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

Tag: managing and leading change

Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly – A Slideshare program

Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly is the theme of my ideas on managing and leading change. I have presented worldwide on the theme and even developed a complete Square Wheels Change Toolkit that has metaphors, exercises, jokes, illustrations, quotes and all sorts of resources for presenting on the topic and involving and engaging people for change.

Part One of my Slideshare program illustrates many of my key learning points with images of caterpillars and butterflies and a variety of poems and haiku about the issues and opportunities to involve and engage. It is about fun and perspective and the issues of understanding the process of change.

caterpillar butterfly poem

You can find Part One of the three part overview by clicking on the image below:

mentoring and change

You can find Part Two here and Part Three here.

I hope you find it fresh, fun and interesting — and your comments, reactions and suggestions would be most appreciated.

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.

You can reach Scott at

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



Continuous Continuous Improvement found by The Caterpillar!

The caterpillar in all of us will probably discover that the world is all about “continuous continuous improvement” and the reality is that our transition from caterpillar to butterfly is just the start.

At some point, the caterpillar gets the intrinsic motivation to spin a cocoon around itself. And while in that cocoon, it gives up all of its former existence to become something new and different.

Caterpillar in cocoon more than that words

(The reality is that the caterpillar breaks down at the cellular level — there is nothing left of it other than goo — and it recapitulates into the developing larvae of the butterfly. Thus, in the cocoon, it is no longer what it was and not yet what it will be!)

The butterfly emerges and then learns to fly, sees that the world is so different from their original perspective (as a caterpillar) and now so many more new opportunities appear. It is all about perspective and collaboration.

“Hey,” said the Monarch Butterfly. “Let’s all head down to Mexico for the winter!” (and they DO! Millions of them.)

Monarch Butterfly Cluster

My poems blog is filling up with a whole bunch of poems and quips on the transformation of caterpillars into those butterfly things! You can click on the image below to go to the homepage for those illustrations.

Caterpillar butterflies are more than me simple poem

We have been using the metaphor of Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly as it relates to our Square Wheels approach to managing and leading change for many years. The focus is on gaining the active involvement of others for the design of different choices and considered alternatives.

You can see more if you click on the image links below, the first of which will take you to our articles page where you can download the article and the other where you can find our facilitation toolkit for Managing and Leading Change.

Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly icon

SWs toolkit for managing and leading change

If we can support your performance improvement or engagement programs with our simple and effective facilitation tools and metaphors, connect with us. There are unlimited possibilities for involving and engaging people for performance improvement and workplace innovation and creativity. Our approach is both simple and elegant.

For the FUN of It!

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

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 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


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

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


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

This is Part Two of a 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

You can read about Part One by clicking here.butterfly

In Part 1, the caterpillar/butterfly story about change was used as an example of the paradox and danger of, “knowing the answer.” Here, I’ll continue to illustrate this thinking on change with a few facts and another useful story.

In the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) since having used them in a story in my training programs.

You may also find these factoids of interest:

  • There are roughly 150,000 species of moths and only about 19,000 butterfly species. One might think butterflies more common but we simply see butterflies more often because they are commonly brightly colored and generally fly during the day – moths generally fly only at night.
  • One difference between a moth and a butterfly is in the nature of their antennae. Moths have “feathery” antenna and butterflies have a bulb on a stalk. Their wing structures are also different.
  • Most moths have tremendously sensitive antenna that can sense minute quantities of their sexual attractant pheromone, in the parts per billion quantities.
  • The Monarch Butterfly of North America migrates great distances to areas slightly West of Mexico City, where they gather in the billions to reproduce. They then migrate back as far as the Canadian Border. They often feed on milkweed, which also serves to protect them — birds find their taste aversive and will avoid eating them.
  • Some caterpillars eat as much as 27,000 times their body weight to support their lives as flying insects.
  • The big green adult Luna Moths lack a mouth and actually live only on the energy stored during their larval stage — their sole focus of their adult lives is reproduction.
  • Like some people we know, certain caterpillars like the Crystalline Limacodid, have bristles that dispense toxic chemicals. Getting too close to them can be a very painful experience!
  • Many moths, butterflies and caterpillars use camouflage as a way of protecting themselves in an attempt to hide from predators — we see these same behaviors in organizations.
  • One moth native to South America has a foot-long proboscis that it uses to sip nectar from deep-throated flowers while another moth has a proboscis that pierces the skin and can drink the blood of animals.

Thus, if you’ve read through the above list, you may have learned more about caterpillars and butterflies than you knew previously. (You can find a LOT more information on wikipedia) So, my challenge was to find some simple and straightforward ways to continue to apply this metaphor to managing issues of change in the people in our organization.

Then this happened. While working on this metaphor, and in a telephone conversation, Ted Forbes, then at UVA’s Darden School of Business asked me,

“Do you know about caterpillars and butterflies?”

Feeling as somewhat an expert on the subject and knowing the key learning point of Part One of this article, I, of course simply said,


 (Remember the paradox of knowing The Answer?)

Ted then shared a great quote and training punch line and it makes a wonderful transition to any discussion about the issues of personal and organizational change. Ted said:

“In the change from being a caterpillar to becoming a butterfly, you’re nothing more than a yellow, gooey sticky mess.”

All of us need to continually deal with the gooey glop that most find uncomfortable. But you have to metamorphose in order to change yourself and that process will involve going through the discomfort of being less and less of a caterpillar while you are not yet a butterfly. As mentors and coaches, we need to expect that most people will have a degree of discomfort going through the change / improvement process.

Expect any transformation process to be somewhat uncomfortable — and note that it takes some level of commitment to go through the change process and actually implement something. So, one key is to better understand the change process and the realities of how to support change to create a somewhat different future.

Understand that we are incredibly perceptive. Our natural senses give us perceptual sensitivity that is nothing short of amazing. If your human physical senses are working normally, you can:

  • See a burning candle from 28 miles away (if you are totally dark-adapted)
  • Feel on your fingertips a pressure that depresses your skin .00004 inch
  • Smell one drop of perfume diffused through a three room apartment
  • Taste .04 ounce of table salt dissolved in 530 quarts of water
  • Feel the weight of a bee’s wing falling on your cheek from less than half an inch away
  • Distinguish among more than 300,000 different colors
  • Gauge the direction of a sound’s origin based on a .00003-second difference in its arrival from one ear to another

Thus, we have the sensitivity to be extremely perceptive. But we typically block our sensitivity and it goes unrealized and underutilized, just as do most of our other capabilities and potential for performance. (See an article about managing teamwork and performance by using Flow by clicking here)

Applied to personal change, we will often limit ideas and possibilities for improvement because we already know the answers. By constraining our thinking, we are limiting our possibilities and innovations as well as limiting the self-esteem that comes from successful accomplishment of change and the rewards of self-improvement.

It is often our beliefs that make it difficult to see what is obvious and those beliefs and perceptions prevent us from improving.

So, step back from the wagon and look around. See what Square Wheels are operating and what choices you have made and could be making. Be perceptive. And look for opportunities to change yours and the perspectives of others. It is Dangerous to Know THE Answer, so keep asking questions.

Here is Part Three

See the sidebar comments below the signature field for a few more thoughts on lepidoptera.

For the FUN of It!

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


Sidebar Comments:

I will admit that I love reading and learning about these lepidoptera creatures, since there is just so much fascinating information available. I went back and reread the Wikipedia article listed above and followed a few other links. So, I thought to add a couple of things.

The development of the wings are interesting. You cannot open the crysalis or cocoon to help a “struggling” emerging butterfly, since that activity is important for wing development. (You cannot “coach” them out!) Near emergence, the wings are forced outside under pressure and although these tissues are initially quite flexible and fragile, by the time the pupa breaks free of its confinement, they have firmed up. Within hours, the wings form a cuticle so hard and well-joined to the body that pupae can be picked up and handled without damage to the wings.

The glitter of a butterfly has to do with scales and these form during the change process. Caterpillars do not have them. Butterflies do. And they are pretty amazing things; they reflect light differentially to give the animals color. Below are electron microscopic pictures (from Wikipedia) that show the details with increased magnification from left to right. Amazing. And these little differences give the species is unique coloration.


The species differences are interesting. There is a lot of mimicry in coloration and body adaptations to fit to their environment.

And some of the patterns are really interesting. The one below is a common one for people getting tattoos these days – it is of the Death’s Head Hawk Moth, a creature that really exists:

So, I hope that you find this stuff interesting. People are like caterpillars in that they want stability and grounded-ness. Many see flying as dangerous and risky but they find it less difficult after that first takeoff! Remember that flying is easy and lots of creatures accomplish it. What most need is just a little support and a little coaching and modeling. Some do it naturally.

DO have FUN out there!


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

This is Part One of a 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

“I have a microwave fireplace at home…
You can lay down in front of the fire all night in 8 minutes.”
(Steven Wright, comedian)

Sometimes we expect “microwave fireplace results” when it comes to improvement and change. But improvement is never fast; it depends on the creation and realization of new possibilities and outcomes and occurs with some amount of trial and error. Call it continuous continuous improvement — but more on that later.

Realize that everyone has unrealized potential and this unrealized organizational and individual potential can be coached and supported; most individuals need the support and coaching of others to be successful. And there can be any number of issues and difficulties involved with these changes.

In order to begin any improvement process, it is important to focus on

  • understanding and capturing ideas and possibilities
  • reformulating and restructuring those ideas into a usable form and
  • then transforming them into actions and behaviors.

The situation reminds me of a story:

Two caterpillars are chatting and a beautiful butterfly floats by.  One caterpillar turns to the other and says,“You’ll never get me up on one of those butterfly things!”

Before moving on, take a moment and consider the meanings of this story. There are some wheels within wheels herein and some important lessons on perspective, leadership and creativity. So STOP for a moment and consider the story again.

Okay. What you’re being asked to consider may seem similar to what John McEnroe said on losing to Tim Mayotte in a professional indoor tennis championship:

“This taught me a lesson, but I’m not sure what it is.”

I’ve told the caterpillar and butterfly story many times. And people always “get it” as I did when first reading it. But there is also a major paradox in the story as it applies to thinking, personal growth, managing change and leading performance improvement. I can state the learning lesson as:

It’s Dangerous to think you know “The Answer.” *

* That’s “The” as in “Duh.”

As I first developed and used this story about the caterpillars and the butterfly, I assumed that everyone understood that the joke / story was about resistance to change — a single simple answer: “You’ll Never Get me…” But when I asked a room full of people to talk about the meaning of the story in an Asian training session, I was shocked by their many answers, since most were not about my answer but their perceptions.

In asking people to discuss the joke over the past years, there have been many different responses and answers, including:

  • Caterpillars have no need to fly. They are well grounded!
  • Caterpillars can eat anything green and find food everywhere.
  • Butterflies are a stage beyond caterpillars.
  • Butterflies have to fly to get anywhere and caterpillars can crawl and climb.
  • We can attempt to resist and suffer the stress and difficulties.
  • We can choose to be active participants in change. Or not, maybe.
  • We go through stages of development and butterflies are one stage closer to death.
  • Risk avoidance is normal.
  • Change is often actively resisted.
  • Change is inevitable.
  • Caterpillars don’t like wings.
  • Caterpillars must hate flying since they don’t even try.
  • Caterpillars focus only on eating and survival.
  • Butterflies can get blown around by the wind, but caterpillars can drag their feet!
  • Metamorphosis is an uncontrollable process with an unclear result.
  • Metamorphosis is a dark, damp, confined place, so I’m scared!
  • It’s easier for butterflies to develop perspective than caterpillars.
  • You have to stop being a caterpillar in order to become a butterfly.
  • Change is not always a conscious decision. Change will occur, inevitably.
  • There is a need for vision and perspective — we’re all on a journey to somewhere.

and my favorite answer:

  • I’ll NEVER be a butterfly; My mother was a moth.

How many times do we self-limit our perceptions and our thinking because we “know the answer” and thus don’t even think about different possibilities? I find this to be a very common occurrence — and one most deserving of our personal reflection and analysis.

When people talk about this story of caterpillars and butterflies among themselves, a most remarkable thing usually happens: They discover that they share different perspectives and a diversity of ideas, which is common when people discuss things. And each has a unique perspective.

Yet most of us, when we know “The Answer,” will generally self-limit any consideration of other possibilities and limit our thinking.

The fact that we can generate other ideas is a most interesting outcome. All of us have the capability to generate ideas and possibilities. What we need is a simple tool and shared base of experience and common ground. Most would agree that being a butterfly is a “higher existence” than remaining a caterpillar.

The story also links to some key learning points on leading change and dis-un-empowering people, including:

  • Even though we often resist change and risk, change is often inevitable!
  • Change will occur and we can choose to be active participants and go with the flow – or we can attempt to resist and suffer the stresses.
  • Each of us goes through many stages of development, a process that occurs repeatedly over time.
  • It’s easier for butterflies to develop perspective on things than it is for caterpillars since they have a better viewpoint.
  • Caterpillars focus only on eating and survival. There is more to life than this.
  • What is needed is vision and overall perspective – we are all on a journey forward.
  • Having gone through a process of change may make the next cycle of change less threatening and somewhat easier.
  • We need to be engaged and involved in the process itself rather than feel imprisoned by our environment. Change cannot be done “to” us — forcing the action typically generates active resistance to the process.

Possibilities are endless! Choosing to change is a really important part of improvement. And we all have a bit of the butterfly within us.

Before moving on, consider the meanings of this story about resisting change and making choices. There are wheels within wheels herein and some important lessons on perspective, leadership and creativity. So please stop for a moment and consider the story again.

“One cannot become a butterfly by remaining a caterpillar.”

Change and personal growth is all about discovering the inevitability of change and the need for one to clarify a vision of the future.

We all have the need to change, since the world around us is changing. Accepting that change is inevitable, that the future is often unknown, and that change is simply one more stage in the continuous growing that we do as human beings is an applicable premise.

Understanding the basics of change and development is useful. Knowing that change is something we can choose to do is important. Knowing that change cannot be pushed but can be coached is helpful.

Be the Butterfly!

In later posts, we will talk about ideas for involving and engaging people in the change process, coaching and mentoring,

You can go to Part Two by clicking here


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


Fancy Smancy – a thought on continuous improvement

I usually try to stay on topic on these blog posts but thought this was pretty cool so I then thought to take the idea and make it into an informative post.

I am NOT a tie guy, but I do have to dress up on occasion so I have the Hong Kong suits purchased from long ago (great material, great price and the MacClarry Brothers do a fabulous job in Kowloon) and I do have some nice ties. My favorite ties come from… wait for it… Denny’s Restaurants. There, years ago, they offered some “Save The Children” ties and those had pictures of vehicles with wheels on them. I thought they were “wheely nice” and even bought a red umbrella with the same images…

Wheel Ties

An image caught my eye the other day and I thought it was a significant improvement over the tie knotting that I have always done. Continuous improvement and all that. I mean, since age 15 or so, when I first taught myself how to do a hand-over kind of Windsor Knot for myself, I have always tied that exact same knot and never even considered doing something differently!

SO, I thought to show it as an “old dog, new trick” and a way to simply demonstrate that there ARE different ways of doing things. Heck, there is even an instructional video on youtube to show you how to do it — pretty easy, actually. Innovation and creativity. Neat!

Edredge Knot

It’s called the Eldridge Knot and it shows what can happen when people have too much time on their hands. But the YouTube video tells the story of its origination, too. Interesting.

Yeah, maybe some of the people who do “low ropes” kinds of team building training may go with doing this as their next Executive Icebreaker. Me, I will just continue to use my Square Wheels illustrations and games and the Lost Dutchman teambuilding program.

If one is looking for an icebreaker that actually does have some positive benefit to at least the men in attendance, you might teach them how to tie this knot. My guess is that most will resist doing it for a wide range of different excuses, mostly based  on fear of failure! We all know what you would hear. But then one wonders how many might actually try to do such a thing the next time they have to tie one on (so to speak…).

Next time I have to go somewhere special, I might give it a go,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, SurprisedDr. 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.

Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly

For 20 years, I have been playing with my Square Wheels cartoons and using the metaphor in a variety of training programs on managing and leading change, involving and engaging individuals and teams in performance improvement, and focusing on individual and team intrinsic motivation.

One of my most fun as well as powerful tools is around the metaphor of “the change from caterpillar to butterfly” and the paradox of how one might lead that change.

I start with the basic Square Wheels illustration and then, after I get those key themes and ideas anchored down, add in the storyline that there are two caterpillars sitting on the wagon. A beautiful butterfly floats by and the one caterpillar says to the other caterpillar,

“You’ll never get ME up into one of those Butterfly things!”

From here, it just gets crazy as I identify a whole series of punchlines to the joke, not the one that most people get and simply stop thinking about. And I discuss how this process of “stopping the thought process” is what often gets in the way of continuous continuous improvement at work and in personal development initiatives.

You can download a pdf file of the article, Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly, by clicking this link.

The article gets into my model for managing and leading change, talks about the use of the Square Wheels illustrations as tools for facilitating personal and organizational development and focuses on making improvements. Another document you might like is the poem about the transformation of caterpillars into butterflies

Teaching Caterpillar poem

This is a solid metaphor, and one where our Square Wheels tools work beautifully. You can also purchase a very extensive powerpoint-based training program on Managing and Leading Change here, which builds nicely on these metaphors and works to involve and engage people in the change process.

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

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Defense is not good for Innovation – Thoughts on Engagement for Innovation

There was an interesting thread on the Innovation Excellence group on LinkedIn, one that talks about an Anti-Innovation Checklist posted by Holly Green. You can see that post at

In think her 10 bullets are good, but it feels like she missed the bigger picture of the reality that employee engagement is more all-encompassing. I think there is more to it.

The list is about what is wrong and not about what to do to address the issues and make improvements. She talks about “unrealistic expectations” in the sense on management looking for “a killer product” while I think that performance improvement is more about having performance goals and objectives that do not allow much thinking, much less alternative thinking.

Consider the customer, which we should all be doing all of the time anyway. The customer calls with an issue and the position of the employee is so often one of defending the turf rather than listening to the problem for some idea as to how to improve the product.

For the past 4 days, I have been having what are apparently a series of different problems with U-Verse and my TV and internet and wireless connections here. Five different technicians have visited the house. And a wide variety of different phone calls to various places around the world.

I can test the connection, but I am limited to running a “speed test” — they show me various computer screens that give them a LOT more data about the connection and such information including history. All I can say is “the TV locks up and un-synchs” or “Safari pauses and locks up.” One would think that someone might develop some application or process that would allow ME to make a more informed phone call to Victor in India, right?

Customer-driven innovation? NO way — they are too busy to meet their performance numbers to listen for better ideas as to how to do things… There is no real mechanism for making improvements. They are too busy solving the problems at hand.

As I so often write, my view of how organizations really work looks like this:

But maybe things more realistically look like this in most workplaces:

SWs One How Things Work ©

How things REALLY work in many workplaces

And how things REALLY work in many workplaces

and when we add senior management, maybe this is more of a normal reality:

It is the perception of how things work that is most important.

It is the perception of how things work that is most important.

A logical result of the situation generally depicted above will often then look like this:

People will circle the wagons and defend themselves…

and continued attacks also generate more predictable results:

That thus reminds me that I wrote up a poem about this:

Square Wheels Defensive wagon poem

And that reminds me of a quote from Dante that many might think should appear over the door of the buildings in which they work:

What to do? I don’t have one of those 5-step or 10-bullet lists. Mine is one pretty simple one, although there are five rules:


Ask for ideas for improvement. Allow people to get involved and engaged and to share their ideas. Support them as they try to implement improvements, recognizing that many have long histories of failure or punishment linked to their attempts to make things better. Recognize that they cannot be empowered and that many are un-empowered.

So take actions to dis-un-empower them. Form teams. Share ideas. Act as if their ideas are important. Let them generate their own intrinsic rewards for making things better.

We sell a simple toolkit for facilitating involvement and engagement. Click on the link below to see how it works:

SWs Facilitation Guide $50


And, if you would like to see more about our outstanding team building exercise, we offer a slideshare overview here:

Slideshare Dutchman icon

The key idea in all this is for leadership to get out of the way and let them make improvements. Let people play with the wheels…

Square Wheel Playing haiku


Give them hope and support. And ask for their ideas,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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