Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: people and performance (Page 2 of 3)

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




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



“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.

A Short Post on Human Resources and Livable Wages

My focus for the past 40 years has been on people and performance, often with productivity and quality as primary themes. So, I was interested to see a current situation that somewhat captures a variety of issues into one scenario. Maybe we can learn something about this as we move forward. I hope so…

The basic question might be framed as:

Should we be forcing sick people to work?

This happens all the time, but this might be the capstone for making changes in how the food industry works, with implications for every employer.

Chipotle Stock Prices

Chipotle has seen its stock dive from $750 a share to around 410 over the past three months, mostly because of an outbreak of illnesses associated with its restaurants but somewhat because how the situation was handled by the management team. Sure, food can be contaminated but the CDC found that sick workers caused the outbreaks in Simi Valley CA sickening 234 people and the outbreak in Boston that sickened 151. (Resource    Resource)  – This was found to be a norovirus, one that can come from people who do not wash their hands or who are sick but who come into work — and it is from these sick people that the virus spread to their customers, not from the sources of their food.

A couple of other outbreaks had “unknown causes,” while only the one  in Minnesota could be tied to food contamination: tomatoes and salmonella.

When you pay people survival wages that force them to have to work their hours to pay their bills (and you do not offer paid sick days), you can pretty much expect sick people to show up for work regardless of how they feel. Their illnesses can make their c0-workers sick but they can even sicken your customers. Generally, you will not see the impacts directly, but they can show up in the food industry if the illness is significant and severe.

Sales at Chipotle have dropped 30% in December and the brand’s “premium food” cache may be permanently damaged. Their “food with integrity” reputation has been visibly harmed and their premium prices will take a hit, decreasing their profit margins. Allowing sick people to work has been a huge and costly mistake for them.

A better policy around their human resource management might have been a better decision than this present and truly awful situation where the senior officers of the company are also facing shareholder lawsuits for their actions. That is not to mention that they made hundreds of people sick, costing them and their employers money.

And the ironies can be amazing. CVS Health — their Employer Summary on their website says: “When you join CVS Health, you join a company that cares about your financial and physical health. We provide a comprehensive, market-competitive compensation and benefits package that suits a variety of personal needs and goals.” – but they apparently do not offer sick days to their mostly part-time employee work base, not an uncommon behavior in the industry.

And it is the retail healthcare industry generally tries to avoid providing health care to its people by holding employment hours below 30 for the vast majority of its workers.

It is a complicated world, but I remain convinced that doing more for your worker team has positive short-term and long-term impacts on your business. It will be interesting to see the long-term impacts of the push to raise the minimum wage to $15 or more.

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.


Facilitation and Motivation – Ideas for workplace improvement

“Fear is the Mindkiller,” was repeated incessantly in the Dune books of Frank Herbert. Fear is numbing and generally not useful. Overall, the “Fear of public speaking,” remains America’s biggest phobia – 25% say they fear speaking in front of a group.

Clowns are feared (8% feared) and are officially scarier than ghosts (7%), but zombies are scarier than both (9%). Funny, eh? And research says that Democrats are nearly twice as likely as Republicans to have a fear of clowns, which might explain some of the interesting political events we find today. (Chapman University survey)

Watching workers working for nearly 50 years and trying to get a grip on the issues of engagement and motivation lead me to this conclusion:

Fear, the mindkiller

is a real fear in workplaces and for many managers — probably impacts people and performance more than most senior managers (who have to be accomplished presenters) more than one thinks. A lack of general confidence with facilitation skills can decrease leadership effectiveness, absolutely.

What we often do is promote that good worker into a Supervisor, because of their technical knowledge and their tendency to get things done. But are these new leader / managers actually good at involving and engaging their people for continued workplace improvement? Or are they just trying to keep things moving forward and more pressured to do things themselves? Do we actually give them training and development support to impact their leadership behavior?

Let’s also add in some additional leadership fears such as fear of loss of control and fear of not having the best ideas and all that other “am I worthy of this” personal competency thoughts and we can readily generate a list of reasons why so many managers simply find it hard to:

Ask for Ideas

for ideas.

It really is understandable. There are a lot of common fears about leading and involving and engaging and asking might indicate that you do not know…

At the same time, it is my consistent discovery that so many workplaces tend to look something like this:

Square Wheels Facilitation

The people are working hard, pushing and pulling their wagons, but it is the same thing, day after day and week after week. No wonder that Sirota Research found that 85% of new hires say that their morale declined significantly after spending 6 months in their job and that employee engagement remains so poor (Gallup, Mercer, and others).

We are apparently not doing a lot of asking
and probably doing a lot more telling!

My guess is that the reality of how organizations are working is not so much like that shown in the above illustration but seemingly more like what we share in the one below:

Square Wheels for improving facilitation

So, what is really so hard about facilitating a group discussion? Not a whole lot, actually, speaking as someone who was a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) by the International Association of Facilitators and who has been leading organizational improvement workshops teaching simple facilitation ideas since 1978.

Really, it is really simple, really. Seriously, it is really really simple:

  • Share an illustration with them that has printed on it, “How might this illustration represent how organizations really work?” And let them think about it and then discuss it in small groups.
  • Ask them to share their ideas and let them think, share and work.
  • Ask them to share how some of those same ideas might represent how things work in their work initiatives.
  • Ask them what we might try to do differently and if anyone is already doing something differently than everyone else.
  • Ask them if they could try to implement a change in how they do things or to recommend something that you might change to make things work better.

That, in a nutshell, is motivational engagement facilitation.

You can read lots more about facilitation, engagement and intrinsic motivation in my blog posts, since I often talk about these issues and opportunities as being straightforward. You can also read about Russian Poets and nutshells and Hamlet, if you want, since all this stuff does connect to motivating people and improving how things work. And, you can find a simple, free guide to facilitation by clicking below:

Elegant SolutionsFacilitating Engagement – an overview

The simple reality is that the Round Wheels already exist in wagons everywhere, but our people are seemingly too busy to stop and step back and identify issues and opportunities that are really visible and often relatively easy to fix. You can make that happen!

So here is some really simple advice for supervisors and facilitators:

Things I can do to improveSauare Wheels poster on Motivation

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
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Best Practices – Performance Shortcuts that need sharing

My thinking for the past 30 years has been about people and performance, about innovation and peer support for change and all that stuff.

In LinkedIn this afternoon, Ingrid Kelada shared an image from Arvin Jayanake that caught my eye since it illustrated so much about how things really work in so many organizations. (I do not know the source for this, even after a search, so please advise if you know the ownership.)


If you have spent any time on a college campus, you have seen this reality.

The best way to build drainage for a new road is to build the road and then watch how it floods… THEN, build the drainage. A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world, especially when you are trying to generate optimal performance and “control behavior.” Do what works best; design from that perspective.

It is the same thing in organizations. The best way to operate is the best way to operate!

In reality, lots of organizations REALLY operate like the illustration above, with the exemplary performers using the shortcuts and doing things differently (to generate the exemplary results) and the average performers using the walkways like they were trained. We see these Best Practice paths everywhere, but a typical HR or management response to this situation is to build the wall across the shortcut!

My approach says that we simply need to step back from the wagon and look at how things are really working, finding those square pathways that can be improved in some way so that more people can operate more effectively. It looks like this when the top performers can get the attention of leadership:

Square Wheels and teambuilding games by Scott Simmerman

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There! Those best practice ideas already exist and we simply need to take the time to share some of them with the people who are pushing the wagons forward.

POEMS 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

We just released our new toolkit for improving organizational communications. Check it out:

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman



Poems and Haiku on People and Performance – Square Wheels themes

I was trying out some new image capture software and got into taking some screenshots of some powerpoint slides that I then thought to change and then to redo some poems and haiku about people and performance. I got a goodly number of these done, which I will share on my poems about the workplace blog. You can go there by clicking on the poem image below:

a Square Wheels poem by Scott Simmerman

The poems blog is full of posters, quotes, one-liners and some other quick stuff that I have tried to capture over the past 2 years. It is my place for having a bit of fun. Here is a haiku poem that I will upload there tomorrow:

A square wheels haiku poem by Scott Simmerman

and here is one more poem:

A square wheels poem on workplace reality by Scott Simmerman

Hope you like these. I have a good time playing with these kinds of things, and if you want me to illustrate any writings of yours with my Square Wheels LEGO images, let me know,

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



Teamwork’s the way to get more good things done,
Those difficult changes that ain’t any fun.
It’s hard work to mesh with those not like you,
But stopping and talking is always the glue.

Passion for change? Yes?
Get the job done fast and cheap.
Labor is intense.

The Boss may just be unaware.
Of the Square Wheels always thumpy.
The wagon can roll with much less care,
If communications not so lumpy.


National Employee UN-Appreciation DAY needed

This will be a short post and one focused on something I see as a pretty important issue.

Today was apparently a National Day for employee appreciation here in the US, and maybe elswewhere. To some, that might sound like a really good idea.  But I look at a large body of data that basically supports the idea that a lot of workplaces are not all that great for engagement and motivation. 

So, the idea is that it is a good thing that we should spend ONE day and appreciate workers? One day of 220? 

poster of making every day a day of appreciating employees

In my way of thinking, maybe we need to spend ONE day when we do NOT appreciate employees, just to do something different. Every other day, we should go out of our way to recognize those people who choose to do more than that required of them, to those people who show inititive and develop ideas for improvement.

Ya think?

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




The Workplace and the Work – Thoughts on the 8-hour day

I’ve posted up a number of things about the workplace over the years, and also about a lot of the current-day issues of over-connectedness and the average 72-hour workweek of many managers.

This is reflected in this article from last year – Working while Not Working – The Problem of Overconnectedness – which shared a bunch of statistics and issues and data.

I came across another interesting site that I thought to share, one that focused on general thinking about The Workweek and that shared some interesting thoughts on our assumptions.

Why do we have 8 hour work days in the first place?

How do we spend out time? This image is from the article by Leo Widrich:

image of hours in a day

Widrich writes with the idea that workers or managers somehow have a choice about their workweek. Maybe that is true, but there is a LOT of data that suggests that the average worker is a LOT more connected and involved than that simple 8 or 9-hour workday.

Many of us own our own businesses, and my week is pretty much described as, “always.” I will respond to email on Saturday night at midnight and work 6 hours on a Sunday before turning on the TV and watching a movie while I write this blog. How can one even calculate how many hours a week I am connected in some manner to the business?

I DO like a lot of his recommendations, which I adaptively reproduce below. Read his original article for a lot more ideas:

The top 4 tips for improving your work day

I’ve started to make 4 distinct changes to implement the above research better. Here is what worked the best:

  • Manually increase the relevance of a task: Now, a lot of us still might struggle to find the focus, especially if no one set a deadline to it. Overriding your attention system, and adding your own deadline together with a reward has shown some of the most significant improvements for task completion. 
  • Split your day into 90 min window. Instead of looking at a 8, 6 or 10 hour work day, split it down and say you’ve got 4, 5 or however many 90 minute windows. That way you will be able to have 4 tasks that you can get done every day much more easily.
  • Plan your rest so you actually rest: “The fittest person is not the one who runs the fastest, but the one who has optimized their rest time.” Says Tony Schwartz. A lot of the time, we are so busy planning our work day, that we forget about “how” to rest. Plan beforehand what you will do your rest. Here are some ideas: Nap, read, meditate, get a snack.
  •  Zero notifications: One of the best ideas I’ve ever had was to follow Joel’s advice on Zero Notifications.  Having absolutely no counter on my phone or computer changing from 0 to 1 and always breaking my focus has been a huge help. If you haven’t tried this yet, try to turn off every digital element that could become an alert.

The comments to his post are also very interesting. People have a lot of different perspectives on things.

My guess is that a lot of us have already adapted his as well as our own ideas toward managing our work. I’ve been in my business 31+ years and guess that I keep things at least somewhat in balance. I was going to the gym 5 or 6 hours a week but that ended because I blogged about Planet Fitness and some issues of trust, respect and engagement related to their leadership that were pretty obviously poor in the impacts on their workers. Those workers have some obvious issues of being poorly managed, in my opinion.

I also edited an older blog of mine to capture some ideas about how we can look toward making the workplace a more involved and engaged place and how to improve motivation. You can find “The Future of Work…” here.

And, I was sent a link to a short slideshare on the work environment, focused on furniture and lighting and design. I thought it was interesting. You can find that here.

Now, I guess I will add in more bicycling and kayaking to the schedule, along with the pool and the gardening. While there is always something to get done, some of it can wait. But call me any time and I will answer,

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.


Trust and Respect: Should you force your managers to lie, PlanetFitness?

I wrote a few weeks ago about the Wade Hampton PlanetFitness gym and their apparent policy of zero engagement of customers and employees.

You can read about my issue with sanitation and the simple layout solution that I offered up to management. But the reality is that ideas from employees and customers go into a black hole – they are not encouraged and they get no response. Senior Managers must have ALL the ideas, right?

Well, it is sad to say that the story got worse right after I published. Hard to believe but true.

That blog post went up on Sunday and I was in there Monday to do my regular workout. The store manager, Danny, stopped by and said that the owner and his regional manager were in there that morning and he shared the idea with them. He seemed pretty positive about how that all went down and was smiling when we talked. Apparently, and I guess at this, he seemed to feel that his management was actually listening.

On Tuesday, though, I get a phone call and it is Danny telling me that my membership had been canceled!

He said that my blog post depicted members and that was a violation of membership privacy and he was forced to cancel my membership. It was apparently because of this picture:

Planet Fitness has correctable  issues of engagement and sanitation

Is any customer privacy really violated? Could the people in the picture even identify themselves? Would they complain to management? Seriously??


THIS picture violates member privacy? 

It does not take much to get underneath that behavior to guess at the cause. His boss or bosses had negative personal responses to what I had said about their continued behavior of ignoring any suggestions from anyone. Their staff had commented on that before plus I never got a response to any of my emailed suggestions sent to their offices. My guess is that they were embarrassed by the blog and the conclusions and that they were a bit vindictive — in a get-even mode. How do they get even? Fire The Customer!

The problem is that store-manager Danny was now put in a position where he had to lie to a customer — he was forced into an unethical and illogical position. I asked him about it and he would not respond. He would not blame management, he would have no comment other than repeating that the photo above violated the contractual statement on customer privacy.  OTHER people in the store would also not comment about the situation — a gag rule seemed to have been implemented. How do the workers feel?

Put yourself in Danny’s position. Your boss forces you to call a customer and tell them that they are fired, and for really dubious reasons. You know it is a lie and the customer knows it is a lie. How would YOU feel about that?

Do they not realize the impacts on things like trust and respect? The customer certainly loses respect for the manager and the manager must lose respect for his boss and boss’ boss.

They lose a customer who was a pretty good customer. They get some negative publicity in social media. The regular employees certainly see what is going on, since one commented that he saw the paperwork that cancelled me out. It gives me one more “never do this kind of thing” story. It is sad, really. What does Danny say to me when I see him on the street or does he simply pretend that he does not know me?

And, if this is some policy, why won’t other people do a similar thing when they want to get out of their contract with them? You sign a multiple-page commitment that is hard to get out of but this sure seems like a simple way: publish a selfie with other people on Facebook. That seems to be their rule…

I think that the reality of this, insofar as ethics and leadership, trust and respect, innovation and creativity and continuous improvement is that senior managers need to understand that ruthless reactions to employees and customers is not really a good leadership principle. In my social interactions in the weeks since this happened, I have shared this story with a few dozen other people and they all support my thinking as to the arrogance of the ownership of this company.

PlanetFitness. It’s a gym and a job. Just a gym with poor employment practices…

The choices made seem so illogical. The customer offers ideas for improvement and gets fired by the owner!

Planet Fitness has been making the news with other member terminations lately. Here is one where a customer complains about what looks to be a man in her ladies locker room — – It is apparently a “No Judgement Zone” as a gym and a “No Complaints Zone” as a corporate membership policy. The woman had an issue and she gets terminated. Hope that Planet Fitness likes the negative publicity about their leadership issues.

There should be a sign: Got a Complaint? Take it Outside.

 Your thoughts?

(Note: Since I was telling other people about this and they were asking for the details, I felt committed to follow through and put more information into this people and performance blog. It is simply sad to see “leaders” of organizations make such poor choices and treat their people in unethical ways. It is sad that employees are forced into difficult situations like these.)

Scott Simmerman

Zero Engagement at PlanetFitness?

For almost a year, I have gone to the PlanetFitness operation not far from my office. They did a really good job of converting a dead KMart location into a busy and viable business, which was the anchor for the whole strip mall. It seemed like a really good operation.


With my business being organizational improvement and addressing the Square Wheels that often exists within operations, there were a number of things that I had commented on to assist management in keeping things clean or noticing a piece of equipment not working and similar.

One constant complaint was the music — I really did not like it and continually joked that the playlist was selected by the owner’s 13-year old daughter, since it constantly reflected that type of music and seldom anything else. The lack of fit was obvious – the average age of the customers during the times I was there was probably 40 and many wore cumbersome headphones and earbuds. Even the staff did not like it and suggested I complain. I did, online at their main website, but never got a response. I never got a response to the dozen or so Twitter complaints with their #planetfitness tag… (One has to assume that they monitor that, right?)

Well, a real Square Wheels became apparent to me about a month ago, concerning a cleanliness / health issue. They have pads available for stretching that many people use, but few actually clean. Now, I clean the pad thoroughly before and after I use it – and I wish others would simply spray it down when they are done.  My guess if that there were better customer loyalty, which is driven by employee loyalty and commitment, things would generally be better.

But this sanitation situation also got me thinking about physical solutions to change people’s behaviors, as I think with pretty much everything I see. The cause is, in part, location of the use of the mats. Customers use the pads far from any cleaning station and many are too lazy to walk the 50 feet (even though they are there for fitness!). They are not actually stored there, but that is where customers choose to leave them. And many of the customers use these pads on the floor in a high foot-traffic area:


The door on the far left is where staff go to get cleaning supplies and leads to a back door where they probably park cars and keep their lunches, etc. I have not been back there, but there is constant traffic through that door. You can also see one of the yellow cleaning stations in that far back right corner.


My simple idea is to move the first row of machines forward to be on both sides of that purple pole and then move that second row of machines forward, putting the pads on that white wall and moving the cleaning station to the middle. Traffic would be improved and the people would be in a more private area of the room. With the pads nearer the cleaning stuff, customers would be more likely to wipe things down. They would also keep them back there instead of all over the building. Seems easy, with no cost.

In talking with the manager, he basically said that it was a corporate decision on design and that this was the way they wanted it. He could not even try it — he could NOT make the change and my impression is that changing this would get him in trouble!

My proactive self then asked if he could make the suggestion to someone and he essentially threw up his hands with a “that would never work / they would never listen” kind of response. I would guess he tried that before, since he had been with the company a long time. My guess is that he would not bother to make the suggestion. I even got the impression, based on a question, that my suggesting directly it would not even get a response.

I asked the staff, who are great. ALL of them are good people, including the manager. But they also confirmed that making a suggestion was a waste of time. A couple had apparently made suggestions about the music and other things but gotten no reaction.

IS it really corporate policy to not respond to requests and suggestions about business improvement ideas from customers and employees? Seriously? One wonders about the morale of the employees in different locations, working for average or below average store managers (remember that there is a normal curve of performance among any group of people — half are above average and half are below, statistically!)

One wonders about employee turnover and other business costs.

Another real impact is the sales of materials. PlanetFitness devotes visual space to branded merchandise:

people 1

But they don’t sell much. My guess is that locker combination locks and the different skin creams are much bigger sellers than the branded t-shirts. With high margins on these items, suggestive selling by loyal employees would certainly add revenues to the store and company.

But my educated guess is that sales are minor, that engagement is nil, and that the company is successful simply because of positioning in the marketplace. I also know that competition is a real thing and the playing field will change.

Why does the company NOT encourage ideas for improvement in store operations? Why is there so much un-engagement? My guess is that they just do not value people — customers and employees — in their overall efforts to manage their business.

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.
(John Le Carre)

And if it were me, I would sure be out there asking for new ideas and talking with everyone whose behavior determines my success. As a customer, I sure would appreciate it if the place were kept better sanitized. If the employees and customers don’t care, only price will drive them into the business.

Maybe someone from corporate will actually read this blog and consider doing something differently, like visiting the property and asking employees for ideas to improve the business, both the operational stuff along with the customer service along with the merchandise sales. Stay tuned, I guess… I share my ideas and information freely, like their staffs would.

After all, the round wheels are already in the wagon, but sometimes the rope used by the wagon puller can get pretty long!

Square Wheels One image of performance by scott simmerman

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

<a rel=”author” href=”″ a>




Issues of Workplace Over-Connectedness and Vacation Day Giveaways

This is the third post in this series on working, over-connectedness and the reality that many are working long hours for free.

My first article in this series focused on statistics on work and working and the interconnection with vacation time. I then updated that, since I just read an article in Mother Jones magazine about the issues and problems of always being connected to the business life.

The trend is that people are working lots of hours. LOTS. And only some of them are compensated. We know from a wide variety of research on creativity and innovation that continually working is not conducive to high performance and it contributes to being over-stressed, generating a variety of health issues over the long term.

Overworking is actually scary stuff, all in all. And the research shows pretty clearly that some disconnection from the workplace has a variety of positive benefits.

We ARE in need of some brain-freeing vacation time away from things. An Intercall survey of American employees showed that people are simply NOT paying attention during business conference calls, for example. Their minds are either drifting off or they are trying to multitask and do other job tasks.

  • 65% said they did other work at the same time as pretending to participate
  • 55% that they prepared or ate food
  • 47% that they went to the bathroom
  • 25% that they played video games
  • 27% confessed to falling asleep at least once during a call, and
  • 5% said they’d had a friend POSE as themselves in order to skip it completely.

People are often just simply disengaged. You can find a more expansive article clicking on this link. The rest of this blog gets into that  and other data.

This article in The Guardian starts with a simple statement:

Americans took the least amount of vacation time in almost four decades last year, forfeiting billions of dollars in compensation without scoring points with their bosses, according to an industry group analysis.

The report for the US Travel Association said the average American with paid time off used 16 of 20.9 vacation days in 2013, down from an average of 20.3 days off from 1976 to 2000. It added that 169m days of permanently forfeited US vacation time equated to $52.4bn in lost benefits.

Note that the above says, “without scoring points with their bosses.” Why? Because their bosses are doing the same thing! An Ipsos/Reuters survey in 2010 found that only 57% of Americans used all their earned vacation time.

As background and perspective, I am now well in my 31st year of running Performance Management Company. I started as a consulting business working in people and performance areas, with a shift to customer service quality and then to change management and now to themes of workplace involvement and engagement. The shift to selling materials has been a good one and the pressures of the day-to-day have shifted as I enter my 67th year of being in the business of living. I DO work a lot because it is MY business and there is actually no one else to do most of what I do.

As a small business, I will say that I am almost always thinking about business — it is impossible to get away. My business land-line forwards to my cellphone, for example. I check email regularly (like most managers). And I used to joke about spending 50% of my time marketing, 50% of my time developing materials and 50% of my time actually doing things to make money. Only the reality is that 50% + 50% + 50% is truly the small business reality… You are 100% committed to make things successful.)

(One of the very best articles ever about the issues of running a small business is Wilson Harrell’s 1987 article, Entrepreneurial Terror that appeared in Inc, Magazine.)

Here is some additional data that should be thought provoking from that Guardian article:

Wealthier workers tend to earn more vacation days but they also leave more of it unused based on the survey:

  • People with an annual income of more than $150,000 failed to use an average of 6.5 vacation days in 2013.
  • People with less than $29,000 did not use 3.7 days.

Employees who forfeited paid time off do not get more raises or bonuses than those who take all their vacation time. They also report higher levels of stress at work.

A Harris / Adweek poll three years ago said that 52% of Americans will work during their summer vacation. The survey showed these people will perform a variety of tasks, including:

  • Reading work-related emails – 30%
  • Receiving work-related phone calls – 23%
  • Accessing documents on home computer – 19%
  • Receiving work-related text messages – 18%
  • Accessing documents on work computer – 13%
  • Asked to do work by a boss, client or colleague – 13%

Clive Thompson, writing in Mother Jones magazine, shared a good information on the issue of being over-connected and why we need to unplug. View that article here.

Thompson shared data from the Center for Creative Leadership finding that 60% of smartphone-using professionals were work-connected for a full 13+ hours a day and that they spent another 5 hours playing with emails on weekends. That adds up to 72 hours a week of job-related content — but being paid for only 40 hours!

Another study by Good Technology found that 68% of people checked work email before arriving at work — before 0800 — and that 50% checked it while in bed before going to sleep! Almost 40% check email at the dinner table!

The American Psychological Association reports that one in ten check email hourly – when on vacation!

It would seem that the entrepreneurial issue of always feeling that one had to be connected is now everyone’s problem.

You can see a LOT of that explained in the reality of this scene from “Deal of The Century” (Chevy Chase) where Harold (Wallace Shawn) is waiting in his room for the phone call. (Watch it here – 4 minutes and very well done!)


Pressure. Pressure to make the sale. Pressure to complete a project. Pressure from the team. Pressure from the boss. Pressures of all kinds from working. There are lots of pressures and few ways to release them in a healthy way — taking time off from working is the best way to generate relief for your brain and body. (Another approach would be meditation, and some strongly suggest a nap during the workday.)

WITH our connectedness and other electronic support and unpaid work time, corporate productivity is up 23% since 2000. Inflation-adjusted wages and benefits are up only 4% for these same jobs. (Data from Economic Policy Institute) The pin will eventually hit the balloon on all this and we can expect to see a variety of negative impacts, like increased mental illness, stress-related diseases and some deviant workplace behavior.

And, Clive Thompson wrote, the marketing research firm Radicati Group reports that we can expect to receive 22% more business email by 2015 than we did 3 years ago. Managers get about 300 emails a day, from what I read, so when do we actually find any time to think, to innovate, to build trust in our relationships, or to even relax?

We are being multi-tasked and over-managed, we are being spread thinner and thinner, expected to know more about more things but also unable to get the training time or even understand how things work in many of our jobs.

And the research supports that reality that some play and relaxation and free time to reflect and refocus does an awful lot to rebuild motivation and morale.

Pin Balloon Play Performance poem

PMC has designed a variety of Square Wheels illustration toolkits to help managers generate ideas for workplace change and improvement. These are designed to be fun and engaging meeting tools to help people with team-based discussion about possibilities to do things differently.

PMC also designs performance-based team building exercises to help put more play into performance improvement initiatives. Click on the icon below to see more information on our website:

THE+Games for Teambuilding PMC Home Page icon 1

Have some FUN out there! (Yeah, me, too.)


Me, on the beach, kayak camping on Lake Jocassee in the mountains of Upstate South Carolina.


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.

Dr. Scott Simmerman

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 are a trademark of Performance Management Company

<a rel=”author” href=”″ a>

A Few Stats on Workplace Fantasy Football

I thought that this was interesting data, so I report it here:

Fantasy Football’s cost to lost productivity will be more than $13 billion dollars this year (2014), since it will be played by more than 25 million people (with 4 of 5 being men) with an average weekly time investment of 8.7 hours per person.

Is this lost money for companies or does it have some benefits? It is hard to measure that or make one inference for so many different work cultures… Each of us has our own beliefs and observations and frameworks to evaluate the impacts.

Creating some workplace fun can have positive benefits.

BIG Square Wheels LEGO Fun image

Click on image to see, “Is work funny or what?” article

As to benefits, 54% of the players say that their participation increases camaraderie with fellow employees and that participation helps with the building of better rapport with their business contacts (16%). It is fun to be a fan and to share fandom and close interactions can have benefits to teamwork and collaboration.

And the reality is that it would be hard to actually block workplace participation in such an activity and attempts to repress it would probably be met with some resistance. While sharing a common adversary might improve teamwork, the dynamics of that might cause problems.

(Here is an article about workplace sabotage and some of the driving factors)

And it is about money. Wonder why you see so many advertisements for Fantasy Football leagues? Overall, fantasy sports shows the average player spending $111 and the industry raking in $1.1 billion dollars in 2013.

And workplace interruptions of all kinds consume about 3 to 5 hours of time a day with costs estimated to be over $580 billion a year, so fantasy football represents only a small part of of the cost of people and performance.

The question I would frame up is how much are we doing to involve and engage our people into the game of our organizations and use that shared mission and goal to help drive more desired behavior, innovation, involvement and ownership?

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

(Statistics from newsletter of and you can see a graphic overview of this data and a few more statistics and ideas at and )

Quotes by James Madison about Liberty and Freedom

I sometimes get political because I AM focused on people and performance, goals and expectations, measurement and feedback systems and things like that. For me, improving performance is about goals, feedback and reinforcement and the issues around human competence and motivation are important ones.

Government provides services to people and people provide support to government by their granting powers and electing people to represent them. But, like most behavioral systems, things can get corrupted and off-target and we can lose alignment, generating waste and poor performance.

James Madison had a lot of interesting observations about the government, freedoms and similar kinds of issues around the operation of our democracy. Thus, I do not consider it too much of a stretch to publish some of his quotes herein.

If you land here on this page from Google or some other search, please understand that this blog, with more than 400 articles, is about People and Performance, about teamwork and intrinsic motivation and communications. Please avail yourselves of the search box and type in a keyword and see if any of my writings appeal to you.

I run a small company that sells organizational improvement tools like Square Wheels toolkits focused on dis-un-engagement and managing and leading change as well as team building games focused on collaboration and alignment. All of these are simply tools to generate discussion about issues and opportunities.

Portrait of James Madison from Wikipedia Commons


James Madison (American 4th US President (1809-17), and Founding Father of his country. 1751-1836)

“The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”

“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” 

“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” 

“It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.”

“The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.”

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny”

“We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties.”

“Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation”

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”

“The number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state”

“Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history”

“In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”

“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”

“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”

“History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments.”

Lastly, let me conclude with a quote from Thomas Jefferson:

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. “

Yeah, and may we live in interesting times is that old Chinese curse…

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 Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Weed Killers, Bug Killers and Organizational Development

We spend a LOT of money on weed control and bug killers for our yards and gardens. We spend tiny amounts on things to actually help plants grow and to improve the environment. That seems exactly what we do in our organizations. Some thoughts:

The statistics on the workplace continue to worry me as it relates to the health of a country, including but not limited to the United States; this certainly appears to be a global phenomenon. Results show that people are finding work less and less rewarding, both in terms of income that it generates as well as the personal rewards gained from doing a good job well and feeling appreciation for that accomplishment.

The data continue to suggest that high levels of engagement and personal development have big impacts on organizational performance results and stock prices. In an excellent blog by Barbara Kimmel, she shares the following graph of stock performance tied to one issue around people and performance:  TRUST.

FACTS Kimmel Trust graph stock results

Click on the image to see the blog with stats and related information

There are similar solid statistical proofs for a wide variety of positive indicators of leadership and involvement and individual development / personal growth. Investing in people and performance has a positive impact on the bottom line and long-term success of organizations of all types.

Treating people well thus has a wide variety of positive impacts with only ONE seemingly negative issue: COST.

Yes, senior managers do seem to continually look at the cost of people to the organization and the cost of training and the cost of salaries and all that. Investments in people are on the wrong side of the financial analysis, IMHO. Nevermind the statistically solid reality that these kinds of investments can be easily linked to critical performance indicators. There is some apparent perceived risk in investing in people. So many organizations simply choose not to do so, or to do so half-heartedly.

When monies get tight, the first thing cut is almost always “training.” There is constant pressure to keep the costs of payroll low, to the point that people often cannot even take vacations because their job duties cannot be done by another.  (See my article on vacation and time off and the issue of continued connectedness of today’s worker and manager.)

What happened to me yesterday pushed me to create this post. I was in one of the Big Box home fixing stores, the ones that carry lawn and garden materials, tools, paints, appliances, and all that other stuff. I was looking for some indoor plant fertilizer and some electrical tape.

What I found was a truly amazing quantity and selection of things like weed killer, fire ant killer, bug sprays, fungicides, grub killer granules and similar. There were 70 feet of aisle space focused on negative control of things, with all sorts of impacts on the biological environment.

There was a small — very small — shelf allotment of things to actually help plants grow. Somehow, this seems out of kilter, in that a healthy environment will generally serve to keep the weed problem small. Heck, I pick the crabgrass by hand in my yard, since I never let it get started. I use corn gluten as a pre-emergent to avoid poisoning my worms.

Can’t we manage our workplaces with less toxic substance
and do more to help our people grow?

SWs LEGO POSTER - Create non-toxic

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 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


Page 2 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén