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

Tag: tools for engagement

Can you IMPROVE a Square Wheel?

A casual note in Slack to me from our marketing guy Amit got me thinking, so I responded and then felt I should write a blog about it. I had shared an old LEGO style, Too Busy to Improve image with him with a note that we want to change this to our new Divya illustration style.

Really too busy to improve the Square Wheels

Amit said, “…most times it’s only because we don’t know how to work them smoothly.” (referring to the Square Wheels on the wagon)

And my immediate response was, “Nah. The Square Wheels always need to be replaced with better ones. BUT, sometimes we see organizations implement Triangular Wheels because they can measure the improvement — “one less bump per revolution.” Square Wheels cannot be made into round ones. Yet the Round Wheels really are everywhere. Customers have them, workers have them, supervisors have them, consultants should get them from the three previous groups. Senior Leadership seldom has really good ones…”

So, my response got me thinking: maybe I might clarify my thinking about improvement and engagement and innovation.

Square Wheels® are simply things that do not work smoothly. We show the image of the wagon and ask people for their thoughts on how this might represent how things work in most organizations. Results from asking are simply amazing. People project their beliefs on to this “Organization Ink Blot Test*” and you get a pretty amazing number of thoughts about issues of systems and processes, innovation, leadership, culture and similar. A few people make funny comments like, “We’re not like that. We push our wagon uphill in the mud!”

Square Wheels image of how organiztions really work

Then, the next phase of the engagement is to ask the participants, “What are some Square Wheels that we might want to address” and let them discuss the things that do not work smoothly from their perceptions. These discussions are amazing, in that some of the ideas represent really good organizational improvement ideas and some represent only minor and easy to implement changes. Some are systems and process improvement thoughts and many are problems that have already been solved by top performers, the Best Practice kinds of things.

People have real and well-considered ideas in many cases. And everyone engages and offers their thoughts. A few things are seen as problems by an individual or two but those do not generate traction and the lack of consensus peer support for them tends to make them go away in the proposer’s mind (which can be really helpful to the team!).

And because the ideas are generated in group discussion, the active involvement serves to generate engagement and the cognitive dissonance that because there are Square Wheels, there must be some ROUND Wheels out there to address them. Too often, they start solving a Square Wheel problem before they have even finished the discussion of possibilities.

As to “fixing” a Square Wheel, I think that is not a functional possibility. Square Wheels can generate new ideas for implementing improvement but trying to fix an existing problem is not as effective as looking at a variety of possible solutions. Too often, we jump in to fix something without considering other possibilities.

Let me complete this post with another relevant thought. In a John LeCarre novel, he wrote, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” And I think that is right. The people who have hands-on experience generally have a good sense of reality. While they view things from the back of the wagon and they may not have great overall perspective, they DO have a sense of what is happening in reality. I contrast this with the reality of isolation of the more senior managers, who may see things from the Big Picture much better, but they do NOT know the specifics and the details of how things work. Two things happen:

One is the reality of the long rope:

 

And another is that they may measure their impacts without considering all of the ramifications of their solution. I call that basic problem two different things, “The Cost of Human Capital” and  “One Less Bump per Revolution.” We can easily make changes that have significant negative impacts on people and we can always measure the wrong thing…

 

I hope that you have found this interesting and I am looking forward to updating this post with our new illustrations, which are powerful tools that can be used in zoom conversations to generate more active involvement, engagement and motivation to address some of the things that can be changed and improved in most organizations.

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, Ph.D., CPF, CPT – “The Square Wheels Guy”
Managing Partner, Performance Management Company – 864-292-8700
1520 S McElhaney Road, Greer SC  29651    USA
Scott@SquareWheels.com
SquareWheelsGuy (Skype)

 

Our new VIRTUAL version of our team building game is now available for demonstrations and developmental partnerships.

See a 2-minute video here:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE6gDtZymwk

* This is also know as a Rorschach Test, more formally…

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company.
© – All illustrations copyright Performance Management Company, 1993 – 2022

Implementing Round Wheels to fix your Square Wheels

Ask a worker and they will share ideas for improvement. As a consultant walking around, this is a given and a simple reality. People doing the work know there are things that can be done differently that would have impacts on organizational performance. Some will even take the time to give you a list of them if they think you are really interested. (true.)

Many things do not work smoothly in their workplaces, which are the things that frustrate them and measurably lower productivity. And it is an exceptional manager who appears to be interested in making changes and improving work processes.

And this frustration and dissatisfaction about potential improvements causes all sorts of negative spins to impacting intrinsic motivation and employee turnover. Sometimes it is simple training that can smooth things out and sometimes is is the sharing of a best practice across all team members. Often it is about improving collaboration across departmental boundaries. But the act of ASKING goes a long way toward improving communications.

Discussing and implementing better ideas can send the message that what the workers see is actually important to managers. Often, what management sees as important and what management pushes through are different things — and that is most likely not going to lead to any sort of workplace engagement and performance improvement.

But the problem is often related to how the problem is discussed and presented. And people are BUSY, and often appear not interested in listening or considering new ideas. Maybe it looks like this:

 

Today’s Organizational Reality would conclude:

  • People do not fix or care that much about ideas that are not their own.
  • Bosses are busy, or at least too busy to spend time listening to ideas
  • Improvement may not be measured by the company
  • The improvement possibility is not related to your job or their job
  • The value and impact of the improvement is not thought-out or defined
  • Everyone has different perspectives on what to do differently
  • The idea is not well presented or framed as a business proposition
  • The idea not seen as cost effective or it may take time to address
  • Some interdepartmental collaboration may be required (needs IT or another department or something similar to implement)

 

What I suggest that supervisors and managers can do differently is to schedule some time to ask people for ideas.

But first, we want to engage and involve them and get them to “step back from the wagon and think out of the box” a little. This image below is a simple framework for the overall thinking about the issues and the opportunity:

SWs One Dis-un-engagement choice

 

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There” and “The Round Wheels are already in the wagon” are two of the main operational metaphors. The process depends on people actively engaging with the metaphor and generating their own ideas about issues and opportunities.

If  you are interested in more details about how you might use the Square Wheels theme to address issues and opportunities with your people, click on the worksheet image below and view an older post of mine with more details. We are in the process of developing a whole series of tools for the remote workplace and for supervisors to use to engage their people through Zoom and similar tools.

Note that we moved from the original line-art images to using LEGO to illustrate and animate different themes and that we are now in the process of redoing the line art in a new and more colorful style. More to come, for sure!

For the FUN of It!

 

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

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Scott’s detailed profile:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottsimmerman/


Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Poems and Cartoons on Performance – Engaging Ideas

Since 1993, I have been using cartoons as tools for conversations. The illustrations are simple and the concepts are straightforward, but the impact of these are pretty mind-boggling.

The main illustration that sets up all these themes and frameworks is called, Square Wheels One and it looks like this:

SWs One green watermark

My general approach in using it is to give people one minute of silent contemplation about their ideas and perceptions, framing it as, “This is my model of how organizations really work.” Okay, if you have not seen this before, give it a minute of your time before reading below.

The methodology of using this is anchored to the Rorschach Inkblot kind of process, where people project their beliefs onto the illustration. Different people focus on different aspects of the cartoon, and there are no boundaries. After that one minute of individual silent contemplation, I then allow the tabletops of 5 to 6 people to discuss their ideas, freeform. Sometimes we collect them on easel pad paper (which slows down the process dramatically) and sometimes we just allow the conversations. I say that they have 5 minutes for the discussion, but I only stop it when the murmur and laughter subside or if I am under real time pressures to move on (like in a 30 minute workshop).

15 years ago, I tried to collect the different ideas that came up from the different groups that were in my workshops:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz001

And there were lots of different responses, for sure:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz006

I actually collected 13 PAGES like those above before I quit collecting. It became a huge mental issue of sorting and the activity became somewhat pointless — I had proved my point about ideas and the projective nature of thinking. And I will admit that even today, I still occasionally get a response that I had never heard before. Amazing.

Some of them are a Real Hoot, that I collected on this page:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz004

The Big Idea here is that people have an amazing amount of creativity and perspective if we can only allow them to express it. If we can direct that same energy to workplace improvement ideas and build teams and teamwork around those things that they want to address, we are way down the road toward building involvement and engagement.

SWs Facilitation IconWe sell simple toolkits for Dis-Un-Engagement and the involvement of people in solving performance issues in their workplaces. And I can readily customize materials for special and specific uses and users.


Wheel Playing haiku
The ideas are there. The Square Wheels are everywhere. What can we do to simply get our people focused on identifying the things that need to be changed, playing with new or different ideas, and then building the informal teams needed to implement some solutions.

We can get them to do things with each other, instead of generating resistance to change from what our ideas might be. We can let these activities reinforce achievements and drive internal motivation. We can remove the things that they find are un=engaging.

Engagimentation Future

 

So, I started playing with some cartoons and slogans and poems and Haiku to play around with the ideas that we can make improvements. Here are a few around Square Wheels One:

SWs One Today was good today was fun

SWs One They're everywhere

SWs One Nothing is NOT

 

SWs One brain in head feet in shoes

SWs One all the things you won't see red

 

Yeah, and more to come!

For the FUN of It!

scott tiny casual

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

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

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