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

Tag: motivation

Maximizing Team Building Impacts with Senior Managers

A prospect engaged me in a discussion of the potential of using The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine with a large group of senior managers to accomplish some management team building. So, this blog post resulted as I framed up some of their issues into possibilities for improvement. We had the whole global senior management group in our Dutchman kickoff to their 3-day strategy session (mfg, sales, corporate, marketing, research, etc.)

One neat aspect is that their Most Senior Manager, the division GM, wanted to play an active role in the event and focus on identifying things that these executive managers could and would do to improve customer service (internal and external), reduce costs, improve innovation and other impacts through improved inter-departmental collaboration and teamwork.

(That is a really neat fit to our basic game design for Dutchman. Testimonials say that it is one of the best of all the motivational team building exercises.)

What really helped in my thinking was her very clear framing of the key desired outcomes for the session (along with very solid framing of how this kick-off activity should align to the overall goals and objectives of the gathering). She had several planning meetings with the GM and thus a quite clear idea about wanting to

  1. Offer the participants a fun and interactive team building activity
  2. Give people an opportunity to interact with others whom they may not know very well
  3. Offer something that will be useful to participants when they return home – a new insight, learning, awareness, etc.
  4. Have the activity help us understand how we can work better as a team so that we can better serve our customers
  5. Make this the first activity in a two day meeting, that should set the stage for what we’re going to be discussing for the rest of the meeting

 Nice. Actionable, too. So here are some thoughts on optimizing impact and generating the maximum amount of alignment possible.

Specifically addressing the above Desired Outcome session bullets, I had the following thoughts and ideas:

1 – Dutchman will be fun and very interactive between players. There is a lot of interaction between the tabletops / teams and the focus of the game is on optimizing overall results. Our goal is to mine as much gold as WE can. This is clearly and repeatedly stated in the Introduction. Teams are working under the direction of the Expedition Leader and expected to generate a maximum return on the investment in them (map, vehicle, grub stake of resources, information, leader assistance, etc.) as communicated through slides like these:

Triad One

This is a business simulation, designed with a fun and engaging framework. It is an exercise intended to generate a serious debriefing on defined issues and opportunities. It is not designed to simply be fun – it is work, it takes planning and analysis and it is stressful, with pressures of time and decisions to get measurable outcomes. In this way, it differs from a lot of the other kinds of fluffy things out there in the “team building activity” marketplace.

2 – On interacting: Most of the actions will be at the tabletops, so I might suggest that tables be arranged with seating assignments so that there would be a good mix of a most senior person with other players done in a way that made sense.  This will allow them to work as a team and bond together on shared goals and mission.

The Most Senior Manager at each table should be the team’s Trader; the role of the Trader is to move between the tabletop and the Trading Post, exchanging resource cards each day. In that way, Traders get somewhat isolated from the team and its continuing decision-making, The Trader role is the game’s version of the customer service rep, who is not always clued in on what is happening. The funny part of this is that the role is presented thusly: “The Bad News is that the Trader is the ONLY person at the tabletop who is accountable for anything!”

This exercise will not allow everyone to interact with everyone and some people will interact more than others due to a variety of factors and personal styles. Some people get up and go around while others choose to stay put at the table. There are some other possibilities to design something like Fast Networks into other program content to generate more interactions. (See some thoughts about Dot Voting and Fast Networks in this blog post.)

Each team’s Collaborator, for example, is chosen for their role of finding out the best practices and ideas of the other teams – they are particularly challenged to go about and find out what goes on with the other tables. Sometimes they are quickly labeled “Spies” and told to go away – sometimes they gain valuable information that will help their own team optimize results. Sometimes, they can share their good information with other teams and sometimes they are not trusted and thus shunned.

3 – Being useful afterwards: Directly in the game, there are many great metaphors that link to a wide variety of leadership and organizational behaviors and possibilities. Our debriefing will present some key ideas and allow the tabletops to discuss the choices made and the impacts of those choices as they affect the organization in reality. Other event content can easily link back to situations from the play or the debriefing.

In the game, for example, the teams can make the decision to spend an extra day at Apache Junction and gain additional information before departing on Day 2 or 3. They can get a “video” of Tortilla Flat that gives them 3 Turbochargers; One Turbo enables them to go two blocks a day for the whole game, rather than one; It is a metaphor of a Best Practice. They acquire two extra Turbos and might give or trade one or both extra Turbos with another team, allowing them to also go twice as fast. Or not — it is a choice that they can make.

How do teams choose to balance collaboration and sharing with competition and winning? How do they, as a group, reach that decision and what might influence that same kind of decision back when they are leading their teams to improve collaboration and alignment? How do they balance these and other things in the play? That is the purpose of the debriefing, to discuss choices and alignment and collaboration to optimize overall results in the game and in the business.

The lessons learned are quite solid and memorable and can be readily linked tightly to the GM’s actual goals and program agenda. That is easily fine-tuned.

This suggestion represents a different choice and a lot more leverage for these players and builds directly into desired followup actions:

Assuming that these same issues exist within each of the operational units, it would be quite easy to roll the game out to those units locally. A Director and his VP could easily deliver the exercise to the senior local management team — Dutchman is very easy to deliver and operate and really bombproof; most of our purchasers of the exercise have never actually seen the game played, much less been a participant in it. The session participants could easily roll this out at their locations, generating a much higher level of alignment and collaboration at a half-day management retreat delivered within a few weeks of our session. Easy!

Plus, they could have the support of the local Training and Development people who operate on site and this could be integrated into an organizational development framework for ongoing training and for new-hire orientation.

How often is it that a senior manager of a manufacturing plant would feel comfortable leading an organizational development team building session with himself setting the stage for more collaboration and alignment to the goals of the organization. And, to have a very powerful tool for accomplishing his or her goals?

The exercise could be delivered by teams of senior managers that were participants with the possible support of someone from training at each location. (We have had secretaries deliver the game for their boss’ senior manager groups in the past! It is quite bombproof, to be sure.)

4 – The exercise is all about choices and service. Dutchman has a nice strategic planning / project management spin and directly relates to collaboration to optimize team and group performance. Teams make a lot of assumptions or make decisions without obtaining all the available information, which relates nicely to many common service quality issues.

Teams also do not ask many questions of the Expedition Leader, who is in fact a customer in the sense that he / “me” is depending on them to perform to deliver results to me. I am looking for results and investing my time and money in them to deliver. By asking questions and even asking for help, teams can get more support in their quest to mine more gold.

LD Goal is to mine gold

The Provisioner who manages the Trading Post is also a customer, requiring the Traders to perform their jobs accurately, completely and in a timely manner. The whole group is delayed when ONE of the teams is slow to respond to the end of a Day.

5 – Insofar as kicking off the event and setting the stage for the other session events and content, this will be superb. It is fun, but it is serious. People will make choices. They may make friends with people they do not know and help them out, or they may make “enemies” in the choices they make (like demanding two golds for one Turbo) and laugh about that stuff afterwards. It is serious fun and nicely interactive.

Overall reinforcement of desired behavior – The Celebrations

We can both recognize and reinforce what has been done in recent past in the improvement of overall customer service as well as link neatly to the choices that they can make about the improvement of internal service quality or supply chain kinds of things. This can be accomplished in the debriefing and casual discussions afterwards. That is quite straightforward.

If people are pre-assigned to teams, that works okay and you might consider all sorts of factors in that assignment, like how well they know the other people, how much they NEED to know those other people, etc. The session planners can also name the teams, giving some special recognition to certain groups for overall, long-term accomplishments. The “Finnish Express” might be led by the plant manager of the Finland plant that implemented the best service quality improvement plan. Thus, when making assignments to tabletops, you can assign the Team Leader to be a particular individual. The rest of the tabletop will align with that “glow” and team name.

Perfect Play:

Each table is an “operating unit” but they do benefit by collaborating across the tabletops. It is NOT essential that teams collaborate, especially if they have a good plan of action, but it pays dividends overall.

There IS a perfect play scenario that occurs when 3 teams work together, sharing Turbos and Cave Cards and resources. Whereas the average team will mine about 7 days of gold and return to the start, these collaborating teams can mine 11, 10 and 10 gold among themselves with no additional costs or resources – well, actually, they must borrow $50 from the Expedition Leader!

Perfect Play slide pair

There can also be a lot of learning and development takeaways from this exercise. It is, after all, all about team performance and communications as well as to alignment to a shared mission and vision.  We use these magnets as take-away’s and a simple reminder:

The Goal of the game is to COLLABORATE and optimize results...

Recognizing and rewarding performance

I want the GM to play the game as a regular player. We will set him up as the Trader for his tabletop and he will not be privy to any secret information about the game design. He will play like everyone else. After I get into the debriefing of the play and some discussions of the key learning points, I will set the stage for him to lead the closing discussion.

We will present the tabletops with this question:

LD - to mine more gold what do we do

This is framed as, “What can we do to generate more gold for our organization? What things can we choose to do differently to improve results? What things can we get our people to do differently? Please discuss this at your tabletops and be prepared to offer your ideas to the group.” The GM leads this discussion and the supporting people all take notes. This should directly set the stage for the work of the next two days.

Even though the game is not about winning and losing, people like recognition and everyone needs to feel like they were part of the winning team, because they are. So, we work hard to focus on the overall group as the team and not that individual tabletop that happened to mine more gold than the others.

My Team My Team color

For recognition of everyone, I might suggest that we manufacture some simple trophies that use blocks of wood, a large chunk of Iron Pyrite, and a small plaque commemorating their involvement and participation in the program. Each would say, “Number One Team.”

Gold Trophy

We can also structure an awards ceremony where they are all recognized with The White Hat Award, for their overall contributions to the performance and profits of the organization. Both the trophy and the hat would symbolize their membership of the bigger team and the need for collaboration to optimize results.

As to the debriefing, we have a great deal of flexibility in choosing the key themes and how to generate some discussion and ownership. We have over 150 different slides that we have used over the years. Here are just a few of them:

Debriefing - 155 slides

And we can illustrate some key learning points to make them more memorable:

LD General debrefing Scott's slide minis

There are just so many different ways that this exercise can support those kinds of desired outcomes. My apologies for such a long post, but it sure is fun to develop these ideas and present them in an integrated way.

Please note that a sister article to this, entitled, “Thoughts on Teambuilding and Aligning an International Business Group” can be found be found by clicking on the title.

 

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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

 

“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.

Innovate & Implement – an exercise linked to getting things done

We’ve been playing with the design of a package focused on innovation for a couple of years. Since creativity and innovation are not primary focuses of mine, this game languishes a bit in my development of it, even though it works really great. It is a full, developed, and effective program that I simply need to play more often with my workshop groups.

It is a board game playable by 3 or better 4 people. Each table is separate from the others in that there is no collaboration or that kind of framework, other than what the players at the table do. I tried to model the issues around common problems that teams face when they try to solve problems and implement ideas and, like most of my other games, it is loaded up with metaphors.

I&I Check it out words

We give each team the instructions and they have to pull together to develop a plan of action and coordinate efforts. As the game progresses, they get more and more efficient with their actions, and make more and more progress.

The goal is to move about the board and enter rooms and solve problems. Once they find the Round Wheels, they can then return home and end the game. Some measure of luck is involved, but it is more about efficiency and effectiveness. And while they can ask for help and find additional information “from a Training Class,” the work harder to avoid that than they do on learning anything!

You, as facilitator, can keep the players “tight to the rules and policies” or allow them to bend them a little to play better and faster. You, in a real sense, influence the Innovate & Implement game culture.

The debriefing of the game is excellent, and we package the exercise complete with our other Square Wheels tools to allow you to either integrate the game with your existing innovation or implementation processes or to build a complete program around the exercise with our other outstanding tools.

I&I Bundle Contents

And you always have Scott to assist. He freely offers his consulting and coaching time to insure that you have the product you need integrated with the learning that you want.

Scott and I&I w title

The simplicity of this exercise would allow your supervisors to play it with their people to involve and engage them and generate the intrinsic motivation and teamwork to go forward and identify and solve their workplace issues and then develop an effective plan of action for implementation.

This package is a great value at $495 and you can see more information about the exercise at our website. Click here or on the game board icon below:

I&I gameboard 20

This is a fully developed, completely supported package of excellent tools!

I&I Game Folder image

For the FUN of It!

Muscles slide in background

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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Simple thoughts on Extrinsic Motivation

Sometimes, I am not sure what triggers the motivation for me to pop into here and write up a blog. This one was triggered from “the holiday spirit” + some advertising on TV + a new LinkedIn discussion post on a similar topic + some of my own diabolical thinking and critical reflection.

This one is about motivating people through extrinsic rewards. Or, more about how that stuff actually demotivates people.

Extrinsic Motivation. What might make it effective? When might it not be effective and why? We really do know a lot about rewards, reinforcement and behavior and extrinsic rewards can control behavior in many ways — but some of them are somewhat surprising.

One is struck by all the ads on TV that suggest that viewers of football games and other TV shows will simply go out and buy someone a Lexus as a surprise gift for Christmas. I mean, really? Just hit the auto store and get that new car for a person who might be your wife or girlfriend simply because it IS Christmas (add theme of Jingle Bells here). (And you see the same kinds of ads for diamonds and other expensive jewelry — you are not a worthy person unless you spend lots of money on that other person on an extravagant or useless gift.)

Small Rant – Diamonds are always presented as a “very worthwhile investment.” one that holds its value. The gift that keeps on giving and that kind of thing. It is CARBON, people, and labs now can churn out truly flawless chunks of clear carbon (or colored clear carbon effortlessly)! The industry even suggests you give up 3 months of salary to get a “representative stone” for your marriage. Three months for a rock of carbon? Four years of car payments to demonstrate you are worthy? (Yeah, I rant…But how many people make money when they resell those things?)

Behind those ads, there must be some kind of hidden behavioral motivator that would cause one to want to buy a new expensive luxury car — I mean, most of us are not at all that altruistic, are we? So, what behaviors of that other person are you trying to motivate by getting that expensive gift?

There exists an extensive literature on BF Skinner’s concepts around the development of Superstitious Behavior, finding that a reinforcer following some random behavior will tend to make that random behavior get repeated. So, if the wife is washing dishes on Christmas morning when you say, “Honey, look out front!”, getting her a new car will reinforce her washing dishes… (More likely, she is sitting on the couch — remember, you made this choice of timing!)

A reality is that not all extrinsic rewards are rewarding to all people. That is one of the problems with using the to improve organizational performance. Generally, only the top performers actually get the rewards. And it is even worse than that. Bersin, in its “State of Employee Recognition in 2012” survey, reports that nearly 75% of organizations have a recognition program  — despite the fact that only 58% of employees think that their organizations have one.

Obviously, corporate programs, which represent 1% of total payroll on such extrinsic programs, are not getting much bang for the buck. But remember that it is the “winners” of these programs who get selected to be supervisors and the winners of those jobs get to be managers and the winners among them become their bosses. Gee, winners are the managers and who makes the decisions to keep these programs to reward the winners in place?

Why not simply focus on the bottom 80% of all the people, many of whom are disengaged and un-involved.

I share some statistics and thoughts on involving and engaging the mass of workers through something I am calling “engagimentation.” It is a program on Dis-Un-Engagement. It builds on teamwork and on involvement and can help to generate intrinsic motivation, which is much more effective.

You can download a pretty detailed article on engagimentation and motivation by clicking here: I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…

You can read a bit more on the situation there. Personally, I think that the best motivators are not extrinsic and are not given to employees with a goal of improving results of some kind. Why? Because they don’t always work. For an example, let me illustrate with a puppy. I mean, is this a cutie or what?

puppy

So, here is the deal: Make a comment on this article and I will find one of these little puppy guys at a nearby animal shelter and give it to you, free. I will reward your comment with a dog that you can take care of for the next 10 to 15 years! What could be better than that? And this particular one is a Saint Bernard, a lovely little guy who will get bigger and bigger (and bigger). If I cannot find you one of those, I am sure that there are some Great Danes and other ones that you would surely enjoy in your place of abode.

I mean, would this not be a great motivator one could give to everyone who had good performance?

(Me, I do not want a puppy at the moment! One cat is more than enough!)

Get a reasonable gift for those you love during this holiday season. And remember that you wife probably does NOT want a new electric drill or leaf blower.

And when you think about rewarding workplace behavior with extrinsic rewards, recognize that “not everyone wants a puppy” and that you just may be rewarding behavior that you do not really want to re-occur. You give someone a cash award after they return from a sick day and you may be rewarding them not to come in to work!  Or, your timing is such that they just told a customer to go away, so you might be rewarding that…

Better to look for intrinsic ways to reward performance. Look to improve feedback systems and improve peer support of change and improved results.

Oh, if you like this post, you could buy me a new Tesla Model D. Ya think?

For the FUN of It!

Catie

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 and owner of Catie the Cat.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

Some Old Thoughts and Data on The Workplace

I’ve been collecting stuff forever, saving statistics and quotes and tidbits into computer files, so I have tons of stuff, old and new. And recently, I came across a paper document showing statistics from a Steelcase suevey done in 1991 and that got me looking at some old files and, well there you go and here we are…

It seemed that a trip through the archived data might be interesting, and if you like this, I can do similar things every now and again… These are just some factoids and some food for thought along the lines of how things change (and sometimes remain the same):

•  VW’s 243,256 employees – 57% who work in Germany –  get 6 weeks vacation a year – paid – and work 30 hour weeks.  The average earns $39 in salary and benefits compared to a US average of $25 and an average in Japan of $27.  Call this an infrastructure gap.  (From Forbes, April 7, 1997)

•  The number one issue of American office workers is that “Management provides me with the tools and resources to get my job done.”  Of U.S. office workers, 89% feel it’s “very important to them” and 51% feel it’s “very true on their present job.”  (Steelcase survey, 1991)

•  Most executives (88%) thought that employee participation was important to productivity yet only 30% say their companies do a good job of involving employees in decisions that affect them.  Only 38% of employees report that their companies do a good job of seeking opinions and suggestions of employees, which has dropped since 1989.  And even when opinions are sought, only 29% of employees say that the company does a good job of acting on those suggestions. (The Wyatt Company WorkUSA Survey, 1991)

• Towers Perrin surveyed 250,000 workers at 60 companies and found only 48% thought their bosses listened to their ideas or acted upon them.  That’s a 3 percent drop from 3 years ago.  And only 60% of employees think their bosses keep them well informed. (Charlotte Observer, 9/24/92)

•  The fourth most critical issue of office workers was that “Top management provides clear goals and direction for the organization.”  While 80 percent feel it’s “very important to them,” only 29 percent feel it’s “very true on their present job” — a 51 percent gap! (Steelcase survey, 1991)

•  A study of 4000 American managers produced the startling finding that only 46% give their best effort at work.  Only 36% feel challenged by their jobs; 52% have not attained their personal objectives; and more than 43% feel trapped in their jobs.” (Dale Carnegie & Associates, 1992)

• Chief executives from 150 organizations nationwide (US) say the skills they would most like to develop in members of their executive team are:

47%            Team Building
44%             Strategic Thinking
40%             Leadership
34%    The Ability to Motivate Others
(Source:  Manchester Partners International, Inc. Philadelphia — from Human Resources Executive, October 20, 1996  pg. 63)

• Thirty five percent of 1,885 executives polled nationwide are dissatisfied with their jobs and 78% have revised their resumes (compared to 68% in 1993);  69% have sent resumes to prospective employers (compared to 58%) and 64% had actually gone on interviews, compared to 53% in 1993. (from Human Resources Executive, October 20, 1996  pg. 63)

Update:
• The average tenure of CEOs has dropped to a new low level of 2-3 years with burnout tendency now at 85%,
• An average of 83% of employees are NOT engaged with their work and the problem isn’t getting better;
• 1/3- 1/2 are seeking employment elsewhere with the price-tag on these two issues alone reaching billions of dollars;
  (Above from John Keenan’s ILGE Flyer, 2011)

• In 1989, the Registration Accreditation Board was founded by ASQC to assure competency and reliability of ISO auditors and registrars in the US.  At the time, it was estimated that the pool of auditors would grow to about 300.  As of 1995, there were 3,397. Today, over a million international organizations are certified in ISO 9001 alone, and there are dozens of competing standards — no guess as to the numbers of auditors or the cost of compliance.

Many of the above stats have changed for the worst, from the kinds of things we can find in the literature. Ah, the good old days of things we could have done differently! If you like this, let me know and I can dredge out more of these kinds of factoids.

In The Beginning – Thoughts on strategies and motivation

I am just back from a great trip to India, part of which focused on themes of strategy implementation and leadership and the generation of alignment and motivation. The sessions went well and like most things, generated a new focus on continuous continuous improvement for me.

A lot of the tabletop discussions were around motivating people and driving alignment from the top. As usual, I wrapped my thoughts and comments around the Square Wheels illustrations. More than most session, though, we focused on The Vision Thing and about how communications were so critical.

One theme was to reconfirm the issues of isolation. I use my illustration on idea generation for this:

A Desk is Dangerous Place from which to View the World

Ideas are good and people should be always thinking of better ways to get things done. But not all ideas are good ideas and some should NOT be implemented. But the idea combined by “The Power of the Desk” can result in some of them being strongly considered. This is partly an issue of isolation from the workplace and a failure to check with the hands-on workers who are directly affected.

This work reminded me of an old tool that I used to use, back in the days of overhead projectors and transparencies and doing a goodly number of presentations on leadership and involvement and similar. Thus, I reproduce “In The Beginning” below as a tool for thinking about the disconnects that so often seem to occur and the issues of upward communications and the filtering of information.

I believe in Managing by Wandering Around (Tom Peters) and in the constant communications about Square Wheels and Round ones between workers and managers.

Hope you like this:

In the Beginning was The Vision

And then came the Assumptions
And the Assumptions were without Form
And the Vision was without substance.

And Darkness was upon the faces of the Workers
And they Spoke amongst themselves, saying:
“It is a Crock of Shit, and it Stinketh, badly.”

 And the Workers went to Supervisors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Pail of Dung, and none may abide the Odor thereof.”

 And Supervisors went to Managers, and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Container of Excrement, and it is so very Strong that none may abide it.”

 And Managers went to Directors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a vessel of Fertilizer, and none may abide its Strength.”

 And Directors went to Vice Presidents and sayeth:
“It contains that which aids plant Growth, and it is very Strong.”

 And Vice Presidents went to Executives and sayeth unto them:
“It promoteth Growth, and it is very Powerful.”

 And Executives went to the President, and sayeth unto him:
“This powerful new Vision will actively promote the Growth and Efficiency of our departments and the company overall.”

And the President looked upon the Vision and saw that it was good.
And the Vision became The Reality.

I hope that this speaks for itself about some of the issues we face in generating involvement and engagement and in motivating people for workplace improvement. We have lots of ways to make real improvements, but they really need to be real improvements!

Remember that the View at the Back of the wagon:

The View at the Back of the wagon is different from the View at the Front - what most workers really see

is generally different from the View at the Front:

The View at the Front of the wagon is unobstructed. But it is NOT the view of the organization as to where it is going.

Hope you liked this! It is about people, motivation, and alignment to goals and objectives. Keep things real!

And have FUN out There!

Thoughts on Teamwork and Engagement

This is about issues and opportunities around people and performance.

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

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

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

There are strong connections of engagement to company results:

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

Moreover,

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

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

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

Scott Debrief

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

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

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Spectator Sheep – Engaging and Involving Poor Performers

I saw a post in one of my online training groups and it was talking about organizational deadwood. Granted, it is an issue in a lot of companies, but my take is to view it as an opportunity more than a problem. So, I started that conversation thusly:

First, remember that the deadwood was once a growing tree. Remind yourselves that a Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. And that is NOT an uncommon kind of statistic according to my friends in research/surveying companies.

So, envision a wooden wagon rolling along on wooden Square Wheels® and being pulled by a guy with a rope that both isolates him from the wagon itself and also functions as a shock absorber. The wagon is thumping and bumping along, as it always has. The people at the back of the wagon are pushing, and their hands-on activities are giving them “feedback on the journey forward.” But that is it; they cannot see where they are headed. Understand that the cargo of this wagon is round rubber tires.


Thump thump, thump thump, just like always.

But paradoxically, the work team will meet their performance goals because the goals were set on this paradigm. Okay, maybe they need to improve 5% this year, but maybe that is possible. The new guys always push the hardest anyway and it does not take a whole lot of skill to perform the job.

NOW, envision on the side of the hill, the Spectator Sheep. You know who they are: they are the ones not actively involved in this effort, the ones who stand around going, “Naaaaaaaaa. Baaaaaaa.” You know they are there and that they also express their opinions fairly regularly in meetings and on the job, right?

Spectator Sheep Yellow round borders(There are multiple causal factors that we do not need
to be concerned with at this point, either.)

MY view is that these Spectator Sheep actually DO care, but they are frustrated. They see things differently from Pushers and Pullers — their arms-length perspective keeps them asking, “Why are they doing this that way?” After a while, they give up with the discourse and specific suggestions and just drift into the Naaa Baaa framework – it’s more fun that way as well as less effort for them.

(These may be those people who are not engaged but who have no intention of leaving your employment. In some companies, this represents a significant number of employees, based on surveys.)

But I also see these guys as tigers under protective sheepskin coverings. They have the motivation, they just express it differently. AND, they are headed in the opposite direction. But they have a desire to change and they see a gap between what is happening and what is possible — these gaps are motivating (look up “cognitive dissonance”).


Ah, if we could only change their direction and get them going in the same way as the wagon is rolling now. If we might only engage and involve them in the process of improving the journey. If we might only use their energy to help implement change and improvement. If we could only get these (likely) below average employees to improve their performance up to the median of the rest of the participants.


Want leverage for innovation and performance improvement? LOTS of statistics support the reality that the poor performers can contribute more, a lot more, than one can get by continually demanding improvements at the top.

What we need to do is RE-engage that deadwood, since there is still life there. Easy, no. Trust is the Residue of Promises Fulfilled and there is probably a bit of history stored up in the tree rings that needs to be addressed. But these are still valuable and skilled employees, for the most part.

But I also realize that this is not typical thinking on the part of most managers. There are rings in those trees, too.

Remember those old Saturday Night Live skits that John Belushi performed, where he would do all this insightful stuff and then end it with “Naaaaaaa” and reject the whole stream of ideas? It reminds me of what happens in so many workplace meetings…  “Naaaaaaaaaa…..”

Anyway, Spectator Sheep are real, and we can do a much better job of involving them in workplace improvement. They DO have good ideas and a different perspective on things and some simple realignment is often all that is really required. Give them a sense of ownership involvement, too,

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.

Turning Spectator Sheep into Engaged and Involved Employees

Spectator Sheep. You know who they are and what they do – they stand on the outside of what is happening and voice their opinions: Naaaaaaaa. Baaaaaaa.

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Spectator Sheep: pretty easily identified…

Nothing is quite good enough and nothing works well enough and they are not satisfied with the current state of things. But how about a little reframe:

One of the primary workplace motivators is the dissatisfaction with the way things are. People sometimes see issues with how things work and get frustrated with systems and processes that do not seem to make sense or that do not align with their goals and objectives. Similarly, some people are always looking for things that they can improve, and hope that others might feel the same way and that bosses are listening.

Lastly, some people just “sort” things for the negative – they just look for things that are wrong rather than seeing things through those old rose-colored positive outlook glasses. And they say what they think; it just comes out flat and maybe negative. It is not that they are bad people, but they just see things differently.

Here are some ideas for re-directing and engaging or re-engaging (my guess is that these same people used to be engaged and slowly dis-engaged over time):

1. Ask for and try to understand their perspective. Often, they just want to be heard and be respected. They may simply see things differently than you or others. Try to get some clarity as to what they are thinking. Plenty of research says that most workers in most organizations do not feel that their managers listen to their ideas. They may see something as a Square Wheel and wonder why things continue to thump and bump along the same old way…

2. Align them to your perspective. Make sure that the missions, visions, goals, objectives and expectations are clear (and make sure that your measurement and feedback systems are in alignment with the above!).

3. Ask for and write down their specific issues. You may think you understand what they said but what they said is not necessarily what they meant or what you understood them to mean.

A: You must know that you know that I know change is needed now.
 B: Yes, I knew that.
A: I knew you knew. But I wanted to know that you knew what I know.
 B: Yes, but I didn’t know that you wanted everyone to know, just me knowing.
A: I didn’t know that. So, what do you think?

or this from Daryl and Wanda:

4. Obviously, request any specifics and details. “A Desk is a Dangerous Place from which to View the World” – the natural isolation of a manager is different from the hands-on day-to-day reality of the worker and congruence is necessary here. You need to know what they know and their thinking in order to generate better alignment and increased productivity and performance from them.

5. Focus on solutions and get them involved. If it makes sense, see who else in the workplace might share this perspective and maybe you can form a performance improvement team to help address this issue. Allow these people to feel part of the team and work to change their direction.

Re-Direct and engage!

In my experience, spectator sheep are good people who are frustrated because they see things differently than everyone else (or most other people, some of which may also be dis-engaged but do not voice their opinions). Continuous improvement is a continuous process and involvement in problem solving and solution implementation is engaging and motivating for most people.

And at the very least you may quiet some of the negativity, if that person feels like their ideas have been heard and considered.

And don’t say, “Naaaaaaaaaaaaaa…..”

<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

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