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

Month: July 2012

On Integrity and Customer Service and improving business results

Sometimes, it is really great getting surprises. My 0ld friend, Frank Navran, emailed me the other day saying that he had used my name and ideas in an article and asked if it was okay. He had actually published the article already so I guess he was not asking for permission! (That is fine by me, actually. Nice to have good, trusted friends out there!)

It was on ROI – not Return on Investment but Return on Integrity. Frank writes quite well and has used my ideas before, so I opened up the file and was surprised and pleased. It’s nice knowing that one has left some legacy and some impacts with the efforts that we give so that is another real positive for him in sending this to me.

This is one of the clearest posts I have seen on the theme of leadership and integrity and how they impact business and people. You can click on the link below to download the article.

Navran on Customer Service Maturity Model and Integrity

The article is about Frank’s personal experiences as a manager and consultant and how integrity has been such a strong factor in the success of his clients’ organizations and the driving force for repeat business. Frank builds on my simple and straightforward concept of Service Maturity and talks about building loyalty among both employees and customers.

The model has three levels, each of which builds on the other, from left to right:

Simply put, there are three levels of service, each of which needs a strong foundation of the other. The first is the effective processing and handling of transactions, the second is the meeting of expectations and the third is about care, working to exceed expectations and build customer loyalty. Meeting expectations is fine but if someone finds it cheaper, they can be lost as customers.

I think that you will find Frank’s writings on integrity to be most interesting. Frank has been working with performance leadership and ethics for the past 20 years and is well known for his ideas and effectiveness.

The permission to post is from Frank Navran and is as follows:
© 2011 Navran Associates, © 2012 Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics

You can read more about building service profitability and engaging employees in a lot of other posts, but you might find this one of interest:

Improving Service Profitability by Engaging Employees

My work with customer service improvement started back in 1980 and it is somewhat disappointing to see that we have made a good bit of progress in the processing of transactions in so many organizations, but not as much as one would hope in meeting or exceeding expectations. Those few that seem to get it do quite well in the marketplace.

Most of my recent writings have been about general workplace performance and productivity themes, being less focused on service quality. The issues overlap greatly, since it is hard to care for customers if you don’t feel the boss cares for you.

You might also like this article on People as an Asset:


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.

materials © Performance Management Company, 1993 – 2015

The Square Wheels really ARE everywhere!

I have been saying that for a long long time. It just seems like a lot of things just do not work smoothly, from my wasting two hours with a web hosting company over the past two days because my computer will not allow me to edit what Chris put up to redo my website.

It was, “You’ll have to clear your browser cache and clear all the cookies.” Then, it was, “You’ll have to upload to the Newest Version of Flash” — a quick look on the internet showed some loading problems with Macs running 10.7 and v 11.3 of Flash. And so on.

The first two techies were no help and the third one eventually suggested that I  look at my cookie preference — it turns out that simply changing Safari from blocking “third parties and advertisers” to allowing anybody and anyone to pop cookies onto my site would enable Netfirms’ “Webly” interface to operate.

Seems like a pretty darn poor software design to me, since I have to open up my security to simply edit a website, so I guess I will change preferences when I update and then switch back. The Square Wheels really ARE everywhere and one would think that their support people would know about that since what I did is fairly common. (I never did delete my cookies and clear the cache — that just seemed dumb since I had never been on that Netfirms’ site before. I would not have unplugged my computer, either!).

On the other hand, that idea that the third tech had to look at the browser security was a good one since it solved my problem. Yeah, and one can only hope that the next Mac / Safari user having this problem might benefit from sharing this idea. Round Wheels are everywhere, too. But they are not often shared.

Yep, The Square Wheels are everywhere and we go through life thumping and bumping along, it seems…

I use a simple magic trick using dots that illustrates my thoughts on ideas and that allows me to narrate the trick toward my desired outcomes. It is a good trick and you can get it online somewhere. You can see me doing the trick in a 90 second video on our YouTube site. Clicking here will take you directly to the link.

And here is an optical illusion that also illustrates that the round wheels are everywhere. Hope you like this:

There are plenty of Squares above. But isn’t it interesting that we seem to focus on the Round dots in the picture? Wouldn’t it be great if managements in organizations could do the same thing? Focus on the Round Wheel ideas that would correct the Square Wheels that are so common?

And there is this one, too. Which of the round red balls is bigger?

Well, neither. It is not a good idea to compare different solutions, sometimes. Every idea has a positive impact in many cases, either as an idea to fix or correct something or as a stimulus for another idea.

Round Wheels are not a workplace illusion.
And the Square Wheels need to be addressed to make things work better.

Just Do It! 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

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Working while Working – and while on Vacation, too?

I just read one post in a newsletter about working during working hours and doing something else when not working during working hours. Wow, with 27 years now in this business and with me being a home business for 15 years, thinking about not working seems kind of crazy.

And my position seems to be supported by a new Harris / Adweek poll that says that 52% of Americans will work during their summer vacation this year. The survey showed that working people are expecting to 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%

 (and they will probably be doing many of the above at the same time!)

I know that when I was camping in Zion and Bryce Canyons two years ago (my last vacation), I was one of those working boys! I was checking email every day even when I had to walk to the Concession Area to get wifi access. And I am sure that this will get worse over time. Heck, I remember the time when the little downtown retail stores closed on Wednesday afternoons so the owners and employees could be with families, play golf, etc. And open on Sunday? No Way. Now, it is literally 24 / 7 and with the websites, anyone can shop from anywhere at any time.

Scott at Zion and Bryce Canyons in Southern Utah. Why don’t I do this more often?

Me, I think that not taking vacation time is bad. I know that I should take some time off, just to fire up the creative juices. But workers in the US burn the candle at both ends (and they do it for less money and more pressure and no healthcare – do you also see a long-term problem here?). I think we need to change our perspectives and lots of data from other countries suggest that we are not doing things right, for the long term.

My joke about Governor Nikki Haley, who is pushing to eliminate unions and create more jobs here in South Carolina, is that she is trying to create enough jobs so both partners in the marriage can have both of the jobs they need to support their families.  But that is a different storyline…

Understand that things are shifting negatively when it comes to working and taking time off. Only 40% of US employees even took a summer vacation last year and half of this group admitted that they planned or did work during their vacation (Harris / Adweek).

Another interesting finding comes from a CareerBuilder survey which shows that while 81% of managers plan or have taken a vacation break this year, only 65% of full-time employees have plans to do the same. While companies may understand the issues of health and success that come from “refreshed” employees, the day-to-day job demands may be precluding this from actually happening. An Expedia 2011 Vacation Deprivation Survey showed that US employees are beginning to “treat vacation as a luxury rather than a fact of life.”

And last year, over 200 million earned vacation days were not utilized by those who earned them.

The Well-Being Index (Gallup and Healthways) slid to 66.4 out of a possible “ideal wellbeing” score of 100. Work environment was one of four components overall that fell. All of these declines were less than a point but work environment is the component that has fallen most since the Index began in January 2008. It’s now dropped 3.9 points to 47.4 and four times the decrease of the second-greatest drop, a 1.1 decline in access to basic necessities.

The only other component that is lower now than in January 2008 is physical health, which has slipped 0.2 points. And work environment is the component with the lowest absolute score. Life Evaluation is second-lowest at 49.6, and the rest are at least 63.9 or more.

I am not sure where all this eventually ends, but I know that my workweek has always been long and I feel a bit guilty when I am not working. And I work for myself – it is not like I worry about my job security and how my taking time off might appear to my supervisor insofar as it reflects on my dedication.

I think the Europeans have a much better perspective on all this. They take lots of vacation time, but they arrive back at work ready to work. They have solid productivity numbers and the society as a whole seems to benefit.

Do have some FUN out there! Do like me:

Sign up to do a conference presentation in Barbados:

Yeah, I could be on the beach… And we SHOULD be on the beach!

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

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Workers and Managers, Jobs and Pressures

A 2012 survey by the Leadership Management Australasia of organizations in Australia and New Zealand showed the number of workers considering looking for a new job holding steady at 50% – and 1 in 5 actively looking, with 1 in 7 actually applying for a new job within the last 6 months.

Surprisingly, 33% of managers are actively looking to change jobs and 24% have actually applied for one, the highest stats ever in the 12-year history of this annual survey!

63% of employees felt there was more pressure than 3 years ago – a finding mirrored by 70% of the managers feeling that way. (And, it is not like there was a lot less pressure only 3 years ago!) Only 8% of both groups felt there was less pressure. The number one causal factor was the employees’ ranking of “work-life balance” as causing the pressure while managers and leaders ranked “higher performance expectations” as their number one source.

Managers rank “continuously being in demand”, “increase in personal workload”, and “quality of staff in the organization” as the major pressures they feel. They are being pinched from both directions.

Employees feel that “client / customer demands” and “increasing competition in the marketplace” are the number one pressures.

Pretty interesting stuff…

You can download the survey free at

<a rel="author" href="">Scott on Google+<a>Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Gold, The Olympics and Sports as metaphors for Businesses

In one of my LinkedIn groups, the question was asked:
 — What Does ‘Going for the Gold’ Mean for Your Business? —

…and posed this way: “The recent U.S. Olympic swimming trials brought elation for some athletes, heartbreak for others. Find out what we can all learn from their passionate pursuit of winning.” with a link to a blog. So, I responded:

We use the metaphor of mining gold as the prime anchor point of our team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We often have the most senior manager in the group leading tabletop discussions and then asking for Big Ideas around the question, “What does Mining Gold mean to us as an organization,” after we have discussed the ideas of collaboration generating optimized results, overall. The key, here, are “us” and “we” as shown below:

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But focus on winning and getting gold is a double-edged sword, for sure. High level business results require an overall sense of shared purpose and a great deal of teamwork between departments. There is generally a requirement for some level of continuous continuous improvement and a degree of commitment and ownership. Business benefits more by overall collaboration than by individual success / winning in nearly every case — competition is generally sub-optimizing and high levels of competition can generate all sorts of negative side-effects.

I think collaboration appears nicely in many sporting activities, such as a team working together to win the Tour de France or that great movie about the Jamaica Bobsled Team and what it took to get them there. It required collaboration, for sure.

In The Olympics, the focus is mostly on individuals winning while in business, there must be more than one winner for an organization to succeed. Similarly, many of these Olympic athletes focus all of their time and energy on peaking for one event or one day of competition. In business, we see that in “fixed interval scallop curve” behavior where there is a great deal of focused effort just before that date and then a long “post reinforcement pause” thereafter until we get close to the reinforced period of time.

Car dealerships / car sales are a case in point for this scheduled behavior, whereby the sales at the end of the month are much more focused and driven (and the customer can get a much better deal) than they are at the start of a new month. Given how they measure and reward performance, the results are pretty predictable and employee turnover is often high.

Most of our businesses require a more steady-state level of performance to succeed long term. Consistency and teamwork are the key, not peaked performance and extreme levels of competition.

In Lost Dutchman, the expressed goal is, “to mine as much gold as we can.” But what happens so often is that each of the tabletops gets focused on its own success — something we call, “My Team, My Team, My Team,” and that focus generates measurable sub-optimized levels of OVERALL group performance. The key word is “we.”

Competition is a good thing, since it is generally motivating for most people. But it is NOT motivating for everyone and it has a whole big bunch of negative side effects. (I would guess that 99.995% of the population is NOT motivated by The Olympics and that their levels of personal exercise and activity are not improved by their “engagement.” One might argue that we might even see a lot more sitting / watching activity than anything else during that time.)

And, without all the regulatory bodies and attention to detail in high level sports, we might see many of these top athletes take measures that many might call cheating. Look at the hundreds of pages of NCAA regulations designed to prevent universities from cheating! Performance enhancing drugs and other external treatments are common — Lasik surgery is probably common in pro sports. Heck, there is blood doping and steroids and lots of other things going on, even in amateur sports. Cheating is common in many sports and — well, heck — a lot of businesses (see Mortgage Meltdown and think “Countrywide.”)

In an organization, we want everyone to feel like a winner and to contribute to the overall results of the organization. Normal interdepartmental competition is often a real problem, and has impacts on customers and profitability. I think we could all probably tell stories about things such as that.

Gold is a great metaphor, but sometimes athletics is NOT the best metaphor for most organizations and for society in general. Focusing on winners is often great, but doing that reinforces the reality that there are a lot more losers than winners in any competition.

Have FUN out There!

Your thoughts on metaphors and learning points like these?

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

Superstitions, Behavior, and Friday the 13th

In the email this morning was a short article on “Workplace Superstitions” sent to me in the Promotional Consultant Today newsletter. The author of the short article, Marijane Funess, talks about her own superstitions like wearing the same pants to business meetings or the same hat to her son’s baseball games.

Given that today is Friday the 13th, a short blog seems appropriate. According to some, fear of this date is the most widespread superstition in the US today. Some people refuse to go to work on this date, some won’t eat in restaurants and there sure aren’t many weddings scheduled for today (not that it would affect the divorce statistics all that much, in my opinion).


Legend has it: If 13 people sit down to dinner together, one will die within the year. The Turks so disliked the number 13 that it was practically expunged from their vocabulary (Brewer, 1894). Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. Many buildings don’t have a 13th floor. If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil’s luck (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all have 13 letters in their names). There are 13 witches in a coven.

There is even a phobia – Paraskevidekatriaphobics — for people afflicted with a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th. The Fear Factor may be as high as 21 million Americans may have that – roughly 8% of the people! But the Chinese and ancient Egyptians consider the number lucky!

And if you are a movie goer or a Tom Hanks fan, there was also the possibility that it relates to The Crusades and The Templars. The Da Vinci Code holds that the stigma came about because of a single event that happened nearly 700 years ago in France. As recounted by Katharine Kurtz in Tales of the Knights Templar (Warner Books, 1995):

On October 13, 1307, a day so infamous that Friday the 13th would become a synonym for ill fortune, officers of King Philip IV of France carried out mass arrests in a well-coordinated dawn raid that left several thousand Templars — knights, sergeants, priests, and serving brethren — in chains, charged with heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. None of these charges was ever proven, even in France — and the Order was found innocent elsewhere — but in the seven years following the arrests, hundreds of Templars suffered excruciating tortures intended to force “confessions,” and more than a hundred died under torture or were executed by burning at the stake.

Why are we superstitious? Well, it may have some adaptive benefits. Superstitious behavior is a response to an environmental situation. It is based, in part, on the belief that A influences or precedes B:

  • If you blow on the dice, you’ll get lucky and roll the number wanted.
  • Finding a four-leaf clover will bring you luck.
  • Eating this food at that restaurant will cause a Big Sale to occur for you.
  • Taking out a new / old / recovered golf ball will help you hit over the pond.
  • Wearing the same baseball socks will help the streak continue.

Superstitions can be positive, because they can focus attention on an upcoming event and that attention may improve performance. They can generate ritualized and rhythmic behavior, such as preparing to strike a cue ball in a game of pool – the professional players all go through a “pre-shot preparation” ritual that helps their performance.

And superstitions can be tied to the negative, an avoidance kind of thing that can decrease results. They share a lot of commonalities with phobias in that a belief about something impacts behaviors. Having a black cat walk across your path will NOT cause you bad luck. Wishing on the first star you see will not get that wish into reality by itself. Not blowing out all the birthday cake candles is not really a long-term problem for you.

Rituals can be good or bad, and some writers think that there might even be a biological basis and benefit for their existence! In the writings of Fuller Torrey in, “Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists,” a book I read dozens of years ago. He suggests that those people who believed in the healing powers of “the doctor” were more likely to live. By genetic selection, they would breed more with others of similar beliefs (since the ones that died would no longer be breeding, of course). So, the belief impacted the people. Today, we know that “The Placebo Effect” will cause a sugar pill to have the same positive impacts on some biological problem as does a medicine.  The belief that you are taking a cure will be as strong a positive factor as actually taking a drug to solve a medical problem. (Let’s not get into psychosomatic illnesses – the ones that people “believe” they have and which can cause them real problems.)

Most of us have some superstitions. Most of them are innocent and non-impactful. But some of them can be distracting and some of them, for a few, can be pretty debilitating when they manifest as full-blown phobic reactions.

Rituals can be good, if they prepare you for something like a presentation. There are a lot of things that presenters do that are “superstitious” in nature, like having a checklist of all the things they need to have in the room or that they want in particular presentations. There are rituals that teams go through before hitting the playing field. There are rituals we go through to prepare ourselves for the day! (Keep taking those showers, folks!)

As I generally say about the Square Wheels One cartoon,

<a rel="author" href="">Scott on Google+<a>

It is USEFUL to occasionally Step Back From The Wagon

It is helpful to view things from a dissociated, other-person’s-viewpoint than to look at things continually through your own eyes. Consider the situation like a TV Show, and instead of being the actor, choose to be the viewer. You can probably see things more clearly and less emotionally.

But me, I will continue to wear my Tar Heels baseball cap when we are playing and my Philadelphia Phillies cap when we make the Baseball World Series again. For now, I will keep that last one in the closet. And knock on wood, we will get there again soon!

<a rel="author" href="">Scott on Google+<a>

Note: There is a good bit of literature in the field of NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) that gets into the underlying anchors of behavior. Triggers are established between stimulus and event (classical conditioning) that often lead to superstitious behavior or phobias. NLP has techniques that can help deal with these clinical problems or to aid in the establishment of Positive Resource States that help support high performance. It is interesting stuff, for sure.

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+

Engage-Ability: Some thoughts on people and performance

There has been a lot of things being asked about engagement and involvement as well as issues around employee motivation in my various LinkedIn groups, with many of the posts proposing some pretty complicated stuff. For some people, the process of engagement is not a simple one in that there are lots of process steps and details to attend to and all that.

Sometimes, or maybe that should be “often”, a consultant or company will develop a specific process and flow to how the situation works based on their personal experiences. I think the motivation for this tendency to increase the detail and embellish the model is to have something that is recognized and rewarded by the learning community as unique, as well as something that can be sold to prospects. So, simple things tend to become more complicated and complex.

For me, I guess that would be my Square Wheels illustration tools and our team building games built around those cartoons as well as our team building games such as Lost Dutchman. Yeah, I have built those things to support organizational improvement initiatives and they are things we sell. One has to make a living somehow… And the products do tend to aggregate complexity and details.

At the same time, though, I recognize that there are a LOT of tools and approaches that work to impact people and performance. And it is often the simple and elegant that have the most impact. Keeping it simple keeps it useful and bombproof.

If you look out at the world, you will see really bad statistics about engagement and morale and individual motivation and wonder about what the problems really are. But is engagement really that difficult? I think that most people are engagable and that this is not rocket science.

I’ve been playing with Dis-Un-Empowerment for a dozen years — it is basically the idea of working and asking people what things get in their way (generate a list of things that are roadblocks or that are un-empowering) and then working with that list to better understand the issues (as well as the individual beliefs and concerns) and then working with individuals (coaching) and teams to help manage them. It is really pretty simple when done as a facilitated process — Yelling and Telling will generate completely unsatisfactory results. (I discuss in detail in PMC Newsletter Four)

Our model for understanding and dealing with roadblocks to performance improvement

Dis-Un-Engagement is a similar concept. We can look at what workplace things are causing people to be un-engaged and simply work to remove them. The issues and factors are usually pretty clear and survey after survey gives you lists of the most common things that people say need to be done.

  • If people report that management does not seem to listen to them, what would your solution be?
  • If people report that they do not know what is happening in the company and that no one keeps them informed, what might be done?
  • If people say that the poor performers seem to not get any attention and that the bad performance is not corrected, might we come up with an action plan to deal with that perception?

Engage-Ability is a simple little framework about how engage-able ARE people in the workplace. And the answer is REALLY – they ARE really engage-able if we work at it. But we tend to make things so hard.

Consider the new employee and this simple factor: 85% of employee morale sharply decreases after their first 6 months on the job.
–Sirota Survey Intelligence, June 2006

That does not take a lot of analysis or conceptualistic cogitation. We DO things to people that generates “regression to the mean” and the new, enthusiastic employee is brought down to the average of everyone else. And a LOT of those people just do not seem to care, anymore…

For most employees, the Pin will eventually hit the Balloon.

According to a November analysis of its database of 5,700 companies representing 5,000,000 employees, Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure. That should concern us. A November report from SHRM showed that employees were only moderately engaged at work, with an average score of 3.6 on a five-point scale. And according to Corporate Executive Board’s Human Resources Practice, only one in 10 workers were putting in high levels of discretionary effort in third quarter 2011.

My take on things is that workers are making educated and calculated decisions about their workplace and how they are treated. They are trying to be like everyone else, in many cases. They are looking to see if the management cares for them and values their efforts.

But managements are somewhat unhooked as to the realities of these issues and can be blind to some simple things that they could do differently. I think this statistic tells a lot, based on the results of 19,700 interviews completed by the Saratoga Institute:

  • Employers who think their people leave for more money: 89%
  • Employees who actually do leave for more money: 12%

People ARE engage-able. People can get more involved and committed to accomplishing things. People DO like to work in teams, when risks are minimal and the potential (personal and team) rewards are good. That does NOT mean money compensation, but it does mean that the intrinsic motivators are present.

And Trust is the Residue of Promises Fulfilled.

Making improvements will happen on an individual basis and be connected to the interface of supervisors and workers. Managers need to ask more (based on a lot of data) and tell less.

According to an article by Kenneth Kovach in Employment Relations Today, when employees were asked what they valued most about their jobs in 1946, 1981 and again in 1995, the top three things they reported remained the same:

  1. Interesting work
  2. Full appreciation for the work they’ve done
  3. A feeling of being “in” on things

And from the WorkUSA 2000 survey of 7,500 workers conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, reported in T&D 3/2000, the 7 Key Factors that drive employee commitment:

  • Trust in Senior Leadership
  • Chance to use their skills
  • Job Security
  • Competitive Compensation
  • Quality of Product/Services
  • Absence of Work-Related Stress
  • Honesty & Integrity of Company’s business conduct

This ain’t rocket science, folks. It is basically about treating people well, giving them respect, providing training and fair compensation for their efforts and doing what we say we will do as organizational leaders. People ARE engage-able!

What we need are more of the management team willing to take the time to ask and listen and involve. Caterpillars can fly, if they would just lighten up!

You can see some of our tools for managing and leading and involving and engaging at our website by clicking on the image below.

Square Wheels are simply great tools


For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Ph.D. CPF, CPT is still managing partner of PMC and collaborating with the team at PMC LLC, but also sort of retired…

Scott is developer of the incredible Square Wheels® tools and images
and the board game version of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

Scott has presented his concepts in 47 countries and collaborates with consultants and trainers worldwide.

You can reach him at and you can see his profile at LinkedIn



Our Best Little Toolkit, good for motivating workplace improvement!

Square Wheels has become a globally-known metaphor for continuous continuous improvement. I have personally presented in 38 countries so far with what are most excellent results and feedback. Often, the SWs presentations are rated the top program at a conference and I have a LOT of very satisfied users worldwide who have integrated the illustrations into presentations and training.

When the general manager of a hotel in Shanghai can take my cartoons and integrate them into his presentation on improving customer service and engaging his people and get rated Highest at their international 3-day conference of hotel general managers — including ratings of the paid professional talkers — that is testimony to how effectively these cartoons can involve and engage an audience. (He sent me all the evals of the conference!)

Personally, I believe that every manager of people could be using the cartoons and language of performance improvement to impact their workgroups. After all,

The Square Wheels really ARE everywhere!

and the ideas for improvement are amazingly numerous.

RWs Sig File icon

So, we will offer you a special deal for a special tool.

For a limited time, we have set up the purchase of our best toolkit, The Square Wheels Facilitation Bundle, with a deal that you could Name Your Own Price. We feel that it is a great value at $49.95. But if you see this note, email me and tell me what you will pay and I will make you a special deal. Seriously! This does not appear on our website.

My goal is to get more of these tools into the hands of people worldwide and the best way to do that is to generate more use. We want this to go viral. I want people talking about continuous continuous improvement and making things better in the workplace.

I want more managers and supervisors to improve the involvement and satisfaction of their people by improving communications and engagement. I want workplaces to improve in their quality and for people to feel like their managers are listening to and implementing their ideas. I want to build more teamwork within as well as between departments.

So, jump onto this, send me an email and grab a wonderfully effective and bombproof set of tools for impacting your people:

Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit is here

My goal is to help people be more successful and to improve involvement and engagement in the workplace. If we do that, we improve things for everyone involved. Let me know if I can help,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Big Leaps and Little Steps – Thoughts on Innovation and Creativity

Dr. Scott Simmerman

For dozens of years, I have worked on the edges of how organizations work, being The Man in two organizations as well as being a consultant on long-term implementation projects as well as simply standing on the outside observing and commenting. Being in each position has had its advantages and drawbacks, but one thing is clear: Lots of organizations and individuals can accomplish lots of organizational improvement in lots of ways, and there is no silver bullet or best way.

Being internal offers the advantages of being able to bring to bear the organizational resources like time and money and support and roadblock management. One can supervise a group of people to focus on an issue or opportunity and to design an intervention to solve some problem or make some improvement.

That is easy when you are in charge of customer service or computer software or some other area that is somewhat self-contained. There are a lot of things you cannot manage, like customer service if you are a software manager or software if you are a customer service manager. But overall, you have some direct control.

The consultant has no direct influence, but might have access to senior managers and is often looking for something to implement that has impact and value for the company or department. So, the approach there is to identify issues and then look for leverage. Often, it is possible to collaborate and determine some changes and improvements that have significant organizational impact or effectiveness and whose results can be measured and evaluated.

In my 30 years of experience on the edges, it is quite common to find an individual who is doing things differently from the rest and seeing the results and impacts from that difference. Occasionally, it occurs at the low end of the performance curve, but very often, it is the Top or Exemplary Performer who has discovered some innovative efficiency that enables them to perform at a very high level.

They are not doing what the average employee is doing, but they are also doing things that the average person COULD do if they were aware of it or understood it or were measured on it (with feedback – see my newsletter on Performance Feedback).

This, for me, is organizational creativity or innovation. It does NOT have to be some brand new idea for a product or service, but it can be some organizational improvement or change that has impacts on some important aspect of how things work. And, often, those new improved ideas can be the basis for some team building as those ideas are implemented across part of the organization. Change does not have to be forced on people, which commonly generates resistance, anyway. Change and improvement can be made into an attractive new goal or mission and people can be recruited to implement and share the intrinsic motivation that comes naturally from improvement in skills or performance. Improvements can be recognized peer-to-peer and thus help that group build a more cohesive spirit.

On the other hand, forcing improvements from outside the group – such as a recommendation from a glory-seeking consultant who does not share any of the credit with the hands-on people – will result in resistance or worse.

Ownership, as I have discussed before, is a critical factor in organizational improvement:

“Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car”

See these blog articles for more information:

Doing the same thing the same way will mostly generate the same result. I say mostly because it is my experience that some people will NOT accept “how things work, now, badly” and will make improvements on their own. These are often the same people who will bend the rules and develop “out of bounds” types of solutions that make sense when viewed from a distance – they are working on the edges of accepted behavior in many cases. They often feel that work looks like this:

Working hard, turning corners, working hard, turning corners, working hard…

And at least they can shift some things around so that their effort has more positive impacts and makes more sense, even though they cannot change things. They will make work look more like this:

Some people will simply innovate how they do things to make it easier…

What is needed is pretty simple: time, support, and more support to actually make real changes in how things operate and how work gets done.

They need the support of the management, support of the departments that impact their results, and the support of their peers. This all leads to improved intrinsic motivation.

This stuff is NOT rocket science and we simply need to understand that ideas for innovation can come from anywhere at any time and may not flow from how things are done right now. Sometimes there are necessary and important paradigm shifts in how we think of things. And not every idea is a great one, but we do need to be careful about how we deal with it. There may be a spark of creativity that we want to build on.

Ideas will come from the edges, and everyone has ideas. Reinforce them!

My tools are useful for a wide variety of innovative or creative exploits with front line workers. They are easy to facilitate and set up a language of improvement. It is easy for hands-on people to share the things that do not work smoothly – you can generate dozens of good ideas for workplace improvement. And you can use these ideas to create a history of successful implementation that leads to easier improvement in the future.

Square Wheels and our team building games are designed to impact performance and results. Have fun with them.

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