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

Author: Dr. Scott Simmerman Page 1 of 42

Scott is the creative designer of team building games and other communication tools focused on improving engagement and alignment in the workplace. His exercises and toolkits are used by consultants and trainers worldwide and they are highly effective and easy to use, in addition to being inexpensive and flexible. Performance Management Company was started in 1984 and has operated continuously to develop Lost Dutchman and the Square Wheels themes.

A Joke on the issues of Implementing New Ideas

We’re playing around with a bunch of new  tools to help supervisors manage their remote workers and overall team more effectively, wrapped around our Square Wheels® images. And, in my framing work, I thought of an old joke that I wanted to share about some of the difficulties in implementing improvements.

And, in thinking about that, I thought to share it with my readers.

So, here goes:

This guy was driving down a dirt road when he looked to his left and a three-legged chicken was running next to the car. Interesting, he thought but he also thought he would drive faster. He sped up but so did the chicken. So, he sped up a bit more but so did the chicken. Finally, he’s doing over 50 miles per hour and the chicken is staying with him.
Then, all of a sudden, the chicken speeds up and cuts in front of him and runs onto this farm road.
Well, the guy slows down, backs up and goes down the road to reach the farm house where a farmer steps off the porch and comes up to the car.
“Man, did you see the speed of that chicken?”
“Yep.”
“And did you see that it has three legs?”
“Yep. We breed them that way.”
“Why?”
“Well ever have people over for dinner and you want three drumsticks?” 
“Sure. That actually makes good sense. How do they taste?”
“Well, we don’t rightly know. We’ve never been able to catch one…”
(speaking of Square Wheels, I have been unable to get the correct formatting on this post. Sorry.)
The theme is that sometimes, what appears to be a really good idea can be pretty hard to actually implement.
What really good “3-legged chicken” ideas might we have to run around? How might you use this joke to lighten up a difficult meeting about implementing changes within an organization? How can you use the joke to stimulate a discussion about your organization’s issues and opportunities?
  • What plans might the farmer and driver make?
  • How do we make a great idea into a success by doing a better job of planning at the start?
… and so forth.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement products like Square Wheels®.
Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who designs simple, powerful effective learning tools.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

Square Wheels Tools for Managing and Leading Remote Workers

There are massive shifts happening right now, some are trends that are simply continuing and some are having significant impacts on people and performance. In millions of workplaces, people who have had desks are not expected to continue to contribute by working remotely. That transition is going to be unbelievably painful for millions of workers and their supervisors.

My network of consultants and trainers are now discussing how we can help people better handle these changing conditions by providing some very simple tools and some very simple training to impact communications. We think that our Square Wheels® themes can be made into simple webcasted interactive discussions.

So, we are just beginning to pull a wide variety of resources together to share ideas about what we can do and what we can implement. My current view is to package things like the old “brown bag luncheon” tools, with images and animations to help jumpstart discussions on various issues, present and future.

Impacts should be on worker (and manager) motivation, dealing with change, innovation and designing better workplace systems and processes, implementing improvement, team building and collaboration and other issues that are being faced by managers. And the tools will be simple, like this haiku I did a while back…

haiku Better Tomorrow

If you are interested in playing with us as we develop these things, please let me know by email. I may see comments but may also be slow to react to them.

These tools will strongly align with my “Manager as Motivator” thinking, whereby we support people managing people with simple engagement processes and implementation tools and ideas.

Scott Simmerman – scott@squarewheels.com

Decreasing Resistance to Change — The Finger, Arm and Leg Exercise for facilitating discussion

In The Dilbert Principles, Dilbert said, “Change is good. You go first.”

That one little quip captures the essence of trying to do something differently. Change is commonly resisted and often actively resisted, combined with a variety of reasons and excuses. People tend to rationalize the many reasons why something cannot be changed. Let me use a simple example of teaching someone to play pool.

In pool, one holds a cue stick and attempts to hit the cue ball into an object ball and then into a pocket. It is a fun and simple game and everyone can play. The balls are stationary until you hit one into another. Obviously, how and where one hits on the cue ball influences the level of success; striking the cue ball consistently and accurately hitting the object ball allows one to pocket more balls than hitting randomly.

So, there are skills around holding and swinging the cue stick related to the position of the head and eyes and arm and what is called “a bridge,” which is the placement of the hand closest to the cue ball which holds the cue stick for aiming. HOW one forms the bridge influences how stable the bridge is and how accurately and consistently one can then strike the cue ball. Some bridges are MUCH more stable than others and experienced players do this little thing MUCH better than people starting to learn the game.

But, the reality is that once people get comfortable with their bridge, they become resistant to changing / improving their hand position. One would think changing a hand position would be a simple thing; but repetition and habit generally make the newer player actively resistant to learning a newer or better way of doing this. This is generally a consistent kind of resistance to learning. So, in teaching pool, bridging is one of the first things to be addressed. And the active resistance is clear.

There is a simple exercise that works great to expose those things that underpin this active resistance and to increase the probability of change. So, I start by holding both hands up, fingers apart and wiggling and then fold my hands together, interlocking my fingers. When I do this, my left thumb is on top but the other person (or people) will do theirs randomly; it does not seem to be related to handedness, in my experience. Some people simply do it with their right thumbs winding up on top. So, ask them which thumb they put on top.

Then, unfold your fingers and wiggle them again and interlock them the other way, so your other thumb is on top. Ask the other person to do this. And observe the process. Most people will fumble with this a bit. Some might even have to try it again. ALL will feel uncomfortable. Why?

Because they probably have never before interlocked their fingers this new way.

Many will need to actually concentrate on doing this differently. They will actually study their hands and fingers and carefully look (probably for the very first time) how they have their fingers interlocked.

But do not stop here. What you then do is fold your arms across your chest. Ask them to fold their arms. Then, after they are comfortable with this, you will fold your arms exactly the opposite, so that things are not like they were at first. (I encourage you to practice this a few times before you demonstrate because it IS difficult to do for many people!) If your left hand is under your right upper arm and your right hand is over your left biceps, for example, reverse it so your right hand is under and your left hand is over. (If you try this right now, you will see why some practice is necessary, so practice it a few times so you can appear to do this easily.)

You will see, in all likelihood, the other person flounder around with this. Ask them why and they will probably give you some reason or other but the reality is that things are more difficult and uncomfortable when you have never done them differently than you normally do. (The phenomenon can be termed behavioral flexibility — note that there are a dozen ways one can make a bridge in pool, each used in different circumstances so being comfortable with doing a bridge differently is a real skill!)

The third part of this is optional to do but easily demonstrated, or even discussed. When people cross their legs (and there are a few different ways to do this like at the ankle or over the knee), they will “naturally and normally” change leg positions because staying in one position cuts off the blood flow and becomes painful. People learn to cross their legs differently because of this and they do not ever consider leg position and reversal an issue. (Pain / discomfort is a good motivator for change!)

Okay, so, it you have actually DONE the above exercises and interlocked your fingers and arms differently, you will have undoubtedly felt the discomfort associated with doing things differently. Perfect! And you now understand clearly that dealing with discomfort is always associated with change and that being less uncomfortable being uncomfortable is a really good learning point, something that can help you better deal with change in the future.

Now, in the example above, I went through how all this related to teaching someone how to improve their pool game. I hope it helps you with your game, too!

But the ideas underlying sharing these simple exercises are that you can use them with others in your efforts to improve workplace performance, to help decrease active resistance to new ideas and to the feelings common when one implements new ideas. Do this with others and have some fun making people re-assess their thoughts and reactions. Apply this to your leadership efforts.

 

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 is a CPF and CPT and holds a doctorate in behavioral neuropsychology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Scott is co-Founder of The Square Wheels Project and currently working on being retired in Cuenca, Ecuador while still supporting a variety of business improvement projects.

 You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

“Why are team-building activities conducted?” – An answer to a Quora Post

This question was asked in Quora, where I posted up a response. Your thoughts?

The Big Answer is “organizational improvement.” That can take the focus on improving collaboration to impact innovation or creativity or customer service or similar. It can take the focus of re-aligning (or aligning, even) people toward shared goals and objectives, missions and visions and that sort of thing. And different events can help people focus on optimizing performance results.

In many organizations, “interdepartmental collaboration” is an oxymoron, in that the objectives of different groups within an organization are often adversarial, since they tend to have opposing or at least different goals and objectives, measurements and rewards.

A well-designed team BUILDING initiative can accomplish a lot, and get people moving in the same direction. It is NOT the solution, though, since there are lots of cultural issues that might need to be addressed. In most organizations, there are good individual rewards for good performance, which do not generally drive collaboration, communications and teamwork.

Team BUILDING is also quite different than team BONDING. You can build bonds by going out drinking together or to a strip club (I jest, but one does see such events posted in Twitter with a hashtag of #teambuilding!) or by having fun events and get-togethers. You would be hard-pressed to find those things having any impact on measurable results, however.

A good team building exercise with a good supporting framework for post-event improvement can do a lot to impact motivation and results. Check out, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” to see one example of how an event can be structured for organizational improvement.

My thought was to share a simple framework around the goals of accomplishing some real team building around shared missions, visions, goals and behavior. Increasing collaboration between departments is a very high impact behavior that can be accomplished.

A focus on improving teamwork and better aligning people in organizations to shared goals and missions has many positive impacts. After all, the goal should be, “To mine as much gold as WE can!”

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement products like Square Wheels®.
Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who designs simple, powerful effective learning tools.

See the powerful new teambuilding game, Seven Seas Quest, Saviors of Cultura

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

 

How do I generate new and improved outcomes in meetings?

Yesterday, I answered a Quora question about effective workplace team building activities and how to best impact people and performance. Today, I was asked to respond to the above question, so I thought to share those simple thoughts herein, also.

How DO you generate better innovation in meetings? Here is what I said:

Dilbert said, “Change is good. You go first.”

And that seems to be one of the critical issues in getting new things thought of and good ideas implemented. Push people to think out of the box and look at issues and opportunities from different perspectives than usual. Lots of different ways to do that or tools you can use to push divergent thinking or alternative generation. (My Square Wheels® images represent one way to facilitate this.)

But also keep in mind that, “Nobody ever washes a rental car” and that the feeling of ownership is a critical factor if you intend to generate commitment and drive teamwork and implementation. The issue of implementation can get complicated as well as political, but building good expectations and setting up feedback / measurement systems.

Different people will see things differently, so facilitating a discussion where different alternatives are discussed is important. Note that some people will immediately jump to The Answer and even do Godzilla Meets Bambi on other people’s ideas, so having some kind of voting process is useful. Again, all sorts of different ways to accomplish that.

(Side note: Godzilla Meets Bambi is a short video I produced 10 years ago that is about these same kinds of issues and the reality of what can happen if desired outcomes do not align with organizational realities. You can see that short animation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOZk6UOii6M

Having someone play Devil’s Advocate as an assigned / shifting role can also be useful to unsure that ideas are viewed from different perspectives. Sometimes it is just too easy for people to go along with an idea without due diligence.

And deciding on “Expected Next Steps” and timelines is useful. The clearer The Path, the less confusion and the more buy-in. Minimize surprise. Generate a clear picture of doing something new or, “morebetterfaster*” than you are currently doing things. Make the vision of the future more attractive, rather than threatening.

There is no silver bullet. It is all about ideation, buy-in, planning and execution. Be sure there are sufficient resources (time, money, leadership) to give people the feeling that the new initiative can be successful. (And note that it often takes YEARS to change organizational cultures!)

 

So, I hope that you found this short overview and response to be of some value. You can find the Quora post with other replies here.

* Tom Peters is thought to have said, “It’s really simple. If we are not getting more better faster than they are getting more better faster, than we’re getting less better or more worse.” (article here)

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement products like Square Wheels®.
Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who designs simple, powerful effective learning tools.

See the powerful new teambuilding game, Seven Seas Quest, Saviors of Cultura

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

What are examples of team building exercises that actually work?

I was asked the above question today in Quora and I shared what I thought was a simple response:

“It is NOT “the exercise” but The Debriefing.

Spending some time playing a game or doing some kind of group activity will change nothing because people will generally not reflect on their activity in any way that will set up the cognitive dissonance needed to change behavior. Sure, fun is fun, and the fun can set up a positive memory. And if the exercise is collaborative, then maybe some bonding and trust improvement might result.

I would suggest you evaluate any activity from the perspective of how it might generate solid discussions. If the activity is for collaboration but teams choose to compete rather than work together, can you neatly link those things together in the context of organizational improvement?

If the goal is, for example, “to mine as much gold as we can,” do the teams work together to optimize overall results to accomplish the overall mission, or do they choose to “win?” And, do their choices designed to win actually reduce the successes of other teams?

Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” is one such example of a business simulation that has clear metaphors about teamwork and clear, measurable processes to allow for solid discussions about things people and teams can choose to do differently. (Disclosure: My game, sold worldwide for 25+ years.)

There are a few other exercises / simulations out there that allow for good discussions. The role of the session facilitator is critical and the exercise should provide them with solid tools to generate discussions and followup. Little change should be expected from some interactive activity with little discussion and no followup.”

 

The person asking the question responded as I thought he might because of the nature of the question. He said, Thanks Scott! This is helpful and you’ve helped me identify a problem with team building exercises I’ve previously been a participant in. They’ve often lacked a debriefing or meaningful discussion of any kind.”

This is actually a very common thought from participants who go through team bonding or even some programs said to be team building. There is a goal of getting through the activity but not a focus on discussing what could be done morebetterfaster or what changes might be implemented.

What are YOUR thoughts on his question? You can respond to that herein or back on the Quora discussion you can find here: https://www.quora.com/What-are-examples-of-team-building-exercises-that-actually-work

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman – “The Square Wheels Guy!
     Performance Management Company
3 Old Oak Drive, Taylors SC 29687 USA
864-292-8700

www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

Teamwork: Things Can All Play Out with Everyone Being Comfortable!

You Don’t Have to Build, Shoot, Cook, Find Things, Find A Way Out, Be Physically Challenged or Be a Loser, Sing, or Even Be Especially Clever! You Don’t Even Have to Sit Still Unless You Want To!

The above points can all be true, however, given today’s climate for sensationalizing corporate adventures and team building scenarios, too many people are placed in situations that lead to personal discomfort and feelings of inadequacy, thereby creating scenarios that do not lead to organizational improvement or improve team effectiveness.

And why? What necessitates overdoing something that could so much more easily be handled with care and consideration for everyone’s comfort while also creating a fun and solid learning experience? Why not simply create a fun environment that supports teamwork and performance improvement? Why test individuals in a team building environment?

Learning happens best when people feel secure and the challenges presented are within their abilities. Of course, pushing people beyond what they think they can do may build confidence if they succeed, but this isn’t a necessary option for strengthening organizational culture or building a more collaborate workplace.

Thirty years ago, I was intrigued by a team building game for organizations that offered both fun and learning all done within a tabletop setting. This is the kind of stuff most of us grew up with—board games. Seeing this as a unique and purposeful learning tool, I enthusiastically became the first USA facilitator / seller for it.  However, with repeated developmental deliveries, I quickly realized that their game design fell short of reaching the full potential that I felt it could fulfill.

This is how The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building exercise came to be because after suggesting to the creators of the game that I was representing, that it needed more substance and a better design within in order to create that all important “ah ha!” that happens when a connection is made from one thing to another, they refused to make changes to their game. (more)

Recognizing the strength and inherent qualities of using a boardgame as an organizational learning tool, I began my journey with the designing and continuous continuous improvement of Dutchman. I wanted it to be the memorable game that I knew would work not only as a pleasurable experience but also one designed with the proper mechanics so that players would understand how their game behaviors and outcomes align with what happens in their workplace.

Now, all these decades later, Dutchman still remains a relevant and universally appreciated approach to getting people away from their workplace so that they can experience camaraderie, an engaging challenge, teamwork, group and leadership dynamics, competition and collaboration factors, strategic planning and elements of communication that happen though the play of a compelling game. (user survey) Its dynamic debriefing, however, is what truly makes Dutchman loved and trusted by our users because it gives participants insight into how their behaviors are crucial to organizational and personal change and improvement.

Our users love Dutchman. Many have run it for dozens of years
for a variety of developmental purposes.

Yes, lots of people enjoy the great outdoors and various types of challenges that offer a different twist from their day-to-day experiences, but the beauty of a game like Dutchman is that it doesn’t put people in a compromising position should they feel unsafe or unfit or too old to enjoy what is put in front of them. Everyone has played board games and while Dutchman would be described as much more than just a game, it is a more familiar setting than climbing ropes, shooting arrows, walking over hot coals or being locked in an escape room. And, it’s an easy bombproof tool to set up and deliver, as it includes all the instructions and ideas that will make it successful. You can even use your own personnel to facilitate the game!

A quick overview of Dutchman:

  • Everything needed is included in the game materials (you may wish to add your own props for décor to the room)
  • No need for participants to bring special clothing or equipment for the game
  • No physical challenges will be placed on anyone
  • Total time required for Dutchman introduction, play and debriefing is about 3.5 hours
  • No teams lose or die in this game; it’s about optimizing for the best outcome
  • The debriefing is flexible and can be designed to address specific issues or ideas
  • It’s inexpensive to run and can be either rented or purchased
  • Dutchman plays with any size group from 8 to 800+
  • It’s a valuable investment in organizational improvement

And, quite simply, it creates a feel-good-for-all learning experience for your organization without jeopardizing anyone’s comfort zone!

Here is the last bit: We FULLY support you in your purchase or rental of the exercise. You get unlimited free help through emails or calls to reach the point where you feel comfortable in running the exercise and focused with your key debriefing themes and targeted desired outcomes. Actually, we wish more of our users would talk with us, something that our very extensive included support materials seems to preclude.

Your goal is to, “Mine as much as WE can!
Our goal is to, “Make teams optimally successful.”

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement products like Square Wheels®.
Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who designs simple, powerful effective learning tools.

See the powerful new teambuilding game, Seven Seas Quest, Saviors of Cultura

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

 

Play the Fool, Achieve Hero Leadership

David Riklin caught my attention a while ago with one of those quotes that says a lot more than it says. So, I added it into my catalog of Square Wheels® Posters and something to add to our Culture Wall idea of motivational and developmental Square Wheels themes.

Organizational alignment and culture change can look like this, in actuality:

(If you would like a free high res version of the above, email Scott@squarewheels.com)

Shared conversations about missions and visions, and shared perceptions about issues and opportunities can allow a group of people to align together to work on implementation. This builds teamwork and engagement.

Workplace conversations related to the perceived issues can be part of your effort to dis-un-engage people, to identify and remove those things that are decrease engagement and generate frustration or withdrawal. You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement, motivation and workplace performance improvement here.

I’ve been playing with communications tools for 25+ years and these toolkits on Square Wheels are cheap and amazingly flexible. They are useful when getting managers to be more motivating and work great for innovation and creativity facilitation.

You can also see a cute animation of “Continuous Continuous Improvement” here:  https://www.squarewheels.com/

You can see us playing with Santa’s Performance Improvement Culture Wall in this cute little blog post.

For the FUN of It!

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

See my 90-minute teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Where can I buy The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine?

Performance Management Company is the designer and main distributor of the team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We started using the exercise in 1993 and decided to package and sell very usable designs of this game without the normally required certification or annual licenses or per-participant fees.

Users would buy the exercise at a one-time coast, receive the delivery and training information in powerpoint, pdf and other common formats and access as much free support as they desired. Over the 26 years of distribution, we have packaged the training and support information so that very few questions are directed our way.

(I miss many of those conversations and even the people who promise to call me after a purchase generally never call! I can name names, but I won’t…)

Performance Management Company was started in 1984 by Dr. Scott Simmerman and Joan Simmerman. PMC was initially a training and consulting firm focused on people and performance, with customer service quality being a driving theme. You can read a good deal of the biography and details at this link on LinkedIn. We became a home-based business back in 1998, the same year that we started our initial website, www.squarewheels.com.

PMC has been supported technically by our son-in-law, Chris Fisher, who operates the websites and fixes all sorts of technical issues that Scott and Joan generate when doing blogs, designing websites, doing security, and fixing emails and dealing with hosting problems.

More recently, Jeff Simmerman has joined the business.

Jeff’s responsibilities have been around the redesign of the old Seven Seas Quest team building exercise to design a brand new game, Quest, with a Dutchman-like interface and a focus on what we call Dis-Un-Engagement or Disruptive Involvement. That game is in final design stages and we do not even have a web page for it yet, but Jeff has completed the delivery materials and is working with the printer to make it available very soon.

You can find prices for our various team building simulations by clicking on the link:

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

including our four different versions of the Dutchman game.

You can find solid information on the RENTAL version of the exercise on our website, also.

 

For the FUN of It!

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

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

 

Senior Managers SHOULD Deliver Team Building Programs

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine (LDGM) was designed to allow the Expedition Leadership, the people delivering the game, to act very congruently with game’s goals and shared values.  User feedback says it accomplishes that elegantly and that Dutchman is the best leadership game on collaboration that exists in the world. Our initial design thinking was that untrained managers should be able to deliver the exercise because their choices in how to support it would be logical and straightforward based on the goals and the rules for play. They explain the rules (through powerpoint), allow teams to plan, support the play and then debrief around player and team behavior, performance, collaboration and engagement themes.

Generating real organizational change or aligning people to the new company strategies is always an issue – how does one generate real involvement and alignment and ownership among the management team and then among all of the key performers? Active involvement and engagement and understanding along with clear discussions about past and future choices for changes and behaviors is what generates impact and value.

The Design Idea:

  • Deliver a session as a team building event for the senior managers, knowing that you will need 3 of them for each 60 people in the main event. Debrief as to their group issues as seen in the play and then define their desired outcomes for the large event.
  • Spend 10 minutes on explaining the need for congruent behavior during game delivery, what constitutes how they operate to help teams be successful.
  • Spend 30 minutes on how to “bank” the game, how to process the transactions of each team each day.
  • Spend 20 minutes on how to “lead” the game from the floor, how to function as a co-expedition leader during the play of the main event itself, giving help, selling teams on the idea of getting a video, etc.

The idea is to allow the exercise to be used by managers with their people, to clarify the real goals and visions and to enable people to play as they should perform in daily work and to model desired leadership behaviors. It is great to have a presenter (trainer or consultant) deliver the game but so much more can be achieved when this is done by someone on the management team.

Note that we offer a very low-cost and fully-supported rental version of our Dutchman game for one-time use with large events. Contact us for more details.

Lost Dutchman is one of the truly great team building exercises, and one that works well with really large groups. My largest session is 600 people, but Wipro in India reported running a delivery with 870 people in one room at one time — and with a solid debriefing linked to their specific issues and opportunities. The exercise scales up nicely, needing only 3 people for each 60 participants. And, if the managers are actually demonstrating their active support for the lessons being learned and leading in a manner congruent with improving collaboration and teamwork, there are even more positive outcomes.Behavior changes when we can change behavior; people’s beliefs and attitudes will become congruent with the choices they make and what they do. Getting senior managers to collaborate will improve collaboration.

 

Generating real organizational change or aligning people to company strategies is a common organizational issue – how does one generate active involvement, understanding and alignment among the management team and cascade that to the key performers?

Delivering a large group team building event using the Dutchman exercise actually represents a unique and unparalleled opportunity to build executive teamwork:

  • Senior managers generally love challenges, and what better challenge than having them learn to facilitate a program that generates alignment of their own people toward the organization’s goals and objectives.
  • Senior managers often “talk team,” but they operate their own groups in a way to isolate them from real inter-organizational collaboration. We hear the term “silo” enough to know that it represents real organizational reality. So putting them into a situation where their teamwork together is required for effectiveness makes it easier to get these behaviors down the road. Working as a team generates teamwork, especially when there is followup and discussion about the impacts.
The image is called "My Team, My Team, My Team." You can see why...

The image is called “My Team, My Team, My Team.” You can see why…

  • Instead of some unknown people running around during a facilitated event, why not have managing managers walking the talk and supporting teamwork and sharing resources and behaving congruently?

In the Dutchman exercise, the expressed goal is, “To mine as much gold as we can and to generate an optimal Return on Investment.”

We get the managers aligned and congruent with the above as part of the game and as part of the debriefing on what changes need to be made to impact and optimize organizational results.

Dutchman was designed to be easy to facilitate — As part of my initial thinking about how it should play, I did not want my company to need a staff of people to do licensing or certification nor did I want to make the exercise too hard for players to understand. I also wanted non-training people (managers) to be able to deliver the game — we have had many line managers run the exercise over the years with great success. (You can see 30+ testimonials by clicking on the image below.)

A testimonial on The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold MineDutchman has had 25+ years of polishing Dutchman to make it into a very straightforward team building program. It is easy to prepare for and to deliver, with minimal surprises.

Dr. Scott Simmerman facilitating team building gameThis design gives me the ability to put my executive coaching hat on, debriefing them with the goal of improving the senior leadership teamwork with real purpose. It also enables me to run really large groups with only ME being required for delivery.

Imagine the staffing needs to run a typical experiential exercise for 300 people versus the ability to deliver a senior manager team building session plus the large teambuilding event with only my active involvement and participation. Simplicity and effectiveness!

We generate a much higher likelihood of behavioral change and implementation of organizational improvement after the event, since the managers have a really powerful hands on collaborative experience in working with each other to maximize the results of the event itself.

The debriefing of that senior manager session focusing on discussing the kinds of behaviors these senior managers would like to see from the people at the large event helps tie things together. The focus on the shared missions and visions and the generation of alignment to goals, objectives and expectations becomes quite clear. This can be done internally or with a trusted outside facilitator or coach. We can support many different scenarios.

Having these real Senior Managers in this game delivery role is a perfect leadership learning lesson on how to implement change and support high performance. One cannot simply TALK about what leaders and players should be doing; they have to behave consistently and congruently to actually generate results.

I hope that this framework has been informative and helpful.

We sell the Dutchman game directly to end users looking for a high-impact, low cost training tool and it comes in different versions for different size groups. We deliver the game to companies wanting outside facilitation. And, we rent the game for one-time use.Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Have more FUN out there!

Design Thinking: Who ARE those customers

Attending an Agile workshop this morning, my thinking was on Design Thinking and how many of those processes neatly support the Agile approaches to innovation and implementation. What we are seeing so often is an active resistance to even the basic ideas around implementing improvements. But, as I have seen since starting my consulting and training efforts back in 1978, “What else is new?”

The critical success factor often seems to be “perspective” or “reflection.” Outside of the technical and the processes involved, nothing gets done until things get implemented. The viewpoint of the leader, the wagon puller, often remains the same as it has always been and they are often not going to embrace the improvement initiative. They are looking forward at what needs to be accomplished today much more often than they are reflecting on the ideas of others about what might be improved in the future.

The workplace thus seems to roll forward along these lines:

Design Thinking and Implementation in the workplace of reality

As I shared in another blog, there are a variety of reasons for why people do not share ideas for improvement in most organizations, and very few GOOD reasons…

Square Wheels research on why people are not engaged

(Click on the image to see more about this original research)

The statistics are about workers’ perceptions of managers but the reality is that this also reflects the managers view about their managers and their managers view of the senior managers…

The simple summary is that managers need more reflection about how their workplaces perform and the understanding that many people are motivated by participating in workplace improvement initiatives. Managers can facilitate the generation of ideas and can benefit when those ideas produce positive impacts. We can see that in Agile kinds of improvement initiatives where teams quickly design and test new frameworks for implementation and they can be seen in design thinking kinds of initiatives focused on new products, change and productivity.

The Round Wheels already exist,
but need to be implemented more better faster.

The Round Wheels of Today will become
The Square Wheels of Tomorrow.

You can take a 30-minute online facilitation skills training program, called The Square Wheels Project at Udemy for $20, complete with handouts and powerpoint presentation tools.

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance ManaagementOr, you can purchase a simple toolkit with a wide variety of supporting instructional ideas around facilitating workplace improvement.

Both of the above are designed for supervisors and both of these are easily embedded into communications and training initiatives to support organizational improvement. We have been working with Square Wheels as tools to impact people and performance since 1993 and can do a variety of things to support any kind of innovation and implementation initiative.

 

For the FUN of It!

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

See a fun animation about innovation and improvement here.

See another great teambuilding game: The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

 

 

 

Why is “Lost Dutchman” such a great team building exercise?

Active involvement generates ownership, and it is generally true that

Nobody ever washes a rental car.

So, if you are looking to generate commitment to change and to have better alignment to shared goals and a higher level of collaboration among work teams and departments, then it makes sense to use a business simulation to drive organizational improvement, right? And, we are not talking about some lightweight team bonding kind of activity that has little or no real connection to the workplace or that will have no measurable impact.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine was first released back in 1993 and since that time, it has proven itself to be one of the very best team building exercises in the world. Unlike so many other “team building activities” out there that are fun and interesting but that do not link well to organizational development and real change, the Dutchman game focuses on measured results and rewards the tabletops for planning and executing actions connected to optimizing impacts.

Tabletop teams can choose to gather information or collaborate with other teams and share resources and do the front-end work that leads to optimal outcomes. Or, they can choose to compete and work on their own. (Which of these would generate the best outcome in your organization?)

The design of the game is elegant and the behaviors that are generated are seen to reflect the actual operating cultures of the organization. The introduction, planning and play take less than two hours, leading to powerful and realistic debriefing discussions focused on actual issues and opportunities.

Game materials are sold at a one-time cost, with no required train-the-trainer or certification or annual licensing, making it a great package to incorporate into on-boarding kinds of events or for integration into leadership development or management training opportunities.

Plus, it is a really great exercise for events needing to get people talking about best practices or other kinds of approaches to optimize and implement organizational improvements.

Contact us if you would like more information. We have users of the simulation working on themes of strategy implementation, innovation and workplace creativity, selfless leadership and a wide variety of different kinds of developmental work.

Dutchman is but one of the amazing active experiential learning tools supported by me,

For the FUN of It!

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

 

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

 

Thoughts on Missions, Visions and Values

I am working with a consultant in India around impacting people and performance using our Square Wheels tools for communications and active involvement. In our discussion, she mentioned that her client wanted to generate better alignment to 13 values, including:

• Entrepreneurship
• Ambition
• Long term focus
• Ownership
• Hard work and Drive
• Rewarding Success
• Non-Conformist Intellectual Capital
• Openness and Transparency
• Continuous Transformation Spirit

They are also apparently in the process of fleshing out the meanings of the above, the desired behaviors that would make these more visible and impactful within the organization. When I took a moment to think about these, some alarm bells started ringing in my head as I remembered a similar kind of event way back when…

But changing organizational culture and creating meaningful and actionable missions and visions is also an art form, with a variety of potential problematic issues and possible unintended negative consequences. It is not fairy dust and a magic wand and something easily accomplished in a tops-down framework.

So, I started an email response and then thought, why not write a blog post that might be useful for this communication. The focus is on communicating visions and values needs to be done in a really organic, honest and impactful way. So, let me share a really good example of what to do and why:

The retiring chairman of a regional company was looking to leave a legacy of values as they were transitioning to a new management team. He wanted to keep what he felt were their people and performance strengths and put these into a visible statement of visions and values, to make his legacy into a very meaningful framework for the next decade.

From senior management discussions, the leadership team generated a list of bullet points as potential items for this new statement of mission. Logically, they wanted to test those themes with their management. My consulting company was tasked with running two-day “Leadership Development” sessions across the organization to discuss those values and discuss the behaviors that were essential and congruent. One of the resources we used was Max DePree’s “Leadership is an Art” book (1987) — a truly magnificent work that is eminently readable. (Here is one, used, for $5.)

One of Max’s numerous great quotes from the book that I have used for 30 years is,

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”


We were testing bulleted items in the context of both doing leadership development and discussing high performance management frameworks, to build on their existing strengths. It was a pretty elegant program design by my old colleague, Kenneth Junkins.

One such item was:

“We manage with uncompromising integrity.”

Sounds good. How was it judged? Not all that well, from the perspectives of these front-line managers who were probably not allowed to participate in as much decision-making as they would have liked. One of them reframed this, reworded it, to become:

“We manipulate with inflexible righteousness.”

Maybe this needed revisiting, do you think?

Since that time, this one incident has continued to remind me to actively involve the people who will be impacted by policies and procedures to check and verify, test and evaluate, before moving forward.

The concept of “Unintended Consequences” is reframed by legal people as a failure to be diligent and a failure to look at potential specific outcomes that are, in fact, predictable. Step cautiously, is my suggestion. Ask, evaluate, and be sure to get a variety of perspectives.

 

For the FUN of It!

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

Check out my Square Wheels Stupidly Simple Facilitation Toolkit, on our website. It is a complete program, for $25.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

Purpose, Blind Spots, and Next Questions

Three new “posters” using the same Square Wheels One image all came together in my head this morning, as a way to tell a real story about what managers need to consider doing differently to impacting people and performance. These are all part of my “culture wall” thinking about how we can share images and ideas to get everyone thinking about innovation and improvement. Plus, keeping it simple!

The first thought is about clearing the way about what we are doing and why. What IS our purpose in working and rolling things forward? And are we really making any good progress in that regard?

What is the real purpose of our works?

Sure, we can all work hard at pushing and pulling and meeting our goals and desired outcomes, but are we doing things in the best and brightest way? Do the wagon pushers share the same goals and purposes as the wagon puller? Are we communicating the desired overall outcomes clearly and are we taking advantage of all the available resources?

The next idea is the simple concept that we all have blind spots in how we view the world around us and that we can make better decisions the more we see and consider. Are we taking advantage of hindsight and considered ideas about how things are really working or are we letting our biases and past experiences blind us to new realities and new paradigms of operation?

Do we have blind spots in how we think about performance and teamwork?

The idea and inspiration for the above came from an excellent article about thinking  and making smart decisions published on Farnham Street. There are all sorts of anchors to ideas for doing things more better faster and for making better decisions by expanding the visible universe.

In other words, “Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!”

The last idea in this short series anchors to the idea of continuous continuous improvement and the reality that we need to KEEP changing and improving, that this is not a one-stop-shop kind of endeavor.

Asking The Next Question is the key to continuous continuous improvement

Asking one question is a really good idea. And asking a followup question about implementation or next steps or other issues and opportunities is what will help to generate that active involvement, trust in listening and acting, and generating real improvement. There are LOTS of available ideas around improvement in your workplace, if only the managers would ask (and then listen) and the employees felt better about offering their thoughts. And there are some pretty simple things to do to improve innovation if we can change some perceptions and behaviors.

We have been focusing on the issues around active involvement in workplace improvement since 1978 and playing with these simple ideas of using metaphor and facilitation to help impact people and performance. I wish that we had somehow had more impact, since the issues and opportunities seem so straightforward.

Square Wheels metaphor for organizational improvement

 

Why can’t managers simply ask their people for ideas about improvement? It would go such a long way and have so many positive impacts…

For the FUN of It!

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

Square Wheels resources explained on our website.

See the powerful Square Wheels teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

 

Contributing Improvement Ideas. The BOSS is the biggest issue

I plan on doing a whole series of posts around some survey results by my friend and colleague, Lynn Woods at IdeaSpies. Her data focuses on some of the issues around management and innovation and active involvement. My goal is to write a LOT more about this in coming blogs about people and performance and frame the issues around how we can facilitate ourselves out of this mess…

So, CAN people contribute more ideas to their workplaces? Not surprising. People do have ideas, if managers would bother to ask them, right?

Square Wheels Data on Active Involvement for Innovation

DO Managers value those ideas? Well, that data shows that the attitudes of the Boss don’t seem too supportive. Hell, over 10% said it is RISKY to do so. And, if the supervisor were actually interested, they would probably not be “too busy” or find it “too difficult.”

Square Wheels research on why people are not engaged

I am going to put almost ALL of this on the management and the perceived actual culture they have created for the workers. Is innovation and workplace improvement of systems and processes not important to the long-term, overall success of the organization? Is not employee motivation an important issue?

And what are we getting when the management team seems to make the sharing of worker ideas a RISK to the workers, to have them believe that their supervisor is simply not interested in those things?

The Most Senior Management should be VERY concerned about data like this, because their long-term success in innovating improvements and involving and engaging and aligning their people to strategic goals and objectives seems very much at risk.

For the past 35 years, I have been working on very similar themes of active involvement and ownership of improvement ideas in organizations and for the past 25 years, we have offered really inexpensive and effective communications tools to address these kinds of issues. You can see more information about our Square Wheels facilitation toolkits here:

square wheels facilitation toolkits for leadership development

Check this approach out. Use it on Spring Forward Monday to better involve your people. We even have an online facilitation skills course on Udemy that shares training frameworks, specific ideas and the worksheets and powerpoints to generate active involvement and improved communications,

For the FUN of It!

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

See the our teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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


You can find a link to Lynn Wood’s data here: https://www.ideaspies.com/employee-innovation-survey-results2/.

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