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

Tag: innovation and implementation

Facilitating? What are we accomplishing?

I play with LEGO. Yeah, and I do it in my training sessions too, focusing on the theme that things can be improved.

While cruising around, I read a solid post by Pere Juarez Vives called The Art of Facilitation, in which he put a little LEGO scene together. Cute. But it also tends to illustrate one of my issues with what is viewed as facilitation: It is not simply about playing with things but needs to be focused on the engagement aspect of work and on the issues of identifying issues and opportunities and then doing things differently.

Pere Facilition LEGO Scene

What Pere does is focus on the key points of the International Association of Facilitators basic premises, which is fine. It is an excellent organization and I went through their Certified Professional Facilitators (CPF) certification many years ago. You can click on the image to go to his writings.

I liked how he framed his post around the role of the Facilitator and how he aligned the key points to the IAF framework for professional facilitators. But I also have issues with that framework, since so much more facilitation is done by (or should be done by) managers and supervisors of people in the workplaces. Gallup just showed that US Engagement is at a 5-year high but recognize that it was still only at 34%, and that this is a LOT higher than what is seen in most countries. Engagement still represents a critically important issue for workplace motivation and innovation.

While some of these professional, arms-length practices are good, I always clang with them when I do a facilitation with managers, since I WANT them to leave with the same skills and techniques and approach that I did TO them — they get it, now I want them to DO it and those ideas are fundamentally mis-aligned with IAF focuses; they are viewed as un-professional in a way!

Facilitation is all about engagement, and there is simply too little engagement in most workplaces and with most Bosses. Meetings and discussions offer a wonderful opportunity to ask about issues and potential solutions. Thus, when I work with these managers, I want them to learn from me what I did and how I did it so that they can leverage the knowledge with their people.

Primarily, I do this with my Square Wheels® metaphor, which is amazingly fluid and flexible. Here is a little poem I did about teamwork:

Square wheels image in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
A key principle is ownership, which I express as, “Nobody ever washes a rental car.” Participating in a discussion builds ownership involvement. So, getting these managers to lead similarly is my key focus in so many situations.

I also use the Square Wheels metaphor about how things really work, with the idea that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon. These days, I illustrate those things using LEGO.

The reality is that it is NOT about playing with things, but about generating workable ideas and then having the motivation and momentum to actually implement them. So many facilitations simply do NOT accomplish things when people go back to the same work with the same pressures and parameters.

So, I suggest that you step back from your wagon and consider the possibility of doing something differently for a change.

Check out yesterday’s blog on thinking out of the box, for example.

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Square Wheels One Main Question How might this represent

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t just DO something, Stand There!

I make some supporting suggestions here in another blog on people and performance:

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

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

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company


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