Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: team building exercises workplace

Thoughts on thinking about decision-making

Decision-making and motivation, two related but pretty complex issues. If you read some blogs, you might think that there is some silver bullet to get a grip on these thing. But in my thinking,

It is Dangerous to Know The Answer.

Dangerous only because once you think you know, then you will stop looking… (You can see a lot more about this paradox in my article on managing and leading change, along with a joke and a surprising set of punchlines. Click here to see that article on change and thinking.

And sometimes, it is simply hard-headeness and stubbornness that gets in the way of making better decisions about things. We select ideas from “considered options” and if we already know the answer to something, we are not often willing to spend the time and energy looking for alternatives.

A blog I read recently said,

Over fifty years of scientific research has revealed that there are three distinct styles of decision-making. Each of us can make decisions in all three ways, but we tend to develop a preference for one more than the other two. This preference becomes a subconscious force, affecting the decisions we make on a daily basis and shaping how we perceive the world around us and ourselves. The three decisional styles are personal, practical, and analytical.

Well, that sure seems like a simple answer. Gee, only three styles… And there may be some truth in that. (You can find the blog post here.)

My experience lends me to believe that things are a bit more complicated than that. In a LinkedIn thread on this subject, I responded with this:

There are a variety of patterns of decision-making and I will take a position that no one assessment would possibly cover them all, but that it might give some clues as to patterns and preferences.

From the NLP literature, there are different “convincer systems” that operate to confirm a decision prior to action. I am a kinesthetic decision maker — I gotta feel that it is right “in my gut” before doing things. But I am also an auditory processor of information, so that my self-talk about it is good.

We all have different sorting styles for dealing with information, which is another thing I like from the NLP literature. I prefer fast, big-chunk, random possibilities sorting, which others would prefer to sort things in a slower, smaller unit, sequential way looking for outcomes. (There are 7 other patterns that are used, like sorting for I, You or Us, for example.)

From the old Kepner-Tregoe literature, there is a flow chart for decision making. (It is now called something else) but there is a logical and “scientific” framework for dealing with information.

From the work of Ned Herrmann is the HBDI tool, which gets into how individuals and teams think.

You have the Six Thinking Hats of Ed DeBono, which is really easy to teach and to do and which generates a variety of different teams.

LD Thumbs Up teamwork poem

Some organizations, like the Nuclear Power Institute, teach their teams to always appoint someone who functions as Devil’s Advocate, whose role is to ALWAYS challenge every decision from different viewpoints and positions, to insure that people have thought about it from all sides.

Gene Calvert wrote a book called High Wire Management years ago that looked at decision-making from a risk management viewpoint, and how most really successful managers look at and deal with risk (with some surprising findings, actually).

It is a rich literature about how individuals and teams make decisions, one that will insure that you will want to use a team process for so many complex decisions about things. And that is just the decision-making side of all this.

The “motivational” side of things gets even wilder. I have a doctorate degree in that kind of stuff but will basically say that if anyone give you, “The Answer” to all this, run yelling…

Dan Pink’s stuff is pretty good. You can see a great video, one that animates the key points and is 10 minutes long, by clicking here.

Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow, is absolutely the best thing I have read in a long time. I will be writing a lot more about his work and how it impacts performance in other blogs – I exchanged my library copy and purchased one for myself.

Lastly, don’t get confused. Just understand that you don’t know how all this really works and that you don’t need to. Work to involve and engage other people, give the process some time, and realize that you do not need to be either a Hero or a Victim in all this!

SWs One - things you will see border

Yeah, there are a LOT of models out there and they all serve different purposes. As that statistician George Box (who was repeatedly quoted by Deming) said,

All models are wrong.
Some models are useful.

And I like the Kahneman model, which I adapted as follows about “What I see is all there is.”

SWs One - Things I need to do more celebrate 100

I think any framework can be useful as a way of understanding the things that operate around us. I will just repeat myself and say that when it comes to people and brain functioning, it gets a bit more complex…

Thinking Hats green

We’re made up of a lot of different individuals and there will soon be FIVE different generations of workers in the workplace, as I write about in this post. You can rest assured that decision-making and motivation will continue to increase in complexity.

What I see is a continuing need in the workplace is for simulations like The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and the different Square Wheels games like Collaboration Journey, tools that get people into a decision-making mode and where teamwork and interactions lead to opportunities to discuss decisions and thinking and collaboration and all those things that are necessary for top performance.

Find out more about our simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit at this link:

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

People perform better when they are aligned to shared goals and common visions and where they have some trust in each other. Our programs are designed as tools for that kind of team improvement process,

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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.

 

Maximizing Team Building Impacts with Senior Managers

A prospect engaged me in a discussion of the potential of using The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine with a large group of senior managers to accomplish some management team building. So, this blog post resulted as I framed up some of their issues into possibilities for improvement. We had the whole global senior management group in our Dutchman kickoff to their 3-day strategy session (mfg, sales, corporate, marketing, research, etc.)

One neat aspect is that their Most Senior Manager, the division GM, wanted to play an active role in the event and focus on identifying things that these executive managers could and would do to improve customer service (internal and external), reduce costs, improve innovation and other impacts through improved inter-departmental collaboration and teamwork.

(That is a really neat fit to our basic game design for Dutchman. Testimonials say that it is one of the best of all the motivational team building exercises.)

What really helped in my thinking was her very clear framing of the key desired outcomes for the session (along with very solid framing of how this kick-off activity should align to the overall goals and objectives of the gathering). She had several planning meetings with the GM and thus a quite clear idea about wanting to

  1. Offer the participants a fun and interactive team building activity
  2. Give people an opportunity to interact with others whom they may not know very well
  3. Offer something that will be useful to participants when they return home – a new insight, learning, awareness, etc.
  4. Have the activity help us understand how we can work better as a team so that we can better serve our customers
  5. Make this the first activity in a two day meeting, that should set the stage for what we’re going to be discussing for the rest of the meeting

 Nice. Actionable, too. So here are some thoughts on optimizing impact and generating the maximum amount of alignment possible.

Specifically addressing the above Desired Outcome session bullets, I had the following thoughts and ideas:

1 – Dutchman will be fun and very interactive between players. There is a lot of interaction between the tabletops / teams and the focus of the game is on optimizing overall results. Our goal is to mine as much gold as WE can. This is clearly and repeatedly stated in the Introduction. Teams are working under the direction of the Expedition Leader and expected to generate a maximum return on the investment in them (map, vehicle, grub stake of resources, information, leader assistance, etc.) as communicated through slides like these:

Triad One

This is a business simulation, designed with a fun and engaging framework. It is an exercise intended to generate a serious debriefing on defined issues and opportunities. It is not designed to simply be fun – it is work, it takes planning and analysis and it is stressful, with pressures of time and decisions to get measurable outcomes. In this way, it differs from a lot of the other kinds of fluffy things out there in the “team building activity” marketplace.

2 – On interacting: Most of the actions will be at the tabletops, so I might suggest that tables be arranged with seating assignments so that there would be a good mix of a most senior person with other players done in a way that made sense.  This will allow them to work as a team and bond together on shared goals and mission.

The Most Senior Manager at each table should be the team’s Trader; the role of the Trader is to move between the tabletop and the Trading Post, exchanging resource cards each day. In that way, Traders get somewhat isolated from the team and its continuing decision-making, The Trader role is the game’s version of the customer service rep, who is not always clued in on what is happening. The funny part of this is that the role is presented thusly: “The Bad News is that the Trader is the ONLY person at the tabletop who is accountable for anything!”

This exercise will not allow everyone to interact with everyone and some people will interact more than others due to a variety of factors and personal styles. Some people get up and go around while others choose to stay put at the table. There are some other possibilities to design something like Fast Networks into other program content to generate more interactions. (See some thoughts about Dot Voting and Fast Networks in this blog post.)

Each team’s Collaborator, for example, is chosen for their role of finding out the best practices and ideas of the other teams – they are particularly challenged to go about and find out what goes on with the other tables. Sometimes they are quickly labeled “Spies” and told to go away – sometimes they gain valuable information that will help their own team optimize results. Sometimes, they can share their good information with other teams and sometimes they are not trusted and thus shunned.

3 – Being useful afterwards: Directly in the game, there are many great metaphors that link to a wide variety of leadership and organizational behaviors and possibilities. Our debriefing will present some key ideas and allow the tabletops to discuss the choices made and the impacts of those choices as they affect the organization in reality. Other event content can easily link back to situations from the play or the debriefing.

In the game, for example, the teams can make the decision to spend an extra day at Apache Junction and gain additional information before departing on Day 2 or 3. They can get a “video” of Tortilla Flat that gives them 3 Turbochargers; One Turbo enables them to go two blocks a day for the whole game, rather than one; It is a metaphor of a Best Practice. They acquire two extra Turbos and might give or trade one or both extra Turbos with another team, allowing them to also go twice as fast. Or not — it is a choice that they can make.

How do teams choose to balance collaboration and sharing with competition and winning? How do they, as a group, reach that decision and what might influence that same kind of decision back when they are leading their teams to improve collaboration and alignment? How do they balance these and other things in the play? That is the purpose of the debriefing, to discuss choices and alignment and collaboration to optimize overall results in the game and in the business.

The lessons learned are quite solid and memorable and can be readily linked tightly to the GM’s actual goals and program agenda. That is easily fine-tuned.

This suggestion represents a different choice and a lot more leverage for these players and builds directly into desired followup actions:

Assuming that these same issues exist within each of the operational units, it would be quite easy to roll the game out to those units locally. A Director and his VP could easily deliver the exercise to the senior local management team — Dutchman is very easy to deliver and operate and really bombproof; most of our purchasers of the exercise have never actually seen the game played, much less been a participant in it. The session participants could easily roll this out at their locations, generating a much higher level of alignment and collaboration at a half-day management retreat delivered within a few weeks of our session. Easy!

Plus, they could have the support of the local Training and Development people who operate on site and this could be integrated into an organizational development framework for ongoing training and for new-hire orientation.

How often is it that a senior manager of a manufacturing plant would feel comfortable leading an organizational development team building session with himself setting the stage for more collaboration and alignment to the goals of the organization. And, to have a very powerful tool for accomplishing his or her goals?

The exercise could be delivered by teams of senior managers that were participants with the possible support of someone from training at each location. (We have had secretaries deliver the game for their boss’ senior manager groups in the past! It is quite bombproof, to be sure.)

4 – The exercise is all about choices and service. Dutchman has a nice strategic planning / project management spin and directly relates to collaboration to optimize team and group performance. Teams make a lot of assumptions or make decisions without obtaining all the available information, which relates nicely to many common service quality issues.

Teams also do not ask many questions of the Expedition Leader, who is in fact a customer in the sense that he / “me” is depending on them to perform to deliver results to me. I am looking for results and investing my time and money in them to deliver. By asking questions and even asking for help, teams can get more support in their quest to mine more gold.

LD Goal is to mine gold

The Provisioner who manages the Trading Post is also a customer, requiring the Traders to perform their jobs accurately, completely and in a timely manner. The whole group is delayed when ONE of the teams is slow to respond to the end of a Day.

5 – Insofar as kicking off the event and setting the stage for the other session events and content, this will be superb. It is fun, but it is serious. People will make choices. They may make friends with people they do not know and help them out, or they may make “enemies” in the choices they make (like demanding two golds for one Turbo) and laugh about that stuff afterwards. It is serious fun and nicely interactive.

Overall reinforcement of desired behavior – The Celebrations

We can both recognize and reinforce what has been done in recent past in the improvement of overall customer service as well as link neatly to the choices that they can make about the improvement of internal service quality or supply chain kinds of things. This can be accomplished in the debriefing and casual discussions afterwards. That is quite straightforward.

If people are pre-assigned to teams, that works okay and you might consider all sorts of factors in that assignment, like how well they know the other people, how much they NEED to know those other people, etc. The session planners can also name the teams, giving some special recognition to certain groups for overall, long-term accomplishments. The “Finnish Express” might be led by the plant manager of the Finland plant that implemented the best service quality improvement plan. Thus, when making assignments to tabletops, you can assign the Team Leader to be a particular individual. The rest of the tabletop will align with that “glow” and team name.

Perfect Play:

Each table is an “operating unit” but they do benefit by collaborating across the tabletops. It is NOT essential that teams collaborate, especially if they have a good plan of action, but it pays dividends overall.

There IS a perfect play scenario that occurs when 3 teams work together, sharing Turbos and Cave Cards and resources. Whereas the average team will mine about 7 days of gold and return to the start, these collaborating teams can mine 11, 10 and 10 gold among themselves with no additional costs or resources – well, actually, they must borrow $50 from the Expedition Leader!

Perfect Play slide pair

There can also be a lot of learning and development takeaways from this exercise. It is, after all, all about team performance and communications as well as to alignment to a shared mission and vision.  We use these magnets as take-away’s and a simple reminder:

The Goal of the game is to COLLABORATE and optimize results...

Recognizing and rewarding performance

I want the GM to play the game as a regular player. We will set him up as the Trader for his tabletop and he will not be privy to any secret information about the game design. He will play like everyone else. After I get into the debriefing of the play and some discussions of the key learning points, I will set the stage for him to lead the closing discussion.

We will present the tabletops with this question:

LD - to mine more gold what do we do

This is framed as, “What can we do to generate more gold for our organization? What things can we choose to do differently to improve results? What things can we get our people to do differently? Please discuss this at your tabletops and be prepared to offer your ideas to the group.” The GM leads this discussion and the supporting people all take notes. This should directly set the stage for the work of the next two days.

Even though the game is not about winning and losing, people like recognition and everyone needs to feel like they were part of the winning team, because they are. So, we work hard to focus on the overall group as the team and not that individual tabletop that happened to mine more gold than the others.

My Team My Team color

For recognition of everyone, I might suggest that we manufacture some simple trophies that use blocks of wood, a large chunk of Iron Pyrite, and a small plaque commemorating their involvement and participation in the program. Each would say, “Number One Team.”

Gold Trophy

We can also structure an awards ceremony where they are all recognized with The White Hat Award, for their overall contributions to the performance and profits of the organization. Both the trophy and the hat would symbolize their membership of the bigger team and the need for collaboration to optimize results.

As to the debriefing, we have a great deal of flexibility in choosing the key themes and how to generate some discussion and ownership. We have over 150 different slides that we have used over the years. Here are just a few of them:

Debriefing - 155 slides

And we can illustrate some key learning points to make them more memorable:

LD General debrefing Scott's slide minis

There are just so many different ways that this exercise can support those kinds of desired outcomes. My apologies for such a long post, but it sure is fun to develop these ideas and present them in an integrated way.

Please note that a sister article to this, entitled, “Thoughts on Teambuilding and Aligning an International Business Group” can be found be found by clicking on the title.

 

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/

 

Performance Feedback – Breakfast of Champions!

Feedback is a real key to intrinsic motivation and performance management. And most organizations can make big improvements in how people can self-maintain and self-improve if they just stepped back from things and looked at them differently.

Many years ago, we polished up and used a simple 14-point checklist that seemed to hit on the most important aspects of people getting the feedback they need to improve or maintain the highest levels of performance. To some degree, many of the items are a bit unrealistic or idealistic, but they also represent possibilities and reframes and potential things that might be addressed or improved or designed. Some of the items on the list are below, and you can click here to download the pdf file of the checklist and explanations: Analysis of Feedback

1.  Information on performance is based on actual measured accomplishment and not on estimates or opinions about how results were accomplished. Some people may appear to be very busy or doing a good job, especially if you are there watching them. Others may work at a slower pace and not appear to work as hard. Personalities differ and opinions about accomplishments may not reflect actual results. Good measures of results need to be implemented.
2.  Information highlights areas of performance that have quantifiable value to the organization rather than more general areas of preference Be concerned with results that produce bottom-line impacts. Sometimes, we get focused on issues of little or no importance to profits or quality or revenue. While a poor producer may chew gum and come in late, it is better to focus on the productivity than on the gum or lateness.  Feedback should focus on more critical issues.
3.  Performance information routinely goes to the people who do the work, rather than mostly to management.People see summarized results. People need performance data, not just feedback from management. In the absence of specific information, people will often assume that all is okay. Alternatively, some managers may only say something when results are not good, missing on the opportunity to comment positively.  Information on results provides balanced feedback.

Some of the other items are:

13. Data is expressed in a positive way.  This means “results achieved” and accomplishments rather than failures, complaints or errors. Regular negative information (such as error reports) has a tendency to be ignored or debunked and thus become ineffective motivators over time.  People tend to learn ways to avoid the negative as opposed to improving the positive.
14. Information is summarized to interested levels of management to insure recognition of achievement and continued positive involvement of others. Without the observable support of top management, few feedback and performance improvement programs are maintained. Top management will not support programs in the absence of reliable and actionable information. Top managers are generally unlikely to continually request and review information that is not positive and current, reflecting issues of performance related to bottom-line impacts.

In playing with this in workshops over the years, few managers would say that they attained even 8 or 9 of the 14 possibilities, but they were always impacted to consider ways that they could improve the feedback systems, even to go toward simple checklists or other things on a random basis — like a post-customer-contact call list to self-assess if customers were called by name and asked if they had any other questions and if they said they were satisfied with the contact. Stuff like that can be a powerful reminder of things to do and can be intermittent.

Shifting focus, let me address the play of our team building game and how we try to add performance feedback into the play to make it a more powerful learning experience.

In my post on Perfect Play, I shared a bit about how to debrief really good performance. You can see it here.

The idea is around how to motivate performance and build intrinsic motivation.

Rainbow Wagon green 70

The performance situation, briefly, is that tabletops are challenged to “Mine as much gold as We Can” and given resources they need to manage a 20-day journey to the mine and back. They have a variety of choices to make as to resource management, risk, route, information and similar. Once they leave the home base at the bottom left, Apache Junction, they move toward the mine on one of three routes.

LDGM 1 80

Some facilitators just let the groups play. In all of my games, I have a map on an overhead that also has “dots” of some kind that represent each team. Thus, every team can see the location of each team every day. Some teams might stay at Apache Junction for an extra day or two to acquire information, while others might take the high risk, apparently shorter route across the bottom of the map.

Since the goal is to mine as much gold as possible, the more days that teams are able to spend in The Mine (toward the top right), the more gold they get. Since they have to return to Apache Junction by Day 20, we can also see who leaves when and what route they use.

A design feature of the exercise allows for some teams to stay much later in the mine and get back twice as fast, This becomes VERY evident when a few teams return on Day 18 while other teams have just left the mine. The former, who are often a bit information-starved or resource-deprived because of their choices, see this discrepancy and this generates their conversations about how this is possible and what they might have done differently.

By the time we get to the debriefing, they already know what they could have chosen to do differently and the role of the facilitator is to bridge that information from the play of the game into the realities of the workplace and the issues of alignment, information sharing, collaboration and optimization of results.

Because of the map, I think we set up a neat little situation of cognitive dissonance and thus the motivation of the lower performing teams to discover these unknown best practices. At the same time, the map reinforces the higher-performing teams for the planning and collaboration that they did during play that helped them perform at a higher level.

My personal belief is that this feedback – the visual aspect of the map and the movement and performance of each team — helps generate a more effective debrief.

In the workplace, we have higher performing individuals and average and poor performers. If we make the performance a bit more obvious, and make the tools that are used (best practices) better-known and understood, we should be able to create these same kinds of gaps in actual and desired results, lending to better intrinsic motivation and self-directed improvement.

I may be wrong, but I do not think so. I think we can help people perform better, build teamwork and esprit de corps, and make the workplace a more engaging place.

You might also find this article on Managing Flow to be of interest:  high_performance_team_flow

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/

Innovate & Implement – an exercise linked to getting things done

We’ve been playing with the design of a package focused on innovation for a couple of years. Since creativity and innovation are not primary focuses of mine, this game languishes a bit in my development of it, even though it works really great. It is a full, developed, and effective program that I simply need to play more often with my workshop groups.

It is a board game playable by 3 or better 4 people. Each table is separate from the others in that there is no collaboration or that kind of framework, other than what the players at the table do. I tried to model the issues around common problems that teams face when they try to solve problems and implement ideas and, like most of my other games, it is loaded up with metaphors.

I&I Check it out words

We give each team the instructions and they have to pull together to develop a plan of action and coordinate efforts. As the game progresses, they get more and more efficient with their actions, and make more and more progress.

The goal is to move about the board and enter rooms and solve problems. Once they find the Round Wheels, they can then return home and end the game. Some measure of luck is involved, but it is more about efficiency and effectiveness. And while they can ask for help and find additional information “from a Training Class,” the work harder to avoid that than they do on learning anything!

You, as facilitator, can keep the players “tight to the rules and policies” or allow them to bend them a little to play better and faster. You, in a real sense, influence the Innovate & Implement game culture.

The debriefing of the game is excellent, and we package the exercise complete with our other Square Wheels tools to allow you to either integrate the game with your existing innovation or implementation processes or to build a complete program around the exercise with our other outstanding tools.

I&I Bundle Contents

And you always have Scott to assist. He freely offers his consulting and coaching time to insure that you have the product you need integrated with the learning that you want.

Scott and I&I w title

The simplicity of this exercise would allow your supervisors to play it with their people to involve and engage them and generate the intrinsic motivation and teamwork to go forward and identify and solve their workplace issues and then develop an effective plan of action for implementation.

This package is a great value at $495 and you can see more information about the exercise at our website. Click here or on the game board icon below:

I&I gameboard 20

This is a fully developed, completely supported package of excellent tools!

I&I Game Folder image

For the FUN of It!

Muscles slide in background

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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Some testimonials about our Team Building Exercise, Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

We think that The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is an absolutely great team building exercise that allows anyone to help their organization focus on issues of collaboration, optimization of overall results, and improving how organizations implement change and strategy. It links to our Square Wheels tools, elegantly, and thus is a great tool to use for building employee engagement and the implementation of creative ideas for improvement and innovation.

And we are not the only ones that feel that way. Here is one from an internal trainer, one from a international consultant and one from an executive assistant who ran the game with her company’s senior leadership team (and got rave reviews from them!)

Kyla LD testim 100

Andi LD testim 100

Assistant LD testim 100

We find that people who have used some of the competitive products in the marketplace (and by competitive, I mean that they DO generate competition when they should be generating collaboration) are either much more expensive or not as flexible or just not as good (or all three). You can click here for a comparison of Dutchman with Gold of the Desert Kings, for example.

If you want to learn more about the exercise, please visit our website. Or, better yet, give me a call at 864-292-8700. I generally answer my phone most hours of most days and would love to chat about this stuff.

Russ LD testim 100

Herb LD testim 100

Greer LD testim 100

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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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What is the best corporate team building game?

Today, you can access a wide variety of team building activities free and online. There are simple interactive designs from the “low ropes” kinds of suppliers as well as more formal simulations and packages that you can purchase.

On our Square Wheels website, you can find a variety of different (and free) game frames such as The Egg Drop Auction and a number of LEGO game designs, complete with debriefing frameworks. And that site is one of hundreds of similar places. You can also join groups and networks focused on gaming and simulations on LinkedIn as well as from people like Tom Heck at teachmeteamwork.com

Some companies sell their team building products. We offer, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine in a variety of formats for different sized groups. We offer rentals as well as outright purchases with no per-participant costs or annual licenses or certification fees. We will even rent the game for large group events at what is a very reasonable cost.

Expedition Leader's Role

Other programs for team building exist and a simple search will turn up dozens of vendors, worldwide.

We get feedback saying that our combination of low costs and the focus on collaboration allow for a great deal of real-world behavioral change. Dutchman offers measurable results and tracking of lost revenues when collaboration is not optimal. Other games allow less of a business focus and depend greatly on the facilitation skills of the leader to link behaviors to desired future business outcomes.

We think Lost Dutchman is the best game there is, based on this combination of business relevancy, business challenge, congruency of leadership to issues of organizational support, the links between collaboration and improved outcomes, and the effective, simple and constructive debriefing possibilities.

At this location, you can find a direct listing of benefits of Dutchman as well as a comparison of features and benefits to a commonly known exercise called, Gold of the Desert Kings. You can contact Eagle’s Flight directly for more information about that exercise, its costs, etc. They requested that I not provide a link to their website.

We are more than happy to host a discussion of issues and opportunities and values of different training programs and processes here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott banking LD

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

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non-agreement bliss poem

You set YOUR price for our Facilitation Toolkit – Square Wheels Roll!

Square Wheels illustrations have been used worldwide for almost 20 years as tools for presentations on managing and leading change and involving and engaging people to make commitments to improve the workplace and others. Using these cartoons, you can make a powerful impact and leave a lasting memory — as people remember these presentations decades later! Time after time, I’ve received verbal and written proof of this.

Update: We never seemed to get any traction with this offer for setting your own price, so we stopped it. Maybe I did not blog about it enough or people felt that our regular retail price was a good value. One person actually paid MORE than retail, which was really appreciated as a great gesture.

If you are curious about our toolkit, drop me an email at scott@squarewheels.com.

The metaphor of the Square Wheels Wagon is useful and bombproof. You show people a cartoon and allow participants to think about it and then discuss their ideas in small groups. You allow people to project their beliefs onto the cartoon to help build their ownership images and then allow them to apply that image onto their workplace through identifying the things that do not work smoothly along with their ideas for improvement.

You can download a complete Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit from our website and get the PowerPoint illustrations, instructions for use and for facilitation, in general, and worksheets you can print and use to have an effective 30 minute meeting or set the stage for a series of meetings focused on identifying, solving and implementing workplace improvement ideas and building intrinsic motivation of your people.

Heck, you can just use the handouts and not even need any LCD projector or other supporting equipment and be just as effective in involving and engaging everyone.

You can see how identifying something as a Square Wheel pretty much guarantees that your people will find some Round Wheel solutions and workarounds, because that is just how our brain works and people are much better problem solvers than problem identifiers. And you can see how the tabletop discussions generated allow people to gain some peer support for actually implementing the ideas.

Millions of people have never tried the simple act of facilitating with our Square Wheels cartoons and we think that they all represent potential users. My own presentations using these materials in 38 countries along with hundreds of testimonials from consultants and managers, worldwide, allow me to feel quite confident that you can use these illustrations in your improvement initiatives in the workplace, and elsewhere, for coaching improved performance and impacting organizational and personal momentum. So, go ahead and try out one of our very unique tools!

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

 

Why use Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for large team building events?

I was chatting with a human resources director and we were planning  the presentation of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for about 250 people — her whole organization — in one big fun learning event. This was for a financial institution priding itself on customer service and customer / employee retention and collaboration and communications, so the fit was quite good.

The plan we discussed is for her to have her senior management team do a team building program using Lost Dutchman, where they will sort out their issues and opportunities and what they choose to do differently and improve on and then teach them how to support the delivery for the large group. As I posted up in the blog the other day, using senior management to help deliver is a pretty common model for me, one where the internal people do all the training and delivery work without using an outside person. It dramatically helps generate alignment and makes these people part of the actual perceived organizational support team!

Why use Lost Dutchman and Senior Managers for such events?

Well, the design of the game precludes my personal involvement — I am not required to help deliver it, which has many positive impacts. If I understand the desired outcomes, I can customize the suggested debriefing. If a trainer can use the game with her executives — and the metaphors of the exercise and the actual behaviors of the executives — she can deliver a highly congruent program and deal with the results without “personal involvement.” She will not be attacked for her leading discussions about the sub-optimizing choices of the leadership team.

AND, she management/leadership prepared to support the delivery of the exercise to all the employees. This saves a great deal of money and dramatically improves the relevancy of play to reality of how things are working and can work.

After all, two main themes of the game are focused on organizational alignment and collaboration:

and

The Goal of the game is to COLLABORATE and optimize results...

These are business card magnets that we often give out as reminders of why we played the game. They generally wind up on file cabinets and breakroom refrigerators.

The word we use is, “WE” but teams take that as, “My Team, My Team, My Team” in many cases.

Dutchman is a powerful game that’s easy to learn to deliver, bombproof and congruent in its play and focuses discussions on choices that we make and alternative choices that are available in the game, and then back in the workplace. Collaboration and engagement are the things that lead to employee involvement and intrinsic motivation.

And because it is straightforward and easy to play, it becomes a great event for managers to truly demonstrate their active support for helping teams be successful and optimizing results of the entire group.

large teambuilding event

Dutchman works great for very large groups

Dutchman is a powerful exercise for large events since you run the game with internal people (and leaders if you can involve them) and the game metaphors are completely congruent with the concepts of collaboration between departments and engaging people to motivate high levels of performance. The discussions focused on actual behavior and the choices that people could make in the future are also great ways to discuss possibilities. It is these visions of how thing could be that help drive improved overall results and engage and motivate individuals. It is the alignment to missions and visions that helps push things forward.

Generating alignment is a key factor in performance and optimization of results

Have fun out there, get people aligned and performing, and improve things!

You can see more about the exercise on our websites at http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/category_s/110.htm and at
http://www.squarewheels.com/ld/ldindex.html where there is a LOT of descriptive information.

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

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Rental of Team Building Exercise for Large Groups

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a great team building exercise for focusing teams of people on themes of leadership, alignment, collaboration and the optimization of performance results. We’ve been selling and supporting the exercise worldwide for almost 20 years.

And it has been pretty crazy here lately, with some new business coming from some old friends, which is really neat. Two different consultants contacted me about renting our team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to run large events for their clients. And both are old customers.

The wild thing is that both used to be with corporate training departments that bought the exercise from me about 10 years ago. They had great successes with it and, as they described the situations, they wanted a high impact and bombproof session for their new clients. Thus, they remembered the exercise and thought to contact me.

Renting the exercise is one option. It is best for those “Large Group Team Building Events” that are a one-off kind of thing. Many of the customers of our small games (for 3 or 4 tables of 6 people each) like being able to run it once or twice for really large groups without having to invest in our large game version. It is also useful for a one-time team building event such as an “all-hands” meeting where the management staff will run everyone through the game. We have supported many of those kinds of trainings and there is no upper limit on the size of the group — one client had a session of 870 people in the same room!

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

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

I can also customize the design in small ways, and work with you to design and refine a debriefing that fits with your goals and objectives and within your time limits. Generally, for large groups of 60+, we like to have 3.5 hours to do the game and the debriefing. I like at least an hour and even 90 minutes for the debriefing, since that will help generate the commitment to improve collaboration and teamwork, planning and communications.

We are surprisingly inexpensive, high-impact and very memorable, and the game can be specifically tailored to generate your desired outcomes. This is THE world-class team building exercise focused on improving inter-organizational collaboration and aligning people to shared goals and objectives. It can be run by line managers and executives, too, not just people in training and consulting.

We also have a posted pricing schedule, so you can look at the costs of renting this team building simulation and the detail of delivering the exercise before contacting us.

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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How does Lost Dutchman compare to other team building exercises?

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a unique teambuilding exercise in the global marketplace for training and organizational development tools. Unlike many competing products, it offers what we think are an excellent blend of unusual benefits and features as well as our overall sales philosophy that is supportive and simple.

THe Search for The Lost Dutchman Team Building Exercise

Unlike a lot of products, Lost Dutchman has many direct links to business improvement and it can help groups of people focus on how working together will improve profitability and ROI. While this seems like a no-brainer, most organizations find “interdepartmental collaboration” to be an oxymoron and that “interdepartmental competition” is much more the norm. Dutchman is a business simulation wrapped into an experiential, fun, engaging exercise that brings the sub-optimizing aspects of competition to the forefront and clearly shows why collaboration is a big benefit. We have LOTS of users who comment about the excellence of this game for this purpose — making it unique in that focus, we find.

Dutchman also focuses on success! The game design makes it hard for teams to make big errors and die from those decisions, which is common in many other exercises where the focus is more on avoiding failure. (I have facilitators who use my game and some other games who say, “What is so bad about a team dying?” and “I can usually work that point into the debriefing.” On the other hand, they will also say that those teams sometimes disengage badly–like leaving the room or even being very challenging and adversarial in the debriefing discussions– and they will generally agree with my position that dying is not necessarily a good component of the learning process, so why even let it occur?)

In Dutchman, every team is successful, but the ones that do better planning and collaborating are more successful than the others, and can even choose to help the other teams.

We also made a real effort to keep the packaging inexpensive — it is nothing fancy — and to design it so that certification and all those other expensive things like per-participant fees and the like are not included. It was my personal experience in the earlier days when I used another organization’s team building game, that those added restrictions and other kinds of limitations caused a lot of problems in the maintenance of a collaborative business arrangement between me and that other company. So, if I did not like those restrictive and expensive “features.” why would they be included in my business framework.

My game design goals were:

  • to design the best exercise possible for a global audience of workers up to senior managers;
  • to make it link tightly to the actual behaviors we see in organizations and between departments and often work groups in organizations;
  • to make it inexpensive to use and thus generate high value for consultants and trainers to use repeatedly;
  • to make it flexible and useful in a wide variety of different kinds of organizations and developmental situations;
  • to be useful for trainers using it occasionally or for them to be able to blend it into more broadly-based leadership programs than simply team-building events;
  • to design it so a consultant or company could build a business around the exercise and use it with different clients in lots of situations.

The design thinking around Lost Dutchman included avoiding  issues present in some of the other, competitive products in the marketplace. We find that those structures or designs interfere with effectiveness and impact in a variety of ways and simply make the game less of a good value for the customer. Essentially, we felt that:

  • Many of our competitors’ exercises are simply way too expensive. Benefits are not in line with costs, especially when it was a one-time use for a small number of people.
  • Per-Participant Costs are a lousy way to build trust and develop an honest and open relationship between the game agent and the customer. They generate too much friction and administrative burden.
  • Many exercises simply take too long to play and often don’t allow time to adequately debrief the outcomes nor provide time for valuable interactive discussions. Lecturing on an experiential exercise is not an effective learning paradigm.
  • Game leadership often creates intrinsic competition because of the inherent design of the exercise or the role defined for the facilitator. Many designs do not allow for a collaborative leadership delivery style or have restrictive design features. If you are delivering the game, one should be modeling an effective style of engagement, collaboration and facilitation, not being an adversary.
  • Results should be measurable, since organizational behavior is measurable. In Lost Dutchman, for example, we can measure positive results in addition to the sub-optimized costs of teams making decisions not to collaborate and plan and share information among other teams. We do this just as we measure organizational results and outcomes, making the swing from debriefing the game to linking to organizational change quite easy:  “What does Mining Gold mean to us as an organization?”
  • Some of the games have mixed metaphors or design features that make the game very difficult to debrief or they have superfluous content that is too hard to link to other organizational development issues. Team building games should not be supporting competition in our thinking — there is enough of that already in most organizations!
  • Games and supporting products should not require expensive certification training and the costs of travel to training venues. It makes it too expensive to add new facilitators and the tendency would be to cheat the system to get the game in play. It was our goal to make the exercise bombproof and effective while NOT requiring expensive certification or training time.

Our experiences with The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine have taught us a lot about game design and the use of metaphor in generating involvement and engagement during play and debriefing. It is our goal to have an exercise that generates the perceived need to change behavior within an organization to optimize results. Feedback by users says that we have elegantly and effectively accomplished our goals.

You can check out some of our testimonials and learn more about other perspectives by clicking here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, wearing his Coaching Hat and preparing for Lost Dutchman

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 Collaboration for Performance Improvement – Large Event Management

The past week has been really interesting, since I have had the chance to talk to a lot of people who are now going to start doing some team building within their organizations. Normally, my conversations are generally with consultants and trainers who have been doing these kinds of things 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.

But this seems to be a new group, rookies in the organizational collaboration and team building arena who have the chance to get things started right. And THAT is really neat!

(Has it really been that long since the average organization has conducted any team building events? Really?)

So, we have been discussing doing team building events with managers and staff and working with slightly larger groups than a training class.Scott Simmerman, wearing his Coaching Hat and preparing for Lost Dutchman

And I have been able to put my Coaching Hat on, and my Event Planner Hat, and offer up some ideas for optimizing impacts. Three of these contacts were going to run large groups (250, 100-200-500 and 1,100 (really!) and I shared some of my learned Best Practices for maximizing impact.

Basically, that approach involves getting all the Most Senior Managers into one room for 3/4 of a day. The session starts with a normal delivery of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, debriefed along the normal lines of collaboration and teamwork and planning. But then, the debriefing shifts to asking about the kinds of behaviors they would like to see from the people at the large event. That is always interesting, and the focus is on the shared mission and vision and generating alignment to goals, objectives and expectations.

Then, we TRAIN this group of Most Senior Managers to be able to support the delivery of the exercise. This group serves as the Provisioners and the Co-Expedition Leaders, operating in the environment where, “The Goal is to mine as much gold as we can.”  Oops — that should read “WE.”

The exercise is about getting help along with information and on collaborating and sharing information and resources to optimize results. But what these 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 leaders who are there to help!

By having these real Senior Managers in this game delivery role, it is a great learning lesson on how to implement change and support high performance. One cannot simply TALK about it, they have to behave consistently and congruently. While a few of the teams will have precisely what they need to perform at a high level, those same teams will often choose NOT to collaborate, to thus “win” the game at the cost of negatively impacting overall organizational results.

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

A Comparison Chart of PMC’s Team Building Activities

We’re supporting an ever increasing variety of impactful team building games these days and I am working on a few more to add to the mix. And it is getting complicated…

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine uses 20 “Days” for play and Seven Seas Quest uses “Months” and the Innovate & Implement exercise uses “Minutes” and the Military Might program uses “hours,” so just getting the right word for the timing is a challenge! Play of the games, though, is pretty straightforward and the designs solid, based on a lot of feedback.

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 “unemcumbered,” without the per-participant or annual licensing fees so common in the industry for full-blown simulations.

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.

Matrix of our team building and leadership development exercises

We think the current products carry forward into a lot of different kinds of organizational development initiatives and also have some new things in development.

For executive development and strategy implementation, we are rebuilding and reframing a game built around planning and executing a climb of Everest. The challenge is to carefully plan an expedition that will take at least some of the players to the top; there is also the reality that some players can simply support the others to generate a success and that not everyone can always summit. Collaboration and planning is the main focus. We will link Everest to our strategy communications and implementation materials with Square Wheels.

For a great followup to Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we will be rebuilding our Seven Seas Quest game into different bundles and a full-day integrated program on teamwork and communications.

I am reframing the Military Might! strategy and tactics exercise into an oil exploration game, one that will involve a great deal of upfront analysis of the situation and opportunities and will have serious risk / reward consequences to impact decision-making.

The Temple Game is built around a storied search for treasures in Asia to construct a Temple. Ships will sail to different ports to acquire the treasures of those countries in order to raise funds for the Shogun to construct an elegant temple near Kyoto. It is a great story line and will result in an exercise that blends planning and adventure with coordination and collaboration among the ships and the leaders.

More fun is in store for all 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!

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