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

Tag: Resource Cards

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.

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

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