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

Tag: intrinsic motivation (Page 1 of 3)

Elephants, Line Managers and Workplace Engagement

More and more, I am convinced that the key training people in organizations do not reside in HR / Training Departments but exist in the ranks of the line managers. The complexity of their job roles, however, can block their efforts to involve and engage their people to implement change and improvement. We need to look at that reality. Here are some thoughts and ideas.

——————

Managers are responsible for performance. Managers are responsible for quality and service. Managers are responsible for productivity and results. Managers do reports and attend meetings. And, more and more, we are driven away from the simple act of focusing on skills needed to motivate and retain people (including the managers!).

Yet these same managers are the only ones who have the direct influence on the workers to understand issues and generate changes.

The reality of the supervisors and managers will probably look something like this when it comes to opportunities to involve and engage their people:

Engagement Elephant Birth Process

So, what are we doing to provide managers with the tools they need to function as organizational performance improvement consultants, coaches for identifying best practices and communicating and implementing changes and improvements? Are we giving them the time they need and freeing up worker time for them to be asking, listening and considering?

Are managers involving and engaging their people or are we just wasting time and energy thinking that they might?

This could be brainstorming and an action to involve and engage people in workplace improvement. Or, this might represent another “Yell and Tell” training session.

In most workplaces, people are NOT involved and engaged — sure, the BEST Bosses are good at leading people forward, building ownership and engaging people in teamwork and process improvement. But in most organizations, BOSS spelled backwards is self-explanatory (email me and I will explain privately, if this euphemism is not immediately understood!) and people are not being engaged — the boss is too busy, as in the haiku below:

LEGO SWs One Business Haiku Talk and Trust

What do our managers need to do to shift the energy of these meetings and discussions from negative to positive? One solution is to use better tools and an approach that is facilitative rather than confrontational. This simply requires the right tools and some simple, self-taught facilitation training.

Asking is a much better approach than Telling. Engaging is a much better approach than generating resistance to change. Generate SMILES, not frowns.

For the past 20 years, I have been developing simple but powerful tools for involving and engaging people and generating ownership and performance improvement.

My view is that the solution to the work situation looks something like this:

LEGO POSTER - WORKPLACE HAPPINESS at hand

And we need to allow the team and the managers the time to consider possibilities and plan actions.

If you have any questions about how your organization might accomplish more of this, drift around randomly through the PMC website and generate your own thoughts on how people can be more intrinsically motivated and build a better sense of team and “US.”

SWs - Why use SWs RWs

People have ideas for improvement and supervisors can do a better job of asking and engaging and implementing, don’t you think? Could people simply choose to do things better and more efficiently?

 

For the FUN of It!
Scott small picDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: 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

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

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

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

Defense with © Square Wheels Image

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

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

square wheels image of Trial and Error

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

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

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

What the managers tend to do looks like this:

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

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

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

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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Teamwork Works! Teambuilding has Positive Impacts.

There have been a variety of articles and posts on different leadership development groups taking the position that teamwork does not work to improve organizational performance.

Huh? Seriously?

I would be hard pressed to think of one situation where some kind of teamwork wasn’t necessary to produce an optimal result in some relatively complex situation. Teams and teamwork are how things get done, so taking a position that team building does not have any impact on results and performance seems a bit goofy, right? There are troubles with teams and they do not always work smoothly, and creating a team is not always the best solution to solving a problem, but it is certainly a good one, in general. There is no question that diversity of perspective and ideas gives a better result on most problems in most situations.

Yeah, sometimes we have situations like this:

Square Wheels and competitionbut that is not to say that teams do not work!

But maybe it is the kind of team building training that is the issue behind few observable improvements? Maybe there are some less effective approaches in play.

Last night, I saw an advertisement for Booking.com that was about “The Annual Company Retreat” — It is pretty much a hoot! Click on the image below to see this 30-second commercial (by Booking.com).

Annual company paintball teambuilding retreat booking dot comI think this pretty clearly shows how a LOT of people see teambuilding combined with paintball — does teambuilding need pain, suffering, losers and winners?

Hey! I will admit a vested interest in the issue, since I design and sell interactive exercises focused on issues of engagement and collaboration between teams. And there IS a lot of crap training out there calling itself teamwork — my particular pet peeves are things like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes and other similar “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together, interacting to define things to improve, bonding together to fix problems, etc. Sure, the events themselves are challenging, but does river rafting really build a team of people focused on improving the business?

And Golf as team building? Gimme a break — Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play is crucial to their overall success (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole, but not during play, most certainly. Bowling? Maybe. Cooking? Maybe, if one is running a big commercial kitchen in a restaurant or hotel…

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations, IMHO. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then expect people to work together. In so many organizations, and lots of research supporting this, many of the people are not engaged and many are DIS-engaged. One might not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people.

But we can motivate them. People want to feel successful and not be scared by the risks of performing. We need to get them to a new place, mentally.

Motivate people through success

In high performing workplaces, you will see a collaborative culture where people work together to handle issues and solve problems. Granted, that approach may not work too well in places like Real Estate, Mortgage Lending or Stock Market Sales, but we do see a strong need for collaboration and commitment where things like production or product design or customer service come into play.

Take any group of people, give them some common goals, measure them on shared performance and allow them the ability to help each other and you have the basics for a workplace situation where teamwork will arise. Then, do some activity that demonstrates the benefit of collaboration on the overall results — something like, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Then, debrief that activity and discuss the choices that people made along with the choices they COULD have made, link it to the issues they see in their own workplace, and allow them to make commitments to each other (peer support) and you are highly likely to see improvement (if there is a bit of followup after the session).

Think of all the activities that we engage in where teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment — sports is but one endeavor. And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Celebration plane color green

Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. And improvement is a continuous activity.

Sure, individuals can excel, but only through collaboration and engagement and motivation can we get a group of people to high levels of accomplishment and performance that they can celebrate and then continue to impact.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman 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 Teamwork, Trial and Error Improvement, and Blame Frames

Organizational improvement and teamwork. The ideas are pretty simple but the reality of actually designing and implementing workplace improvement tends to be a little difficult. When we add in issues of corporate power and politics, of sensitivities to criticism and perceived failures, and the framework of collaboration between departments to get things done differently, it looks a bit more like this:

Mud and Square Wheels image

And, organizationally, it can sometimes look like this:

Square Wheels and competition

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 above image and react to what you see before moving on, please. Just consider what might be happening with the people and their workplace.

When I show this illustration to managers and ask for their reactions, we generally get a ratio of about 8 negative reactions to each positive one. In other words, eight reactions focused on the negative and what the people in the cartoon did wrong for every one positive thing about the situation. This is often called “constructive criticism,” but I am not sure what good it serves to continually point out what others are doing wrong. It does not build teamwork or increase engagement and it serves to smash down any intrinsic motivation that might have been occurring.

Managers should be trained to look for business improvement opportunities and to look for things that can be improved. This serves solid business purposes. But when this gets expressed as Non-Support for Change and Risk-Taking, we cannot expect others to just go along with that.

What we commonly see 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:

Square Wheels images by Scott Simmerman

The Round Wheels are in the wagon. Carrot’s, too!

Allow people to do things and celebrate their successes.

Square Wheels Celebration Haiku good ideas

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

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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Fear is The Mindkiller – Thoughts on Facilitation and Engagement

In writing about facilitation and how it seems that some people want to make this simple concept into a horribly complex pedagogical framework understood only by experts (like me, but certainly not approaching the issues like me!), I was reminded of a quip and then looked it up for the whole source.

I remember reading Dune (by Frank Herbert) while on a 9-month solo car camping trip around the US back in 1977. I was acting out the definition of footloose and fancy-free in those days, for sure, since I had no plans, no timeline, no specific destination. Just me and my car and my tent and camping gear. Awesome journey all over the US and reading a few books in the quiet evenings.

Herbert’s Dune Trilogy was an outstanding set of science fiction works, one that took the basic characters over time and across The Universe. It was a lot about personal strengths and leadership and dealing with adversity and politics. And one of the repeated phrase in the first book and in the trilogy was this one:

Fear is the mindkiller

The whole litany of the Bene Gesserit for building their personal strengths and resolve was actually,

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Pretty neat mantra, I think, and a really good thing to tell yourself when you are faced with a challenge or challenges. Allow the fear to pass over and through and then reflect on it to learn. Personal growth from managing fear effectively.

I am reminded of this as we talk about facilitation of workplace improvement and the obvious lack of real involvement and engagement in the workplace.

The concepts and understanding of the related issues are pretty clear and there are some strong Big Ideas about what should be done. Jim Cliffton, CEO at Gallup and the surveyor of millions of workers simply says that there are 7,000,000 bad bosses out there who should be fired because they cannot demonstrably manage people very well.

(This is not me talking for him — see this link for what he said and how he was framing this issue of leadership and management practices in everyday organizations.)

So, a solution? Yes. Mine is a simple one designed to get things rolling and change the language of improvement. Mine is an easy, bombproof way to get workers talking with supervisors about issues and opportunities for workplace improvement. Mine is one that anyone can do without a lot of training.

Have a meeting and use this simple illustration:

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

We suggest that you:

  • Show the Square Wheels One cartoon.
  • Play with the general ideas people think of and share.
  • Link the ideas and process to the organizational issues of the group
  • Play with listing organizational Square Wheels of the workplace
  • Break down and separate the list into least difficult and most difficult.
  • Break easier ones into less costly and more costly.
  • Ask for volunteers to work up the idea or to try to implement a solution or solutions.
  • Provide organizational resources as needed (time, money, support, power)
  • Repeat the cycle building on successes.

Facilitation is not rocket science, although rocket scientists certainly use facilitation when they are brainstorming new ideas or looking for issues or problems or trying to define different ways of accomplishing difficult tasks that need a team-based solution.

Remember the movie Apollo 13 with the issue of the square filter needing to fit into the round hole: (Watch this 90 second YouTube clip by clicking on Tom Hanks’ image below). Pretty cool scene, and a real and urgent problem solving situation faced by the response team:

Hanks - apollo 13

The facilitation is easy. Share the problem, share the tools and framework, and ask a group of people to put things together. In the case of YOUR people working in your organization, consider using our simple Square Wheels One illustration and cheap facilitation tools to create your Apollo 13 problem and ask your people how to help each other make things better.

Find my short screencast about how to use Square Wheels as a tool for improvement by clicking on the image below:

Square Wheels The Movie Logo Must DO

We help people make workplace improvements,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

I haven’t checked lately, but 50 years of watching what people say they fear has kept

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz002

as the number ONE fear of most people, including most workers. Okay, so now we make a good worker into a Supervisor. Has much really changed? Are these new leaders actually good at involving and engaging their people? Or are they just trying to keep things moving forward?

Plus, we can add in other leadership fears such as fear of loss of control and fear of not having the best idea and all that other personal competency stuff and maybe, we can generate a list of reasons why so many people find it hard to:

Ask for Ideas

for ideas. This really is understandable. There are a lot of common fears about leading and involving and engaging…

At the same time, it is my consistent discovery that so many workplaces tend to look something like this:

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

The people are working hard, pushing and pulling the wagons, and it is the same thing, day after day and week after week. No wonder that Sirota Research found that 85% of new hires saying that their morale declined significantly after spending 6 months in their job and that employee engagement is actually falling – from 24% to 13% in the past two years (Mercer, 2012). We are seemingly not doing a lot of asking and seemingly doing a lot of telling!

So, I am guessing that the reality of how organizations is not so much like that shown in the above illustration but seemingly more like what we share in the one below:

Those who do have Those who lead missSo, what is really so hard about facilitating a group discussion? Not a whole lot, actually, speaking as someone who was a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) by the International Association of Facilitators and who has been leading organizational improvement workshops since 1978. Really, it is really simple, really. Seriously, it is really really simple.

  • Share an illustration with them that has printed on it, “How might this illustration represent how organizations really work?” And let them think about it and then discuss it in small groups.
  • Ask them to share their ideas.
  • Ask them to share how some of those same ideas might represent how things work in their work initiatives.
  • Ask them what we might try to do differently and if anyone is already doing something differently than everyone else.
  • Ask them if they could try to implement a change in how they do things or to recommend something that you might change to make things work better.

That, in a nutshell, is facilitation.

You can read lots more about facilitation, engagement and intrinsic motivation throughout my blog posts, since I often talk about these issues and opportunities as being straightforward. You can also read about Russian Poets and nutshells and Hamlet, if you want, since all this stuff does connect to motivating people and improving how things work. And, you can find a simple, free guide to facilitation by clicking below:

Elegant SolutionsFacilitating Engagement – an overview

The simple reality is that the Round Wheels already exist in the wagon but that people are seemingly too busy to stop and step back and identify issues and opportunities that are really visible and often relatively easy to fix.

So here is some really simple advice for supervisors and facilitators:

Square Wheels One - Things I need to do more celebrate 100

For The FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

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

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

Decision Making, Creativity, and Implementation

Maybe the title should be, “Engagement, Creative Problem Solving, Designing Solutions and then Not Failing to Implement,” but that seems a bit long. It is probably more realistic, though, when we look at the overall context of implementing ideas.

The data on the engagement of employees is really pretty awful, it has been pretty awful and it will probably stay pretty awful. Some relevant links from some previous writings are below, with lots of data and lots of simple ideas for generating more involvement and engagement of people in workplace improvement:

Engagement is actually pretty simple to accomplish and here is the key concept behind making improvements in that area:

Ask for Ideas

People will share ideas. Basically, the ideas around implementing workplace improvement ideas are pretty straightforward. Many approaches will work and some approaches will work much better in cultures that can generate a positive history of workplace improvements and small successes. The acceptance level is simply higher in those organizational cultures.

It is that last thing, “Not failing to implement,” that is my focus. In reading Dan Rockwell’s blog today called, “How to Say Yes to New Ideas Without Going Nuts,” Dan shared 12 ways to say Yes and to help to generate improvement. These are:

  1. Don’t expect people who resist change to lead change. Resistance stabilizes organizations.
  2. Let people who love new ideas try them. Ask, “Who can try this?”
  3. Say, “Yes,” in small ways.
  4. Minimize disruption with pilot programs and trial runs. Ask, “How can we try this?”
  5. Evaluate risk. Ask, “What happens if we try this?”
  6. Limit resources and finances. Creativity finds a way when limitations exist.
  7. Validate before big commitments or disruptions.
  8. Align with vision. “How does this take us where we want to go?”
  9. Align with values. “How does this express who we want to become?”
  10. Ask, “What happens if we don’t try this?”
  11. Define the win. “What will be better if it works?”
  12. Check your gut. “On a scale of one to ten, is it worth a try?” What gut-check number is acceptable for you?

I filter all the above through the looking glass of active ownership involvement. If YOU own the idea and keep that ownership, you can pretty much expect to see resistance to that idea as you push it out to others. BOSS spelled backwards is self-explanatory and people do not like being pushed — you can expect push-back in some fashion in most cases, I think.

Alignment and vision are key, for sure. I frame things something like this:

Square Wheels image BELIEVE this is reality

For the most part, there is isolation of leadership and the support people cannot be expected to understand everything about the journey forward. But what they do understand is that things are not working smoothly and that there exist better ideas for improvement that are right at hand. A key is implementation!

New ideas might just represent continuous continuous improvement, in that a new idea builds logically on an old new idea and in that way is not radical. We also need to attend to the issues of “interdepartmental collaboration” in that a new idea may also have impacts on another group upstream or downstream that may simply resist those, “new ideas that we did not develop ourselves.”

Collaboration is not the most natural behavioral response when it comes to inter-team workplace improvement. Competition is much more likely:

Square Wheels Teamwork interdepartmental collaboration poem

That kind of interdepartmental collaboration competition thing also puts the old kibosh on a lot of ideas and implementation. The real keys are “ownership involvement” and in analysis of impact. If we do a good job of involving and engaging people in the shared idea and its implementation strategy, that ownership will make a difference. If we do a good job of involving them in looking at the idea from a variety of perspectives and being able to report a variety of positive impacts and minimal threats, we also improve the likelihood of implementation.

Funny, but I just wrote a consultant friend in Singapore asking him for what might be a pragmatic idea for a short series of blogs and then this one falls into my lap. These thoughts from Dan were most helpful in anchoring my thoughts on this subject. Implementation is a real key to any improvement.

And a followup telephone conversation with a rental customer for my Lost Dutchman team building game found that the competition between the tabletops at her senior management retreat were very predictable: they tended to not share information and to focus only on their small part of the big organization, actively working to block the sharing of ideas and information about how to optimize the results during play. The debriefing was great because they could talk about all these game behaviors and infer the similarities in play to the realities of daily efforts to impact their customers. People tend to compete rather than collaborate.

Square Wheels One - Judge ourselves intentions borderSo, my suggestions are to look for ways to involve and engage people and ask for their ideas but to also give them ownership involvement. Let them do the impact analyses and look at cost / benefits and let them design strategies to involve and engage other departments and make things roll forward more better faster.

Rental Car quote

and

Square Wheels One and TS Eliot Shadow

Both of the ideas above link to real issues of people and performance. Involving and engaging people to share their ideas and to interact in some kind of implementation team helps generate the intrinsic motivation to do things differently. There are all sorts of positive impacts that can be implemented locally in most organizations.

PMC sells great team building games as well as Square Wheels Toolkits for organizational performance.

Performance Management Company website for team building

For the FUN of It!

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

 

The Blame Frame, Innovation and Intrinsic Motivation

In one of my LinkedIn groups, this question was posed:

Any advice on how to wisely handle the coaching of a team where the senior figures in it never get tired of playing the ‘blame game’?
So I chimed in with:

I’ve been using Square Wheels cartoons as discussion tools for 20 years now. Two come to mind for this situation and “illustrate” the issues to everyone pretty neatly.

The first illustration shows a horse pushing the Square Wheel wagon with the people on the hill in the background. I show the cartoon and ask tabletops to discuss what is going on and to generate as many ideas as they can. I allow them 5 minutes or so to brainstorm and then I go around to the different tables asking them for one thought.

Trial and Error yellow

You can easily get 20 reactions projected onto the illustration, with prominent ones like “cart before the horse” and a number of comments about what they should have done better or differently. People also project thoughts like, “the four people are about to run away over the hill” and “the people all feel pretty stupid.”

I then reframe the illustration around things like innovation and trial and error and the need for perspective and reflection. A common theme of mine with the cartoons is, “Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!” Look from a distance. Keep trying.

What I then do is overlay a “Blame Frame” over the illustration and allow the group to discuss the impacts of focusing on errors as opposed to focusing on opportunities.

Square Wheels Trial and Error with Blame Frame

We get about 5 or 6 negative reactions to each positive one during the idea sharing. Very few people will put a positive spin on what they are seeing. So, we actually catch them being negative and talk about those impacts, the real impacts of negativity and blame, on the issues of innovation, engagement, and motivation.

I don’t have to tell anyone much of anything; they figure it out all on their own as they reflect on what they just did and even how the response of others then reinforced their own negativity. Sometimes, they even reject the positive spins that someone might put on it.

For me, the kinesthetic and the self-induced awareness are keys in generating the cognitive dissonance they need, individually and collectively, to change their future choices. The reality and reframing is really something along these lines:

Trial and Error Murphy's Law words
The key is perspective. The key is to look and consider possibilities for continuous continuous improvement. Simple. Step back from the wagon!

Oh:  “Boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory.” That is also a useful dynamic to anchor. We get a lot more with intrinsic motivation that comes from success. Blame only makes the Boss feel better.

—————–

If you like this overall approach, please note that I did a similar but differently-focused blog along similare themes back in 2012 that you might find interesting. Click on the image link below to see those writings:

Elegant Solutions

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

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

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

Leadership: A Square Wheels View of What It Is

What is Leadership? There are tons of books and models about many different ideas. My approach is to keep things straightforward and simple, so I guess things simply look like this:

Square Wheels One Leadership words green

And people CAN be easily involved and engaged. Try this: ASK them. They will have thoughts about issues and opportunities for improvement. The exemplary performers actually choose to do things differently than the average ones. Why not find out what they are and have them share those ideas?

Square Wheels Intrinsic Motivation - people can be encouraged

Simple stuff that needs more elaboration, for sure. But certainly a way to think about moving forward.

Here is a simple haiku to set the stage for your efforts to make improvements:

Square Wheels One Haiku the thump

We sell these simple tools for involving and engaging people for workplace improvement, which has all sorts of impacts on intrinsic motivation, innovation and productivity.

Square Wheels are simply great tools

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

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

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

Positive Possibilities – Square Wheels for Performance Improvement

A few people have recently written that the Square Wheels One image is a negative view of how organizations really work and that it portrays the leadership in a negative way. And they seem to say that my haiku posts are also somewhat negative about how things work, too.

I guess that this reinforces my key concept that it is all about perspective — the fact that people see things differently and only through discussion can then better understand each other. That this perfectly illustrates the power of the tool is actually most wonderful. It generates different perceptions about things and allows for discussion!

As a “possibilities sorter” and a “future-focused sorter” of information and a performance improvement consultant starting back in 1978, I would simply suggest that my purpose of using the Square Wheels cartoons (back in 1993) was much more about looking for ideas for improvement than a focus on any negatives. What we do can always be improved.

The basic cartoon that started this all was framed up like this:

Square Wheels One imageand we asked, “How might this illustration represent how organizations really work?

We then allow people to talk about what they see and that is projective, it works much like an inkblot or Rorschach Test where people look at an image and then share their thoughts about what it represents. These are “projective instruments” in that people project their perceptions and beliefs onto the tool. And the use of the cartoon helps us get LOTS of ideas. What also happens is that the general thinking about the cartoon often becomes attached to how they see their organizations. They see real issues and opportunities in their own workplaces.

(you can see a post about just how many ideas result from such brainstorming and open discussion by clicking on this link and going to another post.)

Sometimes, if they are management, they see themselves in the front. More often, they feel that they are pushing someone else’s wagon, based on their responses. They also think that the ideas for improvement already exist but that communications between front and back are tough to accomplish.

Negative? Well, maybe.

Maybe if the phrase,
continuous continuous improvement”
is negative… I personally think it represents
possibilities.

I do frame things up with poetry and similar, sometimes taking managers to task for not fixing things that need fixing, those improvements that would make things better for all those involved… I see organizations doing more to generate intrinsic motivation and engagement.

Square Wheels Brainstorming Haiku Tomorrow is today

I think all we are doing through the illustration is anchoring to the existing reality and with the hopes that things can improve, be that about systems and processes, ideas for improvement, leadership involvement, communications or some other aspect of people and performance.

We sell tools for involving, engaging and motivating people and for leading all sorts of organizational involvement initiatives.

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

Have FUN out there, for sure!

square wheels author

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

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

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

Optimizing Profit through Collaboration – Ideas for Lost Dutchman Deliveries

We designed and sell The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a team building exercise focused on planning and collaboration, among other key outcomes. A recent purchaser sent me an email this morning with a simple question but one that I thought merited some elaboration, since there are any number of design features and delivery spins that impact the desired outcomes of the client.

Hello Scott,

I am thoroughly enjoying facilitating the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building.  🙂

So far I have had groups between 40 – 50.  Next week I have a smaller one (4 teams).  How many videos do you suggest I have on hand of each?  

Thanks so much!

Warmly,

First, it is nice to get the positive feedback (testimonials) and to know that she is making money from her investment in purchasing the exercise. Secondly, it is a very good question that I somewhat address in the training materials included with the exercise, but something that obviously could use some additional explanation and some awareness as to issues and opportunities.

So, I sent her a brief overview of my thoughts and promised that her questions would generate a more complete blog post from me today, one that expands on a number of ideas around this simple question. Like my post yesterday, where I discuss the philosophy around the game board design as it relates to my goals of generating more planning and  collaboration (found here), this post also discusses themes of how the available resources can link tightly to desired outcomes.

The Videos are a metaphor and game accessory that ties to strategic planning and best practices. The Mine Video is about the gold mine and contains Cave Cards that teams find useful. Getting that Video costs one day of time and the team getting it leaves on Day Two of the 20 day exercise instead of Day One. (See more on this on the other blog post if that is of interest.)

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine Video Covers

The second video, on Tortilla Flats, contains best practices resources and one video can actually support three teams if the resources are shared across tabletops. I choose not to expand on that here.

So if there are four tabletops playing, her question is how many Videos should she make available for play?

The answer is that it depends on the desired outcomes for the session. Allowing the teams to all get both videos would mean that there are wasted planning days and a bit of analysis paralysis… They do not NEED to spend that much time gaining information and they are losing days of Mining Gold because of it. Plus, with all that information available to every team, it takes away some of the excitement and risk and all that.

Having too many resources is NOT motivating. Having sufficient but not excessive resources to accomplish something adds more challenge. People are not motivated climbing stairs but they are when using ropes and climbing gear to make that ascent!

Having only ONE of each Video available is a scarcity model. The Mine Video resources and information are not as available to the others and there would be little incentive for a team that acquires that to share it — the competitive aspect of it would play in. Having one Tortilla Flat Video would enable 3 of the 4 teams to optimize their performance if – and only if – those resources were shared. If one team got both videos, they would see all the teams leave on Day One and they would leave on Day Three. They would also mine more gold than any of the other teams and they would have an easier time of it, overall.

So, one needs to balance resource availability.

Generally, for a group of 4 tabletops, I might play with three Mine Videos and two of Tortilla Flat so that resources could be shared with all teams.

But there is another option that I really like to do with smaller groups and one that emphasizes the issues around inter-team collaboration even more than the regular design. That involves what we refer to as the Optimizing Profit Performance Option or what I refer to as The Assay Office Version, since that was what it was originally called. There is a long history as to how it evolved but here is what it is and how it works:

Assay Office Mine Video Cover IconThis Assay Office version of The Mine Video contains extra Cave Cards, more than one team could possibly use. So, the design is that the team acquiring this Video would absolutely know that they have extras that they could share with another tabletop. And, this Video also contains information that by using a Cave Card, a team could acquire an extra ounce of Gold each day, 11 ounces rather than 10.

We tell the teams getting this “new edition” of the video that it is different than the old ones — we generally use only ONE of them in a delivery. We tell other teams getting the “old editions” that they should check with that other team to understand the changes that were made in the new edition. WE TELL THEM TO CHECK; WE TELL THEM TO SHARE; WE GIVE THEM EXTRA CARDS!

If a team reaching the mine uses a Cave Card, they can ask for an extra ounce. ANY team using a Cave Card can ask for an extra ounce. Thus, if they got the Assay Video, they should remember to get the extra gold and if they heard about the Assay Video and used Cave Cards given to them (or if they got their own Mine Video with cards), they could also get the extra ounce.

We now simply use a spreadsheet to track when the team asked for the extra ounce and we know which team got the Assay version and which teams could have benefited.

Assay Office spreadsheet

In the above example, the Yellow Team got there a day later (staying home and getting both Videos) and they got the Assay Office version of the Mine Video. We know this because of the day they arrived plus the reality that they used the information to acquire the extra ounce the first day of mining. We know that they got the Tortilla Flat Video because they did not leave on Day 14. (this is information that only game owners would understand!) The Yellow team optimized their results and mined the most gold, contributing the most to the overall gold mined. Remember:

The Goal - Gold Hand gold

You might guess that the Red team got an older version of the Mine Video and spent that extra day at Apache Junction and never did find out about the extra gold. They left on Day 14.

The Blue team got there on Day 7 so they did not spend a day planning — they acquired Cave Cards (or at least started using them on Day 9) and someone shared the Assay Office information with them. Only on Day 13, the day  before they left the Mine, did the Purple team actually use a Cave Card.

(These are actual game results, by the way. This version is harder to administrate than our regular one because there is more tracking. I also think it would be really confusing in a large group environment and harder to debrief.)

If the different teams would all share information and collaborate, they mine more gold and the goal of the game is to mine as much gold as we can, not to compete and win as your own team! If the teams asked the Expedition Leader for advice or assistance, we would also help them to understand how this works. We explain this only to the team getting the first Mine Video, the Assay Office one.

This blog is written for users or those about to facilitate and support a delivery of the exercise so apologies if you got this far and remain a bit confused. For those of you familiar with the normal delivery, I trust that this will make some elegant sense. If you click on either of the two icons above, you can go to the order page for the exercise to add this to your toolkit. It comes free in our Professional Version of the Lost Dutchman game.

You can read more of my thinking on collaboration versus competition at this blog post of mine – click here

You can find a nice screenshare overview of the complete exercise by clicking on the image below:

Slideshare Dutchman 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

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

Square Wheels – NOT some simple model of organizational performance

An interesting telephone conversation this morning got me thinking that it might be a good thing to add some reality to my stupidly simple but effective model of

How Organizations Really Work

Many people have experienced a presentation using my Square Wheels One illustration, either something I have delivered or something from one of the purchasing users of my toolkits. The main anchor point is this illustration:

Square Wheels One image

What we suggest is that the presenter show the illustration and then allow people to play on a worksheet that asks them for their ideas on how the illustration might represent how things work in most organizations. We use “most” to keep it arms-length, but many people will use the drawing as an inkblot test and project their ideas about it onto the worksheet. We allow individuals about a minute of “silent refection” prior to working and sharing their ideas with others at a table for 5 to 6 people.

It all seems really simple. But using it over the years, I will admit to being shocked and amazed at how well this works as a projective instrument to help diagnose organizational issues. The very nature of the group interaction also lets other people frame and reframe ideas until the collective work is nothing short of amazing.

What we generally suggest is to allow the tabletops to select on relevant Square Wheel and then work on generating 3 round wheel potential solutions for consideration, with the idea that we will force some additional considered alternatives rather than the first thing that comes to mind. Those ideas can then serve as the basis for a strategy for implementation.

How surprising are the ideas generated? Well, I actually collected about 300 different ideas about the above illustration before it became impossible to sort the list; my guess is that I have heard 500 or so different thoughts on the cartoon. Some of them include:

  •  We’ve always done it this way
  •  Determined to use the old ways
  •  Organizations don’t think
  •  Solutions are in the wagon, already
  •  The solutions are available but not being used
  •  Old processes and information
  •  No trust in the people behind you
  •  No trust in the team
  •  Lonely at the front
  •  One person sets the direction
  •  One person has the vision
  •  Leadership is deaf
  •  Leaders see only what’s ahead
  •  There is no idea of where they are going or where they have been
  •  Support people are blind
  •  All of them are blind to the possibilities
  •  They can’t see the forest for the trees
  •  Round wheels belong to someone else
  •  We don’t use the tools that we sell
  •  Changing directions is very difficult
  •  We need to se the problem to find the solution
  •  Traditions die hard
  •  Inefficiencies are everywhere
  •  Need to change our paradigms
  •  People aren’t resisting change, they aren’t aware of possibilities
  •  People are choosing to be unaware of possibilities
  •  People work hard, not smart
  •  No mechanism for steering or changing direction
  •  Continuous improvement is possible
  •  Some work is just not much fun
  •  Don’t just do something, stand there
  •  We need to step back from the wagon to discover possibilities for improvement
  •  Resources are always available
  •  No vision of what is ahead from the back
  •  No use of resources
  •  Poor planning for resource utilization
  •  Lack of commitment to make real progress
  •  The rope is loosely tied, management may choke itself
  •  The answer is in front of us, we just can’t see it
  •  If only we mirrored our reality occasionally
  •  People need to step back every so often to look around
  •  Push, or get left behind
  •  Working together can get it done
  •  Jobs are designed harder than they need to be
  •  Human capital isn’t valued
  •  We like to overpower rather than reduce obstacles to get things done
  •  Not all technology works for you
  •  Not all the ideas are usable immediately
  •  Progress isn’t simply about working harder
  •  Tried and true still works — the Square Wheels still work
  •  Internal resources for improvement are always available
  •  Leaders get isolated from the realities of the wagon and the journey
  •  Workers have no vision of the goal
  •  People are too busy pushing and pulling to get a vision of the goal
  •  People are too busy pushing and pulling to make improvements
  •  Square Wheels are the status quo; difficult to change on the fly
  •  The team will probably meet its goals for productivity and cost
  •  Communications are always difficult when people are busy
  •  The manager may be too close to the work to see the possibilities
  •  The wagon is hard to start and easy to stop
  •  Stop. Think!
  •  People make things work no matter what
  •  Too busy with the work to focus on what will work
  •  A few people are doing all the work and others are going through the motions

The above bullets represent less than 2 of the 8 pages of thoughts and ideas that I have captured while showing the illustration. You can see from the above that there is a great diversity in viewpoint over something as simple as a line drawing. When you consider the complexity of the actual workplace, there are no simple views that are most correct.

And there have been a bunch of great one-liners, jokes and quips from session participants, including:

• Those who do have no clue, and those who lead can miss the need.

• If it didn’t go thump, thump, how would we know we’re making any progress

• We’re not like that! We push our wagon uphill!

• You should have seen what we did Last Year!

• The Pushers may have a wheely bad attitude

• Triangular wheels would be an improvement:
– You know, “One Less Bump per Revolution!”

• The Square Wheels may have been invented by a woman…
– but the men are stupid enough to push it that way!

The illustration is a wonderfully simple and unexpectedly powerful tool to generate involvement and engagement in identifying workplace issues and opportunities. The recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman attests to the need to anchor thinking and allow for group participation to generate the optimal understanding of opportunities. I reframed one of his key concepts thusly:

Square Wheels image of Daniel Kahneman

 

Our perceptions can be extremely limited, especially when one considers John Le Carre’s quote about a desk being a dangerous place from which to view the world. What we really need to do is actively work to involve and engage people in discussions about what things in the workplace need improvement. That engagement works wonders when some of those ideas can be implemented, as they usually can.

I have written extensively on the statistics and benefits of improving the active involvement of people. My blog is full of different articles around un-engaged and unmotivated people and ideas for making improvements. There are even articles on the issues and realities of sabotage that the actively dis-engaged people may take.

If you would like to read more about the Square Wheels tools for actively involving people and facilitating workplace improvement, click on the link below.

Square Wheels are simply great tools

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

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

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

 

Most Read Posts on Performance, Square Wheels and Team Building

I took a look at some of the most popular blog posts on the Performance Management Company blog last year and found the list pretty interesting. It is also neat to see a good ramp-up in views of my Poems on Performance blog, one that contains my 100+ series of images and poems, haiku and quips and such.

I’ll admit that this is one of my favorites:

Square Wheels images of how things work

Here are the posts that generated the most views:

Having an Off-Site Company Meeting? Ideas for Success – a long and detailed post of ideas about optimizing the successes of any off-site meeting or event. I reference a number of other resources and ideas.

Herding Cats and Building Teamwork – some funny videos! – Yeah, this is an overview and links to that old EDS commercial about managing things that are really unmanageable. It is a really great short video and the post also references the Running of The Squirrels. Yeah, serious stuff on real issues of organizational performance and improvement. (grin)

Military Team Building Games – some thoughts on alternatives – As some of you know, I am not a big fan of military-themed team building kinds of things, even though I designed one with my son that we still sell, one that involves strategy, shared missions and collaboration between teams. This post addresses some alternatives that I think are better.

Motivation, Training and Icebreakers. Keeping It Real! – This is my overview of better alternatives than those stupidly simple icebreakers that have little real positive impact on a training session. It has links to some better options for using session time.

Thoughts on Boiling Frogs and other metaphors on change – what list would be complete without a discussion about boiling frogs? I just read an article about caterpillars as a very good alternative food source for much of the world, but boiling frogs is still a favorite endeavor of so many managers, it seems!

I will not claim that the blogs above represent my very best writings. I think that Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…” and my thoughts on Godzilla Meets Bambi, a post on what decreases innovation, creativity and innovation might be a bit more solid.

But I am up over 300 posts with this blog now and hope that these are making some contributions to improving performance in the workplace and people’s motivation and engagement. That blog is easily searchable, too.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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

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

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Bad Dream and Reframing – Improving one's outlook on things

I had written this down on a scrap of paper:

“I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space were it not that I have bad dreams.”

I had no idea as to where it was from, but guessed that the water drop marks on the paper might have indicated that I had written this down while sitting in a hot bath, reading and listening to music, which I try to do a couple of times a week.

Maybe it was from a Pearl Jam or Counting Crows or Led Zeppelin song or something like that, since they write good lyrics. So I went online and looked up song lyrics and part of the quote and found that the group Scuba has a rock and roll song called, King of Infinite Space (and you can hear a 30 second preview). I also found that Dream Machine used that lyric in Lilac Time, but they are not on my music list.

So, I did a general search and found a really surprising source:

Act 2, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

ROSENCRANTZ
Why then, your ambition makes it one. ‘Tis too narrow for your mind.

 HAMLET
O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

GUILDENSTERN
Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.

HAMLET
A dream itself is but a shadow.

ROSENCRANTZ
Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.

And THAT reminded me of The Shadow by T.S. Eliot:

“Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow”

That was always a good quote to use when talking about the implementation of ideas and the concept of Murphy and his various laws and corollaries.

Square Wheels Image and Murphy's Law

You can find my blog on the origin of these Laws and thoughts on their relationships to organizational performance at this blog post of mine and at this post on reframing situational performance improvement.

Yeah, this post rambled a bit.

But I am guessing that it must be bad dreams or shadows or something, ya think?

Hope that all goes well for you,

For the FUN of It!

————

bummed out guys

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

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

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

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