Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: executive team building exercises (Page 1 of 4)

Continuous Continuous Improvement and Team Building

Dozens of years ago, when I chaired our local ASQC group, it was common to hear these quality managers say that they had done continuous improvement.

It was so common that I resolved never to use that phrase and to only use the term, CONTINUOUS Continuous Improvement, which STILL gives my grammar checker fits, as the WordPress editor is doing right now…

I mean, how can you complete something that is continuous?

And why isn’t continuous continuous improvement a better overall goal for organizations? When does stopping improvement make any sense?

Now, those ISO standards forced organizations to go way deep into compliance and process management, which is an antithesis to innovation and improvement, and those issues still hang around out there in the world of manufacturing. And to see people put a Six Sigma framework around customer service still seems goofy, in that the processes are simply so far from rigid statistical control. But, whatever.

So, let’s shift to the issues of workplace reality, team building and continuous continuous improvement of people and processes, focusing on collaboration, alignment and communications.

Winemaking is often the art of nurturing grape juice through a process of continuous incremental improvement until it ends up as a spectacular product, if that is the winemaker’s goal. Sure, you can make a million gallons of wine that all tastes the same, but the artwork and artistry of this vocation is not focused on consistency but on excellence, much like we should be striving for with our workplace improvement initiatives.

In the case of developing a team building game, one can also devote 20+ years to learning the art and substance of teamwork and collaboration and to continually fine-tune one’s ideas to optimize desired outcomes. And I can honestly say that I think we have reached that point with The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a team building exercise that has been continually improved since its first deliveries back in 1993.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding exercise

Selling and supporting a game was never my main objective; designing and refining an organizational development exercise to deliver consistently excellent results and have widespread positive impacts on people in organizations was always my goal and hopefully my legacy. Surveys of users say we have pretty much optimized our impacts from this single framework (see a supporting article here or download the results here.)

Dutchman’s existence grew out of dissatisfaction with a “team building game” that I represented as the first USA selling agent back in the late 1980s. That game’s play and its debriefing supported competition among teams – it’s program design allowed teams to quickly die because of their decisions, claiming that this was a reality of teamwork in most organizations. And the focus on competition was a distraction from the expressed objectives of building teamwork, something that I didn’t feel created a better Return on Investment than what a Collaborative approach would do. (Read more about that here)

When I tried to collaborate with that game’s developers, they resisted any ideas from any of us who were representing their product, ideas that would strengthen the game’s outcomes and impacts. So, over 24 years ago, Dutchman was created because there was a need in the team building marketplace for an inexpensive exercise that would support a serious learning framework for how collaboration beats competition in getting the best ROI.

We wanted a design that linked to real workplace issues, but also an exercise that could be easily facilitated by trainers or consultants and didn’t have a bunch of restrictive licensing and continual payment requirements attached to it. I wanted to sell Dutchman as a one-time cost game with a money back guarantee that could be used by virtually any type of organization and I soon found that this was a much appreciated concept compared to the typical way that team building products were put into the marketplace.

Once this exercise entered into the playing field, it immediately received accolades for how it drove home the concept of collaboration better than anything else out there. Through a much stronger debriefing than the other game provided, I was able to show how teams could have increased their ROI by the simple act of collaborating. We MEASURE the team and group results and can clearly show where and when collaboration would have had significant positive impacts on results. (If you own the game or are interested in performance metrics, you might find this detailed results analysis to be of interest.)

It is our belief that leadership, communications and strategic planning were all essential to creating a collaborative environment and Dutchman set this up well. Active involvement and engagement are also important for the success of any implementation, so the game plays really well in a situation where you want to better implement tops-down change and strategy.

The funny thing is that competition is a compelling force for players and they end up sub-optimizing their gold intake because of this, which is also a very common workplace observation. Therefore, this further indicated that a solid Debriefing was necessary to the game in order to get people to realize how choices around Collaboration brings in a better ROI.

Behavioral flexibility also became an important addition to the game and its debriefing because organizations have different reasons for using team building games and as Dutchman’s debriefing continued to evolve over the years so did its flexibility for creating different outcomes. Within its first year of use, Dutchman became a worldwide product that easily worked in various cultures and countries. And it is really neat when people working in one organization change jobs and buy the game for their new company. THAT is good evidence that the game holds high value and relevancy for them (and is a safe move to make!).

Today, we sell a variety of different Dutchman games, with LD-3 for up to 18 players or 3 teams; LD-4 for up to 24 players (4 teams), LD-6 for up to 36 players (6 teams) and our LD-Professional Version for any number players.

These various versions and their scaled prices were well received and our idea of making a Rental Version of the game available for those who weren’t ready to invest in one of the other choices or who had a one-time delivery requirement. We have training consultant users who purchased the game to use in small classroom settings who can now profitably do that large organizational retreat (100+ people) for clients.

Throughout the years, I’ve continued to improve upon the game play not only from my own ideas but also from collaborating with Dutchman owners who have given me great ideas to incorporate into the game. The game materials have evolved over the years, the Debriefing presentation and slides have expanded, the training materials have evolved to now include videos of how to work the game, etc. Even the original game board has changed into a different version.

People purchasing the game 24 years ago can still play with the materials they received at that time while those presently purchasing any of the game versions will have an updated set of materials — All versions will work exceedingly well to create a session worth facilitating because the outcomes of the game are like a fine wine in that the depth of appreciation for Dutchman and it’s return on investment continues to grow as it ages.

testimonials for Lost Dutchman Gold Mine slideshare

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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/

 

We rent the exercise, with great testimonials, to consultants and trainers in North America. See more details here about its play and its outcomes.

ASQC – American Society for Quality Control is now the ASQ /AQP, the American Society for Quality and the Association for Quality and Participation. I was actually a member of both groups and much more aligned with the frameworks of AQP – And I spoke at a couple of their international conferences.

Intrinsic Motivation – It comes from having a goal

My friend Jimmy Jain posted up a picture of himself after running a race.

The images of him below should tell you all you need to know about motivation, if you spend a moment to consider individual performance and how things really work. You cannot get this satisfaction from some extrinsic reward system; it is all about Intrinsic Motivation!

Jimmy First Medal 2017In high school, I ran one year of cross-country on a team that included Leon Nocito and Lee Mallory. That was in 1965 and I did it to get in condition for playing tennis (Jay Einstein and I were a really good doubles team who could beat our number 1 and 2 singles players even though we sucked at singles, ourselves. We took great pride in our play and were 7-0 through the first matches of our senior year (1966) ).

We were cross country State Champions for the big New Jersey schools and I could run only 15th on the team, but there was constant improvement in my times over the season, with me finally reaching 15:15 for 2.5 miles on grass (Seriously. I have this stuff written down in my yearbook! I had motivation but not much talent for running! Not like those guys…)

In the picture above, you can see Jimmy is obviously taking great pride in his running success and he is most likely comparing his personal performance to his individual goals. I am also guessing that both Leon and Lee would run far faster! But that is NOT what motivation is really about. It is about self and team and you can see the peer support Jimmy has if you look at the others in the side pics!

Vineland High School state championship cross country team of 1966

Leon top left and Lee top right and the rest of the team.

Leon, undefeated for two seasons, almost always ran a course record each race. Lee, always finished second to Leon, ever race, with Lee also generally beating the course record each race. Leon would never let Lee beat him and Lee always pushed Leon to new records and they finished 1-2 in the State Championship. One time, Leon was really sick and he STILL would not let Lee beat him — he nearly died, but that was simply how things were.

Our Track & Field team was unbeaten in ’63, lost one dual meet in ’64 & was unbeaten in ’65 and ’66. Coach Cosh had records like 125 wins in a row in track as well as the cross-country successes. We beat everybody. Unbelievable!

And these kinds of motivations and accomplishments are really found in everyday kinds of things, from the Special Olympics kids running their races to the bicycle club events with groups of people all doing the best they can to the professional athletes who do it for money (but also for pride). When that pride of accomplishment disappears, so does the motivation to perform.

So how are you running YOUR organization? How important are those intrinsic rewards based on personal goals, measured improvements, and peer support for teamwork and accomplishments? Are your people supporting each other or competing to beat the others? Is it a team-based effort to improve group performance or one of competition, sabotage and under-cutting to allow one person to “win” and create failures if they don’t.

Coach Cosh knew how to get whole groups of kids working together to generate championship levels of performance. He knew how to get Leon and Lee and Don and John all running as hard as they could individually to generate that TEAM success. Can you do the same to generate peer support, or do you try to motivate people with extrinsic rewards that are ineffective for the bottom 50% of your organization?

If you want some insights into how this all plays out, ask me about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise, where the goal is to mine as much gold as WE can but where tabletops will often compete rather than collaborate. It is one of the top leadership and organizational developmental team building games in the world, based on extensive user-feedback.

Ask Jimmy — he is one of our long-time Lost Dutchman customers and he says he feels the same way after successfully delivering a client workshop! Or, click on the image below to go to a descriptive page on my website.

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.

   www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

 

 

 

Bad Teambuilding and BaaadTeambuilding

I don’t really think I have to say too much about this and let the image speak for itself. As most of my readers are aware, I do corporate team building and organizational development using business simulations to generate discussions about what can be done differently to improve organizational results. Most of my work comes from focusing on collaboration rather than competition and doing things that offer the possibilities of measuring actuals against possibles to discuss alternatives.

If you search “Dutchman” within my blog, you can find dozens of articles about how to improve RESULTS and how to avoid doing things that are possibly team bonding rather than team building. (Here is a short compendium of related team building articles)

We also have twitter threads on #badteambuilding and #baaadteambuilding where a few of us try to illustrate some of the really awful ideas. I use examples of go-kart racing or firewalking or paintball as the kinds of things that offer little real measurable impacts and I will often ask purveyors of such events to share how they think those activities actually accomplish their stated purpose of team BUILDING.

Anyway, I guess my email is out there related to the teambuilding keyword and I was smacked in the head earlier today with this offer for “InflatablesUSA PonyHops for Team Building Events” along with their image of young adults apparently doing teambuilding. I am not going to ask them about their implementation and debriefing design and I am left wondering how they will then discuss issues of collaboration or leadership development or similar.

pony-hop-boy-scoutimage from unsolicited email to me from marketing department

I am NOT against having more fun in the workplace. And I am not about hoping that InflatablesUSA can make a lot of money from these “Pony Hops.”

But I do question the kinds of expensive initiatives suggested in such marketing efforts that will generate no perceivable ROI. I am guessing that this is some kind of competition or race and I continue to wonder how doing competitive things is supposed to generate more collaboration.

Interdepartmental Collaboration continues to be a workplace oxymoron.

If someone wants to enlighten me about the ROI of these efforts shows itself, fine well and good. Until then, I will simply consider these kinds of events as #BadTeambuilding.

And h0w are we going to change organizational cultures and workplace environments if we keep doing things the same way?

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.

He wonders, at age 68, if an event sponsor would allow him to play on a Pony Hop if he did not sign a waiver for any possible injury. There are now 5 generations of workers in many workplaces. Are us old people supposed to be excluded? Can we do this with most exec teams?

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Bad Teambuilding, Good Teambuilding

I continue to be struck by how much team bonding is confused with team building. The latter has impacts on organizational behavior and performance improvements and links to improving results while the former is about having fun and doing things to build camaraderie. The issue is that people expect things to change with more workplace friendliness, but with no changes in measurements or feedback or actual consequences (rewards and punishers), why would anyone expect anything to change?

And why is it that so many exercises that consultants would use for front-line or middle managers, they would not remotely consider doing with senior executives? Does that CEO or CFO or CTO really benefit by having some cooking class event, doing some pot-luck lunch or, as I recently saw in Wired magazine, really benefit from having the comedians from Second City teach them improv? Will those activities REALLY translate to anything improving?

It is so bad that I just set up #BadTeambuilding as a twitter hashtag and I plan on noting some things called “team building” that aren’t and don’t. Maybe I will be seen as a troll, but the operational idea is that we cannot expect change if awareness does not shift and some sort of real enlightenment occurs, right? It will be hard to ignore retweets with the #badteambuilding and it will surely generate some responses and reactions — and at age 68, I don’t have a lot of years left to leave a footprint, right?

Badteambuilding is a theme of perception by Scott Simmerman of The Square Wheels Project

I hope I have earned the right to comment, having delivered exercises for organizational improvement over the past 25 years and working in a global marketplace for ideas for impact. In addition to the blogging and presentations, I sell and support a number of team development exercises, with one of mine being used extensively by a network of consultants and pretty much generating rave reviews.

A survey among people who have purchased The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding exercise, for example, generated feedback that anchored that the game as Most Excellent. And nearly all of them will confirm that the common team bonding fun “exercises” have little to do with improving the actual interdepartmental collaboration and alignment to shared visions that we can accomplish with the exercise. Most of our users are a highly experienced group, with 70% using 6 or more different team building exercises in their organizational development work.

You can download a full summary of results by clicking on the link below:
Dutchman Survey Results Summary

But it is amazing how many companies will choose to do something fun over something impactful, apparently feeling that since people are so pressured from working, that spending fun time at Dave and Busters or going go-kart racing will somehow make a difference. If that is true, I would love to see some actual data supporting that belief.

I am not a troll on things like this; it is just seeing that better alternatives to a lot of the choices being made about “doing some teambuilding” will not actually generate any results and actually set the stage for executives to believe that all teambuilding has no real impacts on results.

Here is Scott helping Mrs. Claus and the elves make improvements to Santa's wagon

My focus for years has been on people and performance, and everything I see says that we can improve teamwork and collaboration and that we can improve employee engagement and innovation and have all kinds of positive impacts on organizational results. We need to simply choose to make a difference and do something differently!

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.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

We believe that GOOD teambuilding can generate real change and improved results by making people more aware of their decision-making and their choices and collaborative behavior. Here are some additional thoughts and statistics from our survey of users about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine:

We asked a really tough T/F question:

LDGM is the best exercise I know of to work with senior managers on issues of strategy, alignment, and organizational collaboration.”

Fully half (53%) said this was TRUE! (Only 9 people said this was False, which given the highly experienced and global nature of our users, is pretty fantastic. We are NOT the most expensive exercise out there, just apparently the best value!.)And comments were uniformly supportive of our design, packaging and pricing.

Another tough question and positive response was this one: 30 people (55%) responded that Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is “the best overall team building exercise I have used.” For such an experienced user-base, this was outstanding!

Fully 100% of users would recommend the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine game to others for purchase and use, with 63% saying they would recommend it to ANY trainer or consultant.

As to value, two-thirds of users (64%) strongly agreed that the purchased of the exercise represented an excellent value to their organizations and 11 merely agreed, with 5 people sharing a neutral response.

The exercise was designed to be useful for organizational development, alignment, leadership and teambuilding. It was designed for impact.

  • Fully 7 in 10 agreed or strongly agreed that the simulation was effective in generating observable, “desired changes in behavior after the session ended, back on the job.” One person disagreed.
  • 96% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that, “the exercise linked well to our issues of workplace collaboration and performance management” with two people being neutral.
  • As to, “representing the Best Value for a teambuilding exercise in the global marketplace,” 21 people strongly agreed and 16 others agreed of 52 registered responses, or 71% of our users.

Again, we framed that question up as a real test of perceived value and even the neutral responses were supportive! It seems we are doing pretty well out there, and no one would actually name an exercise they thought was better than ours.

We asked some tough questions and we got some great answers.

If you are looking for a real team building exercise, one that does the building a lot more than it focuses on “bonding” like so many other exercises in the marketplace, check out our simulation. It is powerful and yet inexpensive.

After all, fully three quarters of our users felt it represented a Best Value in the global marketplace of tools for organizational improvement and communications.

a team building simulation exercose

We think that companies can accomplish real teambuilding, if they focus on it and use good tools. And we stand 100% behind our tools,

For the FUN of It!

Teambuilding Exercise – Overview of Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

My associate in India  emailed me with the info that he had just run his 169th session involving my team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. Pretty neat. And I am glad that we are leaving a “legacy” of teamwork and organizational improvement in India and in other countries.

He also shared his newest video overview of the exercise, which I thought to share here.Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine Teambuilding Exercise

Click on the image for a 2-minute overview of a session held for one of their clients.
https://youtu.be/n2A4Di3ye_c

If you are interested in acquiring one of these exercises for your own use as a consultant or trainer, you can find information here on my website, or contact me directly at the email listed below

WP Header Image

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.

 

Debriefing Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine – The Numbers

For the past 20+ years, we have been supporting a team building exercise focused on inter-team collaboration and the sharing of resources and information with the goal of optimizing organizational results. We know from our users, a global network of consultants and internal trainers, that the exercise is unique as well as highly effective.

Our users are a highly experienced group, with 70% using 6 or more different team building exercises in their organizational development work. Most (89%) have run the exercise multiple times and 36% have run it more than ten times. (You can see a summary of our 2016 User Survey here)

So this paper was designed as a “high-level” document overviewing basics as well as advanced interpretations linking behaviors and game results to issues of organizational performance and alignment to shared goals and objectives. The goal of play is to drive real change in the workplace based on perspective, observations and commitments.

The attached document might be of interest if:

  • You already own The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine
  • You are interested in how a team building game can be used to link to desired future behaviors and drive alignment and collaboration
  • You are already using another team building simulation and are looking to make improvements in your debriefing or your evaluation of play or ready to choose my game for use, instead!

One of our customers, a senior manager at a large public utility company, asked for my thoughts on her debriefing of the results when she delivered the exercise to her 100 direct reports. What evolved was a highly detailed review of how the results generated in play could be interpreted and discussed. While some of this information is included in the packaging of our exercise, I thought to include it here should our existing customers want to see these details.

Linking Measured Game Results to
Organizational Development Opportunities

Design features in Dutchman allow teams to acquire additional informational resources that help them optimize their results. Basic planning will allow every team to be successful and contribute. But collaborating with the leadership team and working across tabletops will allow them to mine even more gold. Acquiring the extra information allows their team to improve outcomes even more, and to choose as to whether they will assist another team or teams in the quest to mine even more gold.

You can see an intro to the Lost Dutchman’s exercise by clicking on the image below:

video overview of Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

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

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.

Make Your Off-site Team Building Event Pay Off

Organizations hold off-site meetings to generate more alignment, introduce a new strategy initiative, build increased collaboration and related goals. The Big Idea is that the expenditures for these meetings will generate a return on that investment. I will loosely define one overall goal as “team building” and I will suggest some ideas and frameworks that will actually accomplish some of that.

These events and meetings should involve and engage participants and generate a better sense of ownership and involvement about what they might choose to do differently: “more better faster cheaper.” But inspiration alone won’t cut it and lectures and presentations will sometimes distract people from their emails. People will often drift off from a presentation and knowledge does not always translate into behavior change. Just explaining things will only have a modest impact on results or generate any change in behavior, as you have probably witnessed.

Human beings are paradoxical creatures.
What I know does not directly translate into what I do.

We judge ourselves by our intentions.
We judge others by their behavior.

And we are known to have that common behavior of overestimating our own performance when good measurements are not good.  This cognitive bias for over-estimating even has a term: illusory superiority.”

Examples abound:

  • In one study, 84% of the students predicted they would cooperate with their partner, but only 61% actually did. The irony is that their prediction of other student’s behavior was close to actual.
  • people with a below-average IQ tend to overestimate their IQ
  • In a survey of faculty at the University of Nebraska, 68% rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability.
  • In a similar survey, 87% of MBA students at Stanford University rated their academic performance as above the median.
  • For driving skill, 93% of the US drivers put themselves in the top 50% of all vehicle operators.

We will not delve into all the reasons for this; the information is nicely covered in a Wikipedia article. Here, let’s focus on practicalities when it comes to costs and impacts and generating commitment and change.

Here are some ideas and possible solutions that represent my personal biases along with 30 years of experience in these kinds of settings:

Have really solid goals and expectations for what you want to see done differently.  Communicating ideas and data might give someone the chance to be seen, but it is a pretty costly way to move that information. Think about the past and what worked well insofar as meeting goals and actual outcomes – what kinds of things helped attendees do something differently after the meeting to solve problems or improve results.

1 – Communicate before the meeting with the facts, information and relevant data that people will need to do things differently. Give them the tools and pre-thinking review time to allow the data to link with any new information or stimulate new ideas. Most people think better with time for processing and consideration and new ideas generally link to old information.

2 – Put the right people in the seats. Maybe you do need everyone to attend, but maybe you don’t. If your meeting is a celebration junket, that is different than if it is a key meeting to drive out a new strategic plan. The people who are there should be the people who need to be there! Everyone else is either costly or distracting or both.

3 – Let their feets get them off their seats. Do things that get them moving around and interacting in some kind of focused way. Breaks can be useful, but people are often off doing their own things with phone calls and emails instead of talking with each other about shared issues and desired changes. While some would suggest prohibiting cellphone use during the meetings, I think we should try to treat attendees as something other than third-grade students and allow them responsible use — you never know when they might have some real business emergency with a real business impact and you DO want them in the room and not out in the hallway expecting some call. Phones do have a vibrate setting!

4 – Design facilitated engagement and involvement. Don’t just do things TO people but insure that your sessions involve and engage them. Do things WITH attendees if you can. Solicit their ideas and their input. Challenge them to help solve business problems instead of presenting them with solutions, if you can.

Nobody ever washes a rental car

Be sure to do things to share ownership. People are more likely to take risks and challenges if they are invested in the situations.

5 – Allow people to work in teams but also collect their notes and thoughts. You can use worksheets or easel-pad brainstorming and mindmaps and similar tools. You can use dot-voting and other consensus-building activities. You can use twitter and other interactive media or collaboration software, if the group is comfortable with that approach. (You might encourage all of them to bring their laptops / notepads or smartphones to certain interactive work sessions.)

Leadership and presenters should be asking questions and generating perspective and sharing missions and visions more than they should be standing there “yelling and telling,” no matter how charismatic they are. Like John Le Carre wrote,

A desk is a dangerous place
from which to view the world

The more hands-on, broadly experiential the base of information, the more ownership involvement and real-world information you can generate, the better the impacts.

6 – Structure followup on the ideas that are generated and push people to do things differently. There are any number of ways to generate commitment and your current organizational culture and experience should offer you ideas about what kinds of things work (and what kinds of things do not). You might have each person post one good idea into email or on a specifically designed note card collected by the senior manager. You might organize natural teams to collect and look to help implement good ideas. Department heads might be tasked with generating 5 good ideas for change and improvement, along with action plans and a project management template of some kind.

But DO something. Make some things happen and attribute those positive results to the leadership and through the organization as experiences have shown to be successful. Too many meetings just end; they do not generate efforts at improvements, much less impact results.

If you are just meeting to meet, with no other expected changes, then consider communicating through podcasts or other techniques and save a whole big bunch of money in travel expenses, time and salaries. Your meeting should generate actions that impact results.

Summary:

The reason I write this post is that I have seen some events that really fail to generate what they could, simply because of the “powerpoint presentation culture” that exists in so many organizations. Similarly, I hear about programs that do the simply “fun team building” kinds of things, the electronic spin-the-wheel “Wheel of Fortune” games or the Jeopardy or treasure hunt activities, none of which will generate much real teamwork or real problem-solving or behavior change.

Since 1993, we have been developing and supporting an actual business simulation exercise with real impacts on teamwork and planning and which structures debriefings focused on shared missions and visions, expectations and teamwork. A differentiating feature is the anchor point to inter-team collaboration, rather than the more common competition between teams. For so many organizations, “Interdepartmental Collaboration” is an oxymoron rather than an implementation strategy. Generating real collaboration is of very high value to most businesses.

We offer a most excellent team building exercise that you can purchase for repeated use or rent for a one-time event.

Lost Dutchman Gold Mine Logo with three icons

There are literally dozens of articles about the exercise here on the blog. Directly connect with me if this might be of any interest to your organization. I will try to share my thoughts and ideas about features and benefits of this exercise. It is straightforward in its delivery and not difficult to facilitate and link to a variety of desired outcomes. My coaching and design collaboration are free.

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

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Thoughts on Team Building and Choices, not Beliefs

Since I first started consulting on behavior and performance back in the late 1970s, I was struck by the differences in what people SAY they do and what they actually CHOOSE to do. Often, these represent large gaps between theory and actual behavior, a gap that often needs to be closed to actually change organizational cultures. People have a hard time being congruent, acting as they think they do and seeing their personal behavior objectively. This is one of the primary reasons why 360 degree feedback can be useful.

Managers might talk about listening to their people and having an open door policy, for example, but the actual reality is that they are always too busy, they screen their calls and their visits, and they have people run interference for them. Surveys will demonstrate such gaps pretty regularly, in actuality. They might talk about “skip-level management” but they always want people to move issues and ideas up the normal chain of command. New data on Respect shows a similar gap (blog to be published tomorrow).

I believe you know what I am referring to, since lots of surveys show lots of such gaps and we have a lot of personal experiences with others that we can recall. And these two quotes sum up the situation:

We judge ourselves by our intentions; we judge others by their behavior.

   and

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. (John LeCarre)

A friend who does teambuilding wrote about doing team development training with senior leadership in Kuwait and that the participants in two workshops challenged the models in his book and put him to the task defending his thinking.There were probably some cultural differences in play but these were also senior managers who often think they know about the intra- and inter-team interactions in their organizations but who generally see filtered data.

(For an example of “filtered data,” you will probably find this blog post to share a funny but true accounting of how Mission Statements get developed! The story is called, “In The Beginning.”)

It is obvious from the pictures that my friend shared that people attending had fun and that team bonding probably occurred. But these activities, by their appearance, did not seem to have a lot of construct validity insofar as being business decision-making and business problem-solving or related to issues of process improvement. Nothing appears measurable and inter-organizational collaboration seems difficult to generate, from appearances.

Given that there were apparent difficulties in the attendees relating to the high performance teambuilding model that was shared,  I also wonder if a different delivery framework for the actual exercises, something with tighter ties to business improvement realities, might have generated different outcomes and discussions. A good model will help leadership better understand what they can choose to do differently, to help change their behavior and the organizational culture they manage but only if you can link to behaviors, not trying to change attitudes or beliefs.

Too often, people from different perspectives and orientations TALK about what they do and how their managers and teams perform and will challenge models based on their beliefs about how things work. We all have such a sense of reality about things like this that it sometimes makes us blind to other possibilities. Simply using a group of people to solve a problem is NOT always relevant to making improvements in business processes and managing people and performance. Problem solving challenges are related, but different. Teams do not just solve problems, they must implement solutions!

kuwait team building pictures

These are the kinds of challenges commonly used in so many team building programs, but are they BUSINESS problems that relate to organizational improvement issues?

And it looked (above) as if my friend used activity-type exercises that are engaging and challenging but that might not have tightly represented business models of how things work.  And this is where some of the conversational conflict may have arisen — how does working with string directly relate to managing and improving high performance teams?

One of the things that I have found to eliminate most of that kind of divergent chatter among executives is to put them into a problem situation and get them to choose and behave and then debrief around ACTUAL behaviors observed, focused around optimizing organizational performance results. Simply talking about how they think things work is not really useful — and the focus is on beliefs and not behaviors and decision-making. We all have beliefs, but not all beliefs represent objective reality.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is one kind of activity that actually drives team and group behaviors in an observable and measurable way, and is one such approach to reality and choice. The exercise also focuses on the inter-table play and decisions, the competitive side of things that get in the way of collaboration and the larger issues of teamwork. It focuses on time limits and limited resources and the need for understanding a complicated set of rules for play along with issues of strategic planning, intra- and inter-team alignment to a shared goal, and the implementation of ideas.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine information and overview link
High Performing Teams do not just solve problems,
they implement solutions that impact results!

If you can get people to make choices and perform in a complex situation demanding teamwork and collaboration and planning, you now can focus on those choices and the observed behaviors and link those things directly to a model for organizational improvement and change. I think arranging knives in a unique creative manner is a great bar trick but the leap from that to organizational improvement is a long one.

What do YOU think?

 

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.

 

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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Large Corporate Team Building Event Ideas and Issues

Team building programs corporations might consider for their organizational development programs vary in impact and cost. There are a variety of different kinds of activities for team bonding purposes and there are programs that accomplish team building, which take a different direction and have different desired outcomes. The focus on this post is to outline ideas that will actually improve business results and generate  alignment to missions and goals with team building events.

Team bonding may be fun and useful, but it is not often designed to generate measurable improvements of the interdepartmental collaboration and engagement kind.

If you spend time at a large hotel or conference center and check out the general happenings, you can often find groups there having some kind of company retreat that is not totally an educational training program. You will often see people sitting around or engaged in some kind of general activity, with a large screen at the front and powerpoint being shown. The people are often excited when they exit, knowing that they escaped death by powerpoint and non-engagement, at least for a short while. One wonders, though, why hotels are not required to post health warnings about deep vein thrombosis for some of these sessions!

A couple of years ago, people at OnlineMBA.com came across a blog post of mine while they were researching “Team Building” and sent me a link to one of their articles entitled, “How the Top Companies Take On Team Building.

I liked the way it started, since I pretty much agree with this:

Few corporate-culture business phrases are as potentially groan-inducing as “team building.” Visions of cheesy performances and “inspiring” activities like coal walking and trust falls immediately spring to mind.

There are many posts in my blog about the more ridiculous or hard to seriously consider team activities such as golf, paintball or fire walking and we started up a twitter thread to capture some of these ( #baaadteambuilding ). While there may be some positive individual impacts from some of these challenge activities, most do not seem to have any real connection to teamwork or organizational improvement initiatives, Most are nowhere close to being tied to improving results.

Years ago, Dave Berry weighed in on Burger King’s toasty experience with a firewalk — see my blog post on that here.

But the OnlineMBA article quoted above is solid. It talks about some different activities that DO have positive organizational impacts, many of which are not costly. Some are a bit off the wall, like hiring a comedy troupe to come in and cause people to laugh. I have actually seen that backfire but that is a whole different discussion. And they talk about doing Personality Tests as a team building exercise –that needs to be more than simply testing and talking. Maybe they could let the comedy troupe do them?

I read about a school board in Tampa that got together with a facilitator to do some team building. They started with Patrick Lenconi’s work on dysfunctional teams and they quickly became dysfunctional, as one board member immediately complained about the lack of trustworthy behavior of the others and the whole session became an emotional shouting match that was over very shortly. (They employed a trainer, and not a trained facilitator, who allowed to group to get too emotionally engaged way too soon and failed horribly at keeping conversations civil and arms-length. Ugh.)

My experience has been that solid team building games, ones that involve and engage people in metaphorical play, work great as tools to involve and engage people in problem solving and teamwork. From the game experiences and observed behaviors, we can easily link back to the real issues needing to be addressed in the organization. And by using a business framework in debriefing, discussing results and alignment and leadership themes from the play, we always avoid that kind of dysfunctional challenge to history within the organization.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine or Innovate & Implement  are fun, controllable, inexpensive and actually link directly to workplace collaboration and performance improvement.

And all of PMC’s products scale up from small group training sessions to very large group events. There are many long-term impacts on participants and the activities get everyone involved and engaged.

Team building exercise, Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

Performance Management Company is the designer and publisher of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine (LDGM) corporate team building simulation. We sell different versions of the game for various uses and will also inexpensively rent the exercise to users for large group teambuilding or organizational events:

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Click the above icon to see a detailed explanatory blog post about renting the exercise or click here to go directly to the information on the shopping cart of our website.

And you can find some testimonials here,

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 blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

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

Workers are the people who are doing the work. Managers are the people managing. Teamwork should have positive impacts and collaboration is more important than competition.

So why do most outdoor activities seem to be highly competitive ones? And why would we want MORE competition within the organization since it is already not helping — “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?

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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.

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 actually 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). And I cannot imagine doing a large group, outside, with any kind of controllable learning outcomes. Here is one we did 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 disasters? Why even allow the potential problems? What is the big benefit of people standing around outside? (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 White Mile movie starring Alan Alda: A corporate team-building trip ends in tragedy in this drama. 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.

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.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here

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this was re-edited and re-published on September 30, 2012.

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