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

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Reflection and Innovation: Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There

This statement,

Don’t Just DO Something,
Stand There!

describes the action that we have been teaching as a basic tool of innovation and change since the early 90s. Only by looking at a situation from a dissociated perspective can one even possibly see that new ideas might exist.

Too often, we are so busy pushing and pulling the wagon, just like we have always pushed and pulled, that we seldom have the opportunity to step back and look at things from a displaced perspective. Once we do, we can often see that things are rolling on Square Wheels while the cargo of the wagon — round rubber tires — represent ideas for improvement.

A Square Wheels image from the tools of Dr. Scott Simmerman

Consider taking things apart to look for new ideas

The act of dis-assembly can identify issues as well as build teams. And new ideas will spring from that effort, along with improved teamwork.

Very often, people who perform better than others — the exemplary performers of any organization — will already be doing things differently than the others and can add those ideas to the mix. The round wheels in so many situations are already identified and tested and implemented and refined.

One of the series of Square Wheels images of Dr. Scott Simmerman

The more they play, the better it gets

(Note that the majority of the people, and especially the poor performers, just keep on keeping on and doing what they have always done and their Square Wheels remain in place. They need to get involved with new ideas.)

Innovations can occur quite naturally. Some of us are nearly always looking for ways to do things differently so that it is easier. Tom Gilbert expanded on a framework of “laziness” back in the late 70s in his book, Human Competence. I have always liked that concept: Because we are naturally lazy, we will always be looking for the easiest and most efficient way to do things.

Why not look for the downhill route instead of pushing and pulling the wagon uphill (and sometimes through the mud)?

By involving and engaging people in the identification of the things not working smoothly and through the sharing of best practices and round wheels, we do a better job of engaging and involving the workforce. Engagement is a key to motivation and sustaining high performance. Or, putting the Round Wheels to use!

People like to play with ideas and do things differently, if they feel that the team is behind them and the risk is low. It has all kinds of positive impacts and ramifications for continuous continuous workplace improvement.

LEGO Celebration of Changes Team

If you like this post, give us a like or a tweet or make a comment. Your reactions are always appreciated,

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.

Leading – Some Simple Ideas on Engagement

There are thousands of books on leadership, so we seem to have the definitions and understanding of the concept anchored down pretty well.

Surveys, though, show that leadership is not good and people do not feel that they are working for such a great bunch of leaders.

Where does this unhook? Maybe around the issues of involving people in workplace improvement and engaging them in the implementation of new, improved or simply better practices to make working less punishing.

Square Wheels One Leadership words green

So, I simply offer this up as a simple framework for what I think happens, with the possibilities for change and improvement being more than a little obvious.

If you have not seen the above illustration before, take a minute and consider how this image might represent how most organizations really work. Then take a moment to consider what might be done differently.

I’ve been working around people and performance my whole working life and have had the opportunity to work for a couple of really good bosses. When the values and goals and expectations and feedback are all in alignment, it goes really well. When there is isolation and a lack of communications and what is demanded is out of alignment, then I get out of step and dis-engaged.

I have always been fortunate to be able to pick up and walk away. Not everyone seems to have that kind of opportunity. Some feel that all they can do is just continue to push and maybe have some hope that something might change. When it gets really bad, they make other choices (see this post on sabotage and engagement here).

Defense wagon yellow 70

At PMC, we sell tools to help improve teamwork and communications and to help engage and involve people in workplace improvement. They are designed to be flexible and easy to facilitate.

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

For the FUN of It!

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

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.

Engagement, Fulfillment, Performance, Perfection and Excellence

I was reading an article by Shep Hyken on his thinking around 5 steps to achieve employee fulfillment. He speaks on customer service improvement and I thought the ideas were okay, but that they were not going to have any immediate impact on results. And it is a reality that taking the long-term view is good, but maybe not optimal for a variety of reasons.

He started with this Aristotle quote, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

He then suggested 5  simple steps that ultimately lead to happy, fulfilled, and engaged employees:

  1. Hire the right person for the right job.
  2.  Create fulfilled employees – Part One.  While you may make the right hire, the employee has to love what they do.
  3.  Create fulfilled employees – Part Two.  Create a positive environment of leadership and support to build satisfaction.
  4.  The pursuit of perfection.  He frames this up around meeting attainable goals.
  5.  Employee Engagement.  While Shep talks about the impacts, he does not share much data around this concept. There are plenty of articles supporting the reality that engagement links to productivity and performance in my blogs.

His basic concept is a basic one: People who are fulfilled and find pleasure in their work will strive for perfection.  They will strive to meet and exceed their goals.  You can read his article at this link.

My reaction to this was good, and I did service quality management things for 25 years, so the issues and anchors are solid. My posted response was a pretty simple and straightforward reframing.

Here is what I posted up as my comment:

These days, most companies are pretty staffed up, so hiring new people is not the solution for today. AND, the research shows that new employees are pretty much like the old employees after 6 months (Sirota) and that if you do not start things up differently with new hires, they will not give you what you want down the road.

Perfection is a lot like Excellence, if I read you right. I liked that old concept a LOT and there used to be dozens of good programs using that anchor point. Six Sigma seems to be today’s buzzword for it, but it really only occurs in manufacturing and production and not so much in areas where people have to respond differently so much, like customer service or other kinds of personalized work.

For me, I reframe what you said around two basic ideas:

1 – “Nobody ever washes a rental car” — It’s my quote on the importance of ownership to performance. If people feel a sense of active ownership and involvement, they will treat things differently. Ownership is a key issue in excellence and striving to improve.

2 – Dis-Un-Engagement — in any workplace, stats show that more than half the people are un-engaged and un-involved. Somewhat related to ownership, what managers can choose to do is to identify the things that are un-engaging – list them in a brainstorming session – and then look for ways to address each and every one of them, one at a time. (You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement here.)

You can form teams, share best practices, escalate issues to other departments (yeah, I do know that “interdepartmental collaboration” tends to be an oxymoron for most organizations (or silos) but they can be addressed (The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is one exercise that focuses neatly on this issue and rewards those who collaborate).

It is always the case that, “The Round Wheels are already in the wagon” and that there is little excuse for continuing to operate on the Square Wheels.

SWs One green color thin

The best performers are already doing things differently than the worst performers, so sharing those best practices is a no-brainer way to improve things. When you can build that around your roadblock management, you are improving teamwork, improving skills and performance, and enabling more intrinsic motivation.

Ya think?

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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Improving Leadership Effectiveness = Dis-Un-Engagement

I got involved and engaged in a LinkedIn thread this morning, one that I had actually been trying NOT to be involved in! But they wore me down so I posted this up around the theme that some leaders actually make things worse by being involved.

I will just post up what I thought about the situation and what I wrote:

My focus for many years has been on the issues of organizational performance, individual motivation, involvement and engagement, and issues of teamwork and alignment. Toward that end, I have presented on a wide variety of topics in 38 countries thus far and I sell my toolkits inexpensively and globally. All that is simply meant to anchor the following thesis:

Most managers are un-engaging their people.

If we look at any of a very wide range of data, it is clearly evident that most people in most workplaces are dis-engaged and uninvolved. I share some viewpoints and data and other people’s ideas in two blogs referenced at the end of this.

With all that data supporting un-engagement, like Sirota Research saying that 85% of new hires regress to “average” motivational levels within 6 months, it all begs the question as to whether managers and supervisors might simply CHOOSE to do some things differently. Might they look to focus on something I will call Dis-Un-Engagement.

Simply put, why can’t / won’t they focus on removing the roadblocks that their people face in doing their daily jobs. People report that no one listens to their ideas (and have been doing that for the past 70 years, it seems) and that feeling more of a part of things is a powerful motivational tool.

Most people are not REALLY roadblocked, as most coaches will tell you; they are simply perceiving that they are, or they are somehow choosing to be. They could do things differently and will often do so when involved in some problem-solving team situation. Peer pressure / support is a powerful tool for generating change.

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world (John Le Carre)

Yet most decisions seem to emanate from that desk rather than the hands of the workers who try to push the wagon forward every day. If all they see are boards and hands, no wonder they don’t show up motivated and engaged.

Dis-Un-Engagement — a corollary of “Ask and Ye Shall Receive,” methinks.

You can see some writings here:

https://performancemanagementcompanyblog.com/2013/03/23/managers-biggest-contributors-or-biggest-problem/

https://performancemanagementcompanyblog.com/2013/03/16/workplace-motivation-i-quit-nevermind-whatever/

I think that ANY one leading any group in any organization can IMPROVE their overall leadership effectiveness. There will still be that average curve of skills ranging from low to high because that is just a statistical reality of any population of people. What we CAN do is move that median score upwards to improve overall effectiveness of the population…

Dis-Un-Engagement. It does not even sound that hard…

Have fun out there! Elegant Solutions

I think that this is just another example of a simple, elegant solution!

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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Team Building – Failures and Designing for Success

My friend Andrew Grant at Tirian is an Aussie and a great writer and thinker about all things team building. I just now got his newsletter and thought to repost it here. I strongly recommend that you read this and click on some of the embedded links to his other thoughts and writings.

More Better Faster Strategy

Here is what Andrew had to say:

Overcoming the IFS and BUTS of Team Building

The Australian swimming team’s performance in the London Olympics was the worst on record. This is a country where most children can swim before they can walk, and Australia is usually one of the strongest countries in this category, but this time around something went horribly wrong. A recent investigative report into the swimming team’s poor performance by Dr Pippa Grange has revealed that whilst the swimmers were all highly skilled physically, there was what has been described as a ‘toxic culture’ in the team. This led to, Dr Grange believes, ‘an increase in individualism, and in turn a diminished sense of responsibility or connectedness to the team’. Described as ‘a schoolyard clamour for attention and influence, with a ‘science’ of winning appearing to overshadow the ‘art’ of ‘leadership work”, the report has highlighted the need for strong leadership and alignment and a collective purpose.

It’s in situations such as these that developmental team building has a critically important role to play, as ironically all these soft skills can dramatically impact the bottom line outcomes. And yet there can be a great degree of cynicism and scepticism about the value and purpose of team building, and as a result it is often ignored – but at great cost.

How is it possible to design a team building session that works?
The typical response of individuals to the prospect of having to participate in a team building exercise has, by one jaded observer, been described as a ‘groaning’ response. Some feel they have ‘been-there-and-done-that’, while others are concerned about taking out valuable time from their day to do something that they feel is irrelevant (playing games). Some people reluctantly participate out of a fear of being seen to not conform, but they do so with hidden contempt. In these cases the team building program can be in danger of backfiring.

Through innovative simulations and engaging facilitation positive intervening experiences can and should be created. When professionally designed, these experiences can break down the barriers and provide unique leadership and team development opportunities and outcomes.

So how, exactly is this achieved?:
1) Check the group is 100% on board (challenge by choice)
Example: We once had a boss want to run an adventure based program, but he assumed that everyone would want to do what he did (a common mistake). He didn’t realise some people just don’t like running around chasing clues or being physically challenged. After a number of complaints the adventure idea was ditched. We ended up in an exclusive luxury resort in Japan where one of the unique cultural elements was to sleep on the floor! As this experience was so culturally different from anything else the team had been involved in, the desired goal to create a ‘unique’ experience that would challenge the team was achieved. We created a 3 day program around this event that really broke down the barriers and achieved incredible outcomes.

Solution: Taking people slightly outside their comfort zone does have benefits as it can challenge individuals to examine their behaviours, (with no hierarchy) but not to the point of discomfort where individuals feel coerced or threatened. Choose activities that all are comfortable enough with and all can participate willingly in.

2) Ensure the facilitators are skilled
Example: We recently ran a program with a skilled PhD trained facilitator from McKinsey – as she explained, facilitators at her level can spend hours just crafting a single question to ensure that the team can gain a major insight from the experience, and then adapt their behavior as a result. For the activity to have meaning there needs to be a learning outcome where some insight dawns on the participant in a way they will never forget, as it’s connected to the experience. Like a good chef, this goes way beyond simply knowing the individual ingredients to being able to design the final professional creation (a carefully blended combination). This is not the sort of experience where a university student tells a team to open the next clue, and then asks them ‘how they feel about it’.

Solution: Ensure that the facilitators for the program are qualified and experienced. Inexpensive and inexperienced facilitators might save on the day’s budget, but the real cost is wasting the participants’ time if an activity cannot be properly framed, contextualized and debriefed.

3) Ensure the program is both intelligent and relevant
Example: The danger with the ‘Amazing Race’ type exercises is that these programs tend to be linear with shallow content, and whilst fun, the time invested is often not worth the outcome. This easily leads to the ‘groaning’ /contempt effect.

Solution: Ensure the program content is intelligent and relevant: good team building should have an authentic theme to make it memorable, with intelligent and relevant facts and case studies related to the theme. As an example, one of our most popular programs which uses this strategy is ‘ON THIN ICE’. The program is a simulated expedition to Antarctica, with lots of video footage and interesting facts and information about the challenges faced by actual Antarctic expeditions. During the simulation a variety of issues related to virtual and cross cultural team challenges, leadership challenges, communication challenges and so on quickly surface. With careful questioning and framing, the real issues can be effectively and professionally dealt with. To add some inspiration, we often invite a polar expeditioner in to share first-hand stories of the challenges individuals and teams face in these high pressured situations, and the leadership skills needed to survive.

4) Focus on the key outcome rather than the activity – creating high performance collaborative teams
Example: A client once came to us asking to design a highly competitive team building program. When we enquired about the desired outcome, we were told ‘collaboration’. Even as the question was being answered, the client began to see the irony. This client was focusing on the activity rather than the outcome. Most work teams would struggle with the ambiguity of collaboration in a culture that breeds self-survival and competition. And yet the productivity of a work group often ultimately depends on how the group members see their own goals in relation to the goals of the organisation. As 4 out of 9 people struggle with successful collaboration in the workplace, this should be a key focus of any team development program.

Solution: Team building programs need to be engaging and exciting, but not at the expense of reaching what must be the key goal of any team development program – collaboration. Simply participating in a collaborative exercise will also not be enough. Anyone can collaborate when they need to and when the conditions are controlled. The experiential learning opportunity created should drive home the need for true collaboration no matter how challenging the circumstances. (Read his post on The Collaboration Deception here)

Simulation for success

In most organisations employees are required to make more complex decisions more quickly, with fewer resources and no margin for error. Becoming good at this necessitates something few people have – opportunities to practice.

Musicians, actors and athletes wouldn’t dream of performing without extensive practice. But how do business people practice? Mostly they end up making mistakes and learning by trial and error. But learning from real mistakes can get expensive – both for the company and for the people who make them. Simulations create a “virtual practice field” that allows individuals and teams to test assumptions and experiment with ideas without having to suffer financial reversals or career setbacks.

So what does effective team building do? Peter Senge says that companies need to create practice places where issues that arise in the work place can be isolated and focused on. This enables the team to see the consequences of particular actions and incidents that can occur very rapidly in the workplace, and ensure they can be examined in more detail. The complexities of the everyday working environment can be simplified and analysed. Actions and attitudes that cannot be reversed or taken back in the real world can be re-tried countless times in a protected environment. If the participants are successfully brought on board, the environment is favourable, the content intelligent, the method educational, the facilitator skilled, and the focus correct… team building experiences can be high impact and highly transformational.

As Plato has so cleverly identified, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.”

Ensure the experience is well designed and planned, and you can ensure great success.

You can sign up for Andrew’s Great Stuff  at www.tirian.com/articles/about-t-thoughts/

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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“We have met the enemy and He is US.” Pogo, Leadership and Management

Early in my career, there was a popular quote popping around attributed to Pogo, a cartoon series by the late Walt Kelly.

The quote I love was published initially as an Earth Day poster in 1970. For me, this one representation of Pogo and the thought expressed so cleanly carries over neatly to issues of organizations, motivations, and management.

Background: Pogo was the title character of a long-running American comic strip created by cartoonist Walt Kelly (1913–1973) and distributed by the Post-Hall Syndicate. Set in the Okefenokee Swamp of the southeastern United States, the strip used some anthropomorphic animal characters who shared a wide variety of satirical comments on many aspects of life.

Three years before his death, Kelly penned Pogo into a poster for Earth Day, one that apparently first used the quote that became so universally known, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

poster4

(If you look at Pogo’s feet, you will see a variety of trash and litter…)

For Earth Day 1971, Kelly did a two-panel expansion of his theme and included another of the characters of his comic strip (Porky) walking through a trashed swamp and shown below:

Earth_Day_1971

There are nice write-ups on the cartoons and their evolution in a number of sources, including this webpage and this site on wikipedia.

In 1998, at a PogoFest celebration in Waycross GA, organizers produced this brass plate on a wooden plaque:

plaque 1998

This latter framework closely reflects us, individually, as the enemy. Each of us creates and maintains our own issues and problems (while having all the solutions within us at the same time). Each of us is creative and motivated and human, and we can look to find those qualities that will make us contribute even more to the world around us.

The theme is not so much about litter and Earth Day, in my opinion, as about human potential. As leaders, we should be looking to see what we can elicit and support from the skills of others. If we do not work to optimize and maximize the performance of those around us, we are the enemy in that we are not effectively engaging, involving and/or motivating our people.

Maybe one of those plaques should be on each of our walls,

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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Please note that all images are copyrighted by various sources including a 1982 Simon and Schuster book and other locations. Simon and Schuster produced 45 Pogo books over the years.

In November of 2011, Fantagraphics Books published the first of a 12-volume hardcover series of the complete run of Kelly’s works. In no way do I want my blog to reflect any issues of copyright infringement — I just wanted to use this illustration to illustrate a critical point and I refer any and all of you with any interest in this material to contact the publishers listed.

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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Thoughts on Optimal Team Sizes and Intrinsic Motivation for Results

Andrea Goodridge posed the following question in a LinkedIn discussion:  “What is the optimal team size? Does anyone know of any evidence which demonstrates a team’s decay of effectiveness and productivity because of its size? (I am interested to hear if a team of 12 on one site will be more productive than 2 teams of 6 on two sites.) How DO you approach assembling a team or teams that will actually generate results and have organizational impacts?”

belbin

To this, I shared some of my thinking and perspective, noting that my experiences are varied on this, but that I have been playing with these same kinds of issues for 20 years (yeah, more like 35 actually…). I am not sure that there IS an answer to the question. (Andrea actually does go on to add some research data in her comments and discussion with me.)

No doubt teams of 5 to 6 people can form up more quickly and identify and solve problems quickly. But do they have the “steam” to actually get things done politically? Is there enough power there to do more than talk? So, a real question is around the issue of real and perceived management support for risk and initiative.

The makeup of the team is also critical — do they have a vested interest in the outcome, are they some of the engaged workers who self-selected onto the team and do they have any previous success with improvements? Note that previous failures are most likely seen as de-motivators of future performance. The organizational culture is also important: Does it support change and improvement and will it allow the group to become a team and actually take action?

Large groups can have more position power and can include some people who will actually do little but who have the juice to say, “get this done.” The problem is that those large groups CAN play the political / appearance game and be on the team for “resume purposes” or to protect turf or whatever.

It is amazing how many managers do NOT really want changes and improvements to occur, feeling that if a team can come up with something better and implement measurable improvements and results, then they make that manager look bad for not doing that before. Yep — I have seen that crush a plant-wide performance initiative because “Frank” was retiring in a year and he thought of himself as, “The Best Plant Manager in the Whole Entire Company.” My work in a whole bunch of pilot programs clearly showed improvements were possible but, as soon as I left the project, you could hear the screeching sounds of brakes being applied — success was NOT possible.

You can spend lots of money on team surveys and all that — plenty of offerings to “help improve teamwork.” Me, I am a GFNJ * 

The key is to have a really effective team leader or moderator, to take good notes, to set dates and standards and report accomplishments and insure that the infrastructure works to allow teams and team members to succeed. I have always liked that metaphor of a good team as a good jazz band, where everyone gets some solo time but where the group is recognized for its overall results.

Becoming an orchestra is an awful lot harder to accomplish.

Small teams. Engaged. Collaborative. Focused on improvement. Dis-Un-Empowered and Dis-Un-Engaged. In a culture that will actually support implementation!

Git ‘er Done!   ( * Guy From New Jersey)

Andrea Goodridge then added some good comments that I simply copy below:

AndreaThanks for your comments Scott – over the last few days I have done some research into this very question – below is my output: 

M Ringelmann discredited the theory that a group team effort results in increased effort, by analysing the pull force of people alone and in groups as they pulled on a rope. As Ringelmann added more and more people at the rope, he discovered that the total force generated by the group rose, but the average force exerted by each group member declined. Ringelmann attributed this to what was then called “social loafing” – a condition where a group or team tends to ‘hide’ the lack of individual effort. 

Researchers (Hackman and Vidmar, Richard Hackman, QSM, Klein, Wheelan) identified a general preference for a small team, containing less than seven members, showing: that as a team gets bigger, the number of links that need to be managed among members goes up at an accelerating, almost exponential rate; and teams comprising between three and six members are significantly more productive and better developed than those made up of between seven and ten, and those with 11 or more members. When teams get over eight or nine people, it is cumbersome and the team breaks down into sub-teams. 

J Mueller explored the question of small versus large teams and noted in larger teams, people may not have the time and energy to form relationships that really help their ability to be productive; and also higher levels of stress were revealed for members of larger teams than for smaller teams. On a smaller team, people knew what resources were available and felt they could ask questions when things went wrong. 

Espinosa, Lerch and Kraut state as projects and teams grow in size and complexity, tasks and member dependencies become more numerous, diverse and complex, thus increasing the need for team coordination. It often means less cohesiveness and less participation from group members, and often the opportunity for “social loafing”. 

Wheelan reports that smaller groups are more likely to pass through all four stages of group development, and highly developed groups are more likely to be productive. 

Overall, small is the better way to go when forming a team!

So, you have my subjective thoughts on this along with the research that Andrea cited. I cannot imagine where I would build a large team, but I might have a larger “steering committee” or some such political body that would give a stamp of approval to the efforts of the smaller teams.

I do note, though, that many automobile manufacturers and similar kinds of design groups are using social networking and crowd sourcing to help generate ideas for improvement. I am guessing that the implementation teams would be small to be effective, however.

And there does seem to be good support for the reality of organizing small mobile teams rather than big ones, IF you give them the room to operate and the resources they need to be effective.

For the FUN of It!

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

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Managing Big Groups Interactively

A post in one of my lists asked for ideas about running large groups, but did not share anything about specific desired outcomes, just that the group was more than 100 people.

So, I posted up these general ideas around what are a zillion possibilities.

..

We have been doing large group interactive team building events for 20 years, so there are a lot of ways to make this work.



I focus on doing fun things, with direct links to business improvement. It is about engaging people in the process and giving them a sense of ownership that makes these events stick in their minds and generate the possibility for actual behavior change down the road.



large group teambuilding fun

Giving people the chance to participate is engaging

People do want to interact and share their ideas, rather than casually watch some powerpoint presentation while processing their email on their cell phones (if they can get away with it). I have seen very senior executives sitting at a front table actually processing their US Post Office mail while “attending” to someone on their staff’s presentation (really!).

Without knowing anything about desired outcomes, let me make a few general suggestions.



– Round tables of 6 – anything other than that will sub-optimize results. More people = less interaction and an increased likelihood that one person will dominate a discussion. Square tables unconsciously generate seat dominance for a few people — you cannot get around it.



– Interactivity and tabletop discussion as part of the design.

- Capturing ideas on paper and posting on the walls. With large groups, it is hard to allow much “shout out” and you just capture a tiny bit of the discussed content. Paper postings allow more information to be shared and later captured.

– Forced Browsing of all ideas by all people — we use “Dot-Voting” whereby each person gets 3 or 4 colored dots that they need to use to vote on best ideas. They cannot vote on their own work…



…and frameworks like that. I will commonly facilitate sessions of 150 to 200 people and have done these same things with groups as large as 600.



Mostly, I use my Square Wheels® cartoon illustrations and my team building games like “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” for generating active involvement.



Remember the simple concept that, “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and that creating a sense of ownership involvement is a critical component of a successful interactive program.


Do you have any ideas you can contribute to this question?

Speeding up Lost Dutchman – team building ideas

Over the years, I have come to deliver a detailed Introduction to our team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firstly: There are no really good, simple ideas on speeding things up. Generally, if you keep something out of the Intro, it either seems to generate a question that takes at least as long to answer or it creates a problem with misunderstanding.

My focus on delivery has been to generate an effective and efficient way to present the information so that players are clear at the start of planning. I have found it to be faster to go slower and be more redundant in the Introduction. That way, they make better decisions and play with better results and have fewer questions and run into less difficulty at the end.

My finding is that speeding up by shortening the Intro information can slow things down in different and unexpected ways or causes more mistakes and poorer play and all that…

Okay, some ideas:

Start on Time –

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

It is scary how often these “tight timing” sessions do not start on time. This is especially true if there is some manager that “needs to say a few things to the group before you get started.” I have lost 30 minutes or more from these “few minutes” while the content of that introduction could have been in an email to everyone.

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

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

Do NOT play the game at night with alcoholic beverages. Those are disasters.

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

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

Pods
And DO separate the groups into distinct pods for large groups. My guess is that pods of 6 teams will play faster than pods of 10, although I have no data on that. I think it would be easier for the Provisioner to spot a team that is having trouble with a smaller pod, and thus direct help toward that tabletop.

Team Size
In my experience, smaller teams play faster — if you can set up as groups of 4 players per table, the planning and the play will go faster. But that takes more support from your team of delivery people. It depends on how many support people you have but the more experienced help on the floor, the easier to solve problems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Focus mostly on the dynamics of team interaction and behavior and debrief according to the desired outcomes for the event. I often end with tabletop discussions around, “What does mining (more) gold mean to us as an organization?”

Lastly, do all that you can do. You cannot do any more than that. Work as best as you can to meet the commitments that were set, but realize that you may not have all the control you need to make this optimal.

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

YOUR thoughts on all this would be Most Excellent!

For the FUN of It!

Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Change is good. You go first.
Dilbert Principles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their significance was twofold:

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

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

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

Category 1 – BRICK WALLs

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

Category 2 – PARTITIONs

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

Category 3 – PAPER WALLs

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

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

Category 4 – MINDSETs

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

Using the Model

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

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

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

How to deliver the theme:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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“Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There.“

This statement, above, describes the action that we have been teaching as a basic tool of innovation and change since the early 90s. Too often, we are so busy pushing and pulling the wagon, just like always, that we do not step back and look at things from a displaced perspective. Once we do, we can see that things are rolling on Square Wheels while the cargo of the wagon are round rubber tires.

Very often, people who perform better than others — the exemplary performers of any organization — will already be doing things differently than the others. The round wheels in so many situations are already identified and tested and implemented and refined. But the majority of the people, and especially the poor performers, just keep on keeping on and doing what they have always done and their Square Wheels remain in place.

Innovations can occur quite naturally. Some of us are nearly always looking for ways to do things differently so that it is easier. Tom Gilbert expanded on a framework of “laziness” back in the late 70s in his book, Human Competence. I have always liked that concept: Because we are naturally lazy, we will always be looking for the easiest and most efficient way to do things.

Why not look for the downhill route instead of pushing and pulling the wagon uphill (and sometimes through the mud)?

By involving and engaging people in the identification of the things not working smoothly and through the sharing of best practices and round wheels, we do a better job of engaging and involving the workforce. Engagement is a key to motivation and sustaining high performance. Or, putting the Round Wheels to use!

Managing and Leading Innovation and Change

There are LOTS of statistics around issues of improvement, and most of them could be positively impacted if we stepped back a little… Organizations abandon 50% to 70% of strategies because the strategies fail to take hold in the organization or achieve desired results in the time expected. Only 30% of strategic initiatives succeed, on time. This may certainly apply to related issues of change and innovation.

Research shows that you achieve strategic speed by focusing on people (surprise, surprise!), but many leaders mistakenly pursue speed mainly by manipulating processes, systems, and technologies in a bid to become more efficient.

The three most important people factors around the issues of managing and leading innovation and change are thought to be:

  • CLARITY is a shared, clear understanding of the situation and the direction in which you’re headed.
  • UNITY is whole-hearted agreement on the merits of that direction and on the need to work together to move ahead.
  • AGILITY is a willingness to turn and adapt quickly while keeping strategic goals in mind.

 (the above are taken from an “Inside Training” email, 8/11/10)

Company cultures and the related issues of trust and ownership are critical. Some find it much easier than others. Having shared successes in the past most certainly helps moving things forward in the future.

More commonly, many people find that discovery and ideation more often go through these three stages:

  1. Initial ridicule
  2. Violent passionate opposition
  3. Acceptance as the obvious solution.

I liked the concept of Scott Adams in The Dilbert Principles:
    “Change is good. You go first.

Managing implementation and change MAY be slightly different from

The Six Phases of Project Implementation:

1 – Enthusiasm for the initiative
2 – Disillusionment with initial results
3 – Panic as things fall apart
4 – Search for the Guilty
5 – Punishment of the Innocent
6 – Praise and Honor for the Non-Participants

In those kinds of company cultures, there is also often followup / fallout from that first project as organizations try to benefit from their learning experience.

The Six Phases of a second project might then be viewed as

1 – Mild enthusiasm combined with unexpressed general concern
2 – Search for volunteers
3 – Avoidance of involvement
4 – Search for anything positive

Discussions of a THIRD project are generally tabled for later discussion. MUCH later… 

In reality, there are ways to successfully implement innovation and improvements. The actuality will differ from organization to organization for a number of reasons, but most generally, it would seem to be HOW the organization reacts to the issues and problems found in continuous continuous improvement. Are the successes rewarded (intrinsically and extrinsically) and are the failures positively viewed (by ALL) as learning experiences and activities to set the stage for future attempts?

Remember that there are seldom actually failures in projects. There are just non-successes that most will try to distance themselves from given the normal cultural responses and reactions.

To change this, we have to change things, we need to do things differently to lead innovation and improvement.

My change model is about clarity of mission (and all that related stuff), being uncomfortable with the way things are now, having peer SUPPORT for the changes and having a previous success(es) with making individual change.

We can accomplish all the above with employee engagement and facilitated interaction at the supervisor level.

My approach is to share the model with people in a facilitation and then get their active involvement in what we need to do differently. I allow them to clarify what is not clear in the mission and what we might do to better support each other, for example. An open discussion builds trust and support (and links right back to the model in an obvious way). Minimize Surprise.

Start things simply. Take some small steps:

I try to generate increasing involvement in the analysis and recommendations of next steps as we roll forward. They get better at it over time and with increasing trust in each other.

If the mission is not clear, or we need to generate one, I use a simple approach (see this for the toolkit for developing a mission statement). Or, I might later work to manage perceived roadblocks (see this for more information about our toolkit on roadblock management). 

     Remember this simple fact: We improve by building on successes.

signature-simple-process-why-sws

<a rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123">Scott on Google+<a>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

 

Implementing Improvement – Ideas on Brainstorming

“Nobody ever washes a rental car!“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

=Square Wheels Icebreaker icon

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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