Performance Management Company Blog

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

Category: motivational team building exercises (Page 2 of 4)

A Perfect Playing of Teamwork: Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

I first published The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine back in 1992 and we ran a lot of sessionss to perfect the exercise and polish the materials. You can read a press release about it’s 25 years here.

Not long after that, I started selling versions of the game to consultants all over the world. By now, we are pretty well represented with play in most regions and even collaborating with SimuRise Learning Solution‘s Solomon Salvis in Singapore who is handling global distribution with us.

In April, 2013, I got a note from David Simpson responding to some of my instructional delivery notes that said no group had actually delivered A Perfect Play as shown in my debriefing powerpoint files. In that, I construct what the optimal play of the exercise would be for one team (that happens a good bit) and for a group of three teams collaborating together. To my knowledge, it had never happened. Something had always occurred to prevent a team from doing everything correctly.

Well, David announced to me that one group of three teams for Couch, running the game in Shenzen, China, was able to collaborate with each other as well as collaborating with The Expedition Leader to generate an optimal outcome.

Certificate of LD Perfect Play image

And, he had them so excited that he asked if I might generate an Official Certificate of Accomplishment for their efforts. Guess we gotta go with the flow and get that done. So, I spent a bit of time and put this together.

There are just so many possibilities to generate intrinsic rewards from accomplishments that it still amazes me that managers do not do more of that. We can engage them by asking what things need to be improved or fixed. We can dis-un-engage them by asking them what blocks their involvement and what we should be dong about it. What is so hard about all that?

Do you have any special ways in that you recognize high levels of performance over the long term? What kinds of things do you do that might sustain high performance and add to your effectiveness and team results?

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

 

Team Building Events with Large Groups – organizational improvement ideas

We can improve the impact our expenditures of large teambuilding events if we carefully consider some success factors in generating ideas for innovation and implementation. Our tendency is to repeat what we have done before, and the goal of this article is to simply provide some new anchoring ideas for doing things differently and generating more impact.

There has been a great reduction in those “All Hands” kinds of meetings over the last 10 years. Once upon a time, one had to play a year ahead to find hotel ballroom space for meetings and make site visits and tour facilities; today, it is a lot less difficult. Being online makes all the difference and makes selection and programming communications really simple.

Back then, hotels were pretty arrogant about controlling all things and having complicated one-sided contracts for everything but today, one finds them a lot more flexible and interested in obtaining your business. Times change and their business has become a lot more competitive…

Herein are some key thoughts about making your company events more effective. And here are a couple of my older posts around some of these same issues and opportunities:

Here is an article about selecting a presenter who will involve and engage your people in an event that can actually change behavior and generate momentum for improvement. There are a lot of links in that to other articles and resources about organizing resources, also.

Here are some ideas about generating engagement and momentum for implementing change following a large group event

Here is an article about improving teamwork and collaboration in a large event

A post on some of the ISSUES with outdoor training types of events and some cautionary thoughts about anchoring to learning and change

Frankly, there seem to be a lot of strange and sometimes seemingly irrelevant things done in the name of team building and organizational development. The reality says that if you hang out at a large hotel and wander about the meeting area and you will see a lot of people sitting, just sitting there inactive when the doors are opened, as if they feel relieved that they successfully avoided things.

This observation is supporting the reality of Death By Powerpoint, or at least death by non-involvement and non-engagement. (One wonders why there are not required governmental warnings about deep vein thrombosis for sitting so long at some of these sessions!)

People at Onlinemba.com came across my blog while researching Team Building and sent me a link to one of their articles called, “How the Top Companies Take On Team Building:

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.

Yeah, it seems that a LOT of people realize that we can choose to do things differently for our meetings. With technology, so much of that data-stuff that executives like to live-present can be handled in screenshares or webcasts. For the most part, they are not asking for ideas or suggestions but merely sharing data. Face-to-face is an expensive way to push data at people.

I’ve posted up before on some of the more ridiculous or hard to seriously consider team activities such as golf, paintball and the infamous fire walking — and I just saw a twitter post suggesting that “detoxing” could be done as a teamwork improvement activity. (Seriously!)

Maybe there are some positive individual impacts from doing those kinds of things but I just do not see the teambuilding aspects unless we get into the discussion about peer pressure forcing people to do things that they don’t really want to do. (Sorry, I meant “encouraging” and not coercion or forcing people to do things in the above…)

Even comedic writer Dave Berry weighed in on Burger King’s toasty experience grilling their own managers with their firewalking activity — see my blog post on that here.

Many different activities DO have a variety of positive organizational impacts, and many of these are not costly. Some are a bit off the wall, like hiring a comedy troupe to come in and cause people to laugh at issues and reframe improvement opportunities (if they do not offend the senior managers too much!). And there are literally dozens of different online surveys and Personality Inventories with linkages to team behaviors. These can be framed as a team building exercise if there was more to it than simply discussions. Maybe they could let the comedy troupe do the personality testing?

In my way of thinking, I will simply continue to be designing and offering games such as The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine or Innovate & Implement that are fun, controllable, inexpensive and actually link directly to workplace collaboration and performance improvement.

We know that it has a lot of long-term impacts on participants and gets everyone involved and engaged. AND, it can be used for very large groups of 200 or even more.

Team building exercise, Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

click here to read more about the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

In addition to selling the exercise to trainers and consultants, we also rent the exercise to people interested in an inexpensive, yet powerful large group event. If you click on the link below, you can find a clear explanation as to the frameworks for rental as well as our prices. It is inexpensive and powerful. Click here if you would like to see a few testimonials.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

If you have any questions, please feel free to chat me up. I will offer my ideas and frameworks to you,

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.

Debriefing as an excuse to do Team Building

Continuous Continuous Improvement, Organizational Alignment and Collaboration, and The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a truly great Team Building Exercise.

Winemaking is an art that takes a substance and nurtures it through the act of continuous incremental improvement, often with the goal of producing a truly spectacular product. Different winemakers have different goals, but some are artists and not accepting of mediocrity. These craftsmen are continually looking for techniques to improve their craft, trying to discover new ideas and nuances to impact quality and searching for outstanding customer reactions.

It’s in that same spirit of nurturing and exceeding expectations that we’ve developed The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine — it is an excellent example of how continuous continuous improvement works with innovation to create an ever evolving and increasingly better product.

Dutchman’s existence grew out of dissatisfaction with another team building game that I represented as the first USA selling agent back in the late 1980s. It was supposedly about collaboration, but that game’s play and its debriefing supported competition among teams – it was an exercise that was designed to allow teams to quickly die because of their decisions, claiming that it was a reality of teamwork. It tended to be a show, more than an organizational development program, and the focus on competition was something that I didn’t feel created a better Return on Investment than what a Collaborative Approach would do, real world.

When I tried to collaborate with that game’s developers, they resisted these “outsider’s ideas” for things that would strengthen their game’s outcome for organizations. It was at that point that the idea of developing my own exercise, one that had clear metaphors for teaching and one that had alignment to collaboration, came to mind. So, in 1993, Dutchman was created — there was a need in the team building market for an exercise that would create a fun atmosphere for players yet it would support a serious learning framework for how collaboration beats competition in getting the best ROI.

Dutchman was meant to create a really solid debriefing
and discussion of real organizational development
and alignment issues, framed as a teambuilding game!

Not only did we want a game that linked to real workplace issues, we also wanted an exercise that could be easily facilitated by trainers or consultants and didn’t have a bunch of restrictive licensing and continual payment requirements attached to it. I wanted to sell Dutchman as a one-time cost game with a money back guarantee that could be used by virtually any type of organization. And, I soon found that this was a much appreciated concept compared to the typical way that team building products were put into the marketplace.

An early user even suggested that we “dumb down the reading and math” in the presentation, because his workforce in North Carolina did not have really strong skills. That was seamless and easy once we looked at the context. Plus, we found out that anyone could use our simple design framework and that only simple facilitation skills were needed deliver it — we have had administrative assistants deliver it for their senior management teams as well as line managers facilitate it for their sales teams all over the US and then all over the world.

Speculand Testimonial LDGM 100

Once Dutchman entered into the playing field, it immediately received accolades for how it drove home the concept of collaboration and communications. Through a much stronger debriefing than the other game provided, I was able to show how teams could have increased their ROI by the simple act of collaborating across teams. Few programs of any kind enable this type of inter-organizational collaboration and teamwork and few link to measurable results and outcomes.

Leadership, communications and strategic planning are all essential to creating a collaborative environment and Dutchman sets this up extremely well – one testimonial is below and dozens are visible if you click here or on the image. The funny thing is that competition is a compelling force for players and they end up sub-optimizing their gold intake because of this. Therefore, this further indicated that a solid Debriefing was necessary to the game in order to get people to realize how debriefing Collaboration and team building brings in a better ROI.

TF Testimonial LDGM Helal 100

Flexibility then became an important addition to the game and its debriefing because organizations have different reasons for using team building games and as Dutchman’s debriefing continued to evolve over the years so did its flexibility for creating different outcomes. Within its first year of use, Dutchman became a worldwide product that easily worked in various cultures and countries (see the testimonial from Robin Speculand in Singapore, above, since he has been actively using it for 19 years. Our newest client is Challenge Korea.)

Throughout the years, we’ve continued to improve upon the game play not only from my own ideas but also from collaborating with Dutchman owners who have given me great ideas to incorporate into the game. The game materials have evolved over the years, the Debriefing presentation and slides have expanded, the training materials have evolved to now include videos of how to work the game, etc. Even the original game board has changed into a different version.

The people who bought the game 21 years ago can still play with the materials they received at that time while those presently purchasing any of the game versions will acquire a more polished set of materials but all versions will work exceedingly well to create a game worth facilitating because the outcomes of the game are like a fine wine in that the depth of appreciation for Dutchman and it’s return on investment continues to grow as it ages.

If any of this is of interest, we encourage you to contact us, directly. I am quite easy to reach and answer the telephone myself (or email me at Scott@SquareWheels.com),

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman DebriefDr. 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.

 

Team Building and Large Event Management Ideas

My network of consultant users is sharing the idea that the “large team building event business” which has been pretty sparse is starting to pick up once again. There seems to be renewed interest by companies in hosting effective team building events for their management teams to help refocus on issues of business improvement or interdepartmental collaboration. The theme of strategy implementation has inherent interest, as does general teambuilding to improve interdepartmental collaboration.

This is good for us because we offer one of the most effective simulations out there for helping to focus people in the theme of optimizing results through better communications, alignment and planning. We are also well-positioned to build on the successes of many of the outdoor training or challenge courses that set the stage for less work on individual learning and more work on organizational improvement.

LDGM LinkedIn PMC Page Logo 50

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine fits a unique position in the marketplace. It is inexpensive to own and use, with only a one-time purchase price and no annual fees or licensing requirements or similar. A corporation like Wipro can run it with 30,000+ employees with the additional cost of printing paper, for example (true!). And I just got a testimonial from a consultant user who has had the game in continuous use for 19 years (that even shocked me!).

And people are reporting that their organizations have not been doing much with teamwork, sometimes for many years. They battened down the hatches on those kinds of developmental events a few years ago and just have not moved toward re-energizing their people or refocusing or realignment. The time seems to be approaching when some solid OD will have clear benefits.

If you might be interested in a solid developmental activity, you can rent the exercise from us, custom-packaged to meet your desired outcomes. You are dealing with the principle designer and owner of the company, so you get hands-on support at a high level.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Lots of people look to do team building within their organizations and Dutchman is one of those exercises that works well with small and large groups.

Normally, my conversations are generally with consultants and trainers who have been doing these kinds of things on a smaller scale 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 than what has been out there in the marketplace.

We also just put together an agreement with Challenge Korea, an outdoor-based team building company who is going to begin using Dutchman, in Korean, and working to assist the larger companies there. It will be a good product addition to their current offerings, and will enable them to build more collaboration and followup implementation with their clients.

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman DebriefSo, it has been fun to put my Coaching Hat on once again, along with my Event Planner Hat, and offer up some ideas for optimizing impacts for these new clients.We just had one organization run Dutchman with 9 different groups of college accounting students all over the US, with sizes from 140 up to 250 — and with great reported successes.

The exercise is about getting help along with information and on collaborating and sharing information and resources to optimize results. But what 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 game leaders who are there to help! The messages are pretty obvious and the debriefings are most excellent.

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 Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. 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.

Focusing Attention on Performance Improvement through Interactive Engagement

Yeah, I avoided the word “game” in the title and used “Interactive Engagement” as an alternative. It sounds a lot more impressive, right? I do it because it seems that many “serious senior executives” have an issue with how interactive learning is framed. So the choice of game, simulation, exercise, experience, and all those other labels sometimes come into play in decision-making.

The reality is that involvement and engagement are critical factors in any kind of performance. Fun can be fun but it is about anchoring experiences in some event to the choices that people will make about what to do differently. High performance is often accompanied by some level of ownership involvement and commitment to change.

If they feel some peer support and have some ownership involvement, they are more likely to do things differently. If people are un-involved and dis-engaged, they are probably providing “compliance-level performance” in the workplace and not giving you the productivity they might. That is one big reason I use experiential activities, anchored to business metaphors, for a lot of the developmental work we suggest.

We can call these engagement activities things like:

  • Game
  • Exercise
  • Simulation
  • Interactive Engagement Tool
  • Limbic System Brain Activation through Asymmetric Stimulation of Peripheral Receptor Cells

(How do you like that last one? After all, playing games involves kinesthetic movement as well as stimulation of sensory cells in the eyes and peripheral nervous system having to do with sensory nerve cell activation and kinesthetic movement, right? All this nerve cell stimulation rushes up the spinal cord into the midbrain of the participating animal to increase activity of brain cells and create new learning pathways, right? (grin) )

Yeah, games have a way of engaging us and linking to learning, if appropriately designed and implemented. And there is actually some game playing going on in the world. According to Jane McGonigal, author of “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,”  more than 3,000,000,000 hours a week is spent in gaming globally. (That is unreal!)

People love to play games and challenge themselves. What businesses need to do is provide more context for learning and organizational collaboration within the framework of engagement and team building. Focusing on realistic simulations and challenges can improve the skills and organizational cultural to allow more collective improvement. This is different than a focus on single-players beating others in some challenge.

PMC Creates Simulations that teach

Games can generate engagement because they generate focused behavior designed to have some kind of impact. Gaming often appeals to our intrinsic desires or our intrinsic motivation for self-actualization or accomplishment. People really do love achievable challenges, which is one of the bigger drivers of workplace performance improvement. They want to add skills and gain peer recognition for them — think of that auto-repair place and the various certifications that the mechanics can earn and wear on their sleeves. People WANT to achieve and they want their performance to count for something.

intrinsic motivation is about succeeding

McGonigal classified the intrinsic motivators into four categories:

  • achieving satisfying work,
  • experiencing success or the opportunity of success,
  • making social connections and
  • having purpose or meaning.

All four are relevant and important but I think a really good experiential activity can help accomplish the latter (and most important) factor if that experience can be neatly and elegantly tied to the workplace and the expectations and goals. We can do more to involve and engage people into a collective, collaborative and supportive peer group working to make improvements in how things are accomplished.

It is not so much winners and losers, but the issue of generating the maximum collective result, what we refer to repeatedly in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine as,

The Goal is to Mine as much Gold as WE Can
and optimize overall ROI.

There are a lot of really good tools out there, and lots going on in the development of individualized online learning courses (MOOCs) to support desired personal development.

Focusing on using experiential learning to involve and engage teams of people to allow them to focus on Mining as much gold as WE can is the prime driver of our Lost Dutchman game. We think that the energies generated can help work groups better support organizational development initiatives and that the intrinsic motivation can have positive spill-over to issues of personal growth and development.

But all we can do is provide the tool and our support. Our users have to provide the context and the environment to move things forward.

Ivette Helal Dutchman Testimonial

Let us know if we can be of any assistance to you — and recognize that you are dealing with ME, not some big corporation or salesperson. If we can develop a tie-in to your overall objectives and goals, we are most willing to do that,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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

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

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

The Origin of Engagement in the breakdown of Appraisal and Control

Simply put:

We need stop doing such a lousy job
of motivating people in the workplace.

Stats show 85% of employees report their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job (from Sirota Survey Intelligence) and 49% of workers say they constantly have their antennae out for new job opportunities — even when they are happy in their current position. Few feel their current employer is giving them a fair deal in terms of advancement opportunities (Kelly survey).

In a recent Forum Corp. survey, only 8% of employees report that they trust their leaders “to a great extent.”  But in that very same survey, 96% of employees say that it is, “extremely important to have a manager they can trust.”

I expand on a lot of issues of workplace motivation in this two-part post,

Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…”
(Part One) (Part Two)

The data is clear. People are not involved and engaged in the workplace and these people, their managers, the customers and the company all pay a price for that un-engagement.

square wheels image

Solutions for this are pretty much everywhere. Improving leadership and its alignment to core values and an expressed mission and vision — one that is real and congruent to their behavior — is a good place to start. Improving teamwork and collaboration in the workplace is another good place to begin to re-engage people.

Here is a short 6-minute video on the engagement network
that frames up some obvious solutions.

Removal of the perceived roadblocks to good performance is basic and straightforward and you can read some of my ideas about managing that here.

There are some thoughts here on sharing praise and managing performance feedback, including a link to my Feedback Analysis Checklist. (Click here to see that blog post) and there is a long, two-part series of articles that get into a lot of ideas and information and statistics on managing performance here.

What we need to do is understand that passion and trust are critical factors in workplace motivation and that our traditional approach of performance appraisal and performance evaluation simply puts the worker and the manager into an adversarial kind of environment. The typical “reward systems” that are installed by HR and supported by the executive team are not working and will not work, serving very often to simply put the people into competition, which more often sub-optimizes the overall group performance a lot more than it motivates the top performers.

Best practices already exist in the organization, but developing the teamwork to help install them throughout the workplace cannot be done with competition as the driving force. The ideas for improvement already exist, but we cannot make improvements if we keep working like this:

Square Wheels One cannot expect improvement words

We need to do things differently
or we will continue to get the same results!

The change needs to be at the interface of the worker and the supervisor. All that other stuff is nice, but it is the manager that needs to change their behavior. We also can build on the natural tendency of people to work together on shared goals and desired outcomes. People are competitive, but teamwork does occur naturally.

We must put the power into the hands of the supervisor, not in the hands of some remote and well-intentioned HR Control Group that has little in common with the workers and supervisors and who do not share the same expectations, desired outcomes and goals, or rewards for good performance. Performance Appraisal and Evaluation — even if you improve it — will not do much to improve workplace performance. Simply because:

  • Fear is the Mindkiller (from the Dune books) — competition produces winners and lots more losers and no one likes to lose.
  • Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled. (Frank Navran)
  • Nobody ever washes a rental car. Ownership and hands-on involvement are critical factors in success.

Get them involved and engaged with you in your workplace improvement efforts and focus HR on human capital improvement, not performance appraisal and so-called incentive motivation.

We cannot become what we want to be

PMC has great tools for facilitating engagement and involvement and for building teams and teamwork, tools that work for supervisors interested in the improvement of workplace performance and motivating people. It is not rocket science — it is straightforward, simple and simply continuous…

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123″ a>

X-Teams and Improving Team Performance

Some thoughts on optimizing collaboration, building leadership and clarifying Visions through alignment and team building.

(You can print out this article at www.squarewheels.com/articles3/X-Teams_and_Lost_Dutchman.pdf and you can find a variety of other articles and tools at www.squarewheels.com/resources/resourcesandinfo.html )

Ancona and Bresman’s book on X-teams (2007) generated some interesting thoughts as I considered the components they discussed. Basically, they talked about improving the external focus of teams and how that could be so beneficial to overall organizational collaboration.

Maximum team effectiveness comes from aligning people to work together on shared common goals and providing them with the information and resources to get things done. And today’s organizational complexities generally mean that only people working together and across departments will generate optimal results on critical improvement issues. Complexity makes it very difficult for even highly effective leaders to motivate people and effectively implement improvements with team involvement. It takes team perspective and alignment to get things done in most cases.

Drawing Board Two green

Caption:  Working together to put new ideas into place and test how things really work. All of us know more than any of us and this is a great time to step back from the wagon to look for new ideas. Don’t just do something, stand there and take an analytical look for new ideas and opportunities across the organization.

Developing strong and effective teams and generating focus on key issues and opportunities can have extensive positive impacts of many kinds and there are compelling reasons to use teams to implement improvements. And while improvement goals often seem clear at the top, those same goals are often muddled in the middle and fuzzy at the bottom back of most organizations.

In The Dilbert Principles, Scott Adams wrote:

A Mission Statement is defined as “a long awkward sentence
that demonstrates management’s inability to think clearly.”

 All good companies have one.

And I remember an old story about Visions and Implementation:

In the Beginning was The Vision

And then came the Assumptions, but the Assumptions were without
Form and the Vision without substance. And Darkness was upon
the faces of the Workers as they Spoke amongst themselves, saying:
“It is a Crock of Crap, and it Stinketh.”

And the Workers went to their Supervisors and Sayeth unto them:
“It is a Pail of Dung, and none may abide the Odor thereof.”

And Supervisors went to Managers and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Container of Excrement, and it is very Strong,
such that none may abide it.”

And Managers went to Directors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a vessel of Fertilizer, and none may abide its Strength.”

And Directors went to Vice Presidents and sayeth:
“It contains that which aids plant Growth, and it is very Strong.”

And Vice Presidents went to Executives and sayeth unto them:
“It promoteth Growth, and it is very Powerful.”

And the Executives went to the President, and sayeth unto her:
“This powerful new Vision will actively promote the Growth and
Efficiency of our departments and the company overall.”

And the President looked upon the Vision and saw it was good.
And the Vision became The Reality.

Author unknown

A clear sense of vision and purpose is essential, and clear communications are critical in getting things started. But there is also a need to allow at least some of the participants to be hands-on kind of people who know specifically what is thumping and bumping along. In many organizations, there are tops-down directives that may limit how the teams operate or that direct them toward very specific outcomes. Isolation from the actual work being done does not lead to effective solutions for most workplace problems.

As John LeCarre once clearly said,

 “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

Okay. So what do we DO about this?

One key for optimizing effectiveness is to understand the choices and possibilities that exist around the improvement initiative. The choices teammates make need to align well with the overall context of their business as well as the specific issue(s) on which they are focused. But generating such a team focus is problematic in many organizations. There is a lot of literature and anecdotal experiences that focus on problems with teams and teamwork. For many, the words “cross-functional teamwork” or “interdepartmental collaboration” are oxymorons – words that do not fit together like “jumbo shrimp” or “live recording.”

An article in the International Management Review back in the 1990s still stands out for me. It was entitled, “The Trouble with Teams.” In it, Jack Gordon takes the position that, “Teams may be the antidote to bureaucracy, but do we really know the antidotes for wayward teams?” There are proven benefits for organizations to use teams and teamwork to identify and implement ideas for improvement but also problems with delegating authority to teams. Identifying effective team leaders and giving them the tools they need is one of the critical ones. He expands on the common issues most organizations using teams discover and offers some logical solutions and perspective on ideas and options for maximizing impact.

Patrick Lenconi’s 2002 book, in novel form like Goldratt’s The Goal, gets into how teams work and how they could work better. His book (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team) works through a pyramidal model of team dysfunctions including issues of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, low accountability and inattention to actual results. In conclusion, he contrasts how dysfunctional teams behave by comparing them to a cohesive team in the case of each of these dysfunctions and provides suggestions and insights.

Part of this difficulty with generating teamwork reflects the changing business environment. In the good old days before the year 2000, being a good teammate meant being able to work with others because the focus was on “team dynamics.” Billions of dollars were spent on the personality inventories (MBTI, DISC and hundreds of similar tools) because organizations believed that a focus on The Team was where the energy needed to be spent and individuals would improve if they simply knew more about themselves and each other. Workplaces became more diverse and Consensus decision-making, group dynamics, styles and preferences were what was taught and hopefully learned. (Billions are still spent on personality inventories!)

Belbin Hats green

Different folks need different strokes. And all of us know more than any of us!

But things changed. Working together as a team no longer meant co-location and collegial relations. Team player became a less important value than team contributor and rapid change became the norm. More and more, initiatives like Lean Manufacturing, value-chain improvements and globalization meant that these old successful team-based approaches no longer applied. There was more pressure for performance and productivity. Technology allowed for more dispersion of people while organizations downsized. Older employees with a breadth of experience, knowledge and perspective retired. And, more significant payoffs were found with larger multi-departmental, inter-organizational or supply-chain kinds of cross-functional improvements.

Many of the low hanging fruit have already been plucked from the branches as the focus on efficiencies with initiatives like quality improvement and lean manufacturing made dynamic inroads and taught tools and approaches to different kinds of improvement initiatives. At the same time, computers caused work to become more dynamic and complex and speed gained leverage. Rapid change became the norm and individual and organizational survival was a real issue. And these factors came to a head to stall a great deal of improvement today.

Ancona and Bresman’s X-Teams book (2007) offers some excellent insights into why some teams perform at very high levels and why others fail to generate desired results. Essentially, the authors believe that teams that focus more externally get better and faster information and operate more effectively than teams internally focused, a belief that is at odds with how most teams in the past were trained and supported.

The book offered many examples of high team performances and its link to issues of communications, organizational improvement and leadership development. It takes a straightforward approach to suggesting how a refocusing of effort from within the team members to a more collaborative and broader organizational focus can deliver higher impacts.

Simply stated, the “X” in the X-team concept means being externally oriented, with people working both inside and outside the boundaries. “While managing internally is necessary, it is managing externally that enables teams to lead, innovate, and succeed in a rapidly changing environment.” This is the differentiating driving force for maximum success.

An X-team finds it necessary to go outside the team to create effective goals, plans and designs. The team must have high levels of such external focus as opposed to simply a focus on the people and the processes. That focus can be on the customer and their expectations, for example, with the realization that these expectations and needs are often changing continuously. A team not focused broadly will find it working on outputs that may not be as relevant or impactful for the organization over time. So, X-teams combine productive external activity with extreme execution within the team, developing processes that enable a high degree of coordination and effective execution. Some examples used were meetings and presentations to and discussions with senior managers of their organization, combined with feedback to all members of the team about reactions and necessary changes. Not continually looking for such support was detrimental to outcomes.

Managing change was a primary success factor; business situations would change and the team would need to change with it seamlessly and quickly, a characteristic of effectiveness. This was not the case with a lot of internally-focused teams who never saw the handwriting on the wall. So, a major quality of the X-teams was that they were also flexible in their approach, engaging in exploration, exploitation of talents and information, and exportation where they transferred their learning and experiences to other teams. (Yes, the authors did get crazy with their Xs!).

Together, these 3 elements of external focus and activity, extreme execution and flexibility form the principles by which such teams guide themselves – and they do take a significant amount of autonomy in how they approach and attain their desired outcomes. The key here is recognizing that the continued external focus and exploration of the environment were important for the teams to adjust and succeed.

Of course, three “X-factors” provide the structure and support such teams need to operate effectively. These include extensive ties to useful outsiders, expandable resources of people and information (involved as needed by the core team) and exchangeable membership–the ability to add new people who come into and who leave the team as warranted by the situation. The authors liken the effective teams to externally focused operational groups who work together, cross boundaries and get access to the people and resources they need to be successful.

So, how does an organization generate higher levels of awareness of these issues and opportunities for improvement and generate changes in focus and more successful implementation? A first step is to create awareness of these issues and opportunities and to give teams a chance to discuss and focus on strategies and tactics to focus more externally. We should also know that simply talking about these issues will not lead to much change and improvement, while a more experiential, active-learning approach offers more impact.

My personal belief, backed up by a lot of testimonials from users, is that our interactive team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, offers many benefits to an organization looking to readily impact people and generate the motivation needed for workplace improvement. This is PMC’s flagship team development exercise that focuses on inter-team collaboration and the optimization of results, a game generating a fun and unique fast-paced learning environment that allows direct linkage of game behaviors back to the issue of optimizing inter-organizational results.

In Dutchman, the Expedition Leader charters each team with the goal of managing limited resources and time to, “Mine as much Gold as we can.” Teams are given a clear goal with a measurable outcome and a deadline for getting this project accomplished. Teams can access additional information but this requires them to not take immediate action but to first plan the journey – we find that the impetus to get started generally overweighs the (charter) of gathering information external to the team. Teams can talk to other teams that have additional information, but the reality is that teams with this information may choose not to share it freely, keeping it for their own competitive advantage.

The participants should view leadership, in any improvement initiative, as supportive, but this is often not the case because of trust and other issues. In Dutchman, that message is repeated within the instructions and the behaviors of the delivery team are congruent with support and help. “The role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful and maximize ROI” (return on investment).

Observation of team behavior however shows a consistent tendency for the teams to behave independently of outside help, often to actively exclude knowledgeable others in their planning and execution. Even though these people can provide additional perspective as well as other resources of information and value, teams tend to go into a “My Team, My Team, My Team” mode of operation – one at odds with the X-Teams findings of continually looking outside the team for information and resources.

my team color 2

Teams appear to want to avoid any semblance of “Command and Control” from the outside, and thus put the Expedition Leadership people at arms length rather than including them in the team activity. This distributed leadership requires some additional dialog and possible realignment caused by new information and thus might appear to be in conflict with what the team already knows and wants to do, therefore, causing that outsider to be rejected, even when they can add great value to the task.

Good teams can fail when they are not aware of all the information available and when they reject the support offered by or available from outsiders to their team. “My Team, My Team, My Team” is a powerful motivator of peer support, teamwork, good performance and member camaraderie, but it is not the strategy that high-performing teams need to survive and prosper in today’s rapidly changing performance-based landscape.

The key here is that the debriefing activity will focus the discussion on the behavior of the teams, behaviors that are often self-limiting and non-optimizing in the context of overall group effectiveness. Teams make choices in narrow ways and their awareness of the impact of focusing on collaboration is often overshadowed by the energy resulting from a competition with other groups. It is this paradox that we address, the desire to compete and succeed balanced with the contribution that collaboration will have on the organization overall. Competition cannot be the primary motivator.

(A great discussion on the negative impacts of competition on individuals and organizations comes from Alfie Kohn in his book, “Punished by Rewards” and his other writings. Consider that having one “winner” also generates a number of “losers.” Some people tire of losing and simply choose not to participate, a deadly situation in most organizations and something often not recognized.)

It is an issue of shared missions and community goals – the focus must be on the Big Picture and the contribution of individuals and teams to the overall organization rather than their focus on simply succeeding in a more circumcised and limited way.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a great tool to generate the process and discussion of these issues and the possibilities for improvement. It is guaranteed to be effective and memorable and to generate real discussion of alternatives to current team behaviors to move toward a more successful future.

(You can print out this article at www.squarewheels.com/articles3/X-Teams_and_Lost_Dutchman.pdf and you can find a variety of tools at www.squarewheels.com/resources/resourcesandinfo.html )

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Annotated Abstracts of Management Team Building articles

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

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

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

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

My Team My Team haiku

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

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

Rat Cage More Better Faster

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

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

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

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

SWs One - things you will see border copy 2

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

Have FUN out there!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Updates to our Lost Dutchman Handouts – files you can download

I occasionally get “The DO The Update Bug” which commonly starts out with me doing one small and simple thing that bubbles and percolates into me needing project management software to make sure that it all gets done!

That just happened when I went to update one handout for a particular customer’s Lost Dutchman Debriefing session. I wound up doing updates of everything, adding color images, expanding concepts and then adding them to the master files of my 4 different versions of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.

The updates were all done in .doc format, so those are available and editable and customizable as the set shown below. I also saved them in Acrobat format to maintain the look and the use of fonts, so those are in the same bundle.

You can find those materials hereHandout cover LDGM

To keep order and tracking of who is downloading, and to give me a small payback on the effort, we are making the set available to all past purchasers of our team building exercise on our shopping cart for $5 for the zip-compressed file.

This is a very extensive set of materials designed for maximizing impacts of your team building events and performance improvement workshops.

This is a pretty significant set of materials and forms that you can use for getting things aligned, identify issues and opportunities and for generating action plans for implementation and followup.

LD Handout doc compendium image

We share the pdf versions of these and also a couple of powerpoint-based masters for Notes and for creating booklets with color covers and supporting pages. These are all modifiable and easily converted into workbooks with the included files above:

Handout Cover Summary

The idea is to share the best of our materials and ideas to maximize and optimize the outcomes of your deliveries. I have always seen this team building game as an excuse to do a really good debriefing, and here are some additional ideas and frameworks that you should find of benefit.

To keep order and tracking of who is downloading, and to give me a small payback on the effort, we are making them available to all purchasers of our team building exercise on our shopping cart for $5 for the bundles. This is a whole big bunch of stuff that is useful if you use Dutchman or are simply looking for debriefing ideas and frameworks.

Fore the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Performance Feedback – Breakfast of Champions!

Feedback is a real key to intrinsic motivation and performance management. And most organizations can make big improvements in how people can self-maintain and self-improve if they just stepped back from things and looked at them differently.

Many years ago, we polished up and used a simple 14-point checklist that seemed to hit on the most important aspects of people getting the feedback they need to improve or maintain the highest levels of performance. To some degree, many of the items are a bit unrealistic or idealistic, but they also represent possibilities and reframes and potential things that might be addressed or improved or designed. Some of the items on the list are below, and you can click here to download the pdf file of the checklist and explanations: Analysis of Feedback

1.  Information on performance is based on actual measured accomplishment and not on estimates or opinions about how results were accomplished. Some people may appear to be very busy or doing a good job, especially if you are there watching them. Others may work at a slower pace and not appear to work as hard. Personalities differ and opinions about accomplishments may not reflect actual results. Good measures of results need to be implemented.
2.  Information highlights areas of performance that have quantifiable value to the organization rather than more general areas of preference Be concerned with results that produce bottom-line impacts. Sometimes, we get focused on issues of little or no importance to profits or quality or revenue. While a poor producer may chew gum and come in late, it is better to focus on the productivity than on the gum or lateness.  Feedback should focus on more critical issues.
3.  Performance information routinely goes to the people who do the work, rather than mostly to management.People see summarized results. People need performance data, not just feedback from management. In the absence of specific information, people will often assume that all is okay. Alternatively, some managers may only say something when results are not good, missing on the opportunity to comment positively.  Information on results provides balanced feedback.

Some of the other items are:

13. Data is expressed in a positive way.  This means “results achieved” and accomplishments rather than failures, complaints or errors. Regular negative information (such as error reports) has a tendency to be ignored or debunked and thus become ineffective motivators over time.  People tend to learn ways to avoid the negative as opposed to improving the positive.
14. Information is summarized to interested levels of management to insure recognition of achievement and continued positive involvement of others. Without the observable support of top management, few feedback and performance improvement programs are maintained. Top management will not support programs in the absence of reliable and actionable information. Top managers are generally unlikely to continually request and review information that is not positive and current, reflecting issues of performance related to bottom-line impacts.

In playing with this in workshops over the years, few managers would say that they attained even 8 or 9 of the 14 possibilities, but they were always impacted to consider ways that they could improve the feedback systems, even to go toward simple checklists or other things on a random basis — like a post-customer-contact call list to self-assess if customers were called by name and asked if they had any other questions and if they said they were satisfied with the contact. Stuff like that can be a powerful reminder of things to do and can be intermittent.

Shifting focus, let me address the play of our team building game and how we try to add performance feedback into the play to make it a more powerful learning experience.

In my post on Perfect Play, I shared a bit about how to debrief really good performance. You can see it here.

The idea is around how to motivate performance and build intrinsic motivation.

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The performance situation, briefly, is that tabletops are challenged to “Mine as much gold as We Can” and given resources they need to manage a 20-day journey to the mine and back. They have a variety of choices to make as to resource management, risk, route, information and similar. Once they leave the home base at the bottom left, Apache Junction, they move toward the mine on one of three routes.

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Some facilitators just let the groups play. In all of my games, I have a map on an overhead that also has “dots” of some kind that represent each team. Thus, every team can see the location of each team every day. Some teams might stay at Apache Junction for an extra day or two to acquire information, while others might take the high risk, apparently shorter route across the bottom of the map.

Since the goal is to mine as much gold as possible, the more days that teams are able to spend in The Mine (toward the top right), the more gold they get. Since they have to return to Apache Junction by Day 20, we can also see who leaves when and what route they use.

A design feature of the exercise allows for some teams to stay much later in the mine and get back twice as fast, This becomes VERY evident when a few teams return on Day 18 while other teams have just left the mine. The former, who are often a bit information-starved or resource-deprived because of their choices, see this discrepancy and this generates their conversations about how this is possible and what they might have done differently.

By the time we get to the debriefing, they already know what they could have chosen to do differently and the role of the facilitator is to bridge that information from the play of the game into the realities of the workplace and the issues of alignment, information sharing, collaboration and optimization of results.

Because of the map, I think we set up a neat little situation of cognitive dissonance and thus the motivation of the lower performing teams to discover these unknown best practices. At the same time, the map reinforces the higher-performing teams for the planning and collaboration that they did during play that helped them perform at a higher level.

My personal belief is that this feedback – the visual aspect of the map and the movement and performance of each team — helps generate a more effective debrief.

In the workplace, we have higher performing individuals and average and poor performers. If we make the performance a bit more obvious, and make the tools that are used (best practices) better-known and understood, we should be able to create these same kinds of gaps in actual and desired results, lending to better intrinsic motivation and self-directed improvement.

I may be wrong, but I do not think so. I think we can help people perform better, build teamwork and esprit de corps, and make the workplace a more engaging place.

You might also find this article on Managing Flow to be of interest:  high_performance_team_flow

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

Rewarding High Performance in The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding game

Managers do not often deal with good performers in effective ways. Relying on extrinsic rewards is often a formula for completely missing the real underlying motivation of many high performers. Extrinsic reward systems are often problematic and cause more problems amongst the bottom 70% (who never win and are thus losers) or generate behaviors that are not congruent with missions and visions of the organization. I chat about that in a lot of my blog posts, most recently this one. There are a lot of posts on extrinsic motivation here.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a team building exercise that is a bit unusual in that it focuses on the collaboration between tabletops to optimize the measured results. It is only partly about winning — it is more about what the higher-performing teams could have done differently to support the lower performing teams to optimize overall results. The goal is, “To Mine as Much Gold as We Can” and to optimize the Expedition Leader’s return on investment. Obviously, the more ALL the teams perform, the better the overall results.

It also tends to generate a My Team, My Team, My Team kind of response in so many cultures that tend to reinforce competitiveness as a basic operational strategy — something that tends to make the words “Interdepartmental Collaboration” an oxymoron in so many companies. The reality is that more collaboration will most certainly improve organizational results, engagement, service, cost reduction, innovation, etc.

"My Team, My Team, My Team" focus can cause more competition than collaboration

A “My Team, My Team, My Team” focus can cause more competition than collaboration. The goal is to optimize organizational results, not win!

In Dutchman, teams can spend an extra day gaining information that enables them to optimize their results. One metaphor is a strategic planning one that allows them to re-allocate resources to have a better likelihood of success. The other is a Best Practice, one that enables them to move faster. It also gives them things to share with other teams – Turbochargers that double the speed of movement.

We’ve been supporting a network of consultant users and trainers since 1993 and have received most excellent feedback. As I note in another blog, we recently had the first Perfect Play that I have heard of. Some groups or triads within larger groups come close, but none got it perfect until David Simpson’s group of three teams with the retailer Coach. Now, the issue is optimizing post-game impacts and generating increased collaboration among the store managers now back at work.

Perfect Play has its own results summary powerpoint show.

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We first show what ONE team could do to optimize their results — it is about planning and using information and resources properly. Their path would look like this, with the 20 days numbered in the circles:

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They reach the Mine on Day 8, using up all their resources and returning on the last day possible, Day 20. The summary of results and resource use looks as follows and they had a surplus of $50 worth of stuff as well as two Turbochargers that they could have shared with two other teams (if they chose to). That sharing would have generated six more days of mining if all things were good.

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But the real Perfect Play occurs when two teams decide to collaborate with each other on the planning and then involve another group into their collective. That looks like this:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz009Instead of one team mining 9 gold, this framework allows for two teams to mine 10 and that extra team to mine ELEVEN. This has only occurred in David’s game. And it makes for a great debriefing, in that a lot of the right organizational optimization behaviors have occurred in play, the teams managed things in a relatively stress-free mode (with no fear of real failure) and it carries over very neatly into the discussions of what they could choose to do differently.

A high level of information sharing is needed. The resources are tight to generate this perfect result:

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And that very last part needs special mention.

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To get a Perfect Play, the three teams need to ask for $50 from the Expedition Leader! I mean, is that a perfect design or what?!!

From among 100 or so debriefing slides, we might emphasize these six:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz005

LD Debrief Triad 2

 

Our goal is to get successes among the players and among the teams, show the direct advantages of inter-team collaboration in the game, and bridge to the special advantages of inter-team collaboration back at work. The opportunities to share resources, collaborate, share best practices and help each other be successful in operations has huge leverage within the workplace as well as between departments. So, we use these kinds of handouts to generate ideas for improvement and discussions about choices we are making:

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And, my new game will focus even more attention on post-game collaboration and organizational improvement. You can see a few of the game design ideas here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

 

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

Debriefing and Facilitating for Organizational Improvement – Games versus Exercises

Fun versus Value. Activity versus Learning. Age old mysteries…

Maybe I have been at this consulting and training stuff too long, but in a conversation with a prospect the other day, it really got me thinking about the reality of team building and organizational improvement and the VALUE of what we do. I have posted up before many of my thoughts on issues of impact and cost and time, from discussions about why I do not like icebreakers all that much in this article and in this one.

I have also shared a lot of ideas about outdoor training kinds of events, a few of which I like but many of which I view as problematic, such as a paintball game with a group of people who may have some physical impairments. One, on fun and learning can be found here. Another discussion is found here.

There have been a string of article focused on how to improve the impacts of training, such as this one focused on Motivation and Processes or this one talking about how training cannot improve work processes and thus performance.

And there have been LOTS of articles on engagement and dis-un-engagement and the process of involving people for intrinsic motivation and performance improvement purposes. If you search “engagement” on the blog, you will find more than 20 articles playing all around the theme, with statistics and ideas and frameworks.

My favorite post is on extrinsic motivation — in it, I link to an article that is called “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever.” This focuses on the ignored part of the workforce, the quasi-motivated reasonably good performers who show up and put in time but do not perform to their capability — the 50% in the middle. You can download this article on engagimentation and motivation by clicking on the image:

I Quit Article Icon

What stimulated this post was a discussion with a prospect who has great experience facilitating teambuilding for organizations. His view was that a lot of companies do NOT want a fun learning event but would rather choose to simply do something fun. They do not want the session to relate to organization performance or work-improvement issues but simply want to throw some money out to a vendor to show their people that they care! The are looking for no ROI.

It is kinda like what I see when I look at the “Team Building Offerings” of a place like Dave and Buster’s. They actually frame this dinner plus play on the machines as Team Building. Apparently, they think that they can meaningfully relate that arcade games like slotball and shooting hoops and coupons somehow relates to workplace improvement and claimed that teambuilding is one of the specialties of our staff and corporate event planners. I mean, really?

Most of these activities are framed as competitions — and I will write soon about my thinking on the difficulties of turning competition into collaboration in any meaningful or substantial way. A client had me look into this for them and I saw it as fun, but not of much real value for the investment of time and money. Why posture and call it a team building? And what if someone falls down while running to exchange their coupons for “great gifts and prizes” before the clock wound down…

For me, I feel that if a company makes the investment of money, people and time into some event, there should be some impact. An internal HR person in Jacksonville summed it up nicely in a testimonial he sent to me:

Best “Learning Game” I have ever used…  We purchased Dutchman for an offsite meeting to discuss Resource allocation and Collaboration. It was a breeze to facilitate. The participants loved it and more importantly, walked away with lessons that they were immediately able to apply back at the office. The slides and materials allow you to guide the group in almost any direction imaginable. I am still getting comments weeks after the session about the impact it made on the business and the improved performance. A small investment that generates huge results.

I mean, the fact that it links to the workplace issues and that it apparently motivated his people to choose to do something differently is why I designed the game in the first place! And why I think it is a much better tool that so many of the other activities out there. (See a comparison of my Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine game to one of the most well-known games in the team building marketplace by clicking here)

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But there is another reality that I wanted to mention, and that is the post-game debriefing activity that should connect the play to the real world of organizational improvement. Yeah, fun is good and all that, but how do we help people make the connections and help them to make better choices in the future.

I have always talked about my exercises like Dutchman and Collaboration Journey as “excuses to debrief.” I want the game design and embedded metaphors to directly link to clean themes for improvement. Turbochargers become a metaphor for Best Practices, for example, and, “The goal is to mine as much gold as we can,” is really focused on the WE and optimizing overall success, rather than focusing on competing to win. Where there are winners, there are many more losers!

So, I absolutely LOVE it when people say things like this:

The feedback from the participants was fabulous.
I led the Dutchman’s Gold Mine game for our Store Manager development as part of their annual conference.
During the game, there were a few “aha” moments but what really brought the point home was The Debriefing. There was a lot of great debriefing material to use and I focused on how the game paralleled our business and how much better the results could be if we collaborated better as an organization.
Scott was extremely supportive and was always available to answer my questions or give me suggestions.  I recommend this game to anyone that wants to build collaboration among and between teams.  It is fun and effective!
After renting the game to initially test it with two large groups, we bought the Professional Edition to run this company-wide
.

This feedback was from Kyla, a trainer with a large retailing organization, who is rolling out the exercise through her whole company. That is really cool! For $8000, their cost of delivery is about $1 a person…)

So, I like HARD questions that focus on the organization’s future. I like discussions that relate to choices people make in the game and then in the workplace. When I ask about what energizes, I relate it to what the managers could do differently. When I focus on Gold, I focus on choices to make improvements in results. The game was about maximizing ROI — that comes from optimizing communications, sharing resources, and working together.

Dutchman Debrief Triad

I would love to hear responses to this, both on the question of fun versus fun learning, as well as on the issue of debriefing activities. I often find so many of the latter so lightweight, so devoid of connection that all comments will be forgotten as soon as the next activity starts. I know that the facilitators think they are doing a great job because there are often smiles all around, but it also seems like nothing gets done after such sessions. One client long ago did one of those firewalking events — a couple of years before the Burger King fiasco * — and people DID talk about doing it. But it was always focused on doing the firewalking and never on anything that happened as a result of that BIG expense to the company…

*Firewalking done by Burger King back in 2001, with 100 marketing employees participating in a “team building and personal growth” session with 12 getting burned and Burger King generating a great deal of publicity — yes, even Dave Barry poked fun at them in an article of his. (you can read more here.  (Dave Barry’s really funny article is here!)

Games are fun and I like games. I like fun. I like to kayak and play pool and all that. But I think that a corporate learning event should be just that, a learning event. I like Dave and Buster’s food — I am just not sure of their impact on organizational improvement. Frankly, I think the teambuilding programs where you actually cook a dinner would be more impactful than simply playing, but the home page of D&B’s says that they have conducted thousands of these events.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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What is the best corporate team building game?

Today, you can access a wide variety of team building activities free and online. There are simple interactive designs from the “low ropes” kinds of suppliers as well as more formal simulations and packages that you can purchase.

On our Square Wheels website, you can find a variety of different (and free) game frames such as The Egg Drop Auction and a number of LEGO game designs, complete with debriefing frameworks. And that site is one of hundreds of similar places. You can also join groups and networks focused on gaming and simulations on LinkedIn as well as from people like Tom Heck at teachmeteamwork.com

Some companies sell their team building products. We offer, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine in a variety of formats for different sized groups. We offer rentals as well as outright purchases with no per-participant costs or annual licenses or certification fees. We will even rent the game for large group events at what is a very reasonable cost.

Expedition Leader's Role

Other programs for team building exist and a simple search will turn up dozens of vendors, worldwide.

We get feedback saying that our combination of low costs and the focus on collaboration allow for a great deal of real-world behavioral change. Dutchman offers measurable results and tracking of lost revenues when collaboration is not optimal. Other games allow less of a business focus and depend greatly on the facilitation skills of the leader to link behaviors to desired future business outcomes.

We think Lost Dutchman is the best game there is, based on this combination of business relevancy, business challenge, congruency of leadership to issues of organizational support, the links between collaboration and improved outcomes, and the effective, simple and constructive debriefing possibilities.

At this location, you can find a direct listing of benefits of Dutchman as well as a comparison of features and benefits to a commonly known exercise called, Gold of the Desert Kings. You can contact Eagle’s Flight directly for more information about that exercise, its costs, etc. They requested that I not provide a link to their website.

We are more than happy to host a discussion of issues and opportunities and values of different training programs and processes here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott banking LD

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

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non-agreement bliss poem

A Satirical Post on Team Building and Employee Engagement

I really couldn’t help myself on this one, what with it being the day after the Mayan calendar ends and all the stuff on the end of things and it also being a Saturday morning. So, my brain was messing with my fingers and making me do this!

I had this idea of creating a new exercise, one that meshed with the current environment at this unusual and unique date. So, I created a new idea for a team building game that might pick up on some of the “holiday spirit” and current organizational happenings and be used to generate some employee engagement and involvement. Maybe.

(Based on how bad the general statistics look about engagement and the frustration of so many people with all the talk and none of the action to make things better, I just could not resist this. So, please understand that I am doing this as satire.)

My newest idea for a game that will resonate with so many employers and so many trainers and so many managers and nearly all the employees would be anchored in this concept:

The idea is that everyone can play like it IS the end of the world and that nothing matters. The teams can really be, “My Team, My Team, My Team” focused and not collaborate or work with anyone outside of their team. Selfishness and Survival could be taken to new levels!

"My Team, My Team, My Team" focus can cause more competition than collaboration

Each team would be encouraged and rewarded to “do its own thing” at the expense of all other teams and the overall organization. It is local-level teamwork and interdepartmental competition taken to its legitimate end. Like a rugby match where no one will pass on the ball, or a basketball game where one player hogs all the possessions…

That reminds me of the Duke basketball player, Alaa Abdelnaby. He actually made third team all acc one year, back in the late 1980s. Abdelnaby is perhaps best known for his infamous quote regarding Duke University’s academic requirements: “The only way I can make five A’s is when I sign my name.”

And, his nickname was, “The Black Hole.“If anyone ever passed him the ball, it never came back out. He would always shoot it. No passing, just give him the ball and that was it. I played in the Marquette gym with Jim Chones in 1979, and he was the same way. He would never — not once ever — pass the ball back to anyone if he got possession of it. (Both these turkeys played professionally, and they must have played differently to survive in the NBA!) With Chones, I quickly learned to never throw him the ball, even though he was by far the best player on my pick-up team. (And it was quite different to play with UNC players in the summer pick-up games since they played with teamwork.)

Anyway, I am thinking that we could develop a really selfishly-driven, para-psychopathic exercise that would reinforce sociopathic team behaviors for improving individual performance in the workplace.

What do you think?

Or might I have just missed my timing on this one? Or maybe my focus is just slightly off? I DO know of a team building game where teams are encouraged to compete — I have always thought that pretty weird and counter to the kinds of things I encourage. Read more here:  (comparison of Lost Dutchman to GDK)

There are just SO many things that we need to do to improve performance and creativity / innovation along with the basic working portion of so many people’s lives/ I wish for a great New Year in so many regards.

Have fun out there, all y’all. And let me know if I need to build this thing,

For the FUN of it!

Scott headshot greenscreen

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

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Big Company Team Building Events

This blog post is about what Big Companies do for team building events and the kinds of programs for team building and organizational development that exist. It is also about Big Events for companies, I guess, and focused on some key thoughts about making events more effective. Frankly, there seem to be a lot of strange and sometimes seemingly irrelevant things done in the name of team building and organizational development.

Hang out at a large hotel and wander about the meeting area and you will see a lot of people sitting, just sitting there inactive when the doors are opened. It gives rise the notion of Death By Powerpoint, or at least death by non-involvement. One wonders why there are not warnings about deep vein thrombosis for some of these sessions!

People at Onlinemba.com came across my blog while researching Team Building and sent me a link to one of their articles. The title was, “How the Top Companies Take On Team Building” and 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.

I’ve posted up before on some of the more ridiculous or hard to seriously consider team activities such as golf, paintball or fire walking — maybe there are some positive individual impacts from that but I just do not see the team aspects unless we get into the discussion about peer pressure forcing people to do things that they don’t really want to do. (Sorry, I meant “encouragement” instead of coercion or force in the above…)

Heck, even Dave Berry weighed in on Burger King’s toasty experience with that firewalking kind of activity — see my blog post on that here.

But the OnlineMBA article mentioned above is a pretty good one. 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 ‘nother conversation. And they talk about doing Personality Tests as a team building exercise — I guess that could work but it does not sound like a lot of laughs. Maybe they could let the comedy troupe do the testing?

Me, I will just stick with offering games such as The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine or Innovate & Implement that are fun, controllable, inexpensive and actually link directly to workplace collaboration and performance improvement. We know that it has a lot of long-term impacts on participants and gets everyone involved and engaged. AND, it can be used for very large groups of 200 or even more.

Team building exercise, Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

You can find user review survey about Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine impacts here. The feedback about the effectiveness of the exercise is pretty amazing,

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.

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

 

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