Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: large group team building events (Page 1 of 3)

Simple Bad Teambuilding

My associate in Singapore posted up his comments in a LinkedIn group post and I got copied. The posting consultant in India put it up for thoughts comments (and there are almost 200 comments!). He initially said:

Client: We are having an offsite for our leadership team. They all work in silos and there is a trust issue. We want to communicate to them that they should all trust each other and work together. Only then we would be able to achieve our roles.

Me: Why do not you tell them that?

Client: We want a facilitator to bring these issues subtly and indirectly. Our CEO does not want to address this directly. May be you could do this through some games or activities. We are also talking to couple of other organisations like yours and want to see who offer the best solution.

Me: I took leadership team of a client three times in two years to Rishikesh and to address trust and silo issues I made them do whitewater rafting. They enjoyed the rafting. After two years I learned that they became very good in rafting but the trust issues remained. So no indirect approach to the trust and silo issues.

I will pass this opportunity. Lets work together some other time.

If you did not notice this, let me point it out again:

“…to address trust and silo issues I made them do whitewater rafting. They enjoyed the rafting. After two years I learned that they became very good in rafting but the trust issues remained.

Well, duh! Really. People on this executive team actually expected that a consultant-led raft trip would improve corporate functioning? Why do we experienced consultants somehow believe that a paintball or lasertag event, or a Firewalk or go-kart race is going to transfer anything to the issues of improving organizational performance results? We see people learning how to crew an 8-oared rowing shell, or learning how to climb and rappel, or even going parachuting or hang-gliding. Neat! Fun!! But real teambuilding?

These kinds of team bonding activities are actually expected to change organizational results? Seriously? (And how is it going to drive that change, through cognitive dissonance or improved leadership or impacts on intrinsic motivation to do something differently?)

Why not choose to do team building to accomplish team building?

We just reached our 25th anniversary of selling The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding simulation. You can see a Press Release with details here.

And we will guarantee that using the exercise as designed will generate solid discussions about what specific changes need to be generated it one follows the suggested line(s) of debriefing to link to issues and opportunities. You WILL generate discussions — and what you choose to do subsequent to that program will drive the implementation of results.

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

 

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.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas. He is also known for his Square Wheels® approach to innovation and engagement.

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

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

 

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.

12 Great Strategic Board Games – by Joe Cole (with Scott Simmerman)

Entertainment is as important as work because it keeps your life balanced and in this manner you are able to work in a more effective way. In this modern technological world where we can find everything on our mobile screens – ranging from video games to social media services – sometimes we want to escape from the glittering mobile screens and demand something that is truly different. Most of us cannot even imagine that entertainment also exists outside our mobiles even if we want to play games, and these games are called board games. Board games are interesting and people still play these games because when you play board games, you take some time off from your mobile screens.

Guest blogger Joe Cole and I have collaborated to talk about our collection of what we think are 12 of the best strategic board games for business performance improvement.

Collaboration Journey game icon for teambuilding and Square Wheels

Collaboration Journey – a Square Wheels game

CJ comes in two versions, a simple and a complex one. In Simple CJ (CJ1), tabletops of 3 to 4 people plan a journey forward to collaborate and move through a series of constraints. While there can be a winner, the game is about getting ALL of the teams to move forward efficiently and effectively. Teams use dice to replace their Square Wheels with round ones so their wagons can roll faster. In Complex CJ (CJ2) teams must move their Wagon Pushers on and off wagons in order to gain round wheels in a fairly complex series of events. It is designed to take about 90 minutes to play and debrief.

Innovate & Implement – a Square Wheels Game

Innovate & Implement teambuilding game using Square Wheels

In I&I, teams speed around the game board gaining access to problems and using their resources to solve them. The idea is to collect all four round wheels so that they can implement change in their organizations. Training is an option, and the Trainer and the Manager chase teams around hoping to get them into the training class, while players tend to try to avoid that (just like they do in the workplace!). It is designed to take about 90 minutes to play and debrief. A speedy replay can also be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of practice and learning on quality of performance.

7 Wonders

It is a very interesting and strategic game which is also very easy to play. The game won’t take more than 30 minutes to complete one round, in case you are a busy person. The overall theme and gameplay are very simple, but you will have to learn the rules of the game first which are bit difficult and confusing, but as you play on, the rules become more and more obvious.

Coyote

It is a bluffing game and is very simple. 6 people can play the game at the same time, and one round won’t take longer than ten minutes. The game is based on numbers; each person carries a number on its head, and the only number he can’t see is his own. The game is not as linear as it seems because there are other puzzling cards like negatives, multipliers, and zeroes etc.

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica is a very difficult and complex game when compared with the other board games, but its difficulty also makes it very interesting. If you have watched the TV series, then there won’t be any difficulty in playing it because the game truly captures the essence of the TV series. The real charm of the game is that it is a cooperative game, and in the game, two or more people aren’t on your side and you don’t know about it until they reveal themselves.

Balderdash

If you have played the game Dixit, then you will know the rules of Balderdash instantly because both games have almost the same rules. The main theme of the game is that one person reads a word from any card aloud, and all the other members are asked to write the mock definitions of the word. The person who has announced the word then reads all the mock definitions aloud including the original one.

Smallworld

This game is all about tactics, if you play tactically you win; the game is as simple as that. All you have to do is get more and more gold on the board by controlling different areas which are mentioned on the board. You can only take different areas under your control only if you have greater army than your opponent. Special abilities, as well as different pairings, also make the game really interesting.

Dominion

It is a very simple and straight game and lacks any complexity whatsoever. Two main things in the game are coins and kingdom cards. You start playing the game if you have both these things. The main theme of the game is to get as many kingdoms as possible.

Agricola

It is a very interesting game with agricultural touch. The main theme of the game is that you own a house and some land as well. You will have to grow different things on the land you possess in order to feed your growing family. What matters most in the game is planning; if you don’t plan properly, your opponent will snatch all your resources.

Atlantis

It is a strategy game which 2-4 players can play at the same time. The main theme of the game is that you have to get off the sinking island of Atlantis. The game is highly imaginative and you can place the card patterns in what way you like.

The Golden City

It is a game for 3 or four players and features many adventures. When you start the game, you play as a settler on an island at the center of which there is a golden city. The primary goal of the game is to get the golden city by establishing a trade. This game can be purchased from Groupon, use Groupon coupon at checkout to save.

Set

The rules of the game are very simple, yet the game is very puzzling. The game is all about pattern recognition and you will have to find different patterns.

 

a team building simulation exercose

Lastly, let me add a short note about our flagship team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. You can find plenty of blog posts about it and we note that it is recognized as one of the best teambuilding simulations in the world, based on user comments. Dutchman focuses on collaboration, leadership and alignment and can play with hundreds of people in tabletops of 5-6,

This guest post is written by Joe Cole, he works at Coupon Goo.

Some additional comments were added by me,

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

 

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

 

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

Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine: The BEST Teambuilding Exercise?

I asked my customers for their feedback and they shared it. These are people who have purchased my teambuilding exercise and have used it, some for dozens of years. What they told me in the survey was Most Excellent, confirming of my 20+ years of developing this simulation for global use by consultants and trainers.

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

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. Half reported that their very first delivery was “wonderfully successful” while nearly everyone else reported success.

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 was this one: 30 people (55%) responded that Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is “the best overall team building exercise I have used.”

Fully 100% 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

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Note: we would love to engage in a discussion about team building simulations, costs, and all that so please feel free to comment.

—————–

The specific wording of the questions on value appeared as follows:

10 – The purchase or rental of the exercise represented an excellent value to my organization.

11 – I saw desired changes in behavior after the session ended, back on the job.

12 – The exercise linked well to our issues of workplace collaboration and performance management.

13 – As far as I am aware, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine represents the best value for a teambuilding exercise in the global marketplace for business simulations and designed exercises.

14 – If I moved to another company, I would consider purchasing the exercise if they had the need for improving teamwork, communications, engagement or leadership.

Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine Team Building Exercise – Survey Results

We just completed a user survey, following up with the owners of our team building exercise to get their reactions to the game in the context of its value and impact. Given the complexity of the world and the difficulty of reaching people, we were pleasantly surprised to get over 50 responses to our questions, along with a variety of solid comments about the exercise.

We have been selling and supporting The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine worldwide since 1993, and we are really pleased to get so much confirmation from our users as to its value. Respondents were experienced team building trainers and consultants; 36 respondents had used 6 or more different team building exercises. And they LIKE to use Dutchman: 31% (16 of 52) report they have run the game more than 10 times while most (84%) have run the exercise two or more times.

a team building simulation exercose

Deliveries were successful from the git-go, with 22 of 44 people reported that their first delivery of LDGM “was wonderfully successful” while most found that first play simply “successful.” Few had any problems or issues using the exercise in their sessions, and some people use the exercise routinely for senior management groups (like Robin Speculand) or very large sessions of more than 100 people.

Most people thought Dutchman very solid and useful. And remember that these people are generally experienced trainers and consultants, globally. If they went to another company, 45 out of 47 people said that they would consider purchasing the exercise again for improving teamwork, communications, engagement or leadership. (I will admit that I really do like that number!)

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 (50%) said this was TRUE! Only 9 people said False, which given the broad experiences of our users, is fantastic. Comments were all supportive of our design, packaging and pricing.

  • 29 people (56%) responded that Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is “the best overall team building exercise I have used.”
  • And, fully 100% would recommend the game to others for purchase and use, with 63% saying they would recommend it to ANY trainer or consultant.

As to my support support, 100% agreed that I was readily reachable and available to answer any or all questions they had! That absolutely confirms what I have been trying to do for the past 30 years – be seen as very responsive and supportive for the use of any and all of our training materials. Few developers are known for offering that level of support, but most of my ideas for new exercises or delivery frameworks also come from those discussions. It is the reason we remain a small company and a reason that I seem to always be online! (grin)

As to value, two thirds (67%) strongly agreed that the purchased of the exercise represented an excellent value to their organizations and 11 merely agreed, with only 5 people sharing a neutral response. And 96% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that, “the exercise linked well to our issues of workplace collaboration and performance management” with one person being neutral.

WrightPatt LD Play

As to representing a Best Value for a teambuilding exercise in the global marketplace, 19 people strongly agreed and 15 others agreed. Again, we framed that question up as a real test of perceived value and even the neutral responses were supportive with their comments!

It seems we are doing pretty well out there, and no one would actually name an exercise they thought was better than Dutchman.

In a word: Cool!

If you have any questions or thoughts or testimonials, we would love to hear from you,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games Scott small picand 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 themes of People and Performance is here.

rent a large group team building game

Holiday Teambuilding Meeting Thoughts and Ideas

Rethinking Your Company’s Holiday Celebration Event – Thoughts and Ideas for Maximizing Impact

As the holiday season is fast approaching. many organizations are into their planning for their holiday parties and meetings — sometimes with the hope of improving communications and collaboration and maybe having a bit of fun at company expense. And why not, since people do need to come together to improve working relationships and since the daily workplace these days offers so few “water cooler conversations” and a lot more of the less personal “emails across the cubicle” kinds of connecting.

Two relationship things also stand out insofar as impacts on business results:

  • According to Towers Watson, highly-engaged companies have 44% higher operating margins. This probably comes as no surprise, since people who feel connect act more connected. We all know engagement is good for the bottom line.
  • Sirota’s ongoing research continues to positively confirm that the biggest single influence on employee attitudes is the behavior of their immediate manager. Improving that relationship is critical to build alignment and rapport.

So, doing something to build relationships is important in addition to fun. And if you have not held a holiday event for economic reasons, maybe this is a good time to consider doing something that has business improvement impacts along with other positive impacts on people and performance. For some workers and managers, such a business training event will be something new and for others, a reminder of how things could be if we all focused on those shared goals and desired outcomes. Show them that you are committed to improvement by hosting a performance improvement event.

The big question for executives is this: How can you focus on impacting engagement, collaboration and teamwork and improving communications in a cost-effective and impactful way, one that makes business sense?

These will not happen simply because people share food at a pot luck. They come in, get food, eat, and then often walk away.You can expect things to actually look something like this:

Results don't chahge with dinners

And, people will also tend to hang with their friends instead of make better connections with other people elsewhere in the organization. Can I hear you say, “boring?” Or at least un-impactful…

One key is to “play with performance” and generate some common thoughts and feelings about the workplace and possibilities for improvement.

There are any number of ways organizations approach this opportunity to bring employees together. Money is spent entertaining people most often through food and social festivities that not everyone approaches with a positive attitude. Be it a gathering around a sporting event or other entertaining activity, a casually catered party, an employee pot-luck feast or even a more formal after-work affair, the end result is that the typical get-together so often flows into the same people who normally talk with each other generally grouping together causing little real inter-organizational interaction or kinds of discussions. And, you can pretty much guarantee that not much real impact will occur insofar as changes in behavior or improvements in any kind of results.

As a Christmas gift, why not do an effective team development exercise, one designed to identify areas where people feel the organization is competitive and not collaborative and one designed to produce alternative choices and increased engagement in your shared mission and goals? Invest in a fun learning event designed for workplace improvement. Your people will sincerely appreciate having the chance to talk about issues and opportunities and implement changes in how things get done.

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

Our Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise is ideal as an overall energizer that not only allows people time to enjoy some fun and camaraderie but elegantly sets up a superb learning event. The play of the game culminates with a powerful debriefing, linking game behavior to workplace issues and can focus on outcomes specific to your own organization.

If cost is an issue, you can relax knowing that Dutchman is one of the best values out there as far as cost per participant. You have options available that include either purchasing the game (at a one-time cost) or renting the game. The decision is yours to make and you also receive a satisfaction guarantee or your money back.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a full-blown, extensively supported team building exercise / simulation, one that generates a great deal of fun and collaboration but that also serves as a framework to discuss business improvement ideas. It is easy to learn how to deliver, with a couple of hours of preparation time required and any amount of support available from me, the program designer and developer. You can schedule this event the same day as your office party, using it as a ramp-up energizing activity.

Dutchman is ideal as part of your company’s holiday celebration because it:

  • Brings employees together in a way that strengthens camaraderie, provides a fun and unique experience, and leaves people feeling optimistic about their workplace.
  • Gives something back to the organization through Dutchman’s highly acclaimed Debriefing discussions and focus on collaboration and improving organizational performance.
  • Is inexpensive! Simply rent the game and receive all the instructions, materials and support needed for any number of people. Check here to find out the cost of renting for your group size. Purchasing Dutchman is also an option.
  • Creates a fun Southwestern theme that can also be applied to your festivities through both food and decor. For instance, a barbecue luncheon or Southwestern dinner menu with decorations to match.

You’ll have the success of a globally-appreciated exercise with your
satisfaction guaranteed!

And there are no issues with timeliness, as in, “Can we do the game this year?” It takes a couple of hours of preparation time, even for a large group. All you need is a venue that will allow for tables of 5 to 6 people each and a projection screen. We can send the complete, packaged exercise (including accessories) and we can coach you in design and delivery, including your focus on achieving your specific desired impacts and outcomes.

If you have questions about how this might work, please give me a call and I would love to understand your issues and desired outcomes and talk about whether the exercise would be a good fit. We get rave reviews from users and have been selling and supporting this program for more than 20 years in all kinds of organizations, worldwide.

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 themes of People and Performance is here.

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a Certified Professional Facilitator (IAF) and a Certified Professional Trainer (IAPPD) and he has been supporting the exercise since it was developed back in 1993. Rest assured that you can do this!

 

Teambuilding and Schools – Issues of Design, Alignment and Collaboration

One of my newer customers just asked me to send him, “the debriefing that works with schools,” since my writings in the support materials for our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, has been used very successfully in that context over the years.

But, THE debriefing does not exist in my materials in any real sense, nor is it in my head. Let me explain…

I have personally delivered programs to colleges as well as organizations like the Singapore Ministry of Education (a purchaser of the exercise), the Hong Kong Education Ministry, and with senior teaching faculty in Trinidad and Tobago (man, that was a fun trip!). We have a bunch of colleges using this with students, too. And, we have run the exercise for a number of public schools (faculty, staff and parents) with excellent outcomes, commitments for change, and impacts on alignment and teamwork. I also formally suggest that any owner of the game consider using this program with schools in their area, pro bono.

Our schools need all the help they can get to develop a collaborative, motivated staff with parental support.

But all we can do with the exercise is set the stage for people to change their own behavior or support the behavior of others on their team. And this obviously works best when the discussions in the debriefing tie in tightly to the desired overall behaviors and outcomes.

So, there is no canned “debriefing for schools,” even though they are all pretty similar to each other and to business organizations. (Apparently, I did say that there was such a powerpoint file in some of my writings, but I looked and found that it was last updated in 2006!) But, these days, I do NOT boilerplate any of my debriefings, preferring to use a process like this for their development from my master file of debriefing questions and images:

I follow and anchor to their overall framework for their specific desired outcomes:

  • What do the leadership of the organization want to accomplish from this session? What changes would they like to see, and what behaviors might be different?
  • What existing frameworks should be anchored to? What things have been done successfully in the past that are viewed as positive? What other training or discussions have they had around these issues that we need to use within our followup?

And from that thinking and related discussions with the leadership of the school (including, if possible, both parents and administration and teachers), we can build an effective program. The goal is to generate change and improvement.

One session I did (from that 2006 powerpoint series) had me construct slides focused on a leadership model that the school’s District leadership were using and talking about. It started with these keys to success:

ideas around The Search for the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

…and it had these individual components involved:

ideas around The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

So we had the tabletops discuss these kinds of frameworks for implementing, with tables sharing their key discussion ideas and the group forming up into some implementation teams for scheduled followup meetings with the school leadership. We tried to keep things within the normal scheme of how they operated, instead of adding some additional mechanisms that would probably fail to be sustainable over time.

ideas around The Search for the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

As you would do for the development of any solid debriefing for an organization, you would first want to clearly define those issues that you needed tabletops to talk about, those issues that could be resolved if people made different choices. In so many organizations, and especially our schools, the factions of teachers, administration and parents are generally not on the same page; each has different interests when you get into specific desired outcomes. Only through alignment to some shared vision of the future can you pull things together.

To expect collaboration in an environment with different groups of people each desiring different outcomes is simply silly and bordering on malfeasance. What you will see is competition for perceived (and actual) scarce resources, which will not invite teamwork or organizational excellence. What you need to do is have people make different choices focused on shared goals.

In business, you tend to have financial and service goals driving behavior. Those are often clearly defined and it is only the operational goals between departments that generate competition and sub-optimization. In schools, the measurements tend NOT to be nearly as clear, even though there is so much measurement and testing going on. The measures do not generate collaboration about the factions and are used more like hammers than glue. Collaboration among the teachers is more the exception than a shared organizational reality.

This teambuilding simulation is simply a great tool to generate a lot of behavior that can then be discussed in connection to the desired outcomes of the school and the players. It provides a useful context to talk about the optimizing effects of collaboration versus the often sub-optimizing and debilitating impacts of competition. Our world tends to set people against each other to see who succeeds, a behavior that makes less and less sense when the sharing of best practices and the mutual peer support can be so motivational and impactful.

We need to create more of a focus on a learning organization, one that openly shares ideas and discusses possibilities.

If you are interested in talking more about these ideas, give me a call,

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of
Performance Management Company

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.

Square Wheels will roll in Amman, Jordan

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

IAPPD Logo 100

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

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

Scott_Simmerman_IAPPD_2015_MENA_Conference_Square_Wheels_and_Lost_Dutchman

IAPPD SWs LDGM marketing graphic

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

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

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
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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.

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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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