Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: business team building exercises (Page 2 of 6)

Amazing Continuous Improvement from Debriefing

One of my new customers is Novartis, who used my Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise with their scientists to look at issues of improving teamwork and collaboration and innovation successes. Two trainers and I talked on the phone for over an hour, debriefing some of the things they saw and framing up future deliveries around different desired outcomes. There are lots of possibilities around how to build the game into their existing team building courses as well as to look for ways to impact more of the interdepartmental issues.

Frankly, I absolutely love those kinds of conversations, since they often generate things that I might clarify better in the game’s instructional overview materials as well as new ways to frame ideas.

I wrote about how clients innovated the game in other blogs. INPO reframed the Best Practice metaphor of the TurboCharger to better emphasize the strategic planning theme for their desired outcomes, for example. And they also turned me on to the basic benefit of having a designated Devil’s Advocate to help an organization see other sides of the issues to improve implementation.

We’ve been playing with the design of Dutchman for over 20 years now and the metaphors in the design are pretty well-polished. One of the metaphors ties into planning and resource management issue. (You can find a detailed blog about issues of planning and optimizing here.)

As part of their resources, we make a Spare Tire available, with the storyline that it helps protect their vehicles against “Ice Shards,” sharp spikes of ice that can damage their tires. They are also told that, “Ice Shards are very rare.”

The reality is that Ice Shards never occur, and that the cost of that Spare Tire is the same as the cost of resources to manage one day in the Mine. Having a Spare Tire then actually costs them a full day of mining gold, since their resources are, in fact, “sufficient but limited.”

We also play with a FAKE Arctic Blast on Day 17. Teams can discover that there will be TWO Arctic Blasts that occur in the middle of the game. These cost the teams extra resources, which is no big deal if you plan for these to occur. With me tossing in that FAKE extra one on Day 17, nearly every team would run out of resources and die. They simply do not have sufficient cards to get back.

The idea I got from Jessica and Natasha was that I could add Ice Shards to that fake Arctic Blast, at least temporarily making a team feel that having that Spare Tire was a benefit. That feeling would be short-lived, though, as the Just Kidding words scrolled onto that slide, but it would also add a tidbit more to the potential discussions around strategic planning and resource management and similar.

The insight is that ideas for improvement are ongoing. One might think that, after 20+ years of designing and refining something that you would have taken care of all the different possibilities. But no, there are always new ideas and new ways of doing things. And work in the real world has even more of these, if we simply open our eyes and listen with both ears.

So, I share this idea for our existing LDGM customers who can email me and ask for this updated slide (or create your own in the powerpoints). And, I share this thought for those of you who are looking for a Most Excellent experiential team building exercise, one that focuses on collaboration between teams and that works with any size group.

(In this blog post, I get into a number of nuanced delivery ideas.)

You can see a bunch of our user testimonials in this slideshare program

LDGM Testimonial bubble Advantage Bank 100

Let us know if we can help your organization in any way. Our tools are simple to use and highly effective and you will find our pricing to be really reasonable.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

For the FUN of It!

Dr. 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

A "Stupidly Simple" Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit

I just uploaded a new and improved engagement toolkit, wrapped around using my Square Wheels image. I include both the LEGO as well as the line-art versions of the images.

For $25, you get the powerpoints, handouts, instructions and ideas on how to share the image and generate involvement around ideas for improving the workplace. You also get me, since I continue to support the work personally, so you can email me questions or thoughts about how to optimize results using these tools.

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

You get worksheets and handouts and posters, the tools to both get things started and keep the wheels turning:

the worksheet handout for engagement of ideas

handout for supporting engagement and involvement

These are great tools and simple to use.  They easily link to innovation and creativity initiatives and also work for improving teamwork and communications. Since leadership is also about teambuilding and alignment, you will find this approach to be simply effective,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Square Wheels® a registered trademark again

We had let our original registration slip, so we went back and re-upped “Square Wheels” and just got the registration to make it all official again. Wheeeeeeeee.

Square Wheels® is registered and protected for “Educational services, namely, providing classes, classroom instruction, seminars, tutoring, mentoring, and workshops in the field of professional organizational development and professional leadership training.”

And, with the shift from our original line-art representations of the idea to the newer LEGO® based ones, it is time to roll forward again.

Square wheels One Line art image and Square Wheels Lego short

We continue to look for ways to incorporate these engaging tools into organizational improvement toolkits. They are easy to use and bombproof in regards to how they can help build better involvement and generate workplace improvement implementation.

You can find some expanded ideas on how they work on this overview blog post. Click on the image to flip over there:

Square Wheels Poster Image Improvement

If you would like to see more about how we package these images into useful toolkits, check out our $20 icebreaker / communications tool:

Square Wheels image Icebreaker icon

And if you want to get the new Facilitator’s Toolkit, with a bunch of expanded tools and delivery frameworks, purchase the old one below and I will update you with the new materials. As an alternative, and for being a careful reader of the blog, you can send me an email and I can send you the beta-version of the materials, asking for your feedback and promising to update when the final one is completed.

You can get the materials into immediate play by purchasing the old version:

Square Wheels image for facilitation and engagement

We’ve been having effective fun with this approach for over 20 years and will guarantee that it will work for you, seamlessly,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Lost Dutchman Team Building Tips – Delivery Nuances

We’ve been selling and supporting The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a powerful teambuilding exercises with anchors to collaboration, leadership and motivation, since 1993. We have owners and users of the LDGM game worldwide, so I thought I would do two things to improve that ownership experience and expand on the issues and opportunities that we support with this exercise:

1 – Continue to publish articles with ideas to improve organizational performance and link to issues of corporate team building opportunities like this blog post.

2 – Go back and add the category, Dutchman Delivery Tips, to the relevant previous posts in this blog to improve the sorting of these particular articles. You can now search that Category for ideas about improving the link of team building simulations like LDGM to your development frameworks.

Most often, people just purchase the Dutchman team building exercise and play it with their group. It is pretty bombproof and users see that it goes really well without understanding the thinking under the design and those little things that make everything pretty congruent.They get a good outcome and they are then satisfied with the way things work and are not looking for different ways to play.

LDGM Testimonial bubble Advantage Bank 100

It is surprising how seldom we get into dialogs and interchanges about other features of the design, however, even though many options are detailed in our Professional Edition of the exercise or appear in different posts of mine. And the reality is that there are any number of different nuances that can be integrated into a program to improve its connection to desired outcomes.

Let me share three different delivery frameworks:

One:  I had forgotten ALL the cards for a program up in Gaffney. SC and had an hour over lunch between the morning Square Wheels and the afternoon Dutchman delivery. Immediate panic. The creative solution to that problem became the Inventory Management Delivery Option, where I gave teams their starting inventory and we simply kept track of consumption on an inventory form (me at the Trading Post and the Supply Expert at each tabletop).

What I discovered with this delivery was that knowing exactly what resources a team had helped me manage the game immensely — I could see which team had what resources precisely and then coach teams to share resources like trading surplus Supplies for Fuel between them. You cannot really do that in the normal way the exercise played…

Two: An old friend and consulting buddy told me the game was TOO collaborative; he worked with real estate people. SO, I designed the Single Turbo version of the Tortilla Flat Video. It does not have the three Turbochargers in the Video but merely the one, thus not allowing research sharing. (It rewards strategic planning and not collaboration. Neatly.)

Three: Someone asked me, “How can we mine even more gold each day?”

That was a really really excellent question, causing me to rethink the overall design… It is awesome that questions become new ideas.

one of the game pieces of the LDGM exerciseWhat I did was to repack The Mine Video to have 16 Cave Cards (instead of 12) and I changed the instructions to tell players that by using a Cave Card, they could mine 11 ounces of gold each day. The extra Caves I include can be shared freely with other teams and each one used would generate an extra ounce of gold. We call this The Assay Office Version, since the Trader can report to another person (at The Assay Office) to track the gold mined over the days (leaving the Provisioner to simply bank the game).

You can purchase this complete tool, with instructions and delivery options, at this location on our website. It is about optimizing overall profitability and it adds another collaboration element to the play and discussion.

You can actually see when the collaboration between the teams starts and you can count the unused Cave Cards and you can add the number of extra ounces produced by the planning — getting the Mine Video. Each unused Cave Card loses $250 in results. Measurement of results adds more impact in your debriefing and linking back to the reality of the workplace!

(And, yeah, I can do all that / any of that by myself when I deliver the exercise for groups of 5 tables or less, although it IS a bit chaotic!)

None of this appears in the LD3, 4 and 6 games but this and more is in the Pro Version (but not mentioned directly in the Rental stuff, simply because it is too nuanced for a single use in a large group… But these kinds of enhancements can be integrated into all the LDGM game deliveries.

We believe that the Lost Dutchman’s teambuilding exercise remains as one of the absolute best simulations in the global marketplace for collaboration and leadership development games. If you are interested in a solid corporate team building simulation, drop me an email,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels Business Toys – an idea

As many readers know, we have been slowly moving the line-art Square Wheels images into the LEGO representations. The latter are more colorful and three-dimensional but not really hands-on, since they are only pictures…

Square_Wheels_Images_by_Scott_Simmerman

But I have still not really added the kinesthetic learning element to this package of tools nor is there anything for desktops. So, when I saw that Quirky was doing a toy-development focus with Mattel to develop some new toy ideas and that LEGO is now the number one toymaker in the world, AND the reality that LEGO does not actually make Square Wheels nor any toys around my theme (and my intellectual property and copyrights and trademarks!), it seemed to make sense that I pop up a business toy idea around the themes. Right?

So, I pushed out some wordiology around the basic idea that we could develop some plastic toys that we could use in training and development around creativity and innovation, things that could be that hands-on kinesthetic learning link for workplace improvement ideas and team building.

If you think that this basic idea makes sense, check out what I popped up into Quirty:   https://www.quirky.com/invent/1648222/action/vote/query/view=trending

It’s just an idea, but it sure seems like it would be a fun thing to have when working to improve workplace communications and engagement, right? And your vote for the idea would be appreciated, for sure.

One result of all this is that you could have some cute reminder “statue” of your own design right on your desk, one that reflected the business improvement and corporate team building ideas and that could be used as a hands-on toy to improve organizational performance. Simple and direct, visual and kinesthetic.

PMC sells some simple to use and inexpensive toolkits for improving communications, and this would simply be another basic part of a memorable toolkit for employee involvement,

Square Wheels Icebreaker is simple to use

For the FUN of It!

Dr. 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Engaging Senior Managers in Large Group Teambuilding Events

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine (LDGM) is a powerful team building simulation that we have been running since 1993. And the initial thoughts on designing the operational side of the game was to make it very simple to deliver, with the idea that the exercise could be run by senior executives.

My goal was to put forward some ideas that can be used with any large group event where involving the senior manager team would be useful for the visibility and for their collaboration. But, I did frame this blog up around my flagship team building game. The ideas should stand on their own, however.

Since we rolled it out, it is great to get the stories about successes in such frameworks, since the impacts of the senior managers leading the play and the debriefing would obviously be much more effective in sending messages than if outside consultants or people in training were running the program. Plus, with the simple design, we could also run very large groups, seamlessly, making the exercise ideal for big group events of 100 or more participants.

A while back, a sole practitioner was asking me how to staff up a large group delivery of the program and how to optimize the debriefing. A perfect question, actually. How better to sell the program than without the added costs of a bunch of facilitators and with the involvement of the senior staff of the organization in the delivery. So, let me elaborate:

First of all, Dutchman is one of the truly great team building exercises that works well with really large groups. My largest session was 600 people, but a software company in India holds the record with 870 people in one room at one time, with a solid debriefing linked to their specific issues and opportunities.

The large group play of Lost Dutchman's teambuilding exercise

Generating real organizational change or aligning people to the new company strategy is always an issue – how does one generate real involvement and alignment and ownership among the senior management team and then among all of the key performers? I think that active involvement and engagement and understanding along with clear discussions about past and future choices for changes and behaviors is what generates impact and value.

Delivering a large group event using the exercise actually represents a unique and unparalleled opportunity to really accomplish some executive team building. Here’s why:

  • Senior managers like to respond to challenges, and what better challenge than having them learn to facilitate a program that generates alignment of their own people toward the organization’s goals and objectives.
  • Senior managers will often talk team, but they operate their own groups in a way to isolate them from real inter-organizational collaboration. We hear the term “silo” enough to know that it represents real organizational reality. So putting them into a situation where their teamwork together is required for effectiveness makes it easier to get these behaviors down the road. Working as a team generates teamwork, especially when there is followup and discussion about the impacts.
  • Instead of some unknown people running around during a facilitated event, why not have these managers walking the talk and supporting teamwork and sharing resources and behaving congruently?

In the Dutchman exercise, the expressed goal is, “To mine as much gold as we can and to generate an optimal Return on Investment.”

We get the managers aligned and congruent with the above as part of the game and as part of the debriefing on what changes need to be made to impact and optimize organizational results.

Dutchman was designed to be easy to facilitate — As part of my initial thinking about how it should play, I did not want my company to need a staff of people to do licensing or certification nor did I want to make the exercise too hard for players to understand. I also wanted non-training people (managers) to be able to deliver the game — we have had many line managers run the exercise over the years with great success. (You can see 30+ testimonials by clicking on the image below.)

A testimonial on The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold MineDutchman has had 20+ years of polishing to make it into a very straightforward team building program where there are few hidden tricks. It allows for the complete congruence of all of the facilitating staff to support the players in solving the planning and execution challenges we present.

The banking of the game and the tracking of team behaviors was also designed to be really simple and clearly understood in the debriefing. There are no “mechanical” issues or illogical demands and it is easy to learn how to operate the game. The goal was to enable a facilitator to pay more attention to the observed behaviors rather than needing to become some expert on game mechanics and unnecessary complexities.

When I first started my deliveries, I would assemble some people and pay them for a few hours of their time to help me deliver large games (50 people or more). Smaller games, I can operate by myself.

As I was asked to deliver even larger events, I would generally get internal people together for an hour or so to teach them the mechanics — these were often the training or HR staff who were supporting the event. But I eventually discovered that involving the senior managers in the delivery gave me the biggest impacts.

Now, for a large session of 200 or more, I first deliver a real team building event for the most senior managers, running them through the actual exercise with a short debriefing of results and impacts. With a half day designated for such training, we debriefed a bit on the goals that were set for the big event and talked about the mechanics of banking and supporting the exercise on the floor. We would involve them in the full debriefing during the large event.

If I could get them to commit to a full day of training and collaboration, I could also get their ideas and agreement on alignment and shared goals for the organization, link that to the desired debriefing of the results of their large group team building event, and then put them into an active role for that delivery. Some could be “bankers” and some could help as coaches on the floor answering questions and providing direct team support. But their active ownership of the overall design was a very strong positive impact,

THIS became my most effective overall design focus for large groups:

  • Get the senior managers in a collaborative and aligned mode of operation and give them an active role in the exercise = ownership
  • Have a collaborating team of senior managers supporting their people in the large group event and in the debriefing, improving actual organizational alignment and directly / actively supporting inter-team collaboration

Dr. Scott Simmerman facilitating team building gameThis design gives me the ability to put my executive coaching hat on, debriefing them with the goal of improving the senior leadership teamwork with real purpose. It also enables me to run really large groups with only ME being required for delivery.

You can imagine how that positively impacts my profitability, decreases client costs and minimizes any staffing issues. We also have plenty of management help for running the game itself, an involved and committed leadership group aligned to a shared goal and purpose.

I can also charge the client a LOT less than my competitors because we are not charging for extra staff and travel expenses and all that. AND my delivery staff has that vested interest in making the event optimally successful.

Imagine the staffing needs to run a typical experiential exercise for 300 people versus the ability to deliver a senior manager team building session plus the large teambuilding event with only my active involvement and participation. Simplicity and effectiveness!

We generate a much higher likelihood of behavioral change and implementation of organizational improvement after the event, since the managers have a really powerful hands on collaborative experience in working with each other to maximize the results of the event itself.

The debriefing of that senior manager session focusing on discussing the kinds of behaviors these senior managers would like to see from the people at the large event helps tie things together. The focus on the shared missions and visions and the generation of alignment to goals, objectives and expectations becomes quite clear.

Having these real Senior Managers in this game delivery role is a great leadership learning lesson on how to implement change and support high performance. One cannot simply TALK about what leaders and players should be doing; they have to behave consistently and congruently to actually generate results.

And behaviors of the teams playing the game directly parallel what we see in organizations. While a few of the tabletop teams will have precisely what they need to perform at a maximum level, those same teams will often choose NOT to collaborate, to thus “win” the game at the cost of negatively impacting overall organizational results. This is one of the great debriefing points — that collaboration is a desired overall organizational outcome!

I hope that this framework has been informative and helpful.

We sell the Dutchman game directly to end users looking for a high-impact, low cost training tool. We deliver the game to companies wanting outside facilitation. And, we rent the game for one-time use.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Have some FUN out there!

Dr. 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Team Building and Engagement Workshop at IAPPD-MENA in Amman in May, 2015

I am excited to have the chance to present in a new venue, Amman, Jordan at the International Association for People and Performance Development. The goals of the organization align closely with what I have been working on since 1978. The organization was actually started by my old friend and colleague, Geoff Cook, who was unfortunately killed in a car accident last year but who had invited me to be on the Board of Governors. So, I am really pleased to get my association with the association rolling along.

On May 4, I will be presenting a session using my Square Wheels development tools in the morning, running it as both a workshop and a train-the-trainer program (and giving participants a toolkit) and then delivering my team building game, The Search for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, as the closing part of the day and an attempt to pull things all together.

Scott Simmerman presents at the International Association for People and Performance Development conference

There will be three presenters, each of us having one day. Paul will focus on leadership, I focus on teamwork and engagement, and Raed focuses on managing and leading change. It should be great!

You can see a short video of my overview by clicking on this text or the link below:

Scott_Simmerman_IAPPD_2015_MENA_Conference_Square_Wheels_and_Lost_Dutchman_Overview_-_YouTube

If you are looking for an adventure in learning, join us in Amman, Jordan in early May,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

 

Square Wheels will roll in Amman, Jordan

The International Association for People and Performance Development (IAPPD) is a fast-growing network of performance improvement specialists. I had the distinct pleasure to be invited to present at their MENA Conference (Middle East Northern Africa) and to have the chance to improve my perspective on how things work in the world.

IAPPD Logo 100

I framed up most of my program, which will include a morning program using our new Square Wheels LEGO tools for improving communications with a focus on ownership and engagement. I am going to model some different facilitation approaches to involving and engaging people for workplace improvement and the identification of issues and opportunities for change.

Watch a 50 second video here and click on the poster image below to go to the conference registration site:

Scott_Simmerman_IAPPD_2015_MENA_Conference_Square_Wheels_and_Lost_Dutchman

IAPPD SWs LDGM marketing graphic

My afternoon session will build on teamwork, alignment and collaboration as we use our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, as a tool for organizational improvement. You can click on the link above and see a short video about the exercise.

We’re expecting a large turnout and also inviting people to bring teams from their organizations to make the day into a real organizational development workshop. I’ll be embedding the train-the-trainer into the Square Wheels and also be available to do any instructional training for people interested in buying and running the Dutchman program themselves.

Jordan will be my 41st country to visit and I am looking forward to the trip and the workshops,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123″ a>

Implementing Improvement – Ideas on Brainstorming

“Nobody ever washes a rental car!”

That is my anchor point for doing anything that involves organizational change and improvement. If one is to expect anything to happen, we must insure that there is buy-in and participation and engagement. But how do we actually generate a sense of ownership? Surely, it will not come when we tell people what to do — that only generates resistance (or compliance). It does not involve and engage them in any meaningful way even if they understand the reasons why those changes are being made.

One often hears that we need to “empower” the participants to actually go out and do something. Well, I strongly disagree with that possibly happening – how does one ever empower anyone to actually DO anything if they simply do not want to do it? Coercive measures are not an acceptable alternative in most situations.

(Note: We can generate behavior change by altering the mechanism by which people get feedback on their performance. That is a much better option than working with any kind of extrinsic reward system. Read more about that here and here.)

At the same time, many factors lead me to believe that there are a variety of opportunities for workplace improvement among individuals and among small groups, simply for the asking. There is a strong general motivation to make improvements if people feel the gap between what happens now and what could or should be happening. Cognitive Dissonance is but one framework that supports this framework of generating intrinsic motivation for improvement.

(You can also see a great animation of the concept of DRIVE, as framed by Dan Pink – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc )

But in the workplace in general, and especially in today’s risk-averse and “job enhanced” environments, the real key to rolling forward is not something like feedback or empowerment; I think Dis-Un-Empowerment is what needs to be addressed. We can involve and engage people and help them to identify issues and deal with the implementation of processes that help them manage roadblocks.

Generally, all of us make choices all through each day as to what we will do or not do. We will often choose NOT to do something because we perceive difficulties or perceived roadblocks (example: “He won’t support that idea because he did not support the last idea I had…”).

Most people can think of LOTS of things that would get in the way of implementing some idea or ideas for improvement (“It might be against policy.” “There probably won’t be any support / resources for that.”)

One key role of training (and management and coaching) is to act to REMOVE the perceived or potential roadblocks that are un-empowering to people acting individually or in groups. That can be accomplished by getting pre-ordained support from managers not in the workshop, having managers come into the training session to hear the ideas and manage the roadblocks (and have THEIR roadblocks managed – we know from lots of contacts that many managers and supervisors are more roadblocked than their people!) and for the trainer to have a very good background understanding of what can be done and how it can be accomplished.

One of the things we miss today are trainers with the extensive background in how to implement and then measure the effectiveness of the training in workplace improvement initiatives. There are many factors operating there including pressures of time and cost, which is one of the reasons that outside consultants can often get things accomplished when inside support people  cannot — they also have the power of money and top management support behind them. But that is just a limitation and not a roadblock for the internal consultants.

Knowing how the most successful PAST improvements were  implemented will give good insight into how the next FUTURE improvement might be implemented. There are cultural keys that offer perspective on these kinds of things.

So, how do we get the best results from brainstorming ideas?

Creating a gap between how things are now (Square Wheels thumping and bumping along) and how things could be operating (Round Wheels already exist) is a motivational force. And defining an implementation strategy for making small and continuous changes and improvements clarifies responsibilities often making change and improvement very doable.


But the real key is generating a feeling of ownership involvement. Too many people “rent” their time to an organization and go through the motions of maintaining their employment, rather than buying in to improve workplace improvement. The statistics on engagement and on “ready to leave for a new job elsewhere” are pretty discouraging when viewed from a position of leadership…

Yet most people do want to make a positive impact on the work they do and the workplace around them. They WANT things to be better, if we will let them do so. But they feel little ownership. According to a November 2011 analysis of its database of 5,700 employers representing 5 million employees, human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure.
(I address this in a more recent article on Presenteeism.)

Un-Engagement should concern all of us interested in productivity, people and performance.

You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement by searching the blog. Another article is here. And here is an article on ownership.

What we CAN do is a better job of asking for ideas and generating possibilities for improvement from employees’ ideas. If they feel that they have a part in the issues and involvement in designing solutions, their involvement level will increase. Here are some suggestions and alternatives to simply doing what we do and generating the same results:

1 – Discuss the roadblocks that they feel are getting in the way of improving their performance. (You can find a number of articles of mine around different approaches here.)

2 – Ask them how to improve profitability. It is common that many people do not really consider costs and impacts on a daily basis and asking them to look at these issues might generate some good discussions about the purpose of their efforts in the overall organization.

3 – Discuss the impacts of other organizations on their ability to get things done. While this often tends toward the negative issues, there will also be some positive ones if you probe for them. Best practices of certain individuals in other departments will be seen and can be reinforced. Focusing on what is positive can help you build a better working relationship with other managers, for example, while you also look to address improvement issues.

4 – Get them to “Step Back” and look at their operations as if they were brand new employees and have them comment about what is not clear and what best practices might exist. Or, you can set this up as an accomplishment and chain backwards for things that were improved: “It is 2020 and our department was judged Best in the Business! What did we do that got us that recognition?” This approach tends to minimize roadblocks in their perceptions, since results were fait accompli.

Understand that it is impossible for a manager to have all the answers or to know all the issues. The workplace is really complicated and all sorts of things change on a regular basis. Plus, some people will construct better ways of doing things — Best Practices — that can be identified and shared throughout your workplace. Improvements can be generated by peer support for change.

And think about this:

Dr. Seuss Square Wheels Lego poem image by Scott Simmerman

If you are looking for simple and effective tools to generate involvement and engagement, click on the icon below:

See our new Square Wheels Icebreaker CLICK NOW icon

For the FUN of It!

Scott DebriefDr. 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® are a trademark of Performance Management Company
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Engaging Senior Managers in Organizational Teambuilding

Since we started focusing on the rental of our large event team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, I have been engaged with consultant trainers asking me more questions about impacting organizational effectiveness and engaging senior managers in strategy improvement and change.Dutchman is one of the truly great team building exercises that works well with really large groups.

The large group play of Lost Dutchman's teambuilding exercise

Generating real organizational change is always an issue – how does one generate real involvement and alignment and ownership among the senior management team? And how does one really get value and focus from a large group event? We think it is active involvement and engagement along with clear discussions about past and future choices for changes and behaviors.

benefit of teambuilding exercise simulation

In actuality, delivering a large group event using the simulation represents an unparalleled opportunity to really accomplish executive team building and alignment because of a specific design feature in Dutchman: its’ direct simplicity.

Dutchman was designed to be easy to facilitate — I did not want to need a staff of people to do licensing or certification nor did I want to make the exercise too hard for players to understand. I also wanted non-training people to be able to deliver the game — we have had many line managers run the exercise over the years with great success. (See the Megan and Robin testimonials here)

The end result after 20+ years of polishing was a very straightforward team building program where there are few hidden tricks and a complete congruence of all of the facilitation staff to support the players in solving the challenges that are presented. The banking of the game and the tracking of team behaviors was made really simple. There were few “mechanical” issues and it was easy to learn how to operate so that a facilitator could pay more attention to the observed behaviors rather than needing to become some expert on game mechanics.

And the result exceeded expectations; in actuality. FEW people ever call me after purchasing the exercise and going through the instructional materials. Few people ever contact me after they deliver the game with questions and only occasionally do we get into nuanced discussions about design and tweeking the game to focus on details. It’s simplicity became a feature and benefit!

When I first started my deliveries, I would assemble some outsiders and pay them to help me deliver large games (50 people or more).  And as I was asked to deliver even larger programs, I would often get internal people together for an hour or so to teach them the mechanics — these were often the training or HR staff who were supporting the event.

What I eventually discovered is that I could deliver an actual team building session for a group of senior managers, running them through the actual exercise with a normal debriefing of results and impacts. If I could get them to commit to a full day, I could also get their agreement on alignment and shared goals for the organization, link that to the desired debriefing of the results of their large group team building event, and then put them into an active role for that delivery. Some could be “bankers” and some could help as coaches on the floor answering questions and providing direct team support.

THIS became my most effective overall design focus:

  • Get the senior managers in a collaborative and aligned mode of operation and give them an active role in the exercise = ownership
  • Have a collaborating team of senior managers supporting their people in the large group event and in the debriefing, improving actual organizational alignment and directly / actively supporting inter-team collaboration

Dr. Scott Simmerman facilitating team building gameThis design gave me the ability to put my coaching hat on with a real purpose and also enables me to run really large groups with only ME being required for delivery.

You can imagine how that positively impacts my profitability and minimizes any staffing issues and we also have plenty of management help for running the game. I can also charge the client a LOT less than my competitors because we are not charging for extra staff and travel expenses and all that. AND my delivery staff has a vested interest in making the event optimally successful.

Imagine the staffing needs to run a typical experiential exercise for 300 people versus the ability to deliver a senior manager team building session plus the large teambuilding event with only my active involvement and participation. Simplicity and effectiveness!

Plus, we generate a much higher likelihood of behavioral change and implementation after the event, since the managers have a really powerful hands on collaborative experience in working with each other to maximize the results of the event itself. The debriefing of that senior manager session focuses on discussing the kinds of behaviors these senior managers would like to see from the people at the large event. A focus on the shared mission / vision and generating alignment to goals, objectives and expectations becomes quite clear.

Having these real Senior Managers in this game delivery role is a great leadership learning lesson on how to implement change and support high performance. One cannot simply TALK about what leaders and players should be doing; they have to behave consistently and congruently to actually generate results.

And behaviors of the teams playing the game directly parallel what we see in organizations. While a few of the tabletop teams will have precisely what they need to perform at a maximum level, those same teams will often choose NOT to collaborate, to thus “win” the game at the cost of negatively impacting overall organizational results. This is one of the great debriefing points — that collaboration is a desired overall organizational outcome!

Anyway, it is really neat to see these kinds of large events happening, since they can be powerful events to engage people in change and improvement and to lead them out of the current “engagement doldrums” that we seem to find ourselves.

 

Have some FUN out there!

Dr. 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

 

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Rental of Team Building Exercise for Large Groups

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine (LDGM) is a great team building exercise for focusing teams of people on themes of leadership, alignment, collaboration and the optimization of performance results. We’ve been selling and supporting the exercise worldwide for since 1993 and sometimes, it makes sense to invest some of your own time and resources into delivering a team building program for an event or conference.

In this post, we will share a framework to deliver a powerful business team building simulation generally focused on collaboration, alignment and leadership for less than $25 per person. This is about 1/5 of what most competitors charge, and to this they often add facilitator fees and travel expenses! You can DO it for $25 and have a more effective and tightly anchored team development program, to  boot.

You want to do real team building for 40 people? You need one person to run the game and one person to support the banking function. You rent the LDGM game for $1100 (plus shipping) and you have everything you need in the box, including tabletop materials, resource cards, instructional and delivery materials. There are multiple debriefing slideshows you can see. Plus, you get unlimited coaching from my by phone and email. A competitor publishes their charge for a similar session at $8000 plus expenses.

Let’s say you want to deliver a session for 60 people. We would support that game with all the needed materials plus training support for $1500. You would get all the orientation, instructional and delivery materials plus that unlimited phone and email support. A competitor says they will charge you $3000 and that is just their facilitation fee. It will cost another $100+ per person and you will also pay their expenses…

In either case, experience says that your time investment would be a couple of hours to understand the exercise frameworks and mechanics. To prepare for delivery and debriefing might be another hour and you would need about an hour to train one or two support people to “bank” the game for you. All instructional materials are provided.

But let’s say you wanted to deliver a session for 300 people. First, you run the game for the senior management as a 3/4 day team building program. You play and debrief and teach, focusing on issues of motivation, visions, goals, resource management and planning. You also involve them in defining the session outcomes for the large session to follow. Lastly, you then teach them how to support your big game (as bankers and co-Expedition Leaders). They become an active part of the delivery and will model behaviors designed to support teamwork and leadership development.

This initial event and time investment insures that your overall debriefing aligns with the senior manager group’s main goals for collaboration, leadership, strategy implementation, etc. These senior managers are your delivery team — their role is to help teams be successful and to maximize overall ROI, which is often the same as their regular role!

$7500 versus $35,000: So, you rent the game for your leadership group ($1000) and you rent the game for your Big Group for $6500. You have no other game-related expenses unless you buy cowboy hats and bandannas, The end result is that you have done a LOT of teambuilding for that whole organization when all is finished, with people being active participants. You’ve paid $21 a person for your Big Game (as opposed to 300 people x $100 per person ($30,000!!) plus another $5000+ in fees and expenses). AND, by not using outsiders, you have actively involved and engaged your senior management team in this organizational improvement effort!

Here’s one last point: By doing the delivery yourselves, you are NOT watching some Big Stage Show Spectacular done by someone else. When you use Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, what you are getting is a world class, hands-on business simulation that focuses your people on the play of the game, not the fancy materials and costumes. (An interesting factoid is that one of our Dutchman customers is Cirque de Soleil in Canada.)

We’ve been renting the game for more than 15 years and selling it for more than 20 and we have it pretty much locked down insofar as materials and training and support. Here’s what one renter just said about her experiences. Note that this is her second time for renting the game and that she is NOT a trainer but a senior operational line manager who wants to be directly involved and engaged in her performance improvement initiatives:

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

We can charge these very low costs because we have a small company with little overhead and we have a game design that does not require a lot of reproduction or manufacturing costs. It is just a really great bombproof exercise that anyone can deliver.

We can also apply some of the rental fee to a purchase price should you want to acquire the exercise to run with people over time (unlike most others, we charge a one-time price for your game purchase, with no certification or annual licenses or per-person or hidden fees)

Many of our small game purchasers (we sell classroom versions for 3 or 4 tables of 6 people each) like being able to run Dutchman occasionally for really large groups. Dutchman is greatl for a one-time team building event such as an “all-hands” meeting event. We have supported many of those kinds of trainings and there is no upper limit on the size of the group — one client delivered a Dutchman session of 870 people in the same room at the same time!

Unlike a lot of the other designed team building simulations, we have a truly elegant and pretty bombproof design, which allows us to NOT offer train-the-trainer programs or require certifications or have other kinds of restrictions. Many of our customers simply get the materials, review the overall support documents, go through the powerpoint and — maybe — call me. Many choose not to bother calling and just deliver it!

I offer free and unlimited telephone support – you talk directly to ME, the game designer and a certified master facilitator, not to some “support person.” Few people seem to need the support, though, which says that the included materials are pretty complete. They should be, since we first delivered the game back in 1993 and have played with its design and supporting documentation since that time.

I can also customize the design in small ways, and work with you to design and refine a debriefing that fits with your goals and objectives and within your time limits. Generally, for large groups of 60+, we like to have 3.5 to 4 hours to do the game and the desired debriefing. This timeline allows 90 minutes or more for your debriefing — that active discussion is what generates the commitment to improve collaboration and teamwork, planning and communications.

Dutchman is surprisingly inexpensive, high-impact and very memorable and the program can be specifically tailored to generate your desired outcomes.

Dutchman is THE world-class team building exercise focused on improving inter-organizational collaboration and aligning people to shared goals and objectives. It can be run by line managers and executives, too, not just people in training and consulting.

Unlike most delivery organizations, we have a posted pricing schedule, so you can look at the costs of renting this team building simulation and the detail of delivering the exercise before contacting us. You will find that few vendors of team building simulations actually post their prices. Isn’t that odd?

Dutchman Rental Matrix(The only constraint on renting the exercise is that I generally restrict the rentals to North America, unless you are referred in by one of our users or you have purchased other materials or are otherwise known to me. It is just too hard to control these things with international shipments.)

You CAN get me to facilitate your exercise, but I generally try to talk prospects out of that idea if I can. I can be used to deliver the Senior Manager Team Building Event, since that is sometimes political. But you can then get your senior manager to lead the Big Game for your people (with your training and support).

We think we are the best value in large group teambuilding events, costing lots less and offering more benefits than most other competitors,

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 scott@squarewheels.com

You can find a LOT of information about running Dutchman with large groups by clicking on the large group picture in the above text or here.

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Simple, Powerful, Effective Team Building Simulation

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine continues to generate really positive feedback from customers. Since 1993, it has been continuously improved and refined to the point where it runs seamlessly, generates wonderful reflection, and clearly mirrors the organizational culture of the players.

We just had a situation where a senior line manager again rented the exercise for a team building and organizational development session she was leading for her team. The company is an electrical utility and she had about 50 managers in her new organization that she wanted to work with. The Lost Dutchman game was part of her overall goal of getting to know her people better and building some trust.

She had rented the Dutchman game in her previous assignment and had liked the outcomes and discussions it generated. This time, she liked it even more!

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

The team building exercise sets up situations where players and teams have a variety of choices, and their strategic planning and collaboration within and between teams generates measurable results and a return on investment. When a team plays well, they generate good results. When the team chooses to try to beat the other teams, we generally see measurable sub-optimizing impacts on overall results.

Here are the comments from a young church leader, who had experienced the exercise as part of the DeVos Foundation work with leadership development and the inner city and who then used the game to impact his church and generate much better alignment and team building:

testimonial on The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game

People make choices, and we debrief on the choices made and how those same choices relate to their workplace, their alignment as team members of the group, and how choosing to compete impacts the culture as well as the customer. The goal of the exercise is to Mine as much Gold as we can and the role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful. ALL of this relates very directly to workplace improvement.

We love to get this continuing stream of positive comments and testimonials about how the play of the game impacts people and performance. It is confirmation that our plans have generated positive impacts and changes,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

 

Off-Site Meetings, Teamworking and Engaging People for workplace improvement

In a LinkedIn thread, we started discussing company activities and teamwork. My thoughts are along the theme that building teams within an organization is not the same as doing a lot of things that are called teambuilding. What I did was show this picture in a discussion called “Teamwork? Why is this called TEAMwork?” and comment:

Every so often, I am simply struck by what some people call team building. I have written extensively in my other blog about things like go-kart racing, golf, bowling, firewalking and other activities and how a connection to team building behavior and organizational performance change is tenuous at best.

FUN is not team building.

CHALLENGE is not team building.

Teamwork High Ropes Guy

One of my friends talked about her teambuilding experiences thusly:

Hi Scott! I think these activities help build teams when people *choose* to get together and do fun things together; not because the company forces them to do so. The reason certain coworkers will choose to do things together on their own is because the working environment is open and friendly and lends itself to people *wanting* to get to know each other outside of the office. The best team building activities I’ve ever experienced were completely voluntary and informal.

I read a thought this morning that helped me frame this up a bit more clearly in my mind.

It is a simple reality that building a community within an organization is not the same as building real teamwork.

Forming a softball team can have the benefit of helping people get to know each other so as to improve that sense of community; it may help improve communications and trust. But it is not going to help the team build a better sense of alignment to the organization’s goals and visions, nor will it improve systems and processes to have impacts on performance metrics.

The kinds of problem-solving faced by the second baseman when considering whether to throw the ground ball to first base or second base (one out, tie score, 3rd  inning) or the person forty feet off the ground standing on a board is not thinking about improving customer service or generating a sale or shipping an order. Teamwork is adding brains and engagement to business process improvement, more than doing a firewalk or winning at paintball.

I’ve written a lot about the issues I have with things like bowling or golf paid for by company funds and framed as “team building events.” A company started here in Greenville SC with indoor go-karts framed up its first advertisement with it being “a year-round team building opportunity.” Racing about in go-karts is a team building event? How will that impact organizational performance? How will that improve collaboration and decision-making?

There was a lot of media a while back about the Internal Revenue Service and such a formal event they structured. You can read about it here under the title,

IRS needs Large Group Team Building instead of $27,000 Innovation Speakers
Google ChromeScreenSnapz003

IRS Line-Dancing – click to see the video

They spent a gazillion taxpayer dollars on a huge fancy choreographed event, hiring “motivational speakers” (an oxymoron – do any actually motivate you?*) and took time to “train” a whole bunch of people to do different things like the line dancing above (team building, I guess) when they could have done something like The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for maybe a total of $10,000 (including a leadership development session for senior managers) and generated some serious discussions about organizational and departmental goals, choices about collaboration and improving communications, discussions of shared risk and leadership of others, etc.

* I can remember attending a corporate event years ago when a famous football quarterback / restaurant owner was paid $40,000 to speak to a group of employees and vendors about his experiences with customer service. Does anyone really think that any listener walked away and did anything differently? It was a photo-opportunity for the company execs to get pictures taken, though.

Just as icebreakers to energize can be a waste of time and energy when they are completely unrelated to the training goals and session subject (see Motivation, Training and Icebreakers. Keeping it Real),  organizational team building activities should have a real connection to improving the organization.

Note: You can find a solid article on ideas for success for off-site team building event management ideas on this blog post.

That is not to say that company activities aren’t good things to do, because they are. But when limited budgets for organizational improvement are spent on picnics, bowling, softball and other community-building activities, you can miss the opportunity to do things that actually make impacts on people and performance. Do both, if you can.

Note:  We rent and sell an absolutely world-class team building exercise focused on alignment and inter-organizational collaboration. It is called, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and there are many posts in my blog about the exercise and its design features.

Here is a recent testimonial that I thought to add:

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Renting the game is a really inexpensive way to have a great large group event team building at a very inexpensive price. Read more about renting Dutchman here:

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

For the FUN of It!

Dr. 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

 

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Outdoor Training: Issues of Learning and Change

The situation is simple when it comes to outdoor training and development:

  • Workers are the people who are doing the work.
  • Managers are the people managing.
  • Teamwork should have positive impacts on people and performance.
  • Training should impact perspective and understanding
  • Collaboration is more important than competition.
  • Debriefing and Discussion are generally the best desired outcomes, along with commitment to change.

So why do most outdoor activities seem to be highly competitive activities with lots of room for climate issues and other distractions? And why would we want MORE competition within the organization since it is already not helping and generally sub-optimizing  — “interdepartmental collaboration” is an oxymoron in most places!

And I am sure that the workers find more competition within the different departments of your company right now than they find between your company and your competitors. The senior managers might see things differently, but do the workers themselves actually feel they are competing with others more than they feel they are already competing with their own management?

  • So, why not focus on more inter-departmental collaboration and alignment?
  • Why not build on improving communications and engagement?
  • Why keep doing competitive things when collaborative ones are needed?

—————————

Airline Cargo Volleyball TrophyWe won the competition, but we lost the team building aspect of things. And I have the trophy to prove it! More on this below.

—————————

On occasion, I am asked if one of our team building games could be used in an outdoor setting. Wow, does that bring up some memories about what might have happened and the reality of losing control. I find too many uncontrolled things can happen in an outside environment and wonder why they are used, actually. And, so many of these outdoor events are strictly “games” and not learning events and, therefore, primarily competition-based engagement.

(Is that an oxymoron?)

Being outside is great, but is it cost effective for a business to make that decision? I guess if FUN is the desired outcome, and not LEARNING nor generating behavioral commitments to do things differently, outdoor games can work. But my personal experience is that the outdoor environment is generally NOT conducive to generating organizational change and I have lots of frameworks for that in my personal history of being a participant as well as a leader.

The idea of sports analogies or military frameworks applied to business development situations also makes me uncomfortable because businesses do NOT represent how sports teams operate nor are we generally accepting assault and raw aggression as good business strategies. We are not a football team with a quarterback and plays and countless practice drills and direct head-to-head team competition with other teams. We are not a baseball team, with players who each do their jobs in the field and then take bats individually against the pitcher of another team. We are not basketball teams, running plays and shooting baskets. We can make analogies to those activities, but we are not in those industries!

Paintball as a business exercise? Shooting at other people with the goal of doing them harm (killing them out of the game?) and demanding some level of motor skills coordination and physical activity of running and dodging to succeed creates an unfair playing field.  Sure, there are analogies, but is that a business learning opportunity? Is building a rope bridge and then walking over it a real situation for your business (or driving a go-cart or bowling) — is it going to generate real business collaboration and improvement? Firewalking?

(I do have a good article on Business Sabotage you can read here!)

Sports are too much about winners and losers whereas business requires collaboration across a variety of operational and support groups. Military games are way too deadly serious and many of your participants may have significant emotional ties to such situations. If they were in a real war, your activity will bring back those strong negative associations and memories. If they had a child or relative killed or injured in some war, it is that same issue — you are coercing them to participate in a situation that creates unpleasant emotions.

Do we really need to use competition and competitiveness
as driving forces
for collaboration within our companies?

(Is that telephone customer service rep actually in competition with another company or merely depending on collaboration from other departments to perform well in her job? Is that guy on the shopfloor really competing with The Koreans in producing a high quality automobile? Is competition the real driving force for top performance by people? (Answer: NO) )

Workers are the people who are doing the work. Managers are the people managing. Workers and Managers both want LESS competition within the different departments of your company. So, why not focus on more inter-departmental collaboration and improving communications and engagement?

Generally, the links to the business improvement issues — why companies are actually spending money and time with managers and employees — are sometimes quite vague when relating many outdoor activities to organizational behavior and leadership, problem solving or change. Sure, these outside exercises are fun and people do like to solve problems and compete. But it takes a good facilitator to bring out the discussions and not all the facilitators are all that good nor is there always support within the program design for a strong debriefing to take place. Plus, the links from the activity back to business are sometimes stretched.

I speak with experience as a participant of many different kinds of these activities. One was at a college with a bunch of my Leadership Greenville colleagues (a program supported by our Chamber of Commerce). Being collaborative and facilitative in my general style, I applied these skills in discussions about solving the outdoor problems at hand (like the acid river and the bucket on a string designs). The “session leader”  actually decided I was helping too much and told me that I HAD to be silent and could not talk — this is also known as punishment in psychology and it has pretty predictable consequences long-term.

(Yeah, and imagine when I was allowed to talk in the debriefing! One of the questions I asked of her was about the leader’s business experience. Turns out that she had never actually had an actual job. And she is the leader of this group of business people? Really?)

Another such program on collaboration turned into a mass group competition, where the VP of the group was making things more competitive by timing the different problem solving activities and comparing different groups to the others.

Airline Cargo Volleyball TrophyWe actually had a quite competitive volleyball teambuilding competition, too, and during the awards ceremony, many of the Losers actually booed the Winners in front of the company’s Executive VP Operations. And this was at a team building event where the company spent many 10s of thousands of dollars bringing players in from all over the US and hosting them at a retreat facility in the middle of Texas!

Note: I was on the winning team and I still have my trophy on my bookshelf as a reminder of how badly this went…

That same event also had one of the participants being stung by a scorpion when he leaned on a tree — he went into shock. But the facilitation team actually carried an anaphylactic shock kit with them out in the field, since it had apparently happened before (wonder if they had mentioned that when working on the design of the activities). Needless to say, that hour spent on it was costly for the 60 highly paid company people — everything stopped completely — as well as pretty distracting for all of his friends and co-workers.

Competition produces chaos and confusion, not collaboration and improvement

My outdoor delivery experiences also include a session where the sun came out and totally washed out the projected images on the screen so no one could see. At a different event, the temperature in the huge circus tent went to 110 degrees and the big electric fans blew all the papers off the tabletops (so we taped them down). But these same fans were so noisy that the debriefing was impossible, as also occurred with the game activities that followed after my session. And this narrative represents the short-version of all the things that went wrong…

Another event had it rain for an hour right after we put the maps and things on the tables. We quickly recollected all the soluble stuff and then, when the rain stopped, we had each table select what it required from our “Organized Pile of Materials” and take these things outside to their tables (which the hotel staff helped us dry off with a massive number of room towels).

YES, my games CAN be delivered as outside activities, but why? I cannot remember a single time when something did not go wrong and force us to make a major adjustment in our delivery (like an afternoon lightning storm or very high heat). And I cannot imagine doing a large group, outside, with any kind of controllable learning outcomes. Yet here is one we did indoors for 500 people that went really well:

Large group team building delivery - INSIDE - with everything under control!

If my client is paying big bucks to get people to the venue, feed them, house them and all that, and they are renting a room for lunch or dinner, why the heck not simply deliver the exercise inside under controlled temperature and lighting and audio/video and avoid all the outdoor disasters?

– Why even allow the potential problems and distractions?
– Why necessitate a scramble when the weather changes?
– What is the big benefit of people standing around outside?Birds?

(Heck, maybe I could design a program around them all coming over to my house and working on my yard and gardens, ya think? Do it like one of those cooking classes — I could sell it as a Landscaping Teambuilding Initiative and maybe even get them to work on my neighbors’ yards…)

Lastly, I do not consider firewalking, golf, go-karting or golfing to be very good team building activities. Baseball is okay, maybe, since everyone can play and bat and all that but running is required (and I actually ruptured an Achilles tendon playing ball). Volleyball requires too much skill and the size and skill differences between people can be way too large. And how many times do I have to pass balls around or deal with a bucket on a string or hold hands with other people to solve a problem, anyway…

There are LOTS and lots of good team building games and exercises that can be delivered with high impact and good learning. So, why intentionally add uncontrollable factors just to make it some “outside” program whereby a much higher potential for non-participation or even injury might occur?

I will always remember the movie White Mile, where a corporate rafting, team-building trip ends in tragedy. Hoping to build bonds between his employees and clients, advertising executive Dan Cutler (Alan Alda) takes the group on a whitewater rafting excursion. But the raft capsizes, several of the men die, and one widow files a lawsuit. Cutler tries to hide his negligence, and one survivor (Peter Gallagher) faces a difficult moral dilemma. We often see the same kind of lower-level drama play out in such corporate team days…

These uncontrolled, outdoor activities CAN go very wrong, but so many simply have the outdoors as functionally distracting to the learning that is supposed to be the main desired outcome.

Have fun out there! And maximize your team building impact.

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. 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.

 
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You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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Faster Play = Longer Debriefing

When initially designed 25 years ago,  The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine was to have a solid front-end that challenged teams to put together a plan of action managing their limited resources and to push players to work together to develop a shared strategy and plan of action. The Intro was focused on them making specific choices around collaboration and strategic planning.

(note: this post is actually written for users of the exercise, but it also speaks to our overall design thinking and features and benefits of Lost Dutchman over some competitive products which you might be familiar with.)

We also wanted this planning time to set the stage for play and the processes for playing out those team decisions to be clean, fast and simple. While some people have questioned the strategy of having a really simple “play” of the game, this has proven itself to be a good decision — faster play allows a longer debriefing time, and debriefing is where we generate commitment to change and manage post-exercise expectations and implementation.

We chose to use 20 days for play with a simple design that allowed the days at the end to be as short as 30 seconds each even in fairly large team events. It was the initial team decisions that either facilitated a lot of success and some low-stress play or some less-than optimal decision-making and planning that generated high-stress and scrambling for resources to succeed. By design, every team mined gold, but the teams with the better planning got better results and could also assist the others.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Basically, I found that it was best to give a detailed overview, with a good bit of redundancy, so as to maximize understanding. In this way, the players could make the best decisions possible to maximize the results and have the fewest mistakes. Heck, I even found that by adding “Most Common Questions” as a slide set at the end of the Intro to review the key points that I had already made saved me delivery time, since those were questions commonly asked of me that delayed getting started.

My thoughts were around optimizing play and minimizing the dumb mistakes and being detailed enough to enable players to get a good start in the 15 minutes of planning time given. It was also found that by shortening or deleting things, such as the time spent in generating the suggested Team Roles, the disorganization caused them to take even longer in getting started. Having roles enabled them to listen to the instructions more carefully and allowed them to get moving with the planning right away.

My associates in India asked how they could take the normally 45 minute Intro and set-up and reduce it to 15 minutes because their client had “a tight schedule.” Their thinking was that shortening it would have no impact on the team building, subsequent planning and play. They had this schedule for an upcoming session of 140 people:

  • Intro and briefing – 15 minutes.
  • Planning – 15 minutes
  • Play– 50 minutes
  • Break – 20 minutes and
  • Debriefing – 50 minutes.

Well, I like challenges… So here are some thoughts about the dilemma:

The actual team building process occurs during the initial stages of the game in the 15 minute planning period. A long, detailed and a bit redundant introduction gives every player all the details of play and even some tips for optimizing results. Everyone knows all the rules and details, thus the discussion is not about what but about how to execute. They all should be equal participants in the discussion of strategy and overall decision-making and therefore would all share in ownership of the end result.

There are no really good, simple ideas on speeding things up the Introduction. I played with this a LOT during the first 10 years of playing and selling the exercise and found this to be true: If you keep something out of the Introduction, it either generates a question that takes at least as long to answer or it creates a problem with misunderstanding and a playing mistake they blame on YOU.

My focus on delivery has been to generate an effective and efficient way to present the information so that players are clear about the details of the rules at the start of their planning. I have found it to be faster to go slower and be more redundant in the Introduction. This way, players and teams make better decisions and play with better results and have fewer questions and run into less difficulty at the end. (Or, at least they have all the information on which to make a less than optimal decision (grin) ).

My finding is that speeding up by shortening the Intro information can slow things down in different and unexpected ways or causes more mistakes and poorer play and all that… Plus, it helps in the debriefing if all the players understand all of the operating rules and have better understanding and perspective on the choices and the impacts.

(They all “get” the planning metaphors of The Videos, for example. They were all offered the opportunity to acquire one or both before heading out and it was their choice to get or not to get them. The Videos are not a surprise in the debriefing, just the information that was in them and the reality that it could be shared with other teams.)

Okay, some ideas for speeding play and saving time:

Start on Time –

Demand that the session starts when scheduled and that everything is ready to go. Generally, this means delivering the game the very first thing in the morning. If there is breakfast, ensure that the hotel or center staff is there to help clear away the dishes and that there are stands around the room where plates can be taken. Have the tabletops all set up, including the tables for the Provisioner.

It is scary how often these programs with known “tight timing” issues do not start on time. This is especially true if there is some manager that. “needs to say a few things to the group before you get started.” I have lost 30 minutes or more from these “few minutes” while the content of that introduction could have been in an email to everyone. Often, these managers are not professional when it comes to presenting in a timely and efficient manner so it is YOUR responsibility to get that part of the program done quickly.

If you are starting after lunch, be sure to have someone who works for you on the lunch floor pushing the timing so that people can come into the room. Make the room inviting, with music and a slide show of pictures or something similar. Get them in and KEEP them in until you are ready to go.

And, again, do not allow for a few minutes of “more introduction” by anyone other than a professional presenter who knows the meaning of “ending on time” for their part.

NEVER EVER play the game at night with alcoholic beverages. Those sessions are absolute disasters – and no one will remember anything the next day.

Team Roles
One idea might be to not assign roles during the Intro and let teams figure that out during the planning. That saves a bit of time, but the teams will be less organized. Thus, decisions might take longer if roles are not clear.

However, if you do that, DO stress the selection of the team Trader but maybe not the others. Having one person be accountable for bringing resource cards to the Trading Post is critical to efficient delivery.

The alternative is to assign teams and tables prior to the session, and you can also suggest team roles in that assignment, You can list table # and team member names with roles on the sheet. (Make the most senior manager the Team Trader, though — they do the most work and get isolated! See this blog for more information on players and roles and assignments.)

Pods
And DO separate the groups into distinct pods for large group events. If you have 120 people, you could play with 2 pods of 10 teams each or 4 pods of 5 teams each. It is certain that the pods of 5 teams each will play faster than pods of 10. You would also need more floor support, but that would help to answer questions and respond to problems more quickly. It would be easier for a Provisioner to spot a team that is having trouble with a smaller pod, and thus direct help toward that tabletop.

Team Size
In my experience, smaller teams play faster — if you can set up as groups of 4 players per table, the planning and the play will go faster. So, a session of 24 people would play faster with 6 tables of 4 rather than 4 tables of 6 players each. But that takes more support from your team of delivery people with larger teams. It depends on how many support people you have but the more experienced help on the floor, the easier to solve problems. (Note – I use senior managers to support my large group events! See this blog for rationale.)

(If you do that, use a different Team Roles Form than the one showing 6 job roles at the tables and in the slides.) Maybe have only the Leader, Trader, Analyst / Supply Expert and Collaborator…

Decisions of smaller tabletops will be faster and usually better — but they MUST understand all the rules and themes and issues.

For those of you with 24 people, having 6 teams of 4 will be faster than having 4 teams of 6, for example.

Floor Delivery Support
You can trade off SUPPORT PEOPLE ON THE FLOOR against covering things in PowerPoint Intro. The less you talk about, the more questions and the longer the “15 minutes of planning time” will take. This is especially true in a large group as in this session of 140.

If you do shorten the Intro, be SURE to have knowledgeable co-Expedition Leaders on the floor for each 3 or 4 teams. It will change the dynamics some…

Breaks
My way of speeding things up is to have NO BREAK at the end of play – telling players that team play should allow individuals to take a break for bathroom or drinks during play. Cookies and coffee and the like can be in the room or even served to the tables by staff.

A “scheduled 20 minute break” (with 140 people) can run out to 30 minutes or more, which is very common with large groups. And it is probably the people last to arrive back that need the debriefing key learning points more than the others.

Large groups are much less manageable from a time perspective if they leave the room. Make them Break during the Play of the game, not afterwards. Make it impact their team, not you and the rest of the group!

Results
Minimize the review of game results but use the results summary and overhead projectors to allow everyone to see all the results from all the teams. That generally reduces questions about “who won” and why and allows you to focus on the issues of optimization.

Focus on the differences between the high and low teams and ask if the higher performing teams had resources that they could have shared that would have generated MORE RESULTS FOR YOU — not a winning score for one team…

I often do NOT show the Perfect Play summary of woulda-shoulda, but do focus on the fact that there were 3 Turbos that could be shared so that 3 teams could have used the Turbo to return in 4 days, as opposed to less than 3 (look at total TF Videos to see the number of Turbos available versus the number actually used (get that off the Tracking Forms at the Trading Post). THAT is probably the most important number for the entire group — that plus the days back early because of resource mis-management and bad planning decisions.

The Turbos are the Best Practices that generate better results with the same effort and they represent the leverage generated by collaboration among teams in the workplace. There were sufficient resources, but a good plan of action with engaged and involved teammates helped maximize results for the team — why not for the group? What would they need to do differently in the workplace…

Debriefing
I deliver the game as a learning event, not as a fun activity. Thus, for me, “The play of the game is an excuse to do a debriefing on choices, behaviors and the issues of engagement and collaboration.” Thus, I will demand that I have the full time allotted to the play and that we start on time

And I try not to lecture nearly as much as I try to allow tabletops to discuss specific issues and opportunities. I facilitate the game much more than I “teach” from it – their thoughts are more congruent to their issues than any idea that the game Expedition Leader might have.

If possible, I try to coach the most senior manager to engage people in a discussion. This is sometimes dangerous since their preferred style is to talk at the people, not engage them. I have had to cut off such attempts at “training” more than a few times, generally with something such as, “Why don’t you spend 5 minutes and discuss that key learning point at your tabletop?” (And then take back the control of the debriefing…)

Turbos are best practices that can be shared – thus it begs the question, “What turbochargers are available that we could share with other groups within the company?”

(You can view a long slideshare on debriefing experiential exercises, framed around Lost Dutchman, by clicking on the image below:)

LD Slideshare Debrief cover

My debriefings generally focus on the dynamics of team interactions and desired collaborative behavior. My illustrations and questions anchor most of the debriefing to the desired client outcomes for the event. On occasion, they just want to have fun — I can usually persuade the leadership to get more value by increasing things like collaboration or sharing ideas around motivating others as part of a leadership development theme.

For large events, we discuss desired outcomes a lot prior to the event so that everyone involved in the delivery design is on-board with what we are trying to accomplish. In play, I most often end with tabletop discussions around, “What does mining (more) gold mean to us as an organization?”

corporate team building ideasLastly, do all that you can do. (You cannot do any more than that!)

Work as best as you can to meet the commitments that were set, but realize that you may not have all the control you need to make this optimal. Various things will decrease your available debriefing time. Senior managers may feel the need to espouse on certain issues they think are critical — and they probably are — but that can cut into your plans.

And have FUN out there with the delivery. If you have fun and work the issues, they will have fun and also work the issues.

If you have any thoughts or ideas about improving the speed of delivery, we would love to hear from you. Anything we can do to increase the debriefing time is a worthwhile alteration, in my opinion. Many of the changes suggested above will have impacts on the dynamics of delivery, I think. SO be careful out there!

YOUR thoughts on all this would be Most Excellent!

Note: Thanks for reading this far. To improve and impact our debriefing and make the exercise even more memorable, we are in the midst of adding LEGO characters to our Introduction and some of our Debriefing materials in all versions of the exercise, with the thought that the game can better tie in with our Square Wheels® approach or be more congruent with consultants using LEGO Serious Play tools or simply using LEGO in general. We have NO affiliation with The LEGO Group or any other organizations and we are using the “useful article” approach to issues around intellectual property.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, Surprised 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 scott@squarewheels.com

Scott’s blog on People and Performance is here.

Square Wheels® are a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a registered trademark of The LEGO Group.

 

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