Home > Lean > Are you too busy to improve?

Are you too busy to improve?

Are you too busy to improve

This illustration is inspired by and in part derived from the work by Scott Simmerman, “The
Square Wheels Guy” http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/

For translated versions of this image and terms of use please see this page

Are you just keeping yourself busy and not taking the time to improve how you do work?

Are you too busy to innovate

If you want to innovate and improve you must make time for continuous improvements.

Planning for lower utilization

If we plan for less than 100% utilization you can create the time and space for improvements and innovation. When you have the time to improve and innovate you can increase your capability and do even more.

An added bonus is that planning for less than 100% utilization is also very good for the flow in your system.

Small batches

Just like in flow, small batches is good when it comes to doing improvements. Doing improvement work in big batches every other week or once a month is not optimal. Plan for it to be part of your daily work. Your daily work should really be both delivering value AND improving the work.

The added bonus of small batches is that they will reduce variation in your processes, which will improve your flow.

Small batches and high repetition will also help you build the habits of continuous improvements and innovation.

See yourself as a gardener

You should really see yourself as a gardener, the gardener of your processes. Processes are just like gardens; if you don’t keep them up the weeds, the bad habits, will grow back.

If you don’t keep up and continuously improve your processes their capability will dwindle.

Excellence is a habit

This is one of my favorite quotes and I think is really sums up what continuous improvement and innovation is all about. We have to build the daily habits of improving and innovate if we want to strive for perfection.

How do you get started? I think Toyota Kata is a great way.

Also take a look Dr. Scott Simmerman work with Square Wheels® Performance Improvement Tools and Dynamic Team Building Games at http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/

You can read more about Toyota Kata here

Square Wheels® is a registered servicemark of Performance Management Company

  1. 2014-03-12 at 17:43

    The article is great, but the two first pictures are absolutly brilliant!

    • 2014-03-12 at 21:25

      Thank you Boris.
      Those two pictures are LEGO recreations of hand drawn originals with unknown authors. The main credit should go the unknown authors.

    • 2014-03-12 at 21:32

      Recreation of a recreation.

      I’m happy to translate the text on the image for anyone who asks.

  2. Raimon Pedemonte
    2014-03-17 at 19:40

    Reblogged this on Raimon Pedemonte.

    • 2014-03-17 at 20:04

      Ah. Well, the reality is that the Square Wheels are really everywhere, but so are the Round ones. Hakan and I are now in the process of plotting and planning an overthrow of the world using cartoons and LEGO and you can expect a Battle of the Ideas shortly, one where we take on all sorts of people and performance-related issues and opportunities, for the FUN of It!

  3. Sachin Bakshi
    2014-03-22 at 19:18

    Amazing way to differentiate between effort and improvement. . Its not always proportional. Toys have been used to highlight the basics…

    • 2014-03-24 at 17:30

      More than toys, I think that the metaphors around business works is what help people to dissociate from their position inside to see things from another viewpoint. It is one of the main reason why jokes work so well, since they twist the expected in unexpected directions. Cartoons have that same ability.

      I play with MUD and Square Wheels and Leadership in this little cartoon on my poems blog, for example:


      A key to innovation is perspective, what I call “stepping back from the wagon.”

      Another is to have fun out there!

  4. Brigitte-Louise Lessard
    2014-03-28 at 20:24


    Il would like to get your permission to translate it in french and share, whit your name and all. I could sent it to you when translated. Thanks!

    • 2014-03-29 at 08:14

      Hi Brigitte-Louise,
      I’m happy to post a translated version on my blog if you send me the text.

  5. 2014-04-14 at 15:56

    I read this article is very like.
    I found everyday.
    Can I translate in Thai version and share or not?
    Thank you very good article.

    • 2014-04-14 at 16:28

      Please send me the translation of the text on the images you like to have translated and I will post them here on my blog. You are free to translate the text of this post as long as you link back and give attribution.

  6. 2014-05-25 at 16:52

    Reblogged this on Muhammad Hassan Nasr and commented:
    Very insightful…

  7. 2014-06-25 at 18:43

    Hakan, I really like the use of the LEGO figures. It gets the message across in such a memorable fashion. I particularly like the “are you too busy to improve?” one with the wheel barrow which has the square wheels!

  8. bknows@yahoo.com
    2014-11-26 at 16:07

    Thanks for this message and the visuals to communicate it!

  9. Dhaneshwar Patil
    2014-12-04 at 04:32

    Thank You for Sharing.

  10. 2015-01-22 at 23:37

    First two images are brilliant! They would work well for what our company does. Would we need permissions to use those in some mailers to prospective clients?

    • 2015-01-23 at 09:33

      Thank you Sharon!
      Yes you need my permission if you want to use my material with commercial purposes as stated by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

      • 2015-01-23 at 16:33

        Ok. I looked at the license and am still a little fuzzy if it applies to what we would like to use your piece for. Our sales people (5) usually send a handwritten note to prospects to set up an appointment. We would like to place your artwork on the front of the note card. This doesn’t really fit what I would call commercial, but I may be mistaken. Does it? I want to do what is right about this.

      • 2015-01-23 at 17:20

        Sharon – Yes, that does make it commercial use since it is used for a business purpose. Hakan CAN give you special permission, a single use license, if you need that — he can give you permission for use. Since you are also using the derivative product of my works, my IP in a way, I will also give you permission to use the theme of Square Wheels for this limited purpose.

        This copyright stuff does get complicated, and the illustration Hakan built up uses my theme of Square Wheels, which constitutes intellectual property that I DO sell to support four families. If you would like to see more of that, you can find it at http://www.poemsontheworkplace.com, where I share some simple posters and other things — that site has connections to my main website and other blog.

        I can also customize an illustration for you, along the lines of what I published on that poems blog today: http://poemsontheworkplace.com/2015/01/23/the-eye-sees-only-what-the-mind-is-prepared-to-comprehend/

        Have fun out there and leave a footprint!

      • 2015-01-23 at 16:03

        Great. Thanks for the info. I’ll share this with our sales department and get back with you. Love your work!

  11. 2015-01-23 at 23:12

    Thank you so much. This area of copyrights is still new to me and I want to do what is right, because I do appreciate what you all do and certainly understand you need to support a family. :-)

    Will continue to check your blogs. Legos, such a great idea! Love it.

    • 2015-01-24 at 01:38

      This copyright stuff is more than a little confusing. You wind up dealing with all sorts of nuances, especially when a trademark / servicemark is involved. Better to ask permission if you can find the original source.

  12. 2015-01-29 at 18:57

    Good morning, so I need to hear from Hakan to give me permission for a single use license? And you as well? Does this need to be in writing? Like I said before this is all new to me. Thank you so much for your patience and advice.

  13. 2015-02-27 at 21:29

    Very nice! Can’t wait to share!

  14. Anja Modler-Spreitzer
    2015-09-07 at 20:57

    Great metaphoric pictures, great story and so true. And – I love Lego.

  1. 2014-03-11 at 11:17
  2. 2014-03-18 at 16:24
  3. 2014-03-20 at 16:13
  4. 2014-03-26 at 00:53
  5. 2014-03-26 at 15:37
  6. 2014-03-27 at 03:49
  7. 2014-03-27 at 10:39
  8. 2014-03-27 at 16:37
  9. 2014-05-14 at 15:37
  10. 2014-05-26 at 11:33
  11. 2014-10-05 at 18:26
  12. 2014-12-23 at 17:19
  13. 2015-04-25 at 19:17
  14. 2015-05-29 at 23:46
  15. 2015-05-30 at 01:35
  16. 2015-11-17 at 04:34

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