Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: improve organizational performance (Page 2 of 3)

Visions – Hindsight and the View at The Back

In a LinkedIn leadership group, Mark Deterding posted up an interesting thought on leading from insightful contemplation and framing things in a servant leadership model. His post was called, “Vision from Behind” and Mark said:

Hindsight is 20/20. While we often think of that in relation to blunders, it’s limiting to consider hindsight valuable only when recovering from mistakes. Making a reflective observation is a necessary step in clarifying your vision for the future. You discover more about yourself as you take a reminiscent tour through life experiences. Looking back is a magnifying glass, enhancing awareness of where you are now because of where you have been. This is helpful in understanding how you currently lead, and where you might want to focus your efforts in developing your future self as the servant leader that God created you to be. Vision from behind creates an environment where you become more and more a student of servant leadership.

This aligns overall pretty well with my thinking about communications and teamwork and issues of motivation. Mark’s hindsight and reflective observation is pretty much what I think of as “Stepping back from the wagon.” The idea is to disengage from that first-person, through your own eyes view of the world and to change one’s perspective, looking at the situation from a dissociated viewpoint, like watching TV. From a distance, you can better see other people’s viewpoints. Innovation and insight generally come from reflection and contemplation.

My explanatory model for how the world seems to work and how most organizations seem to operate looks like this:

SWs One NEW w: copyright 1We have Wagon Pushers who simply cannot see where they are going and who do not receive much in the way of performance feedback or coaching — they are simply too busy pushing the wagon and their view is one of “boards and hands.”

So think what the pushers actually see, and think what the Wagon Puller can see if he simply turns around. (Not much, actually.) My guess is that his view is mostly of the wagon, even though he might have a really nice view if he looks ahead. After all, who wants to stare at the front of a wagon for any length of time. So, to really generate perspective and a change in thinking, there is the need to really stop doing what we are doing and to move around a bit.

Reflection, in my model is termed,

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

The idea is to step back from the wagon to get a different perspective, one that includes the Pushers and all the wheels, the whole scenario basically. One can probably identify ideas for improvement as well as thoughts on how to improve involvement, engagement and motivation.

That one, skipping a bunch of intervening, process improvement illustrations, could look something like this when all is said and done and everyone is allowed to play with ideas and solutions:

SWs Celebrating Two RWs

Vision from Behind is good and it is helpful. Servant Leadership is a fine concept. But I think that involving and engaging people in generating their innovative ideas for workplace improvement — and implementing those good ideas — is really more about how to generate intrinsic motivation for the journey ahead. Celebrating successes most likely will generate more successes and improved teamwork and collaboration.

If you are interested in more along these lines, take a look at some of my other blog posts around Square Wheels and motivation and engagement that are in my blog. A few of them are these:

Stupidly Simple Engagement and Motivation

A LEGAL Approach to improving Engagement

Improving Engagement and Workplace Efficiency to Motivate Performance

I also write poems and haiku and produce a bunch of different “posters” that you can see if you click through to my Poems on the Workplace blog in the footer below.

If you are looking for some simple and effective tools for impacting communications and improving innovation and engagement, connect with me,

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

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

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



Teambuilding Exercise – Overview of Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

My associate in India  emailed me with the info that he had just run his 169th session involving my team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. Pretty neat. And I am glad that we are leaving a “legacy” of teamwork and organizational improvement in India and in other countries.

He also shared his newest video overview of the exercise, which I thought to share here.Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine Teambuilding Exercise

Click on the image for a 2-minute overview of a session held for one of their clients.

If you are interested in acquiring one of these exercises for your own use as a consultant or trainer, you can find information here on my website, or contact me directly at the email listed below

WP Header Image

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

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


BOSS: Spelled Backwards

Boss. In organizations, a lot of people know precisely who that is. And that can be a positive or a negative, as I will try to explain.

My dad owned a small trucking company in South Jersey for nearly 50 years and he was the boss, for sure. He made all the decisions, ran the office, did the collection, gave his customers bottles of hooch every Christmas and ran the company as a one-man band. He had a half-dozen trucks and he did well enough to buy a summer house that gave our family a place to be at the beach, boats and cars and all that. From that perspective, my dad was a good boss.

On the other hand, there is an aspect of BOSS that is not so good. You would sometimes see it in how he might interact with a driver. Orin was always stopping in on prospects to generate new business and my dad generally never wanted to talk with him, telling me to tell Orin he was not around, for example. Or if there was a problem, the conversation tended to be one-sided. My dad did not generally appreciate the thoughts and ideas of the guys who worked with him.

“I’m the boss, here” generally infers complete control and a bit more yelling and telling than asking and listening. Boss translates to Ruler, the Decider, someone who has all the bucks and they stop right there. I see the word “autocratic” in the management haze, the imperial-ness of the boss as a person.

  • I see The Boss theme happening in an organization where 60% of the employees feels that no one listens to their ideas or respects them for their work or personal accomplishments.
  • I see The Boss theme in organizations where 10% or less of the employees see themselves as actively engaged but the vast majority rating themselves as un-involved or even “Actively Dis-Engaged” and choosing not to be involved and engaged, with the correlated high levels of absenteeism and turnover. And even some sabotage (see this post of mine).
  • And, I see The Boss as someone who simply knows that they have the right ideas and approach and that they could not possibly benefit from any training on listening skills or engagement or innovation facilitation.

In those cases, BOSS spelled backwards probably is a pretty good explanation of their overall attitude and approach to employee involvement and engagement.

John was one such animal. He was The Boss, president of a company that asked me to help improve their customer service. We did some initial work and then had one of their first ever Manager’s Meetings, an all hands deal at a golf resort where we had scheduled some work sessions around some golf. You might have guessed that John was a Big Time Golfer, which is why a golf course was selected for a business meeting, and why meetings were actually scheduled around his tee times.

And, in that meeting, John actually said, while sitting there going through his mail (I was so shocked that I wrote it down!) as we were talking about employee ideas for improving the organization,

“That’s like asking the vegetables
how to design a refrigerator.”

John obviously saw himself as, The Boss.

And my one-liner back is,

Boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory.”

John was not there the following year, since his charter by the board of directors to improve operations and customer retention was not going that well regardless of what we tried to do at the lower levels.

A Customer Service Fundamental:

It’s hard to care for customers
if you don’t feel the boss cares for you.

Perceptions are important, and if workers don’t feel right about the company, it is hard to get them to do those things that exceed customer expectations. It is hard to get them to feel motivated to perform at moderate to high levels. Sure, the top performers perform, but they always do that for intrinsic reasons until they burn out and leave. Note that average employees are often involved in Presenteeism. the situation where they show up and accomplish the minimally accepted level of work and performance competence.

Aldo note that the poor performers are actively un-involved and sometimes intentionally sabotaging the work. Why not choose to do some things differently to get a result that is #morebetterfaster?

So, you might simply reflect on the simple themes in, “Hey Boss!” Asking for and listening to ideas from your people does not involve a lot of training or skills, just the positive intention to treat them effectively.

It can look something like this:

active involvement and engagement with Square Wheels

Any questions? Just ask me, because I am The Boss!

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

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

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


Jobs Demands-Resources Model explained with Square Wheels

In a really solid interview of Dr. Arnold Bakker, David Zinger (@DavidZinger) asks about the Jobs Demands-Resources Model that is being used to clarify the understanding of workplace issues of motivation and engagement. I encourage you to look at the interview as well as the explanation of the model to gain your own ideas about how things work and what things can be done differently to impact employee engagement.

But also understand that the two articles referenced in the interview are heavily referenced academic descriptions of models, issues, interactions and comparisons of studies of these topics. You might find them an intellectual challenge to decipher, as I did, although the basic messages are quite clear.

David, who is the organizer of the Employee Engagement Network, feels that Dr.  Bakker’s work on people and performance is top shelf and I would agree.

My interests were focused on a couple of things that were said as well as the overall operational structure of the model and how to use it, Bakker said, in part,

My first action would be to create ample opportunities for the exchange of job resources between employees, by creating structural working conditions and processes that foster the exchange of feedback, social support, ideas, communications, etc. These resources would foster work engagement and build cohesion among employees.

David also asked, “If HR practitioners or CEOs were to read just one or two of your articles, which one/s would you recommend?” to which Bakker suggested:

Two articles come to mind. The first I would recommend offers an overview of the Jobs Demands–Resources Theory. This article explains how job demands and resources have unique effects on job stress and motivation. And the other I would suggest covers the daily fluctuations in employee work engagement. Here, I examine the predictors and outcomes of daily engagement, and  how individuals can advance work engagement from one day to another.

He also said:

Fortunately, we can influence our own daily levels of employee work engagement by proactively optimizing our job resources. Some examples include talking to enthusiastic colleagues, creating our own positive feedback, and starting new and challenging projects. My current interest is, not surprisingly, particularly in the latter self-management behaviors people use to influence their own work engagement (e.g., job crafting, strengths use, mobilizing ego resources, resource exchange, team boosters).

I read all of the above as “by having a good mental model to reframe our work into making progress forward, we can use our own resources to improve our own resources.” And my view of the model, a bit less detailed than Bakker’s, would actually appear something like this:

Square Wheels LEGO Illustration of engagement

After all, the reality is that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon and that sometimes we simply need to step back and reflect in order to reframe our thinking and to get out of the ditch and back up on the road.

If people work together with each other and management, and they take the time to discuss issues and opportunities, realities and best practices and ideas for workplace improvements of any and all kinds, you cannot expect them NOT to be more engaged and involved.

Nobody ever washes a rental car, and people with ownership involvement can be expected to treat things differently than those who are simply showing up, (what I call Presenteeism).

Remember that The Manager is the Motivator when it comes to improving the interactions of people in the workforce. This is NOT a task that can be accomplished by HR or Training and it is a daily occurrence, something that Bakker discusses in his interview and his second article.


I hope this is somewhat thought-provoking,

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

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

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

Please Wait – a thought on Innovation and Improvement

I was playing in my pool league and there was an old plastic sign that someone had stuck on the wall that I had been seeing for a dozen years but never thought about it. This time, I sent a note to myself and here is how that sign expressed itself in my thinking about how things really work in the process of continuous continuous improvement and organizational improvement.

Continuous continuous improvement of workplace processes

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!

is another framework for this process of involvement and engagement. People feel that few managers actually take the time to listen or consider their ideas. And that does not engender involvement or build ownership.

Take the time to ask for ideas and listen for ways to improve,

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

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

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


Presenteeism – They are IN but they are OUT

I was reading some news feeds and came across the word, “Presenteeism” in an HR thread. The term was new to me, but since I was gathering some notes around the theme of involvement and engagement, it resonated. The common use is seemingly around working while sick and is seen as the opposite and related problem to absenteeism.

I think the term is much bigger than that and that presenteeism is much more prevalent than commonly thought. I want to expand and relate the term to issues of people and performance in general.

Repeatedly, we see that only about 1/3 of workers are engaged with work. Others are not engaged and some are even anti-engaged to the point where they are actively working against the organization. You can see a bit more on this if you read my blog about sabotage or if you google “workplace sabotage” or even search on issues around part-time employment problems. Those anti-organization workers are few in number and often known, since they tend to actively act and speak against the company and its management (but not always).

Individuals suffering from Presenteeism are a more common issue. I remember back in my college fraternity years that when we wanted to take a break during an active beer drinking game, we would announce, “I’m in, but I’m out,” effectively saying that we were still playing but that we were going to take a break for a bit.

The concept is actually getting a good bit of study from the academics. Wikipedia offers:

Scholars have provided various other descriptions of the concept. For instance, Simpson claimed that presenteeism is “the tendency to stay at work beyond the time needed for effective performance on the job.” Aronsson, Gustafsson, and Dallner wrote that it means attending work even when one feels unhealthy. In a recent review of the literature, Johns highlighted the lack of agreement between the many definitions. The author claimed that many of the definitions lack utility and that the term is most often defined as going to work while ill. He further noted that definitions of presenteeism, which are centered on attending work while sick, have received more evidence of construct validity. In other words, when defined as coming to work while sick, presenteeism seems to relate more to logical outcome variables and correlates.

I am going to expand the concept to refer to the employees who are, IN but OUT when it comes to their everyday active involvement in their workplace, to the large percentage of people who are not at either end of the engagement curve, the ones that are not actively engaged or dis-engaged. These people in the middle are the people that organizations should be focused on, the ones who can contribute a bit more to the results than they currently choose to do. They have the skills to perform, just not the motivation or peer support.

SO, how does one reduce Presenteeism in their organization? There is a LOT of research that says that the concept is pretty simple and straightforward and I will summarize it in four simple rules:

  1. Ask them for their ideas
  2. Ask them for their ideas
  3. Ask them for their ideas
  4. Ask them for their ideas

Visually and operationally, presenteeism reduction can look something like this:

Presenteeism Prevention with Square Wheels LEGO

Stop the everyday pushing and pulling of the wagon and let people sit down and play with ideas for a bit of time. They will often discover or share new ways of doing things that might make an impact on processes but will surely make an impact on engagement.

My simple rule of thumb is that the activity of management asking their people for ideas about improving their workplace, and then dealing honestly and openly with suggestions is the most straightforward way to deal with presenteeism. (This is not about doing some survey where everything in anonymous and results get buried but the active, face-to-face interface of supervisors and workers or managers and supervisors.)

If you feel that the boss cares for you, you are much more likely
to care for your work and the work of others.

If you would like to see a short video about how this can actually be accomplished, click on the 13-second video offered below. We are trying to keep this simple and easy in regards of how it can help motivate and engage people:

Your efforts to dis-un-engage people can be very straightforward – you can act to get them more involved and you can help them remove perceived roadblocks.

‘For a more detailed, operational overview of these ideas, take a look at this more elaborate, explanatory video below. Note that you can do that by exposing YOUR workplace wagon and asking people for ideas about what things might work better and what ideas and resources might already exist. Again, the research on this suggests that 2/3 of the people in workplaces feel their boss is not interested in their thinking, a prime causal factor of Presenteeism:

You can find our simple toolkit for decreasing workplace Performance Presenteeism by clicking on the image below:

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

My goal is to provide simple but effective tools for impacting people and performance, and I am not sure how I can be any more simple and straightforward. It is up to YOU to be more effective,

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

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

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




How many people have seen Square Wheels illustrations?

Got a problem with motivation, engagement or productivity and looking for a simple and bombproof, proven tool? Take a minute and read this. And Think!

A team of us are working at building our online teaching resource wrapped around the idea of “stupidly simple facilitation” through the use of my Square Wheels® theme. The project has gone through a number of phases and Dan Stones in Melbourne has jumped in to help us drive all of this forward. Expect some fun stuff as we continue to rock and roll.

As we were chatting, Dan asked me the simple question,

“How many people have seen or used Square Wheels?”

That is a really good question, for which I have no clue. History shows I have been presenting the theme at conferences and workshops since 1993 when I started using the main cartoon, Square Wheels One, done in black ink by my friend Roy Sabean. A few presentations later and I had 4 and then 7 different illustrations. When I got to 13, people started asking me for copies to use and I started selling a set in a brown envelope as colored transparencies and black line art.

Then, they wanted me to explain how to use them. Really? “Just do what I do or do your own thing,” I said, to no avail. They wanted me to write that stuff down, which resulted in a book with photocopiable masters. That was back in 1993, with the first book published in 1994.

By 2004, we were in our fifth edition of The Big Book, a package containing descriptions for using more than 200 of the illustrations and for making transparencies. I am guessing that I still have a 3 or 4 foot stack of transparency versions of these materials in different places in the house!

The cover of the 2004 Big Book of Square Wheels

So, I did not have an answer for Dan. Since 1993, I have presented workshops in 38 countries and dozens of conferences, including more than 10 trips each to places like Singapore and Hong Kong. And we have sold a lot of a variety of books and electronic toolkits since we started all this more than 20 years ago. My website went up in 1998!

But I just saw a statistic that is relevant, one that I blogged on in a different place. There, I said:

For what is probably my 40th year of viewing this same statistical reality, here we go again: Leadership Management Australasia’s LMA survey summary, April 2016 shared this stunning commentary:

Communication and connection are the cornerstone of relationships – a quarter to a third of employees believe their managers seldom or never listen to them, understand their issues, seek their input and ideas, or help them to resolve the issues and challenges they face.

Okay. So one thing I am pretty sure of.So, here is my tongue-in-cheek but serious answer to Dan’s original question:

Two-thirds of the employees worldwide have NOT had their manager use the Square Wheels theme in a discussion about improving their workplace involvement and performance.

If they did, things would probably be different. Square Wheels really are everywhere and the round ones are already in the wagon. Communications would have HAD to improve!

There ARE some things you can choose to do now:

Square Wheels LEGO poster of engagement and motivation

We believe that managers should be motivators, and that engagement comes directly from active involvement and communications about issues and opportunities, about goals and expectations. It is about teamwork and shared perspectives as well as about ideas for improvement/ We think “this engagement and motivation stuff” is pretty straightforward and that people are intrinsically motivated when they feel a sense of ownership involvement.

A solution? Consider using our $25 Stupidly Simple Toolkit to generate a conversation in your workplace. Or wait until we get our online MOOC up and running where we can teach and support you in your improvement initiative. The choice is yours and we will guarantee it will work for you to help involve and engage your people, improving communications in many ways,

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.

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at


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




Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Video: Facilitating Improvement

LEGO. iPhone. Square Wheels. Engagement. Innovation. Involvement. Ownership.

See what comes to mind when you watch this 45-second video.

And we would love your comments about your thoughts as to what is happening and what happens, or the final outcome of this effort or the next steps the team might take (like looking for another round wheel)?

Chris Fisher, my son-in-law and technical guru, worked this up and gave it to me yesterday. I think it is great, but what you think is probably more important:


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

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

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

The Neuroscience behind Square Wheels: Behavioral Neurobiology

The Science of Brain and Behavior, explained through LEGO and using Square Wheels images for anchoring ideas and concepts

Neuroscience is “hot” right now in the leadership development and organization improvement literature and I got one of those “doctorate thingies” in behavioral neurobiology* from UNC-Chapel Hill a long time ago, before this “brain science stuff” became popular as a solution to business and training problems. The basic reality and an insight to some training people is that the brain is actually involved in learning and memory and a variety of other human behaviors. We have actually known this for a long time… 😀

Scott Simmerman quote on neuroscience (grin)

Wikipedia defines Behavioral Neuroscience, as the application of the principles of biology to the study of physiological, genetic, and developmental mechanisms of behavior in humans and other animals. The American Psychological Association publishes Behavioral Neuroscience®  for original research articles as well as reviews in the broad field of the neural bases of behavior. They are seeking empirical papers reporting novel results that provide insight into the mechanisms by which nervous systems produce and are affected by behavior.

Me, I don’t publish many empirical papers these days… I design team building games and use cartoons and I blog and try to publish readable, actionable thoughts on people and performance issues. But I DO study behavior and I do know about the brain and so I thought to elucidate a couple of understandable pedagogical conceptualistic  frameworks that underpin my use of stupidly simple illustrations and how they relate to things like communications, engagement, learning, facilitation, creativity, change and quality. My one word to describe the underlying key principle is “perspective.” Change perspective and you change a lot of things.

Generating change is a complicated thing to accomplish and there are some great books written about it, with “Immunity to Change” by Kegan and Lahey (2009) being a really solid work and a good read. I think that perspective is also key to Daniel Kahnemann’s book,”Thinking, Fast and Slow.” And I still like the elegant simplicity of Peters and Waterman’s “In Search of Excellence.” All these books (and so many others) work by generating a more objective view of behavior and the working environment around it, much like what behavioral counseling is designed to accomplish (“Please, tell me about that…”).

Let me use LEGO to show you how the brain works:

First, we have a whole big bunch of input from all of the senses, information that comes in all at once with little structure or organization. It looks a bit like this:

LEGO Neuroscience 1 - How the Brain Works using LEGO

If that looks too complicated and confusing, maybe flipping it upside down will make it clearer?

Scott Simmerman LEGO Model of NeuroscienceWhatever…

Anyway, what all that electrical activity you have heard about really does is to allow different areas of the brain to add some structure and pattern and “brain-shape” to the information, prioritizing some information and ignoring other input. It uses the brain’s learned preferences, along with some innate / cognitive biases, for putting things into categories and cubby holes and relating one thing to another, something we call categorization and association. Memory storage is based on link new information to old and creating some blocks.
(Note: biases and storage link to lots of explanatory info on Wikipedia, if you want to click through…)

Structuring looks like this, which is not so confusing:

A LEGO Model of how the brain sorts information

Once the brain has learned a few things, which actually happens pretty early in life and which continues for most people their entire lives  is that we begin to see some patterns in things. Alzheimer’s, dementia and some other cognitive disorders are generally disruptions in information storage and retrieval, where these processes no longer work smoothly. Over time, more and more gets linked and related based on personal experiences and memories. This is normal learning; over time, more and more things get linked and the flexibility of sorting information decreases as these biases filter out more and more. Their behavior becomes more rigid and some tunnel vision can affect their perceptions.

If people start using a new model or framework through which to filter information, we can change how things are viewed and sorted. If they learn the metaphor of Square Wheels, for example, new information sorting can take place. Square Wheels can be framed in a metaphor about things that work but that do not work smoothly. Now, you can see them scattered among the blocks below, representing some new categories for how information can be filtered:

Square Wheels LEGO model of brain functioning

For those of us that are focused on process improvement and doing things more better faster, we will also look to identify some best practices or other choices that we might then label Round Wheels. Generating peer-level discussions of issues and opportunities and resorting and re-categorizing can refresh the learning process and generate more active involvement and engagement.

When there is something that is thumping and bumping along as a Square Wheel, most of us will think about ways to improve it. Seeing the gap between the way things are and the way things could / should be is motivating for most people, who will consider ways to close that gap. Leon Festinger discussed this kind of approach in his theory of Cognitive Dissonance. That might then look like this as they begin to consider some Round Wheel possibilities:

Round Wheels already exist

Now, obviously, your brain is not built from LEGO, at least for most of us, and I am being relatively simplistic in my descriptive model of basic neurophysiology. There are underlying structures in the brain that handle information in different ways, adding speech and comprehension and motor skills and all other sorts of output processes to the input of information.

But the basics DO apply, in that people’s brains focus on repetition and patterns and things that mesh in with past learnings are more readily integrated into what we know — ideas that are radically different are paradigms that are simply ignored. (See Joel Barker’s work video on Paradigms (from my pals at Star Thrower), based on the research of Thomas Kuhn and published in the 1960s.

Okay. Enough already on The Brain. How about some ideas on people and performance and how all this applies to the workplace!

Okay. The use of my Square Wheels images is really well-grounded in a variety of principles of learning and thinking that you might find interesting. So, I will try to share some of the underpinnings as to why such a simple approach can be so powerful and effective. Think about it!

NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) is a tool that helped me understand more of the links of behavior to how the brain handles information. My training took me to the Master Practitioner level and I led ASTD’s NeuroLinguistic Network for a couple of years a long time ago. It shares some interesting tools, like the Information Sorting Styles approach to thinking patterns. NLP focuses heavily on using dissociation as a tool to generate perspective. I call it, “stepping back from the wagon” in my simple approach and frame the concept of collecting ideas and generating participative involvement like this:

Don't Just DO Something, Stand There

Only by stopping the action and looking at how things work can you possibly identify new or different ways of doing things. By dissociating from the current reality, it is possible to see new relationships and gain new perspectives. Plus, if this is done with a shared approach, with more than one person adding ideas and viewpoints, the impact can be more better faster and the ideas can have more breadth and depth.

Dissociation and perspective also serve to decrease the emotional aspects of managing and leading change. In counseling, being able to simply view the situation without all the heavy emotional hooks is a desired outcome. The same thing occurs in the workplace. Talking about the THINGS that do not work smoothly is much less emotional than addressing issues that might be taken as a personal attack and thus generate defensiveness and active resistance. This is another reason why using Square Wheels as a metaphor is so effective.

Most of you are familiar with inkblot tests, properly called Rorschach tests. The visual has no reality but people will project their ideas onto that image based on their own information processing. (Look, a squirrel!) A related psychological test is the Thematic Apperception Test, which has situational drawings and people are asked to tell a story based on what they see happening. Both of these tools push people to put personal viewpoints and frameworks onto the images, which have no “internal construct” of their own. They are not pictures, but images that allow for differing perceptions and interpretations.

We do the same thing. Heck, this LEGO block is not even a wheel; it is actually a window! But it works for us as an image to use on the wagon, and if we calONE Yellow Square Wheel SWs LEGO 70l it a wheel, it must wheely be a wheel, right? (And I remember the time when I presented the illustrations to a software development group, who identified the Square Wheel as the Windows platform they were programming on! That was a hoot, as well as a surprise…)

Perception is a key to understanding. And people benefit by having a language on to which they can hang ideas. If the word for it does not exist, it is really hard to categorize it. That is another reason why Square Wheels work in the workplace, since they give everyone a common anchor point against which to pull and push around ideas for improvement. By its very nature, it could and should be improved and something that gets labeled a Square Wheel sets itself up for improvement.

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” is a relevant quote from Henri Bergson. Having an image against which to overlay systems and processes allows for a better understanding of the issues around performance improvement.

There are two other aspects to perception that link to the theme of motivation. One is that having some vision, preferably shared with others is important. Knowing where you are going is beneficial. The second is ownership, in that having a sense of active involvement and engagement is important. I can illustrate with another of the Square Wheels images along with one of my most favorite organizational development quotes.

The View at the back of the Square Wheels wagon

The View at the back of the wagon is not motivating



Metaphors such as the Square Wheels / Round Wheels dichotomy are easily remembered and incorporated into workgroup language. The simple basic concept of a Square Wheel, something that works but that does not work smoothly, combined with the perception that the Round Wheels already exist in the wagon sets up a motivation for continuous continuous improvement **

Stepping back from the wagon allows a sense of decreased emotion while expanding perceptions, and often “considered alternative choices.” The latter are critical in order to conceptualize a different future. If you cannot see alternatives, you cannot choose from them. Simple.

Daniel Kahneman Illustrated Quote with Square Wheels and LEGO


Square Wheels LEGO image ALl of us know more

My goal was to present our simple concept of organizational involvement and transformation, the Square Wheels theme, which is general and flexible and adaptable to a wide variety of personal and organizational development situations. People have a generally favorable memory of LEGO and play, and the links to the issues of combining different perspectives on issues and opportunities lend itself to improved communications.

I will switch to this metaphor to close this out:

Caterpillars can fly lighten up round

I think we can all improve all things if we just take the time to lighten up and look at things from a different perspective,


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’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

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

* back before we became enlightened, we called it “physiological psychology.” Heck, the whole department is now called, “The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience” even though the website is still so go figure… I might as well try to move into the mainstream of popularity.

** Idea from the Department of Redundancy Department and the concept that the Round Wheels of Today will, invariably, become the Square Wheels of Tomorrow. Failure to continuously improve is a design for disaster. Think of land-line telephones and MySpace.


A LEGAL Approach to improving Engagement

I was reading a magazine focused on workplaces and came across an article discussing union prevention, something that has been going on for a long long time in the history of business. The basic thrust of the article, written by a lawyer at a well-known labor-law firm, was focused on things an organization could do to prevent people from choosing to organize, with the philosophy that organizing would be bad for the company and bad for the community.

(It should be noted that workers organize for a small set of specific reasons generally related to how they perceive themselves to be treated, and prevention of organizing is only one of many approaches to deal with problems.)

Management’s focus should be on preventing and addressing problems, not preventing organizing, in my view. The goal should be on decreasing employee turnover and improving innovation and personal productivity. Improving teamwork and motivation have a wide variety of positive impacts. But prevention of unionization is not directly going to positively impact organizational results. Let’s face it, the morale and involvement in most workplaces can look and feel more like this:

bummed out guys

I omit the name of the magazine, simply because the framework I take in reaction to the content is not very positive. For the past 40 years, I have focused on improving performance through people, and I will note that my father ran a small trucking company for 50 years that was partly staffed with Teamsters Union people – guys that I got to know pretty well because I worked with them unloading freight and simply around the platform. My dad always depended on the union to help him with the difficult people and performance issues; before that, he was NJ State Trooper Badge 873. This is not about the unions. It is about leading people.

In a LinkedIn Pulse blog I wrote recently, the clear opportunity for improvement was “Leadership.” In a survey of National Forest Service Law Enforcement, for example, direct questions about perceptions of leadership generated these kinds of responses:

  • Three out of four workers (74%) doubt the professionalism of top leadership while a clear majority (60%) do NOT think leadership to be “generally honest and trustworthy”; and
  • 78% rated their Director as ineffective with fewer than one in ten (9%) seeing the top leader as “effective.”

This article and its set of recommended business practices, produced by a recognized labor law legal expert, recommended updating workplace policies to minimize access to the location by “outsiders “ and that managers be educated to be more aware of warning signs. Executives needed to work with legal counsel to build quick-response plans to signs of employee unrest and to actively create union avoidance strategies through regular training and “management development.”

Only the fifth bullet in this article talks about increasing employee involvement and engagement and improving workplace practices to improve motivation. The suggested approach is one of conducting reviews and surveys to see if employees feel they are treated fairly and fairly compensated and that they clearly understand company policies and expectations. These days, companies spend many millions of dollars on such employee surveys, with 97% of companies saying that listening to issues and ideas is important — but where less than half the workers feel that their thoughts matter to their managers.

With all the money being spent on surveys that generate so little action, wouldn’t a focus on generating more involvement and engagement be a more cost effective way to maintain good workplace conditions, practices that would actively prevent unionization? People are not going to organize unless they feel that other approaches will not work, and those feelings are generally based on experiences.

Yeah, improving engagement and leadership practices would not generate revenues for law firms like the author’s, but it does not seem likely that spending all that money on surveys and “prevention” will be successful if the workers really are dissatisfied with working conditions and the perception of fairness. Right?

That article concludes with a paragraph about officers and managers being trained at least once a year in the legal aspects of union campaigns, even if there is no union activity, and about how to educate employees about the negative aspects and costs of a union, to be ready to mount counter-campaigns to any unionization ones.

Seriously? Why not just treat the employees well, respect their opinions ideas, and improve productivity and performance rather than spending time and money on activities that really do not impact performance improvement in any way.

SWs LEGO Poster - On Listening

We sell simple, inexpensive toolkits to improve peoples’ performance, generate alignment to shared goals, and improve teamwork. You can see user survey results for our Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building exercise here, and you can find a $25 LEGO-based Square Wheels facilitation toolkit here.

If we can help you support the improvement of your people’s workplace performance, connect with me,

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.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

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



Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine: The BEST Teambuilding Exercise?

I asked my customers for their feedback and they shared it. These are people who have purchased my teambuilding exercise and have used it, some for dozens of years. What they told me in the survey was Most Excellent, confirming of my 20+ years of developing this simulation for global use by consultants and trainers.

You can download a full summary of results by clicking on the link below:
Dutchman Survey Results Summary

Our users are a highly experienced group, with 70% using 6 or more different team building exercises in their organizational development work. Most (89%) have run the exercise multiple times and 36% have run it more than ten times. Half reported that their very first delivery was “wonderfully successful” while nearly everyone else reported success.

We asked a really tough T/F question:

LDGM is the best exercise I know of to work with senior managers on issues of strategy, alignment, and organizational collaboration.” Fully half (53%) said this was TRUE! (Only 9 people said this was False, which given the highly experienced and global nature of our users, is pretty fantastic. We are NOT the most expensive exercise out there, just apparently the best value!.)And comments were uniformly supportive of our design, packaging and pricing.

Another tough question was this one: 30 people (55%) responded that Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is “the best overall team building exercise I have used.”

Fully 100% would recommend the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine game to others for purchase and use, with 63% saying they would recommend it to ANY trainer or consultant.

As to value, two-thirds of users (64%) strongly agreed that the purchased of the exercise represented an excellent value to their organizations and 11 merely agreed, with 5 people sharing a neutral response.

The exercise was designed to be useful for organizational development, alignment, leadership and teambuilding. It was designed for impact.

  • Fully 7 in 10 agreed or strongly agreed that the simulation was effective in generating observable, “desired changes in behavior after the session ended, back on the job.” One person disagreed.
  • 96% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that, “the exercise linked well to our issues of workplace collaboration and performance management” with two people being neutral.
  • As to, “representing the Best Value for a teambuilding exercise in the global marketplace,” 21 people strongly agreed and 16 others agreed of 52 registered responses, or 71% of our users.

Again, we framed that question up as a real test of perceived value and even the neutral responses were supportive! It seems we are doing pretty well out there, and no one would actually name an exercise they thought was better than ours.

We asked some tough questions and we got some great answers.

If you are looking for a real team building exercise, one that does the building a lot more than it focuses on “bonding” like so many other exercises in the marketplace, check out our simulation. It is powerful and yet inexpensive. After all, fully three quarters of our users felt it represented a Best Value in the global marketplace of tools for organizational improvement and communications.

a team building simulation exercose

For the FUN of It!

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Note: we would love to engage in a discussion about team building simulations, costs, and all that so please feel free to comment.


The specific wording of the questions on value appeared as follows:

10 – The purchase or rental of the exercise represented an excellent value to my organization.

11 – I saw desired changes in behavior after the session ended, back on the job.

12 – The exercise linked well to our issues of workplace collaboration and performance management.

13 – As far as I am aware, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine represents the best value for a teambuilding exercise in the global marketplace for business simulations and designed exercises.

14 – If I moved to another company, I would consider purchasing the exercise if they had the need for improving teamwork, communications, engagement or leadership.

“Spring Forward Monday” For Workplace Improvement

Monday’s, most typically, are the least favorite day of the work week but the Monday following the Daylight Saving’s “spring forward” time change, arguably, should be considered the worst of Mondays being that people find it even more challenging to face this workday since they are still adjusting to having lost an hour from their lives the day before. According to numerous studies, the attitudes and happenings around this lost hour cause this Monday to be particularly low in workplace productivity.

What might you be doing to counteract the loss of productivity that will most likely occur in your workplace on Monday, March 14, 2016?

Square Wheels Spring Forward Monday with feet and plane 1

At Performance Management Company, we’re always looking for opportunities that can bring about employee engagement and workplace improvement for better organizational success. Realizing that Monday, March 14th is that special kind of day that needs a good reason for getting up and going to work, we’ve got a concept and solution for turning it into a rewarding workplace happening day and we’re calling it,

Spring Forward Monday!

What is the Spring Forward Monday Concept?

Managers and leaders can gather their employees together and seize Monday, March 14, 2016, as day for workplace improvement by inviting ideas, innovation and involvement for improving workplace practices. By doing so, people can get away from their desks and become energized by taking part in a process that can make a positive difference for everyone.

How Can You Do This?

It’s simple. Facilitate a session that will stimulate and engage employees in sharing their perspectives and ideas for making a better workplace. Doing so will give them a feeling of empowerment and an opportunity to create improvements and increased workplace happiness.

If you’d like a way to successfully approach this, we designed The Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit for just this type of occasion with everything needed to create an interactive and engaging session with serious outcomes. The gist of this Toolkit is the Square Wheels One illustration that elegantly generates thinking, creativity and humor as people react to it and its lead-in statement, This is how most organizations really work.”

Here’s a quick, illustrated video showcasing 
how facilitating
Spring Forward Monday 
in your workplace will cause people to 
“Wake up and Energize for Improvements.” 

You can purchase this Toolkit here for only $24.95, for a one-time cost with unlimited use with any number of people.

This Toolkit provides both the original black and white line-art Square Wheels One illustration and the new Lego image of Square Wheels One
giving you the choice of using either version.
Square Wheels One - copyright 1993, Performance Management CompanySquare Wheels image using LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Here’s what’s included in Toolkit:
  • The Square Wheels One illustration (in both the original line-art and its Lego image)
  • A Leader’s Guide for facilitating the session
  • Participant Worksheets/Handouts
  • A collection of Square Wheels Lego Posters that can be hung in the workplace as anchors to the insights gained.

All yours for only $24.95!

Whether you choose to use this Toolkit or prefer to consider another way to approach the Spring Forward Monday concept, it surely makes sense to make a difference in everyone’s present and future workdays through involving them and energizing them in the journey forward.

Make Monday, March 14, 2016 your
Spring Forward Monday!

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games Scott small picand 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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Improving Engagement and Workplace Efficiency to Motivate Performance

In today’s workplace, we are asking for more better faster results from our people yet often not doing what we might to optimize engagement — we tend to be doing things TO people rather than WITH them, an approach that often generates resistance. Pushing generates push-back. And, it is common that when we are asking for changes, we are often adding more tasks and responsibilities to people who already have plenty of responsibilities and tasks. So, doesn’t it make sense that we look for things we can choose to eliminate and do it in a way that motivates?

Who out there among us does not have too many meetings or too much “paperwork?” And you can find lots of examples online of ways to decrease meeting time and make them more effective.

Logically, we can improve morale and motivation by doing a bit of best practice management and workplace simplification along with improving engagement. It is often simply a matter of keeping things in balance.

Balance Easy Peasy poem

From workshops and performance improvement programs, we all know that there are some good ideas in your workplace about how to make lemonade out of lemons. Top performers know how we can improve effectiveness and impact and improve organizational effectiveness since they are already doing things differently. It is not about inventing new solutions but about understanding the issues and the opportunities.

Here are a couple of ideas from my experiences on organizational improvement that you might adapt to your own purposes. Let me start with an example from my own experience; while the details would be different today, the overall situation should be familiar to a lot of us.

1 – Accountability and Priorities

Working in an organization as the top operations guy with a very supportive new president, we focused on improving organizational results by focusing on people and performance. We had 126 retail stores with all sorts of problems and a horrible overall culture under the deceased former owner — one indicator was that our store manager turnover was more than 250%! We had inventory problems, service quality issues, bad morale, high “inventory loss” problems, etc.

In talking with my store managers, it was clear that they felt overburdened with things. They received WAY too many forms and “immediate priorities” from the corporate staff. They were focused on paperwork a lot more than actual store results. They did not even know if their stores were profitable (and many of them were not, for a variety of reasons.

As Senior VP Operations, my first priority was to improve operational effectiveness and I saw our very young group of 13 District Managers as our leverage point — the challenge was to make them effective. The first thing was to change their perceived role as forensic accountants into performance facilitators and coaches.

Lou started with a clandestine investigation — he started collecting every single bit of information sent from the departments to the stores, filing it by Department and by Day. Two binders quickly filled up and we saw that there were inches of paper going to stores every week, each having something or other to do with operations. But if everything is important, than nothing is important.

This data collection got us a strong grip on the amount of paperwork sent each day to our stores and the nature of corporate demands being made of our store managers for reports, etc. Few people really understood how many things a manager had to read and do.

The resulting “All Department Head Meeting” that Lou directed was “most interesting.” This was the first time that anyone saw how much stuff we actually sent out to managers — it was literally inches every week. Some was simply “policy information to read” from personnel or marketing. Some was requesting information of one kind or another, and always under “need it now” deadlines. Some were sent to all stores asking that only some stores respond. Anyone at corporate could type something up and send it to EVERY store.

Our product group might send out a half-inch of paper a day — some was industry news and what’s hot kind of stuff. It was eye-opening how many of these missives were three or four pages long.

New Policy: One Page Memos, tightly written:

Things sent out needed specific reasons for being sent and people not needing information were not to get lazily copied. Random document reviews kept the focus and prevented slippage. If the memo needed more than one page, it required special senior management approval to send (there were few of those, as a result!).

The impact was amazing and virtually overnight. Stores were being unburdened by “things to do and stuff to read stuff” and managers could now find time to actually look at what was happening, manage store inventories, train new hires on best practices, and actually focus on customers! Manager morale went up immediately!

Note: This obviously occurred BEFORE today’s email systems were established and, in today’s world, the onslaught of being overly burdened with too much email happens all of the time. Therefore, whether it was paperwork needing attended then or email needing to be read and responded to today, it can all be better managed and the volume turned down.

Suggestion: Do some MBWA and have some simple and direct conversations with your staff about what kinds of things distract them from accomplishing their jobs, their MAIN jobs. Minimize distractions and allow focus on primary issues and opportunities. Clarify the vision and generate alignment.

2 – Responsibility

Team building with the top management group of a manufacturing operation in Texas, we asked Department Head staff what kinds of things prevented them from doing their jobs most effectively. A bunch of things were discussed, with some Best Practice solutions offered by their associates. Many of them were unintentional inter-departmental kinds of collaboration issues that one normally sees.

The most interesting were the external influences.

A year before, their operation had been acquired in a merger and there were new “executives back in Cleveland” who were asking for things. A Department Head might get a memo asking them to complete some data analysis within three days, for example, some unexpected thing that required a scramble to get done and distract that manager from the job at hand.

With the Plant Manager listening, the complaints about this kind of thing were from most of his staff. So, he made a pretty surprising policy decision. From that point on, any request from Corporate that was not an obvious priority or that was not aligned with the plant’s goal of Producing Product was secondary to plant operations and could be ignored or rejected.

If a corporate person justified the importance of the request and gave a reasonable deadline that did not interfere, fine well and good. But any “stupid request” should be forwarded to the Plant Manager and tabled. After all, the goal was production and not production of paperwork! The operation was accountable for results, not reports! The Plant Manager said that he would handle the politics and that Corporate would need to develop relationships with the Department Heads to build some teamwork to get some of their requests handled.

A year later, I checked back and this change actually worked extremely well, helping to realign priorities. Requests for information could get answered, but only if there was a reasonable timeline and some rationale for it. If they were just “making some report” and the information would interfere with production, they needed to do more than send some letter. The Plant Manager, after all, was responsible for generating operating profitability and not “reports for some clerk,” as he put it!

Suggestion: Look closely at what Staff requests or requires from Operations and be sure that there is an alignment to the Mission and Goals for all of that. Staff needs to support Operations and not vice versa.

Square Wheels Toolkits are a simple and effective way to generate discussions on what things are not working smoothly and what ideas exist that could make improvements in the journey forward. Check out our performance improvement support products on the website and sign up to receive the blog posts at the right.

Most of all, have some FUN out there!

Scott small picDr. 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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

Collaboration – Abstracts of Blog Posts of Scott Simmerman

Collaboration offers big benefits to organizations. It directly impacts motivation and engagement and innovation. Yet teams will often not collaborate, and often simply because they choose not to. The reality (and most people’s experience) shows there is more competition than collaboration in most organizations, which is a double edge sword.

What I wanted to do herein is share some of my thinking about these issues, to share a resource to stimulate your choices about these issues. My tools address these opportunities for improvement pretty elegantly.

Why do teams compete? Collaboration offers more positive benefits?

People continually make choices, selecting responses from their existing set of “behavioral alternatives” and often simply choosing to do what they have done before. The book, Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman does an excellent job of sharing the research on decision making and thinking and I expand on his thoughts in this blog.

This post focuses on some common reasons why teams compete and frames up some of the key learning points derived from session debriefings of our teambuilding simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We find that a better understanding about their choice and choices, generated from their own behavior, generates powerful impetus to make changes in how things work.

Sabotage, Defense, Engagement and Workplace Collaboration

Disengagement is but one of the stages of disgruntled employee attitudes, and active disengagement can often generate actual workplace sabotage. This can manifest in a variety of ways, from encouraging other people to mis-align with corporate values to actual adversarial behavior. It can generate work slowdowns, increase sick days or even sick-outs, theft, poor customer service and other negatives. Some general frameworks for solving these issues are discussed.

Interdepartmental Collaboration’s Vital Link to Organizational Profitability

This overviews and connects to an article I published in HR Management Magazine that frames up issues of interdepartmental collaboration and the impacts on organizations. You can download and distribute the article, if that is of interest.

Collaboration and Teamwork and dealing with Mud

I use the metaphor of mud in both my Square Wheels toolkits as well as my Lost Dutchman team building game. Mud is the glop that most workers and most managers need to get a grip on, since it generally appears everywhere and it tends to simply bog you down and make even simple things more difficult. Some managers are better “mud managers” than others simply because they choose to do things differently. These best practices can be shared.

On Collaboration and Decision-Making

This focuses on the general idea of US and THEM, and that the reality is that they are us! It shares some simple thoughts on alignment and the benefits of having a diversity of opinion on things. The reality is that ALL of us know more than ANY of us and that collaboration greatly benefits the quality of our decision making. Involvement also generates ownership, which is important to implementation.

For the FUN of It!

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

Holiday Teambuilding Meeting Thoughts and Ideas

Rethinking Your Company’s Holiday Celebration Event – Thoughts and Ideas for Maximizing Impact

As the holiday season is fast approaching. many organizations are into their planning for their holiday parties and meetings — sometimes with the hope of improving communications and collaboration and maybe having a bit of fun at company expense. And why not, since people do need to come together to improve working relationships and since the daily workplace these days offers so few “water cooler conversations” and a lot more of the less personal “emails across the cubicle” kinds of connecting.

Two relationship things also stand out insofar as impacts on business results:

  • According to Towers Watson, highly-engaged companies have 44% higher operating margins. This probably comes as no surprise, since people who feel connect act more connected. We all know engagement is good for the bottom line.
  • Sirota’s ongoing research continues to positively confirm that the biggest single influence on employee attitudes is the behavior of their immediate manager. Improving that relationship is critical to build alignment and rapport.

So, doing something to build relationships is important in addition to fun. And if you have not held a holiday event for economic reasons, maybe this is a good time to consider doing something that has business improvement impacts along with other positive impacts on people and performance. For some workers and managers, such a business training event will be something new and for others, a reminder of how things could be if we all focused on those shared goals and desired outcomes. Show them that you are committed to improvement by hosting a performance improvement event.

The big question for executives is this: How can you focus on impacting engagement, collaboration and teamwork and improving communications in a cost-effective and impactful way, one that makes business sense?

These will not happen simply because people share food at a pot luck. They come in, get food, eat, and then often walk away.You can expect things to actually look something like this:

Results don't chahge with dinners

And, people will also tend to hang with their friends instead of make better connections with other people elsewhere in the organization. Can I hear you say, “boring?” Or at least un-impactful…

One key is to “play with performance” and generate some common thoughts and feelings about the workplace and possibilities for improvement.

There are any number of ways organizations approach this opportunity to bring employees together. Money is spent entertaining people most often through food and social festivities that not everyone approaches with a positive attitude. Be it a gathering around a sporting event or other entertaining activity, a casually catered party, an employee pot-luck feast or even a more formal after-work affair, the end result is that the typical get-together so often flows into the same people who normally talk with each other generally grouping together causing little real inter-organizational interaction or kinds of discussions. And, you can pretty much guarantee that not much real impact will occur insofar as changes in behavior or improvements in any kind of results.

As a Christmas gift, why not do an effective team development exercise, one designed to identify areas where people feel the organization is competitive and not collaborative and one designed to produce alternative choices and increased engagement in your shared mission and goals? Invest in a fun learning event designed for workplace improvement. Your people will sincerely appreciate having the chance to talk about issues and opportunities and implement changes in how things get done.

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

Our Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise is ideal as an overall energizer that not only allows people time to enjoy some fun and camaraderie but elegantly sets up a superb learning event. The play of the game culminates with a powerful debriefing, linking game behavior to workplace issues and can focus on outcomes specific to your own organization.

If cost is an issue, you can relax knowing that Dutchman is one of the best values out there as far as cost per participant. You have options available that include either purchasing the game (at a one-time cost) or renting the game. The decision is yours to make and you also receive a satisfaction guarantee or your money back.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a full-blown, extensively supported team building exercise / simulation, one that generates a great deal of fun and collaboration but that also serves as a framework to discuss business improvement ideas. It is easy to learn how to deliver, with a couple of hours of preparation time required and any amount of support available from me, the program designer and developer. You can schedule this event the same day as your office party, using it as a ramp-up energizing activity.

Dutchman is ideal as part of your company’s holiday celebration because it:

  • Brings employees together in a way that strengthens camaraderie, provides a fun and unique experience, and leaves people feeling optimistic about their workplace.
  • Gives something back to the organization through Dutchman’s highly acclaimed Debriefing discussions and focus on collaboration and improving organizational performance.
  • Is inexpensive! Simply rent the game and receive all the instructions, materials and support needed for any number of people. Check here to find out the cost of renting for your group size. Purchasing Dutchman is also an option.
  • Creates a fun Southwestern theme that can also be applied to your festivities through both food and decor. For instance, a barbecue luncheon or Southwestern dinner menu with decorations to match.

You’ll have the success of a globally-appreciated exercise with your
satisfaction guaranteed!

And there are no issues with timeliness, as in, “Can we do the game this year?” It takes a couple of hours of preparation time, even for a large group. All you need is a venue that will allow for tables of 5 to 6 people each and a projection screen. We can send the complete, packaged exercise (including accessories) and we can coach you in design and delivery, including your focus on achieving your specific desired impacts and outcomes.

If you have questions about how this might work, please give me a call and I would love to understand your issues and desired outcomes and talk about whether the exercise would be a good fit. We get rave reviews from users and have been selling and supporting this program for more than 20 years in all kinds of organizations, worldwide.

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a Certified Professional Facilitator (IAF) and a Certified Professional Trainer (IAPPD) and he has been supporting the exercise since it was developed back in 1993. Rest assured that you can do this!


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