Performance Management Company Blog

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

Tag: problem solving

What is Performance Management Company

What is PMC – who are we?

Founded in 1984, PMC is dedicated to collaborating with an international network of trainers and consultants to help create applications to impact engagement, teamwork and organizational performance.

Performance Management Company was founded in 1984 by Scott Simmerman, Ph.D., who is Managing Partner. Back in the old days, performance management referred to “behavioral engineering” kinds of applications, focusing on alignment, feedback and contingent reward systems to generate peak performance for individuals and organizations. That is our heritage, continually looking for what we can choose to do differently to improve performance, generally through increased employee engagement and intrinsic motivation.

Through the years, the company’s base has evolved from consulting to creating and selling products supporting management and organizational development. Sales are worldwide, to organizations and individuals looking for simple tools.

PMC is dedicated to collaborating with a network of trainers and consultants to help create new ideas and applications for products. I continually try to do more than the customers expect, which comes from my 20 years of working on service quality improvement.

The more formal bio says something like this:

Combining work experience in business consulting and retail management with a doctoral degree in psychology and university teaching from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Scott initially created Performance Management as an organizational consulting business. However, the focus of the business changed to designing and selling resources because of a single cartoon called simply, “Square Wheels One.”

From that, Scott created the interactive Square Wheels® illustration series consisting of over 300 cartoons now packaged in different Square Wheels® toolkits, available as complete training packages. Also developed were two different Square Wheels – based team exercises.

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

One of Scott’s premises is that if people enjoy a learning experience they will more readily retain key points.

The fun, fast-paced, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” game was created with this belief in mind. Serious learning points such as collaboration, communication and quality are all entwined with participants having a good time while playing this team building game. It has, hence, become one of the leading team building exercises in the world.

Our materials can be readily reviewed at the Performance Management Company website. My older site — www.SquareWheels.com — has a lot of articles and other supporting information, but it is also a bit dated and not maintained. And, in addition to this blog, I also added the “Poems on The Workplace” blog where I am approaching 200 different poems, quips, business quotes, haiku and all sorts of other simple things about people and performance, illustrated with cartoons and other images. Check it out!

Scott and Joan Simmerman operate PMC as a home-based business since the late 1990s, keeping our costs low and work environment conducive to high quality and responsiveness. All products sold and presentations come with a satisfaction guarantee or monies are returned. PMC works enthusiastically with purchasers of its products to help support their success and satisfaction. And, we get great testimonials from users as well as clients:

Speculand LDGM Testimonial

and

Client Testimonial on Dutchman team building game

Users of PMC products include a global mix of Fortune 100 companies and multi-national organizations as well as small businesses, schools, universities and independent consultants.

Total PMC Client Logo Compendium

Scott is only occasionally available to do speaking engagements and facilitations these days, but people remember his presentations because they are unique, interactive and engaging. This adds up to his consistently being a top-ranked and internationally recognized presenter. His topics include themes of Change, Team Building, Motivation, Productivity, Innovation and Communications, all within a general framework of leadership. Visit his presentation website at www.ScottSimmerman.com.

Since Scott began sharing Square Wheels and his other products, he’s delivered workshops, retreats and seminars in India, South Africa, Egypt, England, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Mexico, Canada, Mauritius, New Zealand, Dubai, Japan, South Korea and all around the U.S — 38 countries in all thus far.

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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Zombie Ants, the Battle of The Homeland

I posted up a short thread on my battle with Zombie Ants on my Facebook page (yeah, I know, but it is just my social stuff…). Some of the comments I got pushed me to share that situation with readers, since there are strong problem-solving and lateral thinking skills that should appear. Plus, some other people on my team might have a suggestion or a better framework for my actions.

Okay, it started many years ago about this time of year, when an ant or two appeared on the white sink in my upstairs bathroom. Eventually, they disappeared and The Bug Guy at the exterminating company suggested that they were just “seasonal” and not a problem.

So, a couple of weeks ago, a few appeared on the sink and I smushed them and then flushed them down the sink drain. Gone.

Only to reappear a few hours later. So I smushed them again and flushed them again, only for them to re-appear again. Now, I am thinking Zombie Ants, rising from the dead and coming back to eat my flesh or something. So, for the past few days, I smush and they reappear. It is actually pretty amazing and I post a picture here:

ant

Yeah, they are pretty small, but obviously really tough little guys.

Well, since smushing and mushing and flushing was obviously not a solid strategy, so I thought to build a barricaid. That seemed to make sense. So, I got some bread crumbs. It really worked well to keep them out of the sink itself, which I surrounded, but it did not seem to work all that well to slow their progress overall. I did not see a single one in the sink, but it was somewhat different around the edges.

ants

Darn Zombies multiplied. So, more smushing and flushing. That actually seems to work pretty well. Now, I know I gotta think out of the box a bit to deal with this, so I think I will try something totally new. Nothing in their history of being ants deals with vibrations, and I have one of those vibrating toothbrush things so…

Yeah, that did not work too well either. I thought I vibrated some of them to death after attracting them to some toothpaste, but all that did is being a whole bunch more that just seemed to be sitting there and waiting for the next session. It seemed like they felt that it was Ant Disneyworld or something like that…

None of my friends had any good ideas, other than poisoning my whole bathroom which seemed a bit much. SO, I next thought, “Trap Them!” Yeah, build a trap to capture them. Something sticky. So, I mixed up some chocolate syrup and sugar water — I mean, what is stickier than that, right?

Well, those Zombie Ants will apparently eat anything!

So, I am at whit’s end. I am thinking of setting up a vacuum cleaner and running that for the next couple of days, but that will use up a lot of electricity and make a lot of noise and I do sleep up there.

Yeah, innovation and lateral thinking skills.  Hmmm. My live animal trap works well with squirrels in the attic but ants are a different issue. Sticky stuff doesn’t work, nor do barricaids. These Zombie Ants can’t be killed through crushing or drowning, apparently. My TV-chopping machine works great for potatoes, but I think that would simply make a mess of things and that marble counter top was not designed as a chopping block.

Fire. Think I ouught to use some lighter fluid or something like that and burn the little buggers?

And I just googled “zombie ants in brazil” and this is some scary stuff. They invade cities and wreak all sorts of havoc on people, homes, communities and entire countries. Yeah, I need to stop this here and now. Maybe use some dry ice or liquid Nitrogen?

Ya think? And maybe I can creat a game around all this. I AM creating a game on managing the Zombies in an organization and recruiting the Slinks to be positive contributors, but nothing planned with the ants.

For the FUN of It!

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.

,

On Brainstorming and workplace productivity improvement

I recently responded to a LinkedIn post on the theme of Brainstorming. And I am reminded about how some people are new at this while I have been facilitating performance improvement discussions for nearly 40 years (gee, can it really be that long?)

“Times fun when you are having flies.” (Kermit the Frog)

One of the keys to success in these kinds of activities is to generate some peer support for the ideas and “lightly” use the ground rules — but NOT to make the rules so tight that people feel that the rules are more important than the ideas. I have seen some “control freak facilitators” focus so much on the rules that people feel that NO comment can be made other than the sharing of an idea. I really feel that this serves only to limit contributions. The session CAN be a debate, if it is done with the intention of generating NEW ideas and different viewpoints.

I allow some divergent discussion, but I also will lightly use the Rule of 80 / 20, which simply says the obvious: “80% of the discussion will occur in the first 20% of the time and the remaining 20% will take 80% of the time. So, anyone can call “80/20″ and we can then move on to more ideas…” (That really works well, in my experience!)

It is MOST important, I think, that the ideas be anchored to some business improvement issue and that people have a chance to get their creativity juices flowing before the discussion gets going.

The tool I use is Square Wheels One, which is readily available on my website. One does not require a tool but this process of generating ideas through projection is certainly a solid one for creativity.

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

I present that as, “How most organizations really work,” so as to not make them defensive (the word “your” added in there is pretty much guaranteed to generate some resistance and defensiveness!). A KEY is to allow them, “One Minute of Silent Contemplation Time.” This enables the slower information processers to think about possibilities before getting swarmed by the faster ones. It also allows for divergent thinking to arise — different people will go off in different directions.

With tables of no more than 6 people — more will decrease collaboration and participation — you allow them to first think individually and then allow them to discuss their different issues and ideas. I let this run until the energy begins to dissipate and then move it to a group discussion. You can use easel pads for each table, dot-voting for best ideas and all sorts of other frameworks for getting everyone involved in all ideas.

THEN, you can begin to tighten the thinking and bring them closer toward focusing on key issues and ideas — we call this “funneling.”

Getting people involved helps generate better ideas as well as ownership involvement and engagement


If you build a sense of energy and involvement and peer support for ideas in your openings, and anchor the activities toward “business improvement paradigms,” I think you will find that your brainstorming will be much improved. If people feel safe in sharing their ideas about a funny wagon with obvious improvement opportunities, they are MUCH more likely to participate in the sharing of their ideas about specific business improvement concepts in the open discussions.

Everyone needs to participate, mainly because, “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and it is not so much about ideas as it is about the IMPLEMENTATION of those ideas afterwards for most organizations.

Between the idea and the reality,
Between the motion and the act,
Falls the Shadow.

T.S. Eliot

You can see more about Square Wheels at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

For the FUN of It!

(BTW, I am a certified professional facilitator by the IAF and have been facilitating and implementing ideas for workplace improvement since 1978. )

Speeding up Lost Dutchman – team building ideas

Over the years, I have come to deliver a detailed Introduction to our team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. 

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Basically, I found that it was best to give a detailed overview, with a good bit of redundancy, so as to maximize understanding. In this way, the players could make the best decisions possible to maximize the results and have the fewest mistakes. Heck, I even found that by adding “Most Common Questions” as a slide set at the end of the Intro to review the key points that I had already made saved me delivery time, since those were questions commonly asked of me that delayed getting started.

My thoughts were around optimizing play and minimizing the dumb mistakes and being detailed enough to enable players to get a good start in the 15 minutes of planning time given. It was also found that by shortening or deleting things, such as the time spent in generating the suggested Team Roles, the disorganization caused them to take even longer in getting started. Having roles enabled them to listen to the instructions more carefully and allowed them to get moving with the planning right away.

My associates in India asked how they could take the normally 45 minute Intro and set-up and reduce it to 15 minutes because their client had “a tight schedule.” The thinking was that shortening it would have no impact on subsequent planning and play. They had this schedule for an upcoming session of 140 people:

  • Intro and briefing – 15 minutes.
  • Planning – 15 minutes
  • Play– 50 minutes
  • Break – 20 minutes and
  • Debriefing – 50 minutes.

Well, I like challenges… So here are some thoughts about the dilemma:

Firstly: There are no really good, simple ideas on speeding things up. Generally, if you keep something out of the Intro, it either seems to generate a question that takes at least as long to answer or it creates a problem with misunderstanding.

My focus on delivery has been to generate an effective and efficient way to present the information so that players are clear at the start of planning. I have found it to be faster to go slower and be more redundant in the Introduction. That way, they make better decisions and play with better results and have fewer questions and run into less difficulty at the end.

My finding is that speeding up by shortening the Intro information can slow things down in different and unexpected ways or causes more mistakes and poorer play and all that…

Okay, some ideas:

Start on Time –

Demand that the session starts when scheduled and that everything is ready to go. Generally, this means doing it the very first thing in the morning. If there is breakfast, ensure that the hotel or center staff is there to help clear away the dishes and that there are stands around the room where plates can be taken. Have the tabletops all set up, including the tables for the Provisioner.

It is scary how often these “tight timing” sessions do not start on time. This is especially true if there is some manager that “needs to say a few things to the group before you get started.” I have lost 30 minutes or more from these “few minutes” while the content of that introduction could have been in an email to everyone.

If you are starting after lunch, be sure to have someone who works for you on the lunch floor pushing the timing so that people can come into the room. Make the room inviting, with music and a slide show of pictures or something similar. Get them in and KEEP them in until you are ready to go.

And, again, do not allow for a few minutes of “more introduction” by anyone other than a professional presenter who knows the meaning of “ending on time” for their part.

Do NOT play the game at night with alcoholic beverages. Those are disasters.

Team Roles
One idea might be to not assign roles during the Intro and let teams figure that out during the planning. That saves a bit of time, but the teams will be less organized. Thus, decisions might take longer if roles are not clear.

However, if you do that, DO stress the selection of the team Trader but maybe not the others. Having one person be accountable for bringing resource cards to the Trading Post is critical to efficient delivery.

Pods
And DO separate the groups into distinct pods for large groups. My guess is that pods of 6 teams will play faster than pods of 10, although I have no data on that. I think it would be easier for the Provisioner to spot a team that is having trouble with a smaller pod, and thus direct help toward that tabletop.

Team Size
In my experience, smaller teams play faster — if you can set up as groups of 4 players per table, the planning and the play will go faster. But that takes more support from your team of delivery people. It depends on how many support people you have but the more experienced help on the floor, the easier to solve problems.

(If you do that, use a different Team Roles Form than the one showing 6 job roles at the tables and in the slides.) Maybe have only the Leader, Trader, Analyst / Supply Expert and Collaborator…

Decisions of smaller tabletops will be faster and usually better — but they MUST understand all the rules and themes and issues.

For those of you with 24 people, having 6 teams of 4 will be faster than having 4 teams of 6, for example.

Floor Delivery Support
You can trade off SUPPORT PEOPLE ON THE FLOOR against covering things in powerpoint Intro. The less you talk about, the more questions and the longer the “15 minutes of planning time” will take. This is especially true in a large group as in this session of 140.

If you do shorten the Intro, be SURE to have knowledgeable co-Expedition Leaders on the floor for each 3 or 4 teams. It will change the dynamics some…

Breaks
My way of speeding things up is to have NO BREAK at the end of play – telling players that team play should allow individuals to take a break for bathroom or drinks during play. Cookies and coffee and the like can be in the room or even served to the tables by staff.

A “scheduled 20 minute break” (with 140 people) can run out to 30 minutes or more, which is very common with large groups. And it is probably the people last to arrive back that need the debriefing key learning points more than the others.

Large groups are much less manageable from a time perspective if they leave the room. Make them Break during the Play of the game, not afterwards. Make it impact their team, not you and the rest of the group!

Results
Minimize the review of results. Focus on the differences between the high and low teams and ask if the higher performing teams had resources that they could have shared that would have generated MORE RESULTS FOR YOU — not a winning score for one team…

Do NOT show the Perfect Play summary of woulda-shoulda, but do focus on the fact that there were 3 Turbos that could be shared so that 3 teams could have used the Turbo to return in 4 days, as opposed to less than 3 (look at total TF Videos to see the number of Turbos available versus the number actually used (get that off the Tracking Forms at the Trading Post). THAT is probably the most important number for the entire group — that plus the days back early because of resource mis-management and bad planning decisions.

The Turbos are the Best Practices that generate better results with the same effort and they represent the leverage generated by collaboration among teams in the workplace. There were sufficient resources, but a good plan of action with engaged and involved teammates helped maximize results for the team — why not for the group? What would they need to do differently in the workplace…

Debriefing
I deliver the game as a learning event, not as a fun activity. Thus, for me, “The play of the game is an excuse to do a debriefing on choices, behaviors and the issues of engagement and collaboration.” Thus, I will demand that I have the full time allotted to the play and that we start on time

And I try not to lecture nearly as much as I try to allow tabletops to discuss specific issues and opportunities. I facilitate the game much more than I “teach” from it – their thoughts are more congruent to their issues than any idea that the game Expedition Leader might have.

If possible, I try to coach the most senior manager to engage people in a discussion. This is sometimes dangerous since their preferred style is to talk at the people, not engage them. I have had to cut off such attempts at “training” more than a few times, generally with something such as, “Why don’t’ you spend 5 minutes and discuss that key learning point at your tabletop?” (And then take back the control of the debriefing…)

Turbos are best practices that can be shared – thus it begs the question, “What turbochargers are available that we could share with other groups within the company?”

Focus mostly on the dynamics of team interaction and behavior and debrief according to the desired outcomes for the event. I often end with tabletop discussions around, “What does mining (more) gold mean to us as an organization?”

Lastly, do all that you can do. You cannot do any more than that. Work as best as you can to meet the commitments that were set, but realize that you may not have all the control you need to make this optimal.

If you have any thoughts or ideas about improving the speed of delivery, we would love to hear from you. Anything we can do to increase the debriefing time is a worthwhile alteration, in my opinion. Many of the changes suggested above will have impacts on the dynamics of delivery, I think. SO be careful out there!

YOUR thoughts on all this would be Most Excellent!

For the FUN of It!

Scott

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/

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Issues of Ownership and Engagement

Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car

This is an overview of Square a Wheels  Newsletter 
on Issues of Ownership and Engagement

 
Do you wash your rental car?

Ownership is about active involvement and engagement and generating a sense of personal and team commitment. It clearly shows itself in Customer Care when the individual does more than you expect and positively surprises you – the behaviors that build customer loyalty. It shows up everywhere.

But, Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car!

Well, not precisely, because 5% will for various reasons. But the idea should stimulate thinking about engagement and involvement needed in every work place.

Ownership is a key factor in why unmotivated people often succeed after they quit and then become business owners running their own companies. It is also why some managers generate much higher workplace performance than others. Ownership is the magical process whereby workers turn from spectator sheep into motivated and engaged tigers — It is because they care about things.

It is not easy, since there can be a lot of issues of trust and clarity of mission and competition and alignment as well as interpersonal problems. But all of them can be addressed in a pretty straightforward manner, by giving people a stake in the action as well as gaining their active involvement. More thoughts in the newsletter.

Benefits of Experiential Exercises in Organizational Development

We sometimes have the opportunity to debrief managers and trainers on the themes of team building and how using experiential exercises can improve organizational performance. After playing, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we received these responses from some of these groups:

What are some benefits of experiential exercises in training and management development?
•  Gets team members involved and actively learning
•  Speeds Learning and generates perspective
•  Can directly apply to real-world situations
•  We can take others’ roles and share their feelings
•  Fun – and is thus much more memorable
•  Makes us more open to other people and their ideas
•  It improves communications
•  It is easy to see our behaviors in our play so it is easier to discuss our thinking and rationale
•  It produces shared experiences
•  It stimulates thinking and reflection
•  It is much more memorable and engaging than lecture
•  We DO things, and then we discuss our reasons and ideas
•  People see themselves in the mirror
•  It increases power and impact of the key ideas

What are the costs of poor teamwork to our organizations?
•  Company objectives cannot be achieved
•  Increased Staff costs (unnecessary politics, poor internal communication, increased turnover and recruiting costs, increased training costs, poor internal relations, decreased morale, decreased trust / increased mistrust)
•  Increased Production Costs (time, increased waste, decreased innovation and efficiency, reduced quality, reduced productivity)
•  Reduced Profitability (loss of customers and image)

There is nothing better than candid responses from line managers and front-line staff when talking about real work issues in the workplace.

See more information about our different team building exercises on our website.

Team Motivation – Participant Ideas and Reactions

HOW DO WE MOTIVATE PEOPLE IN THE WORKPLACE?

Some simple ideas for involving and engaging people.

Motivating people is a chore, but a worthwhile one since it has so many impacts on so many aspects of people and performance.

Group dynamics often make motivating teams of people pretty straightforward, since groups like challenges and problem solving and peer pressures can generally work in your favor. Getting a team of people focused and aligned on an improvement process is often easier than working with individuals. Motivating individually can be pretty complex when you are looking to add extrinsic motivators to the mix. The intrinsic motivators are better, and these can also result from team efforts.

Our flagship team building exercise focuses on issues of collaboration and cooperation as well as having themes of planning and leadership. Team motivation is a critical component of driving success and generating positive energy.

We occasionally get a chance to play the game with groups of HR and training people, so we sometimes try to get their thinking on the links of the teambuilding game to the issues they see in the workplace. Sometimes, those perspectives are helpful, although we also recognize the reality that,

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.

Desk is Danger Cost + Bump

In tabletop discussions, players brainstorm, identify and discuss possibilities that could be implemented in the debriefing, so as to generate responses, since the same dynamics occur as players talk about their missed opportunities, the similarities of the play to work, and what they might choose to do differently back on the job.

Facilitating with groups of 5 to 6 at a tabletop, you avoid the issues common to larger “committees” of people such as the domination of discussion by a single individual. People in small groups are much more likely to express their feelings, ideas and opinions, especially after a shared emotional experience.  Consensus and peer support is more likely to be generated, something critical to the need to build trust and to instigate and implement change.

Here is what people said to a few of these questions relating to team motivation:

People become energized by:

  • Shared Goals and Collaboration
  • Feeling Trusted and giving trust to others
  • Sufficient Resources
  • Understanding “How Things Really Work”
  • Shared Risks and Rewards
  • Challenges and Difficulty
  • Feedback on Progress
  • Time limits on Performance
  • Music, Hats, and Fun!

We become de-energized by:

  • Insufficient Resources
  • Unclear Procedures / Processes
  • Conflicting Goals & Objectives
  • Excessive Competition & Risk
  • Everyday Competition, Power & Politics
  • Systems and Procedural Issues
  • Lack of Deadlines

I always find it interesting to get the people doing the work to talk, in a collaborative way, about what they could choose to improve and why they would want to do it. There is a tremendous energy that can be tapped if they are engaged and involved and feel part of the initiative, rather than having things pushed on them. And having the group discuss such issues and opportunities often helps to generate the team motivation and drive to get things done.

See more about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine at our main company website and on our informational site at   http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com

Note that there are also a LOT of posts in the blog that have all kinds of links to different aspects of team building. As I edit this page, I see that there are over 300 different posts, most of which are on issues of motivation and engagement.

You might find this post on intrinsic motivation to be of interest. Click on the image which is a link:

Intrinsic Motivation color green

You might also find this blog of images to be of interest:

See our poems and quips blog

Have FUN out There!

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/

 

Implementing Improvement – Ideas on Brainstorming

“Nobody ever washes a rental car!“

If one is to expect anything to happen after any training, they must insure that there is buy-in and participation and engagement. One often hears that we need to “empower” the participants go actually go out and do something. Well, I strongly disagree with that – With a doctorate in psychology and 30+ years of consulting and training experience, I have no clue as to how to empower anyone to actually DO anything.

I believe that there are many many opportunities for workplace improvement among individuals and among small groups. There is also some general motivation to make improvements if people see a gap between what happens now and what could or should be happening. Cognitive Dissonance is but one framework that supports this idea of intrinsic motivation for improvement.

But in the workplace in most organizations, and especially in today’s risk-averse and “job enhanced” environments, the real key to rolling forward is not something like feedback or empowerment; I think it is Dis-Un-Empowerment that needs to be addressed and implemented.

Most of us make choices all through the day as to what we will do or not do. Often, we choose NOT to do something because we perceive roadblocks (example: “He won’t support that idea because he did not support the last idea I had…”).

Most people can think of LOTS of things that would get in the way of implementing some idea or ideas for improvement (“It might be against policy.” “There probably won’t be any support / resources for that.”)

One key role of training (and management and coaching) is to act to REMOVE the perceived or potential roadblocks that are un-empowering to people acting individually or in groups. That can be accomplished by getting pre-ordained support from managers not in the workshop, having managers come into the training session to hear the ideas and manage the roadblocks (and have THEIR roadblocks managed – many managers are even more roadblocked than their people!) and for the trainer to have a very good background understanding of what can be done and how it can be accomplishes.

One of the things we miss today are trainers with the extensive background in how to implement and measure the effectiveness of the training when it comes to workplace improvement. There are lots of factors operating there, which can be one of the reasons that outside consultants can often get things accomplished when inside ones cannot — they have the power of money and support behind them.

Knowing how the most success PAST improvements were  implemented can often share insight into how the next FUTURE improvement might be implemented. There are cultural keys that offer perspective on these kinds of things.

Creating a gap between how things are now (Square Wheels thumping and bumping along) and how things could be operating (Round Wheels already exist) and defining an implementation strategy for making small and continuous changes and improvements often makes change and improvement very doable.


But the key is that feeling of ownership involvement. Too many people “rent” their time to an organization and simply choose to go through the motions of keeping employment, rather than buying-in and being sufficiently engaged to improve workplace improvement. The statistics on engagement and on “ready to leave for a new job elsewhere” are pretty discouraging… But good managers generate it while average ones do not.

After all, how many of the readers of this blog are ready to jump ship right now if another offer came along and how many are actively searching for new employment? The stats say about half…

How many are brainstorming new ideas to start businesses or taking a class to be more marketable in the very near future?

And most people do want to make a positive impact on the work they do and the workplace around them. Many really WANT things to be better, if their managers will let them do so. It was Peter Drucker who said that managers basically prevented people from doing their jobs in many cases.

Things are NOT good — According to a November 2011 analysis of its database of 5,700 employers representing 5 million employees, human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure.

That should concern all of us interested in productivity and performance.

You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement by clicking on the link and thus searching the blog.And, an article is here.

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There.
Look for ways to make things better!

=Square Wheels Icebreaker icon

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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Turning Spectator Sheep into Engaged and Involved Employees

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

<a rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123">Scott on Google+<a>

Spectator Sheep: pretty easily identified…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

or this from Daryl and Wanda:

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

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

Re-Direct and engage!

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

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

And don’t say, “Naaaaaaaaaaaaaa…..”

<a rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123">Scott on Google+<a>Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

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/

Social Media, PMC.com and All Sorts of Changes!

Change is continuous. I initially posted this blog up as I was getting into social media. But as I look back on it, it really was pretty simplistic. We moved our shopping cart at PMC two different times, with each move offering new benefits. I am hoping that the new vendor will keep making its own improvements, more than the old one did. I was on Facebook and now have numerous pages there. Twitter, Scoop.it, Pinterest all get some of my time. Then there is this blogging on WordPress and all my activities on LinkedIn. And, there are others including YouTube, List.ly, Discus, Digg, and more.

In a word, “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.!!!!!!

(…if that is a word.)

The Square Wheels in getting this stuff done have been everywhere, from having the new CSS template default to medium gray letters on a dark gray background to having the links back-linked and stuff like that. And, changing the shopping cart also meant that we changed all the page urls, so we needed to do all that forwarding of old to new, since there are lots of links from my old blog posts to the old pages on the old site that are now new pages on the new shopping cart.

There is that, “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.!!!!!! again.

The most difficult thing was the converting the old page names to the new page names, which meant a few hundred changes here and there on my other pages that used those as links (that used to have working links to the pages on the old webpage). Making them a few at a time, and running the software that checks all the links from all the places was also a great deal of fun (not).

I know that we have old backlinks from other people’s sites that used to connect back to articles and the like on my site(s) that will not work any more.

In a word, “Square Wheels really ARE everywhere!”

Hope you are having some fun, too.

Oh, we also added our cute video on innovation called, Godzilla Meets Bambi
to the page — this is an animation done for me by my associates in Mumbai. EduRiser is now working with me from their offices in Mumbai, India and it has been fun to work with them. They took a short screencast I did and made it into a flash animation that is really cute! Check it out by clicking this link above.

We also have our  Innovate & Implement game that you can see here and we are updating our Collaboration Journey games to use our LEGO versions of the game board wagons.

Collaboration Journey LEGO wagons

I&I

And we posted up The Moose Joke at this place on the home page.

Download the Moose Joke from PMC

And we are adding a whole lot of videos and similar to our YouTube site at PMC864

Here is one about our testimonials on our Lost Dutchman team building game:

testimonials for Lost Dutchman Gold Mine slideshare

and here are some thoughts on employee engagement that I am curating on Scoop.It.

Social Media is forcing this old guy to be more social, I guess…

Have fun out there, for sure…

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

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