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

Tag: performance feedback

Perfect Play — How can an organization understand what it needs to accomplish to maximize success?

Thirty years of working with organizations may have taught me a couple of things. One is that a sense of teamwork is critical, along with a real understanding of the issues of alignment. Performance feedback is much more important than “reward systems” and extrinsic rewards. And there is no silver bullet about leadership — it is so much about clarity of expectations, required resources to support results, and an understanding of issues and opportunities.

What I want to do herein is to share some simple bullets that I feel link to the issues around optimizing performance. I also included a bunch of links to my other blog posts. My goal is to create one or two “Ah Ha!” moments and provide some ideas and maybe assist you in seeing how you might do one more things better or differently. The key is generating behavioral change and continuous improvement in how things are accomplished.

How does one even start… Let me begin with a key concept that seems to apply everywhere and that is on the framework of involvement and engagement:

Ownership Rental Nobody Toolkit icon 3

Yes, Ownership! If we do not allow people to have a sense of real ownership, we simply cannot realistically expect them to take care of something. That would simply be illogical, as Mr. Spock might say.

The cartoon above actually represents a number of key points that I would like to make:

  • The hard part is getting the wagon to begin to roll downhill. We push that thing uphill a lot more frequently and involving and engaging and building a sense of momentum is often the hard part for getting things moving.
  • If the wagon puller is not expecting things to move faster than they have been moving, or they have not been actively involved in the design and implementation process, they will feel that things are being done TO them and most wagon pullers will resist that, even if it makes good sense to roll forward.
  • We roll along on those very common Square Wheels, which work but do not work smoothly. Square Wheels are Everywhere!
  • Our focus on pushing and pulling will often result in a sense of non-awareness of those Round Wheels that already exist within the wagon, those things that could simply be implemented if we had the time and the tools to do so.

So, one message for anyone leading anyone is pretty darn simple:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz003

Simply stop, stand there, observe and consider. Get out of the way, if that will work. Involve and engage people. Ask for ideas. Talk about what is not working smoothly.

So, one thing that we offer customers is our Square Wheels facilitation toolkits, simple sets of instructions, powerpoint slides and worksheets that enable them to involve and engage people in discussions about what might be improved and how to get those ideas implemented. You can see some of the variety of offerings on our Square Wheels Facilitation Tools pages on the website. You can also read about these ideas on this blog.

In our flagship team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we give teams “sufficient but not excessive resources” along with a challenge to, “Mine as much gold as we can.” We provide them with an attractive vision of the future and a specific goal, immediate feedback about their decisions and the impacts, and allow them to implement their plan for play. Every team does well, but some do “more better” than the others. And we share with them a framework for Perfect Play, what they could have done to optimize results if they had made different choices.

Generally, teams mine between 4 and 9 days of gold. But they could have done better if they made different choices and involved leadership and collaborated more between the different teams:

Perfect Play Game Screen

They could have mined as many as 11 gold. And, as we debrief the game and discuss the decisions and the planning and the inter-table interactions, our goal is to reframe the play of the Dutchman Game into the play of teams in the workplace. We want to open people up to discussing what is motivating and demotivating and what they could choose do do differently.

This can involve discussions and personal choices, as well as team-based effectiveness and

LD Debrief triad 1

LD Debrief Triad 2

I find that “Perfect Play” comes from repetition, from stepping back and looking objectively at what decisions were made, what was accomplished, and what alternatives were available. It comes from having great performance feedback and flow. It comes when people are involved and engaged. And, ideally, playing again and again and repeating the cycle over and over.

When I was working in quality improvement initiatives, we called it,

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz004

Good leaders and top teams are always looking to expand their knowledge and improve their performance and doing the same thing over and over simply produces the same result.

Rat Cage More Better Faster

 

We think our tools and our approach are top-shelf. The materials are easy to use and the cartoons easily generate perspective and involvement. Our team building games are designed to generate the behaviors that link to real workplace performance opportunities and our games such as Collaboration Journey and Innovate & Implement are really easy to play for small groups.

We’ve been selling and supporting Lost Dutchman for 20 years now, with a really great reaction and long-term use by so many people worldwide.

Max DePree - cannot become

Have FUN out there, and see what you can do to generate some Perfect Play in your organization.

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.

 

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Performance Feedback – Breakfast of Champions!

Feedback is a real key to intrinsic motivation and performance management. And most organizations can make big improvements in how people can self-maintain and self-improve if they just stepped back from things and looked at them differently.

Many years ago, we polished up and used a simple 14-point checklist that seemed to hit on the most important aspects of people getting the feedback they need to improve or maintain the highest levels of performance. To some degree, many of the items are a bit unrealistic or idealistic, but they also represent possibilities and reframes and potential things that might be addressed or improved or designed. Some of the items on the list are below, and you can click here to download the pdf file of the checklist and explanations: Analysis of Feedback

1.  Information on performance is based on actual measured accomplishment and not on estimates or opinions about how results were accomplished. Some people may appear to be very busy or doing a good job, especially if you are there watching them. Others may work at a slower pace and not appear to work as hard. Personalities differ and opinions about accomplishments may not reflect actual results. Good measures of results need to be implemented.
2.  Information highlights areas of performance that have quantifiable value to the organization rather than more general areas of preference Be concerned with results that produce bottom-line impacts. Sometimes, we get focused on issues of little or no importance to profits or quality or revenue. While a poor producer may chew gum and come in late, it is better to focus on the productivity than on the gum or lateness.  Feedback should focus on more critical issues.
3.  Performance information routinely goes to the people who do the work, rather than mostly to management.People see summarized results. People need performance data, not just feedback from management. In the absence of specific information, people will often assume that all is okay. Alternatively, some managers may only say something when results are not good, missing on the opportunity to comment positively.  Information on results provides balanced feedback.

Some of the other items are:

13. Data is expressed in a positive way.  This means “results achieved” and accomplishments rather than failures, complaints or errors. Regular negative information (such as error reports) has a tendency to be ignored or debunked and thus become ineffective motivators over time.  People tend to learn ways to avoid the negative as opposed to improving the positive.
14. Information is summarized to interested levels of management to insure recognition of achievement and continued positive involvement of others. Without the observable support of top management, few feedback and performance improvement programs are maintained. Top management will not support programs in the absence of reliable and actionable information. Top managers are generally unlikely to continually request and review information that is not positive and current, reflecting issues of performance related to bottom-line impacts.

In playing with this in workshops over the years, few managers would say that they attained even 8 or 9 of the 14 possibilities, but they were always impacted to consider ways that they could improve the feedback systems, even to go toward simple checklists or other things on a random basis — like a post-customer-contact call list to self-assess if customers were called by name and asked if they had any other questions and if they said they were satisfied with the contact. Stuff like that can be a powerful reminder of things to do and can be intermittent.

Shifting focus, let me address the play of our team building game and how we try to add performance feedback into the play to make it a more powerful learning experience.

In my post on Perfect Play, I shared a bit about how to debrief really good performance. You can see it here.

The idea is around how to motivate performance and build intrinsic motivation.

Rainbow Wagon green 70

The performance situation, briefly, is that tabletops are challenged to “Mine as much gold as We Can” and given resources they need to manage a 20-day journey to the mine and back. They have a variety of choices to make as to resource management, risk, route, information and similar. Once they leave the home base at the bottom left, Apache Junction, they move toward the mine on one of three routes.

LDGM 1 80

Some facilitators just let the groups play. In all of my games, I have a map on an overhead that also has “dots” of some kind that represent each team. Thus, every team can see the location of each team every day. Some teams might stay at Apache Junction for an extra day or two to acquire information, while others might take the high risk, apparently shorter route across the bottom of the map.

Since the goal is to mine as much gold as possible, the more days that teams are able to spend in The Mine (toward the top right), the more gold they get. Since they have to return to Apache Junction by Day 20, we can also see who leaves when and what route they use.

A design feature of the exercise allows for some teams to stay much later in the mine and get back twice as fast, This becomes VERY evident when a few teams return on Day 18 while other teams have just left the mine. The former, who are often a bit information-starved or resource-deprived because of their choices, see this discrepancy and this generates their conversations about how this is possible and what they might have done differently.

By the time we get to the debriefing, they already know what they could have chosen to do differently and the role of the facilitator is to bridge that information from the play of the game into the realities of the workplace and the issues of alignment, information sharing, collaboration and optimization of results.

Because of the map, I think we set up a neat little situation of cognitive dissonance and thus the motivation of the lower performing teams to discover these unknown best practices. At the same time, the map reinforces the higher-performing teams for the planning and collaboration that they did during play that helped them perform at a higher level.

My personal belief is that this feedback – the visual aspect of the map and the movement and performance of each team — helps generate a more effective debrief.

In the workplace, we have higher performing individuals and average and poor performers. If we make the performance a bit more obvious, and make the tools that are used (best practices) better-known and understood, we should be able to create these same kinds of gaps in actual and desired results, lending to better intrinsic motivation and self-directed improvement.

I may be wrong, but I do not think so. I think we can help people perform better, build teamwork and esprit de corps, and make the workplace a more engaging place.

You might also find this article on Managing Flow to be of interest:  high_performance_team_flow

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/

Motivation? It is feedback, not extrinsic motivators, the drive performance

I think the biggest opportunity to improve performance is through good, positive, immediate Performance Feedback, and that we can decrease all the focus on the addition of extrinsic rewards. I think the biggest mistake we make is in thinking that you can simply ADD THINGS to motivate people to do better work.

Dan Pink has gotten a great deal of publicity for coming out against extrinsic reward systems and exposing some of the shortcoming of how we normally support performance in the workplace, building on the older work of Alfie Kohn. Good book, though, his “Drive.” And there is a great video presentation (search for “Dan Pink RSA – millions of views!!) that was published based on his TED presentation.

Basically, Dan gives exposure to the reality that these added rewards often get in the way of supporting the behaviors they are supposed to support. At the same time, people in the workplace are USED to having them around, thus there is sometimes a short-term, “Where is my reward?” that occurs. Generally, rewards causes more problems, in my opinion and experience.

But I do think that he gave short shrift to Alfie Kohn’s classic books like, “Punished by Rewards” — Kohn shared lots of research on how rewards do not drive expected behaviors and why extrinsic rewards seldom work as desired. There are LOTS of unanticipated and often negative consequences (Think Wells Fargo Bank and the scandal about the unauthorized opening of customer accounts).

What we need is more self-directed positive feedback.

LONG ago (1979?), I came to the conclusion that most corporate feedback programs were awful when it came to supporting performance improvement.

Here are 5 of my 14-point checklist. Most people report systems that support less than half of these kinds of features:

1.  Information on performance is based on actual measured accomplishment and not on estimates or opinions about how results were accomplished.

2.  Information highlights areas of performance that have quantifiable value to the organization rather than more general areas of preference

3.  Performance information routinely goes to the people who do the work, rather than mostly to management.

4. People see summarized results

Yes, there are basic needs and all those requirements. But so many people think that motivation is driven extrinsically.

Yeah, maybe, but we sure better be careful. Extrinsic rewards are what Managers like to say motivates people. The irony is that these people ARE motivated by extrinsic rewards in many cases — they LIKE those incentives and thus respond well to them, for the most part. SO, that should mean that everyone wants rewards, right?

Well, maybe. Tell you what. I like dogs, so I might promise to give a St. Bernard / Labrador mixed breed puppy to everyone and their two neighbors who respond to this post.

Ya think?

And how, precisely, is that going to support teamwork and improvement or improve my leadership?

Have fun out there, but please consider looking at your performance feedback systems and processes. Or write to me and I can share more about my Feedback Analysis checklist.
Page one of a Feedback Analysis Worksheet for Performance Improvement

You can download a 3-page pdf file of the Feedback Analysis checklist
and notes by clicking on this sentence.

Hope you find this useful and comments and suggestions are most appreciated.

 

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.

You can see his new training materials at www.TheSquareWheelsProject.com
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

Biggest Mistakes in Motivating People

I think the biggest mistake we make is in thinking that you can add THINGS to motivate people. Yes, there are basic needs and all those requirements. But so many people think that motivation is driven extrinsically.

Yeah, maybe, but we sure better be careful. Extrinsic rewards are what Managers like to think motivates people. The irony is that these people ARE motivated by extrinsic rewards in many cases — they LIKE those incentives and thus respond well to them, for the most part. SO, that should mean that everyone wants rewards, right?

Well, maybe. Tell you what. I like dogs, so I promise to give a St. Bernard / Labrador mixed breed puppy to everyone who responds to this post. That work for you?

Ya think? Isn’t a puppy an absolutely great reward? Don’t you like dogs? Rather have a cat? How about a small child – there are lots of them looking for a good home these days…

Dan Pink has gotten a great deal of publicity for coming out against extrinsic reward systems. Good book, his Drive. Great Video (google or bing “Dan Pink RSA” – over 7 million views!!). I think Dan gave short shrift to Alfie Kohn’s classic books like, “Punished by Rewards” — he shared lots of research on how rewards do not drive expected behaviors.

What we need is more self-directed positive feedback.

LONG ago (1979?), I came to the conclusion that most corporate feedback programs were awful when it came to supporting performance improvement.

Here are 5 of my 14-point checklist. Most people report systems that support less than half of these kinds of features:

1. Information on performance is based on actual measured accomplishment and not on estimates or opinions about how results were accomplished.

2. Information highlights areas of performance that have quantifiable value to the organization rather than more general areas of preference

3. Performance information routinely goes to the people who do the work, rather than mostly to management.
People see summarized results.

4. Information shows current levels of performance rather than being delayed by a period of time; it is timely enough to provide for self-correcting actions

5. Results are reported regularly and systematically and not on a haphazard or occasional basis.

We do NOT need to focus on adding extrinsic motivators to the workplace.

What we need to do is focus on involving and engaging people in workplace improvement, giving them a sense of ownership involvement and getting the recognition that they deserve for the jobs that they do. They need good feedback systems that direct their behavior as well as positive support from their peers and managers.

For the FUN of 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 atscott@squarewheels.com

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

Encouragement and Motivation through Feedback, Not Manipulation

While responding to a post by Dan Rockwell called, “No encouragement is discouragement” it got me thinking about the issues of performance and coaching and rewards and feedback and extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation and all those kinds of things.

So, my “short” response kind of expanded itself the more I wrote and thought things through. Here is that response, with some additional expansion of ideas:

Once upon a time, I was consulting in the arena of Performance Management when the term meant Behavioral Engineering or Reinforcement Systems Implementation.

It was the use of reinforcement theory into the business / workplace (essentially Skinnerian Operant Conditioning from the psych literature of the 1960s). Proponents were people like Tom Gilbert and Ed Feeney and others (I worked for Ed). Basically, the approach was to implement reward systems in businesses and my particular efforts were heavily linked to high-impact, profit-improvement focuses. We got some really great results, all measurable stuff. High ROI and all that…

However, it quickly became apparent that it was NOT the rewards part of this that was driving behavior but the feedback system improvements that were implemented that were making the impacts. People were responding to the measurement systems, peer pressure and reachable goals and objectives, kind of like the MBO approach that proceeded it. Reaching a goal was in itself rewarding–intrinsically so.

I used a model / checklist of how a feedback system should operate. The reality, even today, is that few measurement programs are very good at giving effective informational feedback.

Most people are in a situation analogous to learning to play the piano with them hearing only 1 of every 4 notes and those being delayed by 5 seconds or so. (Just try to learn piano playing in such a situation, but that is commonly how the workplace works!).

So, I see the “encouragement” thing as an extrinsic or added external reward and thus out of the locus of control of the individual performer. Sure, who does not like to get praise and reinforcement for a job well done? But once one DEPENDS on that, and it does not occur, we get into a more difficult performance situation or environment.

The idea of encouragement as a process improvement strategy compares it to the “theme” of empowerment that we used to hear so much about (now, I think the term used in so many workplaces is simply “survival.”). To me, this push for “recognizing” employees does not seem sincere on its face — it is just one more thing the boss wants the supervisor to do to get more productivity. I don’t think that it will have all that many positive impacts and people will simply wait for this fad to pass, also.

Personally and professionally, I think one cannot empower someone else and also that most people are actually un-empowered; most people let things interfere with their behavior, things we often call roadblocks.

So, my framework is that managers need to act in a way that I call Dis-Un-Empowerment — managers need to use coaching and expectations and other tools to remove the things that people perceive as roadblocks. Google “Dis-Un-Empowerment” and you can turn up some of my writings on this.

So, maybe just maybe, we could also view the typical worker in the American (as well as other) Workplace as un-encouraged. And maybe we need our managers, supervisors, team leaders and others to look for ways to remove the “un” from this, doing Dis-Un-Encouragement.

Being circular in my thinking, I think that if we provide clear goals and expectations and then very effective FEEDBACK systems, we make it more likely that workers will be self-encouraged. People need to see where they are going, how they are performing, and what they need to do to correct behavior and reach the attainable goals. Goals need to be theirgoals, not the manager’s.

Having managers provide this external encouragement is a great idea. But more likely, they will continue to do theconstructive criticism (oxymoron) and other kinds of behaviors that have gotten us into the motivational mess we find in so many workplaces. You think by TALKING about this stuff, we are really going to make a change in how people manage other people?

Geeze, how many copies of One Minute Manager did Blanchard and Johnson sell, anyway?

Encouragement is a GREAT Idea. Getting it accomplished is markedly less likely, methinks.

Motivation Get to Top
People need to feel like they have accomplished things in order to feel rewarded and self-satisfaction is one of the keys. People do NOT want to feel that they are controlled or manipulated, something that praise may do if it is not sincere and meaningful to both parties.

I am working up a new Newsletter (March, 2012) that will share my thoughts and ideas about Feedback in deeper detail. It will share a checklist you can use to compare performance feedback in your organization to an ideal model of what is possible.

Have FUN out there.

 

<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

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

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