Words of Wisdom for
Leadership, Learning, and Life in
Exactly 99 Words

NEW at 99-Word Stories

Talk Quick!
99-Word Stories to Spark Discussion about Common Management Issues
by Brian Remer

Talk Quick! is a collection of group discussion starters designed to inspire meaningful conversations about important management issues.
(12 Discussion Activities, 33 pages, Cross Referenced, $10)

Learn more HERE.

99's On the Go

Download a copy of this issue of 99's on the 9th as a PDF.*

View with my iPhone.*

View as a PDF and print from my computer.*

You have permission to use this material for your personal teaching, training, or coaching. You may not sell it or reprint it for other uses without permission from .
Thank you!


99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2016 Brian Remer
Updated Nov. 2016

99's on the 9th

Ideas based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.

November 2016 - On a Roll: Initiating Obvious Changes

Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.

On a Roll
In the office kitchen, a roll of paper towels sits on the counter. Though handy, it takes up space, is hard to dispense, and often ends up in the sink.

One day I found the paper towels hanging above the counter. Here I've been tolerating something that was inefficient and unhelpful just because that's the way it's always been!

128 sheets per roll and a minimum of one roll a week for 7 years, that's at least 46,592 sheets. How many squares of paper get ripped off before we change something that's "always been that way?"


You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.

There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.

The gist of this 99-Word Story is that sometimes waiting for even a simple change can be inconvenient, waste resources, cost money, and take a long time. When an initiative like this is suddenly implemented, we are likely to kick ourselves and wonder why we didn't think of it sooner.

Of course, that's if we like the idea! If we don't, then we may resist or try to undo the change - which presents a whole different set of issues!

In 0.43 seconds you can find more than 89,600,000 entries for "change management" with a Google search. You can focus on models, training, tools, strategies, and principles for change management. And there are countless people ready to help you figure it all out or even make the changes for you!

But the critical first step is noticing that there is an opportunity for improvement. Without that, even the simplest alteration will never happen.

There are several reasons that an obviously inefficient system or process may be perpetuated.

  • Attention - Stuck in routine, some people may not be alert. They might say, "I didn't notice." "It didn't occur to me." Or, "I never looked at it from that perspective."
  • Knowledge or Skill - Some people may see an opportunity but not know what to do. They say, "I didn't know how to change it." OR "I didn't have the tools and resources."
  • Locus of Control - Some people know their place and how much (or little) is expected of them. They respond with, "It's not my responsibility!" "I don't have it in my budget." "I'm new here so I thought there was a valid reason for it." Or, "I don't like to question tradition (or authority, culture, or other people's experience)."
  • Preference - Some people are uncomfortable with change. They say, "I like it the way it is." "It's easier this way." Or, "If it isn't broken, don't fix it!"
  • Learning - Some people have learned what's important by observing other people. They say, "This is what everyone else is doing."

My friend, Scott Simmerman (the Square Wheels Guy), would say that this 99-Word Story illustrates one of his favorite principles: That the solutions we need are already at hand. If we ask the right people, we'll find that we have the tools and resources in our organization to solve our problems.

Here are some suggestions to find those people:

  • Challenge people to pay attention. Give them interesting work, set high standards, ask for their input, and listen seriously to their ideas.
  • Encourage people to learn. Provide opportunities to know more and practice more even if the learning is not directly related to their job.
  • Expand people's responsibilities. Share an appropriate level of authority with each person along with the right amount of feedback that still respects their expertise.
  • Question people's preferences. Find out why they like "the way it's always been." Perhaps what once made sense just needs a new twist.
  • Model best practices. Be the change rather than telling about it. Act more; talk less.

Certainly you can think of additional obvious suggestions that never occurred to me! If so, I hope you act on them. In the meantime, here is a critical question:

Who is the person most likely to finally hang the paper towels
in your organization?


For More Information:
Dr. Scott Simmerman and Performance Management Company: http://www.squarewheels.com/entry.html


Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.

Read previous issues.
To add or delete your name to our mailing list, email with a short note in the subject line.

I want this newsletter to be practical, succinct, and thoughtful. If you have suggestions about how I can meet these criteria, please let me know! Send me an with your thoughts and ideas.


For more information, please contact .