Thirty years of working with organizations may have taught me a couple of things. One is that a sense of teamwork is critical, along with a real understanding of the issues of alignment. Performance feedback is much more important than “reward systems” and extrinsic rewards. And there is no silver bullet about leadership — it is so much about clarity of expectations, required resources to support results, and an understanding of issues and opportunities.

What I want to do herein is to share some simple bullets that I feel link to the issues around optimizing performance. I also included a bunch of links to my other blog posts. My goal is to create one or two “Ah Ha!” moments and provide some ideas and maybe assist you in seeing how you might do one more things better or differently. The key is generating behavioral change and continuous improvement in how things are accomplished.

How does one even start… Let me begin with a key concept that seems to apply everywhere and that is on the framework of involvement and engagement:

Ownership Rental Nobody Toolkit icon 3

Yes, Ownership! If we do not allow people to have a sense of real ownership, we simply cannot realistically expect them to take care of something. That would simply be illogical, as Mr. Spock might say.

The cartoon above actually represents a number of key points that I would like to make:

  • The hard part is getting the wagon to begin to roll downhill. We push that thing uphill a lot more frequently and involving and engaging and building a sense of momentum is often the hard part for getting things moving.
  • If the wagon puller is not expecting things to move faster than they have been moving, or they have not been actively involved in the design and implementation process, they will feel that things are being done TO them and most wagon pullers will resist that, even if it makes good sense to roll forward.
  • We roll along on those very common Square Wheels, which work but do not work smoothly. Square Wheels are Everywhere!
  • Our focus on pushing and pulling will often result in a sense of non-awareness of those Round Wheels that already exist within the wagon, those things that could simply be implemented if we had the time and the tools to do so.

So, one message for anyone leading anyone is pretty darn simple:

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Simply stop, stand there, observe and consider. Get out of the way, if that will work. Involve and engage people. Ask for ideas. Talk about what is not working smoothly.

So, one thing that we offer customers is our Square Wheels facilitation toolkits, simple sets of instructions, powerpoint slides and worksheets that enable them to involve and engage people in discussions about what might be improved and how to get those ideas implemented. You can see some of the variety of offerings on our Square Wheels Facilitation Tools pages on the website. You can also read about these ideas on this blog.

In our flagship team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we give teams “sufficient but not excessive resources” along with a challenge to, “Mine as much gold as we can.” We provide them with an attractive vision of the future and a specific goal, immediate feedback about their decisions and the impacts, and allow them to implement their plan for play. Every team does well, but some do “more better” than the others. And we share with them a framework for Perfect Play, what they could have done to optimize results if they had made different choices.

Generally, teams mine between 4 and 9 days of gold. But they could have done better if they made different choices and involved leadership and collaborated more between the different teams:

Perfect Play Game Screen

They could have mined as many as 11 gold. And, as we debrief the game and discuss the decisions and the planning and the inter-table interactions, our goal is to reframe the play of the Dutchman Game into the play of teams in the workplace. We want to open people up to discussing what is motivating and demotivating and what they could choose do do differently.

This can involve discussions and personal choices, as well as team-based effectiveness and

LD Debrief triad 1

LD Debrief Triad 2

I find that “Perfect Play” comes from repetition, from stepping back and looking objectively at what decisions were made, what was accomplished, and what alternatives were available. It comes from having great performance feedback and flow. It comes when people are involved and engaged. And, ideally, playing again and again and repeating the cycle over and over.

When I was working in quality improvement initiatives, we called it,

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Good leaders and top teams are always looking to expand their knowledge and improve their performance and doing the same thing over and over simply produces the same result.

Rat Cage More Better Faster


We think our tools and our approach are top-shelf. The materials are easy to use and the cartoons easily generate perspective and involvement. Our team building games are designed to generate the behaviors that link to real workplace performance opportunities and our games such as Collaboration Journey and Innovate & Implement are really easy to play for small groups.

We’ve been selling and supporting Lost Dutchman for 20 years now, with a really great reaction and long-term use by so many people worldwide.

Max DePree - cannot become

Have FUN out there, and see what you can do to generate some Perfect Play in your organization.

square wheels author

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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Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.


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