Performance Management Company Blog

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

Tag: planning communication

Reflection and Innovation: Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There

This statement,

Don’t Just DO Something,
Stand There!

describes the action that we have been teaching as a basic tool of innovation and change since the early 90s. Only by looking at a situation from a dissociated perspective can one even possibly see that new ideas might exist.

Too often, we are so busy pushing and pulling the wagon, just like we have always pushed and pulled, that we seldom have the opportunity to step back and look at things from a displaced perspective. Once we do, we can often see that things are rolling on Square Wheels while the cargo of the wagon — round rubber tires — represent ideas for improvement.

A Square Wheels image from the tools of Dr. Scott Simmerman

Consider taking things apart to look for new ideas

The act of dis-assembly can identify issues as well as build teams. And new ideas will spring from that effort, along with improved teamwork.

Very often, people who perform better than others — the exemplary performers of any organization — will already be doing things differently than the others and can add those ideas to the mix. The round wheels in so many situations are already identified and tested and implemented and refined.

One of the series of Square Wheels images of Dr. Scott Simmerman

The more they play, the better it gets

(Note that the majority of the people, and especially the poor performers, just keep on keeping on and doing what they have always done and their Square Wheels remain in place. They need to get involved with new ideas.)

Innovations can occur quite naturally. Some of us are nearly always looking for ways to do things differently so that it is easier. Tom Gilbert expanded on a framework of “laziness” back in the late 70s in his book, Human Competence. I have always liked that concept: Because we are naturally lazy, we will always be looking for the easiest and most efficient way to do things.

Why not look for the downhill route instead of pushing and pulling the wagon uphill (and sometimes through the mud)?

By involving and engaging people in the identification of the things not working smoothly and through the sharing of best practices and round wheels, we do a better job of engaging and involving the workforce. Engagement is a key to motivation and sustaining high performance. Or, putting the Round Wheels to use!

People like to play with ideas and do things differently, if they feel that the team is behind them and the risk is low. It has all kinds of positive impacts and ramifications for continuous continuous workplace improvement.

LEGO Celebration of Changes Team

If you like this post, give us a like or a tweet or make a comment. Your reactions are always appreciated,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

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

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

Thoughts on Teamwork and Engagement Part 2

This is about some ideas and solutions around people and performance and it is about Teamwork and Collaboration!

Typical recommendations about what to do tend to go along the same lines, like these Top 10 Drivers of Employee Engagement Globally (from TowersPerrin, 2009):

  1. Senior management sincerely interested in employee well-being
  2. Improved my skills and capabilities over the last year
  3. Organization’s reputation for social responsibility
  4. Input into decision making in my department
  5. Organization quickly resolves customer concerns
  6. Set high personal standards
  7. Have excellent career advancement opportunities
  8. Enjoy challenging work assignments that broaden skills
  9. Good relationship with supervisor
  10. Organization encourages innovative thinking

Note that the above says little about how teamworkand especially cross-functional or interdepartmental teamwork, can help involve and engage people in shared goals and missions.

Yet we know that people working together – actively engaging with others to focus on accomplishing an important result – is a very strong motivator of individual performance and something which generates collective engagement. Peer support is a powerful driver of accomplishment, so doing things to generate more acceptance and a shared mission among people can be really helpful. Corporate team building is a missing ingredient in many organizations work process improvement strategies.

What is surprising as well as disappointing is that 42% of US HR executives – today — still have “reducing headcount” as their top priority!  (from Deloitte’s Talent Pulse, July 2009) We hear this in reading about the lack of senior management support for recruitment efforts, for example. We see it in the way training for workplace improvement is budgeted.

“Improving organizational performance” was not even on the list of things to do! Yet 65% of these HR Execs are highly or very-highly concerned about losing high-potential performers in the year the recession ends and many see it now (26%) and many employers have done NOTHING to plan for when the economy recovers and few HR execs seem to understand the negative impacts! (Deloitte)

Companies are spending on new hire training to get them up to speed on systems and processes. Little is being spent on workplace improvements and little is being done to involve people in generating ideas for improvement. The former National Association of Suggestion Systems is now the Employee Involvement Association (http://www.eianet.org) and the website was copyright 2006 and no meetings were listed on their website. It still exists, but there does not appear to be a LOT of activity around involvement and improvement.


Collaboration generates better ideas as well as engagement 

Employers need to demonstrate to the workers that people are important in their organizations and that it is important that people feel part of the team. Pay and all those other attractors are important, but as attractors. To generate performance, people need to feel that their efforts are appreciated and recognized.

The real leverage comes from improving teamwork and collaboration between departments. That is where lots of improvements in overall effectiveness can be found, but capturing these opportunities and implementing change and improvement is difficult as well as political, in many cases.

Interdepartmental Collaboration is an oxymoron – two words that do not go together well.

Interdepartmental Collaboration color yellow

Interdepartmental Collaboration is an oxymoron in most organizations

Today’s organizational complexities make it very difficult for even highly effective leaders to motivate people and effectively implement improvements with team involvement. It takes team perspective and alignment to get things done in most cases. But pressures to produce will often lead to tops-down initiatives driven into the workplace – behaviors known to generate resistance and a variety of other negative impacts.

What to do? Here are a few ideas:

  • Discover some initiatives that support inter-disciplinary or cross-functional teamwork and engage people in a vision and focus on accomplishments.
  • Ask people to define what inter-departmental initiatives might have significant performance improvement impacts.
  • Identify the key steps in implementing results and develop some form of checklist of critical activities. A variety of these exist but the best will generally come from an analysis of the key steps taken in the most successful previous successes in your own organization. Each culture is different and there is no silver bullet in terms of how things get done within each company. The best predictor of future success is the successful past behavior.
  • Minimize the perceived risk of involvement and allow the activity to generate peer support and recognition
  • Provide for a variety of intrinsic motivators. Do not just rely on extrinsic ones.
  • Look for a myriad of ways that management can show support – both the managers of the group as well as the managers of the managers. Get lots of recognition for the activity of trying to improve.
  • Look to manage the roadblocks and anticipate the problems that they might have in implementing changes.
  • Find some budget for support. Don’t allow financial needs to delay movement forward, since momentum and enthusiasm will be lost.

What are YOUR ideas about making these improvements?

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 at scott@squarewheels.com

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

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123″ a>

Coaching and the Parallels to Running Whitewater Rapids, Part 2

The Whitewater of Coaching Improved Performance (Part Two.)

You can find Part One of this article by clicking here

Okay, so let’s talk about these as they relate to improving competence and results in the workplace as these ratings relate to coaching. Obviously, some situations are much easier and less risky than others, with the more difficult ones requiring more thought.

Class 1 situations are pretty simple and have a high likelihood of a positive outcome. You do not need much preparation and planning and you can get this done relatively easily – you can float through these types with little emotion or adrenaline. An example might be a new employee who you are coaching on how to use the software or a database they need for doing their job. Or, a new process is introduced and you are spot-checking quality or completeness of the work and have a few comments to one of your people about specific improvement. You will seldom find yourself “swimming.”

Some serious calm water - EASY!

Some serious calm water – EASY!

Class 2 situation might be one where the person has been doing the job for a while and thinks that they understand all sides of the situation and how fast they need to work, but the reality is a little different from your perspective. They might be at the old work standard rate while you need them to perform more efficiently.  You may not need to collect any information other than an example or two and there is not a lot of emotion or reaction predicted. This is the kind of discussion that you might want to have away from the workplace but not one of those held in a closed-door office.

But you definitely want to think things out first and not go in unprepared. You might want to check the information against other data or another person just to be sure. It is possible that you will have to move a bit out of your planned channel to get to the end of the situation.

Class 3 situation should not be your first coaching experience, since some degree of planning and preparation is generally helpful and you may want to rehearse your moves prior to floating into the river. You should have some skills in changing the direction of the conversation, since the rock (an excuse) might necessitate some maneuvering. You may find yourself out of the current (in an eddy) where making progress is not possible until you re-enter the main flow.

In these situation, you will want to scout the rapid first, maybe discover the kinds of previous discussions and difficulties management may have had with the individual as well as look at performance data, training histories and other materials. Once you’ve run these kinds of rapids a few times, your skill level increase generally is very helpful for keeping discussions on track, keeping emotions at a manageable level, and being prepared to “roll” back up should you find yourself upside down.

One can generally self-rescue from a Class 3 rapid but it may require a bit of swimming and life preservers and helmets are required! Just thinking about a Class 3 situation is enough to generate some level of adrenaline, but good planning and some solid skills are generally all that you need.

Class 4 coaching situations are best done when you have solid Class 3 skills. Redirecting in the heavy current of sideways distractions and some up and down boat movement, even a waterfall or two, is important to navigating successfully. You most definitely want to check out the rapid before paddling in – and it is often good to watch others run these kinds of situations in order to develop a set of strategies and tactics that will allow you to be upright at the bottom.

With a strong roll, you will be able to move from being upside down and back into a controlling mode when things go wrong but you will need to precisely handle yourself so that you do not flip over again right away. Self-rescue is most difficult and you should be able to stop the conversation, take a time out for getting your breath, before you reenter the fray. This takes both knowledge of when and how to pull out of the mainstream and into an eddy (slow moving calm place) as well as when to reenter the flow – skills not easily learned but that come with practice.

Liken a Class 4 Coaching Event to a performance improvement discussion with the workplace’s Union Rep or someone of similar perceived stature in your workplace. The situation is one that is manageable, but you do not do this as your first try after your training class. And you want to be sure that the risk and the reward are comparable in nature before venturing in. Getting water up your nose and bouncing your limbs off the rocks while cascading downstream is not the most pleasant situation. At the same time, looking back upstream after successfully negotiating a Class 4 Coaching Event is a for-sure confidence builder and proof that you have developed some fine skills.

Cautionary Note: Running the rapids is a workplace endeavor; do not try running these rapids with your spouse or children! They have a tendency to be able to move the rocks around while you are in the current, creating unexpected hazards that are difficult to manage.  

Classes 5 and 6 – Realize that these situations will exist in the workplace. An example might include coaching your boss’ boss about what they need to do differently or trying to initiate a major new process improvement amongst a group of long-term workers that may reduce their numbers. Generally, one can hear a Class 5 or Class 6 rapid from a long distance away by the roar it makes as water cascades in major falls, pouring over large rocks and creating large unpredictable waves.

Lava Falls or Crystal Rapid on the Colorado are runnable rapids that you can actually hear echoing through the canyon a mile away; they sound like a freight train without the whistle and you get goose bumps on your arms and the hair on the back of your neck starts to stand up long before you are close enough to even get out of your boat to go scout them. It is impossible for someone not to realize that they are there and that they represent a very special situation.

ONE of the big holes in Lava Falls on the Colorado River

ONE of the big holes in Lava Falls on the Colorado River

Like the big water surfers at the North Shore of Oahu during Pacific storms, there are people who LIKE to play in these monsters and deal with the ensuing chaos. But they are near-professional in their skill levels, real experts with many years of practice and often with great personal coaches in their own histories.

wave_large1Being in superb physical condition with good reflexes is also a great help in boating, and probably relates to how you need to be prepared for some of the more serious coaching situations. Consider training and planning for your improvement opportunities based on the difficulty of the predicted waves you will encounter.

Lastly, recognize that people do have fun running rivers! This is ME, under control and having fun! But you have to be in the right place, too. Planning all that stuff upstream helps you be successful on the downstream side of things…

Scott Simmerman running a Class V whitewater rapid - Bull Sluice on the Chattooga River

PMC sells a variety of simple to use but powerful training and development tools to trainers and consultants worldwide. Visit our website for more information.

One example is this illustration, which can be used for coaching because it sets up a conversation about “things that are not working smoothly” with the understanding that “Round Wheels are already in the wagon.”

Using the metaphor and the visual helps the person being coached to avoid the emotionality and feelings of being attacked in a performance discussion focused on implementing improvement. “What are some Square Wheels — and what are some possible Round Wheel solutions?”

Square Wheels One LEGO image by Scott Simmerman

This is very serious stuff, these discussions about people and performance. But actively involving the other person in a conversation about issues and opportunities is how you improve their involvement and engagement in doing things better.

Note: Scott began rafting on the Chattooga River in 1975, shortly after the movie, Deliverance, (Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight) was filmed there. Progressing from rafts to canoes to kayaks over the next 20 years, he spent about 5 years in serious pursuit of big water and high adrenaline, running most of the big waters in California and elsewhere and having run the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River on 3 occasions. Scott fully understands the implications of, “The older we get, the faster we were” and therefore limits his whitewater to much more manageable levels these days. He is a skilled coach and occasionally teaches an effective course on confronting poor performance, a skill level past one of coaching – the real Class 5 and 6 stuff.

Scott in Dancer

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/

Note: Scott began rafting on the Chattooga River in 1975, shortly after the movie, Deliverance, (Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight) was filmed there. Progressing from rafts to canoes to kayaks over the next 20 years, Scott spent about 5 years in serious pursuit of big water and high adrenaline, running most of the big rapids in California and elsewhere and having run the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River on 3 occasions. Scott fully understands the implications of, “The older we get, the faster we were” and therefore limits his whitewater to much more manageable levels these days. He is a skilled coach and occasionally teaches an effective course on confronting poor performance, a skill level past one of coaching – the real Class 5 and 6 stuff.

“Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There.“

This statement, above, describes the action that we have been teaching as a basic tool of innovation and change since the early 90s. Too often, we are so busy pushing and pulling the wagon, just like always, that we do not step back and look at things from a displaced perspective. Once we do, we can see that things are rolling on Square Wheels while the cargo of the wagon are round rubber tires.

Very often, people who perform better than others — the exemplary performers of any organization — will already be doing things differently than the others. The round wheels in so many situations are already identified and tested and implemented and refined. But the majority of the people, and especially the poor performers, just keep on keeping on and doing what they have always done and their Square Wheels remain in place.

Innovations can occur quite naturally. Some of us are nearly always looking for ways to do things differently so that it is easier. Tom Gilbert expanded on a framework of “laziness” back in the late 70s in his book, Human Competence. I have always liked that concept: Because we are naturally lazy, we will always be looking for the easiest and most efficient way to do things.

Why not look for the downhill route instead of pushing and pulling the wagon uphill (and sometimes through the mud)?

By involving and engaging people in the identification of the things not working smoothly and through the sharing of best practices and round wheels, we do a better job of engaging and involving the workforce. Engagement is a key to motivation and sustaining high performance. Or, putting the Round Wheels to use!

Some simple thinking on innovation and involvement

Here is a surprise for you: Big Ideas don’t come from some special place, unless you consider the regular employees “special,” which seems to be an uncommon thing in most organizations.

Ideas are not invented out of the blue and they sure don’t come from the top – the best ideas come from hands on people who are dealing with issues of customer dissatisfaction or have hands-on the systems and processes that are thumping and bumping along. Good ideas might also come from the managers, who are listening to issues of the employees getting the work done and who can synthesize those ideas into actionable items for improvement.

If you are trying to make improvements an ongoing business strategy – doing what I call “continuous continuous improvement” – you need to set the expectation that the status quo isn’t set in concrete and the systems and processes need constant updating. It’s what we refer to simply as, “The Round Wheels of Today are the Square Wheels of Tomorrow.”

One has to manage the trust and expectations downward while pulling the ideas upward. Gravity is found in most organizations, where people sometimes see ideation as simply more work. It is easier not to bother than to try to push ideas through perceived communications barriers. That is why we need to add some lightness to the scene, to add some helium to the idea bubbles and not simply allow the pin to hit the balloon and burst motivation and trust (this won’t give you much in the way of positive impacts, by the way).

Most often, a simple concept operates: Ideas for improvement are meant to come from the top of the organization, where things are more clearly understood. We refer to this using a quote I will attribute to the novelist John le Carre – “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

Ideas from the top might be good, but they are often impractical and costly to implement from an actual dollar standpoint as well as from the point of the cost of human capital. Change pushed on people gets resisted and rejected.

If you want to actively engage and enlist people in improvement efforts, it is far simpler to simply ask them, in an ecological way, for their ideas. Employee engagement is simple to accomplish, if people know where they are going and feel that there is support for innovation.

Recognize that your exemplary performers are already doing things differently than everyone else.

There are no simple answers. And there are also a lot of ways to get this done. The key: simple, ongoing communications focused on listening to ideas to solving problems and improving the workplace.

Change Management, Innovation and Employee Engagement

Some of Scott’s Thinking on employee engagement and the issues of innovation and change:

Change is a constant in the workplace: there is always something… Sometimes change appears to be happening too fast and sometimes it seems much too slow, given the business needs.

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

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

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


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

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

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

From there, I will often introduce the concept of Mud, the glop that gets in the way of moving forward. This can include organizational restraints (perceived and real), politics, culture or simply the difficulty in changing.

I show the wagon and the people up to their “axles” in this mess and how hard it is to make progress. For me, “mud” is a great metaphor and I use it with the theme, “Get out of the ditch and up on the road” to introduce the issue of choice and choices. We choose what we do. Deal with it. (“If it is to be, it is up to me!”)


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

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

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

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


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

Change does not have to be done TO people and is best done WITH them, having them involved in the different aspects of environmental and social support.

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

http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/articles

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

Thoughts on Purposeful Meeting Openers and Icebreakers

One of my LinkedIn groups had a post where the trainer wanted to start a class focused on “workplace improvement best practices” with some kind of a meeting opener or icebreaker designed to make the supervisors frustrated because they could not get the exercise task done well in the allotted time. He was asking for ideas.

I suggested reminding them of their current workplace situation, since I thought that their workplace was like most others and that the managers were already frustrated with these same issues.

My other comment was that the idea of getting people frustrated may not be the best way for starting a class session. Beginning a session, negatively, does not generally get people positively motivated in a class and the potential reactions can be somewhat uncontrollable. Some other people elaborated on some of the possible unintended outcomes of such an activity, too. (The conversation got pretty bloody but we also think we saved him from a huge strategic mistake, on which he agreed!!).

The other half of my thinking pounded on “irrelevant icebreakers” as a complete waste of time — you know, the goofy meeting openers that are not related to the issue or desired outcome of the session and play on people telling three truths and one lie about themselves or the most interesting thing about their hometown or stating something that no one would ever guess about them. (The list goes on and on…)

I’m in agreement with a lot of other consultant trainers, especially about all that psychology stuff and what happens in training. One psychologist posted up his approach of having people “draw a pig” that represents things in their organization. Some may find the reference to “pig” as being too close to senior management these days with all those raises and salaries of CEOs in excess of 300 times the workers and climbing!

But in that “psychology” frame, I use my Square Wheels® wagon illustration to get people to project their ideas like an organizational inkblot test. The cartoon shows a wooden wagon rolling along on Square Wheels while the cargo is round rubber tires. (There are some other aspects of motivation and vision and the like).

SWs One 300 © green words

The idea is to get individuals thinking and groups working together on sharing ideas about the illustration – brainstorming with an organizational behavioral anchor. Groups can also be motivated through a little competition to make a longer list (facilitation) and what players do is to project their beliefs about their own organization onto the illustration (the inkblot effect).

If you are going to take their valuable time, why not focus it on issues of innovation and teamwork and involvement about their workplace, and not some completely unrelated thing like 3 Truths and a Lie or some such “energizer.”

Using the cartoon as an anchor to the reality of how things really work, we get them talking about their issues — the things that do not work smoothly — and the ideas that already exist within the context of making the wagon move more effectively. This approach also allows discussion without the attack on management or structures. It has proven itself to be “developmentally neutral” and non-political in that regard.

The behavior and ideas and issues in play can then be linked to a lot of different kinds of content for your training session, and the activity thus made relevant.That is something that cannot be done with so many of the very general activities — it is hard to make the transition of doing them and then linking to a real business purpose. (Sure, you can use some words but the behaviors are generally off target.)

Best practices can be Round Wheels. The focus on the training and performance improvement might be linked to Square Wheels. You can coach people on identifying SWs and generating round ones, while generating dissociation and second-position perspective. Issues of change and implementation (stopping the wagon and changing the wheels) can be part of the “What are we going to try to do differently after we leave here?” discussion. And on and on.


Learn more about the Square Wheels® Icebreaker.

You can find another article on this issue of effectively using trainee time and optimizing impact by clicking on this link:

Blog Icon for Icebreaker link

For the FUN of IT!

Scott Mud and Sheep in greenDr. 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/

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123″

Employee Engagement, Kaizen and Japan

I will admit to being sometimes confused, as I am now…

My recollection is that one of Japan’s contributions to the world of quality was Kaizen and its focus on continuous improvement of production. Unlike the American approach of Big Innovative Leaps, Kaizen was accomplished through the generation of lots of ideas from employees, generating a more gradual improvement over time.

One stat from my files was that a manufacturer in 1986 got 6 million ideas from the employees (and one individual contributed 15,681!). One would logically think that Kaizen and engagement would be pretty tied together.

When I looked to confirm these same ideas in the TowersPerrin (2008) report on employee engagement, a pie-chart showed that only 3% of Japanese employees are engaged and 25% enrolled – that 16% are disengaged.

The numbers for the US are 14%, 42% and 11%, Hong Kong as 5%, 36% and 13%, PRC – China as 16%, 51% and 6%,and South Korea is 8%, 45% and 7% respectively for these same categories. Granted these are different cultures, to be sure. But such a small percentage of engaged employees for Japan?

country engaged enrolled disenchanted disengaged
Japan 3 25 56 16
US 29 43 22 6
Hong Kong 5 36 46 13
China 16 51 27 6
South Korea 8 45 40 7

We are not seeing that data like we used to see. Is it that the older workers in the big corporations have simply lost touch with the younger generation, who are so incredibly different? I posted up a blog recently about Millennials and issues of an aging workforce here – the statistics are not what you think they would show for the US workforce, but reflect the issues of the economy and the tenuous nature of “retirement income.”

So, I am confused. Anyone have thoughts or insights into these numbers and this situation? Is Kaizen still being done and can / will people make suggestions even when they are not involved and engaged with the company itself?

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/

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123″ a>

 

Individual “versus” Group Brainstorming – Teamwork and Engagement

I am just back from India where I finally met some old friends and had the chance to do a full day of Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman with EduRiser and about 130 senior managers. Fabulous. I was on my game and the group was really responsive, which fanned the flames. (Wish I could always do that well!!)

On returning, one of the blogs I read had a post about the differences between individual and group brainstorming (http://dld.bz/brainstorming) and it felt like my response there should be part of a post here.

Here is what I said in my response:

We have been playing with idea facilitation for what seems a zillion years and have gradually moved to a pretty simple and yet effective process. One, we use our Square Wheels® illustrations as a basis of getting things rolling…

Square Wheels One is a wooden wagon being pulled by a person with a rope and being pushed from behind by others. It is rolling on wooden Square Wheels, with a cargo of round rubber tires.

The cartoon works like an inkblot, in that the generality of it allows readily for projection of beliefs. Sometimes, we anchor it to a specific organizational reality like systems and processes or to issues of leadership and sometimes we just leave it unhooked.

From an individual basis, there are two things that seem to work pretty well. One is to use mind-mapping or some similar approach to structured creativity. The cartoon, because of its very general nature, is a great tool to teach the technique since the image can represent so many things. The other approach, more of a group technique, is to allow for “one minute of silent contemplation” of the image and its implications before then allowing a group of people to discuss implications.

Often, what I will also add to this conversation in the facilitation / debriefing of the activity, is how the individual’s own biases and anchor points will influence them differently at each tabletop and it is only when the group puts all the ideas together do we get more of a “full picture” of the breadth and length of the imagery and the complexity of the creative process.

It is common for a tabletop to feel accomplished with 20 or so ideas from this brainstorming activity. What I do to anchor the possible is show them a list of some of the 300 or so different responses and reactions to the Square Wheels One illustration that I collected over a few sessions. That is always surprising but it helps me anchor the key concept that,

“It is dangerous to know THE Answer!”

I continue to be astounded at the real creativity and cleverness of people.

In an article called, “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly,” I expand on many of these same themes. One approach is to tell a joke about the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly and then to demonstrate the reality of divergent thinking with an activity. People will quit thinking about possibilities when they “get” the answer:

Two caterpillars are rolling on the Square Wheels wagon when a beautiful butterfly floats by. The one caterpillar says to the other, “You will never get me up in one of those things!”

(When you “get” the above, read the below.)

I thought it was about active resistance to change before I tested that assumption with others. I now have 22 different responses to the joke, with my favorite being, “My mother was a moth.”

Creativity and innovation are pretty amazing and I KNOW that I could never have generated that last framework.

Google “Teaching the caterpillar to fly” and you can download the article.

Me, I would use a more additive word than “versus” in the question about individual versus group brainstorming effectiveness.

—–

The session I delivered went really well and I built much of the above into that morning session. We videotaped everything, so I am hoping to post up a video of how I approach this issue one of these days. If you want to see that, pop me a note and I will be sure to forward it to you.

Our goal was team building and the optimization of organizational performance, so I shared a number of easy facilitation ideas and tried to model good engagement and involvement in my approach and it felt as though that happened!

For the FUN of It!

<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

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123″ a>

Performance Reviews and Coaching – Benefits of Square Wheels

One of the main issues in any performance review is “residual.” Past reviews will most certainly color a current review and many people will come into that meeting with feelings of dread or discomfort from their personal history of “constructive criticism” (an oxymoron, for sure).

So even a perfect plan and process is no guarantee that the other person will graciously accept what they feel is criticism of their performance and sometimes a “justification not to give me a raise.”  I am a big believer in separating performance reviews from discussions of salary, by the way, and I am really in favor of using performance feedback as a tool for motivating people intrinsicly.

As my friend, Frank Navran, has repeatedly said, “Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled.” Trust builds up only slowly over time…  Performance feedback builds credibility and allows the coach / manager to appropriately address issues of workplace performance without the Blame Frame that so many perceive to be in place.

This Blame Frame is the perception that many managers have about their performance reviews, that the meeting is simply an excuse to frame all the behavior negatively and to ignore the positive aspects of what the performer accomplished. And performers often see such reviews as the excuse to deny them wage increases, promotions, more training, etc.

Reality is less important than the perception of reality.

A number of people have given us positive feedback on a spin using my Square Wheels cartoons. The basic idea in the illustration is a wooden wagon being pulled by “a guy with a rope” who is generally seen as the leader. It is being pushed by people from behind, who generally are seen as the workers. The wagon is rolling along on wooden Square Wheels, which work but do not work smoothly.


The cargo of the wagon are Round Rubber Tires – better ways of doing the job.

The reality of using this cartoon as a diagnistic tool for individuals and organizations is that the viewer generally sees him/herself at the back of the wagon, pushing hard but not being clear about where the wagon is going. It is not a motivational view and the hands on approach of the pushers allows them to know that things are not working well. But their limited perspective is problematic to suggesting or implementing solutions, especially when the puller is viewed as isolated and communications is difficult.

From a coaching or conversational perspective, showing the illustration and allowing the people to project their beliefs onto the illustration, as one does with an inkblot or Rorschach Test, enables some creative thinking. By labeling some of the current behaviors as Square Wheels, either by the employee or the manager, it allows a more arms-length and unemotional discussion about the search for some Round Wheels.

Since solutions to these issues are often generated by the employee, it is not perceived as pushing; it is more about eliciting the ideas.  Often, we will find that the top performers of any workgroup are already using Round Wheels in the workplace.

Through dissociation, we reduce emotionality. We put the performer in the situation of looking at their own behavior in the workplace along with the concept that there are different and better ways of getting things done.

Square Wheels are but one tool someone can use to generate perspective as well as considered alternatives. We can only select from those considered alternatives in order to implement any personal or organizational change and improvement.

Managers need to view their people from the lens of possibilities, seeing what they can become rather than where they are performing. This future-oriented view also helps to reframe the situation positively.

The idea is around how we can get our wagons rolling downhill in the future and how we can involve and engage people in performance improvement. The goal is to see potential and possibility in others.

It’s more fun that way, too!

 

 

<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

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123″ a>

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén