Performance Management Company Blog

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

Tag: business team building games

Bad Teambuilding, Good Teambuilding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

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

We asked a really tough T/F question:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a team building simulation exercose

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

For the FUN of It!

Debriefing and Facilitating for Organizational Improvement – Games versus Exercises

Fun versus Value. Activity versus Learning. Age old mysteries…

Maybe I have been at this consulting and training stuff too long, but in a conversation with a prospect the other day, it really got me thinking about the reality of team building and organizational improvement and the VALUE of what we do. I have posted up before many of my thoughts on issues of impact and cost and time, from discussions about why I do not like icebreakers all that much in this article and in this one.

I have also shared a lot of ideas about outdoor training kinds of events, a few of which I like but many of which I view as problematic, such as a paintball game with a group of people who may have some physical impairments. One, on fun and learning can be found here. Another discussion is found here.

There have been a string of article focused on how to improve the impacts of training, such as this one focused on Motivation and Processes or this one talking about how training cannot improve work processes and thus performance.

And there have been LOTS of articles on engagement and dis-un-engagement and the process of involving people for intrinsic motivation and performance improvement purposes. If you search “engagement” on the blog, you will find more than 20 articles playing all around the theme, with statistics and ideas and frameworks.

My favorite post is on extrinsic motivation — in it, I link to an article that is called “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever.” This focuses on the ignored part of the workforce, the quasi-motivated reasonably good performers who show up and put in time but do not perform to their capability — the 50% in the middle. You can download this article on engagimentation and motivation by clicking on the image:

I Quit Article Icon

What stimulated this post was a discussion with a prospect who has great experience facilitating teambuilding for organizations. His view was that a lot of companies do NOT want a fun learning event but would rather choose to simply do something fun. They do not want the session to relate to organization performance or work-improvement issues but simply want to throw some money out to a vendor to show their people that they care! The are looking for no ROI.

It is kinda like what I see when I look at the “Team Building Offerings” of a place like Dave and Buster’s. They actually frame this dinner plus play on the machines as Team Building. Apparently, they think that they can meaningfully relate that arcade games like slotball and shooting hoops and coupons somehow relates to workplace improvement and claimed that teambuilding is one of the specialties of our staff and corporate event planners. I mean, really?

Most of these activities are framed as competitions — and I will write soon about my thinking on the difficulties of turning competition into collaboration in any meaningful or substantial way. A client had me look into this for them and I saw it as fun, but not of much real value for the investment of time and money. Why posture and call it a team building? And what if someone falls down while running to exchange their coupons for “great gifts and prizes” before the clock wound down…

For me, I feel that if a company makes the investment of money, people and time into some event, there should be some impact. An internal HR person in Jacksonville summed it up nicely in a testimonial he sent to me:

Best “Learning Game” I have ever used…  We purchased Dutchman for an offsite meeting to discuss Resource allocation and Collaboration. It was a breeze to facilitate. The participants loved it and more importantly, walked away with lessons that they were immediately able to apply back at the office. The slides and materials allow you to guide the group in almost any direction imaginable. I am still getting comments weeks after the session about the impact it made on the business and the improved performance. A small investment that generates huge results.

I mean, the fact that it links to the workplace issues and that it apparently motivated his people to choose to do something differently is why I designed the game in the first place! And why I think it is a much better tool that so many of the other activities out there. (See a comparison of my Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine game to one of the most well-known games in the team building marketplace by clicking here)

LDGM 1 80

But there is another reality that I wanted to mention, and that is the post-game debriefing activity that should connect the play to the real world of organizational improvement. Yeah, fun is good and all that, but how do we help people make the connections and help them to make better choices in the future.

I have always talked about my exercises like Dutchman and Collaboration Journey as “excuses to debrief.” I want the game design and embedded metaphors to directly link to clean themes for improvement. Turbochargers become a metaphor for Best Practices, for example, and, “The goal is to mine as much gold as we can,” is really focused on the WE and optimizing overall success, rather than focusing on competing to win. Where there are winners, there are many more losers!

So, I absolutely LOVE it when people say things like this:

The feedback from the participants was fabulous.
I led the Dutchman’s Gold Mine game for our Store Manager development as part of their annual conference.
During the game, there were a few “aha” moments but what really brought the point home was The Debriefing. There was a lot of great debriefing material to use and I focused on how the game paralleled our business and how much better the results could be if we collaborated better as an organization.
Scott was extremely supportive and was always available to answer my questions or give me suggestions.  I recommend this game to anyone that wants to build collaboration among and between teams.  It is fun and effective!
After renting the game to initially test it with two large groups, we bought the Professional Edition to run this company-wide
.

This feedback was from Kyla, a trainer with a large retailing organization, who is rolling out the exercise through her whole company. That is really cool! For $8000, their cost of delivery is about $1 a person…)

So, I like HARD questions that focus on the organization’s future. I like discussions that relate to choices people make in the game and then in the workplace. When I ask about what energizes, I relate it to what the managers could do differently. When I focus on Gold, I focus on choices to make improvements in results. The game was about maximizing ROI — that comes from optimizing communications, sharing resources, and working together.

Dutchman Debrief Triad

I would love to hear responses to this, both on the question of fun versus fun learning, as well as on the issue of debriefing activities. I often find so many of the latter so lightweight, so devoid of connection that all comments will be forgotten as soon as the next activity starts. I know that the facilitators think they are doing a great job because there are often smiles all around, but it also seems like nothing gets done after such sessions. One client long ago did one of those firewalking events — a couple of years before the Burger King fiasco * — and people DID talk about doing it. But it was always focused on doing the firewalking and never on anything that happened as a result of that BIG expense to the company…

*Firewalking done by Burger King back in 2001, with 100 marketing employees participating in a “team building and personal growth” session with 12 getting burned and Burger King generating a great deal of publicity — yes, even Dave Barry poked fun at them in an article of his. (you can read more here.  (Dave Barry’s really funny article is here!)

Games are fun and I like games. I like fun. I like to kayak and play pool and all that. But I think that a corporate learning event should be just that, a learning event. I like Dave and Buster’s food — I am just not sure of their impact on organizational improvement. Frankly, I think the teambuilding programs where you actually cook a dinner would be more impactful than simply playing, but the home page of D&B’s says that they have conducted thousands of these events.

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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