Performance Management Company Blog

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

Tag: teamwork Page 1 of 2

Teamwork Works! Teambuilding has Positive Impacts.

There have been a variety of articles and posts on different leadership development groups taking the position that teamwork does not work to improve organizational performance.

Huh? Seriously?

I would be hard pressed to think of one situation where some kind of teamwork wasn’t necessary to produce an optimal result in some relatively complex situation. Teams and teamwork are how things get done, so taking a position that team building does not have any impact on results and performance seems a bit goofy, right? There are troubles with teams and they do not always work smoothly, and creating a team is not always the best solution to solving a problem, but it is certainly a good one, in general. There is no question that diversity of perspective and ideas gives a better result on most problems in most situations.

Yeah, sometimes we have situations like this:

Square Wheels and competitionbut that is not to say that teams do not work!

But maybe it is the kind of team building training that is the issue behind few observable improvements? Maybe there are some less effective approaches in play.

Last night, I saw an advertisement for Booking.com that was about “The Annual Company Retreat” — It is pretty much a hoot! Click on the image below to see this 30-second commercial (by Booking.com).

Annual company paintball teambuilding retreat booking dot comI think this pretty clearly shows how a LOT of people see teambuilding combined with paintball — does teambuilding need pain, suffering, losers and winners?

Hey! I will admit a vested interest in the issue, since I design and sell interactive exercises focused on issues of engagement and collaboration between teams. And there IS a lot of crap training out there calling itself teamwork — my particular pet peeves are things like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes and other similar “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together, interacting to define things to improve, bonding together to fix problems, etc. Sure, the events themselves are challenging, but does river rafting really build a team of people focused on improving the business?

And Golf as team building? Gimme a break — Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play is crucial to their overall success (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole, but not during play, most certainly. Bowling? Maybe. Cooking? Maybe, if one is running a big commercial kitchen in a restaurant or hotel…

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations, IMHO. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then expect people to work together. In so many organizations, and lots of research supporting this, many of the people are not engaged and many are DIS-engaged. One might not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people.

But we can motivate them. People want to feel successful and not be scared by the risks of performing. We need to get them to a new place, mentally.

Motivate people through success

In high performing workplaces, you will see a collaborative culture where people work together to handle issues and solve problems. Granted, that approach may not work too well in places like Real Estate, Mortgage Lending or Stock Market Sales, but we do see a strong need for collaboration and commitment where things like production or product design or customer service come into play.

Take any group of people, give them some common goals, measure them on shared performance and allow them the ability to help each other and you have the basics for a workplace situation where teamwork will arise. Then, do some activity that demonstrates the benefit of collaboration on the overall results — something like, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Then, debrief that activity and discuss the choices that people made along with the choices they COULD have made, link it to the issues they see in their own workplace, and allow them to make commitments to each other (peer support) and you are highly likely to see improvement (if there is a bit of followup after the session).

Think of all the activities that we engage in where teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment — sports is but one endeavor. And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Celebration plane color green

Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. And improvement is a continuous activity.

Sure, individuals can excel, but only through collaboration and engagement and motivation can we get a group of people to high levels of accomplishment and performance that they can celebrate and then continue to impact.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman Debrief

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

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

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

On Teamwork, Trial and Error Improvement, and Blame Frames

Organizational improvement and teamwork. The ideas are pretty simple but the reality of actually designing and implementing workplace improvement tends to be a little difficult. When we add in issues of corporate power and politics, of sensitivities to criticism and perceived failures, and the framework of collaboration between departments to get things done differently, it looks a bit more like this:

Mud and Square Wheels image

And, organizationally, it can sometimes look like this:

Square Wheels and competition

In the “Keeping Things Simple – Involving and Engaging” blog, I shared a cartoon that we call, “Trial and Error”:

square wheels image of Trial and Error

Take a moment and look at the above image and react to what you see before moving on, please. Just consider what might be happening with the people and their workplace.

When I show this illustration to managers and ask for their reactions, we generally get a ratio of about 8 negative reactions to each positive one. In other words, eight reactions focused on the negative and what the people in the cartoon did wrong for every one positive thing about the situation. This is often called “constructive criticism,” but I am not sure what good it serves to continually point out what others are doing wrong. It does not build teamwork or increase engagement and it serves to smash down any intrinsic motivation that might have been occurring.

Managers should be trained to look for business improvement opportunities and to look for things that can be improved. This serves solid business purposes. But when this gets expressed as Non-Support for Change and Risk-Taking, we cannot expect others to just go along with that.

What we commonly see looks like this:

We embed the good with the blame and the people are more likely to run over the top of the hill and hide than come back to the wagon and continue to make improvements. Sure, their first attempt was pretty quirky and maybe they missed an idea or two about how they could get things done better.

But they also added a horse to the situation — more horsepower, as it were. And YOU probably have not considered whether this might actually work. What if the next step simply looked like this:

Square Wheels images by Scott Simmerman

The Round Wheels are in the wagon. Carrot’s, too!

Allow people to do things and celebrate their successes.

Square Wheels Celebration Haiku good ideas

Improvement is a continuous process, one that requires celebration of what is accomplished and continued reflection on possibilities and potential shifts in resource utilization. One might think that there is a train in their future?

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

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>

Rewarding High Performance in The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding game

Managers do not often deal with good performers in effective ways. Relying on extrinsic rewards is often a formula for completely missing the real underlying motivation of many high performers. Extrinsic reward systems are often problematic and cause more problems amongst the bottom 70% (who never win and are thus losers) or generate behaviors that are not congruent with missions and visions of the organization. I chat about that in a lot of my blog posts, most recently this one. There are a lot of posts on extrinsic motivation here.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a team building exercise that is a bit unusual in that it focuses on the collaboration between tabletops to optimize the measured results. It is only partly about winning — it is more about what the higher-performing teams could have done differently to support the lower performing teams to optimize overall results. The goal is, “To Mine as Much Gold as We Can” and to optimize the Expedition Leader’s return on investment. Obviously, the more ALL the teams perform, the better the overall results.

It also tends to generate a My Team, My Team, My Team kind of response in so many cultures that tend to reinforce competitiveness as a basic operational strategy — something that tends to make the words “Interdepartmental Collaboration” an oxymoron in so many companies. The reality is that more collaboration will most certainly improve organizational results, engagement, service, cost reduction, innovation, etc.

"My Team, My Team, My Team" focus can cause more competition than collaboration

A “My Team, My Team, My Team” focus can cause more competition than collaboration. The goal is to optimize organizational results, not win!

In Dutchman, teams can spend an extra day gaining information that enables them to optimize their results. One metaphor is a strategic planning one that allows them to re-allocate resources to have a better likelihood of success. The other is a Best Practice, one that enables them to move faster. It also gives them things to share with other teams – Turbochargers that double the speed of movement.

We’ve been supporting a network of consultant users and trainers since 1993 and have received most excellent feedback. As I note in another blog, we recently had the first Perfect Play that I have heard of. Some groups or triads within larger groups come close, but none got it perfect until David Simpson’s group of three teams with the retailer Coach. Now, the issue is optimizing post-game impacts and generating increased collaboration among the store managers now back at work.

Perfect Play has its own results summary powerpoint show.

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz005

We first show what ONE team could do to optimize their results — it is about planning and using information and resources properly. Their path would look like this, with the 20 days numbered in the circles:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz007

They reach the Mine on Day 8, using up all their resources and returning on the last day possible, Day 20. The summary of results and resource use looks as follows and they had a surplus of $50 worth of stuff as well as two Turbochargers that they could have shared with two other teams (if they chose to). That sharing would have generated six more days of mining if all things were good.

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz008

But the real Perfect Play occurs when two teams decide to collaborate with each other on the planning and then involve another group into their collective. That looks like this:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz009Instead of one team mining 9 gold, this framework allows for two teams to mine 10 and that extra team to mine ELEVEN. This has only occurred in David’s game. And it makes for a great debriefing, in that a lot of the right organizational optimization behaviors have occurred in play, the teams managed things in a relatively stress-free mode (with no fear of real failure) and it carries over very neatly into the discussions of what they could choose to do differently.

A high level of information sharing is needed. The resources are tight to generate this perfect result:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz010

And that very last part needs special mention.

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz011

To get a Perfect Play, the three teams need to ask for $50 from the Expedition Leader! I mean, is that a perfect design or what?!!

From among 100 or so debriefing slides, we might emphasize these six:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz005

LD Debrief Triad 2

 

Our goal is to get successes among the players and among the teams, show the direct advantages of inter-team collaboration in the game, and bridge to the special advantages of inter-team collaboration back at work. The opportunities to share resources, collaborate, share best practices and help each other be successful in operations has huge leverage within the workplace as well as between departments. So, we use these kinds of handouts to generate ideas for improvement and discussions about choices we are making:

Adobe ReaderScreenSnapz001

And, my new game will focus even more attention on post-game collaboration and organizational improvement. You can see a few of the game design ideas here.

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

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

Is HR the Puppet Master or the Puppet?

There was a great post this morning by Dan Rockwell on his blog, part of which I reproduce here simply because it is a great subject as well as a target of some of my cartoons.

Dan wrote (some snipped):

My worst experience with HR is a broken confidence. She smiled and listened and within an hour violated my trust.

Human Resource personnel are among the most criticized people in business.

HR is criticized for:

  1. Treating humans as resources.
  2. Not understanding positions they’re filling.
  3. Managing paper better than people.
  4. Subservience to policy and procedure.
  5. Defensive, CYA postures.
  6. Lack of operational experience.
  7. Working for the C-Suit, not the people.

New potential:

HR matters because people matter.

“I don’t know about you, but I love HR.” Dr. Vik (Doc) in “The Culture Secret.”

“They are underrated, over-criticized, and underutilized.” Doc says, change the name from Human Resources to Human Empowerment (HE). The job of HE is, “Maximizing human potential.” Doc goes on to say, “HE could be the single biggest champion of your companies Culture.

New ideas for HE:

  1. Focus more on development.
  2. Become more human. Since when does serious work prohibit smiling?
  3. Sit in the seats of workers and do their jobs.

My take is that HR pretty much does what the C-Suite instructs it to do. I wrote:

Well, as they say, “Good Luck with all that.”

It is NOT HR’s fault, it is the C-suite that does to them what it wants and focuses them on the psychopathic side of running a business. Our Generally Accepted Accounting Practices treat people as a cost on the ledger of life. That crap all cascades down.

Over my 30 years, I have seen some attempts to address it in one company or another. The average company will SAY something like, “Our people are our greatest asset,” but then go look for some of that.

Because senior managers like extrinsic rewards, the whole operation works that way. Because senior managers like golf, they do teambuilding around a golf resort. Since people are often disposible, they treat them like paper tissues (I will go no further in that description).

I once had the CEO of a company at a retreat with his top managers blurt, “Asking employees for ideas is like asking the vegetables to design a refrigerator.” (He was not trying to be funny…)

Executives are SO far isolated from the workers that they have little clue as to who they are or what they do. Why should they treat them with respect?

How can a chain of 5000+ retail stores operate with none of the workers qualifying for any benefits — no health care in a company that labels itself a pharmacy?

Look at the people on minimum wage – 80% work for billion dollar companies that are profitable. Some even help their new hires apply for Medicaid and other government benefits designed to help the poor — and these are the new hires.

Let’s not place all the blame on HR. Lots of guilty parties making a lot of financial decisions to support the stock prices, not the people. Are there good exceptions? Surely.

and

Addendum: It is about Money. That means it is about Taxes and reducing costs. Does that really seem like a good base for building people skills and investing in organizational development? Any wonder why “Re-Engineering” took off and the focus changed from improving the processes to reducing headcount.

I always liked this: “How long can we go lean and mean until we become gaunt and dead?” (source unknown)

to which Dan responded:

Seriously, I think you’re nailing an important component of this issue. It seems to boil down to the idea that HR is the “puppet” of people at the top. We know people are reluctant to give up power once they have it.

I think that many organizations run something like this:

Puppet Master One color yellow

and larger organizations tend to look more like this as the control cascades down from leadership:

Puppet Master Two color yellow        Puppet Master Three color yellow

And things can get really crazy as top managers try to gain even more control over how things work and who does what when.

Puppet Master Four color yellow

So, what is the role of HR in all this? Is it to simply help senior managers control the behavior of the employees or is it to help the employees generate a sense of self-worth and to create some engagement and involvement in what happens in their workplaces? Is HR there to help the corporation control “all things people” or simply to help keep costs under control and manage “Human Resources,” you know, the people who do ALL of the Actual Work in the organization?

It is an interesting paradox, for sure.

manager puppet poem

BIG manager puppet poem

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, team building facilitator

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>

The Problems with Outdoor Training – Some thoughts on team building

In a conversation a while back, I was asked if one of our team building games could be used in an outdoor setting. Wow, did that bring up some memories about what might have happened and the reality of losing control.

Firstly, I am not a fan of most outdoor types of activities. Generally, the links to the business improvement issues — why companies are actually spending money and time with managers and employees — are sometimes quite vague when relating the game to organizational behavior and leadership, problem solving or change. Sure, the exercises are fun and people do like to solve problems. But it takes a good facilitator to bring out the discussions and not all the facilitators are all that good. Plus, the links from the activity back to business are sometimes stretched.

And it is not that I have not personally participated in those kinds of things over the years. I attended one such event as a participant and was there at a college with a bunch of my Leadership Greenville colleagues (a program supported by our Chamber of Commerce). Being collaborative and facilitative in my general style, I applied these skills in discussions about solving the task at hand. The “session leader” decided I was helping too much and told me that I HAD to be silent and could not talk — this is also known as punishment in most circles.

(Yeah, and imagine when I was finally allowed to talk in the debriefing! One of the questions I asked of her was about her business experience. Turns out that she had never actually had an actual job and is a college student at Clemson. This was her first job, running corporate team building programs!! And she is the leader of this group of experienced business people from the Chamber of Commerce. Really?)

Another such program on collaboration turned into a mass group competition, where the VP of the group was timing the different problem solving activities and comparing different groups to the others. We actually had a really competitive volleyball competition, too, and during the awards ceremony, many the Losers actually booed the Winners in front of the company’s executive VP. And this was at a team building event where the company spent many 10s of thousands of dollars! — Note: I was on the winning team and I still have my trophy on my bookshelf as a reminder of how badly this went…

Competition produces chaos, not collaboration and improvement

That same event also had one of the participants being stung by a scorpion when he leaned on a tree — he went into shock but the facilitation team actually carried an anaphylactic shock kit with them, since it has apparently happened before. Needless to say, that hour spent on it was costly as well as pretty distracting for all of his friends and co-workers.

My outdoor delivery experiences also include a session where the sun came out and totally washed out the projected images on the screen so no one could see. At a different event, the temperature in the huge circus tent went to 110 degrees and the big electric fans blew all the papers off the tabletops (so we taped them down). But these same fans were so noisy that the debriefing was impossible, as also occurring the game activities that followed after my session. And this narrative represents the short-version of all the things that went wrong…

Another event had it rain for an hour right after we put the maps and things on the tables. We quickly recollected all the soluble stuff and then, when the rain stopped, we had each table select what it required from our “Organized Pile of Materials” and take these things outside to their tables (which the hotel staff helped us dry off with a massive number of room towels).

YES, my various team building exercises CAN be delivered as outside activities. But I actually cannot remember a single time when something did not go wrong and force us to make a major adjustment in our delivery. And I cannot imagine doing a large group, outside, with any kind of controllable learning outcomes. Here is one we did for 500 people:

Large group team building delivery - INSIDE - with everything under control!

If my client is paying big bucks to get people to the venue, feed them, house them and all that, and they are renting a room for lunch or dinner, why the heck not simply deliver the exercise inside under controlled temperature and lighting and audio/video and avoid all the disasters? Why even allow the potential problems? What is the big benefit of people standing around outside? (Heck, maybe I could design a program around them all coming over to my house and working on my yard and gardens, ya think? Do it like one of those cooking classes — I could sell it as a Landscaping Teambuilding Initiative and maybe even get them to work on my neighbors’ yards…)

Lastly, I do not consider golf, bowling or firewalking to be very good team building activities. Baseball is okay, maybe, since everyone can play and bat and all that. But volleyball requires too much skill and the skill differences between people can be way too large. And how many times do I have to pass balls around or deal with a bucket on a string or hold hands with other people to solve a problem, anyway…
There are LOTS and lots of good team building games and exercises that can be delivered with high impact and good learning. Why add uncontrollable factors just to make it some “outside” program whereby the potential for non-participation or even injury might occur?

I will always remember the White Mile movie (2-min trailer is here) starring Alan Alda: A corporate team-building trip ends in tragedy in this drama. Hoping to build bonds between his employees and clients, advertising executive Dan Cutler (Alan Alda) takes the group on a whitewater rafting excursion. But the raft capsizes, several of the men die, and one widow files a lawsuit. Cutler tries to hide his negligence, and one survivor (Peter Gallagher) faces a difficult moral dilemma.

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Twitter @scottsimmerman

 

 

On Trial and Error, Blame Frames and Gotcha’s: Engagement? Innovation? Really?

In the “Keeping Things Simple – Involving and Engaging” blog, I shared a cartoon that we call, “Trial and Error”:

square wheels image of Trial and Error

Take a moment and look at the cartoon and react to what you see before moving on, please. Just consider what might be happening above.

Okay? Take a moment. Seriously…

When I show this illustration to managers and ask for their reactions, the ratio I get is about 8 : 1. In other words, eight themes focused on the negative and what they did wrong for every one good thing they might see. Mothers usually call this “constructive criticism,” but I am not sure what good purpose it serves to continually point out what people are doing wrong, “even if it is for your own good.” as we so often hear as kids and teenagers (and workers, in so many instances!).

I think we, as managers, are trained to look for business improvement opportunities and to look for things we can improve. That is fine. well and good and serve solid business purposes. But when this gets expressed to our “teenagers” as Non-Support, we cannot expect others to just go along with that. Most people do NOT like the taste of castor oil, even if it IS for our own good!

What managers tend to do looks like this:

We embed the good with the blame and the people are more likely to run over the top of the hill and hide than come back to the wagon and continue to make improvements. Sure, their first attempt was pretty quirky and maybe they missed an idea or two about how they could get things done better.

But they also added a horse to the situation — more horsepower, as it were. And YOU probably have not considered whether this might actually work. What if the next step simply looked like this:

Allow people to do things and celebrate their successes.

Improvement is a continuous process, one that requires celebration of what is accomplished and continued reflection on possibilities and potential shifts in resource utilization. One might thing that there is a train in their future?

———————————–

Update:

I added a short article on Devil’s Advocate roles and building Trust as it relates to organizational improvement. You can see it by clicking on the image below:

LEGO SWs One POSTER Devil's Advocate Challenge

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 blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Square Wheels® are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

 

 

Defense is not good for Innovation – Thoughts on Engagement for Innovation

There was an interesting thread on the Innovation Excellence group on LinkedIn, one that talks about an Anti-Innovation Checklist posted by Holly Green. You can see that post at www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2012/02/23/3/

In think her 10 bullets are good, but it feels like she missed the bigger picture of the reality that employee engagement is more all-encompassing. I think there is more to it.

The list is about what is wrong and not about what to do to address the issues and make improvements. She talks about “unrealistic expectations” in the sense on management looking for “a killer product” while I think that performance improvement is more about having performance goals and objectives that do not allow much thinking, much less alternative thinking.

Consider the customer, which we should all be doing all of the time anyway. The customer calls with an issue and the position of the employee is so often one of defending the turf rather than listening to the problem for some idea as to how to improve the product.

For the past 4 days, I have been having what are apparently a series of different problems with U-Verse and my TV and internet and wireless connections here. Five different technicians have visited the house. And a wide variety of different phone calls to various places around the world.

I can test the connection, but I am limited to running a “speed test” — they show me various computer screens that give them a LOT more data about the connection and such information including history. All I can say is “the TV locks up and un-synchs” or “Safari pauses and locks up.” One would think that someone might develop some application or process that would allow ME to make a more informed phone call to Victor in India, right?

Customer-driven innovation? NO way — they are too busy to meet their performance numbers to listen for better ideas as to how to do things… There is no real mechanism for making improvements. They are too busy solving the problems at hand.

As I so often write, my view of how organizations really work looks like this:

But maybe things more realistically look like this in most workplaces:

SWs One How Things Work ©

How things REALLY work in many workplaces

And how things REALLY work in many workplaces

and when we add senior management, maybe this is more of a normal reality:

It is the perception of how things work that is most important.

It is the perception of how things work that is most important.

A logical result of the situation generally depicted above will often then look like this:

People will circle the wagons and defend themselves…

and continued attacks also generate more predictable results:

That thus reminds me that I wrote up a poem about this:

Square Wheels Defensive wagon poem

And that reminds me of a quote from Dante that many might think should appear over the door of the buildings in which they work:

What to do? I don’t have one of those 5-step or 10-bullet lists. Mine is one pretty simple one, although there are five rules:

ASK — ASK — ASK — ASK — ASK

Ask for ideas for improvement. Allow people to get involved and engaged and to share their ideas. Support them as they try to implement improvements, recognizing that many have long histories of failure or punishment linked to their attempts to make things better. Recognize that they cannot be empowered and that many are un-empowered.

So take actions to dis-un-empower them. Form teams. Share ideas. Act as if their ideas are important. Let them generate their own intrinsic rewards for making things better.

We sell a simple toolkit for facilitating involvement and engagement. Click on the link below to see how it works:

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

 

And, if you would like to see more about our outstanding team building exercise, we offer a slideshare overview here:

Slideshare Dutchman icon

The key idea in all this is for leadership to get out of the way and let them make improvements. Let people play with the wheels…

Square Wheel Playing haiku

 

Give them hope and support. And ask for their ideas,

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.

Workplace Motivation Improvement – Easy!

It is commonly believed that the fate of many companies could be altered for the better if workers were more motivated. They do not blame the senior managers, who are all-knowing and totally dedicated because their earnings are all tied to performance. Companies and Managers blame the front line employees for not being motivated to delivery service or manufacture quality. Okay, maybe the people are also at fault, but is it really the fault of the workers?

(see a great article posted up on data from Gallup shared by Jim Clifton)

So, companies will often implement a climate survey and, sure enough, they find that the employees are dis-engaged and less than supporting. Gallop surveys on engagement show that only 3% of workers in Japan, where I write this, are engaged. And only 24% are enrolled. Fully 16% and 56% are dis-engaged and dis-enchanted with the way things are in their workplaces

So, when things are going wrong, the knee-jerk reaction is to blame the workers for their poor attitudes and lack of work ethic. But might there be some other cause?

Demotivators drive motivation away — they are performance inhibitors unintentionally built into the way most of us do business. One often hears of “unintended consequences” when it comes to changes that generate unanticipated results. The reality, though, is that there are few real Unintended Consequences when it comes to worker motivation – a bit of “due diligence,” like talking to employees, would quickly smoke out the foreseeable problems that might occur.

Sometimes, the workers feel that the managers are their adversaries, as opposed to their business improvement partners. This can generate a situation where Defense is one of the useful self-preservation strategies, as depicted below:

Workers WILL defend themselves from management

Workers WILL defend themselves from management attacks

Demotivators of all kinds have profound negative impacts on performance, yet they are often ignored because they are considered normal in the workplace. Sometimes, they slowly creep into an organization and become part of normal operations. A lot of the fear and anger, both expressed and repressed, that appears in organizations today is controllable, but not from a manager’s desk.

And, in most workplaces, we find that workers will say that they are choosing not to give work their full attention and that they could do a better job. But no one asks them to and they are simply allowed to de-motivate themselves over time.

They can result in negative behavior by employees and even affect their health. Some research has shown that 84% of workers say they could perform better if they want to and 50% of workers said they put forth only enough effort to hang onto their jobs.

To quote Dean Spitzer (“Supermotivating the Workforce”, 1996): “Too many managers underestimate the importance of what they consider minor irritations, not realizing how large these irritations loom in the subjective experience of employees. To employees stuck in the middle, these demotivators are not minor at all.”

Spitzer lists 21 demotivators. The list follows. The six most-troubling ones identified by Spitzer are denoted with an “*.”

*1) Politics;
*2) Unclear Expectations;
3) Unnecessary Rules;
*4) Poorly Designed Work; 5) Unproductive Meetings; 6) Lack of Follow-Up;
7) Constant Change;
8) Internal Competition;
9) Dishonesty (Being lied to and lots of executive “spin”);
*10) Hypocrisy (“Walking the talk”);
11) Withholding Information;
12) Unfairness (Perceived preferential treatment):
13) Discouraging Responses (to ideas);
14) Criticism (atmosphere);
15) Capacity Underutilization (of individuals);
16) Tolerating Poor Performance;
*17) Being Taken for Granted;
18) Management Invisibility;
19) Overcontrol;
20) Takeaways (of past entitlements./privileges);
*21) Being Forced to Do Poor-Quality Work.

Take a look at the list and ask youself if you could find some of those at your job or at a client’s operation. Ask yourself if any of those could be changed. These kinds of things appear as intentional slowdowns, careless mistakes, unsafe behavior, absenteeism or sickness-related job absence, tardiness and theft, among other things.

How do you deal with the de-motivators? Take steps to systematically remove them, one at a time. It is really pretty straightforward, so here are some ideas:

1 – engage everyone in conversations about workplace improvement, recognizing that everyone will have ideas about what could be done differently

2 – involve key leaders in the workplace in getting some things changed and improved, since they have a history of doing those kinds of things

3 – make sure goals and expectations are clear and install really good performance feedback systems. (I do not mean performance appraisals, I mean ways of allowing people to see the results of their actions)

4 – make sure everyone understands the overall mission and vision and knows how their work plays a role in getting things done. People DO want to do important work

5 – improve communications and allow people to share their ideas

6 – improve communications and allow people to share their ideas (yeah, I KNOW that I said that one twice!)

7 – make sure that you focus on recognizing any improvements that occur, both individual as well as workgroup

8 – allow some natural teamwork to occur.

Square Wheels are everywhere. Ask people for their Round Wheeel Ideas!

Scott small pic

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

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

Motivation, Collaboration, Engagement and Dis-Un-Empowerment*

Dis-un-empowerment: The removal of those performance-influencing factors (real or believed) that are thought to be un-empowering by the individual or individuals.

And we can define Motivation as the absence of de-motivating factors.

The concept of empowering people is really a difficult one – lots of things have been written about it over the years but it requires the active involvement of senior managers, a whole lot of trust between managers and employees, and often some significant changes in workplace culture.

Plus there is the reality that one cannot really empower someone else – try it with a teenager if you need any proof of this!

I posted my first article on this subject back in 2006 and got a lot of interesting feedback about this simple but effective approach to involving and engaging people in an activity to improve morale, motivation and real performance.

We take the simple and somewhat obvious position that most people are far from actually being empowered or more properly, acting empowered. There are tons of statistics that support this notion.

So what are we actually talking about here? Let me start with a few simple examples of engaged and motivated people:

1) At a major hotel chain, employees are wearing buttons that say, “Yes I can.” I ask the front-desk clerk if she could give me a button because I am speaking that next morning on customer service and she says, “No, I can’t.”

She really did want to give it to me, but she said wearing the button was required as management’s policy, that they were expected to have one on, the hotel didn’t have extras and that she would be yelled at by her boss for not having a button. Caught in a dilemma, she was not able to do what the company or customer wanted her to do. (I did persuade her to give me the button and I used it in my session, explaining the dilemma she faced. Heck, I even invited her boss to sit in for free (but he did not!)).

The paradox is that management is telling her to act one way while asking her to follow a policy that blocks this request.

2) At McGuffey’s Restaurants, employees and managers wore buttons saying, “The Answer is Yes.” Unlike the above, ask anyone for a button, and they’ll give you their very last one, knowing this response is the expectation of top management. The employees are simply trusted to act appropriately. This attitude infected all kinds of behaviors, with waitresses making a quick run to McDonalds to buy a customer’s kid a Big Mac, raising money for charities or driving to the grocery store to buy anchovies for my Caesar salad.

Top performers, the ones who build positive long-term relationships with customers, will often bend rules and make decisions for the long-term good of the customer relationship when necessary. They tend to retain customers and build loyalty. At the other end of the spectrum, many people will blindly follow policies, procedures, systems and all those constraints that they believe are imposed on them from all over the place, significantly impacting performance.

Many people in the workplace are un-empowered and thus un-responsive and roadblocked by their perceptions of what the organization wants. Or they are roadblocked by their own beliefs about their capabilities. Or, they simply do not know how to get things accomplished.

My answer to performance improvement is simple and straightforward – let’s remove those things that individuals and groups feel are blocking their responsiveness and performance. That is not to say that we change all the policies and procedures, but that we discuss the approach of the top performers in the context of the organization.

If people are un-empowered, then let’s remove the things that might be blocking performance. Let’s work to limit the perceived roadblocks and provide some useful strategies and tactics to work around things inhibiting better results, on an individual and group basis. Thus,

Improvement is all about people; people dis-un-empowered to make decisions to the benefit of the customer and the company. And we know from decades of behavioral research that peer support can work wonders on individual performance, if we allow or encourage it.

What is Dis-Un-Empowerment and how do we Implement?

There are two issues to dis-un-empowerment, the organizational ones and the personal ones. Personal dis-un-empowerment issues are sometimes less clear, while it is easy to get consensus on common organizational ones.

Astronaut Scott Carpenter gave a nice analogy about walking in space. Years of training, simulations, and practice in weightless conditions as well as hundreds of hours of discussion and preparation did not adequately prepare him for the reality of standing in the doorway of the spacecraft with black infinity in every direction. He thought he could do it, but he froze. Wouldn’t you? There are direct parallels to dis-un-empowering people.

The American Society for Quality Control reported that while two in three workers said they had been asked to become involved in workplace decision-making, only one in seven felt they had the power to make those decisions. And if they don’t feel dis-un-empowered to make decisions, they won’t make them. And a Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. 

Why don’t most people feel able to make improvements? Because they are uncomfortable doing things differently than they have done them before. Most people will resist change.

“The only change people like is the kind that jingles in their pockets.”
my friend, Jerry Brown

“Change is good. You go first.
Dilbert Principles

Note that almost every organization has a few top-performing employees doing exactly what is necessary to generate results. They are the people that have the highest productivity and profitability.

Exemplary performers manage roadblocks much more effectively and tend to have clearer perspectives and focus on what your customers require. They also tend to focus on doing the small things that truly make a difference in building a client relationship with the customer. But also recognize that they often bend the rules to do what is right — thus delivering the highest perceived value.

A few years ago, Frank Navran had the opportunity to observe the role that perception plays in people’s ability to manage obstacles. Frank was involved in a performance improvement project and asked to observe a work group to identify the behavioral, attitudinal and/or skills and knowledge differences between the exemplary performers, average performers and poor performers.

The intent was to identify those differences so that an intervention could be devised to make the average and poor performers more like their exemplary peers to raise overall unit performance levels.

What ensued was rather frustrating for the consultant and the client. Aside from the actual performance results there were no noticeable behavioral differences. The only apparent difference was the workers’ response to the question, “What is keeping you from performing at a higher level?

  • The exemplary performers said they had fewer than 3 perceived roadblocks to higher performance levels.
  • The average performers identified 6 roadblocks each.
  • The poor performers cited 12 or more reasons why they could not perform at a higher level.

Their significance was twofold:

1. As all employees worked under near identical conditions nothing differed except their perception of the number of obstacles to exemplary performance facing them.

2. The differences seemed to be more perceptual than real. This lead the consultant to the hypothesis that in this client’s organization the performance difference might be related to the employee’s perceptions about his or her own power to remove the roadblocks to higher level performance.

Further testing proved him right. In addition, the consultant observed that employee perceptions fell into four sets or categories that could be generalized and applied to other cases. These can be drawn as a Square, of course:

Category 1 – BRICK WALLs

Some roadblocks are truly unalterable. There are things in the real world facing people that inhibit their performance which they are not likely to change: the effectiveness of a foreign competitor’s product, the slumping national economy, the international exchange rate, the organizational structure at the organization, the funding and paperwork processes for new product development, etc. These are all factors which affect employee performance but are well beyond individual or collective control. Characterize these as brick walls: immovable and real.

Category 2 – PARTITIONs

The second category of roadblocks are those that can be managed through with effort, time, money and/or additional personnel, or other resources. The individual employee might make some degree of progress in overcoming this particular inhibitor to performance. Often a small group of employees can make even more progress collectively. And, most importantly, this type of roadblock can be managed in large part or totally, if supervision or management gets involved. This type of roadblock is characterized as a partition, since a partition, if pushed from the bottom, might move slightly, but if pushed from a higher level will often topple. These are real roadblocks which the employees require assistance to remove.

Category 3 – PAPER WALLs

The third category was reminiscent of a football game where the home team burst through a paper barrier to the cheers of the crowd at the start. Until tested, this roadblock often looks impenetrable. Workplace examples are common, and include the belief that the boss will not approve, that it won’t be supported by another department, that it is “policy” or the way things have always been done, etc.

But people discover that these beliefs aren’t true when they test these perceptions. Others have done things differently and are doing things differently. But, unless tested, this roadblock is just as effective in preventing performance as the first two. These are manageable, but also real.

Category 4 – MINDSETs

This type of roadblock is the most troubling to management. It represents the untested beliefs and perceptions. When people believe they can’t, they are correct. These roadblocks are de-actualizing and restrictive, yet arbitrarily so in that they really do not exist. Interestingly, these are generally the most common of all the different types and the ones that block the below average performers from improvement.

Using the Model

It is always fascinating to observe how different employees manage the different roadblocks they face. Top performers, as a group, are generally not impeded by many of the things that get in the way of average or poor performers. Their model of how things really work appears to be more proactive and behaviorally-oriented. They are generally more willing to test the roadblocks to see which are which and are often quick to refer the Category 1 and 2 roadblocks to management whereas they push through the 3s and 4s.

Average performers, on the other hand, are sometimes stymied by roadblocks in many cases. Some may stubbornly push the 1s and try to get them to move even though they do not have the power to do so. They may often spend a lot of individual time on the 2s, trying to generate change and feeling good when they manage to get past them; this behavior, while well-intentioned, may not be time and energy effective!

Poor performers can generate long lists of roadblocks that get in the way of getting things done. They face innumerable hurdles in their everyday job and can constantly point out the things that cause their performance levels to be low.

How to deliver the theme:

So, here’s an empowering exercise that you can easily do to help reshape the thinking of the poor performers and generate new alternative behaviors among the average ones.

Use a flip chart and masking tape and start a meeting with the question, “What are some of the roadblocks to getting things done around here?” or similar. Allow the group to brainstorm and write everything down.

(Note: You might want to set the Rules as, “All comments are okay, everything gets written down and we discuss the specifics of each idea when we complete the list. No negative reactions are allowed in this part of the meeting.”)

Capture all of the ideas without reframing or rewording, since changing wording might change the meaning or it may be perceived as a “put-down” to an employee with less than perfect language skills who might then not participate any longer. You can also ask for clarification after you write it down, making notes on the page.

Ask individuals, if necessary, to generate the participation of everyone, but expect more roadblocks to come from the average and poor performers. Write them all down. You may also prompt, when the going gets slow, by saying something as, “How about the interdepartmental things?”

Post up the sheets as they become filled and do not be surprised to get 10 or more pages (my personal record: 22 pages!). The more the better. Really!

Once the list is essentially complete, share the model of Roadblock Management with them, describing the categories and the general frameworks of each.

Now, go back through this list and have the group categorize, as best they can, the nature of each of the roadblocks. Let THEM do this — that way it is their list and not yours!

What you will discover is that 80% of the roadblocks will be 3s and 4s and that the top performers will often offer everyone suggestions as to how to manage the 2s more effectively. The Category 1 roadblocks are those that you should volunteer to escalate and some of the 2s might be addressed by a team of your people, including some of the poorer performers.

Celebrate any ideas for improvement and attempts to address specific problems. And be sure to get out of the way as the group and individuals now engage in some dis-un-empowerment.

© Performance Management Company, 1998 – 2010 All Rights Reserved.

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>

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

Some thoughts on the Rating of Difficulty of Coaching and Whitewater River Running

Some people feel that running whitewater rapids in a kayak is a lot like coaching difficult performers. Sometimes the rapid is an easy one that you can just float through without a lot of preparation or even much observation. In other cases, where the water and the “drop” is a bit more difficult, it may make sense to get out of the boat, walk along the shore and take a look at what you are about to encounter so that you can plan a route through with the highest likelihood of success.

In the case of very difficult whitewater, you may want to have a good deal of information about the situation available, have a plan for other observers to share their thoughts on how to succeed and even have a plan for someone to throw you a rope if things get really tight. And sometimes scouting that rapid is in order so that the difficulties can be avoided or responses can be planned.

So here is how rapids in a river are rated insofar as difficulty:

Class 1: Easy. 
Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few general obstructions exist and all obvious and readily missed. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.

Saluda

Class i – II Saluda River (SC)

Class 2: Novice. 
Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily avoided, if desired, by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and assistance, while possibly helpful, is seldom needed.

Class 3: Intermediate. 
Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open boat like a canoe or flip a kayak. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good control in tight passages is required; large waves may be present but may be avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable, especially for inexperienced participants. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims and water up your nose!

Class 4: Advanced. 
Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn into quiet waters may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require “must-make” moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting often necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills. A strong roll is highly recommended.

Class 5: Expert. 
Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids with drops that may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is recommended but even this may be difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is often difficult even for experts. A very reliable roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential.

Class 6: Extreme and Exploratory. 
These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. After a Class 6 rapid has been successfully navigated many times and routes and strategies become known, its rating may be downgraded to Class 5 and the difficulty is actually lessened and the required “moves” become known.

Coaching is a lot like whitewater play

If you have the skills, you can have fun in the difficult stuff. This is called a pop-up! Wheeeee…

In the next post that appears here, I will describe how coaching situations can be matched up to these ratings, and how the strategies for running white water rapids can be useful in planning and executing these coaching sessions.

 

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/

 

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.

Managing and Leading Innovation and Change

There are LOTS of statistics around issues of improvement, and most of them could be positively impacted if we stepped back a little… Organizations abandon 50% to 70% of strategies because the strategies fail to take hold in the organization or achieve desired results in the time expected. Only 30% of strategic initiatives succeed, on time. This may certainly apply to related issues of change and innovation.

Research shows that you achieve strategic speed by focusing on people (surprise, surprise!), but many leaders mistakenly pursue speed mainly by manipulating processes, systems, and technologies in a bid to become more efficient.

The three most important people factors around the issues of managing and leading innovation and change are thought to be:

  • CLARITY is a shared, clear understanding of the situation and the direction in which you’re headed.
  • UNITY is whole-hearted agreement on the merits of that direction and on the need to work together to move ahead.
  • AGILITY is a willingness to turn and adapt quickly while keeping strategic goals in mind.

 (the above are taken from an “Inside Training” email, 8/11/10)

Company cultures and the related issues of trust and ownership are critical. Some find it much easier than others. Having shared successes in the past most certainly helps moving things forward in the future.

More commonly, many people find that discovery and ideation more often go through these three stages:

  1. Initial ridicule
  2. Violent passionate opposition
  3. Acceptance as the obvious solution.

I liked the concept of Scott Adams in The Dilbert Principles:
    “Change is good. You go first.

Managing implementation and change MAY be slightly different from

The Six Phases of Project Implementation:

1 – Enthusiasm for the initiative
2 – Disillusionment with initial results
3 – Panic as things fall apart
4 – Search for the Guilty
5 – Punishment of the Innocent
6 – Praise and Honor for the Non-Participants

In those kinds of company cultures, there is also often followup / fallout from that first project as organizations try to benefit from their learning experience.

The Six Phases of a second project might then be viewed as

1 – Mild enthusiasm combined with unexpressed general concern
2 – Search for volunteers
3 – Avoidance of involvement
4 – Search for anything positive

Discussions of a THIRD project are generally tabled for later discussion. MUCH later… 

In reality, there are ways to successfully implement innovation and improvements. The actuality will differ from organization to organization for a number of reasons, but most generally, it would seem to be HOW the organization reacts to the issues and problems found in continuous continuous improvement. Are the successes rewarded (intrinsically and extrinsically) and are the failures positively viewed (by ALL) as learning experiences and activities to set the stage for future attempts?

Remember that there are seldom actually failures in projects. There are just non-successes that most will try to distance themselves from given the normal cultural responses and reactions.

To change this, we have to change things, we need to do things differently to lead innovation and improvement.

My change model is about clarity of mission (and all that related stuff), being uncomfortable with the way things are now, having peer SUPPORT for the changes and having a previous success(es) with making individual change.

We can accomplish all the above with employee engagement and facilitated interaction at the supervisor level.

My approach is to share the model with people in a facilitation and then get their active involvement in what we need to do differently. I allow them to clarify what is not clear in the mission and what we might do to better support each other, for example. An open discussion builds trust and support (and links right back to the model in an obvious way). Minimize Surprise.

Start things simply. Take some small steps:

I try to generate increasing involvement in the analysis and recommendations of next steps as we roll forward. They get better at it over time and with increasing trust in each other.

If the mission is not clear, or we need to generate one, I use a simple approach (see this for the toolkit for developing a mission statement). Or, I might later work to manage perceived roadblocks (see this for more information about our toolkit on roadblock management). 

     Remember this simple fact: We improve by building on successes.

signature-simple-process-why-sws

<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

 

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén