Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: team building exercises for the workplace (Page 1 of 2)

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!

 

Engaging Senior Managers in Large Group Teambuilding Events

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

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

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

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

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

The large group play of Lost Dutchman's teambuilding exercise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope that this framework has been informative and helpful.

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

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Have some FUN out there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott_Simmerman_IAPPD_2015_MENA_Conference_Square_Wheels_and_Lost_Dutchman_Overview_-_YouTube

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

 

Engaging Senior Managers in Organizational Teambuilding

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

The large group play of Lost Dutchman's teambuilding exercise

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

benefit of teambuilding exercise simulation

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS became my most effective overall design focus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Have some FUN out there!

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

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

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

 

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

PMC's Team Building Activities – Comparison Matrix

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

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

LDGM Training Consutant Testimonial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments and suggestions are always appreciated!

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

LEGO Team Building Exercises

If you have been following my blogs, you would know that I am using LEGO to help impact organizational improvement and to reframe some of my Square Wheels ideas. I posted this one up today on my poems blog, for example:

SWs LEGO RW Feel something better

The simple and basic theme is that we are rolling on Square Wheels but the round wheels already exist.

There are also a whole bunch of “posters” that I have anchored to various things, like this one on team building:

LEGO POSTER - Teamwork with SWs One

So, I roll down the road of continuing to illustrate some basic realities around communications, engagement, experiential learning and team alignment.

A friend asked me if I was aware of these LEGO being used for team building exercises and it reminded me of some of the exercises from my other website that were contributed to me 15+ years ago. You can find a long series of them by clicking on this link but I thought to post up a good example below:

Darin Ulmer’s “LEGO Communications Exercise”

Darin offered up this activity focused on collaboration and communications to viewers of my website. He indicated that the activity works best if participants return from the exercises’ suggested meetings unaware of the value or significance of the information they received because that lack of relevance tends to mirror the reality of so many workplaces.

Have at least 5 people at each table and have them chose who will go to each of five simultaneous meetings and set it up as follows:

“Often we go to meetings and we are asked to return to our direct reports and disseminate that information back to them. Between the meeting and the reporting many things can happen to the information that is to be shared. We are going to see how effectively you can communicate information that you learn in a meeting back to the people at your table.”

“The meetings contain extremely important information about the company’s vision. In order to build the best company possible, everyone will have to come back to the tables after the five-minute meetings to share what they have learned. Please go to your meetings now.”

Direct everyone to the rooms or area of the room where they can view the written guidelines listed below. It is best if they are out of earshot or even out of view of the other meetings. There should be at least one representative from each table at each meeting.

While everyone is meeting, place one bag containing all of the pieces to build the “Baja Buggy” (or similar kit / set of LEGO materials) on each table. Make sure you have enough kits for each table you have set up and that you have all of the pieces in the bag. (Nothing upsets teams more than being set up for failure so be sure that ALL the pieces are in the kit.)

Note: If you wish to push the need for collaboration between the groups and they are somewhat functional teams to begin with, you may with to give each table all of one particular piece in a plastic bag so that they have to go to the other tables to get missing pieces. This bartering can cause many issues about sharing of resources to arise. You also open the group up to set each other up for failure by choosing to withhold pieces from other groups. Your debriefing can focus on how interdepartmental competition is detrimental and creates lose-lose situations.

After 5 minutes, collect the written guidelines and ask everyone to return to their tables. Announce that:

“You have 20 minutes to build a better company. You have been given the vision and now it is time to act on that information. Be aware of the process that you go through to complete the vision so that you can share your experience with the other tables.”

You may wish to document the progress by teaching flow-charting and having someone at each table take responsibility for documenting the steps that a team follows. The flow-chart lesson could be at a sixth meeting for those people. It is important that they look for both effective and ineffective behaviors as learning examples.

After the 20 minute building time, ask everyone to stop and have each table show what they have built and relate to the other tables what process they went through to reach that vision. Debrief with the whole team afterward about what was important from the exercise to take back to the work place. (See debrief above)

Here is what is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #1 (for the Baja Buggy set. Instructions would be different for other assembly packages):

  • The hood and the handlebar base are white. The base is two pieces and the handlebars are one.
  • The bullhorn sits on one wheel well peg behind the drivers four-peg seat and in front of the white roll bar.

What is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #2:

  • The front is five pieces high with a bumper protruding (white/red/yellow/gray/white).
  • The front wheel wells are on top of the lights. The rear snaps directly to the body.

What is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #3:

  • The rear is five pieces high with two hooks protruding (white/red/red/gray/white).
  • The front bumper and rear flag and walkie-talkie holders are gray.
  • The rear holders are below the body and the front bumper is next to the body.

What is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #4:

  • The man with the yellow legs has a blue hat.
  • The rear axle does not touch the red body piece, but the front axle is centered below the red body piece and gray front bumper.

What is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #5:

  • The lights are yellow. Two are on top of the front bumper and two are on the roll bar sides facing forward.
  • The bullhorn, walkie-talkie, tires, and the two pieces found above the rear axle and immediately behind the headlights are black.

This exercise was designed by Darin Ulmer. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission. © 1997

You will make up your instructions based on the particular kits that you acquire. The nice thing is that all of these are reusable and that you can very easily link over to a variety of organizational improvement discussions because of the experiential and interactive nature of the activity itself.

You can find ones similar to this that I published back in 1998 at http://www.squarewheels.com/content/legotrdev.html

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

 

A Compendium of Posts on Team Building Events and Design

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

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

Large Group Team Building Event

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

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

Large Group, Off-Site Team Building Event Ideas

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

Having an Off-Site Company Meeting? Ideas for Success

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

Thoughts on Hiring the Right Presenter for a large event

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

Team Building and Collaboration for Performance Improvement – Large Event Management

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

You CAN herd frogs! Thoughts on Strategy Implementation

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

Implementing Changes after Team Building Events

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

Team Building and Large Event Management Ideas

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

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

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

Lastly, remember this simple thought about involvement:

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

 

Debriefing as an excuse to do Team Building

Continuous Continuous Improvement, Organizational Alignment and Collaboration, and The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a truly great Team Building Exercise.

Winemaking is an art that takes a substance and nurtures it through the act of continuous incremental improvement, often with the goal of producing a truly spectacular product. Different winemakers have different goals, but some are artists and not accepting of mediocrity. These craftsmen are continually looking for techniques to improve their craft, trying to discover new ideas and nuances to impact quality and searching for outstanding customer reactions.

It’s in that same spirit of nurturing and exceeding expectations that we’ve developed The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine — it is an excellent example of how continuous continuous improvement works with innovation to create an ever evolving and increasingly better product.

Dutchman’s existence grew out of dissatisfaction with another team building game that I represented as the first USA selling agent back in the late 1980s. It was supposedly about collaboration, but that game’s play and its debriefing supported competition among teams – it was an exercise that was designed to allow teams to quickly die because of their decisions, claiming that it was a reality of teamwork. It tended to be a show, more than an organizational development program, and the focus on competition was something that I didn’t feel created a better Return on Investment than what a Collaborative Approach would do, real world.

When I tried to collaborate with that game’s developers, they resisted these “outsider’s ideas” for things that would strengthen their game’s outcome for organizations. It was at that point that the idea of developing my own exercise, one that had clear metaphors for teaching and one that had alignment to collaboration, came to mind. So, in 1993, Dutchman was created — there was a need in the team building market for an exercise that would create a fun atmosphere for players yet it would support a serious learning framework for how collaboration beats competition in getting the best ROI.

Dutchman was meant to create a really solid debriefing
and discussion of real organizational development
and alignment issues, framed as a teambuilding game!

Not only did we want a game that linked to real workplace issues, we also wanted 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.

An early user even suggested that we “dumb down the reading and math” in the presentation, because his workforce in North Carolina did not have really strong skills. That was seamless and easy once we looked at the context. Plus, we found out that anyone could use our simple design framework and that only simple facilitation skills were needed deliver it — we have had administrative assistants deliver it for their senior management teams as well as line managers facilitate it for their sales teams all over the US and then all over the world.

Speculand Testimonial LDGM 100

Once Dutchman entered into the playing field, it immediately received accolades for how it drove home the concept of collaboration and communications. 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 across teams. Few programs of any kind enable this type of inter-organizational collaboration and teamwork and few link to measurable results and outcomes.

Leadership, communications and strategic planning are all essential to creating a collaborative environment and Dutchman sets this up extremely well – one testimonial is below and dozens are visible if you click here or on the image. The funny thing is that competition is a compelling force for players and they end up sub-optimizing their gold intake because of this. Therefore, this further indicated that a solid Debriefing was necessary to the game in order to get people to realize how debriefing Collaboration and team building brings in a better ROI.

TF Testimonial LDGM Helal 100

Flexibility then 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 (see the testimonial from Robin Speculand in Singapore, above, since he has been actively using it for 19 years. Our newest client is Challenge Korea.)

Throughout the years, we’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.

The people who bought the game 21 years ago can still play with the materials they received at that time while those presently purchasing any of the game versions will acquire a more polished set of materials but all versions will work exceedingly well to create a game 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.

If any of this is of interest, we encourage you to contact us, directly. I am quite easy to reach and answer the telephone myself (or email me at Scott@SquareWheels.com),

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

 

Team Building and Large Event Management Ideas

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

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

LDGM LinkedIn PMC Page Logo 50

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

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

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

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have some FUN out there yourself!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

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

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

TeamBuilding – We judge ourselves by our intentions

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

Google ChromeScreenSnapz003

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

from http://icanhas.cheezburger.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slideshare Dutchman icon

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

10

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

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

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

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

Fore the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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

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

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

Trust is the Residue of Promises Fulfilled – An Update

My friend Frank Navran once quipped that,

Trust is the residue
of promises fulfilled

and that quote has stayed with me for 20+ years. So, in my work on designing a new team building game that will anchor to trust, Frank and I reconnected and he pipped me over to Barbara Kimmel, who is the Director of Trust Across America. You can click on the link below and pop over to her website.

Trust Across America Logo

Like me, Barbara likes to use statistics and logic to link from these touchy-feely things like “engagement” or “trust” to real issues of organizational results. Some data she shared were of interest to me, so I reproduce some of that data here so you can head over to her blog — this section is called:

The Hard Costs of Low Trust

  • Gallup’s research (2011) places 71% of U.S. workers as either not engaged or actively disengaged. The price tag of disengagement is $350,000,000,000 a year. That approximates the annual combined revenues of Apple, GM and GE.
  • The Washington Post reported that, “the federal government imposed an estimated $216,000,000,000 in regulatory costs on the economy (in 2012), nearly double its previous record.”
  • The six biggest U.S. banks, led by JP Morgan and B of A have piled up $103,000,000,000 in legal costs and fines since the financial crisis (Bloomberg, August of 2013 — which also probably did not pick up a good bit of those recent settlements!)
  • According to The Economist Intelligence Unit (2010), 84% of senior leaders say disengaged employees are considered one of the biggest threats facing their business. (Only 12% reported doing anything about this problem!)

You can read more about this issue and go to her blog by clicking on this text

There are lots more statistics and I refer to bits and pieces of much of the literature and statistical proofs of impact of building trust and involving and engaging people in a wide cross-section of my blog posts about people and performance. Many of the key phrases below link to my blog articles on people and performance. For example, you can read my article on Building Trust clicking here.

This trust gap negatively impacts so much of the workplace. It directly impacts morale and increases employee turnover and decreases engagement. It is an issue of management and leadership. And it is not an issue of adding more extrinsic rewards to generate desired performance or improve results — those actually just work against you and often make the workplace LESS collaborative.

One of the potential tools you can use is the approach of building more collaborative teams and generating more alignment to shared goals and missions. Those kinds of initiatives tend to pull people together and generate improved morale, peer support and intrinsic motivation to improve.

You can see our Slideshare presentation and find out more information about our team building simulation for improving organizational performance results by clicking on the Lost Dutchman icon below:

Slideshare Dutchman icon

And if I can help you frame up or discuss different issues and opportunities around your organization’s performance improvement and trust building, please contact me directly. I actually answer my own phone!

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com or at 864-292-8700

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

X-Teams and Improving Team Performance

Some thoughts on optimizing collaboration, building leadership and clarifying Visions through alignment and team building.

(You can print out this article at www.squarewheels.com/articles3/X-Teams_and_Lost_Dutchman.pdf and you can find a variety of other articles and tools at www.squarewheels.com/resources/resourcesandinfo.html )

Ancona and Bresman’s book on X-teams (2007) generated some interesting thoughts as I considered the components they discussed. Basically, they talked about improving the external focus of teams and how that could be so beneficial to overall organizational collaboration.

Maximum team effectiveness comes from aligning people to work together on shared common goals and providing them with the information and resources to get things done. And today’s organizational complexities generally mean that only people working together and across departments will generate optimal results on critical improvement issues. Complexity makes it very difficult for even highly effective leaders to motivate people and effectively implement improvements with team involvement. It takes team perspective and alignment to get things done in most cases.

Drawing Board Two green

Caption:  Working together to put new ideas into place and test how things really work. All of us know more than any of us and this is a great time to step back from the wagon to look for new ideas. Don’t just do something, stand there and take an analytical look for new ideas and opportunities across the organization.

Developing strong and effective teams and generating focus on key issues and opportunities can have extensive positive impacts of many kinds and there are compelling reasons to use teams to implement improvements. And while improvement goals often seem clear at the top, those same goals are often muddled in the middle and fuzzy at the bottom back of most organizations.

In The Dilbert Principles, Scott Adams wrote:

A Mission Statement is defined as “a long awkward sentence
that demonstrates management’s inability to think clearly.”

 All good companies have one.

And I remember an old story about Visions and Implementation:

In the Beginning was The Vision

And then came the Assumptions, but the Assumptions were without
Form and the Vision without substance. And Darkness was upon
the faces of the Workers as they Spoke amongst themselves, saying:
“It is a Crock of Crap, and it Stinketh.”

And the Workers went to their Supervisors and Sayeth unto them:
“It is a Pail of Dung, and none may abide the Odor thereof.”

And Supervisors went to Managers and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Container of Excrement, and it is very Strong,
such that none may abide it.”

And Managers went to Directors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a vessel of Fertilizer, and none may abide its Strength.”

And Directors went to Vice Presidents and sayeth:
“It contains that which aids plant Growth, and it is very Strong.”

And Vice Presidents went to Executives and sayeth unto them:
“It promoteth Growth, and it is very Powerful.”

And the Executives went to the President, and sayeth unto her:
“This powerful new Vision will actively promote the Growth and
Efficiency of our departments and the company overall.”

And the President looked upon the Vision and saw it was good.
And the Vision became The Reality.

Author unknown

A clear sense of vision and purpose is essential, and clear communications are critical in getting things started. But there is also a need to allow at least some of the participants to be hands-on kind of people who know specifically what is thumping and bumping along. In many organizations, there are tops-down directives that may limit how the teams operate or that direct them toward very specific outcomes. Isolation from the actual work being done does not lead to effective solutions for most workplace problems.

As John LeCarre once clearly said,

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

Okay. So what do we DO about this?

One key for optimizing effectiveness is to understand the choices and possibilities that exist around the improvement initiative. The choices teammates make need to align well with the overall context of their business as well as the specific issue(s) on which they are focused. But generating such a team focus is problematic in many organizations. There is a lot of literature and anecdotal experiences that focus on problems with teams and teamwork. For many, the words “cross-functional teamwork” or “interdepartmental collaboration” are oxymorons – words that do not fit together like “jumbo shrimp” or “live recording.”

An article in the International Management Review back in the 1990s still stands out for me. It was entitled, “The Trouble with Teams.” In it, Jack Gordon takes the position that, “Teams may be the antidote to bureaucracy, but do we really know the antidotes for wayward teams?” There are proven benefits for organizations to use teams and teamwork to identify and implement ideas for improvement but also problems with delegating authority to teams. Identifying effective team leaders and giving them the tools they need is one of the critical ones. He expands on the common issues most organizations using teams discover and offers some logical solutions and perspective on ideas and options for maximizing impact.

Patrick Lenconi’s 2002 book, in novel form like Goldratt’s The Goal, gets into how teams work and how they could work better. His book (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team) works through a pyramidal model of team dysfunctions including issues of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, low accountability and inattention to actual results. In conclusion, he contrasts how dysfunctional teams behave by comparing them to a cohesive team in the case of each of these dysfunctions and provides suggestions and insights.

Part of this difficulty with generating teamwork reflects the changing business environment. In the good old days before the year 2000, being a good teammate meant being able to work with others because the focus was on “team dynamics.” Billions of dollars were spent on the personality inventories (MBTI, DISC and hundreds of similar tools) because organizations believed that a focus on The Team was where the energy needed to be spent and individuals would improve if they simply knew more about themselves and each other. Workplaces became more diverse and Consensus decision-making, group dynamics, styles and preferences were what was taught and hopefully learned. (Billions are still spent on personality inventories!)

Belbin Hats green

Different folks need different strokes. And all of us know more than any of us!

But things changed. Working together as a team no longer meant co-location and collegial relations. Team player became a less important value than team contributor and rapid change became the norm. More and more, initiatives like Lean Manufacturing, value-chain improvements and globalization meant that these old successful team-based approaches no longer applied. There was more pressure for performance and productivity. Technology allowed for more dispersion of people while organizations downsized. Older employees with a breadth of experience, knowledge and perspective retired. And, more significant payoffs were found with larger multi-departmental, inter-organizational or supply-chain kinds of cross-functional improvements.

Many of the low hanging fruit have already been plucked from the branches as the focus on efficiencies with initiatives like quality improvement and lean manufacturing made dynamic inroads and taught tools and approaches to different kinds of improvement initiatives. At the same time, computers caused work to become more dynamic and complex and speed gained leverage. Rapid change became the norm and individual and organizational survival was a real issue. And these factors came to a head to stall a great deal of improvement today.

Ancona and Bresman’s X-Teams book (2007) offers some excellent insights into why some teams perform at very high levels and why others fail to generate desired results. Essentially, the authors believe that teams that focus more externally get better and faster information and operate more effectively than teams internally focused, a belief that is at odds with how most teams in the past were trained and supported.

The book offered many examples of high team performances and its link to issues of communications, organizational improvement and leadership development. It takes a straightforward approach to suggesting how a refocusing of effort from within the team members to a more collaborative and broader organizational focus can deliver higher impacts.

Simply stated, the “X” in the X-team concept means being externally oriented, with people working both inside and outside the boundaries. “While managing internally is necessary, it is managing externally that enables teams to lead, innovate, and succeed in a rapidly changing environment.” This is the differentiating driving force for maximum success.

An X-team finds it necessary to go outside the team to create effective goals, plans and designs. The team must have high levels of such external focus as opposed to simply a focus on the people and the processes. That focus can be on the customer and their expectations, for example, with the realization that these expectations and needs are often changing continuously. A team not focused broadly will find it working on outputs that may not be as relevant or impactful for the organization over time. So, X-teams combine productive external activity with extreme execution within the team, developing processes that enable a high degree of coordination and effective execution. Some examples used were meetings and presentations to and discussions with senior managers of their organization, combined with feedback to all members of the team about reactions and necessary changes. Not continually looking for such support was detrimental to outcomes.

Managing change was a primary success factor; business situations would change and the team would need to change with it seamlessly and quickly, a characteristic of effectiveness. This was not the case with a lot of internally-focused teams who never saw the handwriting on the wall. So, a major quality of the X-teams was that they were also flexible in their approach, engaging in exploration, exploitation of talents and information, and exportation where they transferred their learning and experiences to other teams. (Yes, the authors did get crazy with their Xs!).

Together, these 3 elements of external focus and activity, extreme execution and flexibility form the principles by which such teams guide themselves – and they do take a significant amount of autonomy in how they approach and attain their desired outcomes. The key here is recognizing that the continued external focus and exploration of the environment were important for the teams to adjust and succeed.

Of course, three “X-factors” provide the structure and support such teams need to operate effectively. These include extensive ties to useful outsiders, expandable resources of people and information (involved as needed by the core team) and exchangeable membership–the ability to add new people who come into and who leave the team as warranted by the situation. The authors liken the effective teams to externally focused operational groups who work together, cross boundaries and get access to the people and resources they need to be successful.

So, how does an organization generate higher levels of awareness of these issues and opportunities for improvement and generate changes in focus and more successful implementation? A first step is to create awareness of these issues and opportunities and to give teams a chance to discuss and focus on strategies and tactics to focus more externally. We should also know that simply talking about these issues will not lead to much change and improvement, while a more experiential, active-learning approach offers more impact.

My personal belief, backed up by a lot of testimonials from users, is that our interactive team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, offers many benefits to an organization looking to readily impact people and generate the motivation needed for workplace improvement. This is PMC’s flagship team development exercise that focuses on inter-team collaboration and the optimization of results, a game generating a fun and unique fast-paced learning environment that allows direct linkage of game behaviors back to the issue of optimizing inter-organizational results.

In Dutchman, the Expedition Leader charters each team with the goal of managing limited resources and time to, “Mine as much Gold as we can.” Teams are given a clear goal with a measurable outcome and a deadline for getting this project accomplished. Teams can access additional information but this requires them to not take immediate action but to first plan the journey – we find that the impetus to get started generally overweighs the (charter) of gathering information external to the team. Teams can talk to other teams that have additional information, but the reality is that teams with this information may choose not to share it freely, keeping it for their own competitive advantage.

The participants should view leadership, in any improvement initiative, as supportive, but this is often not the case because of trust and other issues. In Dutchman, that message is repeated within the instructions and the behaviors of the delivery team are congruent with support and help. “The role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful and maximize ROI” (return on investment).

Observation of team behavior however shows a consistent tendency for the teams to behave independently of outside help, often to actively exclude knowledgeable others in their planning and execution. Even though these people can provide additional perspective as well as other resources of information and value, teams tend to go into a “My Team, My Team, My Team” mode of operation – one at odds with the X-Teams findings of continually looking outside the team for information and resources.

my team color 2

Teams appear to want to avoid any semblance of “Command and Control” from the outside, and thus put the Expedition Leadership people at arms length rather than including them in the team activity. This distributed leadership requires some additional dialog and possible realignment caused by new information and thus might appear to be in conflict with what the team already knows and wants to do, therefore, causing that outsider to be rejected, even when they can add great value to the task.

Good teams can fail when they are not aware of all the information available and when they reject the support offered by or available from outsiders to their team. “My Team, My Team, My Team” is a powerful motivator of peer support, teamwork, good performance and member camaraderie, but it is not the strategy that high-performing teams need to survive and prosper in today’s rapidly changing performance-based landscape.

The key here is that the debriefing activity will focus the discussion on the behavior of the teams, behaviors that are often self-limiting and non-optimizing in the context of overall group effectiveness. Teams make choices in narrow ways and their awareness of the impact of focusing on collaboration is often overshadowed by the energy resulting from a competition with other groups. It is this paradox that we address, the desire to compete and succeed balanced with the contribution that collaboration will have on the organization overall. Competition cannot be the primary motivator.

(A great discussion on the negative impacts of competition on individuals and organizations comes from Alfie Kohn in his book, “Punished by Rewards” and his other writings. Consider that having one “winner” also generates a number of “losers.” Some people tire of losing and simply choose not to participate, a deadly situation in most organizations and something often not recognized.)

It is an issue of shared missions and community goals – the focus must be on the Big Picture and the contribution of individuals and teams to the overall organization rather than their focus on simply succeeding in a more circumcised and limited way.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a great tool to generate the process and discussion of these issues and the possibilities for improvement. It is guaranteed to be effective and memorable and to generate real discussion of alternatives to current team behaviors to move toward a more successful future.

(You can print out this article at www.squarewheels.com/articles3/X-Teams_and_Lost_Dutchman.pdf and you can find a variety of tools at www.squarewheels.com/resources/resourcesandinfo.html )

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

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Team Building and Poems on Performance – Cute Visuals on Collaboration and Goal Setting

Teambuilding is about generating alignment to shared goals and visions and also about involving and engaging people in collaborating for optimized results. The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is our tool to teach along the lines of competition and collaboration as well as planning and doing. Basic to its unique design is that sharing information and resources helps tabletops to optimize overall results for the group.

To set the stage, understand that the goal is to mine as much as WE can and optimize the Expedition Leader’s Return on Investment (ROI). The role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful. We feel that these two factors model the desired outcomes of most leaders operating in most organizations. The reality is that teams more often choose to compete rather than collaborate and that they seldom ask the leadership for help, advice or even resources to generate maximum results.

LD 2 slides - We Can and Help teams

So, with this as a basic entry point, here are some poems and illustrations that help to illustrate the issues and opportunities. Teams can make better choices in a variety of different ways. So, here goes…

1

expedition leaders lead expeditions

collaboration is a key to decision making

So, the planning now completed, teams begin to play the game and see the results of their planning and their choices. The goal is to mine as much gold as we can.

strategic planning lends itself to performance

teamwork is essential to optimized results

teamwork policies and procedures

Now, the play is almost done and teams are looking about and making comparisons about their performance to the performance of other tabletops. Some chose to collaborate, some chose to get advice from that Expedition Leader and some might have even asked for some resources to help optimize ROI for the table and for the group.

intrinsic motivation is about succeeding

my team, my team, my team

LD Celebration is key poem

So, now we can take the time to reflect on things and turn the game into a powerful learning event where we discuss past choices for the game and future choices for the organization. It lends itself to reflect on things that are done well and things that need to be improved. It is a chance to reaffirm the goals and directions, share the visions and to pull things together.

reflection on choices

challenge is to mine gold

what did you learn from your experience

Have FUN out There!

celebrating success and results

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

Thoughts on Team Building – Cross-Cultural Impacts of Lost Dutchman

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine really works well cross-culturally and I was reminded of this when my associates in India sent me their new marketing flyer. In the past year, they have developed a great base of multinational clients and have delivered both leadership development workshops as well large group events.

I was really impressed when they sent me their new flyer for the game.

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From the beginning, I have always seen Lost Dutchman as a simple tool for organizational development, one that links to some of the real issues of interdepartmental collaboration, leadership and alignment, and how to motivate people to work together for improved results.

It is always great when other people also “get it.”

I just finished a significant update to all of the handout materials and our debriefing slides. If you own an older or smaller version than Lost Dutchman Professional Edition, you would find these materials of interest, since they are not included in the materials furnished with the game. There are a lot of new files added to the handouts, also.

If you are just simply interested in ideas for facilitating teamwork, you would probably also find these materials helpful, since they represent different templates and frameworks for generating engagement and involvement in general, and they focus on the ideas that we use within all of our team building games for generating perspective on issues and opportunities for improvement.

You can download these materials at this location on the Performance Management Company website.

Take a look and see if these materials can be useful for you.

Have FUN out there!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

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Rewarding High Performance in The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding game

Managers do not often deal with good performers in effective ways. Relying on extrinsic rewards is often a formula for completely missing the real underlying motivation of many high performers. Extrinsic reward systems are often problematic and cause more problems amongst the bottom 70% (who never win and are thus losers) or generate behaviors that are not congruent with missions and visions of the organization. I chat about that in a lot of my blog posts, most recently this one. There are a lot of posts on extrinsic motivation here.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a team building exercise that is a bit unusual in that it focuses on the collaboration between tabletops to optimize the measured results. It is only partly about winning — it is more about what the higher-performing teams could have done differently to support the lower performing teams to optimize overall results. The goal is, “To Mine as Much Gold as We Can” and to optimize the Expedition Leader’s return on investment. Obviously, the more ALL the teams perform, the better the overall results.

It also tends to generate a My Team, My Team, My Team kind of response in so many cultures that tend to reinforce competitiveness as a basic operational strategy — something that tends to make the words “Interdepartmental Collaboration” an oxymoron in so many companies. The reality is that more collaboration will most certainly improve organizational results, engagement, service, cost reduction, innovation, etc.

"My Team, My Team, My Team" focus can cause more competition than collaboration

A “My Team, My Team, My Team” focus can cause more competition than collaboration. The goal is to optimize organizational results, not win!

In Dutchman, teams can spend an extra day gaining information that enables them to optimize their results. One metaphor is a strategic planning one that allows them to re-allocate resources to have a better likelihood of success. The other is a Best Practice, one that enables them to move faster. It also gives them things to share with other teams – Turbochargers that double the speed of movement.

We’ve been supporting a network of consultant users and trainers since 1993 and have received most excellent feedback. As I note in another blog, we recently had the first Perfect Play that I have heard of. Some groups or triads within larger groups come close, but none got it perfect until David Simpson’s group of three teams with the retailer Coach. Now, the issue is optimizing post-game impacts and generating increased collaboration among the store managers now back at work.

Perfect Play has its own results summary powerpoint show.

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We first show what ONE team could do to optimize their results — it is about planning and using information and resources properly. Their path would look like this, with the 20 days numbered in the circles:

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They reach the Mine on Day 8, using up all their resources and returning on the last day possible, Day 20. The summary of results and resource use looks as follows and they had a surplus of $50 worth of stuff as well as two Turbochargers that they could have shared with two other teams (if they chose to). That sharing would have generated six more days of mining if all things were good.

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But the real Perfect Play occurs when two teams decide to collaborate with each other on the planning and then involve another group into their collective. That looks like this:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz009Instead of one team mining 9 gold, this framework allows for two teams to mine 10 and that extra team to mine ELEVEN. This has only occurred in David’s game. And it makes for a great debriefing, in that a lot of the right organizational optimization behaviors have occurred in play, the teams managed things in a relatively stress-free mode (with no fear of real failure) and it carries over very neatly into the discussions of what they could choose to do differently.

A high level of information sharing is needed. The resources are tight to generate this perfect result:

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And that very last part needs special mention.

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To get a Perfect Play, the three teams need to ask for $50 from the Expedition Leader! I mean, is that a perfect design or what?!!

From among 100 or so debriefing slides, we might emphasize these six:

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LD Debrief Triad 2

 

Our goal is to get successes among the players and among the teams, show the direct advantages of inter-team collaboration in the game, and bridge to the special advantages of inter-team collaboration back at work. The opportunities to share resources, collaborate, share best practices and help each other be successful in operations has huge leverage within the workplace as well as between departments. So, we use these kinds of handouts to generate ideas for improvement and discussions about choices we are making:

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And, my new game will focus even more attention on post-game collaboration and organizational improvement. You can see a few of the game design ideas here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

 

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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

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