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

Category: LDGM

How does Lost Dutchman compare to other team building exercises?

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a unique teambuilding exercise in the global marketplace for training and organizational development tools. Unlike many competing products, it offers what we think are an excellent blend of unusual benefits and features as well as our overall sales philosophy that is supportive and simple.

THe Search for The Lost Dutchman Team Building Exercise

Unlike a lot of products, Lost Dutchman has many direct links to business improvement and it can help groups of people focus on how working together will improve profitability and ROI. While this seems like a no-brainer, most organizations find “interdepartmental collaboration” to be an oxymoron and that “interdepartmental competition” is much more the norm. Dutchman is a business simulation wrapped into an experiential, fun, engaging exercise that brings the sub-optimizing aspects of competition to the forefront and clearly shows why collaboration is a big benefit. We have LOTS of users who comment about the excellence of this game for this purpose — making it unique in that focus, we find.

Dutchman also focuses on success! The game design makes it hard for teams to make big errors and die from those decisions, which is common in many other exercises where the focus is more on avoiding failure. (I have facilitators who use my game and some other games who say, “What is so bad about a team dying?” and “I can usually work that point into the debriefing.” On the other hand, they will also say that those teams sometimes disengage badly–like leaving the room or even being very challenging and adversarial in the debriefing discussions– and they will generally agree with my position that dying is not necessarily a good component of the learning process, so why even let it occur?)

In Dutchman, every team is successful, but the ones that do better planning and collaborating are more successful than the others, and can even choose to help the other teams.

We also made a real effort to keep the packaging inexpensive — it is nothing fancy — and to design it so that certification and all those other expensive things like per-participant fees and the like are not included. It was my personal experience in the earlier days when I used another organization’s team building game, that those added restrictions and other kinds of limitations caused a lot of problems in the maintenance of a collaborative business arrangement between me and that other company. So, if I did not like those restrictive and expensive “features.” why would they be included in my business framework.

My game design goals were:

  • to design the best exercise possible for a global audience of workers up to senior managers;
  • to make it link tightly to the actual behaviors we see in organizations and between departments and often work groups in organizations;
  • to make it inexpensive to use and thus generate high value for consultants and trainers to use repeatedly;
  • to make it flexible and useful in a wide variety of different kinds of organizations and developmental situations;
  • to be useful for trainers using it occasionally or for them to be able to blend it into more broadly-based leadership programs than simply team-building events;
  • to design it so a consultant or company could build a business around the exercise and use it with different clients in lots of situations.

The design thinking around Lost Dutchman included avoiding  issues present in some of the other, competitive products in the marketplace. We find that those structures or designs interfere with effectiveness and impact in a variety of ways and simply make the game less of a good value for the customer. Essentially, we felt that:

  • Many of our competitors’ exercises are simply way too expensive. Benefits are not in line with costs, especially when it was a one-time use for a small number of people.
  • Per-Participant Costs are a lousy way to build trust and develop an honest and open relationship between the game agent and the customer. They generate too much friction and administrative burden.
  • Many exercises simply take too long to play and often don’t allow time to adequately debrief the outcomes nor provide time for valuable interactive discussions. Lecturing on an experiential exercise is not an effective learning paradigm.
  • Game leadership often creates intrinsic competition because of the inherent design of the exercise or the role defined for the facilitator. Many designs do not allow for a collaborative leadership delivery style or have restrictive design features. If you are delivering the game, one should be modeling an effective style of engagement, collaboration and facilitation, not being an adversary.
  • Results should be measurable, since organizational behavior is measurable. In Lost Dutchman, for example, we can measure positive results in addition to the sub-optimized costs of teams making decisions not to collaborate and plan and share information among other teams. We do this just as we measure organizational results and outcomes, making the swing from debriefing the game to linking to organizational change quite easy:  “What does Mining Gold mean to us as an organization?”
  • Some of the games have mixed metaphors or design features that make the game very difficult to debrief or they have superfluous content that is too hard to link to other organizational development issues. Team building games should not be supporting competition in our thinking — there is enough of that already in most organizations!
  • Games and supporting products should not require expensive certification training and the costs of travel to training venues. It makes it too expensive to add new facilitators and the tendency would be to cheat the system to get the game in play. It was our goal to make the exercise bombproof and effective while NOT requiring expensive certification or training time.

Our experiences with The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine have taught us a lot about game design and the use of metaphor in generating involvement and engagement during play and debriefing. It is our goal to have an exercise that generates the perceived need to change behavior within an organization to optimize results. Feedback by users says that we have elegantly and effectively accomplished our goals.

You can check out some of our testimonials and learn more about other perspectives by clicking here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, wearing his Coaching Hat and preparing for Lost Dutchman

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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Team Building and Collaboration for Performance Improvement – Large Event Management

The past week has been really interesting, since I have had the chance to talk to a lot of people who are now going to start doing some team building within their organizations. Normally, my conversations are generally with consultants and trainers who have been doing these kinds of things and are looking for some new tools and approaches. Many of those conversations were with the, “been there and done that” crowd who were simply looking for some new and better tools.

But this seems to be a new group, rookies in the organizational collaboration and team building arena who have the chance to get things started right. And THAT is really neat!

(Has it really been that long since the average organization has conducted any team building events? Really?)

So, we have been discussing doing team building events with managers and staff and working with slightly larger groups than a training class.Scott Simmerman, wearing his Coaching Hat and preparing for Lost Dutchman

And I have been able to put my Coaching Hat on, and my Event Planner Hat, and offer up some ideas for optimizing impacts. Three of these contacts were going to run large groups (250, 100-200-500 and 1,100 (really!) and I shared some of my learned Best Practices for maximizing impact.

Basically, that approach involves getting all the Most Senior Managers into one room for 3/4 of a day. The session starts with a normal delivery of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, debriefed along the normal lines of collaboration and teamwork and planning. But then, the debriefing shifts to asking about the kinds of behaviors they would like to see from the people at the large event. That is always interesting, and the focus is on the shared mission and vision and generating alignment to goals, objectives and expectations.

Then, we TRAIN this group of Most Senior Managers to be able to support the delivery of the exercise. This group serves as the Provisioners and the Co-Expedition Leaders, operating in the environment where, “The Goal is to mine as much gold as we can.”  Oops — that should read “WE.”

The exercise is about getting help along with information and on collaborating and sharing information and resources to optimize results. But what these leaders see are people choosing NOT to get available planning information, to compete rather than collaborate among tabletops and to choose to not get help from the leaders who are there to help!

By having these real Senior Managers in this game delivery role, it is a great learning lesson on how to implement change and support high performance. One cannot simply TALK about it, they have to behave consistently and congruently. While a few of the teams will have precisely what they need to perform at a high level, those same teams will often choose NOT to collaborate, to thus “win” the game at the cost of negatively impacting overall organizational results.

Anyway, it is really neat to see these kinds of large events start happening again, since they can be powerful events to engage people in change and improvement and to lead them out of the current “engagement doldrums” that we seem to find ourselves.

Have some FUN out there yourself!

Scott

Selling Lost Dutchman – some discussion tips

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine is about mining goldWe have a lot of users of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine worldwide, and many people are really good at connecting the play of the game and the team building dynamics it generates to the issues of organizational improvement of their clients and prospects.

But people have been asking me for some tips. Some key words and phrases might include:
• Improving employee engagement
• Focusing on collaboration to optimize overall group results
• Measurable behavioral outcomes
• Debriefed to business goals and objectives
• Leadership is explicitly there to help teams be successful
• Played worldwide with top management as well as front line workers
• Memorable and engaging, Colorful and Fun.

But remember, Dutchman was designed not as a fun game but as a business improvement simulation / exercise to generate discussions about the issues of workplace competition and the benefits of collaboration between operational units to optimize overall results.

It is much different than one of the little “ropes course” kinds of “team challenges,” not that those are bad, but they are not really all that good when trying to tightly link to organizational improvement, in my direct experience.

Firewalking – a team event?
Paintball is goofy for team building – why not use real guns?
Acid River and the Spyderwebs and The Wall and similar are nice little problem solving exercises, and fun to solve, but
• Do they have real connections to work and workplace improvement?
• Do they have measurable outcomes?
• Do they focus on how to motivate people?
• Do they link to any sorts of skill improvement or improving decision making or strategic planning?
• Do they link to organizational risk-taking?
• Do they tightly focus on what people can do to optimize company performance?
• Do they generate ideas for changes in culture or motivating teams?
• Are they really worth the cost of taking people away from work?

We use Lost Dutchman as an experiential business simulation. The design makes it easy to link to performance improvement.

Hope this helps.

Speeding up Lost Dutchman – team building ideas

Over the years, I have come to deliver a detailed Introduction to our team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. 

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

Basically, I found that it was best to give a detailed overview, with a good bit of redundancy, so as to maximize understanding. In this way, the players could make the best decisions possible to maximize the results and have the fewest mistakes. Heck, I even found that by adding “Most Common Questions” as a slide set at the end of the Intro to review the key points that I had already made saved me delivery time, since those were questions commonly asked of me that delayed getting started.

My thoughts were around optimizing play and minimizing the dumb mistakes and being detailed enough to enable players to get a good start in the 15 minutes of planning time given. It was also found that by shortening or deleting things, such as the time spent in generating the suggested Team Roles, the disorganization caused them to take even longer in getting started. Having roles enabled them to listen to the instructions more carefully and allowed them to get moving with the planning right away.

My associates in India asked how they could take the normally 45 minute Intro and set-up and reduce it to 15 minutes because their client had “a tight schedule.” The thinking was that shortening it would have no impact on subsequent planning and play. They had this schedule for an upcoming session of 140 people:

  • Intro and briefing – 15 minutes.
  • Planning – 15 minutes
  • Play– 50 minutes
  • Break – 20 minutes and
  • Debriefing – 50 minutes.

Well, I like challenges… So here are some thoughts about the dilemma:

Firstly: There are no really good, simple ideas on speeding things up. Generally, if you keep something out of the Intro, it either seems to generate a question that takes at least as long to answer or it creates a problem with misunderstanding.

My focus on delivery has been to generate an effective and efficient way to present the information so that players are clear at the start of planning. I have found it to be faster to go slower and be more redundant in the Introduction. That way, they make better decisions and play with better results and have fewer questions and run into less difficulty at the end.

My finding is that speeding up by shortening the Intro information can slow things down in different and unexpected ways or causes more mistakes and poorer play and all that…

Okay, some ideas:

Start on Time –

Demand that the session starts when scheduled and that everything is ready to go. Generally, this means doing it the very first thing in the morning. If there is breakfast, ensure that the hotel or center staff is there to help clear away the dishes and that there are stands around the room where plates can be taken. Have the tabletops all set up, including the tables for the Provisioner.

It is scary how often these “tight timing” sessions do not start on time. This is especially true if there is some manager that “needs to say a few things to the group before you get started.” I have lost 30 minutes or more from these “few minutes” while the content of that introduction could have been in an email to everyone.

If you are starting after lunch, be sure to have someone who works for you on the lunch floor pushing the timing so that people can come into the room. Make the room inviting, with music and a slide show of pictures or something similar. Get them in and KEEP them in until you are ready to go.

And, again, do not allow for a few minutes of “more introduction” by anyone other than a professional presenter who knows the meaning of “ending on time” for their part.

Do NOT play the game at night with alcoholic beverages. Those are disasters.

Team Roles
One idea might be to not assign roles during the Intro and let teams figure that out during the planning. That saves a bit of time, but the teams will be less organized. Thus, decisions might take longer if roles are not clear.

However, if you do that, DO stress the selection of the team Trader but maybe not the others. Having one person be accountable for bringing resource cards to the Trading Post is critical to efficient delivery.

Pods
And DO separate the groups into distinct pods for large groups. My guess is that pods of 6 teams will play faster than pods of 10, although I have no data on that. I think it would be easier for the Provisioner to spot a team that is having trouble with a smaller pod, and thus direct help toward that tabletop.

Team Size
In my experience, smaller teams play faster — if you can set up as groups of 4 players per table, the planning and the play will go faster. But that takes more support from your team of delivery people. It depends on how many support people you have but the more experienced help on the floor, the easier to solve problems.

(If you do that, use a different Team Roles Form than the one showing 6 job roles at the tables and in the slides.) Maybe have only the Leader, Trader, Analyst / Supply Expert and Collaborator…

Decisions of smaller tabletops will be faster and usually better — but they MUST understand all the rules and themes and issues.

For those of you with 24 people, having 6 teams of 4 will be faster than having 4 teams of 6, for example.

Floor Delivery Support
You can trade off SUPPORT PEOPLE ON THE FLOOR against covering things in powerpoint Intro. The less you talk about, the more questions and the longer the “15 minutes of planning time” will take. This is especially true in a large group as in this session of 140.

If you do shorten the Intro, be SURE to have knowledgeable co-Expedition Leaders on the floor for each 3 or 4 teams. It will change the dynamics some…

Breaks
My way of speeding things up is to have NO BREAK at the end of play – telling players that team play should allow individuals to take a break for bathroom or drinks during play. Cookies and coffee and the like can be in the room or even served to the tables by staff.

A “scheduled 20 minute break” (with 140 people) can run out to 30 minutes or more, which is very common with large groups. And it is probably the people last to arrive back that need the debriefing key learning points more than the others.

Large groups are much less manageable from a time perspective if they leave the room. Make them Break during the Play of the game, not afterwards. Make it impact their team, not you and the rest of the group!

Results
Minimize the review of results. Focus on the differences between the high and low teams and ask if the higher performing teams had resources that they could have shared that would have generated MORE RESULTS FOR YOU — not a winning score for one team…

Do NOT show the Perfect Play summary of woulda-shoulda, but do focus on the fact that there were 3 Turbos that could be shared so that 3 teams could have used the Turbo to return in 4 days, as opposed to less than 3 (look at total TF Videos to see the number of Turbos available versus the number actually used (get that off the Tracking Forms at the Trading Post). THAT is probably the most important number for the entire group — that plus the days back early because of resource mis-management and bad planning decisions.

The Turbos are the Best Practices that generate better results with the same effort and they represent the leverage generated by collaboration among teams in the workplace. There were sufficient resources, but a good plan of action with engaged and involved teammates helped maximize results for the team — why not for the group? What would they need to do differently in the workplace…

Debriefing
I deliver the game as a learning event, not as a fun activity. Thus, for me, “The play of the game is an excuse to do a debriefing on choices, behaviors and the issues of engagement and collaboration.” Thus, I will demand that I have the full time allotted to the play and that we start on time

And I try not to lecture nearly as much as I try to allow tabletops to discuss specific issues and opportunities. I facilitate the game much more than I “teach” from it – their thoughts are more congruent to their issues than any idea that the game Expedition Leader might have.

If possible, I try to coach the most senior manager to engage people in a discussion. This is sometimes dangerous since their preferred style is to talk at the people, not engage them. I have had to cut off such attempts at “training” more than a few times, generally with something such as, “Why don’t’ you spend 5 minutes and discuss that key learning point at your tabletop?” (And then take back the control of the debriefing…)

Turbos are best practices that can be shared – thus it begs the question, “What turbochargers are available that we could share with other groups within the company?”

Focus mostly on the dynamics of team interaction and behavior and debrief according to the desired outcomes for the event. I often end with tabletop discussions around, “What does mining (more) gold mean to us as an organization?”

Lastly, do all that you can do. You cannot do any more than that. Work as best as you can to meet the commitments that were set, but realize that you may not have all the control you need to make this optimal.

If you have any thoughts or ideas about improving the speed of delivery, we would love to hear from you. Anything we can do to increase the debriefing time is a worthwhile alteration, in my opinion. Many of the changes suggested above will have impacts on the dynamics of delivery, I think. SO be careful out there!

YOUR thoughts on all this would be Most Excellent!

For the FUN of It!

Scott

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