Performance Management Company Blog

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

Tag: LEGO and team motivation to improve

Leadership Secrets and Teamwork

Dan Rockwell’s blog, Leadership Freak, is excellent. He offers up a very wide variety of actionable ideas on so many subjects. His blog today pushed me to share his key points and add a few of my own when it comes to leadership and interacting with teams. We can do so much more.

Read his blog for the expansion of his key points, but here they are as bullets:

  1. Offer solutions, but always begin with problems
  2. Forget perfection
  3. Learn while you take action
  4. Focus on getting people in the right roles
  5. Build energizing environments
  6. Embrace forward facing contrarians
  7. Results don’t define you

When reading through his explanation, my mind was operating within the framework of my actionable view of the world. Here is my view of the generality of how things really work in most organizations:

Square Wheels LEGO image of how things work in organizations

Take a second and think about this illustration…

It’s been my experience that things seldom work smoothly and that the people do not work exceptionally well with each other between the front and back of the wagon or from the viewpoint of there being multiple teams. In my view of things, leadership is often isolated from the hands-on reality of the people at the back of the wagon, thus it is critical that leadership do more asking and listening than offering suggestions or simply accepting that things are working okay. There is a great deal of research that suggests that many people are not involved or engaged and that their bosses are not asking for their ideas for workplace improvement.

Dan’s thoughts are right about perfection (#2) — I think about it this way:

  • A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. (John LeCarre)
  • The Round Wheels of today are the Square Wheels of tomorrow.
  • What we need is Continuous Continuous Improvement!
    (from the Department of Redundancy Department)

Peter Senge long ago wrote about the idea of a Learning Organization. Heck, I even read that whole book. And I think that, for the most part, the world is still looking for one of them. Most organizations do not come close to being focused on learning and teamwork and learning. Most organizations do NOT take the time to step back and look at issues or for possibilities. That kind of problem-solving teamwork is often seen in various “team bonding” kinds of challenges but not often rolled into the workplace.

For me, workplace reality should occasionally look more like this:

Square Wheels LEGO Poster on team perspective

What we also need to encourage are those individuals who step up and challenge the conformity and stale thinking of the group. Sometimes, these people can play the role of Devil’s Advocate, which can be politically difficult unless it is seen as useful (and which is sometimes actually taught in leadership training programs since it enhances problem solving and optimal solutions). The key, as Dan states in #6, if that this is forward looking and not just critical of things.

I see it thusly:Square Wheels LEGO image of devil's advocate

Someone needs to step up and challenge ideas, otherwise the tendency is to keep doing the same thing while expecting improved results. Muscle building (also know as training) will improve efficiencies, but only by a percent or two. What is needed is innovation and new ideas. Plus, those ideas generate a sense of teamwork, peer pressure for success, and an increased likelihood of generating that continuous continuous improvement I mentioned earlier. This is that positive, energizing of the environment that Dan refers to in #5.

Square Wheels LEGO team celebration poster

There are lots of things we choose to do as managers and leaders and most of them work okay. But there are also a lot of other things we can do to make even more contributions to our people and to our organizations.

So, Step back from your wagons and have a chat with your people about these things,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

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Some New Thoughts on Trust and Devils Advocate

My plans are to develop a solid whitepaper on the benefits of challenging existing assumptions and challenging status quo, with the goal of finding solid ideas that merit implementation or to identify issues in generating innovation and process improvement. There is a LOT of data and a LOT of success stories around all this that I want to elaborate on and share.

So, the note-taking and quote-taking continue and I am waiting for the brain to say, “You got it, now go!” So far, no such auditory trigger has been pulled. So I muddle with the meddling. And I wanted to get something up on this useful topic.

What I AM doing is continuing the framing of the issue. I must keep the framework and tools really simple, because lots of data also suggest that supervisors and managers are way overloaded and functionally unable to add much new to their plate of responsibilities.

My thought is that facilitating this process with the Square Wheels tools makes really good sense, since the approach really does not require any significant facilitation skills training or other costly roadblocks. If the manager wants to do things, they can simply choose to do them.

My oft used quotes are that:

  • Trust is the residue of Promises Fulfilled. (Frank Navran)
  • The Round Wheels are already in your wagon. (Scott Simmerman)
  • A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. (John LeCarre)
  • Nobody ever washes a rental car. (Scott Simmerman)

ALL of these lend themselves to the reality that the supervisor has to be the one to involve and engage their people in workplace improvement ideas in order to generate intrinsic motivation and process improvement, and the ideas already exist and people can develop a sense of ownership that will support their implementation.

So, I developed two simple Posters using my LEGO cartoons to help frame the issue. The issue is a simple one: Most workplaces have unengaged people simply doing the work of pushing their wagon and it needs to be acceptable for them to question the reality with management on occasion. This can generate new ideas as well as improve teamwork and intrinsic motivation for working.

LEGO POSTER Devil's Advocate simply

But one HAS to stop pushing and pulling in order to have the mental time to even consider options.

LEGO SWs One POSTER Devil's Advocate Challenge

The TRUST aspect of this comes from behavior. If you can make promises and commitments about implementing the ideas of the workers, if you can form empowered teams and allow them to operate in a way to make those improvements, you build the trust between you one wheel at a time. Approaching the workplace like this allows you that opportunity to act congruently, set clearer expectations about desired results and outcomes, and to give recognition for steps of improvement.

(Click here to see a supporting article on Trial and Error Thinking)

Trial and Error Blame Frame color red

What we do with our Square Wheels toolkits is offer up a simple-to-use and very inexpensive toolkit for involving people and generating their thoughts around the Square Wheels (what is not working smoothly) and their Round Wheel ideas for possibilities for improvement.

Good ideas spin up easily from this approach and the materials themselves lend themselves to engagement and involvement, since the approach is to simply use the cartoons to ask for ideas.

Tools for Involving and Engaging PeopleIf you want to improve engagement of people and improve performance, you cannot wait for HR to offer up some solutions. Get a grip on things by letting go of the rope.

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!

I will guarantee that these tools work for engagement and innovation and that they are simple to use. They come complete with all sorts of backup materials and there are dozens of blog posts within the PMC Blog that offer ideas for facilitation and framing,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

The Reality of Change, Innovation and Employee Engagement

Change is a constant in the workplace: there is always something…

Sometimes change appears to be happening too fast and sometimes it seems much too slow, given the business needs. Sometimes we are looking to make changes and sometimes we simply must make change to keep moving forward.

On my poems blog, I just posted up this illustration poster:

LEGO POSTER REALITY OF CHANGE

The simple idea is that the wagon wheel has broken, the team needs to get moving again, but the wheel needs to be replaced. With Round Wheels literally “at hand”, we put on a new Square Wheel simply because that is what we have always done. We roll on Square Wheels!

My “regular” line-art cartoons that we use in our toolkit on change, look like this:

SWs Reality of Change © yellow words

The related image that shows some improvement looks like this:

SWs Reality of Change 2 ROUND © yellow

Note the difference — the woman is now installing one of the ROUND wheels.

In the cartoons, overall, we see three people and some note the reluctance of the wagon puller to let go of the rope. Some viewers might comment that the guy at the far left is just lazy and not helping out. But you might also note that the wagon is up on the points of the Square Wheels, making it easier to install a new wheel but much harder to balance, which is the job of those two people.

One guy is lifting — we all know of those people who really put out the effort to help teams succeed.

Lastly. Many people simply miss the HORSE. The horse represents a completely different way to address the reality of moving the wagon. It is surprising how many people miss that aspect of the situation as they focus on the broken wheel. Heck, even the characters in the cartoon seem to have missed that!

What I have been doing for 20+ years is involving and engaging people to see things differently and teaching a VERY simple yet actionable model for understanding change, identifying leverage points and action plans and facilitating the process in such a way that the participants can identify things that they can do differently as well as engage others.

The key is to focus on employee engagement and ownership. If people are involved, they are more likely to be engaged and feel some sense of commitment to getting things done.

I use a simple tool, my Square Wheels illustrations and metaphor to set things up.

SWs One WHY USE © 2014 green
The wagon rolls on a set of wooden Square Wheels carrying a cargo of round rubber tires. The process continues this way because of a few different factors, such as the square wheels actually working (just like they always have), and the lack of perspective (“Don’t just DO something, Stand There!). 

The reality is that stopping the process and implementing improvement takes time and is not always successful. Plus, the round wheels of today will invariably become the Square Wheels of tomorrow.

The intent of this facilitation is to involve people in stepping back from the wagon and seeing the obvious – the round wheels already exist and should be implemented to make long-term progress and not simply to meet the goals for today.

Sometimes, I introduce the concept of Mud, the glop that gets in the way of moving forward. This can include organizational restraints (perceived and real), politics, culture or simply the difficulty in changing. I then show the wagon and the people up to their “axles” in this mess and how hard it is to make progress. For me, “mud” is a great metaphor and I use it with the theme, “Get out of the ditch and up on the road” to introduce the issue of choice and choices. We choose what we do. Deal with it. (“If it is to be, it is up to me!”)

(“Mud” can also be grinding paste, cement, and other things. On my website at www.squarewheels.com, you can also find recipes for making Gack out of things like Elmer’s Glue and borax – Gack is a gooey mess — a “colloidal suspension.”)

“The best “Mud Managers” do things differently. What is it they do?”

This is a great question to ask, since it generates alternative behaviors and alternative thinking in their discussions, often anchored on best practices of the exemplary performers in the room at that time. (Peer coaching!)

At some point in the design, we will move toward my model of change, involving the current level of discomfort with the way things are now, the attractiveness of the vision of the future, the individual or groups’ previous history with change and the peer support for improvement.


All four things are actionable and under control of the manager. Change can involve teamwork or simply group process techniques for identifying issues and opportunities. But once something (a process, generally) is anchored as a Square Wheel, it almost always generates an implementable round one — this nicely taps into the cognitive dissonance model of Festinger.

Change does not have to be done TO people and is best done WITH them, having them involved in the different aspects of environmental and social support. This is why the illustrations work. We get people actively involved.

If you want to read more about this, you’ll find my article that includes these ideas, “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly” at:

http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/articles

Plus, if you’d like to make any comment or discuss any of this, it would be most welcome.

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.

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

LEGO, Square Wheels, and Teamwork – Celebrating Success

Let me illustrate my thinking on issues of corporate performance, innovation, teamwork and the basic issue of alignment, since I think that some people get this wrong. And, as usual, I will try to keep this as simple as possible!

Let me take a really simple approach using some stuff out of the attic and constructing some ideas on teamwork:

First, there is the issue of how things normally work, people-wise, within an organization:

LEGO Chaos of People

The Chaos of Un-Aligned People

Then there is the issue of teamwork, getting people going in the same direction and in alignment to collaborate and push forward together:

The team, facing forward and ready to go.

The team, facing forward and ready to go.

And then there is the rigid alignment that some people think is positive, with people in lockstep and overly aligned:

We can be TOO aligned and rigidly structured.

We can be TOO aligned and rigidly structured.

If there is too much rigidity and structure in the system, people will spend more time keeping people in line and maintaining control and the innovative and collective collaboration of the group will suffer. Keeping a balance between alignment and chaos is where we are likely to find the highest levels of motivation and engagement and the sharing of ideas. Control will limit intellectual collectivity; some level of chaos will help generate innovation.

Since I got that old box of LEGO® out of the attic, I might as well start messing around and creating some stuff. I’ve now taken about 150 pictures to use these LEGO to illustrate some of the Square Wheels concepts in a slightly different way, visually. Expect to see many more in here…

You can see some of my colleague Hakan Forss’ work at http://hakanforss.wordpress.com/too-busy-to-improve/

Please also note that I have a whole big bunch of LEGO based exercises — free — on my other website. You can go to that page of game designs by clicking here:

Some LEGO-based exercises

Some LEGO-based exercises

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, Surprised

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.

LEGO® is a registered trademark of The LEGO Group

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