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

Category: Icebreakers Page 1 of 3

What is Performance Management Company? (We do corporate teambuilding!)

What is PMC – who are those people? (And note that they now operate as Performance Management Company LLC.)


Performance Management Company was founded in 1984 by Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D., who is its Managing Partner. Through the years, the company’s base has evolved from consulting to creating and selling products supporting management and organizational development to organizations and individuals worldwide. PMC was dedicated to collaborating with a network of trainers and consultants to help create new ideas and applications for products. Since 2019, Scott transferred its operations to Joan Simmerman, working as PMC LLC with son Jeff.

Combining his work experience in business consulting and retail management with a doctoral degree in psychology and university teaching from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Scott initially created Performance Management as an organizational consulting business. However, the focus of the business changed to designing and selling resources because of a single cartoon called simply, “Square Wheels One” and the subsequent development of a team building exercise that same year.

From that beginning, Scott created the interactive Square Wheels® illustration series in 1993, consisting of over 300 cartoons now packaged in many different toolkits and in different versions. These are available as complete turnkey training packages focusing on engagement and innovation. We also develop Square Wheels-based team building exercises.

Square Wheels team bonding image for team building and innovation

One of Scott’s premises is that if people enjoy a learning experience they will more readily retain key points.

Our flagship product remains the fun and fast-paced teambuilding exercise, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.” It is soon to be released in a virtual form for team development with remote teams. PMC will continue to sell its board game version of the exercise, a worldwide success since 1993.

Dutchman was created to be a world-class organizational development tool, with clear links to strategy implementation, organizational alignment, inter-organizational collaboration and change management interventions. Serious learning points such as collaboration, communication and quality are entwined with participants having a good time. It has, hence, become one of the leading teambuilding experiential simulations in the world. Below is a short video from SimuRise, one of our colleagues:

Teambuilding with interactive experiential exercise, Lost Dutchman

The main websites and are the training and development websites for Performance Management Company where Square Wheels toolkits and our teambuilding games are sold and various exercises and links to other products are shared.

Scott and Joan Simmerman operated PMC as a home-based business for over 35 years, which kept our costs low. With Scott trying to retire in Ecuador (and still working more than 2 years later!), the ownership of the business went to Joan and their son Jeff, operating as Performance Management Company LLC.

All products sold and presentations come with a satisfaction guarantee or monies are returned. PMC works enthusiastically with purchasers of its products to help support their success and satisfaction.

Users of PMC products include a global mix of Fortune 100 companies and multi-national organizations as well as small businesses, schools, universities and independent consultants. Clients include AlliedSignal, EDS, Hongkong Bank, Maybank, IBM, Michelin, Milliken, Lucent Technologies, BellSouth, First Union, Hughes, Duty Free Shoppes, Nokia, First Chicago, Chase Manhattan, Burlington Industries, MCI, University of Wisconsin, AT&T, Compaq, Torrington, Emerson Electric and hundreds of others. Please refer to our client list elsewhere on this website for a more detailed account.

Scott also is available to do speaking engagements and facilitations for keynotes, conferences, workshops and retreats. People remember his presentations because they are unique, interactive and engaging. This adds up to his consistently being a top-ranked and internationally recognized presenter. His topics include themes of Change, Team Building, Motivation, Productivity, Innovation and Communications, all within a general framework of leadership.

Since Scott began sharing Square Wheels and his other products, he’s delivered workshops, retreats and seminars in India, South Africa, Egypt, England, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Mexico, Canada, Mauritius, New Zealand, Dubai, Japan, South Korea and all around the U.S — 47 countries in all thus far.


Have FUN out there!

Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who tried to retire two years ago!

You can reach Scott at

Note that we are soon to release our VIRTUAL version of Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, one that plays with online teams and focuses on teamwork, communications and planning. Contact Jeff Simmerman for more details.

Click here to see basic information about the virtual version of the simulation, one designed for remote workers and remote teams.

Team Bonding. Engagement. Innovation – an Animated Square Wheels Icebreaker

Interested in a simple-to-use, engaging, experiential framework to generate active involvement in workplace innovation? Want to show a very short animation and then get people immediately talking about innovation and culture?

You will find our 40-second stop-motion animation about people and performance fantastic. Show it to facilitate people thinking about workplace improvement and then generating innovating ideas about workplace issues and opportunities.

This is a very simple discussion tool, one that operates very differently than most warm-up routines that focus on funny name tags or some silly effort to “warm people up for something.” It is a much more practical approach to filling this valuable time with relevant interactions and a generated focus on your desired outcomes.

Getting people focused on possibilities of implementing change and improvement has been the main focus of our Square Wheels® illustrations for the past 25 years. We give supervisors and managers, executives and trainers a bombproof and simple metaphor to enable people to share their ideas about what issues are at hand and what improvement ideas might be considered as alternatives to the way things work now.

How does this work?

At the core of the concept is the simple idea of a wagon rolling on Square Wheels with a cargo of round tires. It sets up the idea of choice and choices and considered alternative ways to doing things. PMC started with a line-art image and have evolved to using LEGO® as a way of enabling discussions:

Square Wheels team bonding image for team building and innovation

We would show the image and ask people, “How might this represent how organizations really work.”

Viewers would then project their beliefs onto the image and consider a wide variety of different possibilities. Collectively, a team of people would share very diverse views, which made discussions useful for team bonding as well as generating requisite team building if one moved to defining specific workplace Square Wheels and finding some Round Wheels to attempt to implement. Implementation of ideas is always a key to effective team building initiatives.

What we developed with a simple stop-motion approach with LEGO is a 35-second story, one that has no actual reality but one that would be interpreted differently by people viewing the scenario. Pulling those thoughts together through a simple facilitated discussion process is easy, and the projective aspect of different perceived realities dramatically broadens the ideas. They are quickly generating shared beliefs about what is happening, with shared thoughts on workplace improvement opportunities being one desired end result.

Watch the animation by clicking on the image below:

What do YOU think happened? 

Understand that the richness of thinking comes out when groups of people discuss their individual perceptions and thoughts about what transpired. A single person will tend to have a single view. A group will generate a shared consensus of what happened. (Note that this is a scenario and there is no reality!)

Note that there are general themes of:

  • Vision
  • Change
  • Resources
  • Innovation and Creativity
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Technology
  • Communications
  • Trust
  • Coaching and Facilitating

and that the facilitator’s comments and questions can push the group to focus on different aspects of this animation, depending on your initial framing of the video and on your desired outcomes.

Some examples of introductory, set-up comments might be:

Teamwork and Change: “I want to show you a very short video about a work team and I would like you to look for some key themes about how organizations really work to implement change.”

Setting up a Training Program: “Here is a short video. Let’s watch it and discuss. After we make some comments, we can look at it again. My goal is to relate the happenings in the video to our training…”

Innovation and implementing improvements: “In this short video, you are going to see a variety of things happening. Let’s talk about implementing improvements and change after you look at it.”

General warm up: “React to what you saw, let’s discuss those perceptions and then let’s show the video clip again…”

If you wanted to debrief this video into some actionable kinds of thinking or desired outcomes, you might prompt participants with some open-ended questions such as:

  • How did the action start? 
  • What might have caused them stop pushing and pulling, initially?
  • How did the action end? What was the last thing that happened?
  • What were their reactions to what happened? What did the Pushers see and do? What did the Puller see and do?
  • When did they feel most successful?
  • When did they feel most challenged?
  • What important things happened? What were the key points in the learning process?
  • What happened with the Square Wheel at the back of the wagon?
  • What might some of their insights have been?
  • What was the Wagon Puller’s reaction?
  • How might the people have felt about their efforts to replace a Square Wheel with a round one?
  • What was the Ranger semi-truck about? / What were their reactions to the truck?
  • What other possible endings were there? What might happen next?

If you think you might find this to be a very workable tool for your toolbox of engagement and innovation materials, hop over to our website by clicking on the icon below:

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement products. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who designs simple, powerful learning tools.

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO® Group®

Two of PMC’s team building simulations are finalists in the 2018 International Business Learning Games competition, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and the Collaboration Journey Challenge.


Branding, Change, Marketing and Square Wheels

We sell simple tools for communications and engagement and have been doing it now for 25 years. We had a consistent brand image for 20+ but then decided to shift and now we are faced with the perplexing problem of shifting again. I am guessing that this is a common problem but also asking for some perspective and dialog, since what we do is about communications and engagement. (Can you see the paradox there?)

Stay tuned if you want to receive a free engagement toolkit!

My trademark is Square Wheels®. And started out using this image as an engagement and development tool in the context of,

“How might this illustration represent
how organizations really work?”

The original image, with so little context, works wonderfully as a Rorschach test, in that people projected their beliefs onto it and the responses from a group of people were pretty amazingly diverse and creative. It always worked to generate great ideas about issues of the things that did not work smoothly and the Round Wheels that already existed and could be implemented. The year was 1993 and the image looked like this:

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of PMC and © 119.This wagon rolled forward for a LOT of years and lots of miles, with me presenting sessions in almost 40 countries and initially selling transparency-based books and then powerpoint illustrations as toolkits for change, motivation, etc. It got me to be known as, The Square Wheels Guy.

But more recently, things happened and we started shifting over to using LEGO® blocks and Technics people to represent the themes and ideas, creating various scenes and frameworks that continues today and have moved into our other product designs and toolkits that continue to evolve.

Those images and scenes anchor to the same metaphor but represent themselves this way:

Square Wheels One LEGO image by Scott SimmermanAnd we think this is a big improvement. The goal of showing the image is to generate active involvement and diverse thinking about how things work and what things might be done differently. The key points are quite obvious and people project their thoughts about their workplaces onto the visual.

These conversations around what it might represent as an organizational reality tend to focus on people, engagement, active involvement, innovation, leadership, motivation and similar. They are about issues, opportunities and implementation. They are about innovation and best practices and collaborative dis-un-engagement.

And we package a number of very simple toolkits as well as an online course so that supervisors and team leaders can learn facilitation skills. We have also used the LEGO scenes to create some stop-motion videos, which are easy to do and which would be much harder with line art.

This is NOT rocket science, to show an image and generate a discussion. It is a powerful but elegantly simple tool to generate real discussions about perceived workplace issues.

In our efforts to broaden exposure, we engaged with an organization to sell an Icebreaker toolkit around this theme to their customer base, which is different than mine but very congruent. It is a framework for collaboration and co-marketing that seems to have no downside.

As the two companies discussed this Icebreaker possibility, her staff came up with the idea of using a different representation of the Square Wheels® theme and suggested using an image that looked like this:

An alternative version of Square Wheels OneSo, I am faced with a marketing decision with a variety of factors.

  • Does the above image represent an improvement or is it simply a dilution of my intellectual property?
  • Is the image itself going to generate better discussions about organizational reality and issues and opportunities, since it IS a very different scenario and has different features.
  • Is the last image going to get the positive reactions from discussion participants like the first two does?

And another set of questions:

  • If you were to change the latter image, how would you change it to improve its effect in generating engagement and ideas?
  • Which image do you personally prefer and why?

Your thoughts on the above would be most appreciated, and if you share a useful informative considered opinion or idea as a comment, I will send you a free toolkit to play with,


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.

Scott and Dan Stones built The Square Wheels Project as an LMS, sharing tools and training to support Disruptive Engagement in the workplace.

Visit The Square Wheels Project at

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of T
he LEGO® Group®

© Performance Management Company, 1993 – 2017. All Rights Reserved.
PMC has no affiliation or relationship with The LEGO® Group®

Please Note: The offer of a free Square Wheels Toolkit is limited to the first twenty (20) people who share a relevant and useful comment about the image dilemma and its resolution.



Show and Tell and Ask for Engagement

My partner, Joan, surprised me with an email she sent out to those people who are subscribed to our postings. I thought it was so good that I simply repost it here:

PMC-logo-for Square-Wheels
Remember “Show and Tell” Time
in Elementary School?

Use it now for Workplace Improvement!

Just as “Show and Tell” time mixed learning with fun back in your school days, you can use that same premise, today, to kick off a meeting that will engage people in creating workplace improvements. Here’s what you do:

Show an image, Tell what it represents and Ask for reactions and thoughts.

•Square Wheels One LEGO MAIN short

It’s that simple. Gather your group together and “Show” our Square Wheels One LEGO (above) image as you “Tell” them that “This is how most organizations really work.” Then, simply ASK them for their reactions and thoughts.

Asking for ideas is the leverage point for involvement and engagement so when you ask everyone to reflect on what you’ve just shared, you are setting up an opportunity that will generate open communications, creativity and a serious discussion of issues and ideas that can lead to improvements and promote employee engagement.

People respond, enthusiastically, to the Square Wheels concept as they appreciate this occasion to comfortably offer their own input into how things can work better.

The Square Wheels Lego Icebreaker Toolkit is only $19.95 and comes with everything you need to facilitate an engaging and productive session. You can choose to use either the LEGO Square Wheels image or the original Square Wheels One line-art illustration, as both are included, as well as a leader’s guide, worksheets for participants and Square Wheels posters to use in the workplace. Click on the image below to watch the video for an overview.

=Square Wheels Icebreaker icon

Use this “Show and Tell” scenario today as a unique and bombproof way to mix fun with important learning around new ideas and ways of doing things to impact organizational improvement and increased workplace happiness.

Square-Wheels-Testimonial bubble Schmideg 100Useful tools that work in elegantly simple ways!

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Thanksgiving, Innovation Ideas for Sustaining Success

We are going to pop up a free little Thanksgiving Conversational Toolkit focused on improving conversations about working better together. Joan is doing the main work on this and I have been tying to illustrate some of her poetry and put some tools together.

We should have it done by tomorrow (November 19, 2014), so if you would like a copy, email me and I can zip you a folder of some slides you can print and post or use in a powerpoint display and I will include the Moose Joke instructional video and those tools. The idea is to stimulate a conversation and focus about the past successes and the potential new ones that should be attained as we move toward the New Year.

Here is a business haiku that I just spun up to illustrate our thinking on this:

business thanksgiving haiku by Scott Simmerman

If you are looking for some conversational stuff to support any pre-Thanksgiving meeting you might be having, why not download these materials.

My Moose Joke is my favorite meeting closer:

Moose Joke punchline

Click on the above to read about this closing joke

I trust that all things roll forward smoothly,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company

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Purposeful Meeting Openers and Icebreakers: Relevant and Congruent

In my experience, many trainers and consultants focused on involving and engaging participants use some sort of warm-up exercise, with the idea that getting people “warmed up” in some way will help them learn the material more effectively or bring more energy to the training itself.

One LinkedIn discussion had a trainer wanting to start a class focused on “workplace improvement best practices” and was looking for some relevant activity to get things started. The goal was to have something fast and simple but that would also generate some cognitive dissonance and frustration anchored to them not being able to finish a task on time. His goal was to use frustration to generate an initial motivation to correct their existing workplace issues.

In my experience, motivation already exists in most workplaces with most supervisors on performance improvement issues. There are often a variety of ways to identify and implement improvements and best practices but a key is to generate the intrinsic motivation to actually do something differently. I am also pretty sure that generating frustration as a desired outcome of this activity was not the best idea, since many of those attending were probably already frustrated by their workplace or by the fact that they were now in some “training program” when they should be working.

In other words:

  • He was asking for ideas about how to make the trainees frustrated because they could not get some exercise / task done well in the allotted time.
  • My thought is that their workplace was like most others and that the managers were already frustrated with these same issues of quality and timeliness.

My other thought was anchored to the simple idea that getting people frustrated may not be the best way for starting a training class. Beginning a program, negatively, does not generally get people positively motivated and the potential reactions can be somewhat uncontrollable.

Some other people in LinkedIn also elaborated on some of the possible unintended outcomes of such an activity, too. (The conversation got pretty bloody but we also think we saved him from a huge strategic mistake, on which he agreed!!).

The other half of my thinking pounded on the very common use of “irrelevant icebreakers” as a complete waste of time — you know, the goofy meeting openers that are not related to the issue or desired outcome of the session and play on people telling three truths and one lie about themselves or the most interesting thing about their hometown or stating something that no one would ever guess about them. (you can find a long list of such goofy actual activities here)

I’m in agreement with a lot of other consultant trainers, especially about all that psychology stuff and what happens in training. One psychologist shared his approach of having people literally “draw a pig” that represented things in their organization. (The reference to “pig” as being too close to corporate operations and management these days with all those raises and salaries of CEOs in excess of 300 times the workers as well as the growing pay gaps, policy issues, etc.)

My psychology and engagement framework would use an illustration like that below as a tool to get people to project their ideas about how their organization really worked onto an image. It works like an inkblot test – there is no reality but people push one onto the image, one that also allows them to share some thinking about the issues and opportunities that already exist. And it is really fast and tight.

The image shows a wagon rolling along on Square Wheels® while the cargo is round rubber tires. (There are other aspects of leadership, motivation and vision along with best practices. Plus, the image and its discussion gives people an anchor point for focused conversation and discussion, present and future. The term “Square Wheels is simply shorthand for things that do not work smoothly.)

Square Wheels - How organizations really work Metaphor organizational improvement

The idea is to get individuals thinking about issues and groups collaborating and sharing ideas about the illustration – brainstorming with an organizational behavioral anchor. Groups can also be motivated through a little competition to make a longer list (facilitation) and what players do is to project their beliefs about their own organization onto the illustration (the Rorschach or inkblot effect).

If you are going to take their valuable time in a class, why not focus on issues of innovation and teamwork and involvement about their workplace, and not some completely unrelated thing like 3 Truths and a Lie or Dragon Tag or some such “energizer.”

Using the cartoon as an anchor to the reality of how things really work, we get them talking about their issues — the things that do not work smoothly — and the ideas that already exist within the context of making the wagon move more effectively. This approach also allows discussion without the attack on management or structures. It has proven itself to be “developmentally neutral” and non-political in that regard.

The behavior and ideas and issues in play can then be linked to a lot of different kinds of content for your training session, and the activity thus made congruent and relevant.That is something that cannot be done with so many of the very general icebreakers — it is hard to make the transition of doing one and then quickly linking to a real business purpose. (Sure, you can use some words but their actual behaviors are generally off target and non-congruent — how does making up a funny name relate to workplace improvement?)

Best practices are Round Wheels.

The focus on the training and performance improvement might be linked to making Square Wheels roll more smoothly. You can coach people on identifying SWs and generating round ones, while generating dissociation and second-position perspective. Issues of change and implementation (stopping the wagon and changing the wheels) can be part of your, “What are we going to try to do differently after we leave here?” discussion. Sharing round wheel ideas is easy and this begins a process of continuous continuous improvement.

Learn more about the Square Wheels Icebreaker.

You can find another article on this issue of effectively using trainee time and optimizing impact by clicking on this link:

Blog Icon for Icebreaker link

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at
and on Google+ at

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group



Some Leadership and Training Jokes and Haiku

Occasionally, I go off on a tangent and this is certainly one of those times. In an email, someone asked me for an anchor point and I remembered all these jokes and one-liners I have in my other website ( and going there reminded me of just how many of those things I posted years ago…

Click on image to go to Jokes Page

Click image to go to Jokes Page

Here are a couple from that one page and note that there are 9 pages of jokes on the Square Wheels website.

This is a good one on communications in general. You might actually do this as an exercise in the classroom:

An English professor wrote the words, “a woman without her man is nothing” on the blackboard and directed the students to punctuate it correctly.
The men wrote: “A woman, without her man, is nothing.”
The women wrote: “A woman: without her, man is nothing.”
Perspective is everything!

On customer service:

A husband and wife are traveling by car from Atlanta to New York. After almost twenty-four hours on the road, they’re too tired to continue, and they decide to stop for a rest. They stop at a nice hotel and take a room, but they only plan to sleep for four hours and then get back on the road.

When they check out four hours later, the desk clerk hands them a bill for $350. The man explodes and demands to know why the charge is so high. He tells the clerk although it’s a nice hotel, the rooms certainly aren’t worth $350. When the clerk tells him $350 is the standard rate, the man insists on speaking to the manager.

The manager listens to the man and then explains the hotel has an Olympic-sized pool and a huge conference center that were available for the husband and wife to use. He also explains they could have taken in one of the shows for which the hotel is famous. “The best entertainers from New York, Hollywood and Las Vegas perform here,” explains the manager.

No matter what facility the manager mentions, the man replies, “But we didn’t use it!” The manager is unmoved and eventually the man gives up and agrees to pay. He writes a check and gives it to the manager. The manager is surprised when he looks at the check. “But sir,” he says, “this check is only made out for $100.”

“That’s right,” says the man. “I charged you $250 for sleeping with my wife.”

“But I didn’t!” exclaims the manager.

“Well,” the man replies, “she was here, and you could have.”

**Contributed by Bob Laurie, Juneau, Alaska, from the Lost Dr. Seuss Book**

I love my Job, I love the Pay!
I love it more and more each day.
I love my Boss; he’s the best!
I love his boss and all the rest.

I love my Office and its location –
I hate to have to go on vacation.
I love my furniture, drab and gray,
and the paper that piles up every day!

I love my chair in my padded Cell!
There’s nothing else I love so well.
I love to work among my Peers –
I love their leers and jeers and sneers.

I love my Computer and all its Software;
I hug it often though it doesn’t care…
I love each Program and every File,
I try to understand once in a while!!

I’m happy to be here, I am I am;
I’m the happiest Slave of my Uncle Sam.
I love this Work: I love these Chores.
I love the Meetings with deadly Bores.

I love my Job – I’ll say it again –
I even love these friendly Men –
These men who’ve come to visit today
In lovely white coats to take me away!!!


On Promotion and Marketing:

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying “Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday,” that’s advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk him into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s publicity. If you can get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations.

And if you planned the elephant’s walk, that’s marketing.”

Murphy’s Technology Laws –

Murphy’s Technology Law #1:
You can never tell which way the train went by looking at the track.

Murphy’s Technology Law #2:
Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.

Murphy’s Technology Law #3:
Technology is dominated by those who manage what they do not understand.

Murphy’s Technology Law #4:
If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.

Murphy’s Technology Law #5:
An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he/she knows absolutely everything about nothing.

Murphy’s Technology Law #6:
Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe, and he’ll believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint on it, and he’ll have to touch to be sure.

Murphy’s Technology Law #7:
All great discoveries are made by mistake.

Murphy’s Technology Law #8:
Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.

Murphy’s Technology Law #9:
All’s well that ends… period.

Murphy’s Technology Law #10:
A meeting is an event at which minutes are kept and hours are lost.

Murphy’s Technology Law #11:
The first myth of management is that it exists.

Murphy’s Technology Law #12:
A failure will not appear until a unit has passed final inspection.

Murphy’s Technology Law #13:
New systems generate new problems.

Murphy’s Technology Law #14:
To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.

Murphy’s Technology Law #15:
We don’t know one-millionth of one percent about anything.

Murphy’s Technology Law #16:
Any given program, when running, is obsolete.

Murphy’s Technology Law #17:
A computer makes as many mistakes in two seconds as 20 men working 20 years make.


This story below has been a favorite storyline of mine for a long time. But read my added comments at the end:

How Standards are set

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

Why did ‘they’ use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe (and England) were built by Imperial Rome for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts? Roman war chariots first made the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels and wagons. Since the chariots were made for, or by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

Thus, we have the answer to the original question. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot.

Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder which horse’s rear came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war-horses.

And now, the twist to the story…

There’s an interesting extension to the story about railroad gauges and horses’ behinds. When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. Thiokol makes the SRBs at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horses behinds.

So, the major design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined by the width of a Horse’s [rear]!

A check of the above on Snopes finds the storyline to not be true. (See – in part, it says:

The eventual standardization of railroad gauge in the U.S. was due far less to a slavish devotion to a gauge inherited from England than to the simple fact that the North won the Civil War and, in the process, rebuilt much of the Southern railway system to match its own:

Still, the above does make for a great story!


On the value of good help!

A salesman is lost in a rural area and stops at a farm to get directions. As he is talking to the farmer he notices a pig with a wooden leg. “How did the pig get a wooden leg?”, he asks the farmer.

“Well”, says the farmer, “that is a very special pig. One night not too long ago we had a fire start in the barn. Well, sir, that pig set up a great squealing that woke everyone, and by the time we got there he had herded all the other animals out of the barn and saved everyone of them.”

“And that was when he hurt his leg?” asked the salesman. “Oh no” says the farmer. “He was fine after that. Though a while later I was in the woods out back and a bear attacked me. Well, sir, that pig was near by and he came running and set on that bear and chased him off. Saved me for sure.” “So the bear injured his leg then.” says the salesman.

“Oh no. He came away without a scratch from that. Though a few days later my tractor turned over in a ditch and I was knocked unconscious. Well, that pig dove into the ditch and pulled me out before I drown.” “So he hurt his leg then?” asks the salesman. “Oh no,” says the farmer. “So how did he get the wooden leg?” the salesman asks.

“Well”, the farmer tells him, “A pig like that, you don’t want to eat all at once.”


If They Wrote Computer Error Messages in Haiku

Some computer messages, done poetically in Haiku

First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
so beautifully.

With searching comes loss
and the presence of absence:
“My Novel” not found.

The Tao that is seen
is not the true Tao, until
you bring fresh toner.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

Three things are certain:
death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

A file that big?
It might be very useful,
but now it is gone.

Errors have occurred.
We won’t tell you where or why.
Lazy programmers.

Seeing my great fault
through darkening blue windows,
I begin again

The code was willing.
It considered your request,
but the chips were weak.

Printer not ready.
Could be a fatal error.
Have a camera?

Server’s poor response
not quick enough for browser.
Timed out, plum blossom.

Login incorrect.
Only perfect spellers may
enter this system.

This site has 404’d.
We’d tell you where, but then we’d
have to delete you.

Wind catches lily
scatt’ring petals to the wind.
Segmentation fault.

ABORTED effort:
Close all that you have.
You ask much too much.

The Web site you seek
cannot be located so
find endless others.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
Find your network down.

A crash reduces
your expensive computer
to a paperweight.

A chasm exists
of carbon and silicon
the software can’t bridge.

To have no errors
would be life without meaning.
No struggle, no joy.

You step in the stream,
but the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

Having been erased,
the document you’re seeking
must now be retyped.

Rather than a beep
or a rude error message,
simply: “File not found.”

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.


On Thoughts and Thinking

Despite my vast (nay, encyclopedic) knowledge and understanding of all aspects of the Internet, one thing puzzles me. That is how I can send a message to a group and have it appear literally within seconds, and then send another which will take more than 24 hours to appear.

(Signed)Puzzled Los Gatos Sociologist

Ah. I’m happy to report that you have come to the right place for the answer to this deep question.

Before I reveal the cause of the common phenomenon you’re wondering about, though, I’d like to point out some other quirky behaviors that you may have noticed.

.. Some days your car starts on the first turn of the starter. Some days it doesn’t start at all.

.. Some recent nights have been brilliantly lighted by the full moon. Tonight I’ve waited and waited, but all I got was wet.

These have nothing to do with why one message is transmitted immediately while another takes 24 hours.

The reason is complex, and we technologists don’t often expect even to hear such sophisticated questions from those outside the inner circle, and many of us are loathe to reveal the hidden cause.

But you seem trustworthy, so…

Look at your keyboard. Notice how the keys are all out of order? You’d think they’d be in alphabetical order, wouldn’t you? But no, they are arranged in an odd pattern called QWERTY, originally devised by a typewriter manufacturer to slow typists down to the point where his machines wouldn’t jam. Imagine, now, when you send a message down the wires, how differently the many routers and interfaces that the message goes through are affected by different juxtapositions of letters in your message. Just as a modest change in the original position of a chess problem has a dramatic effect on the time required to solve it, the tiniest change in the arrangement of letters in your message – often not even noticeable to any but the expert eye, and even then only with complex measurement equipment – can wreak havoc with every interface the message must pass through.

Imagine you had a car wider than the normal freeway lane. Going through interchanges would be a particular trial; how quickly you could pass through would depend on the amount of other traffic, the number of odd-shaped oncoming cars, and many other factors — much too complex to summarize quickly. But I’m sure you get the idea. And just as if you drove through many interchanges in your odd-shaped car you could be delayed dramatically, changes in the letter composition of your message slow it down every time it goes through a router, the internet’s interchange.

The letters W and M are particularly noxious in this way. If they happen to fall within the same word, as in women, or if multiples of them fall within a word, as in mammal, or wow, their retardant effect is in fact squared; this was first proved by Von Neumann in 1944, although certain notes of Ada Lovelace in 1861 indicate that she, too, had the basic idea.

The vowels, on the other hand, particularly I and O, are quite slippery and can speed up the trip of your message through a router; in fact, an I almost cancels an M, and words with many Is and Os, such as oil, lion, noise, and onion, can have a remarkable accelerating effect.

These are only the extreme cases. Each letter, and in fact each key, has its own lexical friction coefficient (LFC), which often depends on the relationship of the letter to other letters in the word and to other words in the message. LFC tables were originally compiled by Hollerith in 1901, for use in his famous Census-tabulating work, but were not made available to the general public until IBM brought out the 407 tabulating machine in the mid-thirties, and published a full set of lexical friction data in the documentation that was issued with the machine. Later, in 1962, when IBM first produced the Selectric typewriter, new LFC tables had to be constructed; these were made available in technical libraries.

Depending on the net lexical friction of a message, the transit time of a message through a router can differ by as much as a factor of fifty. This in itself is hardly sufficient to explain the difference between instant delivery and 24-hour delivery, however. The biggest part of the effect is a second-order result of high-LFC messages passing through routers. Just as when a stream slows down it deposits much more silt and other sediment on its bed, a high-lfc message, traveling slowly through a router, leaves what amounts to arterial plaque in the routers optical fiber connections. Optical fiber builds up LFC-related plaque anyway, but normally so slowly that fibers don’t have to be cleaned or changed for years. However, a chance confluence of many high-LFC message can deposit so much LFC plaque in the fiber connections of a router that the router can be totally disabled. Even if the router is not put completely out of service by fiber plaque, it can transmit messages so slowly that many recipient protocol managers conclude correctly that their correspondents have failed, and request retransmission. Thus high-LFC messages not only move more slowly through the internet, but actually raise the internet’s traffic load while they do so.

This issue has been studied in great detail by my erstwhile employer, whose interest in fiber plaque, LFC aggregation, and the resulting internet congestion is so high that it has formed a special task force to study the matter and recommend solutions within a year. I fully expect, however, that since the matter is dependent on keyboard design originally, these studies will probably result in little improvement, and once again we will be left anxiously awaiting the next-faster generation of optics, routers, and computers, meanwhile helplessly floundering in a stew of such technical complexity that only the few can comprehend it.

I would suggest that to improve your transmission times you should begin by tabulating the letter counts in your messages, and correlate them with message delivery delays. This technique is crude, but should give you a rough idea of what to expect. If your needs go beyond manual counting, you can find any number of lexical friction coefficient analysis programs in the commercial world, replete with graphic interfaces and LCF-optimization capabilities.

I’m glad to have been of service in this matter, and will make myself available for further questions as they occur to you.

Received from Teresa’s Jokers

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group


The Reality of Change, Innovation and Employee Engagement

Change is a constant in the workplace: there is always something…

Sometimes change appears to be happening too fast and sometimes it seems much too slow, given the business needs. Sometimes we are looking to make changes and sometimes we simply must make change to keep moving forward.

On my poems blog, I just posted up this illustration poster:


The simple idea is that the wagon wheel has broken, the team needs to get moving again, but the wheel needs to be replaced. With Round Wheels literally “at hand”, we put on a new Square Wheel simply because that is what we have always done. We roll on Square Wheels!

My “regular” line-art cartoons that we use in our toolkit on change, look like this:

SWs Reality of Change © yellow words

The related image that shows some improvement looks like this:

SWs Reality of Change 2 ROUND © yellow

Note the difference — the woman is now installing one of the ROUND wheels.

In the cartoons, overall, we see three people and some note the reluctance of the wagon puller to let go of the rope. Some viewers might comment that the guy at the far left is just lazy and not helping out. But you might also note that the wagon is up on the points of the Square Wheels, making it easier to install a new wheel but much harder to balance, which is the job of those two people.

One guy is lifting — we all know of those people who really put out the effort to help teams succeed.

Lastly. Many people simply miss the HORSE. The horse represents a completely different way to address the reality of moving the wagon. It is surprising how many people miss that aspect of the situation as they focus on the broken wheel. Heck, even the characters in the cartoon seem to have missed that!

What I have been doing for 20+ years is involving and engaging people to see things differently and teaching a VERY simple yet actionable model for understanding change, identifying leverage points and action plans and facilitating the process in such a way that the participants can identify things that they can do differently as well as engage others.

The key is to focus on employee engagement and ownership. If people are involved, they are more likely to be engaged and feel some sense of commitment to getting things done.

I use a simple tool, my Square Wheels illustrations and metaphor to set things up.

SWs One WHY USE © 2014 green
The wagon rolls on a set of wooden Square Wheels carrying a cargo of round rubber tires. The process continues this way because of a few different factors, such as the square wheels actually working (just like they always have), and the lack of perspective (“Don’t just DO something, Stand There!). 

The reality is that stopping the process and implementing improvement takes time and is not always successful. Plus, the round wheels of today will invariably become the Square Wheels of tomorrow.

The intent of this facilitation is to involve people in stepping back from the wagon and seeing the obvious – the round wheels already exist and should be implemented to make long-term progress and not simply to meet the goals for today.

Sometimes, I introduce the concept of Mud, the glop that gets in the way of moving forward. This can include organizational restraints (perceived and real), politics, culture or simply the difficulty in changing. I then show the wagon and the people up to their “axles” in this mess and how hard it is to make progress. For me, “mud” is a great metaphor and I use it with the theme, “Get out of the ditch and up on the road” to introduce the issue of choice and choices. We choose what we do. Deal with it. (“If it is to be, it is up to me!”)

(“Mud” can also be grinding paste, cement, and other things. On my website at, you can also find recipes for making Gack out of things like Elmer’s Glue and borax – Gack is a gooey mess — a “colloidal suspension.”)

“The best “Mud Managers” do things differently. What is it they do?”

This is a great question to ask, since it generates alternative behaviors and alternative thinking in their discussions, often anchored on best practices of the exemplary performers in the room at that time. (Peer coaching!)

At some point in the design, we will move toward my model of change, involving the current level of discomfort with the way things are now, the attractiveness of the vision of the future, the individual or groups’ previous history with change and the peer support for improvement.

All four things are actionable and under control of the manager. Change can involve teamwork or simply group process techniques for identifying issues and opportunities. But once something (a process, generally) is anchored as a Square Wheel, it almost always generates an implementable round one — this nicely taps into the cognitive dissonance model of Festinger.

Change does not have to be done TO people and is best done WITH them, having them involved in the different aspects of environmental and social support. This is why the illustrations work. We get people actively involved.

If you want to read more about this, you’ll find my article that includes these ideas, “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly” at:

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

Plus, if you’d like to make any comment or discuss any of this, it would be most welcome.


For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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



Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

Some Square Wheels Illustrated Quotes

There are a few main “one-liners” and memorable quotes that I use regularly in my articles and presentations and that I sometimes use as anchors in various posts on LinkedIn and elsewhere. And I inconsistently post them up into my other blog that is generally loaded up with poems and haiku and other thoughts that I post up as singles.

Since my readership is different, I thought to share a few of my Business Thoughts herein for your enjoyment and edification. If you want to see more, pop over to

An illustrated Square Wheels quote: Mahatma Ghandi

Square Wheels illustrated quote on business

Nothing Made Sense, and neither did anything else illustrated quote by scott simmerman

Teamwork - the Square Wheels about how things really work

We sell simple toolkits that use different illustrations and themes to generate discussions about workplace improvement.

Performance Management Company website for team building

They work beautifully in training programs as well as in simple workplace discussions about issues and ideas, teamwork and collaboration, innovation and motivation. You can connect easily with me if I can provide direct support to your efforts to better involve and engage people in performance improvement,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. 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.


Most Read Posts on Performance, Square Wheels and Team Building

I took a look at some of the most popular blog posts on the Performance Management Company blog last year and found the list pretty interesting. It is also neat to see a good ramp-up in views of my Poems on Performance blog, one that contains my 100+ series of images and poems, haiku and quips and such.

I’ll admit that this is one of my favorites:

Square Wheels images of how things work

Here are the posts that generated the most views:

Having an Off-Site Company Meeting? Ideas for Success – a long and detailed post of ideas about optimizing the successes of any off-site meeting or event. I reference a number of other resources and ideas.

Herding Cats and Building Teamwork – some funny videos! – Yeah, this is an overview and links to that old EDS commercial about managing things that are really unmanageable. It is a really great short video and the post also references the Running of The Squirrels. Yeah, serious stuff on real issues of organizational performance and improvement. (grin)

Military Team Building Games – some thoughts on alternatives – As some of you know, I am not a big fan of military-themed team building kinds of things, even though I designed one with my son that we still sell, one that involves strategy, shared missions and collaboration between teams. This post addresses some alternatives that I think are better.

Motivation, Training and Icebreakers. Keeping It Real! – This is my overview of better alternatives than those stupidly simple icebreakers that have little real positive impact on a training session. It has links to some better options for using session time.

Thoughts on Boiling Frogs and other metaphors on change – what list would be complete without a discussion about boiling frogs? I just read an article about caterpillars as a very good alternative food source for much of the world, but boiling frogs is still a favorite endeavor of so many managers, it seems!

I will not claim that the blogs above represent my very best writings. I think that Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…” and my thoughts on Godzilla Meets Bambi, a post on what decreases innovation, creativity and innovation might be a bit more solid.

But I am up over 300 posts with this blog now and hope that these are making some contributions to improving performance in the workplace and people’s motivation and engagement. That blog is easily searchable, too.

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

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Murphy's Laws and why nothing ever actually succeeds

Some of us old guys are well aware of Murphy’s Laws, but I was kind of shocked the other day when two different “younger people” said that they had never heard of “Murphy’s Law” or even the corollaries. So, in the essence of contributing the the management education of countless millions of our younger managers and leaders, let me share a few of the best ones and the general context of their origin.

Aw, the responsibilities of the older generation…  3smiley

The BASIC Murphy’s Law is expressed this way:

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

As to its origins, I found the following many years ago:

The following was adapted from USAF publication, The Desert Wings  – March 3, 1978:

Murphy’s Law was started at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949.  It was named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on Air Force research project designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash. One day, after finding that a transducer was wired wrong, he cursed the technician responsible and said, “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.”  The contractor’s project manager who was keeping a list of similar “laws” added this one, which he called Murphy’s Law.

Shortly afterwards, Dr. John Paul Stapp, an Air Force doctor who rode a sled and pulled 40 Gs on the deceleration track to a stop, gave a press conference and said that their good safety record on the project was due to a firm belief in Murphy’s Law and in the necessity to try and circumvent it.

The doctor also had a paradox: Stapp’s Ironical Paradox, which says, “The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle.” 

There are literally hundreds of spin-offs from this basic law which are called corollaries and paradoxes. Some of my favorite ones are these:

  • Nothing is as easy as it looks.
  • Everything takes longer than you think.
  • If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong. Corollary: If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.
  • If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will anyway.
  • Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
  • Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.
  • Nothing is ever so bad that it cannot get worse.
  • It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
  • Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.
  • If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.
  • If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which something can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop.

Then there are the parables like these:

Murphy’s Law of the Open Road:  When there is a very long road upon which there is a one-way bridge placed at random, and there are only two cars on that road, it follows that: (1) the two cars are going in opposite directions, and (2) they will always meet at the bridge.

Murphy’s Law of Thermodynamics:  Things get worse under pressure.

The Murphy Philosophy:  Smile Today… Tomorrow will be worse.

Quantization Revision of Murphy: Everything goes wrong all at once.

Murphy’s Constant: Matter will be damaged in direct proportion to its value.

Lastly, there are some corollaries of Murphy’s law

  • The chance of a piece of bread falling with the buttered side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.
  • Of two possible events, only the undesired one will occur.
  • Almost anything is easier to get into than out of.
  • The other line always moves faster.
  • Eat a live toad the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
  • In order for something to become clean, something else must become dirty. But you can get everything dirty without getting anything clean.
  • You can always find what you’re not looking for.
  • Serving coffee on aircraft causes turbulence.
  • The key ring was invented as a device for losing all your keys at once.
  • Wrong telephone numbers are never busy.
  • Amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic.
  • Only someone who understands something absolutely can explain it so no one else could possibly understand it.
  • Any  problem can be overcome given enough time and money. But you are never given enough time or money.
  • All truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, then violently opposed and eventually, accepted as self-evident. (Schopenhauer)
  • One thing that’s good about procrastination is that you always have something planned for tomorrow.

These things are fun.

And my thinking always relates to my “cartoon reality of how things work,” making it come together as something like this:

SWs One Murphy's Law words

or maybe this one:

Trial and Error Murphy's Law words

Consider “Liking” this post if you actually like this post and I would love to know which of the two illustrations above you think is better. And there are more of these where these came from. So, let me know if you think more of these are useful and interesting.

Scott Simmerman

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Motivation, Training and Icebreakers. Keeping It Real!

Opportunities to increase motivation abound in every organization. So many things one can do to improve intrinsic reward systems and improve performance feedback. Discussing training and development with a couple of people, the conversation moved toward making training fun, and it triggered my responding that training should be fun, but that training is NOT just fun. Companies are paying a lot of money for learning, to a degree, but more for results and impacts and behavior change.

Training should be fun, but not JUST fun. That is not Training!

So often, line managers see training as a waste of time, their time and the time of their people, at least insofar as how HR Support runs programs. The issue of Value of Time is often ignored by trainers; the cost of time seems to often be an irrelevant value to the training department.

Sure, learning is a good thing and Learning to Learn is a requirement for any kind of future success since everything keeps changing and learning demands are continuous. Heck, I have trouble keeping up with changes made to my cell phone and computer operating systems these days, along with all the gee-gaws in my new Hyundai Genesis. And “Voice Control?” Maybe later… (although it does seem like “Navigation Guidance Off” is the only way I can get the GPS to stop talking and stop tracking). Two years later, I still do not use VOICE control in the Genesis or Siri on my iPhone. But I digress…

Fun. I think of it more like involving and engaging people in the learning activity. I think the fun should be directly linked to the desired outcomes and that time spent in activities needs tight anchoring to organizational issues.

So, then I get to Icebreakers, as popularly defined and described in the training literature. I captured some names of sessions. You judge whether these sound as though they would meet the professional view of close linking to organizational issues and if they would fit to comfortably use with Most Senior Executives of a multi-national company:

  • Amoeba
  • Autograph Bingo
  • Banana Pass
  • Bigger and Better
  • Big Wind Blows
  • Blanket Name Game
  • Bowl Game
  • Capture the Flag
  • Celebrity Game
  • Commonalities and Uniquities
  • Couch Game
  • Dragon Tag
  • Ghost in the Graveyard
  • Giants, Wizards, Elves
  • Hodgy Podgy
  • Hot Seat
  • Human Knot
  • Human Sculptures Game
  • ID Guessing Game
  • Kemps
  • Killer Wink

and the list goes on and on. And then we have some like these:

Sticky Beak  –  With a small roll of masking tape sitting on the end of their noses, individuals attempt to ‘steal’ other people’s tape by gently pushing against the latter’s nose.

Jump In Jump Out – Holding hands in a circle, facing the centre, a group jumps in, out, left or right of the circle in synch with their leader’s instructions.

Elevator Air – People cross to the other side of the circle in which they are standing in the manner of various ‘mind-states.’

The Mintie Game – Starting with 10 treats each, people aim to earn more treats by causing as many people as possible to say the word “YES” in their ensuing conversations.

If you were the operations manager and one of the trainers sat down with you to talk about the training program agenda and started by saying that they would first spend 20 minutes doing Sticky Beak as a warm-up, wouldn’t you lose the momentum to do this program immediately? (“Let’s see: 20 minutes x 20 people is 400 minutes or 7 hours of productive work time that is spent doing what???” “Killer Wink is going to help me HOW?”)

I have written about Purposeful Meeting Openers in a previous post on the blog that shares some thoughts about using that time productively. But, for the most part, I just do not understand why these stupid things are so popular with professional trainers.  And I remember running for the door when, at a conference in Singapore, the organizers wanted 200+ people to stand around the outside of the room, hold hands, and sing some sappy song. (I was g-o-n-e and I came late the next day!)

Apologies if I offend anyone who has invented one of these listed icebreakers and they are probably fun for some. But I cannot imagine sitting with the CEO of a Multi-National Corporation and the leadership team and saying, “Okay, to start off the session and loosen everyone up, we are going to do The Sticky Beak Exercise so everyone take a piece of masking  tape and put it on the end of your nose…” I mean, really?

As Scott Adams said in The Dilbert Principles, “Change is good. You go first!”

Me, I am going to continue to use my Square Wheels One illustration as a tool for getting people to start working together and talking about the things they see in the illustration and projecting those ideas about how their workplace operates into the tabletop discussion. Why? Because Square Wheels work extremely well as a problem-solving-based icebreaker.

Keeping it real, I think, so let’s get it together

I write more about icebreakers and being purposeful with trainee time here:

Blog Icon for Purposeful Icebreaker link

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 Posters on Instagram:

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group



Moron Outdoor Training

I have posted up some thoughts before about my views on Outdoor Training and how, personally, I’ve not had much insight or success from those kinds of events both as a participant and observer and from personal experiences when involved in the leadership team delivering such programs.

It is not that I don’t think that outdoor training events can be effective, it’s just from my own personal experiences that I haven’t found them to be so. Paintball, for instance, is a bit too aggressive a message for these times, I feel, and when so many companies are somewhat adversarial in their relationships among people and departments. Right after a layoff, there IS what is usually termed “Survivors Guilt” and there can be some similar sub-conscious things operating that some outdoor kinds of activities can inflame. Juggling balls and discovering how to solve problems like Acid River are just not all that real, in my opinion.

Plus there is the lack of control over the weather. Remember the A-Team TV show when Mr. T as Clubber Lane (Rocky 3)  says “I pity the fool…” (he also predicts the outcome of the fight as “pain” – that sound like training to you?) You can see the clip here.

Well, I had those “I pity the fool” and “pain” reactions yesterday when I was thinking about outdoor training and then saw a weather pattern for the United States for Friday, June 29, that I insert below:

The heat of team building and outdoor training

Yeah, I pity the fool who may have been outside attending a “training program” with the company paying $100 to $300 for them to learn something about something. One wonders how much of the attendees’ full attention would be focused on organizational improvement initiatives or on improving interpersonal relations or on bettering their teamwork with weather that was 100 F (40 C). Me, I would have been focused on, “when will this torture end?” as I was at the Texas outside team building event where the guy got stung by the scorpion — at least he got to ride in an air-conditioned ambulance!

I would rather deliver or participate in an interactive and engaging program like Square Wheels focused on change or motivation or to engage in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building game that could be debriefed around communications or teamwork or collaboration or ideas for motivating and engaging people. All comfortably done indoors.

You can read more of my writings on the issues I have with Outdoor Training by clicking on this link.

I am not against any training if it is solid, links to organizational improvement initiatives or desired outcomes and if it is supportive of all the participants. I do not like initiatives or games where people “die” metaphorically or even where they are embarrassed by their weight or health conditions or any other such impediment. That woman who just had the baby might not really enjoy climbing around in a ropes course or that person with the poor eyesight might not really like crawling through the woods shooting paintballs at other people. The person with the heart condition just might not benefit from running around two different rooms putting balls in different circles.

There are so many good activities that are engaging and thought-provoking that I wonder why we have to do icebreakers that are unrelated to any business purpose or similar. (Yes, I also wrote up my thoughts on that a while ago… link )

Have fun out there and be safe. And if you are playing outside, do drink lots of water.

And this is pretty damn funny:


click on the image to see the blog post


For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on People and Performance is here.


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The Customer sets the price for our Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit!

Please note: We stopped this promotion a while back. People continued to pay our retail price for the toolkit, understanding it was a great value as is. Thank you for that and have fun out there!

We just sent out a Press Release on customers setting their own price:

Taylors, SC – (5/10/12) Performance Management Company is supporting collaboration with its customers by offering them an opportunity to “name their own price” for the Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit. This complete training package normally sells for $49.95 and contains:

  • A Facilitation Guide with instructions for use
  • A PowerPoint Presentation containing 64 slides, notes, quotes plus illustrations / cartoons
  • A variety of ready-to-use handouts for generating involvement and engagement including:
  • –a Worksheet for mind mapping ideas generated by the main Square Wheels concept
  • –a Round Wheels Worksheet for identifying ideas and opportunities for improvement
  • –a Key Learning Points Summary Handout of Square Wheels themes for implementation
  • The “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly” article by Scott Simmerman, focusing on managing and leading change for organizations and individuals

Based on the Square Wheels One illustration that is a proven, powerful tool for promoting a participative learning approach, it allows people to “step back from the wagon” and disclose their views about how things are really working, engage each other in a creative discovery process and use the diversity of ideas and perspective to generate thinking, innovation and communications. It’s a great facilitation tool for leadership development skills, employee engagement, team building and motivation.

Why use Square Wheels? Round Wheels aready exist!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels illustration series, believes that “Nobody ever washes a rental car” and that people become more engaged and motivated if they feel a sense of ownership in the journey forward. Therefore, Scott hopes that by your setting the price for this Toolkit, you’ll enjoy a keener sense of ownership/motivation for its use.

You’ll find the Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit (an Asian version is also available with some of the illustrations more “Oriental” in appearance) on our website at or go there directly with this link.

Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Performance Management Company and has presented his Square Wheels Illustrations series for Organizational Improvement and Team Building Games such as “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” in 38 countries. The products are available at

People basically liked this idea, thinking that we have really great and simple tools for engagement and performance improvement. The amazing thing is that so few people paid only a little — most people paid the full price and a couple paid even more for it! THAT was most surprising. Guess they had seen the tool and felt it was a really good value.

If YOU need a great tool for involving and engaging people, give our Square Wheels tools a try. Click here for more information.

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® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company. Materials copyright © PMC since 1993. All rights reserved.

Thoughts on Teamwork and Engagement

This is about issues and opportunities around people and performance.

Maximum organizational effectiveness comes from aligning people to work together on shared common goals and providing them with the information and resources to get things done. In most cases, organizations function reasonably well within departments, with managers meeting goals and expectations. There are issues, but they are not departmental because shared goals and measurements as well as group expectations by management tend to give reasonably good levels of performance and innovation. People tend to be good problem solvers and will work together fairly well.

There are a variety of statistics clearly demonstrating that team-based behavior can offer a wide range of positive impacts on organizations of all kinds:

  • Globally, only 1 of 5 workers is giving full discretionary effort on the job. We often call these “exemplary performers” but they are simply engaged
  • Almost 4 of 10 workers are disenchanted or disengaged – they are not performing to their capability
  • In the US, only 3 in 10 feel engaged and the same number feel disenchanted or disengaged – they are not contributing much nor getting satisfaction in their jobs
  • Only 1 in 10 respondents agreed that senior leaders in their companies actually treat employees as vital corporate assets
  • The more engaged employees are more likely to stay with an organization, but 40% are “passive job seekers.”
  • Fully half of the disengaged have NO plans to leave the company nor are they even passively looking for other employment! (scary!)

There are strong connections of engagement to company results:

  • Companies with high employee engagement had a 19% increase in operating income and a 28% growth in earnings per share
  • Companies with low levels of engagement saw a drop in operating income of 32% and a decline of 11% in earnings per share  (from a TP one-year study of 50 companies)


  • Companies with high engagement had a 3.74% increase in operating margin and a 2.06 net profit margin
  • Companies with low engagement had a -2.01% decline in operating margin and a -1.38% net profit margin (from a TP study of 40 companies)

Can we hear a Thump Thump? Are we really making progress?

There are lots of statistics around clearly demonstrating why we need to improve. In other posts, I will share some ideas for making things improve. There are many things we can do.

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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