Some Ideas about working with senior managers to improve organizational performance and do some corporate team building:
The situation is to design a company team building program for 50 directors and above who operate globally. Grown through innovation and acquisition, the various operations within the business all work well individually, but collaboration and synergy could be improved across the organization. The opportunities around a fun, interactive team building exercise focused on optimizing overall business results is high, and this event can be used to lead off their entire business conference.
One Goal is to produce the best overall results that we can for the success of the entire organization and not just one group or team. Another goal is to generate alignment and collaboration throughout the organization.
The issues are around improving planning and collaboration to drive a better overall result, one that could be linked to a variety of organizational alignment and communications issues and help the organization improve its customer service.
Sound familiar? Well that was the context of a phone call I got a while back. It is a Most Perfect Scenario for The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for a variety of reasons so I thought to work up a short proposal into a longer blog, since many of my game users will see similar kinds of scenarios in their use of the exercise in this kind of team building situation — few of the common exercises out there work really well with senior managers…
Please note that a sister article to this, entitled, “Maximizing team building impacts with Senior Managers,” can be found be found by clicking on the title.
This client wanted to bring people from all its global operations to Dallas. These included locations in Europe and Asia so having a business simulation that worked well with these cultures was important. We have associates running the game throughout these regions and I know from my personal facilitation efforts that the different cultures tend to make similar decisions and play with a similar level of competition versus collaboration. For the most part, my debriefings differ more between different kinds of organizations more than different cultural perspectives or levels of management.
This program was a multi-day event, with the overall desired outcomes focused on generating real collaboration between the operating entities, as demanded by the increased global competition they faced — they needed to improve innovation and customer service across global lines.
The metaphors in Lost Dutchman link beautifully to themes of planning versus executing, competing versus collaboration, intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation and other aspects of organizational alignment and communications. Thus, it can be tied metaphorically to many of the overall goals and tactics of the program design group. And that was what we did.
The Group President took an active role in the game play and debriefing. My very favorite way to do this is to help the leader facilitate a discussion of, “What does Mining Gold mean to our organization” and we allowed the 10 different tabletops to first engage themselves and then to share their business improvement ideas with the entire group. This set up some very distinct actionable outcomes for the rest of the program.
We set the tabletops with the straw cowboy hats and colored bandannas as part of the “paraphernalia” and the get-ready to play aspect of the exercise. It helped to energize the group for fun. Nearly every one of them kept both the hat and bandana and that will be an ongoing kinesthetic and visual reminder of the activity and the discussions.
Options: One of the things I would have liked to have done is this: At the end of the play and the conclusion of the debriefing, we have a fun “awards ceremony” and give each of these senior managers a nice, white, crushable felt cowboy hat to take home to display in their office.
These white hats are awarded as a symbolic activity, with the most senior managers giving a hat to each of their direct reports and cascading these awards down through their line operations. The idea is to celebrate the success and to reward the good ideas for things that could be done differently.
There might also be a “cowboy hat dinner event” at the end of the conference to celebrate the changes and new ideas that they will choose to implement after their departure. At this point the event planning has not been completed.
Change and strategy implementation is difficult to accomplish and having something visible and tangible is often really helpful. I think of the “White Hat Award” that Western Electric used to give to a couple of their managers from the thousands in their organization — to use the word “coveted” does not even come close to how much those were valued by the most respected and accomplished senior managers. They were proudly displayed in their offices when I was consulting with that organization long ago. They were a point of pride.
What we did do was completely engage all of the participants in discussions about current issues and very specific improvement opportunities. We allowed them to make choices about what to do differently to improve operational results and impacts.
Rollout – Post-Event Possibilities
It is obvious that the costs of a program of this kind, with hotel and airfare and the other related activities, is quite high. Thus, senior management should be looking for tangible issues and real opportunities to impact their business and improve operational results. It is clear from our years of supporting the exercise for change management and strategy implementation that a wide variety of issues will rise up for discussion in the debriefing and subsequent conversations around the play, and that ideas for improvement will be a natural result of participation. Thus, a company should be prepared to document and plan tactics for addressing them.
Normal business operational tactics are often optimal because they fit smoothly within business operational practices. Changes in expectations, feedback and measurement systems are often used to drive the strategies. But companies can also use effective tools within that roll-out program. One of the roll-out activities could easily be Lost Dutchman, done at each location for those management teams, since it would be easy to learn to facilitate after one played the game.
It is our experience that anyone who went through a delivery of the Lost Dutchman exercise would be somewhat capable of delivering that exercise in the future. PMC could support those global organizations with trained consultants to help them run the game locally in their organizations or we could supply various training people with Dutchman games so that they could run them locally to cascade these ideas about collaboration and optimization of results in each of the workplaces. The guys with the White Hats should be a visible part of the facilitation and leadership team pushing for improved workplace engagement and collaboration in their organizations.
At this point, we are prepared to help the client organization identify its potential issues and opportunities and define some strategies and tactics that would be helpful for roll-out and implementation. Improving the interpersonal relationships of the senior management team will be helpful to improve overall collaboration. But there will be some structural changes that will need to be done to insure that these good ideas become institutionalized best practices.
Please note that a sister article to this, entitled, “Maximizing team building impacts with Senior Managers,” can be found by clicking on the title.
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 email@example.com
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Some specifics on play of:
The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine
Dutchman is delivered as a team building exercise and debriefed on the basic principles of improving interdepartmental collaboration and generating opportunities for improvement. There are strong ties to leadership, engagement and communications. For management development, it is a superb situation to engage participants on issues of optimization, motivation and performance. As a team development exercise, it is used by an impressive list of multinational organizations and international consultants and trainers.
The debriefing helps shift the focus from the game play and results to the realities of organizations working together, improving collaboration, sharing informational resources: “Mining as much Gold as We Can.”
The exercise focuses on the motivating impacts of shared missions and goals and common issues surrounding culture, teamwork and planning. We have hundreds of testimonials and a long list of clients, including corporate users and colleges as well as consultants and trainers. An exceptional amount of information is found on our user-oriented website at http://squarewheels.com/ld/ldindex.html — (To see testimonials from users worldwide, collected by an independent survey company and others, click here.)
The main theme, Mining as Much Gold as We Can, is generally linked to the celebrations of past successes and new ideas for teamwork and collaboration within the organization. In addition, debriefing discussions can focus on the future impacts of teams contributing their individual results to the overall outcomes for achieving goals.
The exercise is designed to take 3 to 3.5 hours to play and debrief thoroughly. It has tabletop teams sharing best practices and information about the game to help other tabletops be more successful. Everyone succeeds but teams that collaborate and plan succeed more than the others. This tends to mirror the collaboration opportunities of most organizations and is a valuable learning lesson from play to link to issues of change.
This highly interactive board game team building exercise was initially developed by Dr. Scott Simmerman, in 1993 and is being used worldwide by a wide variety of multinational corporations, government agencies, consultants and various other organizations. The main PMC website shares a detailed client list and links to individuals who have agreed to offer their testimonial support.
Technical and scientific users of the exercise include Microsoft, Fluor, Institute of Nuclear Power (INPO), Infineon Technologies, Ingersoll Rand, GlaxoWelcome, Michelin, Nokia, Lucas Technologies, Nortel Networks, Sony, Dupont, Intel, Pacific Gas & Electric, PayPal and others. Government users include the Census Bureau, Air Force Intelligence Command, HUD and many others. Sold since 1993, we have a long and very extensive list of clients and active users and Scott has delivered Dutchman programs to companies and organizations in 38 countries.
And while there are a few other games of a somewhat similar nature, testimonials from active users of the exercise suggest that we have an incredibly effective tool for generating active engagement and discussion of individual and team choices when it comes to improving performance results.
As background, Scott is Managing Partner of Performance Management Company, a Taylors, SC company in the training and consulting business since 1984. He holds a doctorate in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has a great deal of experience in delivering this exercise in all sorts of situations and with differing desired outcomes. Scott is a Certified Professional Facilitator and writes extensively on organizational improvement and people and performance themes.