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

Tag: Square Wheels

Daylight Savings Improvement Day – Spring Forward Monday

On Sunday, March 9, at 0200 hours in the early morning of 2014, most of the United States will engage in an exercise called Daylight Savings Time and we will move the clocks forward an hour, making it darker early in the morning and extending daylight in the evening.

It has some historical anchors, but various sources estimate the actual cost in lost productivity to be somewhere between $400 million and $2 billion, with people generally losing an hour of sleep in addition to having to adjust all the manual clocks in their life. (Most cannot remember how to reset the clocks in their cars!)

So, as an alternative to the lost productivity and in recognition of the need to improve workplace productivity and involvement and engagement, I am going to propose we create and celebrate Spring Forward Monday, where supervisors and managers should spend some special time with their people working on the issues of productivity and alignment.

The basic idea is pretty simple:

Things may not be working smoothly. And some round wheels are already in the wagon. So, let’s take a bit of time to stop pushing and pulling and talk together about some of the perceived issues and opportunities and how we can implement some changes and improvements. Most people feel that managers do not listen to ideas, so let’s use this special day for this special purpose: communications!

SWs One 2 Haiku brown and green

So, we want to choose to do something that looks more like this to better involve and engage everyone in the workplace and hear their ideas for improvement:

Spring Forward Monday Square Wheels toolkit logo

We want to engage all those feet in moving things forward, more better faster.

The conversations could focus on shared goals, missions and visions, and alignment kinds of things to clarify expectations and provide performance feedback or it could focus on themes of issue identification and opportunity implementation.

You can view a 3-minute video on the basic idea of Spring Forward Monday by clicking on the image above or by clicking on this link.

There should be lots of positive impacts for something special like this, including the simple recognition that ideas for improvement already exist and that we should be choosing to do some things more better faster.

Click here to find more information about this specially priced, $5.95 Square Wheels Engagement toolkit by clicking on the link below:

Spring Forward Monday Square Wheels toolkit

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.

Possible Potential Possibilities and Continuous Continuous Improvement

Ron Richard, a quality consultant up in Canada, and I have been co-publishing some ideas and he is going to publish a short “eBook” called, “It’s Possible.” So, he sent me a draft and I bounced some ideas back and forth and we are now moving toward pushing out an illustrated book of ideas, poems and haiku around the themes of possibilities and choices.

So, from that conversation, I generated a quote to summarize my thinking about my thinking, and it comes out like this:

“Possible Potential Possibilities are like Continuous Continuous Improvement. They make us more better faster, if we only stop to reflect. Is that even possible?”

Illustrated, the above idea looks something like the following:

Square Wheels One Haiku outside the work teamand

Square Wheels One Haiku wagon not just empty

which is a thought on choice, which leads us to the idea of motivation and the recognition that comes from accomplishment:

Square Wheels Intrinsic Haiku Motivation Good Ideas

and peer support

Square Wheels Celebration Haiku good ideas

There are Lots and Lots of possibilities out there for personal and team and organizational performance improvement and change. The keys are to recognize that possibilities are actually possible and that continuous improvement is really a continuous process.

But it is critical that you, “Step back from the wagon,” in order to see the issues and the opportunities.

See my slideshare program on change, caterpillars and butterflies by clicking on the image that follows:

Square Wheels Slideshare Teaching The Caterpillar icon

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.





Business Haiku – Possibilities for Organizational Improvement with Square Wheels

While there are problems with employee motivation and performance improvement, it is not always the employee. A lot has to do with how they are being led and managed and supported and trained. The words include innovation, involvement and engagement… And you can click on any of the icons below to go to Part One of the slideshare package I just uploaded on Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly, some haiku on managing and leading change.

Square Wheels One Haiku Slacker working hard

It raises a number of key questions, like these:

Square Wheels One Haiku round wheels kept off

This raises the question about what we might choose to try to do differently to involve the work team into sharing their ideas. Obviously, telling them to work harder will not generate much involvement and yelling will only generate compliance, not motivation for productivity.

Square Wheels Brainstorming Haiku Tomorrow is today

and also:

Square Wheels Brainstorming Haiku Ask for ideas outcomes

In reality, the ideas for performance improvement already exist. Trust is one issue — can the management team be trusted to not claim ownership of the ideas of the individuals so that recognition can be fairly shared? Can the boss actually stop long enough to listen to ideas? Will there be sufficient time and resources to implement suggested changes?

The round wheel ideas are already implemented into the behaviors of many of the exemplary performers. They simply do things differently.

A client years ago had one exceptional salesperson and a lot of good ones. A stupidly simple conversation discovered that “a secret to his success” was that he spent his own money taking his clients to lunch. There was not company budget for that and most salespeople simply ate cheaply on their own — he chose to do things differently. Adding a budget and essentially requiring all the salespeople to spend their monthly lunch budgets on at least some client lunches improved sales and perceived service incredibly! A return on that investment of 500%!

There are zillions of similar examples out there in the minds of top performers everywhere. They do things differently. Share the ideas! Implement better solutions. Involve and engage everyone in the performance improvement initiative. Just do it!

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.

Puppies and Performance Improvement – Random Thoughts…

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

Square wheels One and How Things Work ©

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

SWs One - what you see is all border

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

Nobody ever washes a rental car.

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

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

A few minutes of playing around and I created this:

Square Wheels One Puppies 2

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

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

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

So why not use puppies?

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

Square Wheels are simply great tools

Ask us about our simple to use tools for organizational improvement,

For the FUN of It!

scott tiny casual

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

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

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

Square Wheels and really expensive alternatives to Round Wheels

John McDermott sent me a link to a device called a Cubli – I thought the video cute and then, since it is a “square thing,” how I might play with this a bit. After all, I am all about innovation and implementation, people and performance, and understanding the reality that The Round Wheels are already in the wagon that rolls on Square Wheels

The Cubli looks like this and clicking on the image will take you to a Gizmodo site and an expensive female British voice describing its design, the physics involved and its “behavioral flexibility.”


Basically, the little device can sit there like a paperweight or it can balance on a point or on an edge or it can be taught to actually “roll” in a slow and very controlled manner, something they call “jumping and walking.”

Check out the video and then pop back here and I will roll forward with some of my ideas and analogies of how this little device actually DOES link to organizational behavior and people and performance…

The first video shown of the device appears here — like most good ideas, it started out by not being able to do much other than be lifted up to balance and maintain itself on one point. It is connected to a computer system with its network of wheels, motors, controllers and program. That video says that it was designed by a group of students from the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control at ETH Zurich, a Swiss organization. The second and much more professionally done video shows that even more people were involved and the cube itself went from wired to wireless. The second video also says that it was invented by The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. I am only guessing when I think that the Institute now wants credit! (ALL organizations are political organizations, you know!)

It is described as follows:

Cubli’s secret is a set of flywheels located behind three of its faces. When they’re spinning at high velocities they’re individually controlled to allow the cube to maintain its balance, but they can also be abruptly stopped which causes the cube to be launched into the air. By carefully controlling how the cube stands, falls, and moves, it can even walk its away (sic) across a flat surface, in a manner of speaking. 

The lead researcher then elaborated:

Reaction wheels mounted on three faces of the cube rotate at high angular velocities and then brake suddenly, causing the Cubli to jump up. Once the Cubli has almost reached the corner stand up position, controlled motor torques are applied to make it balance on its corner. In addition to balancing, the motor torques can also be used to achieve a controlled fall such that the Cubli can be commanded to fall in any arbitrary direction. Combining these three abilities — jumping up, balancing, and controlled falling — the Cubli is able to ‘walk’.

And the narrative includes the point that, “Rapid breaking of the spinning wheel allows it to transfer its angular momentum and flip up onto an edge.”

Okay. So here we have a almost a dozen people at a Swiss research institute using government funding to develop a cube that can basically balance itself on an edge or point or rotate on a point. The Cubli is “commanded” to move.

So, my deviant brain spins off into a few new directions after viewing the videos…

They use round “inertia reaction wheels” and they missed the opportunity to use SQUARE wheels for that purpose, since they would have worked great and also made it a bit more elegant and congruent. A cube with Square Wheels.

Like a lot of projects, this Cubli one took a lot of creative energy of a lot of people to implement a solution that no one apparently needs. And I wonder the actual cost of all this… I mean, even the video’s reference that it makes for a really interesting paperweight (and one that might work really well in windy conditions or in an earthquake!).

A toy gyroscope can do much of the same kind of work. Like Round Wheels already in the wagon, those already exist and are proven to work just fine. You can also get that to spin around an axis in a circle and you can get one in a zillion places for less than $10. They make neat hands-on and engaging science gifts.


And, for $49, National Geographic will sell you a magnetic levitating globe that hangs in the air and spins freely:

levitating globe

A yo-yo also has many of the same behavioral characteristics and is a lot more fun to play with and a lot less costly. You can watch some amazing yo yo tricks here — but remember that the yo yo is spinning all the time! And when they play with multiple yo yos on one string, that seems really amazing to me…But people can do amazing things with the tools that they have.

My point in all this? We can spend a lot of time and energy focused on things that have no real benefit, or we can use the things that we already have to make things more fun and interesting. And the kinds of skills that people can develop are really amazing — some of those yo yo performers are absolutely incredible and you would never know from looking at them what they can actually accomplish. A yo yo in each hand, doing tricks that amaze.

This 3-minute video at the 2005 yo yo championship has had over 4 million views. Three minutes of amazing tricks with a spinning toy and people developing the intrinsic motivation to take their skills to an unreal and unimaginable level. Why can’t we do this more often in the workplace?

Suzuki yo yo

Its about people and performance, people.
And the Round Wheels and motivation are already in the wagon!

Elegant Solutions

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

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

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

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Bill Cosby, John LeCarre and Jim Collins on Improving Workplace Performance and Motivation

Bill Cosby made a great presentation years ago at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Conference in San Diego. he told the story of:

… two geniuses and two human resources professionals at the gates of heaven, all trying to get in. The gatekeeper said there was a simple way to gain entry: just give God a question that he couldn’t answer. If you could stump him, you got in.

The Geniuses huddled and talked back and forth for a while, but no matter how hard they tried to ask questions, God always had the answer.

Those two human resources people, on the other hand, huddled for just a moment, scribbled down a single question and handed it to the gatekeeper.

He reappeared a few minutes later and said they had done well and that God was stumped, so they could enter Heaven when they liked. 

The geniuses were puzzled. How? What, they asked the gatekeeper, could those two HR people have possibly been able to ask God that he couldn’t answer?

It was simple, the gatekeeper said:  “They asked God when the company they had been working for was going to get its shit together.”

The joke was well received because of the reality:  Businesses really don’t have it together!

The workforce and staff know it to be true and pretty uniform across organizations. These same people, as customers, undoubtedly feel it when interacting.

Square Wheels One with Customer Riding

But top managements just don’t seem to be aware that they do not really know what is happening or if they have the right operational policies and procedures in place.

As the author John LeCarre, once wrote,

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

Jim Collins, author of management books as Good to Great and Built to Last, showed that a very typical problem is that “the CEO has already made a decision, and that view of “leadership” was to get people to participate so that they feel good about the decision already made.” This is a really poor way to manage because, “you’re ignoring people who might know a lot that would be useful in making the decision.”

Collins added: “You’re accepting the idea that because you’re in the CEO seat, you somehow know more or you’re really smarter than everyone else, But what you’re really doing is cutting yourself off from hearing options or ideas that might be better.”

The story and Collins’ research make the same point:  Leaders are not fully informed. They know some things but not everything. They tend to look at numbers and receive information that has been filtered a number of times (see how I close this with, “In The Beginning!”). Senior leadership seldom actually deal with customers or customer problems and do not have their hands on the keyboards and phone pads that influence results and touch the business. And talking with the CEO of another company does not make them hands-on, either!

A Desk is Dangerous Place from which to View the World

People down in the trenches understand an awful lot more about the business than the executive suite people give them credit for and they have good hands-on feelings about the causes of a lot of problems. They also have a lot of good ideas about how to make the business operate more efficiently and more effectively. While they may not understand the Big Picture and the overall issues, they certainly know a lot about how things actually work in their areas of expertise.

The problem is, the people with their hands on things are generally not asked what they think or about what should be done differently. They are often pushed into competing with other departments rather than collaborating in meaningful ways. Worse, from a motivational and developmental perspective, they are often simply handed down decisions without being given an opportunity to have any meaningful input or change to those ideas – this generates compliance.

Heck, even God would probably understand the issues and opportunities communicated in my favorite quote:

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

We totally agree that these are real issues! And this is where our Square Wheels® tools can easily have a huge impact. We provide simple tools for helping managers dramatically improve communications, helping them become better facilitators for motivation and innovation and allowing their people to have a voice and feel ownership. They can use our tools to remove roadblocks, identify issues and generate possible solutions, all the while doing this with the people rather than to them.

A wide variety of workplace statistics point to the dissatisfaction of employees because they perceive that leaders do not care about their ideas for improvement. Many feel little involvement in the decisions that directly affect them and often feel they have no effective way to voice their ideas, opinions and solutions concerning workplace issues or ideas.

For managers, a great way to tap this source of ideas is to facilitate a session using Square Wheels® illustrations.  These illustrations provide a “safe” non-threatening format for people to openly discuss issues and ideas and work on implementation.

Square Wheels One is an illustration that sets up the metaphor of the wagon moving along on Square Wheels with Round Wheels in the wagon.

square wheels image of how things work

The Manager begins the session by showing the cartoon and stating that this is how most organizations seem to work. At this point, he asks the participants (who are ideally seated at round tables with 5 to 6 people per table), to talk among themselves about how they see their organization in the illustration.

After 5 minutes, ask for reactions from each table and write them on an easel pad, preferably containing the illustration. Leaders need to get their people involved and engaged. And the leaders also need to be active participants in the improvement process itself — they must clearly show their support for the show to go on…

square wheels on ownwership

Lastly, all of this discussion reminds me of a classic, which I have reproduced for your enjoyment:

In the Beginning was The Vision
And then came the Assumptions
But the Assumptions were without Form
And the Vision was without substance.
And Darkness was upon the faces of the Workers
As they Spoke amongst themselves, saying:
“It is a Crock of Shit, and it Stinketh, badly.”

 So the Workers went to Supervisors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Pail of Dung, and none may abide the Odor thereof.”

And Supervisors went to Managers, and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Container of Excrement, and it is
so very Strong that none may abide it.” 

And Managers went to Directors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a vessel of Fertilizer, and none may abide its Strength.”

And Directors went to Vice Presidents and sayeth:
“It contains that which aids plant Growth, and it is very Strong.” 

And Vice Presidents went to Executives and sayeth unto them:
“It promoteth Growth, and it is very very Powerful.” 

And Executives went to the President, and sayeth unto him:
“This powerful Vision will actively promote Growth and Efficiency
of our departments and our company overall.” 

And the President looked upon the Vision and saw that it was good.
Thus the Vision became The Reality.

Yeah, the reality is that information is quite filtered as it rolls up the organization, so do what you can to get more hands on (so to speak!).

See more thoughts on thinking and decision-making at this other popular blog of ours:

Square Wheels ideas are good implementation

and find out more about our tools for engagement by clicking the image-link below:

Square Wheels are simply great tools

For the FUN of It, be involved and engaged!

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.

Square Wheels, timing and rhyming on issues

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

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

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

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

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

SWs One all the things you won't see red

And then we move on to some other thoughts

mud job pay different way poem

balloon in the air share poem

Desk better way poem

Desk substitution one less bump per revolution poem

Intrinsic less wheel of wagon shake poem

or there is this one along similar lines:

Intrinsic places we'll go poem

Celebration plane horse game poem

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

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

SWs One - what you see is all border

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

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Ideas and Images – The Brain Sees New Possibilities

I’ve been interested in illusions and creativity and brain functioning since the 1970s and have collected a lot of images that look like one thing until you look more closely. Consider this image, for example:

Illusions stimulate brain creativity

It appears to be a tree, until you look more closely. And the more you look, the more you see. (How many faces are there in this image?)

Similarly, one can be shown this image and asked, “How many squares are there in this diagram?”

How many squares in this square illustion and answers

Take a minute with both of these illustrations. (My answers are below)

So, your brain can see a lot of things, if it is given the time to process the information and consider possibilities. A quick peek at the square above will NOT show you all that are there — you need to spend a few minutes on it to get an actual count and you need to think, “out of the box” to find all the squares.

The same things occur in the workplace. People that are hands-on and doing the job will spend a lot more time thinking about the tasks and processes that are involved in that job. Their level of analysis can be pretty high, especially if they are motivated by thinking about possible improvements.

And this one is new, as I update this older post:


What do you see? The parrot? Well, take a really hard look at this painting. The painting and picture are called, “Color us confused.” (Courtesy Johannes Stotter Art) and it came from this website and this article on how illusions confuse the brain.

The parrot is a woman, posing. Her left foot and leg are the tail. Her other leg is raised up and her elbow forms the top of her head, with her hand being the beak! Yeah, it took me a long while to see that one, too! Artists see things differently, and they often understand how to fool the brain. Magicians take it a step farther, even, but that is outside the scope of this writing.

In practice, our Square Wheels One illustration accomplishes many of these same kinds of brain challenges, getting people to consider possibilities and opportunities for improvement. But more than a simple cartoon, our illustrations can provide a context for facilitated discussions about implementation of these ideas. Implementation is the key to getting things done.

Square Wheels One How Things Work ©

Illustrations and illusions are great tools to play with how people think and to generate some creative energy about identifying and implementing improvements. They can generate teamwork, innovation, and intrinsic motivation to improve results.

(Answers – I see ten faces in the first illustration, 5 on each side and you can count forty squares in the second — see this page to see an animation of the answer: )

We sell simple to use toolkits to actively involve and engage people in the workplace to use their brains and the collaboration process to generate new ideas. Simple and easy. Bombproof, too!

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

You can find another article that shares other illusions by clicking on the image below:

escher ring

For the FUN of It!

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

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The Square Wheels really ARE everywhere!

I have been saying that for a long long time. It just seems like a lot of things just do not work smoothly, from my wasting two hours with a web hosting company over the past two days because my computer will not allow me to edit what Chris put up to redo my website.

It was, “You’ll have to clear your browser cache and clear all the cookies.” Then, it was, “You’ll have to upload to the Newest Version of Flash” — a quick look on the internet showed some loading problems with Macs running 10.7 and v 11.3 of Flash. And so on.

The first two techies were no help and the third one eventually suggested that I  look at my cookie preference — it turns out that simply changing Safari from blocking “third parties and advertisers” to allowing anybody and anyone to pop cookies onto my site would enable Netfirms’ “Webly” interface to operate.

Seems like a pretty darn poor software design to me, since I have to open up my security to simply edit a website, so I guess I will change preferences when I update and then switch back. The Square Wheels really ARE everywhere and one would think that their support people would know about that since what I did is fairly common. (I never did delete my cookies and clear the cache — that just seemed dumb since I had never been on that Netfirms’ site before. I would not have unplugged my computer, either!).

On the other hand, that idea that the third tech had to look at the browser security was a good one since it solved my problem. Yeah, and one can only hope that the next Mac / Safari user having this problem might benefit from sharing this idea. Round Wheels are everywhere, too. But they are not often shared.

Yep, The Square Wheels are everywhere and we go through life thumping and bumping along, it seems…

I use a simple magic trick using dots that illustrates my thoughts on ideas and that allows me to narrate the trick toward my desired outcomes. It is a good trick and you can get it online somewhere. You can see me doing the trick in a 90 second video on our YouTube site. Clicking here will take you directly to the link.

And here is an optical illusion that also illustrates that the round wheels are everywhere. Hope you like this:

There are plenty of Squares above. But isn’t it interesting that we seem to focus on the Round dots in the picture? Wouldn’t it be great if managements in organizations could do the same thing? Focus on the Round Wheel ideas that would correct the Square Wheels that are so common?

And there is this one, too. Which of the round red balls is bigger?

Well, neither. It is not a good idea to compare different solutions, sometimes. Every idea has a positive impact in many cases, either as an idea to fix or correct something or as a stimulus for another idea.

Round Wheels are not a workplace illusion.
And the Square Wheels need to be addressed to make things work better.

Just Do It! 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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Innovation, Strategy and Motivation

I am sitting on the bed in Mumbai, looking at emails and thinking about how well the strategy improvement / implementation session went that I helped deliver on Friday. We used the Square Wheels illustrations linked to issues of alignment and vision and change to frame up how leadership could best communicate a new strategy down through the organization and engage people to try new things and share ideas as to how to best apply these strategies within their job activities.

It was my first presentation on this specific theme and the session flowed neatly and with positive reactions by all of these senior managers. For a basic framework, I used my friend Robin Speculand’s basic approach to strategy implementation and organizational alignment. Robin has recently opened his Implementation Hub website, one that offers a wide variety of tools and information about the issues and opportunities. You can find that here.

My approach would focus more on engagement and alignment than most strategy management books that I read, since I focus a lot more on the people side of the alignment process than I do on the mechanical side of things. We showed the Dan Pink RSA animation of his TED presentation on the negative impacts of extrinsic rewards on most organizational development tasks and the need for using intrinsic motivational strategies to implement successfully. That generated a good bit of discussion and challenged the typical organization’s extrinsically-driven motivational approach.

I was also going through some of my LinkedIn group correspondence and one question was about designing a one-day program for management team building.

Most of the other responders had good ideas, but one said that it was a good idea not to reinvent the wheel… Of course, that pin hit my balloon and I thought to post up something that spun around that point and made some other points about implementing changes. So, here is what I said (might as well post that post it entirely than re-inventing the wheel, right? ; ) :

Unlike the other responder, I WOULD try to reinvent the wheel!!

As I was reading the thread, I was thinking about all the innovative ideas for workplace improvement that I have encountered over the years in my work on continuous improvement and productivity and motivation. Yes, people ARE innovative and cultures DO suppress and often actively inhibit the good ideas that already exist, creating what I call Spectator Sheep. Those are the ones that stand around, disengaged and disenchanted and voice their opinions, “Naaaaaaaaa, Baaaaaaaaa!”

Spectator Sheep are not involved or engaged but they will express their thoughts verbally: Naaaaa Baaaaa

I show the Square Wheels One cartoon, which depicts a wooden wagon rolling on 4 wooden Square Wheels with a cargo of round rubber tires. It is presented as, “How might this represent how things really work in most organizations?”

Square Wheels One, by Performance Management Company © 1993

Square Wheels represent the way things work in most organizations. Round wheels already exist!

That challenge always generates engagement and interactions and dozens of thoughts on issues and opportunities.

What we find are that there are lots of Round Wheel possibilities that already exist and that could simply be utilized by more people in the workplace. For those not already using these round ones, this represents innovation and process improvement and sometimes drives resistance to change (a whole ‘nother issue).

Some of the ideas are simply Best Practices, while the session can also focus on new ideas that are not yet created — Here is a Square Wheel we deal with; what are some round wheel possibilities?

Similarly, a problem or challenge can be presented to the group as a Square Wheel and one can use a variety of creative, group-oriented processes like Dot-Voting and Fast Networks and other activities to generate some energy and cross-functional discussions. Thiagi and many others have simple exercises that can work to accomplish this engagement.

Dan Pink’s summary of research in creativity (the book is Drive but click here  (“Dan Pink RSA”) to see a 10-minute animated discussion of his key points) says that EXTRINSIC Rewards directly inhibit creativity and the research is really clear on this. I would TOTALLY avoid the use of any “completion rewards? and just allow the INTRINSIC, self-generated motivation to solve problems to drive ideas and possibilities.

This can be done at the workgroup level for small problems or led at the top levels with strategic or product-related “Square Wheels” to engage focused energy.

As others have stated, we need to be clear about the desired outcomes before we can roll forward or downhill.

You can see some writings and tools and similar at

We do not focus on innovation directly in our workshops to improve team building and organizational performance, but innovation and improvement are critical factors in any plan to engage and motivate people. Continuous Un-Improvement is not such a hot idea for any workgroup!

chaos confusion haiku 2

Hope that helps.


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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

Tripping to India to do Strategy Implementation and Team Building

The past month has been quite a journey, even before I head off to Mumbai once again. My passport expired as did my one-year, multiple-entry business visa to India. SO, I put the passport into “The System” and got it back quickly. Then came the application process for the entry visa. It was one of these “in the mud” kind of weeks:


Scott, talking about being up to your “axles in mud,” with Spectator Sheep. This situation sure felt like that!

Online, it gave me some options so I applied for the 10-year, multiple-entry business visa, since it was the same price as the 5-year one and not too much more expensive than the 1-year, the application requirements were as before as were the timelines.

But in this case, I ran up into “the processor bureaucracy.” To make a long story short, it has taken me nearly a month, with me making 4 phone calls, repeatedly sending things, changing one or two words in the application letter (I am a one-person company but the letter from my company to the embassy has to be from someone else in my company verifying my honesty and abiilty to pay any debts occurring in India) and there was an issue with the words “training” and “contract.”

I will be going there to market my organizational development tools (Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine) and to meet up with my exclusive representatives to look at new product development and marketing. I am going to present to some large conferences to model the delivery of the tools. We have a contract that protects my intellectual property, mostly. BUT, the person reading the application materials was MOST CERTAIN that I was going to India for employment, and thus, I must complete an Employment Visa. And having “a contract” proved to her that I was an employee and not the owner of my own company doing business with another company. Her ignorance was most amazing, actually, and combined with her unwillingness to listen, caused me (and probably many other businessmen) a great deal of anguish.

That employment descriptive document had things like me having to receive an annual salary of at least USD $25,000 and that my sponsoring company had to assert that I was uniquely qualified and that there was no one in India who could do my job. (I cannot imagine how that would actually be accomplished). In reading it, we would have to LIE on the application for me to qualify for one of those employment visas.

With me being totally truthful on all things, and with the processor actually losing my passport in their mailroom, I finally made that one perfect phone call to the right person who said, “I can fix this!” and she did, using the information that they already had. It proves the value of the empowered employee when it comes to customer service.

UPS now has my passport and I get it today. This is after a MONTH of them diddling around with this processor company’s people (absulute power corrupts absolutely?) and making mistakes and losing things. And, this put a great deal of pressure on all of us, given the commitments we were making to deliver large programs in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. 

Anyway, it looks like things are all in order, that the trip will be a “go” and the tickets and time not wasted.

Now, I am putting a lot of materials together that will recombine the Square Wheels tools into a program on strategy implementation, something that is a critical issue for most large organizations. I am building on the work of my long-term friend and associate, Robin Speculand in Singapore, and focusing on using his Compass model and his general information, combining his approach with my tools for generating engagement and involvement and alignment, and using the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise as a tool for changing behavior and generating commitment to missions and visions.

It will be a unique program for me. I have worked on implementation themes for 30+ years, but never linked these tools in this manner. We are redesigning the play of Dutchman to allow for mid-game restructuring and communications, which will improve its effectiveness around the strategy and vision themes.

And, I will get another newsletter out on this today.

Sure has been an interesting journey to India, this past month, and I have not even left the US yet!

Square Wheels are everywhere! So are the Round Ones.
  (And thanks to Jennie at Travisa for helping me out when all others failed…)

And I am really looking forward to working with the illustrations and games again in India.




For the FUN ot It!

Scott small pic

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

On Brainstorming and workplace productivity improvement

I recently responded to a LinkedIn post on the theme of Brainstorming. And I am reminded about how some people are new at this while I have been facilitating performance improvement discussions for nearly 40 years (gee, can it really be that long?)

“Times fun when you are having flies.” (Kermit the Frog)

One of the keys to success in these kinds of activities is to generate some peer support for the ideas and “lightly” use the ground rules — but NOT to make the rules so tight that people feel that the rules are more important than the ideas. I have seen some “control freak facilitators” focus so much on the rules that people feel that NO comment can be made other than the sharing of an idea. I really feel that this serves only to limit contributions. The session CAN be a debate, if it is done with the intention of generating NEW ideas and different viewpoints.

I allow some divergent discussion, but I also will lightly use the Rule of 80 / 20, which simply says the obvious: “80% of the discussion will occur in the first 20% of the time and the remaining 20% will take 80% of the time. So, anyone can call “80/20″ and we can then move on to more ideas…” (That really works well, in my experience!)

It is MOST important, I think, that the ideas be anchored to some business improvement issue and that people have a chance to get their creativity juices flowing before the discussion gets going.

The tool I use is Square Wheels One, which is readily available on my website. One does not require a tool but this process of generating ideas through projection is certainly a solid one for creativity.

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

I present that as, “How most organizations really work,” so as to not make them defensive (the word “your” added in there is pretty much guaranteed to generate some resistance and defensiveness!). A KEY is to allow them, “One Minute of Silent Contemplation Time.” This enables the slower information processers to think about possibilities before getting swarmed by the faster ones. It also allows for divergent thinking to arise — different people will go off in different directions.

With tables of no more than 6 people — more will decrease collaboration and participation — you allow them to first think individually and then allow them to discuss their different issues and ideas. I let this run until the energy begins to dissipate and then move it to a group discussion. You can use easel pads for each table, dot-voting for best ideas and all sorts of other frameworks for getting everyone involved in all ideas.

THEN, you can begin to tighten the thinking and bring them closer toward focusing on key issues and ideas — we call this “funneling.”

Getting people involved helps generate better ideas as well as ownership involvement and engagement

If you build a sense of energy and involvement and peer support for ideas in your openings, and anchor the activities toward “business improvement paradigms,” I think you will find that your brainstorming will be much improved. If people feel safe in sharing their ideas about a funny wagon with obvious improvement opportunities, they are MUCH more likely to participate in the sharing of their ideas about specific business improvement concepts in the open discussions.

Everyone needs to participate, mainly because, “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and it is not so much about ideas as it is about the IMPLEMENTATION of those ideas afterwards for most organizations.

Between the idea and the reality,
Between the motion and the act,
Falls the Shadow.

T.S. Eliot

You can see more about Square Wheels at

For the FUN of It!

(BTW, I am a certified professional facilitator by the IAF and have been facilitating and implementing ideas for workplace improvement since 1978. )

Spectator Sheep – Engaging and Involving Poor Performers

I saw a post in one of my online training groups and it was talking about organizational deadwood. Granted, it is an issue in a lot of companies, but my take is to view it as an opportunity more than a problem. So, I started that conversation thusly:

First, remember that the deadwood was once a growing tree. Remind yourselves that a Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. And that is NOT an uncommon kind of statistic according to my friends in research/surveying companies.

So, envision a wooden wagon rolling along on wooden Square Wheels® and being pulled by a guy with a rope that both isolates him from the wagon itself and also functions as a shock absorber. The wagon is thumping and bumping along, as it always has. The people at the back of the wagon are pushing, and their hands-on activities are giving them “feedback on the journey forward.” But that is it; they cannot see where they are headed. Understand that the cargo of this wagon is round rubber tires.

Thump thump, thump thump, just like always.

But paradoxically, the work team will meet their performance goals because the goals were set on this paradigm. Okay, maybe they need to improve 5% this year, but maybe that is possible. The new guys always push the hardest anyway and it does not take a whole lot of skill to perform the job.

NOW, envision on the side of the hill, the Spectator Sheep. You know who they are: they are the ones not actively involved in this effort, the ones who stand around going, “Naaaaaaaaa. Baaaaaaa.” You know they are there and that they also express their opinions fairly regularly in meetings and on the job, right?

Spectator Sheep Yellow round borders(There are multiple causal factors that we do not need
to be concerned with at this point, either.)

MY view is that these Spectator Sheep actually DO care, but they are frustrated. They see things differently from Pushers and Pullers — their arms-length perspective keeps them asking, “Why are they doing this that way?” After a while, they give up with the discourse and specific suggestions and just drift into the Naaa Baaa framework – it’s more fun that way as well as less effort for them.

(These may be those people who are not engaged but who have no intention of leaving your employment. In some companies, this represents a significant number of employees, based on surveys.)

But I also see these guys as tigers under protective sheepskin coverings. They have the motivation, they just express it differently. AND, they are headed in the opposite direction. But they have a desire to change and they see a gap between what is happening and what is possible — these gaps are motivating (look up “cognitive dissonance”).

Ah, if we could only change their direction and get them going in the same way as the wagon is rolling now. If we might only engage and involve them in the process of improving the journey. If we might only use their energy to help implement change and improvement. If we could only get these (likely) below average employees to improve their performance up to the median of the rest of the participants.

Want leverage for innovation and performance improvement? LOTS of statistics support the reality that the poor performers can contribute more, a lot more, than one can get by continually demanding improvements at the top.

What we need to do is RE-engage that deadwood, since there is still life there. Easy, no. Trust is the Residue of Promises Fulfilled and there is probably a bit of history stored up in the tree rings that needs to be addressed. But these are still valuable and skilled employees, for the most part.

But I also realize that this is not typical thinking on the part of most managers. There are rings in those trees, too.

Remember those old Saturday Night Live skits that John Belushi performed, where he would do all this insightful stuff and then end it with “Naaaaaaa” and reject the whole stream of ideas? It reminds me of what happens in so many workplace meetings…  “Naaaaaaaaaa…..”

Anyway, Spectator Sheep are real, and we can do a much better job of involving them in workplace improvement. They DO have good ideas and a different perspective on things and some simple realignment is often all that is really required. Give them a sense of ownership involvement, too,

For the FUN of It!

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

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