Performance Management Blog

Square Wheels – People and Performance – A joke and a story
Square Wheels, Caterpillars and Butterflies and the mentor painter

Square Wheels® are a series of images around a metaphor of how things really work. The images and reactions to them are all about People and Performance and they are are used for storytelling, coaching, innovation, engagement and team building.

They are also great for engaging people in online discussions about issues and opportunities and we have about 200 related images in our files to support all kinds of key learning points and organizational improvement frameworks.

The main image has gone through three main iterations and now appears as the illustration on the right, our new main style.

Square Wheels One images since 1993 including 2022

And, as part of that stylistic conversion, which was to add color and interest and modernize the images somewhat, we also had my main storyline and message converted into a large image. Let me show it and then tell you the joke and build out the story. Take a minute and LOOK at the drawing and see what you see and think what you think, before I start my narrative. Catch as much as you can and let me see if I can surprise you!

(and please do not take my image which is protected by copyright and trademark.)

Square Wheels, Caterpillars and Butterflies and the mentor painter

Okay. What do you think? Take a minute to reflect on what YOU see when you look at the above.

Let me share how I use this in presentations:

There are two caterpillars resting on some round wheels while riding along on a Square Wheeled wagon. A beautiful butterfly floats by, and the one caterpillar says to the other, “You’ll never get ME up in one of THOSE things!”

Before reading below, THINK about the above for at least a few seconds!!

What are some of the obvious paradoxes around what I just shared?  Some answers include:

  • The wagon is rolling on Square Wheels with a cargo of round rubber tires.
  • The round wheels are already in the wagon but they are too busy pushing and pulling to make changes.
  • The caterpillars will, in fact, become butterflies. Change is inevitable for them.
  • Do caterpillars know that their future will be different from their current reality?
  • The View from the Front of the wagon is lovely, but the View at the Back is boards and hands. Not very motivating for pushers.
  • The wagon pushers are actually in the mud, and mud makes even this journey more difficult.
  • There are obviously silos here in this situation, and we find them in most work situations.
  • They have Spectator Sheep watching the journey, and they are probably going, “naaaaaaaa,  baaaaaaa” as things progress.
  • Ah, and there is the painter. What does HE understand that the caterpillars may not? One can call him a mentor, because he sees the potential for improvement in the caterpillars.
  • The wagon looks like it is going slightly downhill. That is good for them and certainly better than the more normal situation of people pushing their wagons uphill!

Got any more thoughts?
And from those thoughts, do you have any suggestions for our people?

I used this image to frame up overall ideas about managing and leading change in a large workshop I led in Amman, Jordan in August, 2022 which is why this has my current attention. I shared the image and then anchored the discussion to the key learning points, one at a time. Discussions at the tabletops are about change, teamwork, alignment, missions and visions and about continuous continuous improvement.

My goal is to package this up as a simple tool any manager can use with their people in a remote discussion about workplace issues and ideas. It expands on our simple Spring Forward Monday Toolkit ($15) that contains the simple Square Wheels® One image along with some worksheets and facilitation skills ideas.

If you see some possibilities around using the images and the metaphor in your organization, connect with me. I have a LOT of these tools and am looking for some projects on which to collaborate to develop some really powerful tools for performance improvement. These are really great tools for improving facilitation skills, engaging people in workplace improvement, and for leading discussions around innovation and change,

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 who is trying to retire!! He now lives in Cuenca, Ecuador.

You can reach Scott at

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Here is a 2-minute overview of the virtual team building game:

logo for Lost Dutchman Virtual online edition




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, earning CPT and CPF credentials. -- You can reach Scott at and a detailed profile is here: -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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