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

Tag: Organizational Alignment

Leading People by Involving and Engaging – some resources

Motivating, aligning and engaging people are critical tasks of managing, but also something that seems to need consistent attention from leaders at every level of the organization.

In my 30+ years of working with people and performance, an Engaging Leader is one who facilitates and sustains an inclusive and supportive workplace for those who they lead, so that people become increasingly active participants in organizational and performance improvement. They take an incremental, long term view and look for a better future for the workgroup and the individuals.

How does a leader better involve and engage people? In my view of the world, they increase the shared vision of the future. It looks something like this:

The View from The Front is different than the View at the Back. And people DO have ideas for workplace improvement that can be implemented with teamwork.

The View from The Front is different than the View at the Back. And people DO have ideas for workplace improvement that can be implemented with teamwork.

You do not need to be a professional facilitator to involve and engage your people in workplace improvement. One just needs to get them working with you to identify issues and opportunities; generally, they will be self-motivated to make things better. And, you can build their intrinsic motivation and increase their creativity by helping them move forward. You can help them to implement their ideas and we have the tools, small packages of self-directed communications bundles that are simple as well as inexpensive.

We Sell Simple Tools for Engaging Employees

You will find that these easy-to-use, engaging tools are designed for leaders to facilitate communications, motivation, collaboration, innovation and teamwork. Examples of these toolkits are:

Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit
A powerfully simple tool to get people engaged in the journey forward. This basic program is for anyone wanting to facilitate workplace improvement
and involve and engage people to impact intrinsic motivation.

The Square Wheels Coaching for Improved Performance Toolkit
Coaching is about involving and engaging and changing the picture of how things can be. One needs to develop a sense of ownership and deal with issues of perceived roadblocks to generate alternative choices.

Manager as Motivator – A Square Wheels Toolkit
A complete program for Facilitating Employee Involvement and Implementation of Ideas. A train-the-trainer kind of bundle for trainers and more senior managers to use to teach their managers involvement and motivational skills.

Innovate & Implement
A solid learning tool. It puts as few as 3 people (but works with an unlimited number of players) in a situation where they have to work together in a challenging, time-limited game focused on collaboration and communications.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Goldmine Team Building Game
This is our flagship team building exercise and you can find dozens of supporting articles here in the blog that explains its very unique capabilities and applications. It has received worldwide acclamation as a Game for Team Building, Communications, Strategic Planning, Collaboration and Leadership Development that works with all kinds of organizations and groups.

Any of these along with the other products on our website are proven tools for reaching out to and engaging employees in the process of continuous, continuous improvement.

Here are some of my Blog Articles around the Idea of Engaged Leaders who help generate a motivated and innovative workplace.

If You Aren’t Leading and Engaging, What are You Doing?

LEGO, Square Wheels, Innovation, Leadership and Stuff

Fear is The Mindkiller – Thoughts on Facilitation and Engagement

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

Decision Making, Creativity, and Implementation

Teamwork and Square Wheels and Implementation

Can Creativity be Taught? Illustrated Thoughts

Focusing Attention on Performance Improvement through Interactive Engagement

square wheels business haiku on intrinsic motivation

If we can help you, connect with me. I am easy to reach and can offer some pretty realistic and straightforward ideas and solutions to many performance improvement and team building issues that we find in the workplaces of the world.

Square Wheels Intrinsic Motivation illustration

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

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

Leading – Some Simple Ideas on Engagement

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

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

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

Square Wheels One Leadership words green

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

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

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

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

Defense wagon yellow 70

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

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

For the FUN of It!

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

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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

Trust is the Residue of Promises Fulfilled – An Update

My friend Frank Navran once quipped that,

Trust is the residue
of promises fulfilled

and that quote has stayed with me for 20+ years. So, in my work on designing a new team building game that will anchor to trust, Frank and I reconnected and he pipped me over to Barbara Kimmel, who is the Director of Trust Across America. You can click on the link below and pop over to her website.

Trust Across America Logo

Like me, Barbara likes to use statistics and logic to link from these touchy-feely things like “engagement” or “trust” to real issues of organizational results. Some data she shared were of interest to me, so I reproduce some of that data here so you can head over to her blog — this section is called:

The Hard Costs of Low Trust

  • Gallup’s research (2011) places 71% of U.S. workers as either not engaged or actively disengaged. The price tag of disengagement is $350,000,000,000 a year. That approximates the annual combined revenues of Apple, GM and GE.
  • The Washington Post reported that, “the federal government imposed an estimated $216,000,000,000 in regulatory costs on the economy (in 2012), nearly double its previous record.”
  • The six biggest U.S. banks, led by JP Morgan and B of A have piled up $103,000,000,000 in legal costs and fines since the financial crisis (Bloomberg, August of 2013 — which also probably did not pick up a good bit of those recent settlements!)
  • According to The Economist Intelligence Unit (2010), 84% of senior leaders say disengaged employees are considered one of the biggest threats facing their business. (Only 12% reported doing anything about this problem!)

You can read more about this issue and go to her blog by clicking on this text

There are lots more statistics and I refer to bits and pieces of much of the literature and statistical proofs of impact of building trust and involving and engaging people in a wide cross-section of my blog posts about people and performance. Many of the key phrases below link to my blog articles on people and performance. For example, you can read my article on Building Trust clicking here.

This trust gap negatively impacts so much of the workplace. It directly impacts morale and increases employee turnover and decreases engagement. It is an issue of management and leadership. And it is not an issue of adding more extrinsic rewards to generate desired performance or improve results — those actually just work against you and often make the workplace LESS collaborative.

One of the potential tools you can use is the approach of building more collaborative teams and generating more alignment to shared goals and missions. Those kinds of initiatives tend to pull people together and generate improved morale, peer support and intrinsic motivation to improve.

You can see our Slideshare presentation and find out more information about our team building simulation for improving organizational performance results by clicking on the Lost Dutchman icon below:

Slideshare Dutchman icon

And if I can help you frame up or discuss different issues and opportunities around your organization’s performance improvement and trust building, please contact me directly. I actually answer my own phone!

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 or at 864-292-8700

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

Avoiding Deep Vein Thrombosis and Death by Powerpoint

Exciting and Engaging and Large Corporate Event are phrases that are seldom linked together. Put 200 people in a room and all thoughts of interactivity are gone, even though there are some simple and effective ways to involve and engage people that would be a big benefit for most organizations.

Time is Money. True. For a half-day meeting, you have the cost of salaries, transportation and lodging, meeting venue, meals and all that stuff. So that justifies punishing them with a lecture that they will not remember? And, is any of that information presented not available in some other format like a webcast or a podcast or a downloadable presentation of some kind that did not involve all of the above costs?

And sitting. Lots of research says that almost every one of us does it way too much. I sit at my computer a good bit, but I also make it a point to hit the kitchen for coffee, move about when on the phone, hit some pool balls, work on my other  computer on a stand-up desk, and similar. Heck, when I finish drafting this, I have a lawn to mow…

Big Company Cultures are hard to change, and many are very much into the stand-up lecture by a Most Senior Manager plus some Big Name Presenter, with a name like Rick Pittino, there to tell everyone how to manage people, not to really step back and see that he “manages” a group of elite athletes of 20 years of age who are all trying to make it to the Pro ranks in basketball. Better yet, get some comedian or comedienne so at least people are laughing and writing down some of the jokes.

My view is that these events are unique, and thus represent really unusual opportunities to do things that cannot be done through email or conferences. So, I will try to add some key thoughts about making these large events more effective. Frankly, there seem to be a lot of strange and sometimes seemingly irrelevant things done in the name of team building and organizational development. 

Death by Powerpoint is such a common concept that it must have a high degree of commonality and truth. Bing showed 177,000 results for “death by powerpoint” and google showed 266,000. One thread in one LinkedIn group had over 250 individual comments a while back around the issue and with examples of awful presentations — at least they were memorable for something, right?

Hang around the ballroom area of any large hotel and when the doors open up, you will see lots of people sitting, just sitting there inactive. It reinforces this notion of Death By Powerpoint, or at least death by non-involvement. One wonders why there are not warnings about deep vein thrombosis for some of these presentations!

Wikipedia showed one of the causes as, “inactivity and immobilization, as with sitting, travel, bed rest, and hospitalization.” I thought to go onto the site and add, “Large Business and Corporate Meetings” and “Powerpoint Presentations” to that list…

People at came across my blog while researching Team Building and sent me a link to one of their articles. The title was, “How the Top Companies Take On Team Building” and I liked the way it started, since I pretty much agree with this:

Few corporate-culture business phrases are as potentially groan-inducing as “team building.” Visions of cheesy performances and “inspiring” activities like coal walking and trust falls immediately spring to mind.

If you have a group of people, why not put them to work? Why not get them involved and engaged and giving YOU ideas on issues and answers, on problems and potential solutions? There are all sorts of questions that are  best asked through team-based conversations and that would benefit from open communications and group problem-solving. You can make people feel like their ideas are valued and that they can make impacts on how things are done.

Let’s take Fast Networks as a simple interactive approach. Set up the session with round tables of 6 people. This is so much better than auditorium style meetings or classroom sets that simply remind people of being in school, which for many is not a highly positive memory!

Ask  each table to come up with a question or theme or something related to why the group has assembled. This could be along the lines:

  • Best idea for innovating systems and processes
  • Best idea for a new product or service
  • Ideas for improving teamwork within the organization
  • Best ideas for improving collaboration
  • Ideas for increasing workforce motivation or decreasing turnover
  • Ideas for implementing a new strategy company-wide
  • or pretty much any general theme of some impact. 

You can tightly anchor this to some of your real business issues, where the ideas and involvement of all of the participants are of interest and benefit and where some level of engagement might make things better.Let each table come up with ONE idea to work on, to present to the whole group.

Then, announce the process of Fast Networks, where everyone will get out of their seat and move around the room for three minutes, asking at least three other people to share their thoughts on that tabletop’s main idea. Since each table will have something different, in all likelihood, the sharing of ideas among the people will occur and people would get some different ideas to bring back to their tabletop.

The tabletop then has 5 minutes to discuss all the ideas and come up with ONE or two recommendations to share with the group and to transfer onto some document for collection and review.

The time limits are not “tight” in that three minutes might become five if the energy is high. The tabletops should have enough time to do a good job of summarizing and prioritizing but they will generally take all the time you allow them, with most of the work being done in the last minute or so…

Then, allow them to select a presenter to share their ideas with the group.

This kind of activity gets ideas as well as involvement from the group and can be a way to get at information that few other processes will allow. The ideas tend to be non-political and innovative, also.

Elegant Solutions

I have used this Fast Networks process many times and it works great in any size group – the time limits force energy and focused thinking. It is simple and requires no accessories other than marking pens and paper to enable some brainstorming and idea collection, and we generally post the work on the walls as evidence of the group thinking. It can be fabulous!

Me, I will continue to suggest organizations use effective large group team building simulations such as The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine or Innovate & Implement — these are fun, controllable, inexpensive and directly link directly to workplace collaboration and performance improvement. We know that it has a lot of long-term impacts on participants and gets everyone involved and engaged. All of our programs are also designed for very large groups of 200 or even more.

Team building exercise, Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

We also suggest that our Square Wheels illustrations can be effective tools for generating alignment as well as new ideas for organizational change and improvement. They are an unusual and unusually effective way of generating divergent thinking and ideas for innovation or simple process improvement.
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

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Chaos and Confusion – A Haiku Poem on Organizational Alignment

Ah, the playing around continues.

This illustration was the second one in a series about how organizations should be aligned to a shared goal and vision, but that the reality of that alignment was often not very good.

I’ll post that good one in a minute, but here is the one that became linked to my poem:

chaos confusion haiku

Here is the original illustration, which I would share and ask participants what it might represent.

View Top green color

The above would be good, but the first represents what seems to be a more common view of how their organizations feel.

Hope you like the poem.


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

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Tripping to India to do Strategy Implementation and Team Building

The past month has been quite a journey, even before I head off to Mumbai once again. My passport expired as did my one-year, multiple-entry business visa to India. SO, I put the passport into “The System” and got it back quickly. Then came the application process for the entry visa. It was one of these “in the mud” kind of weeks:


Scott, talking about being up to your “axles in mud,” with Spectator Sheep. This situation sure felt like that!

Online, it gave me some options so I applied for the 10-year, multiple-entry business visa, since it was the same price as the 5-year one and not too much more expensive than the 1-year, the application requirements were as before as were the timelines.

But in this case, I ran up into “the processor bureaucracy.” To make a long story short, it has taken me nearly a month, with me making 4 phone calls, repeatedly sending things, changing one or two words in the application letter (I am a one-person company but the letter from my company to the embassy has to be from someone else in my company verifying my honesty and abiilty to pay any debts occurring in India) and there was an issue with the words “training” and “contract.”

I will be going there to market my organizational development tools (Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine) and to meet up with my exclusive representatives to look at new product development and marketing. I am going to present to some large conferences to model the delivery of the tools. We have a contract that protects my intellectual property, mostly. BUT, the person reading the application materials was MOST CERTAIN that I was going to India for employment, and thus, I must complete an Employment Visa. And having “a contract” proved to her that I was an employee and not the owner of my own company doing business with another company. Her ignorance was most amazing, actually, and combined with her unwillingness to listen, caused me (and probably many other businessmen) a great deal of anguish.

That employment descriptive document had things like me having to receive an annual salary of at least USD $25,000 and that my sponsoring company had to assert that I was uniquely qualified and that there was no one in India who could do my job. (I cannot imagine how that would actually be accomplished). In reading it, we would have to LIE on the application for me to qualify for one of those employment visas.

With me being totally truthful on all things, and with the processor actually losing my passport in their mailroom, I finally made that one perfect phone call to the right person who said, “I can fix this!” and she did, using the information that they already had. It proves the value of the empowered employee when it comes to customer service.

UPS now has my passport and I get it today. This is after a MONTH of them diddling around with this processor company’s people (absulute power corrupts absolutely?) and making mistakes and losing things. And, this put a great deal of pressure on all of us, given the commitments we were making to deliver large programs in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. 

Anyway, it looks like things are all in order, that the trip will be a “go” and the tickets and time not wasted.

Now, I am putting a lot of materials together that will recombine the Square Wheels tools into a program on strategy implementation, something that is a critical issue for most large organizations. I am building on the work of my long-term friend and associate, Robin Speculand in Singapore, and focusing on using his Compass model and his general information, combining his approach with my tools for generating engagement and involvement and alignment, and using the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise as a tool for changing behavior and generating commitment to missions and visions.

It will be a unique program for me. I have worked on implementation themes for 30+ years, but never linked these tools in this manner. We are redesigning the play of Dutchman to allow for mid-game restructuring and communications, which will improve its effectiveness around the strategy and vision themes.

And, I will get another newsletter out on this today.

Sure has been an interesting journey to India, this past month, and I have not even left the US yet!

Square Wheels are everywhere! So are the Round Ones.
  (And thanks to Jennie at Travisa for helping me out when all others failed…)

And I am really looking forward to working with the illustrations and games again in India.




For the FUN ot It!

Scott small pic

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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