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

Month: July 2013 Page 1 of 2

Some simple thoughts and quotes on change

There are lots of possibilities for improvement of people and organizations and the list is never-ending. The reality is that life is all about continuous continuous improvement and constant change and development.

There are so many ideas that are already in the wagon and already used by so many other people. It does not require a lot of creativity or even the invention of new ideas or processes, since these ideas often already exist.

The key is perspective and vision. It is about getting people to “step back from the wagon” and consider possibilities.

If you are looking for The Answer on issues of personal and organizational change, recognize that there is probably no good simple answer. No one is that smart and every situation is different. There are too many conflicting factors and individual differences to do anything but coach and support.

“Given the right circumstances, from no more than dreams, determination, and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently do extraordinary things.”

Dee Hock, founder of VISA International

“Never doubt that a small, committed group of people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)

God gives every bird his worm, but he does not throw it into the nest. (Swedish proverb)

At the same time, the best practices and unimplemented ideas are already in the wagon, needing only some way to recognize and implement them. There are a lot of workable and even proven ideas that can be used by you and the people you support. We just need a more effective approach to sharing these ideas and implementing change.

Some of my thoughts are these:

Our journey forward is often marked by limitations, but numerous possibilities already exist for improvement.

Whatever you do, don’t simply keep pushing!

So, let’s choose to focus on becoming more than what we are and becoming more like the butterfly. It is the diversity of thinking and perspective that gives us the opportunity to continue to see things in different ways. And we need to keep focused on the future. Each of us has the potential within us to fly, even though we all are different, so long as we continue to focus on improvement.

We are limited in vision and processes, but we can always push for improvements.

You cannot empower. You CAN Dis-Un-Empower.

    You can help remove the roadblocks.

        Most employees say, “Can’t” but really CAN.

But people have been writing about managing and leading change for as long as people have been writing. It has always been with us and it will always represent both a problem as well as a solution.

Go to the people
Learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build on what they have
But of the best leaders
When their task is accomplished
Their work is done
The people will remark:
“We have done it ourselves.”
2000 year-old Chinese Saying

“Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves, for we shall never cease to be amused.” (Author Unknown)

“Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.”
(The Eagles, “Take It Easy”)

 Even Caterpillars can fly, if they would just lighten up.
(Scott Simmerman)

 So, I challenge each of you to look for ideas for improvement and make a difference in your wagons.

Your Round Wheels already exist. Use Them. And have FUN out there!

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

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Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly – Thoughts on Change – Part Five

This is Part Five of our five-part post on issues surrounding people and performance and managing and leading change. Included are some ideas about:

  • managing change and personal growth   
  • assisting change management initiatives
  • developing individual and organizational potential

Part One of this series talks about the danger of knowing The Answer when it comes to working to manage and lead change and you can click the link or the image at right  to go to the beginning of this article. 

(Here we briefly talk about a simple involving and engaging model for managing and leading change, something that meshes up neatly into our beliefs about involving and engaging people for workplace improvement. I will write more about the model in another post.)

For nearly 30 years, my associates and I have been working with a very actionable and understandable model for change, one that we prefer to do with the involvement of the people who are going through the change process. I feel that with them knowing and playing a role in the process, it makes all things a lot easier. It also helps to clarify issues and minimize misunderstandings and tension.

What we do in this post is focus on some things to consider in helping your organization roll forward. It is as much about HOW you do things as what those things are, it seems.

People will often appear to resist change because they are actually comfortable with how things are, right now. Getting them to change for no real reason is resisted…

By using the approach of our illustration to generate their active involvement, we help the change process by identifying Square Wheels and the possible Round Wheels. This elegantly serves to increase discomfort with the way things are now and this helps make change more likely since people now have some considered alternatives.

Four Simple Factors for Implementing Change

This relates to our simple Change Model, comprised of four factors which may only be somewhat related,

  1. The current level of discomfort with the way things are now and about how people feel about the environment and how things work
  2. The attractiveness of the vision of the future and whether they feel like they should invest in it.
  3. The individual or groups previous success with change — are they personally successful in making changes and improvements or were they recently unsuccessful and thus more reluctant to fail again
  4. The peer support for making a change occur — are the rest of the people for the change?

By increasing any or all of them, we make change more likely. We work to involve and engage people to help move these possibilities along.

Note that we have written extensively on my simple model for analyzing and managing Roadblocks, which also uses a facilitative engagement process and which PMC offers a simple and effective toolkit for addressing. There are four types of roadblocks, ranging from immovable (escalate those up) to “the ones you’ve heard of that must be true” that one can simply choose to fix. By allowing groups to brainstorm and list roadblocks and then analyze them, the group can decide which to escalate and which to handle.

To some degree, most people are un-empowered, allowing roadblocks that are real or perceived to get in their way. The reality, however, is that they expect things to change while they keep doing things the same way. My belief is that our tools and approach can help managers to remove those things that get in the way (dis-un-empowerment) and generate peer support for change and improvement and the sharing of best practices through improved teamwork.

The problem with performance improvement and dis-un-empowerment is that many people don’t “buy into the program.” Issues of trust and past history often factor into this causing people to feel that things really won’t improve or that their efforts may not be recognized and appreciated.

Many people don’t have a positive experience with attempts to make changes and improvements. And they do NOT get the support of others around them.

Let’s illustrate with a test that might be interesting for you. You could also try it with someone else. Take 2 minutes and consider identifying four or five key points in the following illustration:

Square Wheels image of trial and error

Consider the above – what is going on / what is this about. Think of some themes and ideas – maybe 6 of them before reading on…

DO pause here and consider the above…

The name of the cartoon is Trial and Error. And it is about how change and improvements occur. And if you are reading this without considering your reactions to the illustration, stop and please consider.

If you are like most people in our discussion sessions, you will generate a number of ideas about what is wrong and what they should have done and few about what they have done or are doing positively. The actual ratio of negative to positive is greater than 16 : 1 and we’ve tested this worldwide in all sorts of organizational cultures with very similar results.

Some of the common ones include: they aren’t working on the problem, the horse is before the cart, horses won’t push like that, they should see the problem but they don’t, they missed the Square Wheels completely, and they are about to run off and stop working.

Continuous continuous improvement is an ongoing process, is accomplished by trial and error and requires perspective and reflection. But, too often, we are quick to put a “Blame Frame” on things and presume, with our leadership and expertise, that we would not have made such simple errors and omissions.

square wheels trial and error

But horses will push carts when trained and motivated (hang a carrot in front of it!) and a great many potential ideas for improvement will always exist that can be implemented or modified.

As Max DePree elegantly said:

“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.”

If everyone is focused on what people should have or might have done, this feedback to others will be seen as non-supporting and negative. The effort that was taken to try to do things differently would be punished rather than rewarded and, therefore, we make change less likely.  This “constructive criticism” is not constructive and will not support continuous continuous improvement.

A team approach generates the pooled, collective knowledge needed to solve real problems as well as provide the synergy and consensus as to where to generate results. Peer pressure can be focused on improvements if we can engage the team in a bit of reflection. Leadership provides the power and support to the implementation — but they must follow through and do something to recognize any improvements.

Quality, for example, is a people thing. A cross-functional team with a few skills, a mission and vision, and a bit of empowerment from management can generate the objectivity, perspective, collective knowledge and support to make real improvements in systems and processes, the root solution to the quality issue. And by getting people involved in the solution, they become equity owners of the process and we do things with them rather than to them.

Improving service quality is often an issue of leadership and recognition. Organizations have a real need to implement change. But the dynamics involved are complicated, and yet simple. You would all agree that motivation comes from people who take pride in results, with pride being a strong natural reinforcer of behavior.

The impact of putting The Blame Frame around less than perfect attempts to improve will stifle improvement. We naturally generate defensiveness or defense instead of change and we punish innovation while we demand improvement. And then we wonder why people do not feel self-actualized and intrinsically motivated. All of us can support improvement of others!

Intrinsic motivation, then, looks like this (in a haiku-type poem):

Most people already have the Round Wheels within their grasp but, because of negative self-talk, constructive criticism, past performance evaluations focused on the negative and other typical work dynamics, we may not recognize them. Getting a test back in school, for example, was an experience of seeing all of our wrong answers highlighted and marked in red.

You can read more about intrinsic motivation, as I have blogged about it extensively. This takes you to a summary page.

This focus on the negative does not work to bring out the positive. Focusing on the negative only brings out more negative!

Performance coaching and personal improvement should address the many positives of the situation, seeing that continuous improvement is continuous. There is a need for objectivity and perspective combined with management support. But because of people’s focus on personal issues, politics and pettiness, many do not get feedback that focuses on the things that could be done to correct and improve our results.

We can’t really focus on developing human capital and achieving highest potential if we treat people in ways that diminish self-esteem and limit opportunities. The only way to achieve high performance is to engage the best energies of the people within the organization. And they already exist — the challenge is to unleash them from within.

So, if we want people to fly, we’ve got to look at what influences their initiative and performance and get them involved and engaged.

We need to allow people to try new things and experiment with the systems and processes. By hooking things up in a new way, we can often generate that creative spark and innovation that will make a long-term fundamental improvement. Consider what you can do to have more fun and generate new ideas for change.


Change is inevitable. So why not make it both easier and fun? Involve and engage people in the changes that they think are needed and see if things do not roll a lot smoother. And remember that caterpillars can fly, if they would just lighten up!

Hope that these ideas help you some,


For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Ph.D. CPF, CPT is still managing partner of PMC, but sort of retired…

Scott is developer of the Square Wheels® 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


Slogans about People and Performance, Illustrated with Square Wheels

Occasionally, I will see something that buzzes my brain and I will go off running in that direction because it interests me. A week ago, I saw some slogans for companies in a particular industry, so I started a collection. This then built itself into a list, which I then transformed and adapted to different cartoons.

Here are some I linked to the Square Wheels One illustration, my old stuff in the line-art style, and that I thought were cute, funny, ironic, paradoxical or just plain silly. Take a few seconds to allow the slogan to float around with the thoughts around the illustration and tell me which one or ones that you like the best. Here goes:

SWs One one-liner slogans 1

SWs One one-liner slogans 2

SWs One one-liner slogans 3

SWs One one-liner slogans 4

SWs One one-liner slogans 5

SWs One one-liner slogans 6

Are we having fun yet?

What do you think is YOUR favorite? Your thoughts and comments below would be appreciated. And please feel free to LIKE these, if you like them!

If you suggest one, I will do it up using our new LEGO versions of the theme and create a poster or similar.

Square Wheels Involvement toolYou can read about some of the new ideas we have for impacting involvement and engagement in the workplace if you click on the image above or go here to other posts in my blog or click here to go to a whole new blog on quips and one-liners and posters and similar.

Square Wheels LEGO poster of engagement and 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

Feedback – And Performance and Management Techniques

I am stimulated to write this after reading an email from Mark Murphy at Leadership IQ. Basically, what Mark is talking about is the whole issue of giving people compliments on their work. And I really disagree with his premise in some simple ways.

Mark wrote:

Please Stop the Compliment Sandwich

What is a Compliment Sandwich? Well, beyond being one of the worst management techniques ever invented, it’s a way of trying to criticize somebody without making them feel bad. Basically, you give somebody a compliment, then you criticize them, then close with a compliment.

Here’s how one training company describes the Compliment Sandwich process (this is so absurd it would be hysterical, if only it weren’t offered seriously):

  1. Decide where your employee needs to improve his/her performance.
  2. Think of something they do very well related to the situation. For instance, if you think that they are always late, try how they get straight to work once they arrive, or how they volunteer to stay late).
  3. Choose another positive point to remark on. This should be very loosely related to the above point.
  4. Deliver the first compliment. “Hey, Jon. Already deep in your work? Wow, you just got here!”
  5. State where you would like to see improvement. “It is almost 9:50, though; you’ve been late a lot recently…maybe you need to find a way to miss that morning traffic.”
  6. Finish with the last compliment. “Oh, by the way, your car looks fantastic!”

Scott’s thinking is somewhat different, in that I feel that compliments can be a positive PART of performance feedback, but that it should not represent the major component:

Where I beg to differ is that the so-called Compliment Sandwich is sure an awful lot better than the Critical Construct or the Negative Hammer or the Godzilla Meets Bambi approach of some managers who can find little or NOTHING positive to say about an individual’s performance and offer their “Constructive Criticism” as a constant way to involve and motivate people for performance improvement.

Samuel Goldwyn probably typified that approach, given he said:

“When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”

Goldwyn was probably not the most involving and engaging managers we’ve ever seen but he did head MGM movie studios and certainly “managed people.” There are LOTS of other such “leaders” who would have been a lot better if they had sandwiched their criticism with a few positives now and then, in my opinion. Pointy-Haired_BossThink Dilbert cartoons and the pointy-haired boss that everyone can identify with…

Most people would find some positive recognition to be useful. And managers should, most assuredly, offer some feedback and advice on when the performance is not up to standard and needs to be corrected. What we sometimes see is managers avoiding those people who are hard to deal with, and this greatly affects the overall workforce. Better a screaming match with the worst performer and bad actor than paying them more money for each unit of work, insofar as how it affects the overall work team.

My suggested approach is around building strong performance feedback systems so that performers themselves know how they are doing on critical performance issues. I write about that and offer a feedback analysis checklist on this blog post:

Performance Feedback! Breakfast of Champions

I also suggest facilitated work improvement discussions around the themes of building performance improvement teams and teamwork among people in the workgroup. Since most people are un-engaged, why not facilitate some discussions about what roadblocks need to be addressed and what best practices need to be shared and supported. I call that Engagimentation or Dis-Un-Empowerment and you can read about some of those ideas by clicking the linked text above.

Mark is selling a seminar. Me, I am just saying that things could be a lot worse (and they ARE a lot worse) in a lot of workplaces. The statistics clearly indicate that reality. Boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory.

Yet bosses can see the future and can coach and mentor and can provide effective motivational feedback to assist people in transformation. It is a reframing and a re-anchoring of perception to the core of behavior and desired change and improvement.

It is about seeing potential and acting upon it:

Mentoring Coaching haiku

So, continue to make things better by allowing your people to make things incrementally better and recognize and reward those improvements with your specific comments,

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:



Square Wheels, timing and rhyming on issues

Yes, viewers, Scott goes off on another creative tangent. I am hoping that you will find these fun, because it WAS fun to create these illustrated poems on the workplace, motivation, change, innovation and improvement. How things really work and possibilities for improvement are my focus – people and performance.

I am putting a whole lot of these together on a Pinterest page, should you want to see more of the “Completed Works on Square Wheels.” You can find this Pinterest page here:

So, here are a few that were stimulated when I read a few Dr. Seuss poems for inspiration. I will start with a couple themed to Square Wheels One to set the stage and then go off into some of the other illustrations and thoughts. Your feedback would be great and feel free to LIKE this page and hit me on Google + also.

This got me going, I will admit.
These cartoons may give a fit.
They’re meant to give you some ideas,
but maybe all you’ll do is sneeze.

(A quick check shows I have 113 illustrated poems!) Let me start with this Square Wheels One illustration, one that I used in yesterday’s blog.

SWs One all the things you won't see red

And then we move on to some other thoughts

mud job pay different way poem

balloon in the air share poem

Desk better way poem

Desk substitution one less bump per revolution poem

Intrinsic less wheel of wagon shake poem

or there is this one along similar lines:

Intrinsic places we'll go poem

Celebration plane horse game poem

My thoughts are around involving and engaging people, and allowing them easy ways to identify issues in the workplace and to design approaches to solve problems, build teamwork and improve workplace performance.

Part of the issue is simply recognizing that things could be done differently. It is about the choices we have and the choices we make. It is about discussing possibilities and identifying ideas for increasing involvement.

SWs One - what you see is all border

So, I think that is it for this post. But I will keep on playing, throwing mud at the wire fence until I am sure of what is sticking where. Hope you LIKE this stuff,

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

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Poems and Cartoons on Performance – Engaging Ideas

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

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

SWs One green watermark

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

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

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

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz001

And there were lots of different responses, for sure:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz006

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

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

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz004

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

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

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

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

Engagimentation Future


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

SWs One Today was good today was fun

SWs One They're everywhere

SWs One Nothing is NOT


SWs One brain in head feet in shoes

SWs One all the things you won't see red


Yeah, and more to come!

For the FUN of It!

scott tiny casual

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Does Teamwork Work? Issues and Ideas for Improvement

There are people who think that no teamwork actually works to improve performance and that the effort and expense are a waste of energy and time. Yeah, maybe. But it does require some planning and alignment to the real issues and opportunities of improving management team building for business improvement.

More and more, I see and hear about some exercises that really sound like mediocre ideas for impacting workplace performance and just do not understand how some of those activities are actually linked to performance improvement. Sure, tossing balls around in a circle with more speed the second time can demonstrate better coordination of a group’s activities and, yeah, seeing that improvement after people talk about how they could do it differently does indicate that teamwork works. But what the heck? How do you really make that activity bridge to improving interdepartmental collaboration when the bosses of those departments are not involved in the activity.

(And I DO think that paintball might be a fun activity to watch as the different department heads duel it out on an individual basis for Leadership Supremacy. But I really doubt that winning that exercise will dramatically improve trust and respect among each other or that is it is an optimal paradigm for building teams within an entire organization — paintball sets up, by design, competing groups with no possibility of collaboration. You know that they sell paintball mortars, right? Designed to kill lots of players with one well-placed shot.)

We know that there are many different kinds of troubles with implementing strategies and there are issues of organizational culture and divergent measurement systems that do NOT lend themselves to organizational team building or organizational alignment interventions. There are a lot of different intra-group and inter-group issues that can be directly addressed with interventions and team building, things that can be readily discussed and resolved once the issues are smoked-out.

PMC has a vested interest in the issue, since we design and sell interactive team building activities focused on resolving issues of engagement and collaboration between teams.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, for example, has proven itself in its ability to generate commitment for change and improvement since 1993. It’s about solving problems, strategic planning, and collaboration with others who have information they could share. It is about working with others under the pressures of time, with measurable results.


And there IS a lot of crap training out there calling itself teamwork, in my opinion. I have attended and participated in way too many to pretend that they do not exist. Some are just plain goofy!

Google ChromeScreenSnapz003

Yeah, let’s all cheer for the outstanding bag jumper while it is 105 degrees…

My particular pet peeves are around activities like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes — “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together to solve problems, interacting to define things to improve, etc. I just do not believe that “team bonding” is a sufficiently powerful incentive to change workplace business practives.

And Golf as team building? Really? HOW??— Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play is crucial to success (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole, but not during play, most certainly. It is one-on-one-on-one-on one, or maybe two pairs against each other. They cannot help each other, unless maybe reading a putt.

Bowling? Maybe. Cooking? Maybe, if one is running a big commercial kitchen in a restaurant or hotel and each of team is responsible for ONE aspect of that meal and they are collaborating on the overall timing… But just let one try to help another by offering some “help” in the way of advice.

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations – they are one-man bands, working alone and not in concert. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then think they can expect their people to work together. In so many organizations — with lots of research supporting this — many of the people are not engaged and many are DIS-engaged. One might not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people.

A recent Fierce, Inc., survey found:

  • 86% of respondents blame lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.
  • 70% of individuals either agree or strongly agree that a lack of candor impacts the company’s ability to perform optimally.
  • 97% of those surveyed believe the lack of alignment within a team directly impacts the outcome of any given task or project.
  • 90% of respondents believe decision-makers should seek out other opinions before making a final decision; approximately 40% feel leaders and decision-makers consistently fail to do so.

But we can motivate people and drive alignment to shared goals. People want to feel successful and not be scared by the risks of performing. We need to get them to a new place, mentally.

In high performing workplaces, you will also see a collaborative culture where people work together to handle issues and solve problems. Granted, that approach may not work too well in places like Real Estate, Mortgage Lending or Stock Market Sales, but we do see a strong need for collaboration and commitment where things like production or product design or customer service come into play.

Motivate Me poem

Take any group of people, give them some common goals, measure them on shared performance, and allow them the ability to help each other and you have the basics for a workplace situation where teamwork will arise. Then, do some activity that demonstrates the benefit of collaboration on the overall results — something like, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Then, debrief that activity and discuss the choices that people made along with the choices they COULD have made, link it to the issues they see in their own workplace, and allow them to make commitments to each other (peer support) and you are highly likely to see improvement (if there is a bit of followup after the session).

Think of all the activities that we engage in where teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment — sports is but one endeavor. As my North Carolina Tar Heels demonstrated (yeah, I know about Duke winning the ACC Tourney), their improved collaboration and teamwork was visibly what enabled them to run out 20-3 for the last part of the season. Lacking that teamwork, they started at 6-4… Same players, but a different level of confidence, communication and effort.

And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Does Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. Teamwork always works if we don’t prevent it from working.

Sure, individuals can excel individually, but only through collaboration with others and if they are involved and engaged. Only with motivation can we get a group of people collaborating to high levels of accomplishment and performance.

It is about leadership. It is about identifying opportunities for improvement and then celebrating the successes that are gained.

Playing with Ideas

Have more FUN out There!

scott tiny casualDr. 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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Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly – Thoughts on Change – Part Four

Square Wheels, Change and the World of Work
— statistics and ideas and possibilities —

Part One of this series talks about the danger of knowing The Answer when it comes to working to manage and lead change and Part Two focuses on some of the realities of the change process, with factoids on caterpillars and butterflies. To support this endeavor, we have also added two different poems on the themes of transformation and change that I hope you will find interesting. Joan Simmerman’s poem is here and Fern Lebo’s poem is here.

The Third Part of this series has a focus on how we can use the Square Wheels theme and approach to better involve and engage people in this process of involving, engaging and understand the process of change itself. Here, we expand on some of the statistics around workplace attitudes and overall involvement. It is NOT a pretty picture of butterflies flying and more like a picture of boots crushing caterpillars.

This (Part 4)  is about Square Wheels, Change and the World of Work – What are the main issues?

The continuing and overwhelming global response to Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoons indicates there exists a perception in business today that things do not work smoothly, that lots of mud exists and that few in leadership positions appear to be listening. And change and improvement are paramount needs.


The issues here are around involvement and engagement and communications as they relate to workplace performance. The caterpillars seem to be actively resisting the changes and transformations that are part of continuous continuous improvement. The people are not seeing themselves as butterflies and are not being involved or engaged in the processes.

Many statistics from a wide range of sources strongly support a real Square Wheels Workplace Reality when it comes to how things are rolling forward. My thought was to put a bunch of them all in one place:

A Fierce, Inc., survey found:

  • 86% of respondents blame lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures; similarly, 92% of respondents also agree that a company’s tendency to hit or miss a deadline will impact bottom-line results.
  • More than 70% of individuals either agree or strongly agree that a lack of candor impacts the company’s ability to perform optimally.
  • More than 97% of those surveyed believe the lack of alignment within a team directly impacts the outcome of any given task or project.
  • 90% of respondents believe decision-makers should seek out other opinions before making a final decision; approximately 40% feel leaders and decision-makers consistently fail to do so.
  • Nearly 100% (99.1%) prefer a workplace in which people identify and discuss issues truthfully and effectively, yet less than half said their organization’s tendency is to do so.


  • An old study by IBM and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) shows that while 84% of organizations know workforce effectiveness is important to achieving business results, only 42% of those surveyed managers say they devote sufficient time to people management.
  • 83% of those high in self-awareness are workplace top performers while just 2% of bottom performers are high in self-awareness. High performers see more of their environment and do things to generate better results.
  • Just 36% of people possess an adequate amount of self-awareness, and 70% of folks are ineffective at handling conflict and stress.
  • Only 35% of workers characterize the level of trust between senior management and employees as favorable. Little more than half of employees will recommend their own company as a good place to work, according to a survey by Watson Wyatt. The perception is that other places offer better opportunities.
  • Only 23% of those surveyed by Gallop for The Marlin Company said they are “extremely satisfied” with their work.
  • In repeated Wyatt Company Work USA Surveys, they report that most executives (88%) thought that employee participation was important to productivity yet only 30% say their companies do a good job of involving employees in decisions that affect them. Only 38% of employees report that their companies do a good job of seeking opinions and suggestions of employees, which has dropped since 1989. And even when opinions are sought, only 29% of employees say that the company does a good job of acting on those suggestions. (and we continue to see data like these)
  • Towers Perrin surveyed 250,000 workers at 60 companies and found only 48% thought their bosses listened to their ideas or acted upon them. And only 60% of employees think their bosses keep them well informed and only 32% feel management makes good and timely decisions.
  • Just 38% of workers said the information needed to accomplish their duties is widely shared and only 36% feel their companies actively sought worker opinions.
  • KellyOCR (2013) reported that 44% of people say they would perform at higher levels if the company compensation were tied to performance or productivity — in other words, they would do better if they were paid better!
  • Kepner-Tregoe reported that their survey showed that two-thirds of managers and hourly workers estimate that their organizations use less than 50 percent of their collective smarts and when asked to select the barriers to thinking from a list of 13 possible causes, both managers and workers cited the same three causes: organizational politics, time pressures, and lack of involvement in decision-making.
  • KT’s research also said that a little over half the hourly workers, and 40 percent of the managers, stated that frequent second-guessing of their decisions created a disincentive to spend a lot of time thinking up solutions to job-related problems.
  • Dale Carnegie & Associates produced the startling finding that only 46% give their best effort at work. Only 36% feel challenged by their jobs; 52% have not attained their personal objectives; and more than 43% feel trapped in their jobs.”
  • 59% of engaged employees say that their job brings out their most creative ideas. Only 3% of dis-engaged employees report this – Gallup
  • 49% of employed workers and professionals from across the globe participating in a recent Kelly survey (2012) say they constantly have their antennae out for new job opportunities — even when they are happy in their current position.
  • Booz (2012) found that just 43% of participants said they were highly effective in generating new ideas. And only 36% felt the same way about converting ideas to development projects. Altogether, only a quarter of all companies indicated they were highly effective at the front end of innovation.
  • Managers think their conflict-management skills are better than their employees think they are and this is calculated to be costing U.S. companies upward of $359 billion per year in lost manpower hours. Nearly one-third of all managers surveyed feel they’re skilled at dealing with conflict but only a fifth of employees believe their manager deals with conflict well:
  • While 31% of managers believe they handle conflict well, only 22% of non-managerial employees think their managers do a great job of sorting out disagreements effectively.
  • While only 23% of managers feel that they do not handle conflict as well as they should, fully 43% of the non-management employees feel that managers do not handle it as well as they should.
  • Among those who reported spending time dealing with conflict, 76% (81% in the U.S.) have seen desirable outcomes such as major innovations, better solutions, and increased motivation; 76% have seen conflict lead to a positive outcome; 41% have seen conflict lead to better understanding of others; and 29% have seen it lead to a better solution to a workplace problem.

Decades of consistent survey results indicate that there are wheely many problems at hand in most workplaces and that an improved sense of involvement and engagement would pay great dividends. Workers feel isolation and non-involvement with the things that impact them directly. Many people feel that management just does not care and are going through the motions…

Many wagon pushers feel the problems at hand but few get the satisfaction from having things improved. But there is often little incentive for taking risks and making improvements. And it is not obvious that leaders in the organization are always listening to ideas or always willing to implement change. Those perceptions can be addressed — they are merely perceptions of reality.

Ask, and Ye Shall Receive!

We need leaders to take the time to discuss the possibilities for improvement and engage the energies of all of the people. This is a two-way street as we can ask for feedback as well as share ideas and best practices. It’s not rocket science; it’s about involvement focused on improving the task at hand. It should seem clear that the potential for improvement already exists, that there is a butterfly within each of us.

The Round Wheels are already in the wagon.
Caterpillars can fly, if they would just lighten up!

But some workers just may not see the potential for improvement or the need for change and some managers may not see their role as one of developing people and innovating performance improvements. The statistics consistently show, however, that most people feel that improvements could be made if others would be more open and asking about the possibilities for improvement.

The Square Wheels are everywhere!

A few more key learning points:

  • Knowing “The Answer” will prevent you from seeking out other possibilities and ideas, limiting possibilities. (see part one)
  • Groups generate better ideas than individuals — do things in teams of 5 to 7 people. Allow groups to mutually support the others around them to optimize peer support for any change initiatives.
  • There are more ideas available than one might initially think. Play generates creativity and innovation. Pressure doesn’t – Pressure only generates resistance.
  • Not all the good ideas are immediate or even obvious until a problem is discovered and discussed. The Play is The Thing.

Another learning point is that a focus on the things that work but don’t work well takes clear objectivity and perspective from leadership. We must stop pushing and pulling in order to get far enough away from the work to see possibilities for improvement. This is especially tough to do when one’s goals and objectives don’t allow for much development time or arms’ length perspective.

By paying attention to the Square Wheels and then paying attention to the perceived possibilities for improvement, we create a bit of cognitive dissonance or discomfort caused by a gap between the perception of how things are and how they could be. By becoming less comfortable with the current processes and more aware of what might be done, we are more likely to initiate changes and improvements.

There are no bad people in companies; there are just good people doing clunky things in poor systems. When you put people into a poorly functioning process, there is little chance that they will perform well. We must address the operational and motivational systems to engage and motivate people. And the people who have hands on experience only need perspective and support.


My goal for this section was to elaborate a bit more on the problems that organizations face but to add a framework that the existing issues can be somewhat straightforward to address. People are not involved and engaged, so take steps to involve and engage them. People do not feel as if things work smoothly and they have ideas for improvement, so allow them to share their ideas. People feel that managers are not paying attention to the people in the workplaces, so change that perception and listen to them.

Square Wheels image of making improvement


For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman CPF, CPT is still managing partner of PMC

Scott is developer of the Square Wheels® images and the board game version of Lost Dutchman

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


Scott’s blog on People and Performance is here.

Scott’s blog on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® are a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

Thoughts on Teambuilding and Aligning an International Business Group

Some Ideas about working with senior managers to improve organizational performance and do some corporate team building:

The situation is to design a company team building program for 50 directors and above who operate globally. Grown through innovation and acquisition, the various operations within the business all work well individually, but collaboration and synergy could be improved across the organization. The opportunities around a fun, interactive team building exercise focused on optimizing overall business results is high, and this event can be used to lead off their entire business conference.

Gold Hand Magnet 1One Goal is to produce the best overall results that we can for the success of the entire organization and not just one group or team. Another goal is to generate alignment and collaboration throughout the organization.

The issues are around improving planning and collaboration to drive a better overall result, one that could be linked to a variety of organizational alignment and communications issues and help the organization improve its customer service.

Sound familiar? Well that was the context of a phone call I got a while back. It is a Most Perfect Scenario for The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for a variety of reasons so I thought to work up a short proposal into a longer blog, since many of my game users will see similar kinds of scenarios in their use of the exercise in this kind of team building situation — few of the common exercises out there work really well with senior managers…

Please note that a sister article to this, entitled, “Maximizing team building impacts with Senior Managers,” can be found be found by clicking on the title.

This client wanted to bring people from all its global operations to Dallas. These included locations in Europe and Asia so having a business simulation that worked well with these cultures was important. We have associates running the game throughout these regions and I know from my personal facilitation efforts that the different cultures tend to make similar decisions and play with a similar level of competition versus collaboration. For the most part, my debriefings differ more between different kinds of organizations more than different cultural perspectives or levels of management.

This program was a multi-day event, with the overall desired outcomes focused on generating real collaboration between the operating entities, as demanded by the increased global competition they faced — they needed to improve innovation and customer service across global lines.

The metaphors in Lost Dutchman link beautifully to themes of planning versus executing, competing versus collaboration, intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation and other aspects of organizational alignment and communications. Thus, it can be tied metaphorically to many of the overall goals and tactics of the program design group. And that was what we did.

The Group President took an active role in the game play and debriefing. My very favorite way to do this is to help the leader facilitate a discussion of, “What does Mining Gold mean to our organization” and we allowed the 10 different tabletops to first engage themselves and then to share their business improvement ideas with the entire group. This set up some very distinct actionable outcomes for the rest of the program.


We set the tabletops with the straw cowboy hats and colored bandannas as part of the “paraphernalia” and the get-ready to play aspect of the exercise. It helped to energize the group for fun. Nearly every one of them kept both the hat and bandana and that will be an ongoing kinesthetic and visual reminder of the activity and the discussions.

Options: One of the things I would have liked to have done is this: At the end of the play and the conclusion of the debriefing, we have a fun “awards ceremony” and give each of these senior managers a nice, white, crushable felt cowboy hat to take home to display in their office.41Mlj2mS6FL._SX385_

These white hats are awarded as a symbolic activity, with the most senior managers giving a hat to each of their direct reports and cascading these awards down through their line operations. The idea is to celebrate the success and to reward the good ideas for things that could be done differently.

There might also be a “cowboy hat dinner event” at the end of the conference to celebrate the changes and new ideas that they will choose to implement after their departure. At this point the event planning has not been completed.

Change and strategy implementation is difficult to accomplish and  having something visible and tangible is often really helpful. I think of the “White Hat Award” that Western Electric used to give to a couple of their managers from the thousands in their organization — to use the word “coveted” does not even come close to how much those were valued by the most respected and accomplished senior managers. They were proudly displayed in their offices when I was consulting with that organization long ago. They were a point of pride.

What we did do was completely engage all of the participants in discussions about current issues and very specific improvement opportunities. We allowed them to make choices about what to do differently to improve operational results and impacts.

Rollout – Post-Event Possibilities

It is obvious that the costs of a program of this kind, with hotel and airfare and the other related activities, is quite high. Thus, senior management should be looking for tangible issues and real opportunities to impact their business and improve operational results. It is clear from our years of supporting the exercise for change management and strategy implementation that a wide variety of issues will rise up for discussion in the debriefing and subsequent conversations around the play, and that ideas for improvement will be a natural result of participation. Thus, a company should be prepared to document and plan tactics for addressing them.

Normal business operational tactics are often optimal because they fit smoothly within business operational practices. Changes in expectations, feedback and measurement systems are often used to drive the strategies. But companies can also use effective tools within that roll-out program. One of the roll-out activities could easily be Lost Dutchman, done at each location for those management teams, since it would be easy to learn to facilitate after one played the game.

It is our experience that anyone who went through a delivery of the Lost Dutchman exercise would be somewhat capable of delivering that exercise in the future. PMC could support those global organizations with trained consultants to help them run the game locally in their organizations or we could supply various training people with Dutchman games so that they could run them locally to cascade these ideas about collaboration and optimization of results in each of the workplaces. The guys with the White Hats should be a visible part of the facilitation and leadership team pushing for improved workplace engagement and collaboration in their organizations.

At this point, we are prepared to help the client organization identify its potential issues and opportunities and define some strategies and tactics that would be helpful for roll-out and implementation. Improving the interpersonal relationships of the senior management team will be helpful to improve overall collaboration. But there will be some structural changes that will need to be done to insure that these good ideas become institutionalized best practices.

Please note that a sister article to this, entitled, “Maximizing team building impacts with Senior Managers,” can be found by clicking on the title.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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:


Some specifics on play of:

 The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

Dutchman is delivered as a team building exercise and debriefed on the basic principles of improving interdepartmental collaboration and generating opportunities for improvement. There are strong ties to leadership, engagement and communications. For management development, it is a superb situation to engage participants on issues of optimization, motivation and performance. As a team development exercise, it is used by an impressive list of multinational organizations and international consultants and trainers.

The debriefing helps shift the focus from the game play and results to the realities of organizations working together, improving collaboration, sharing informational resources: “Mining as much Gold as We Can.”

The exercise focuses on the motivating impacts of shared missions and goals and common issues surrounding culture, teamwork and planning. We have hundreds of testimonials and a long list of clients, including corporate users and colleges as well as consultants and trainers. An exceptional amount of information is found on our user-oriented website at   —  (To see testimonials from users worldwide, collected by an independent survey company and others, click here.)

The main theme, Mining as Much Gold as We Can, is generally linked to the celebrations of past successes and new ideas for teamwork and collaboration within the organization. In addition, debriefing discussions can focus on the future impacts of teams contributing their individual results to the overall outcomes for achieving goals.

The exercise is designed to take 3 to 3.5 hours to play and debrief thoroughly. It has tabletop teams sharing best practices and information about the game to help other tabletops be more successful. Everyone succeeds but teams that collaborate and plan succeed more than the others. This tends to mirror the collaboration opportunities of most organizations and is a valuable learning lesson from play to link to issues of change.

A testimonial on The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold MineIvette Dutchman Testimonial

This highly interactive board game team building exercise was initially developed by Dr. Scott Simmerman, in 1993 and is being used worldwide by a wide variety of multinational corporations, government agencies, consultants and various other organizations. The main PMC website shares a detailed client list and links to individuals who have agreed to offer their testimonial support.

Technical and scientific users of the exercise include Microsoft, Fluor, Institute of Nuclear Power (INPO), Infineon Technologies, Ingersoll Rand, GlaxoWelcome, Michelin, Nokia, Lucas Technologies, Nortel Networks, Sony, Dupont, Intel, Pacific Gas & Electric, PayPal and others. Government users include the Census Bureau, Air Force Intelligence Command, HUD and many others. Sold since 1993, we have a long and very extensive list of clients and active users and Scott has delivered Dutchman programs to companies and organizations in 38 countries.

And while there are a few other games of a somewhat similar nature, testimonials from active users of the exercise suggest that we have an incredibly effective tool for generating active engagement and discussion of individual and team choices when it comes to improving performance results.

As background, Scott is Managing Partner of Performance Management Company, a Taylors, SC company in the training and consulting business since 1984.  He holds a doctorate in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has a great deal of experience in delivering this exercise in all sorts of situations and with differing desired outcomes. Scott is a Certified Professional Facilitator and writes extensively on organizational improvement and people and performance themes.

Updates to our Lost Dutchman Handouts – files you can download

I occasionally get “The DO The Update Bug” which commonly starts out with me doing one small and simple thing that bubbles and percolates into me needing project management software to make sure that it all gets done!

That just happened when I went to update one handout for a particular customer’s Lost Dutchman Debriefing session. I wound up doing updates of everything, adding color images, expanding concepts and then adding them to the master files of my 4 different versions of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.

The updates were all done in .doc format, so those are available and editable and customizable as the set shown below. I also saved them in Acrobat format to maintain the look and the use of fonts, so those are in the same bundle.

You can find those materials hereHandout cover LDGM

To keep order and tracking of who is downloading, and to give me a small payback on the effort, we are making the set available to all past purchasers of our team building exercise on our shopping cart for $5 for the zip-compressed file.

This is a very extensive set of materials designed for maximizing impacts of your team building events and performance improvement workshops.

This is a pretty significant set of materials and forms that you can use for getting things aligned, identify issues and opportunities and for generating action plans for implementation and followup.

LD Handout doc compendium image

We share the pdf versions of these and also a couple of powerpoint-based masters for Notes and for creating booklets with color covers and supporting pages. These are all modifiable and easily converted into workbooks with the included files above:

Handout Cover Summary

The idea is to share the best of our materials and ideas to maximize and optimize the outcomes of your deliveries. I have always seen this team building game as an excuse to do a really good debriefing, and here are some additional ideas and frameworks that you should find of benefit.

To keep order and tracking of who is downloading, and to give me a small payback on the effort, we are making them available to all purchasers of our team building exercise on our shopping cart for $5 for the bundles. This is a whole big bunch of stuff that is useful if you use Dutchman or are simply looking for debriefing ideas and frameworks.

Fore the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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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Meat. A really funny framework on perspective and humanity

I posted this up on my Square Wheels website 12 years ago and a funny comment in a LinkedIn discussion reminded me of it, so I repost it here:

Imagine if you will …

The leader of the fifth invader force speaking to the commander in chief … reporting what was found upon visiting the planet Earth.


“They’re made out of meat.”


“Meat. They’re made out of meat.”


“There’s no doubt about it. We picked several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.”

“That’s impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars.”

“They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don’t come from them. The signals come from machines.”

“So who made the machines? That’s who we want to contact.”

“They made the machines. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Meat made the machines.”

“That’s ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You’re asking me to believe in sentient meat.”

“I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in the sector and they’re made out of meat.”

“Maybe they’re like the Orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage.”

“Nope. They’re born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn’t take too long. Do you have any idea the life span of meat?”

“Spare me. Okay, maybe they’re only part meat. You know, like the Weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside.”

“Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads like the Weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They’re meat all the way through.”

“No brain?”

“Oh, there is a brain all right. It’s just that the brain is made out of meat!”

“So… what does the thinking?”

“You’re not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking. The meat.”

“Thinking meat! You’re asking me to believe in thinking meat!”

“Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you getting the picture?”

“Omigod. You’re serious then. They’re made out of meat.”

“Finally, Yes. They are indeed made out meat. And they’ve been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years.”

“So what does the meat have in mind?”

“First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the universe, contact other sentients, swap ideas and information. The usual.”

“We’re supposed to talk to meat?”

“That’s the idea. That’s the message they’re sending out by radio. ‘Hello. Anyone out there? Anyone home?’ That sort of thing.”

“They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?”

“Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat.”

“I thought you just told me they used radio.”

“They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat.”

“Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?”

“Officially or unofficially?”


“Officially, we are required to contact, welcome, and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in the quadrant, without prejudice, fear, or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing.”

“I was hoping you would say that.”

“It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?”

“I agree one hundred percent. What’s there to say?” `Hello, meat. How’s it going?’ But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?”

“Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can’t live on them. And being meat, they only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact.”

“So we just pretend there’s no one home in the universe.”

“That’s it.”

“Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you have probed? You’re sure they won’t remember?”

“They’ll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we’re just a dream to them.”

“A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat’s dream.”

“And we can mark this sector unoccupied.”

“Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?”

“Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotation ago, wants to be friendly again.”

“They always come around.”  alien-energy-drink-6810

“And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how utterly, cold this galaxy would be if one were all alone with no-one to talk to but meat.”

copyright Terry Bisson reprinted from OMNI, 1990

Please note that Terry ends his post with this:

(Thanks for your interest in my work.
If you enjoyed this little piece, give a dollar to a homeless person.)

Note that you can find a hundred pages of jokes, funny quotes, articles and all that on this page on my old site:  Quotes, Jokes And Other Funnies

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

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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The Play’s The Thing – More Cartoons on how organizations really work

Organizations need to make continuous progress on workplace improvements so that they can sustain intrinsic motivation among the staff and retain some level of competitive innovation in products and services. That is a given.

But the reality is that people are un-engaged and de-motivated by “continuous un-improvement” and are frustrated because their ideas are ignored and their efforts unappreciated. At least that is the consistent result of a few hundred workplace surveys!

CAN things be improved? Sure. Think “Best Boss” and what that individual did differently for you and your work. The ideas for improvement and engagement are pretty straightforward, but it just seems like so many managers and supervisors simply cannot do those simple things to involve and engage people and performance.

To that end, I continue my series of illustrations and captions about how things work. My idea is that maybe I can rattle a cage somewhere and get at least a few people to see what they might do differently. After all, the Round Wheels are already in the wagon and it is simply an issue of identification of Square Wheels that often leads to ideas and implementation.

Captions – Part One

Captions – Part Two

Don’s Just DO Something. Stand There.

So here are a few more cartoons and captions for your enjoyment. Let me know which ones you like best.

SWs One Today was good today was fun

SWs One brain in head feet in shoes

SWs One all the things you won't see red


SWs One all the things you won't see yellow

SWs One Nothing is NOT

SWs One They're everywhere

SWs One Collective Intelligence


So, please let me wrap this up with this last one, which is kind of a closing theme.


Brainstorming Their ideas are BETTER


You can find our Square Wheels Toolkits on our website. We offer a variety of different bundles of cartoons in powerpoint, handouts, and ideas / instructions for how easy it is to involve and engage people in your performance improvement initiatives.

Have FUN out There!

Elegant Solutions

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 Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly – Thoughts on Change – Part Three

Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly – Thoughts on Change – Part Three

Part One of this series talks about the danger of knowing The Answer when it comes to working to manage and lead change and Part Two focuses on some of the realities of the change process, with factoids on caterpillars and butterflies. To support this endeavor, we have also added two different poems on the themes of transformation and change that I hope you will find interesting. Joan Simmerman’s poem is here and Fern Lebo’s poem is here.

Here is the third part of this series, with a focus on how we can use the Square Wheels theme and approach to better involve and engage people in this process of involving, engaging and understand the process of change itself.

Ideas about:

  • managing change and personal growth   
  • assisting change management initiatives
  • developing individual and organizational potential

Rolling forward… Some thoughts on Square Wheels and Change
Part Three of Five

Another reality is that we do not have to constantly invent ideas and frameworks. That takes energy and sometimes results in failure. On our journey forward, there are already others who may have done what we want to do or changed what we want to change. It is less about invention and more about discovery. With that in mind, let me share another metaphor and framework that others have found useful and that might be of benefit to you.

The framework is one of identifying the ideas that already exist and modeling the behavior of others. If we can identify the things that others are doing that may work for us, it might be a lot easier to make some improvements. No sense reinventing the wheel and learning through errors and mistakes if we can identify better ways that have already been proven.

To address some of these perceptual problems, let’s use my most useful metaphor, called Square Wheels One. Many people work like the people below. Take a moment and consider this illustration:



So here they are, working hard and thumping along on Square Wheels. Note that the Round Wheels already exist in the wagon. However, they continue to plod along as they have always done because their Square Wheels do work and they have worked in the past and will work in the future.

After all, how would we know that we were making any progress
if things didn’t go “Thump, Thump?

Some common thinking about this illustration:

  • The Square Wheels can represent many things, including traditions and habits. Organizationally, they may represent processes and practices that do not work well or inter-departmental conflicts. They are the shared experiences of any organization that does not move smoothly forward. They increase costs of doing things and are inefficient and ineffective.
  • The person in the front pulls forward but also gets isolated from the wagon itself and may not feel the thumps and bumps nor hear the talk at the back. Communication is hard. The view from the back is not very motivating and the pushers are somewhat blind to the future. The wagon can do the job, but it’s difficult to turn; changing direction is always hard.
  • Individually, the Square Wheels might represent the things we are so used to doing. They could just be preferences in how we approach job or home activities. What we have been doing works, but there might be more effective ways of doing things. But it is sometimes hard to see this. After all, we are making progress!
  • And there is another paradox: We set our personal and organizational goals based on Square Wheels. And we can meet our goals if they are set this way! Lastly, over time, it becomes increasingly hard to stop and step back to look for new possibilities for doing things because we are working so hard to meet these goals!

And to illustrate the power of diversity of thinking as we did with the caterpillars and butterflies, in our use of this image over the years, we’ve captured almost 300 different thoughts and themes about this one illustration! Some additional points include:

  • Trust among team members is important for motivation and focused effort
  • Communications between pullers and pushers is an obvious opportunity for improvement
  • Shared visions and goals are crucial for shared effort and motivation
  • Most organizations have difficulty in changing direction
  • There is a constant need for teamwork and collaboration
  • Continuous improvement and measurement of progress must occur because the round wheels of today will become square tomorrow
  • Issues of cost and performance are always present
  • Ideas for improvement already exist within the wagon

As we roll forward on our Square Wheels, we become accustomed to the Thump, Thump of our journey. Yet change and improvement tend to be inevitable for most of us and for our organizations. The key is choice and perspective. The risk comes from not changing, from trying to maintain our status quo in the middle of a rapidly changing world.

But we’ve also learned that many organizations may operate, in reality, more like this — up their axles in glop.

Square Wheels Mud Image and haiku


Lots of times, we work to make progress but we seem to be stuck in the ditch. And it is hard to really get a grip on what is happening to us. Progress is most difficult.

In other words,

Things are this way because they got this way and unless things change,
things will continue to remain the same.

Recognize that in organizations, this “yellow gooey sticky mess” is similar to the politics, systems, processes, bureaucracy and general goop that commonly seems to get well-intentioned effort bogged down. The same things tend to occur in our family and personal lives, where our past experiences, expectations and cultural context seem to slow progress or people feel they have no alternatives.

The wagon sinks up to its axles in this stuff, with the added reality that, “It may not be a yellow gooey sticky mess – it may be cement.”

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation
and go to the grave with the song still in them.”


Yet this gooey mess is also at the core of the reality of transformation and change. It represents a problem as well as an opportunity. How?

There are people around us who are not bogged down and who are already doing things differently and better. In organizations, these exceptional performers work in the same environment but get much more accomplished than the average performers. These “Mud Managers” have different models and frameworks — behavioral, mental and strategic — that simply allow them to operate more efficiently and effectively. They have made choices that are different than most.

One key is getting out of the ditch and up on the road. It is not about doing things the same way and expecting to make improvements. It is about making different choices and transforming ourselves to match with our potential.

What we need is vision, objectivity and perspective about where we stand and what is happening.

And people do have choices:

“We could be standing at the top of the world instead
of sinking further down in the mud.”

Meatloaf, from his song, “All revved up and no place to go.”

 In the transformation of the caterpillar into the butterfly, the caterpillar constructs a cocoon and then undergoes an astounding transformational process, where the old “caterpillar” molecules actually chemically transform into “butterfly” molecules. They have to stop being caterpillars before they can possibly become butterflies — and they actually become that yellow gooey sticky mess. But then they reassemble and become more than they were. They realize their inherent potential, something that all of us can do and something that most of us can support in others.

It involves accepting that we have potential…

“Caterpillars can fly, if they just lighten up!”

Each of us must be sensitive to our surroundings and look for things we might choose to do differently. And our friends, associates, coaches and leaders should be looking for opportunities to involve and engage others in gaining perspective and objectivity about their behavior and their organizations to make improvements occur. We need to ask questions, challenge “whee-ality” and search for a never-ending supply of Round Wheels to implement.

From a leadership perspective, it is a lot more about asking than it is about telling. It is more about collaboration and engaging than it is about being The Boss.

Round Wheels are also a paradox, since they already exist within the wagons and yet not all are usable, since some may not have rims or tubes. And we also have to actually stop making progress, momentarily, to discover and mount the wheels that will work for us. In organizations, implementing improvements also causes shifts in resource utilization and systems and processes; as the wagon moves forward faster, it causes other pressures in other operations.

 Don’t Just DO Something! Stand There!

In order to begin replacing Square Wheels with round ones, it’s important to “stop being a caterpillar” and let change happen by first stepping back to gain perspective. Give people a chance to express what it is that they see, from their own special perspective, what could be done differently. By getting these ideas out, you’ll spark innovation that can make the wagon move forward more easily by implementing some “round wheel” ideas.

Go directly to Part Four – Statistics and Ideas for Change – by clicking here

If you would like to see more information on our powerpoint toolkit for managing and leading change, click here or call me at 864-292-8700


Have FUN out there!

Dr. Scott Simmerman CPF, CPT is still managing partner of PMC

Scott is developer of the Square Wheels® images and the board game version of Lost Dutchman

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


More on “Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…” “

In March, I posted up a blog on workplace motivation and the issues that surround performance in the average workplace. The subtitle was,  “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…” to reflect the reality that so many people are just not into and aligned with the goals of the organization. This can be caused my many different factors but the end result is the same.

You can view that blog by clicking here

De-motivation seems to happen often in the workplace. It depresses results and has a wide range of side effects on attendance, quality, service, innovation and creativity. For an individual, it may be a sudden thing, where the pin hits the balloon and the worker snaps and decides that they are quitting. Some may resign and walk out right there — like the airplane attendant who grabbed a couple of beers and popped the emergency door to make that spectacular (and illegal) grand departure. Some simply decide that they will continue to show up for work but not quit —  first they will find another job. And sometimes it is simply that the person burns out, gets totally blase about things and just does not care to try very hard anymore. Many managers think it is simply a cost of doing business.

Pin hits balloon sabotage words red

click on image to redirect to zen koan on engagement

In that other blog, I excerpt some of the key thoughts and data points from my longer article about workplace performance, which you can also access. Basically, my solution is to facilitate more involvement and engagement in fixing thing that people commonly see as issues and opportunities for improvement.

Involving and engagind Drawing Board words

click on image for haiku about motivation

I wanted to re-post about this theme of “quitting while working” because I saw an interesting email to me this morning from Leadership IQ. I do not know those people but found that this post seemed to offer good, and slightly different ideas about dealing with this workplace intrinsic motivation issue. Here is what they said:

Middle performers comprise about 70% of your workforce.  Yet they get the least amount of development and consideration.  Managers spend most of their time trying to fix low performers, or enjoying the company of high performers.  So middle performers generally get ignored.There’s also a myth that middle performers are just ‘maxed out’ and can’t become high performers.  While that’s true for about 10% of them, the rest have other reasons for not becoming high performers.What are those reasons?They Don’t Know How
On our employee surveys, only about 40% of employees say “I know whether my performance is where it should be.”  That means about 60% of your folks truly don’t know, and that’s because expectations aren’t clear, there’s not enough (or poorly delivered) coaching, etc.  How can middle performers become high performers when then don’t know what that means?

They Lack Confidence
In some companies, high performers can be placed on a pedestal so high that their accomplishments seem out of reach of mere mortals. Even though many middle performers possess the skills and attitude of a high performer, they simply do not see themselves as having what it takes to make the climb to the top.

Costs Are too High
A common misconception among some middle performers is that being a high performer goes hand-in-hand with being a chronic workaholic. It may be that they have been witness to a few high performers that compulsively feel the need to work, and who, in doing so, embrace long hours and weekends at the office. It may also be that this group of middle performers does not fully understand what the expectations of high performance are, and so imagine that the only way to move to the next level of performance is to trade personal life and outside interests for increased work time.

Benefits Are Too Low
These are the folks that have the skills and attitude of a high performer, and who would be happy to do what it takes to move up to the next level, if only they could see the tangible benefit of doing so. They question each possibility of advancement, and if they foresee no favorable return, suspecting instead that the “rewards” will be factors such as a minimal pay increase, added hassle, and little to no promise of promotion, they turn away from making high performer efforts.

So what can you do? Join us at our upcoming webinar called BRINGING OUT THE BEST IN YOUR MIDDLE PERFORMERS.  

This 60-minute webinar will show you:

  • The 4 types of middle performers in your organization and how you can unlock the potential for each unique type
  • 2 changes you need to make to your leadership style to better unlock the hidden talent of your middle performers
  • How to discover whether a middle performer has “maxed out” their talent or if they’re just not giving 100%
  • 3 psychological factors that cause middle performers to give less than full effort
  • 5 step Career Map that gets your middle performers excited about their career potential
  • 2 ways to set goals that inspire middle performers to grow and develop their untapped potential
  • Why the typical way of praising a middle performer can actually demotivate them and cause them to exert less effort
  • How to give constructive feedback to middle performers in a way that motivates them to strive for superstar performance

I’ve blogged a lot about issues of people and performance. Heck, that is what ALL my writings are about. I think that the knowledge requirement is not one of more training, but of modeling best practices. People in the workplace can choose to help themselves improve if they were more engaged. I write extensively about that and you can see some of my thoughts on improving feedback systems to support higher performance, with a checklist, here.

I am less enthused about doing more skills training than I am on building self-managing work teams who focus on peer support and sharing best practices as an approach to improving results. You can also read some of my thinking on the issue of high performance in this post on Flow. This also addresses issues of confidence and if you design that individual or team’s workplace better, you can generate better performance results.

I am going to sign up for that webinar to see what tools they bring. I am not into the idea that doing a survey is what is needed, since a simple honest and open discussion about issues and opportunities can readily bring out that information as well as generate ideas for improvement. That is what our Square Wheels toolkits are designed to do and they do it well and inexpensively, plus they generate ideas for action.

You Make The Call Pin Balloon Drawing Board

So, I hope that all these ideas are useful to you.

We need to do something differently if we are expecting anything to improve.  At PMC, we sell simple tools with powerful impacts on engagement and innovation. They work because people generate their own ideas and solutions and the simple reality is this:

Nobody ever washes a rental car!

Square Wheels and teambuilding games by Scott Simmerman

Have FUN out there!

Elegant SolutionsDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Elegant solutions to complex problems.

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:

The Caterpillar Flies – a poem by Fern Lebo

We worked with Fern Lebo of FrontRunner Communications to create a poem that captures our caterpillar metaphor and wraps around themes of personal change and personal growth. In addition to being a WAY better poet than anyone I know, Fern delivers presentation and writing skills workshops. She is the author of 6 books and children’s poetry published throughout the English speaking world and also likes my Square Wheels cartoons.

The Caterpillar Flies  1samiacyntiaa

by Fern Lebo © 2013  

Alyssa, they say, was feeling quite bad
When she looked at her feet and saw that she had
To tie up her laces – and ought to right now
And what could she do with those feet anyhow?
There were so many feet and so many laces
To drag through the street and through other places.
Like over the mountains and down ‘round the pond
And far past the lakes and the hills and beyond.
Alyssa felt awful and looked for a hand
But no one was there
“They don’t understand” thought Alyssa.1pterourusglaucus

Alyssa just pondered her fate for a while
Wishing that laces would go out of style
Computerized snaps would make shoes a treat
Or buckles or velcro would be rather neat
Or buttons or zippers or some sort of dial
To simplify shoe biz and make shoes worthwhile
“I’ll just ask around. I’ll be so discreet
I’ll find someone who’s handy to help with my feet
A friend who is eager to pitch in and care
A friend who will love me and always be there.
Thought Alyssa.1nokomisfrit

For feet can be tricky there’s simply no doubt.
And a friend is a someone folks can’t do without.
With two feet or more feet
A friend is a heart’s treat
They’ll give you a hand and they understand
Knew Alyssa. 1heliconiuschari

But Alyssa, poor thing, was not very bold
As she went off in search of a friend, I’ve been told
Through puddles and places
She dragged those old laces
And guess what she said when she looked into faces.

That’s right! gulffrit

That’s just what she said but nobody heard.
Not puppies or fruit flies or even a bird.
Not a hand moved to help not a wing waved her way
Not an owl by night
Nor a cricket by day

Still, Alyssa trudged on t_farfalle

She searched left and right
She spotted two cats in a terrible fight
She skirted a skirmish
Between horse and hen
And missed a great rampaging elephant when
She stopped for a second to watch the old gray
And if you were she, tell me what would you say?

That’s right! 1adelphabredowii

That’s just what she said and she didn’t stop there
Alyssa looked north and spotted a pair
Of Canadian geese that were headed down south
When she called to them brightly
What words left her mouth?

That’s right! 1eurytidesmarcellus

She said that exactly and said something more.
But sadly, she got no more help than before.
And she feared she would stumble or bumble or fall
And she worried she’d make no more progress at all.
Then she saw a big robin go flapping on by
And nicely called up to the bird in the sky
“Are you good at laces?”
She asked clear as day
But the robin ignored her and flew far away.

Alyssa moved on past a farmyard or two 1callosamia
And saw a big cow that was mooing and blue
The cow seemed forever somewhere in mid-chew
‘Til Alyssa called out thinking cow was quite through.

“Can you give me a hand?” she asked rather sweetly.
“My laces are dragging and I like them neatly.”
But the cow merely grunted
“This look like a hand? Get yourself glasses and get off my land.
It’s a hoof, can’t you see?  A hoof and it kicks.
It doesn’t do laces and doesn’t do tricks.
Now, haven’t you got something better to do?
I’ve lots more to munch on and much more to chew. Shouldn’t you?”

Alyssa thought that was too rude to be funny mon13
And tried not to weep when she spied a cute bunny
Up in a tree on a quest for some honey.
“Give me a minute.” he called as on cue.
“I’ll hurry right down and try to help you.”
“Thanks, no.” said Alyssa, “I see that your paws
Are sticky with honey.
But thanks just because.”

Alyssa kept walking and came to a wagon African Butterfly
Two men were pushing and two men were draggin’
She couldn’t imagine just what was the deal
The thing clunked and bumped as it thunked on square wheels.
It rumbled and rattled and clanked like a band
She doubted if someone could spare her a hand.
So she shouted to them as she went on her way.
And said something helpful.
Now, what did she say?

That’s right! butt8

That’s just what she said as she passed the old wagon
With a heart oh-so-heavy and laces all draggin’
So tired, she moved on and up in the sky
She watched as two beautiful creatures flew by
They looked like two gossamer-winged butterflies
As light as a breath or a breeze or a sigh.
And she wished you could be what you want when you try.

Alyssa smiled sadly and wondered aloud
What it’s like to be lovely and float like a cloud.
But Alyssa was tired and yearned for a bed.
“I’ll just stop right here and rest my poor head.”
So she spun a fine blanket made out of silk thread.
And the blanket was soft and as fine as a hair
And she settled right down in a swinging bed there
And the blanket she wrapped and tucked in oh so neat
Round her feet and her feet and her feet and her feet.

A short sometime later she awoke with a start
And wondered what stirring had fluttered her heart
As she saw that her bed had unzipped just like magic
Did she panic? Or scream? Or fear something tragic?
Oh no. She just yawned and quickly uncovered
New wonderful wings she was thrilled to discover
So gently she spread them and when they were dry
She lifted herself softly up in the sky.

Gone were the laces and sadness and doubt
Now it was easy to fly all about.
Now she was happy and light as a breeze
Did her attitude change? Did she find friends with ease?
Do you think that she thought she was somebody new?
Or was she the same though she’d changed?
Which is true?
And if you were she, tell me please, who are you?
And now that you know, tell me, what will you do?

That’s right!

Yep. That’s Right! And that sure walks through a lot of the issues around personal improvement and change and people and support.

Remember, Butterfly_Cluster2

Caterpillars can fly,
if they just lighten up!

Hope you like this and thanks, Fern, for sharing.

You can find her blog at

and you can email her at Fern Lebo <>

You can find a wide variety of teaching and engagement tools at the Performance Management Company website,

For the FUN of It!

Scott and Caterpillar Picture

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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