Performance Management Company Blog

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

Tag: team bonding versus team building exercises

Bad Teambuilding and BaaadTeambuilding

I don’t really think I have to say too much about this and let the image speak for itself. As most of my readers are aware, I do corporate team building and organizational development using business simulations to generate discussions about what can be done differently to improve organizational results. Most of my work comes from focusing on collaboration rather than competition and doing things that offer the possibilities of measuring actuals against possibles to discuss alternatives.

If you search “Dutchman” within my blog, you can find dozens of articles about how to improve RESULTS and how to avoid doing things that are possibly team bonding rather than team building. (Here is a short compendium of related team building articles)

We also have twitter threads on #badteambuilding and #baaadteambuilding where a few of us try to illustrate some of the really awful ideas. I use examples of go-kart racing or firewalking or paintball as the kinds of things that offer little real measurable impacts and I will often ask purveyors of such events to share how they think those activities actually accomplish their stated purpose of team BUILDING.

Anyway, I guess my email is out there related to the teambuilding keyword and I was smacked in the head earlier today with this offer for “InflatablesUSA PonyHops for Team Building Events” along with their image of young adults apparently doing teambuilding. I am not going to ask them about their implementation and debriefing design and I am left wondering how they will then discuss issues of collaboration or leadership development or similar.

pony-hop-boy-scoutimage from unsolicited email to me from marketing department

I am NOT against having more fun in the workplace. And I am not about hoping that InflatablesUSA can make a lot of money from these “Pony Hops.”

But I do question the kinds of expensive initiatives suggested in such marketing efforts that will generate no perceivable ROI. I am guessing that this is some kind of competition or race and I continue to wonder how doing competitive things is supposed to generate more collaboration.

Interdepartmental Collaboration continues to be a workplace oxymoron.

If someone wants to enlighten me about the ROI of these efforts shows itself, fine well and good. Until then, I will simply consider these kinds of events as #BadTeambuilding.

And h0w are we going to change organizational cultures and workplace environments if we keep doing things the same way?

For the FUN of It!

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

He wonders, at age 68, if an event sponsor would allow him to play on a Pony Hop if he did not sign a waiver for any possible injury. There are now 5 generations of workers in many workplaces. Are us old people supposed to be excluded? Can we do this with most exec teams?

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

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Thoughts on Team Building and Choices, not Beliefs

Since I first started consulting on behavior and performance back in the late 1970s, I was struck by the differences in what people SAY they do and what they actually CHOOSE to do. Often, these represent large gaps between theory and actual behavior, a gap that often needs to be closed to actually change organizational cultures. People have a hard time being congruent, acting as they think they do and seeing their personal behavior objectively. This is one of the primary reasons why 360 degree feedback can be useful.

Managers might talk about listening to their people and having an open door policy, for example, but the actual reality is that they are always too busy, they screen their calls and their visits, and they have people run interference for them. Surveys will demonstrate such gaps pretty regularly, in actuality. They might talk about “skip-level management” but they always want people to move issues and ideas up the normal chain of command. New data on Respect shows a similar gap (blog to be published tomorrow).

I believe you know what I am referring to, since lots of surveys show lots of such gaps and we have a lot of personal experiences with others that we can recall. And these two quotes sum up the situation:

We judge ourselves by our intentions; we judge others by their behavior.

   and

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. (John LeCarre)

A friend who does teambuilding wrote about doing team development training with senior leadership in Kuwait and that the participants in two workshops challenged the models in his book and put him to the task defending his thinking.There were probably some cultural differences in play but these were also senior managers who often think they know about the intra- and inter-team interactions in their organizations but who generally see filtered data.

(For an example of “filtered data,” you will probably find this blog post to share a funny but true accounting of how Mission Statements get developed! The story is called, “In The Beginning.”)

It is obvious from the pictures that my friend shared that people attending had fun and that team bonding probably occurred. But these activities, by their appearance, did not seem to have a lot of construct validity insofar as being business decision-making and business problem-solving or related to issues of process improvement. Nothing appears measurable and inter-organizational collaboration seems difficult to generate, from appearances.

Given that there were apparent difficulties in the attendees relating to the high performance teambuilding model that was shared,  I also wonder if a different delivery framework for the actual exercises, something with tighter ties to business improvement realities, might have generated different outcomes and discussions. A good model will help leadership better understand what they can choose to do differently, to help change their behavior and the organizational culture they manage but only if you can link to behaviors, not trying to change attitudes or beliefs.

Too often, people from different perspectives and orientations TALK about what they do and how their managers and teams perform and will challenge models based on their beliefs about how things work. We all have such a sense of reality about things like this that it sometimes makes us blind to other possibilities. Simply using a group of people to solve a problem is NOT always relevant to making improvements in business processes and managing people and performance. Problem solving challenges are related, but different. Teams do not just solve problems, they must implement solutions!

kuwait team building pictures

These are the kinds of challenges commonly used in so many team building programs, but are they BUSINESS problems that relate to organizational improvement issues?

And it looked (above) as if my friend used activity-type exercises that are engaging and challenging but that might not have tightly represented business models of how things work.  And this is where some of the conversational conflict may have arisen — how does working with string directly relate to managing and improving high performance teams?

One of the things that I have found to eliminate most of that kind of divergent chatter among executives is to put them into a problem situation and get them to choose and behave and then debrief around ACTUAL behaviors observed, focused around optimizing organizational performance results. Simply talking about how they think things work is not really useful — and the focus is on beliefs and not behaviors and decision-making. We all have beliefs, but not all beliefs represent objective reality.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is one kind of activity that actually drives team and group behaviors in an observable and measurable way, and is one such approach to reality and choice. The exercise also focuses on the inter-table play and decisions, the competitive side of things that get in the way of collaboration and the larger issues of teamwork. It focuses on time limits and limited resources and the need for understanding a complicated set of rules for play along with issues of strategic planning, intra- and inter-team alignment to a shared goal, and the implementation of ideas.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine information and overview link
High Performing Teams do not just solve problems,
they implement solutions that impact results!

If you can get people to make choices and perform in a complex situation demanding teamwork and collaboration and planning, you now can focus on those choices and the observed behaviors and link those things directly to a model for organizational improvement and change. I think arranging knives in a unique creative manner is a great bar trick but the leap from that to organizational improvement is a long one.

What do YOU think?

 

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

 

Leadership Secrets and Teamwork

Dan Rockwell’s blog, Leadership Freak, is excellent. He offers up a very wide variety of actionable ideas on so many subjects. His blog today pushed me to share his key points and add a few of my own when it comes to leadership and interacting with teams. We can do so much more.

Read his blog for the expansion of his key points, but here they are as bullets:

  1. Offer solutions, but always begin with problems
  2. Forget perfection
  3. Learn while you take action
  4. Focus on getting people in the right roles
  5. Build energizing environments
  6. Embrace forward facing contrarians
  7. Results don’t define you

When reading through his explanation, my mind was operating within the framework of my actionable view of the world. Here is my view of the generality of how things really work in most organizations:

Square Wheels LEGO image of how things work in organizations

Take a second and think about this illustration…

It’s been my experience that things seldom work smoothly and that the people do not work exceptionally well with each other between the front and back of the wagon or from the viewpoint of there being multiple teams. In my view of things, leadership is often isolated from the hands-on reality of the people at the back of the wagon, thus it is critical that leadership do more asking and listening than offering suggestions or simply accepting that things are working okay. There is a great deal of research that suggests that many people are not involved or engaged and that their bosses are not asking for their ideas for workplace improvement.

Dan’s thoughts are right about perfection (#2) — I think about it this way:

  • A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. (John LeCarre)
  • The Round Wheels of today are the Square Wheels of tomorrow.
  • What we need is Continuous Continuous Improvement!
    (from the Department of Redundancy Department)

Peter Senge long ago wrote about the idea of a Learning Organization. Heck, I even read that whole book. And I think that, for the most part, the world is still looking for one of them. Most organizations do not come close to being focused on learning and teamwork and learning. Most organizations do NOT take the time to step back and look at issues or for possibilities. That kind of problem-solving teamwork is often seen in various “team bonding” kinds of challenges but not often rolled into the workplace.

For me, workplace reality should occasionally look more like this:

Square Wheels LEGO Poster on team perspective

What we also need to encourage are those individuals who step up and challenge the conformity and stale thinking of the group. Sometimes, these people can play the role of Devil’s Advocate, which can be politically difficult unless it is seen as useful (and which is sometimes actually taught in leadership training programs since it enhances problem solving and optimal solutions). The key, as Dan states in #6, if that this is forward looking and not just critical of things.

I see it thusly:Square Wheels LEGO image of devil's advocate

Someone needs to step up and challenge ideas, otherwise the tendency is to keep doing the same thing while expecting improved results. Muscle building (also know as training) will improve efficiencies, but only by a percent or two. What is needed is innovation and new ideas. Plus, those ideas generate a sense of teamwork, peer pressure for success, and an increased likelihood of generating that continuous continuous improvement I mentioned earlier. This is that positive, energizing of the environment that Dan refers to in #5.

Square Wheels LEGO team celebration poster

There are lots of things we choose to do as managers and leaders and most of them work okay. But there are also a lot of other things we can do to make even more contributions to our people and to our organizations.

So, Step back from your wagons and have a chat with your people about these things,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

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

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Large Corporate Team Building Event Ideas and Issues

Team building programs corporations might consider for their organizational development programs vary in impact and cost. There are a variety of different kinds of activities for team bonding purposes and there are programs that accomplish team building, which take a different direction and have different desired outcomes. The focus on this post is to outline ideas that will actually improve business results and generate  alignment to missions and goals with team building events.

Team bonding may be fun and useful, but it is not often designed to generate measurable improvements of the interdepartmental collaboration and engagement kind.

If you spend time at a large hotel or conference center and check out the general happenings, you can often find groups there having some kind of company retreat that is not totally an educational training program. You will often see people sitting around or engaged in some kind of general activity, with a large screen at the front and powerpoint being shown. The people are often excited when they exit, knowing that they escaped death by powerpoint and non-engagement, at least for a short while. One wonders, though, why hotels are not required to post health warnings about deep vein thrombosis for some of these sessions!

A couple of years ago, people at OnlineMBA.com came across a blog post of mine while they were researching “Team Building” and sent me a link to one of their articles entitled, “How the Top Companies Take On Team Building.

I liked the way it started, since I pretty much agree with this:

Few corporate-culture business phrases are as potentially groan-inducing as “team building.” Visions of cheesy performances and “inspiring” activities like coal walking and trust falls immediately spring to mind.

There are many posts in my blog about the more ridiculous or hard to seriously consider team activities such as golf, paintball or fire walking and we started up a twitter thread to capture some of these ( #baaadteambuilding ). While there may be some positive individual impacts from some of these challenge activities, most do not seem to have any real connection to teamwork or organizational improvement initiatives, Most are nowhere close to being tied to improving results.

Years ago, Dave Berry weighed in on Burger King’s toasty experience with a firewalk — see my blog post on that here.

But the OnlineMBA article quoted above is solid. It talks about some different activities that DO have positive organizational impacts, many of which are not costly. Some are a bit off the wall, like hiring a comedy troupe to come in and cause people to laugh. I have actually seen that backfire but that is a whole different discussion. And they talk about doing Personality Tests as a team building exercise –that needs to be more than simply testing and talking. Maybe they could let the comedy troupe do them?

I read about a school board in Tampa that got together with a facilitator to do some team building. They started with Patrick Lenconi’s work on dysfunctional teams and they quickly became dysfunctional, as one board member immediately complained about the lack of trustworthy behavior of the others and the whole session became an emotional shouting match that was over very shortly. (They employed a trainer, and not a trained facilitator, who allowed to group to get too emotionally engaged way too soon and failed horribly at keeping conversations civil and arms-length. Ugh.)

My experience has been that solid team building games, ones that involve and engage people in metaphorical play, work great as tools to involve and engage people in problem solving and teamwork. From the game experiences and observed behaviors, we can easily link back to the real issues needing to be addressed in the organization. And by using a business framework in debriefing, discussing results and alignment and leadership themes from the play, we always avoid that kind of dysfunctional challenge to history within the organization.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine or Innovate & Implement  are fun, controllable, inexpensive and actually link directly to workplace collaboration and performance improvement.

And all of PMC’s products scale up from small group training sessions to very large group events. There are many long-term impacts on participants and the activities get everyone involved and engaged.

Team building exercise, Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

Performance Management Company is the designer and publisher of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine (LDGM) corporate team building simulation. We sell different versions of the game for various uses and will also inexpensively rent the exercise to users for large group teambuilding or organizational events:

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Click the above icon to see a detailed explanatory blog post about renting the exercise or click here to go directly to the information on the shopping cart of our website.

And you can find some testimonials here,

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

 

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