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

Tag: motivational team building exercises

Annotated Abstracts of Management Team Building articles

Many of my posts are descriptive of ideas for business management team building exercises and posts on how to use training events to impact engagement and involvement for workplace improvement. This seems especially true for those focused on executive development, since the actions at the top have so many impacts as they cascade down through the organization.

One of my basic beliefs on these kinds of motivational team building exercises is that these events can be fun but that they can also be inexpensive and tightly linked to specific organizational objectives. One of the things we do is to deliver such sessions and then sell the client the simulation to run themselves through training or other kinds of developmental initiatives. They are really good when bundled into a strategy rollout kind of strategy.

What I did for this blog was simple: I searched my posts on “Motivational Team Building” and came up with about 20 different articles among the 275 in the blog. Then, I selected 5 that seemed most relevant to someone searching for that kind of information.

LDGM 1 80

1 – In Lessons from The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a game on teamwork and collaboration, we focus on some of the key learning points in our teambuilding exercise. One is that collaboration, even when it is encouraged, is really hard to generate. People choose more often to compete even when it sub-optimizes results. It is also easy to see that the three most important resources are Time, Information and Each Other. We also then talk about the issues of My Team, My Team, My Team and how we can help organizations improve overall collaboration and engagement.

My Team My Team haiku

2 – The post, “Maximizing Team Building Impacts with Senior Managers,” addresses how to involve and engage the top managers of an organization with the goal of cascading the teamwork and alignment down. In many organizations, the phrase interdepartmental collaboration is an oxymoron, and it exists because of exclusive measurement systems and the competition between leadership – causing the silos. This article focuses on working with senior management and shares some thinking about how to implement this initiative throughout an organization.

3 – Innovation, Strategy and Motivation is focused on my thinking about the overall effectiveness of a program I did in Mumbai, India for a group of very senior managers. It was focused on my friend Robin Speculand’s approach to strategy implementation and wrapped around my Square Wheels illustrations as tools for generating alignment and engagement. I include links to Dan Pink’s materials on intrinsic motivation and also relate to other resources for impacting people and productivity.

Rat Cage More Better Faster

4 – Does Teamwork Work? Issues and Ideas for Improvement is about the basic design of team building programs and their linking to organizational improvement. There are a lot of activities out there representing themselves as team building that may or may not be truly effective in linking to real organizational improvement initiatives and business process improvement. Many might have aspects of collaboration or team thinking involved, but are they really designed to facilitate a powerful debriefing? Dutchman was designed to link to issues of optimizing performance results.

5 – In Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…“, there is a solid review of the data and statistics on workplace motivation, which anchors really well to what we can do differently to better involve and engage individuals and teams for performance improvement. The data show that there are just so many people going through the motions of working, and that they could accomplish a lot more if the workplace was more situationally engaging. People can do more, and they will if you allow them. It is a lot about Intrinsic Motivation.

These are a few of almost 300 articles in my blog, ON PERFORMANCE. I hope that you find some of these ideas of use and benefit as you move things forward in your organization or for your clients.

Plus, I am just starting up a blog of poems, quips, one-liners and other illustrated cartoons with captions and slogans. You can check it out at http://poemsontheworkplace.wordpress.com/

SWs One - things you will see border copy 2

We believe that we have some of the most useful tools for communications and organizational development that exist. Our team building games are simple and effective and our Square Wheels toolkits easily involve and engage people to share and implement their ideas for improvements.

Have FUN out there!

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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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/

 

Does Teamwork Work? Issues and Ideas for Improvement

There are people who think that no teamwork actually works to improve performance and that the effort and expense are a waste of energy and time. Yeah, maybe. But it does require some planning and alignment to the real issues and opportunities of improving management team building for business improvement.

More and more, I see and hear about some exercises that really sound like mediocre ideas for impacting workplace performance and just do not understand how some of those activities are actually linked to performance improvement. Sure, tossing balls around in a circle with more speed the second time can demonstrate better coordination of a group’s activities and, yeah, seeing that improvement after people talk about how they could do it differently does indicate that teamwork works. But what the heck? How do you really make that activity bridge to improving interdepartmental collaboration when the bosses of those departments are not involved in the activity.

(And I DO think that paintball might be a fun activity to watch as the different department heads duel it out on an individual basis for Leadership Supremacy. But I really doubt that winning that exercise will dramatically improve trust and respect among each other or that is it is an optimal paradigm for building teams within an entire organization — paintball sets up, by design, competing groups with no possibility of collaboration. You know that they sell paintball mortars, right? Designed to kill lots of players with one well-placed shot.)

We know that there are many different kinds of troubles with implementing strategies and there are issues of organizational culture and divergent measurement systems that do NOT lend themselves to organizational team building or organizational alignment interventions. There are a lot of different intra-group and inter-group issues that can be directly addressed with interventions and team building, things that can be readily discussed and resolved once the issues are smoked-out.

PMC has a vested interest in the issue, since we design and sell interactive team building activities focused on resolving issues of engagement and collaboration between teams.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, for example, has proven itself in its ability to generate commitment for change and improvement since 1993. It’s about solving problems, strategic planning, and collaboration with others who have information they could share. It is about working with others under the pressures of time, with measurable results.

DSC03949

And there IS a lot of crap training out there calling itself teamwork, in my opinion. I have attended and participated in way too many to pretend that they do not exist. Some are just plain goofy!

Google ChromeScreenSnapz003

Yeah, let’s all cheer for the outstanding bag jumper while it is 105 degrees…

My particular pet peeves are around activities like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes — “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together to solve problems, interacting to define things to improve, etc. I just do not believe that “team bonding” is a sufficiently powerful incentive to change workplace business practives.

And Golf as team building? Really? HOW??— Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play is crucial to success (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole, but not during play, most certainly. It is one-on-one-on-one-on one, or maybe two pairs against each other. They cannot help each other, unless maybe reading a putt.

Bowling? Maybe. Cooking? Maybe, if one is running a big commercial kitchen in a restaurant or hotel and each of team is responsible for ONE aspect of that meal and they are collaborating on the overall timing… But just let one try to help another by offering some “help” in the way of advice.

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations – they are one-man bands, working alone and not in concert. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then think they can expect their people to work together. In so many organizations — with lots of research supporting this — many of the people are not engaged and many are DIS-engaged. One might not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people.

A recent Fierce, Inc., survey found:

  • 86% of respondents blame lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.
  • 70% of individuals either agree or strongly agree that a lack of candor impacts the company’s ability to perform optimally.
  • 97% of those surveyed believe the lack of alignment within a team directly impacts the outcome of any given task or project.
  • 90% of respondents believe decision-makers should seek out other opinions before making a final decision; approximately 40% feel leaders and decision-makers consistently fail to do so.

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

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

Motivate Me poem

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

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

Think of all the activities that we engage in where teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment — sports is but one endeavor. As my North Carolina Tar Heels demonstrated (yeah, I know about Duke winning the ACC Tourney), their improved collaboration and teamwork was visibly what enabled them to run out 20-3 for the last part of the season. Lacking that teamwork, they started at 6-4… Same players, but a different level of confidence, communication and effort.

And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Does Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. Teamwork always works if we don’t prevent it from working.

Sure, individuals can excel individually, but only through collaboration with others and if they are involved and engaged. Only with motivation can we get a group of people collaborating to high levels of accomplishment and performance.

It is about leadership. It is about identifying opportunities for improvement and then celebrating the successes that are gained.

Playing with Ideas

Have more FUN out There!

scott tiny casualDr. 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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