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

Two Miles of Ditch for Every Mile of Road – Thoughts on Teamwork and Collaboration

There is that old joke about when you are up to your axles in alligators, it is hard to remember that your job was to drain the swamp. Sometimes the tasks at hand simply overwhelm the possible improvements. Organizational improvement is a lot like that, it seems.

Mud has been a most useful metaphor for me around the concept of dealing with Square Wheels when the cargo are round ones. Mud represents the organizational glop, or as I define it, “the stuff that is hard to get a grip on.”

Mud is the goo, the cement, the grinding paste — basically the stuff that is hard to deal with but that directly slows performance. It might be the culture of the organization or the tendency to not reward improvement / punishing failure. It is often the bureaucracy that gets in the way of generating change. It could be one person who tends to simply make everything more difficult for any number of reasons. If organizations had personalities, it could be that, too.

Dealing with the mud of team building

My comments tend to be around choice and choices and defining possibilities. Often, people simply choose to keep muddling along like they always have and not much will change. You just keep plugging away, hoping to make progress.

But it is often useful just to step back from the wagon and look for some ways to “Get out of the ditch and up on the road!” Doing the same thing will generate the same results. And, understanding that there are a lot of miles of ditch to deal with in most organizations is just a thought on reality. Nothing makes sense, and neither does anything else so much of the time. Knowing what needs to be changed and even building a good case for it does not necessarily translate into an organizational improvement initiative.

These situations take group engagement and a sense of shared focus and teamwork in order to generate the energy to change the course of what is happening. One person, no matter how powerful or skilled, will find it very difficult to deal with the glop and get things moving more effectively. There is just too much to deal with, most of the time. Change is difficult. And peer support and teamwork and collaboration are helpful.

Me, I just got up on the road, I think, by doing these little ditty things using the cartoons and illustrating the issues with Haiku and poems and maybe some limericks on occasion. I have a bunch of clients and friends sending me their poems and word changes and the like, so I think I will keep going down this path and see what results.

YOUR thoughts and words would be appreciated, and if you want a couple of cartoons on which to permanently and forever post up your thoughts (attributed to you, of course), pop me a note. I can assist and you can be the poet or wordsmith forever anchored to one of the themes of improving organizations.


Caterpillars can fly lighten up round

Or, from The Waterboy:  “You can do it!”

Have fun out there, too. Have a most wonderful New Year!

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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1 Comment

  1. Caterpillars could fly if they just lighten up huh interesting I never quite thought about how much just seeing the humor in things could make your life better.

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