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Category: executive team building exercises (Page 2 of 4)

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?

—————————

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.

Faster Play = Longer Debriefing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, some ideas for speeding play and saving time:

Start on Time –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LD Slideshare Debrief cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR thoughts on all this would be Most Excellent!

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

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, Surprised Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

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

Scott’s blog on People and Performance is here.

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

 

PMC's Team Building Activities – Comparison Matrix

The pressure is on — people want me to bring forth my new game design on strategy implementation, trust and collaboration. This is the one that focuses on capturing Slinks before they turn into Zombies and about gathering the things needed to start a new civilization. (And this scenario is sounding more and more like the real world every day!)

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is still our flagship team building game. We get testimonials like this one on its effectiveness every week.

LDGM Training Consutant Testimonial

The Seven Seas Quest exercise was designed to followup on Dutchman but it is also an outstanding stand-alone exercise in its own right. Innovate & Implement exercise anchors to our Square Wheels tools for involving and engaging people, as do our two Collaboration Journey exercises.

Play of the games is pretty straightforward and the designs solid, based on a lot of feedback from users plus my own propensity to put a LOT of informational resources and detailed delivery materials with each game. I do not think anyone has ever complained about not enough information about presenting and debriefing.

And, the reality is that ALL of my games are focused on simple and straightforward debriefing. The metaphors are always clean and easy to link to issues of organizational performance such as leadership or collaboration or planning.

To help explain the different products, our website has a  “Team Building Games Comparison Chart” that tries to outline the basic keys such as number of players, desired outcomes and applications, benefits and similar. We have games that work for 4 people and most games can scale up for hundreds.

And we even show the actual price (it’s interesting that so few of our competitors will actually post the prices of their games; they seem to be almost embarrassed by the costs) as we feel we have the best cost to benefit ratio in the world for the kinds of products we design, sell and support. Plus, we sell all of our exercises “unemcumbered,” without the per-participant or annual licensing fees so common in the industry for full-blown simulations like ours.

AND, we’ll often customize for free if we think that work will result in a better team building product that we can distribute…

You can see the full Comparison Chart on the PMC website by clicking here – a version is added below but I am guessing that it will not be readable because of its size.

We think the current products carry forward into a lot of different kinds of organizational development initiatives. If you have any questions or ideas, I am easily reached and I answer my own phone (which seems to surprise many callers but is the way it SHOULD be for such important decision making as product selection and team building).

More fun is in store for all as I work up some new designs and I love it that we can design and offer these games that link so well to workplace issues at a low cost and as a great value.  

If you have any issues that you might like to see addressed with an interactive and engaging exercise, please drop me a note. My friend Brad wants to build a game on corporate sustainability for an executive development program he conducts at Furman University. And we have also played with the design of an emergency preparedness exercise.

Comments and suggestions are always appreciated!

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.

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

Team Building with Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

After 22 years in the global organizational improvement marketplace, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine still continues to receive the highest kudos from users. Below is feedback just received from new user Barry Howarth, Director of The Engagement People in the UK, who bought the Pro Version of Dutchman a few weeks ago and had this to say after his first run with it:

The event went brilliantly and the feedback was very positive so I am very happy!! The other tasks worked perfectly and the debrief brought the whole thing together.

“Dutchman” is a truly inspirational piece of work which manages to be fun and engage delegates while driving a massive amount of learning at all levels in an organisation.

Barry has plans to run a sessions of 200 people this month. Meanwhile, Robin Speculand, Strategy Implementation Specialist in Singapore and a long-term user of Dutchman has this to say:

I have been using the Lost Dutchman for 19 years and it never fails as a business simulation to stimulate the participants and create excellent learning. Its close link to business reality makes it a winner as well as the energy it creates. I have run it at 8 pm at night after a full day and the energy is just as good as at 8 am.

While some organizations have cut back on team building kinds of events, we’ve found that Dutchman remains one of the marketplace strongholds for helping organizations build collaborative teams. This is simply because it performs beyond the typical team building fun and games. Its quick playing adventure leads to a strong Debriefing that links game play to organizational issues and makes all the difference in exceeding learning expectations.

You can find a complete overview of the exercise by clicking the icon below:

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine overview slideshow

You can review the framework for Debriefing this and other experiential learning teambuilding exercises by clicking on this icon:

LD Slideshare Debrief cover

If you have the desire to use Dutchman in your organization or to introduce this as a workshop or event to your clients, we’d love to help you make that happen because we know it will make a turnaround difference in the workplace.And it is truly one of the best games for big events, lending itself to aligning large groups to organizational goals or to generate ideas for implementation.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

By using Lost Dutchman in a training and development event, you’ll be giving people a learning experience that has been used to create positive impact, worldwide since 1993, one that continues to exceed expectations because of how well it works to cause performance and organizational improvement to take place.

I guarantee that the Dutchman exercise does everything we say it does and I have 22 years of customers and testimonials to support that guarantee. Please also feel free to connect directly with me to ask questions or to get clarification on the offer or the exercise or any of our other products and services.

You can find a link to a compendium of blog posts about using the exercise and in presenting large group team building events here

WrightPatt LD Play

And let me add one other thought. I really make a big deal out of client support. I will go WAY out of my way to help someone, whether is is customizing some of the materials for a special focus or simply answering questions. I developed and did a webcast on facilitating the game for a very large group of people who were running the game all over the US — we had 50 people on the program and I did it from a McDonald’s half way down to Tampa since I was on the road when it was most convenient. Purchase a game from me and you get as much support as you need! Dutchman is MY baby!

So, please feel free to connect directly with me at Scott@SquareWheels.com or 864-292-8700 to ask questions or to get clarification on the offer or the exercise or any of our other products and services.

For the FUN of It!

Scott DebriefDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant with programs delivered in 38 countries for 30+ years.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com or 864-292-8700

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

 

A Compendium of Posts on Team Building Events and Design

This blog now contains around 500 posts, with many of these covering various aspects of designing group team building events and impacting experiential learning and development.

Some of these simply anchor to my team building exercise focused on collaboration and leadership – The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. But many of them focus on the general issues around designing and delivering effective large group events focused on meeting desired outcomes and engaging and involving people for workplace improvement.

Large Group Team Building Event

With this post, I wanted to generate a compendium of posts around some of the key issues faced when designing one of these expensive programs. Bring executives into one venue, housing and feeding them for a day or two, and bringing in presenters and doing all the logistical work to manage the venue can costs hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Optimizing the design of the event for maximum impact and results simply makes good sense.

So, here are some resources and ideas for optimizing your successes:

Large Group, Off-Site Team Building Event Ideas

Some thoughts on teamwork and alignment and choices you can make in the design of events to maximize desired outcomes. It is focused on experiential learning, and avoiding senior manager presentations where there are other alternatives for sharing that data.

Having an Off-Site Company Meeting? Ideas for Success

This is probably the most detailed article in my blog around the general issues of meeting success for off-site company events. If offers up a number of bullets on structural factors for optimizing impacts and includes the writings of other experts.

Thoughts on Hiring the Right Presenter for a large event

Look to find a presenter who can positively impact your people and your business, not a basketball coach,  funster or politico, or choose an experiential exercise to involve and engage people in workplace performance improvement.

Team Building and Collaboration for Performance Improvement – Large Event Management

This is a short post about involving and engaging the senior managers in the delivery of team building, so as to help build trust and ownership for organizational change and improvement.

You CAN herd frogs! Thoughts on Strategy Implementation

Some thoughts around structuring the actions and activities to generate behavioral change after the program. A short activity you can do with groups plus some ideas for debriefing any large group activities.

Implementing Changes after Team Building Events

Some thoughts on designing worksheets and approaches to collecting ideas for organizational performance post-session, focused on using Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine as the main tool for engagement.

Team Building and Large Event Management Ideas

Some general thoughts on the use of simulations like Lost Dutchman with the idea that more and more companies are choosing to hold these meetings in 2014 than in the past few years

I trust that this compendium may be of benefit to you in your planning. If you have any questions about how you might package or reframe your large company event, call me and I will certainly share some ideas.

The goal is to generate involvement and alignment, and to generate some commitment toward doing things differently to impact results.

Lastly, remember this simple thought about involvement:

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

You need to do things in a way that generates ownership in order to expect any real commitment to change.

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 People and Performance is here.

 

Team Building Events with Large Groups – organizational improvement ideas

We can improve the impact our expenditures of large teambuilding events if we carefully consider some success factors in generating ideas for innovation and implementation. Our tendency is to repeat what we have done before, and the goal of this article is to simply provide some new anchoring ideas for doing things differently and generating more impact.

There has been a great reduction in those “All Hands” kinds of meetings over the last 10 years. Once upon a time, one had to play a year ahead to find hotel ballroom space for meetings and make site visits and tour facilities; today, it is a lot less difficult. Being online makes all the difference and makes selection and programming communications really simple.

Back then, hotels were pretty arrogant about controlling all things and having complicated one-sided contracts for everything but today, one finds them a lot more flexible and interested in obtaining your business. Times change and their business has become a lot more competitive…

Herein are some key thoughts about making your company events more effective. And here are a couple of my older posts around some of these same issues and opportunities:

Here is an article about selecting a presenter who will involve and engage your people in an event that can actually change behavior and generate momentum for improvement. There are a lot of links in that to other articles and resources about organizing resources, also.

Here are some ideas about generating engagement and momentum for implementing change following a large group event

Here is an article about improving teamwork and collaboration in a large event

A post on some of the ISSUES with outdoor training types of events and some cautionary thoughts about anchoring to learning and change

Frankly, there seem to be a lot of strange and sometimes seemingly irrelevant things done in the name of team building and organizational development. The reality says that if you hang out at a large hotel and wander about the meeting area and you will see a lot of people sitting, just sitting there inactive when the doors are opened, as if they feel relieved that they successfully avoided things.

This observation is supporting the reality of Death By Powerpoint, or at least death by non-involvement and non-engagement. (One wonders why there are not required governmental warnings about deep vein thrombosis for sitting so long at some of these sessions!)

People at Onlinemba.com came across my blog while researching Team Building and sent me a link to one of their articles called, “How the Top Companies Take On Team Building:

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.

Yeah, it seems that a LOT of people realize that we can choose to do things differently for our meetings. With technology, so much of that data-stuff that executives like to live-present can be handled in screenshares or webcasts. For the most part, they are not asking for ideas or suggestions but merely sharing data. Face-to-face is an expensive way to push data at people.

I’ve posted up before on some of the more ridiculous or hard to seriously consider team activities such as golf, paintball and the infamous fire walking — and I just saw a twitter post suggesting that “detoxing” could be done as a teamwork improvement activity. (Seriously!)

Maybe there are some positive individual impacts from doing those kinds of things but I just do not see the teambuilding aspects unless we get into the discussion about peer pressure forcing people to do things that they don’t really want to do. (Sorry, I meant “encouraging” and not coercion or forcing people to do things in the above…)

Even comedic writer Dave Berry weighed in on Burger King’s toasty experience grilling their own managers with their firewalking activity — see my blog post on that here.

Many different activities DO have a variety of positive organizational impacts, and many of these are not costly. Some are a bit off the wall, like hiring a comedy troupe to come in and cause people to laugh at issues and reframe improvement opportunities (if they do not offend the senior managers too much!). And there are literally dozens of different online surveys and Personality Inventories with linkages to team behaviors. These can be framed as a team building exercise if there was more to it than simply discussions. Maybe they could let the comedy troupe do the personality testing?

In my way of thinking, I will simply continue to be designing and offering games such as The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine or Innovate & Implement that are fun, controllable, inexpensive and actually link directly to workplace collaboration and performance improvement.

We know that it has a lot of long-term impacts on participants and gets everyone involved and engaged. AND, it can be used for very large groups of 200 or even more.

Team building exercise, Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

click here to read more about the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

In addition to selling the exercise to trainers and consultants, we also rent the exercise to people interested in an inexpensive, yet powerful large group event. If you click on the link below, you can find a clear explanation as to the frameworks for rental as well as our prices. It is inexpensive and powerful. Click here if you would like to see a few testimonials.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

If you have any questions, please feel free to chat me up. I will offer my ideas and frameworks to you,

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.

Debriefing Team Building Games – Some Ideas and Reactions

A few weeks ago, I posted up a 35-slide Slideshare compendium of some of the main debriefing themes we use, anchored to our teambuilding exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. The goal was to share how the exercise connects to organizational development issues and opportunities as well as to illustrate how we feel team building exercises of ALL kinds should work.

LD Slideshare Debrief cover

Dutchman focuses on aligning teams and players to shared goals and on generating collaboration between the tabletops as some of its unique competencies. It also links to leadership, motivation, strategic planning and project management themes.

Once I uploaded that file to Slideshare, I sent the link out to some of our existing consultant and trainer users of the exercise for their comments and reactions. All were positive and a couple of people offered up some good frameworks. Raju Madhaven, who used the game to train thousands of people when he was with Wipro in India (and who is now out consulting and training with his purchase of it) shared some good comments that stimulated me to blog about this:

  1. You can consider including the Tuckman model of Teaming – Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing (slide 21/22)
  2. Asking the question – Does your organization reward collaborative thinking? What are the ways in which it can reward? (slide 20 & 26)
  3. Slide 23 – While the poem is great- I wish the readers don’t misinterpret the visual! (it shows a driver and his vehicle on a mountain flat with no way to go up/down!
  4. I use the text in slide 33 a lot- very effective

So, let me embellish his comments with some of my own:

1. The Tuckman Model of Teaming is a very simple expressive model of four stages of team development: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. It is often useful in describing how people feel when they are challenged as a group to make a decision but it is not a tight model nor one that has proven itself as an organizational tool.

In referencing that model, Raju was referring to the slides that I use to express the common reactions of teams to the challenge and the need to go from differing ideas to a shared consensus in order for the team to operate efficiently and effectively:

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 21 and 22 60

The tabletops do move from discord and disagreement to a readiness to operate, and they accomplish this in the 15 minutes of allotted Planning Time before the start of the game. That simply demonstrates that people CAN reach a decision and work as a team under time pressures, if the goals and objectives are shared and the mechanics of how to operate are known.

2. Collaboration – Raju likes to ask questions about how organizations deal with the culture of collaboration — is it supported or is the culture more competitive. Much of the Dutchman game design supports the measured benefit of collaboration, since we can track how sharing information and resources helps to optimize overall results.

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 20 and 26 60

The issue of rewarding collaboration is a difficult one, I think, since the addition of extrinsic rewards generally increases complexity of the interactions (do you reward all team members for the extra efforts of a few of them or do you reward all the teams participating in an organizational improvement initiative when only some of them were major contributors and some may have faced legitimate roadblocks like a lack of funding for their work. I am a Big Believer in using intrinsic reward and self-satisfaction to push behavior rather than the extrinsic rewards to recognize success. Some balance is certainly needed!

Collaboration is an obvious benefit to organizations, but the way that we often structure measurement and feedback systems is to generate competition rather than teamwork. In many cases, the term “Interdepartmental Collaboration” represents an oxymoron (words that do not go together) and we even call different operating units “Divisions” in many large organizations, somehow expecting divided organizations to function together.

The consulting and alignment and leadership development of these aspects of organizational structure are a difficult issue to address in many organizational cultures, simply because they have always been competitive in their orientation. Dutchman accomplishes this better than anything we are aware of…

We have a number of consultant users framing the Dutchman exercise into one for strategy implementation and restructuring and similar massive organizational change initiatives.

3. Intrinsic Motivation – I have long used this illustration, along with a body language physical exercise, to stress the important feeling of success that comes from accomplishment.

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 23

So, I am using the concept of pinnacle or reaching the top as the anchor point for the image, not the fact that they are “stuck” or any such thing.

In my trainings, I sometimes have people stand up and then raise their arms over their heads. I ask them how that feels and responses are uniformly positive. Then, I have them droop their arms down and round their shoulders forward and put their heads to look down and I ask them how that feels. Routinely, they will say things like “low energy” or “depressing” or “heavy.” Then, I repeat the arms over their head, have them cheer or jump up and down or similar and then tell them that they always have a choice in terms of how to react to situations!

So, for me, the cartoon illustrates a success state, a state of accomplishment, and I discuss things from that perspective.

I am not thinking that anyone would not see that from the way I debrief that slide! You can use that kind of framing in most any training, I would guess. You might also note that the vehicle in the image has round wheels, but that is a whole different conversation!

4. My two simple ending or closing statements:

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 32 and 33 60

I like to anchor my sessions in the concept of choice and choices. We all get to choose our reactions to things and having a more diversified set of choices or considered alternatives helps us to choose better.  Ownership is important, since

Nobody ever washes a rental car

Click on above to read Scott’s blog on ownership involvement

All of our games and toolkits are designed to generate active involvement, a sense of ownership and commitment from the resulting discussions, and a set of considered alternative choices for future decisions.

I hope that you have found this framework useful and that maybe a new idea has been generated about improving the impact of your training and organizational development initiatives,

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.

 

 

 

 

Two new testimonials about The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding exercise

Most of my posts try to be informational and instructive and I love adding cartoons and poems and haiku and all that for spice. But occasionally, it is simply useful to me to post up some good testimonials that I can offer up to people who are interested in our products and services.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is our flagship exercise for building teamwork and inter-organizational collaboration. It works great at every level of an organization as a tool for leadership development and organizational alignment or even for implementing strategy and change. It is easy to deliver, inexpensive, reusable, and very effective.

Below are two testimonials, one from a long-term consultant user of the exercise and one from a client.  Clicking on the LDGM testimonial images will take you to different slideshare overviews of the exercise and its impacts – the top one is about pricing options and the second shows links to issues of organizational development and how the exercise can be debriefed.

Speculand Testimonial LDGM 100

and

TF Testimonial LDGM Helal 100

I will add this one, from a senior line manager who rented the LDGM exercise from us and who chose to rent it again after she changed jobs and had 50 new reports — she wanted to involve and engage with her in a session on alignment, one designed to demonstrate her leadership style and her organizational goals in a fun and engaging way:

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

We are really proud of how well the Lost Dutchman exercise works for organizational development and alignment issues. Please contact me if I can offer any additional information or assistance,

For the FUN of It!

Facilitation tools and engagementDr. 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.

 

 

Corporate Team Building Events – some ideas and frameworks

Large group events and team building are themes I’ve written quite a lot about.  Some focus on the benefits and impacts of my Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise while others are much more general, discussing different aspects of involving and engaging and aligning people toward shared goals and objectives.

What I’ve now started doing is to use List.ly as a place for myself and others to abstract different kinds of programs and information in hopes of making general access easier. In the Corporate Team Building Events list, which you can find by clicking on the words or on the icon below, you can go to a single place with a variety of information.

Large Group Corporate Team Building Event

If you want to add other informational resources, go for it! It will help that list achieve more of its goals. My plan is to continue to add ideas to the list.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman Debrief

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

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

Teamwork Works! Teambuilding has Positive Impacts.

There have been a variety of articles and posts on different leadership development groups taking the position that teamwork does not work to improve organizational performance.

Huh? Seriously?

I would be hard pressed to think of one situation where some kind of teamwork wasn’t necessary to produce an optimal result in some relatively complex situation. Teams and teamwork are how things get done, so taking a position that team building does not have any impact on results and performance seems a bit goofy, right? There are troubles with teams and they do not always work smoothly, and creating a team is not always the best solution to solving a problem, but it is certainly a good one, in general. There is no question that diversity of perspective and ideas gives a better result on most problems in most situations.

Yeah, sometimes we have situations like this:

Square Wheels and competitionbut that is not to say that teams do not work!

But maybe it is the kind of team building training that is the issue behind few observable improvements? Maybe there are some less effective approaches in play.

Last night, I saw an advertisement for Booking.com that was about “The Annual Company Retreat” — It is pretty much a hoot! Click on the image below to see this 30-second commercial (by Booking.com).

Annual company paintball teambuilding retreat booking dot comI think this pretty clearly shows how a LOT of people see teambuilding combined with paintball — does teambuilding need pain, suffering, losers and winners?

Hey! I will admit a vested interest in the issue, since I design and sell interactive exercises focused on issues of engagement and collaboration between teams. And there IS a lot of crap training out there calling itself teamwork — my particular pet peeves are things like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes and other similar “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together, interacting to define things to improve, bonding together to fix problems, etc. Sure, the events themselves are challenging, but does river rafting really build a team of people focused on improving the business?

And Golf as team building? Gimme a break — Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play is crucial to their overall success (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole, but not during play, most certainly. Bowling? Maybe. Cooking? Maybe, if one is running a big commercial kitchen in a restaurant or hotel…

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations, IMHO. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then expect people to work together. In so many organizations, and lots of research supporting this, many of the people are not engaged and many are DIS-engaged. One might not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people.

But we can motivate them. People want to feel successful and not be scared by the risks of performing. We need to get them to a new place, mentally.

Motivate people through success

In high performing workplaces, you will see a collaborative culture where people work together to handle issues and solve problems. Granted, that approach may not work too well in places like Real Estate, Mortgage Lending or Stock Market Sales, but we do see a strong need for collaboration and commitment where things like production or product design or customer service come into play.

Take any group of people, give them some common goals, measure them on shared performance and allow them the ability to help each other and you have the basics for a workplace situation where teamwork will arise. Then, do some activity that demonstrates the benefit of collaboration on the overall results — something like, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Then, debrief that activity and discuss the choices that people made along with the choices they COULD have made, link it to the issues they see in their own workplace, and allow them to make commitments to each other (peer support) and you are highly likely to see improvement (if there is a bit of followup after the session).

Think of all the activities that we engage in where teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment — sports is but one endeavor. And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Celebration plane color green

Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. And improvement is a continuous activity.

Sure, individuals can excel, but only through collaboration and engagement and motivation can we get a group of people to high levels of accomplishment and performance that they can celebrate and then continue to impact.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman Debrief

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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

Team Building and Large Event Management Ideas

My network of consultant users is sharing the idea that the “large team building event business” which has been pretty sparse is starting to pick up once again. There seems to be renewed interest by companies in hosting effective team building events for their management teams to help refocus on issues of business improvement or interdepartmental collaboration. The theme of strategy implementation has inherent interest, as does general teambuilding to improve interdepartmental collaboration.

This is good for us because we offer one of the most effective simulations out there for helping to focus people in the theme of optimizing results through better communications, alignment and planning. We are also well-positioned to build on the successes of many of the outdoor training or challenge courses that set the stage for less work on individual learning and more work on organizational improvement.

LDGM LinkedIn PMC Page Logo 50

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine fits a unique position in the marketplace. It is inexpensive to own and use, with only a one-time purchase price and no annual fees or licensing requirements or similar. A corporation like Wipro can run it with 30,000+ employees with the additional cost of printing paper, for example (true!). And I just got a testimonial from a consultant user who has had the game in continuous use for 19 years (that even shocked me!).

And people are reporting that their organizations have not been doing much with teamwork, sometimes for many years. They battened down the hatches on those kinds of developmental events a few years ago and just have not moved toward re-energizing their people or refocusing or realignment. The time seems to be approaching when some solid OD will have clear benefits.

If you might be interested in a solid developmental activity, you can rent the exercise from us, custom-packaged to meet your desired outcomes. You are dealing with the principle designer and owner of the company, so you get hands-on support at a high level.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Lots of people look to do team building within their organizations and Dutchman is one of those exercises that works well with small and large groups.

Normally, my conversations are generally with consultants and trainers who have been doing these kinds of things on a smaller scale and are looking for some new tools and approaches. Many of those conversations were with the, “been there and done that” crowd who were simply looking for some new and better tools than what has been out there in the marketplace.

We also just put together an agreement with Challenge Korea, an outdoor-based team building company who is going to begin using Dutchman, in Korean, and working to assist the larger companies there. It will be a good product addition to their current offerings, and will enable them to build more collaboration and followup implementation with their clients.

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman DebriefSo, it has been fun to put my Coaching Hat on once again, along with my Event Planner Hat, and offer up some ideas for optimizing impacts for these new clients.We just had one organization run Dutchman with 9 different groups of college accounting students all over the US, with sizes from 140 up to 250 — and with great reported successes.

The exercise is about getting help along with information and on collaborating and sharing information and resources to optimize results. But what leaders see are people choosing NOT to get available planning information, to compete rather than collaborate among tabletops and to choose to not get help from the game leaders who are there to help! The messages are pretty obvious and the debriefings are most excellent.

Anyway, it is really neat to see these kinds of large events start happening again, 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 yourself!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. 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.

Herding Cats and The Moose Joke: Moving 50 feet further than last year…

It really IS like the EDS commercial years ago about Herding Cats!

And it is hard to maintain attention and do good follow through when you have zillions of distractions and tons of details.

A long time ago, I put together a slideshow that illustrated my Moose Joke. This is a session closing story that I have been using to end most of my workshops for the past 30 years. It is a really great story. And, as I do fewer and fewer executive team building sessions or workshops these days (by design!), I thought to use the internet, the website and the blogs to share the storyline.

So, I created a powerpoint and then finessed it into a slideshare program that I also used for a screencast, which I narrated and edited and put into YouTube.

You can find that video narrative here:

Moose Joke 50 feet yellow icon

The video is not me simply telling the joke but is designed to teach you how to USE the story to make your key learning points. You can also find the slideshare program that offers up a good bit of detail by clicking on the following image:

The Moose Joke Story for Closing Presentations

These are two solid resources that I hope you find interesting. I will simply say that I have not once ever seen a session close with anything as powerful as a metaphor. You make all your key learning points on your desired outcomes and you reinforce the reality of implementing change and the need to feel successful to keep things going. It is also about teamwork and commitment.

Have FUN out there!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman Debrief

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

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

Lost Dutchman – Thoughts about Day One of the exercise

One of my new users ran The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for the first time and had a question about the design of the game board and how it all plays out with the weather. I thought that my thinking about how this should work and why we designed it this way might be useful for other users. Here is what he said:

If you look at the first cell after Apache Junction, it is connected on all three routes!

  • This will allow a team to move from one route to the other without having the teams to come back to base – Is my understanding correct?
  • In that case, shouldn’t the weather pattern be the same on day one for all the routes?

I understand that this is a bit tricky, especially when teams can move out on Day 1, 2 or 3 based on them taking the videos and I would love to hear your thoughts on the same.

Here is the game board and the area in question:
Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine Apache Junction Map

And here is my thinking about how this works and why:

YES, if they leave Apache junction, the start up point, they go into a block that surrounds AJ and that connects to all three routes.

Leaving on Day One, with the rainy weather pattern on that day, they get punished for not planning and getting a Video. They use up an extra Fuel Card and they can see that will happen before they commit to actually leaving.  There is no way around that weather — they are OUT and in a block that is “muddy” in how it is drawn with the light brown dirt and the squiggly lines.

The rules say that this Mud does NOT occur on the High Country or Plateau Trails. But if you look at the map, the signs marking those trails start on the NEXT block and not this one.

Having one large surrounding block enables a team to take ANY route on Day 2 — they can change their mind at no cost and simply go a different way. If they had planned to go on the Low Country Trail and Day One is MUDDY, one might expect a logical team to question that decision (they just got some new negative data!!) and take another route. This, of course, never happens!!

They could also get information from teams that get The Videos and choose to go up to the Mine using the High Country or Plateau Trails on Day 2.

The weather for Day One is the same for all three routes — Yes. Day One is Day One and they are in a block that is colored muddy, lined as muddy, and is clearly their first step out of AJ. If they stay at AJ, they consume 1 and 1. If they leave it is 1 and 2.

PLUS, there is Rule Number One

Rule Number One and Rule Number Two

The reality of being in charge is that the weather and the consumption of resources IS what you TELL THEM it is! Some might argue. Some might simply be confused so you explain the rules again. Some might try to cheat and save a fuel. But it is simple: If they leave on Day One, the cost is an extra Fuel Card!

There is nothing “tricky” about any of this. It is very simple and straightforward. It is highly congruent with my thinking and the benefits of planning to their individual team success and to the overall success of the group…

Note that you can always simply do what makes the best sense for the expedition at any time. That is simply good leadership of any expedition in any workplace – do what makes sense. Having a Rule Number One is certainly helpful! (grin)

There are a number of similarly elegant little nuances to the map, like the movements around the Supply Depot near the Mine and the use of a Turbo for movement there as well as the actual number of days from AJ to the mine with the other resources available. Some of these features were simply the result of luck on my part and some were thought out — this one with the design of the block surrounding AJ was a planned one!

We think that this game is pretty tight and easy to deliver. Over 20 years, we think that we have very congruent rules that make it easy to tie to themes of project management, strategic planning, team collaboration and inter-departmental collaboration, and to all sorts of issues around organizational alignment, leadership development and strategy implementation.

It also seems to generate the same kinds of play and debriefing discussions. The above was from a user in India, but it could have been Germany or Dubai.

Oh, did I mention that a major goal is to also have fun?

You can find more about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine by clicking on this link that takes you to our overview on Slideshare.

Slideshare Dutchman icon

Clicking on the link that is the image below will take you to an overview of the games on our website.

LD What did you learn

You can also see the many articles in the blog about the game by clicking on my image below.

For the Fun of It!

Scott LDDr. 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.

TeamBuilding – We judge ourselves by our intentions

Inspiration is a weird thing. I was cleaning out a lot of image files last night and earlier today and I came across a folder I called, Animal Giggles. I have no recollection as to where they came from since the file names are all things like these:

Google ChromeScreenSnapz003

Having been reasonably productive all day, I decided to open them up and see what they were. On inspection, they are from icanhas.cheezburger.com/ so I will ask them permission to post by posting a couple here. It is a site of funny cat pictures and similar (I linked them).

from http://icanhas.cheezburger.com/

“Do I look like the bluebird of happiness?”, “Go on, without me,” and “Clyde never suspected the local pigeons would have Tasers”

So, of course I immediately made the link from those silly cartoons to the real workplace issues of teamwork and collaboration, to leadership and trust and to the alignment of work groups to desired organizational results. How you might ask?

Because we are attributing desired behavior in the cartoons to others, in this case small animals.

In the workplace, we routinely make all sorts of assumptions about others including themes of motivation and competency and collaboration. But those are simply guesses. One of the quotes I have liked for a long time is this one that I recall derives from the NLP literature:

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

That bridges me over to team building. The above quote is the mental key. Understanding the issues of personal intentions versus behavior towards others is where the above cartoons pushed my thinking…

In our exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we set a goal of “Mining as much gold as we can” and of maximizing ROI. The game is about the different tabletops planning and executing those plans. It is about optimizing results with available resources, with a very obvious situation where collaboration would be of benefit to generating results. Teams can choose to share information and resources, as well as ideas, as an integral part of the design. They can choose to collaborate in many ways.

But what they often choose to do is compete. We tell them that
the game is about collaboration but they choose to compete.

In order to win, they will intentionally withhold resources from other teams so that they can beat them, sometimes seemingly encouraging that other team to perish.

You can see more about Lost Dutchman and how it works by clicking on the link below:

Slideshare Dutchman icon

The name of another one of our team building exercises is The Collaboration Journey. It says so right on the game board. And new users are often concerned that showing “Collaboration” on the board will negatively influence results. Well, my comment is that you can be rest assured that they will NOT pay a whole lot of attention to that and will often not collaborate but compete to win!

10

People in the workplace, like in our schools, most naturally tend to work toward competing to win, even when it serves to sub-optimize overall results. And they will often use Darwinism and “survival of the fittest” to help explain those choices, even though social societies benefit so much more from collaboration. Survival of the fittest is a concept that focuses on benefits to the social group much more so than to an individual.

All I can say is that it sure is fun to run a game and then focus on the results of that game as driven by the choices that people make, especially when it is totally clear that inter-organizational collaboration will offer a much more positive impact overall. Our organizations are ALL like that — collaboration is key.

And reflection is likely to help generate some improvements; that is why we play the games!

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

Fore the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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

(* I actually tried to look up a source for this and the web is apparently attributing this to Ian Percy, but I’ve heard this for a lot longer than he could possibly be speaking on these issues. More likely Robert Dilts or one of the other key people in the NLP community, I might guess…)

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