking is often a much more effective way to get things rolling…

Put the wagon up on wheels for a while and consider alternative ideas generated by everyone.

Have some fun out there, too.

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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On Trial and Error, Blame Frames and Gotcha’s: Engagement? Innovation? Really?

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

square wheels image of Trial and Error

Take a moment and look at the cartoon and react to what you see before moving on, please. Just consider what might be happening above.

Okay? Take a moment. Seriously…

When I show this illustration to managers and ask for their reactions, the ratio I get is about 8 : 1. In other words, eight themes focused on the negative and what they did wrong for every one good thing they might see. 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!).

I think we, as managers, are trained to look for business improvement opportunities and to look for things we can improve. That is fine. well and good and serve solid business purposes. But when this gets expressed to our “teenagers” as Non-Support, we cannot expect others to just go along with that. Most people do NOT like the taste of castor oil, even if it IS for our own good!

What managers tend to do looks like this:

We embed the good with the blame and the people are more likely to run over the top of the hill and hide than come back to the wagon and continue to make improvements. Sure, their first attempt was pretty quirky and maybe they missed an idea or two about how they could get things done better.

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

Allow people to do things and celebrate their successes.

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 thing that there is a train in their future?

———————————–

Update:

I added a short article on Devil’s Advocate roles and building Trust as it relates to organizational improvement. You can see it by clicking on the image below:

LEGO SWs One POSTER Devil's Advocate Challenge

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 Things Simple – Involving and Engaging

In the past couple of days, I have been involved in some really long and even somewhat convoluted discussions about motivation and innovation and engagement and leadership and workplace creativity.

And an associate of mine in Asia had asked for my ideas for implementing workplace improvement. So, I offered up some simple ideas about involving and engaging people and then thought to blog about it a bit, since it seems to be a very common organizational development issue.

And, I could get into my own convoluted pedagogical diatribe and gobbledygook on all things, I prefer to keep it simple and straightforward. That’s just my nature.

How do we involve, engage, and motivate to generate innovation and workplace performance improvement? Here would be my four key suggestions:

  1. Ask, Ask, Ask, Ask, Ask, and Ask
  2. Listen and listen and listen
  3. Let things happen! Get out of the way!
  4. Provide resources and support.

One asks, in my model of the world, with a visual image and some moments of silence. Ask people how this illustration might represent how things really work in most organizations:

SWs One How Things Work ©

You will find a variety of ideas about facilitation of conversations and idea generation in other writings in these blog posts. Basically, give them some silent time and then allow tables of 4 to 6 people to talk.

Note that we sell a really easy to use toolkit of illustrations in powerpoint and handout worksheets as printable files, plus speaking notes. The basic package on general facilitation you can find here — $50 and complete — and you can always chat with me to define and refine your approach.

By using the cartoon approach, what will happen is that they will eventually to talking about the Square Wheels they deal with and the Round Wheels that already exist. And the reality is that once something is labeled a “Square Wheel,” people will want to fix it. So, this simple activity will set up 2, 3 and 4 on the list IF

YOU JUST STAY OUT OF THE WAY
AND NOT MEDDLE WITH THEM OR THE PROCESS.

Most people in most workplaces have a fairly realistic view of their reality and history that management is more The Party of No than the people in power who will enable them to actually make improvements and get things done.

Is this because I have a biased view of supervisors, managers and executives? NO. (Well, partly). It is really just my experienced view and based on observations as well as based on survey after employee survey over the past 30 years — Big Surveys done on thousands of people in dozens of countries and little ones done informally within workgroups using only pencil and paper. (See this great article around Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, and his views on this.)

Most surveys show that managers manage — they control and direct (and inhibit).

I was once involved with a Mission Statement for a large public utility and the Executives were asking if this phrase was a good one to include:

“We manage with uncompromising integrity.”

Well, the supervisors took one look at the above and quickly said, “No way.” They rewrote it to read,

“We manipulate with inflexible righteousness.”

So, my advice is to support where needed with resources, time, money, etc. but to get the heck out of the way and let the people play with the ideas until they can put them into an effective solution. It may take some trial and error (and look something like this:

Trial and Error. Do something and then step back from the wagon to see if there is something else that might be done…

If you are meddling, you will probably toss a Blame Frame around the above picture and generate defensiveness and an unwillingness to risk going forward. Blame Frames are really common in most organizations, and really easy to apply to innovations.

It is like the old Six Phases of a Typical Project Management Initiative:

  1. Enthusiasm
  2. Disillusionment
  3. Panic
  4. Search for the Guilty
  5. Punishment of the Innocent
  6. Praise and Honor for the Non-Participants
I suggest that you simply keep things simple. Look at what has worked in the past to generate improvements and successes and model your NEW initiatives around those old successful ones. Most crashes of small planes occur when the newbie pilot tries to control things too much — most small planes fly just nicely when you let go of the controls. Overcompensation is what causes the problems.
Have fun out there!
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/

4 Hours for Innovation. What to do to optimize results…

As a consultant or trainer, let’s say you only have 4 hours to help a group of managers or executives become more innovative, what would you present and how would you present it to involve and engage them in the act of involving and engaging others? How would you rattle their cages enough to actually generate some behavior change? How could you influence them to do some things differently with their subordinates?

I would start by showing them a cartoon illustration of a wooden wagon being pulled by a leader and being pushed by others. It is rolling along on wooden Square Wheels. Ironically, the cargo are round rubber tires…

The key is to start thing off by asking them to consider an illustration, “How might this illustrate how things really work in most organizations?”

SWs One green color thin

After giving each person a minute or two to write their ideas on a worksheet, I would then ask them to pair up or group up and discuss their ideas, with a goal of generating a lot of different thoughts. Tabletops of 5 to 6 people are best at pulling ideas together and generating a lot of different anchor points to a wide variety of issues and themes. Then, one can allow the sharing of these different tabletop ideas with the entire group, either by allowing them to take 2 minutes to verbally share them or to spend a couple of minutes capturing them on sheets of paper and posting on the walls.

Either way, the goal is to generate some ownership and involvement and to get people thinking about all the things that don’t work smoothly and might be improved.

Starting with your general question about, “How this is like most organizations…”, one greatly reduces any possible defensiveness, while the very general nature of the illustration is such that people will project their ideas onto the illustration, much like they would do with a Rorschach or an Inkblot Test. People see themselves in the cartoon and they also see their organizations represented, as well.

The Round Wheels ARE already in most organizations — they represent Best Practices of Top Performers in many cases — and a key to innovation is to simply identify what these exemplary performers are already doing. Most systems and processes thump and bump along, working okay when something different might work much better. And the goals are set based on the organization’s history of work, which is often just like the picture above.

Another key to innovation is to dissociate from the reality of pushing and pulling and to “Step back from the wagon” to look for different ways of getting things done. Dissociation is a very common and powerful tool for counseling troubled relationships (and so many workplaces are troubled!).

People DO have ideas, but often those ideas are not elicited by the average manager (so says survey after survey of workplaces!).  People with some general idea as to what might be done can evolve and polish that idea in a discussion with others: synergistic ideationfrom Star Trek, The Borg (the collective consciousness of the entire group).

Most people in most departments in most organizations tend to do the same thing repetitively because the goals are set on the Square Wheel model of how things have been working and will be working in the future. By working together to identify issues and opportunities, you get the benefit of the divergent thinking of the participants, allow them to flesh-out some ideas that they might already have, and put it into the context of play.

Plus, you are adding a new language of continuous continuous improvement” into the workplace, a concept that says that change is a continuous process and that new ideas already exist and merely need to be identified and implemented. By a leader using the cartoon and the approach and asking for ideas, it helps to communicate to everyone that new ideas are needed / required and that discussing these ideas is an important part of long-term organizational success. And this approach will also help generate the required intrinsic motivation to make improvements.

Another reality is that,

“Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car”

People who do not have a degree of ownership of ideas will often tend to resist them. By leaders working and engaging people in discussions of ideas and allowing input and consideration, resistance is often minimized and the likelihood of implementation is increased.

One must generate some level of discomfort with the way things are now, get a group of people together to add peer support and some perceived success to the discussions, and to build on what already works — I call that “continuous continuous improvement.”

Innovation is a process of, well, innovating. There are tons of different ideas that are already available for improvement. And when I work a group, I can often generate 10 or more pages of ideas and potential improvements in that 4 hours of play time.

One must also address implementation, since so many of those ideas for improvement just disappear… Most ideas cascaded down from the top will be resisted or ignored — most leader-led improvement and innovation initiatives fail because people are not involved or engaged.

So, give me 4 hours and let me involve and engage any group of people in the framework of “organizational improvement and innovative ideas” and I will guarantee a ton of ideas as well as ideas for implementation. But better yet, get one of the Square Wheels toolkits and do it yourself.

Active involvement and engagement and problem solving generates a commitment to make improvements, even with senior managers of global multinationals.

The beauty of using the illustrations is that they are really simple and bombproof. Once you see how the flow of the discussion works, you can use it easily with other groups or redesign it for different time constraints.

And that concept of Rental Car Care is a real one. People need ownership to generate involvement and motivation and the toolkits just use cartoons, anyway.

If it is to beit is up to me.

If not you, who? If not now, when? 

Just Do It, for The FUN of It!

Another simple elegant solution and organizational development framework…

Elegant Solutions

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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Dis-Un-Empowered Government Employee – Scott to the rescue of the citizens!

If it were not so sad, it would be funny.

With a friend and parking in an Asheville, NC downtown city-owned parking garage, we get back to the car only to find everything backed up and nothing moving. Maybe one car seemed to actually exit in the first 5 or 10 minutes. In front of us is a white truck with an amber spinning warning light (off) on the top, that I walk past as I stroll toward the front to see if I can find out anything…

As I pass the door, a guy gets out of the truck and I can see, “Parking Authority” on the door, so I suggest that he give me his keys and that he go up past the 15 or so stopped cars to check out and see if he can solve the problem. Well, after 15 minutes, there is maybe one car leaving every 5 minutes (and hundreds left stalled, since the downtown art fair ended and everyone was trying to get home, it being 4 PM on Sunday.

Now, being in charge of this truck, I ask the woman in front of it and the guy ahead of her to scrunch up a little so I can get by and put the truck into a Handicapped Parking place and get it out of the way. (There are now LOTS of spaces beginning to open up so handicapped access was no problem.) Cars are now slowly getting out – 1 every 5 minutes or so. We have now been stalled for about 30 minutes.

I then walk up to the front and watch the guy for a moment. He is taking the parking entrance cards and then manually processing what should be an automated exit since the processing machine was not working. It is taking a long time. People are getting upset. People are wasting gasoline. This is not working well…

I go back to the car and we eventually get to the guy and the machine. I suggest that he simply help the city to avoid a LOT of bad will and complaints by simply allowing the cars to leave smoothly and without paying — he should just open the gate. After all, everyone now has been overcharged an hour and they have wasted a great deal of their time.

What is funny is that he says, “Wait here and I will go back to my truck and get the pass card.”

So, with US NOW APPEARING TO BE BLOCKING THE EXIT, he walks back up the stairs to where I parked his car and gets the card and walks back and uses the card to let us out (without paying). I am guessing that he “cost” the city a few hundred dollars, since there were cars backed up on 5 levels of this full parking lot. But I think he also saved the city a good bit of grief in having to respond to a lot of pretty disgruntled people who wanted partial refunds on their fees.

One wonders this: Why did he not take the card with him when he walked up there the first time? Why did it take 30 minutes of additional time for him to get the idea of simply letting people out?

(He also called someone on his cell phone, which he also apparently left in his truck) on the way back to the gate. Probably his boss, to ask permission.

We did not pay to park. We were the first ones – the other 15 cars that were ahead of us all paid!

Wheeeee. Guess he was simply choosing NOT to do something to fix the problem by his actions. He was simply trying to process the transactions. He did say that he was concerned that he would get into trouble because his truck was parked in a handicapped space!! He could have made a lot of different choices than he did, but he probably felt that he couldn’t…

Yeah, sometimes one just has to step up…

 

Google ChromeScreenSnapz001

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

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

Ideas, Innovation and Strategy Implementation – Getting Things Done More Better Faster

I have loved this quote since I first heard it 15 years ago at a conference:

If we’re not getting more better faster
then they are getting more better faster,
then we’re getting less better
or more worse.

— Tom Peters

Ideas are simply that, “Ideas.” The key to success lies in effective implementation. It is the same with corporate strategy implementation.

Research by my old Singapore pal, Robin SPeculand, shows that 90% of all strategy implementation programs fail. It is an issue of identifying the strategy and then having the ability to implement it. BOTH are obvious requirements but not everyone is good at all things. And failures to successfully implement are quite costly, since they tend to move into “organizational memory,” making future efforts even more difficult. Awareness is important, but so is executive leadership behavior!

In most organizations, people find that their managers will put the NO in innovation, roadblocking their individual efforts to make improvements. Take this simple statistic as proof: A Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. (And, 2007 were the good old days when it came to employee engagement and morale, it appears. If anything, things have gotten much worse with initiatives such as “Job Enlargement” being more common these days.)

Take a look at this data from an article by Les Leopold:

US Actual Wages vs Productivity-Enhanced wages from Les Leopold

On the one hand, productivity is improving. On the other, the compensation has not been increasing and the pin seems to have hit the balloon in the American workplace as well as elsewhere.

The pin finally hits the balloon and people are angry

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

And there are broad issues of employee engagement and morale operating in most organizations these days. So it would seem obvious that there are some positive leverage points in the workplace that we can use effectively to improve how things are working to improve performance and morale and take a competitive advantage with new business strategies.

The real key is the successful implementation of ideas, either from the view of the entrepreneur or the manager looking to improve performance. If the senior managers have good ideas, they can generate involvement and engagement from their management team on designing successful implementation strategies. This is a tool for employee engagement as well as a way to improve organizational performance and long-term competitiveness.

For almost 20 years, I have been using a simple cartoon to describe how organizations really work — it is an inkblot for leading discussions as well as a metaphor for how things tend to roll along.

Consider that we are using a wooden wagon. A leader is pulling with a rope and people are behind the wagon, pushing it forward. It is rolling along on wooden Square Wheels, but with a cargo of round rubber tires.

SWs One green color thin

Someone in a workshop once said, “Those who do have no clue. Those who lead miss the need.” I think that describes the reality – the view at the back of the wagon (boards and hands) is different than the view at the front. The hands-on people KNOW that things are not working smoothly but have no ability to make the changes. The wagon puller is focused on meeting current goals and there is little time to stop and chat.

The round wheels already exist. In most organizations, the exemplary performers are already doing things differently and their sharing of best practices would be beneficial, if only we had the chance to stop, step back from the wagon, and discuss issues and opportunities.

I successful entrepreneurial businesses, you can see that the good idea(s) are shared with the people and that there is an engaged and involved workforce working to make those ideas a reality. This is the essence of entrepreneurial leadership, IMHO. It is really hard to go it alone, even when your idea is “most fabulous.” You need others to share the vision (and perspective) and to have a sense of ownership and involvement to generate the motivation and peer support to succeed.

Last key point: Nobody ever washes a rental car.

Without a sense of ownership involvement, it is not likely that people will be motivated, and thus the many issues around implementation and rollout of those good ideas will be roadblocks instead of challenges.

The Round Wheels of Today, are the Square Wheels of Tomorrow.

There will always be opportunities for people to implement and sell better ways of getting things done and improving performance. It is really about wheels and about people…

so, “Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!”

Step back from your wagon, scan the issues, and look for things that could be done differently. Then, involve and engage others in discussions about how to do things differently and how to implement these ideas.

See more on this at http://www.SquareWheels.com and see toolkits of illustrations at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

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 atscott@squarewheels.com

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

On Brainstorming and workplace productivity improvement

I recently responded to a LinkedIn post on the theme of Brainstorming. And I am reminded about how some people are new at this while I have been facilitating performance improvement discussions for nearly 40 years (gee, can it really be that long?)

“Times fun when you are having flies.” (Kermit the Frog)

One of the keys to success in these kinds of activities is to generate some peer support for the ideas and “lightly” use the ground rules — but NOT to make the rules so tight that people feel that the rules are more important than the ideas. I have seen some “control freak facilitators” focus so much on the rules that people feel that NO comment can be made other than the sharing of an idea. I really feel that this serves only to limit contributions. The session CAN be a debate, if it is done with the intention of generating NEW ideas and different viewpoints.

I allow some divergent discussion, but I also will lightly use the Rule of 80 / 20, which simply says the obvious: “80% of the discussion will occur in the first 20% of the time and the remaining 20% will take 80% of the time. So, anyone can call “80/20″ and we can then move on to more ideas…” (That really works well, in my experience!)

It is MOST important, I think, that the ideas be anchored to some business improvement issue and that people have a chance to get their creativity juices flowing before the discussion gets going.

The tool I use is Square Wheels One, which is readily available on my website. One does not require a tool but this process of generating ideas through projection is certainly a solid one for creativity.

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

I present that as, “How most organizations really work,” so as to not make them defensive (the word “your” added in there is pretty much guaranteed to generate some resistance and defensiveness!). A KEY is to allow them, “One Minute of Silent Contemplation Time.” This enables the slower information processers to think about possibilities before getting swarmed by the faster ones. It also allows for divergent thinking to arise — different people will go off in different directions.

With tables of no more than 6 people — more will decrease collaboration and participation — you allow them to first think individually and then allow them to discuss their different issues and ideas. I let this run until the energy begins to dissipate and then move it to a group discussion. You can use easel pads for each table, dot-voting for best ideas and all sorts of other frameworks for getting everyone involved in all ideas.

THEN, you can begin to tighten the thinking and bring them closer toward focusing on key issues and ideas — we call this “funneling.”

Getting people involved helps generate better ideas as well as ownership involvement and engagement


If you build a sense of energy and involvement and peer support for ideas in your openings, and anchor the activities toward “business improvement paradigms,” I think you will find that your brainstorming will be much improved. If people feel safe in sharing their ideas about a funny wagon with obvious improvement opportunities, they are MUCH more likely to participate in the sharing of their ideas about specific business improvement concepts in the open discussions.

Everyone needs to participate, mainly because, “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and it is not so much about ideas as it is about the IMPLEMENTATION of those ideas afterwards for most organizations.

Between the idea and the reality,
Between the motion and the act,
Falls the Shadow.

T.S. Eliot

You can see more about Square Wheels at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

For the FUN of It!

(BTW, I am a certified professional facilitator by the IAF and have been facilitating and implementing ideas for workplace improvement since 1978. )

Thoughts on Teamwork and Engagement

This is about issues and opportunities around people and performance.

Maximum organizational effectiveness comes from aligning people to work together on shared common goals and providing them with the information and resources to get things done. In most cases, organizations function reasonably well within departments, with managers meeting goals and expectations. There are issues, but they are not departmental because shared goals and measurements as well as group expectations by management tend to give reasonably good levels of performance and innovation. People tend to be good problem solvers and will work together fairly well.

There are a variety of statistics clearly demonstrating that team-based behavior can offer a wide range of positive impacts on organizations of all kinds:

  • Globally, only 1 of 5 workers is giving full discretionary effort on the job. We often call these “exemplary performers” but they are simply engaged
  • Almost 4 of 10 workers are disenchanted or disengaged – they are not performing to their capability
  • In the US, only 3 in 10 feel engaged and the same number feel disenchanted or disengaged – they are not contributing much nor getting satisfaction in their jobs
  • Only 1 in 10 respondents agreed that senior leaders in their companies actually treat employees as vital corporate assets
  • The more engaged employees are more likely to stay with an organization, but 40% are “passive job seekers.”
  • Fully half of the disengaged have NO plans to leave the company nor are they even passively looking for other employment! (scary!)

There are strong connections of engagement to company results:

  • Companies with high employee engagement had a 19% increase in operating income and a 28% growth in earnings per share
  • Companies with low levels of engagement saw a drop in operating income of 32% and a decline of 11% in earnings per share  (from a TP one-year study of 50 companies)

Moreover,

  • Companies with high engagement had a 3.74% increase in operating margin and a 2.06 net profit margin
  • Companies with low engagement had a -2.01% decline in operating margin and a -1.38% net profit margin (from a TP study of 40 companies)

Can we hear a Thump Thump? Are we really making progress?

There are lots of statistics around clearly demonstrating why we need to improve. In other posts, I will share some ideas for making things improve. There are many things we can do.

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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