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The Square Wheels Newsletter - Issue 4.

The main theme of Newsletter 4 is on Dealing with Conflict.

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Feature Article:


Square Wheels Shopping Cart should be up very shortly.

How about a review of Square Wheels toolkits?? A request

Coaching Tip: CONFLICT by Scott Simmerman

Square Wheels can work smoothly!

Pet Peeves on Knowledge Management

Some Corporate Jokes:

-- True Quotes from Famous People

-- On Differences and Perceptions

-- Useful Work Phrases

-- Sky Diving Question


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Feature Article

The Mosquito Metaphor built on the Wagon in the Mud illustration

This all started when people from the Publications Department approached Diane Mashia with a request that she do some communication facilitation.

It seems that group members were having difficulty relating personally to coworkers. Those who approached her felt, of course, that department members would be more comfortable discussing ideas without blame or without judgment. Thus, the session had to focus on what was really happening without making anyone feel defensive.

Diane thought Square Wheels would be a great metaphor to use since it objectively describes how things are with a focus on the future two factors that would help the discussion be less emotional. So she called me and asked for ideas. And the session had been scheduled for the next day so we were not blessed with a great deal of planning time.

We discussed details for a few minutes and I finally suggested that Diane use the main illustration (Square Wheels One) to start the discussion and get things rolling. Then, she would use the "Managing Mud" illustration and have them discuss that briefly. From there, she would transition to communications.

For this one hour meeting, there were no managers present; they were involved in later meetings when a variety of plans and solutions were discussed to focus on the long term group dynamics.

Diane reported that the group came up with lots of great ideas that described the Square Wheels within their organization. People then discussed the "mud and muck," which added to the reality of the work environment and made it even harder to get work done efficiently.

(This metaphor generally links to those things that bog you down but are hard to get a grip on - the gooey mess of how an organization operates. It also takes more energy to move forward when you are "up to your axles in this stuff."

People saw the "muck" in their communications with each other as representing their unwillingness to address conflict and their "political sidestepping" of issues that were important and should be discussed. But because this often represents an uncomfortable situation, many felt they avoided these discussions.

The "mud" was also likened to having always to go to someone's supervisor instead of going directly with that person to discuss problems or ask questions.

She then added the sound effects as a recap, pointing out how as the wagon goes "thump thump" the mud goes "squish squish" and makes the whole process even messier and harder to manage. Heck, it might actually be quicksand or concrete!

At this point, Diane added some "marker dots" to the illustration around the heads of the pushers and pullers and asked the group what these dots might represent. As this discussion evolved, the participants began to share that these dots might represent the mosquitoes, flies, knats, bees, ticks and the like that can be somewhat common during wagon pushing and pulling. She then had them all make "buzzing noises" which were accompanied by the healthy sound of laughter!

The reality, anchored by the sound of "buzzzzzzzz" in the workplace, was that these annoying little beasts, many of them bloodsuckers, also carry diseases like malaria, Lyme disease, hepatitis and all sorts of other problems. And some people are allergic to their stings.

These pesky little annoyances can have large negative impacts on people and organizations if allowed to fly around freely. When asked, "What might be represented by these mosquitoes and knats." the group moved into a discussion of these other factors.

By then, they could see how these little nasties -- gossip, back-biting, withholding information, complaining about others, denying access to useful resources -- were like the nasty knats attracted by the people in the mud and muck. These two are deadly in organizations, often causing problems in morale, quality and productivity and increasing stress and workplace dissatisfaction.

In order to get rid of these beasties and make that annoying "buzz-buzz" go away, the groups need to remove the mud and get focused on rolling forward. Only then could they work on replacing some Square Wheels with some of the round ones.

Diane reports that the session opened up the atmosphere for some really good conversation about what frustrates people, and how they feel when they discover they are victims of back-biting and office gossip. The group agreed to address these things with the managers NOT present and then meet with the managing team about a month later.

For the next month, the people met weekly in small groups to discuss their problems, and make recommendations to the managers based on those discussions. The purpose of these discussions was to provide a non-judgmental outlet for people to talk about their frustrations. They even did some role playing to practice making the issue the issue and not focus on the person, which is a coaching framework: If it's not personal, don't make it personal.

The process worked out very well, and things have improved in that department. Diane reported that, a month later when she re-visited the workplace, she was greeted with the sound of "buzzzzzzzz," a sure indicator that the group remembered the learning and the message.

In the time since that training, Diane has moved into a management position and continues to use the tools in her coaching.


How does this relate to coaching and organizational performance?

The improvement process is simple and straightforward.

1. Do Square Wheels with the group and establish the language of Square Wheels and Round Wheels and the supporting framework.

2. Show the Mud illustration and the people up to their axles pushing and pulling, with a discussion of what bogs the organization down.

3. The add some dots and a discussion about the little things that annoy people as they are trying to get things done and establish the "buzzz" as a way to communicate the conversational and behavioral issues that are common with these things. Set up the "buzz" as a way of saying, "bug off!" and getting people to stop these non-productive behaviors.

4. Discuss possibilities and things that might be addressed. Agree on an informal signal ("buzz") about the occurrence of these annoying behaviors for the workplace.

5. Deal with the annoyances and begin to deal with the mud in the workplace.

6. Begin to address the Square Wheels and discuss the Round ones. (More on how this process can be applied can be found in the Facilitator's Guide, the various toolkits and in the articles on the website).

7. Roll On!


Note that you really do not need anything more than Square Wheels One and some easel pad sheets or blank transparencies to deliver this session. You can show the main cartoon, ask what it would be like to have the wagon and the people "up to their axles in this gooey sticky mess" and then use a marker to put some dots around the heads of the characters.

Record the discussion points, facilitate the problem identification and ideas for improvement, and generate some action plans and commitments for improvement.

Change will occur when people feel uncomfortable with the way things are, have a vision of how things should be and then make better choices about how they will react. Peer support is critical and having everyone share a common language of Square Wheels and Thump and Buzz can be highly effective.

Square Wheels Shopping Cart should be up very shortly.

We'll soon have the shopping cart up and running. Off the main website, you can download our best and newest illustrations for a modest fee and get digital versions you can use with PowerPoint and other projection systems. As we roll forward, we should also have ANIMATED versions up, since we're only playing with digital images as opposed to paper ones.

We'll also begin to make arrangements so that these concepts (and maybe a few programs) can be used on intranets and other distance learning programs. The nature of these cartoons make them good choices for these applications.

If you are interested in any of this, feel free to drop me a note. A special mailing of the newsletter and the "up" announcement will occur.

How about a review of Square Wheels toolkits?? Anyone who has purchased my Big Book would be great to have a review - I will send you a free copy of Progress via email if you would do this! Guess that is a Bribe - but I will do that even if you give me only an average review!

Coaching Tip: CONFLICT

by Scott Simmerman

Conflict is normal. It is part of the gradient of behaviors that occurs when people with different ideas, expectations, goals and values communicate or relate in some way. Accounting conflicts with sales, in most organizations because the themes of each are different.

Healthy organizations and individuals have effective ways of gaining closure. They move away from the emotional underpinning of the conflict and toward a bit of objectivity and perspective. Being able to do that quickly and effectively regains their balance and energy reserves.

Often, people do this through humor, taking the situation and "making light" of what happened without the "Blame Frame" and focus on the other.

Having a "systems thinking" toolkit within the team framework is useful, because many of these interpersonal communications conflicts can really be solved by "stepping back from the wagon."

Conflict is essential to improvement since old ideas have to be challenged in order to be changed.

CONSTANT conflict, focused on people rather than problems, is NOT a good thing for teams or organizations. It is unhealthy and wastes important energy that could be better-focused elsewhere.

"Don't Just DO Something, Stand There."

Take a breath, count to ten, or whatever. Use your personal resources to focus on the things that need to be fixed and don't waste time trying to force changes in other people.


This was also published in Steve Herbelin's coaching newsletter

Square Wheels can work smoothly!

A Square Wheel might look like be the ultimate flat tire. And one might think that there's no way it can roll down the road without a sequence of thumps and bumps.

But you may find it interesting to note that a square wheel can roll smoothly, with the staying even and level if it travels over the right sort of road.

By that, we mean a "corrugated surface" that consists of evenly spaced bumps, each one the shape of an inverted catenary, which is the curve describing a rope or chain hanging loosely between two fixed points.

At first glance, it looks like half of a parabola. (Mathmatically, it corresponds to the graph of a function called a hyperbolic cosine.)

If the "length" of the curve is correct, the Square Wheel rolls smoothly and evenly. But if the length is not matched to the wheel, it remains a somewhat bumpy and uneven ride.

Another option is for the "road" to be an "inverse replica" of the shape of the Square Wheel, such that the road matches the impression made by the wheels. If this "sawtooth" is the same, the Square Wheels will actually roll smoothly over the sawtooth with the axel maintaining a perfectly level path.

Don't ask me how this relates to how organizations perform. I guess there are some organizations where the Square Wheels match perfectly with the way the organization works and they work smoothly. But take that wheel to another organization, and it may not work well at all.

Conversely, some people may not "fit" the road in their current department or organization but may find that "inverted catenary" someplace else. Thus, their crazy off-the wall behaviors might be a perfect fit in the right kind of place.

Pet Peeves on Knowledge Management

Peter said:

>What never ceases to amaze me is that organisations
>like mine have to constantly bring in outside consultants, often from the
>other side of the world to tell us what we are doing wrong when the
>answers are known by the staff. The Square Wheels metaphor is an
>excellent idea generator and hopefully will see a lot of use hear.

Peter relates one of my biggest pet peeves -- and what I often present as a "consulting trick." The people inside the organization DO know the issues. AND the solutions. Even the Spectator Sheep.

But no body is listening (or perceived to be listening, which may be worse).

That's what the Square Wheels do so well, methinks! They generate ideas from within the organization.

I am not sure these "True Quotes from Famous People" are all true and factual as reported, but they sure do make interesting reading. The content is not meant to offend anyone, and some is certainly in bad taste!


Question: If you could live forever, would you and why?

Answer: "I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever."

-- attributed to Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss USA contest


"Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff."

-- Mariah Carey


"Researchers have discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered other similarities between the two, but can't remember what they are."

-- Matt Lauer on NBC's Today show, August 22


"I haven't committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law."

--David Dinkins, New York City Mayor, answering accusations that he failed to pay his taxes.

"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life."

-- Brooke Shields, during an interview to become spokesperson for a federal anti-smoking campaign

"I've never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body."

-- Winston Bennett, University of Kentucky basketball forward

"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country."

-- Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, D.C.

"We're going to turn this team around 360 degrees."

--Jason Kidd, upon his drafting to the Dallas Mavericks

"China is a big country, inhabited by many Chinese."

-- Former French President Charles De Gaulle

"That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I'm just the one to do it."

-- A congressional candidate in Texas

"I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves."

--John Wayne

"Half this game is ninety percent mental."

-- Philadelphia Phillies manager Danny Ozark

"It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."

-- Former U.S. Vice-President Dan Quayle

"I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix."

-- Former U.S. Vice-President Dan Quayle (and there are lots of Quayle Quotes, too!)

"The private enterprise system indicates that some people have higher incomes than others."

-- former governor of California, Gerry Brown

"It's no exaggeration to say that the undecideds could go one way or another."

-- George Bush, US President

"I have opinions of my own - strong opinions - but I don't always agree with them."

--George Bush, US President

"Not only is he ambidextrous, but he can throw with either hand."

--Duffy Daugherty, football coach and sports analyst

"We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"

--Lee Iacocca

"Please provide the date of your death." to a former resident of South Carolina

--from an IRS letter

I was under medication when I made the decision to burn the tapes."

--Richard Nixon, US President

"I was provided with additional input that was radically different from the truth. I assisted in furthering that version."

--Colonel Oliver North, from his Iran-Contra testimony

"We are sorry to announce that Mr. Albert Brown has been quite unwell, owing to his recent death, and is taking a short holiday to recover."

--Parish Magazine

"Men, I want you just thinking of one word all season. One word and one word only: Super Bowl."

--Bill Peterson, football coach

"Hawaii is a unique state. It is a small state. It is a state that is by itself. It is different from the other 49 states. Well, all states are different, but it's got a particularly unique situation."

--Dan Quayle, US VP

"Be sure and put some of those neutrons on it."

--Mike Smith, Baseball pitcher, ordering a salad at a restaurant

"We are not without accomplishment. We have managed to distribute poverty equally."

--Nguyen Co Thatch, Vietnamese foreign minister

"The word "genius" isn't applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

-- Joe Theisman, NFL football quarterback and sports analyst

"Fiction writing is great. You can make up almost anything."

-- Ivana Trump, upon finishing her first novel

I've read about foreign policy and studied -- I know the number of continents."

--George Wallace, 1968 presidential campaign

"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."

--Dan Quayle



On Differences and Perceptions:

What is the difference between Heaven and Hell?

Heaven is British cops

French chefs

German mechanics

Swiss organizers

Italian lovers



German cops

British chefs

French mechanics

Italian organizers

Swiss lovers





**Contributed to Swenny's E-Mail Funnies by Caroline McGowan, Minneapolis, MN

1. Thank you. We're all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.

2. The fact that no one understands you doesn't mean you're an artist.

3. I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.

4. Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.

5. I have plenty of talent and vision. I just don't care.

6. I like you. You remind me of when I was young and stupid.

7. What am I? Flypaper for freaks!?

8. I'm not being rude. You're just insignificant.

9. I'm already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.

10. I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.

11. It's a thankless job, but I've got a lot of Karma to burn off.

12. Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.

13. No, my powers can only be used for good.

14. How about never? Is never good for you?

15. I'm really easy to get along with once you people learn to worship me.

16. You sound reasonable...Time to up my medication.

17. I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter.

18. I'm out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message...

19. I don't work here. I'm a consultant.

20. Who me? I just wander from room to room.

21. My toys! My toys! I can't do this job without my toys!

22. It might look like I'm doing nothing, but at the cellular level I'm really quite busy.

23. At least I have a positive attitude about my destructive habits.

24. You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.

25. I see you've set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.

26. Someday, we'll look back on this, laugh nervously and change the subject.



Sky Diving Question

**Contributed to Swenny's E-Mail Funnies by Caroline McGowan, Minneapolis, MN

At the skydiving training course, the instructor would take time to answer some of the First Timer Questions.

One guy asked: "If our chute doesn't open.....and the reserve doesn't open, how long do we have till we hit the ground?"

The instructor looked at him and in perfect deadpan answered: "The rest of your life."

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For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, Performance Management Company


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