Much of my thinking involves that metaphor of a wooden wagon rolling on Square Wheels with a cargo of round rubber tires. The reality seems that the wagon just keeps rolling along, with the leader pulling and the workers pushing and it thumps and bumps. The irony is that the wagon is full of round wheel possibilities.

Square wheels One and How Things Work ©

The most frequent use of the metaphor is for workplace improvement, with the cartoon used by a supervisor to talk about the issues of continuous improvement and to accomplish the critically important task of involving and engaging people in workplace improvement. And I expand on the reactions of participants in this blog link below:

SWs One - what you see is all border

If it is the participant wagon puller’s idea to make improvements in the way things work, implementation is an awful lot easier than if it is the idea of the wagon puller, since their involvement in problem identification or issue awareness generates a much stronger sense of ownership. No involvement often generates resistance to change.

Nobody ever washes a rental car.

So, there I was minding my own business watching TV yesterday than what appears are two advertisements, one asking for contributions to improve the lives of children living in poverty and another for improving the lives of animals that are confined to shelters. Cute puppies.

So, that generated me thinking about what motivates people and I had this idea to put puppies into the wagon — would that make a difference in the awareness of the wagon puller and pushers if the puppies were getting treated badly and being thumped and bumped around?

A few minutes of playing around and I created this:

Square Wheels One Puppies 2

I passed the illustration around to a couple of people and the reactions were, in fact, pretty interesting. Without a clear understanding of the metaphor that I was trying to communicate, they saw different issues and themes and had different questions, among them the thought that why would people treat a wagon with puppies differently than a wagon with a cargo of round wheels.

One person said if the situation were actually like that above, everyone would actually stop pushing and pulling and would play with the puppies, who would be running around everywhere…  My thought building on that is that they would then be forced to push and pull even faster to meet their goal, causing a lot more chaos with puppies bouncing everywhere!

For me, I see a good bit of indifference in the workplace to the ideas of the wagon pushers. So many studies point to the lack of involvement and their feeling that no one cares about their ideas to make workplace improvements. This results in dis-engagement or un-involvement and a lack of motivation. (see my articles here and here with stats on this here) and it seems to be an issue of how people are managed (see my article on Jim Clifton’s thoughts (Gallup) here). We can choose to do things differently.

So why not use puppies?

Anyway, the fun here continues. And I guess my next step is to add some butterflies to the whole thinking on people, motivation, behavior, performance and puppies. I mean, what could be better than an image of puppies and butterflies as it relates to how organizations really work?

Square Wheels are simply great tools

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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.

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