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Military Team Building Games – some thoughts on alternatives

Good Governance, rather than autocratic leadership, is one of the keys to creating value and improvement for organizations and society.

Dutchman is Teamwork

Organizations of all types are looking for tools to help improve collaboration and teamwork and they sometimes are looking toward military models of operations, since we tend to view SEAL groups as highly organized and effective. Thus, many view the use of some kind of “military model of leadership” as a tool to improve performance in their own organizations.

And remember back in 1986 when everyone was going toward “Top Gun” kinds of training programs and employee improvement actions because of the popularity of the Tom Cruise movie and the apparent thrill of flying a jet fighter? Ah, if organizations could only work like that! Zoom Zoom! They were printing Top Gun Baseball caps for everyone, it seemed.  (But if you actually remember the movie, the leadership and congruence among the teams sure was not that smooth and everything was a competition, which sometimes nearly got people killed. There was constant conflict and often a lack of coordination, Boss-driven compliance, demotions and all that…)
Stealth SWs yellow

I am sometimes asked how our teambuilding and collaboration products can be used for a Military Team Building Game or similarly themed-exercise, either as a game with a military theme or one that can be used by a military unit to teach practical leadership and teamwork lessons. And there are a bunch of anchor points to generating good results and impacts.

Some of my client colleagues who do these kinds of team building events in various military organizations all say pretty much the same thing. Russ, for example, said, “The only thing I have to say is that military has the same issues as civilian, local focus, lots of distractions, different risk levels,…. Nothing jumps out as specific or different for Military applications.”

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine remains my flagship product and one that we are proud to offer to clients of all types, profit and non-profit, who are interested in generating more engagement and collaboration across organizational barriers. The focus is on the overall result of the group, not any one team. And the applications toward idealized Military Efficiency are pretty straightforward.

My personal beliefs are that an exercise themed on a military team building would tend to be too focused on competition / violence, something that might not sit well with a female audience or one that an objector might find distasteful. My “Military Might!” exercise, for example, is one that my son and I designed initially for his high school Air Force ROTC organization to teach the criticality of planning and attention to detail. As Corps Commander, Jeff needed to improve how things worked and improve attention to detail, as in taking inventories and similar functions.  But Might! game is about planning to kill terrorists – and I am reframing the design to become an oil exploration exercise with many of the same learning points; just a different message medium.

So far as generating compliance because or ordering people to do things, it is common that people commanded may not complain, they may simply do. But the distaste for being told will remain. And compliance does not generate a lot of desired outcomes in general.

And the basic theme of a “military game” may generate unanticipated consequences*.  I have a friend who still suffers from PTSD from his activities in Vietnam. He remains an out-patient in the VA hospital and attends group therapy. If he were one of the players of a military-style game, he would have fun, but there would be a residue left behind from such an event and it would probably trigger a lot of negative memories and emotions. The problem is that one can never really predict what will trigger what in other people…

* (My lawyer friends say that nothing is actually “unanticipated” but that due diligence would discover the unexpected problem and prevent it from ever occurring! “Saying” that it is unanticipated does not remove one from the responsibility for the unintended consequences…)

A colleague in the DC area and who regularly delivers programs for military leadership development and communications courses had this to say about military-themed team building and leadership training in general (in blue):

For decades there’s been a huge emphasis on collaboration information sharing across units and services (between Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy). Collaboration is an important and real issue today between these groups, not to mention between our security services like Homeland, NSA, FBI, CIA and local police forces. There remain a wide variety of teamwork and communications issues that directly impact public safety.

The phrase “joint operations” is used frequently (a similar phrase is “going purple”). This is about reducing the historic inter-service rivalries, and increasing effectiveness through the concept of one, joint fighting force. This kind of military team building exercise can also show up on the local level. It is also related to Emergency Preparedness, where interdepartmental and turf issues can show themselves clearly.

[As an aside here, my personal observations of such joint operations at a local high school among the fire, police, state police, EMS and Public Health Services was so inefficient and ineffective to be almost comical. A big laugh for me came when one of the demolition guys took a great deal of time and space to set off his “explosion” to mark the beginning of the terror-response activity. It was a real “guy moment,” in my view and had nothing to do with the exercise other than the fun he had blowing stuff up! Heck, they had difficulty choosing the radio channel to use for communications among the divisions!]

Dutchman also contributes to understanding these concepts and their power.

– Today’s military and government agencies face a variety of pressures to be more nimble, fluid, change on the fly as conditions change.

– And today’s military members fill roles they haven’t played before, in place like Iraq and Afghanistan – nation builder, mentor, friend, teacher, diplomat, as well as warrior.

Interdepartmental Collaboration is not good

Joint military teamwork can look something like this

Those are a lot of different roles, so feeling part of a team and developing one’s leadership and collaboration skills is a critical component of any developmental initiative. Getting groups to work together across natural competitive lines is a powerful tool to implementing new missions and visions and optimizing results.

So, to the extent that Lost Dutchman helps people see the importance of what I mentioned, in the above, it can help you convince folks in the military of its utility for them.

(You can see more of Russ’ thinking about things here: www.russlinden.wordpress.com)

We think that we have an excellent leadership development exercise in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. It links to the real issues of aligning people to a shared mission and vision and it supports collaboration, even when teams choose to compete. And while it is not a military team building game, it accomplishes all of those things that such a design would need without resorting to attacking others or creating damage or some such thing.

Dutchman is about leadership and collaboration and sharing goals and objectives. It is about optimizing results with limited resources, planning and gaining strategic information that is critical for overall success of the team and the group.

Our many user testimonials say that Dutchman is a great team building game – see some of them here at our other blog

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

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

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Testimonial on LDGM from a consultant user

He has used our game for a number of years in different kinds of consulting situations, not so much for training. The key is to generate some alignment of the management team toward shared goals and collaboration:

Russ LD testim 100

Some of the best feedback we get about the strength and effectiveness of this exercise focused on collaboration is from those who only use the exercise on an occasional basis, to meet some key need.

Scott Mud and Sheep in green

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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Here is what Russ said:

Outstanding Results!

I use this product to help build successful teams. The lesson taught is one no one will ever forget. I have used this program a number of times and have always gotten great results. You will love it!

Russ at Aspen Business Group, Glenwood Springs, CO

Strategy Implementations, like most other initiatives, Mostly Fail. Some thoughts…

My good friend and associate, Robin Speculand, has been working closely with organizations on the implementation of strategy. His research is clear:

MOST STRATEGY IMPLEMENTATIONS FAIL – 9 OF 10

It’s as simple as that. There are a lot of causes but it mostly is a failure to integrate the strategy with the desired behavioral changes throughout the organization. It is easy to talk about it; it is hard to accomplish it successfully.

Robin recently completed his international survey and shares some interesting results. I just got the email announcing its publication so I share it and some of his key findings here and will comment more extensively on it in future posts when I return from my travels.

Key Findings include:

  • 80% of leaders feel their company is good at crafting strategy but only 44% at its implementation and only 2% are confident that they will achieve 80-100% of their strategy’s objectives
  • Most leaders allocate more time to implementing strategy than creating
  • An overwhelming number believe that their bonus should be linked to the successful implementation of the strategy
  • 70% of leaders spend less than one-day a month reviewing strategy
  • Leaders believe that only 5% of employees have a basic understanding of the company strategy

This year’s survey, the 12th year of his research, continues to show that things could be done differently and better.

Implementation Success

It has involved online responses for the first time as well as over 130 interviews. The majority of organizations have over 10,000 employees and their headquarters are predominantly in the US and Singapore, with 62% of the companies being multi-nationals, 21% were from the Public Sector and 17% local (Singapore).

The main industry this year was from IT followed by Financial Institutions, Government and Pharmaceutical. The main participants in the survey were middle and senior managers with a handful of supervisors.

You can see a slideshow of the results at  http://www.slideshare.net/SpeculandRobin/strategy-implementation-survey-results-2012
until the end of February, 2013.

Robin has been using my flagship team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine as an integral part of his engagement and alignment process for a dozen years. As George Peppard said in the old A-Team TV show, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

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

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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

 

You set YOUR price for our Facilitation Toolkit – Square Wheels Roll!

Square Wheels illustrations have been used worldwide for almost 20 years as tools for presentations on managing and leading change and involving and engaging people to make commitments to improve the workplace and others. Using these cartoons, you can make a powerful impact and leave a lasting memory — as people remember these presentations decades later! Time after time, I’ve received verbal and written proof of this.

Update: We never seemed to get any traction with this offer for setting your own price, so we stopped it. Maybe I did not blog about it enough or people felt that our regular retail price was a good value. One person actually paid MORE than retail, which was really appreciated as a great gesture.

If you are curious about our toolkit, drop me an email at scott@squarewheels.com.

The metaphor of the Square Wheels Wagon is useful and bombproof. You show people a cartoon and allow participants to think about it and then discuss their ideas in small groups. You allow people to project their beliefs onto the cartoon to help build their ownership images and then allow them to apply that image onto their workplace through identifying the things that do not work smoothly along with their ideas for improvement.

You can download a complete Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit from our website and get the PowerPoint illustrations, instructions for use and for facilitation, in general, and worksheets you can print and use to have an effective 30 minute meeting or set the stage for a series of meetings focused on identifying, solving and implementing workplace improvement ideas and building intrinsic motivation of your people.

Heck, you can just use the handouts and not even need any LCD projector or other supporting equipment and be just as effective in involving and engaging everyone.

You can see how identifying something as a Square Wheel pretty much guarantees that your people will find some Round Wheel solutions and workarounds, because that is just how our brain works and people are much better problem solvers than problem identifiers. And you can see how the tabletop discussions generated allow people to gain some peer support for actually implementing the ideas.

Millions of people have never tried the simple act of facilitating with our Square Wheels cartoons and we think that they all represent potential users. My own presentations using these materials in 38 countries along with hundreds of testimonials from consultants and managers, worldwide, allow me to feel quite confident that you can use these illustrations in your improvement initiatives in the workplace, and elsewhere, for coaching improved performance and impacting organizational and personal momentum. So, go ahead and try out one of our very unique tools!

For the FUN of It!

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

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

 

Why use Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for large team building events?

I was chatting with a human resources director and we were planning  the presentation of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for about 250 people — her whole organization — in one big fun learning event. This was for a financial institution priding itself on customer service and customer / employee retention and collaboration and communications, so the fit was quite good.

The plan we discussed is for her to have her senior management team do a team building program using Lost Dutchman, where they will sort out their issues and opportunities and what they choose to do differently and improve on and then teach them how to support the delivery for the large group. As I posted up in the blog the other day, using senior management to help deliver is a pretty common model for me, one where the internal people do all the training and delivery work without using an outside person. It dramatically helps generate alignment and makes these people part of the actual perceived organizational support team!

Why use Lost Dutchman and Senior Managers for such events?

Well, the design of the game precludes my personal involvement — I am not required to help deliver it, which has many positive impacts. If I understand the desired outcomes, I can customize the suggested debriefing. If a trainer can use the game with her executives — and the metaphors of the exercise and the actual behaviors of the executives — she can deliver a highly congruent program and deal with the results without “personal involvement.” She will not be attacked for her leading discussions about the sub-optimizing choices of the leadership team.

AND, she management/leadership prepared to support the delivery of the exercise to all the employees. This saves a great deal of money and dramatically improves the relevancy of play to reality of how things are working and can work.

After all, two main themes of the game are focused on organizational alignment and collaboration:

and

The Goal of the game is to COLLABORATE and optimize results...

These are business card magnets that we often give out as reminders of why we played the game. They generally wind up on file cabinets and breakroom refrigerators.

The word we use is, “WE” but teams take that as, “My Team, My Team, My Team” in many cases.

Dutchman is a powerful game that’s easy to learn to deliver, bombproof and congruent in its play and focuses discussions on choices that we make and alternative choices that are available in the game, and then back in the workplace. Collaboration and engagement are the things that lead to employee involvement and intrinsic motivation.

And because it is straightforward and easy to play, it becomes a great event for managers to truly demonstrate their active support for helping teams be successful and optimizing results of the entire group.

large teambuilding event

Dutchman works great for very large groups

Dutchman is a powerful exercise for large events since you run the game with internal people (and leaders if you can involve them) and the game metaphors are completely congruent with the concepts of collaboration between departments and engaging people to motivate high levels of performance. The discussions focused on actual behavior and the choices that people could make in the future are also great ways to discuss possibilities. It is these visions of how thing could be that help drive improved overall results and engage and motivate individuals. It is the alignment to missions and visions that helps push things forward.

Generating alignment is a key factor in performance and optimization of results

Have fun out there, get people aligned and performing, and improve things!

You can see more about the exercise on our websites at http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/category_s/110.htm and at
http://www.squarewheels.com/ld/ldindex.html where there is a LOT of descriptive information.

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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Interdepartmental Collaboration’s Vital Link to Organizational Profitability

HR Management Magazine asked me for an article a while back and I thought to make a copy of it available here, since I think it is well-illustrated, clear and focused on the issue of impacts and profitability as they relate to teambuilding. You can find access to the article at the bottom of this post.

The topic is improving inter-organizational alliances and building more collaboration between naturally competing workgroups as a means of impacting profitability and improving innovation and other organizational impacts. Better people collaboration and interacting toward shared goals and missions.

Competition is a motivating factor in most organizations and is a good energizer until that competition begins to sub-optimize overall organizational performance. Most companies do not measure those kinds of things yet they can have huge impacts on service, quality and morale.

Similarly, teamwork within a workgroup is good, until it slows or stops collaboration between different teams, a situation we call, My Team, My Team, My Team, as illustrated below:

We also know that most individuals and most teams do not take advantage of the support that already exists in organizations. This is a critical learning point of much of what we teach.

We also added thoughts on using The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to engage and enlist people to choose to form alliances and improve performance.

Collaboration and Profit – an article on team building and organizational improvement

 

For the FUN of It!

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

 

Rental of Team Building Exercise for Large Groups

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a great team building exercise for focusing teams of people on themes of leadership, alignment, collaboration and the optimization of performance results. We’ve been selling and supporting the exercise worldwide for almost 20 years.

And it has been pretty crazy here lately, with some new business coming from some old friends, which is really neat. Two different consultants contacted me about renting our team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to run large events for their clients. And both are old customers.

The wild thing is that both used to be with corporate training departments that bought the exercise from me about 10 years ago. They had great successes with it and, as they described the situations, they wanted a high impact and bombproof session for their new clients. Thus, they remembered the exercise and thought to contact me.

Renting the exercise is one option. It is best for those “Large Group Team Building Events” that are a one-off kind of thing. Many of the customers of our small games (for 3 or 4 tables of 6 people each) like being able to run it once or twice for really large groups without having to invest in our large game version. It is also useful for a one-time team building event such as an “all-hands” meeting where the management staff will run everyone through the game. We have supported many of those kinds of trainings and there is no upper limit on the size of the group — one client had a session of 870 people in the same room!

Unlike a lot of the other designed team building simulations, we have a truly elegant and pretty bombproof design, which allows us to NOT offer train-the-trainer or require certifications or have other kinds of restrictions. Many of our customers simply get the materials, review the overall support documents, go through the powerpoint and — maybe — call me. Many choose not to bother!

I offer free and unlimited telephone support – you talk to the game designer and a master facilitator, not to some “support person.” Few people seem to need the support, though, which says that the included materials are pretty complete. They should be, since we first delivered the game back in 1993 and have played with its design and supporting documentation since that time.

I can also customize the design in small ways, and work with you to design and refine a debriefing that fits with your goals and objectives and within your time limits. Generally, for large groups of 60+, we like to have 3.5 hours to do the game and the debriefing. I like at least an hour and even 90 minutes for the debriefing, since that will help generate the commitment to improve collaboration and teamwork, planning and communications.

We are surprisingly inexpensive, high-impact and very memorable, and the game can be specifically tailored to generate your desired outcomes. This is THE world-class team building exercise focused on improving inter-organizational collaboration and aligning people to shared goals and objectives. It can be run by line managers and executives, too, not just people in training and consulting.

We also have a posted pricing schedule, so you can look at the costs of renting this team building simulation and the detail of delivering the exercise before contacting us.

We think we are the best value in large group teambuilding events, costing lots less and offering more benefits than most other competitors,

For the FUN of It!

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

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Generating LESS Collaboration? Really?? And how about even MORE Collaboration!

I am sitting in a restaurant with a not-to-be-named old friend and customer and we are talking about why he sometimes uses a competitive product in his team building trainings. His comment is basically that, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine generates TOO MUCH collaboration among the players and between the tabletops.”

And my response was basically, “Really? How can one have too much collaboration among people in the workplace?”

It turns out that I did get his point. Basically, Lost Dutchman sets up measurable improvements when players work together and share information as well as resources across the tabletops. They need a good plan of action and an overall solid strategic plan to manage their own resources, so the game rewards that. But the game also makes extra resources available to a team even though there is no additional benefit to them. Those same resources could be shared and would have great benefits to another team, however.

What we are talking about is a Turbocharger. A team acquiring this resource can move two blocks a day instead of one block, thus going twice as fast as normal. If the team acquires the information about the Turbochargers, they get THREE of them, instead of the single one that they can use. Thus, they gather two extra ones that are not usable and that have no intrinsic value.

ImageImageImage

But my friend did a lot of work with sales organizations whereby the other salesmen were NOT normally collaborating with others. They were not competing, precisely, but they did share common territories and had some overlap in customers. Think of the sales people in a car dealership, for example, who represent the same company and products but who have their own base of customers / prospects and where “sniping” is not a positive outcome.

So, he was using Gold of The Desert Kings, which had some of the same kinds of game dynamics but where teams were more obviously in competition to beat each other and where the overall success of all the teams was less emphasized. Heck, teams that planned badly even died, which might have some relevance to certain workplaces. He used GDK even though he knew that Dutchman was a better exercise for the group. He wanted something that did not reward inter-team collaboration so heavily, since that was not the norm for some of his training sessions.

And he also liked Dutchman more because it was faster to play and easier to debrief. But it was just too collaborative in design…  He was clearly conflicted.

But a moment later, the solution appeared: “Why don’t we design it with only ONE Turbo, so that we reward strategic planning and they can still mine more gold as a team, but it doesn’t set up that much inter-team collaboration as a game dynamic?”

Image

Seemed like a simple idea then and it remains a simple idea now.

It is just one more of the examples of how we can make slight modifications to The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to make the game more in line with desired outcomes. Instructions for creating these single-Turbo versions are included with the game materials,

For the FUN of It!

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

A Comparison Chart of PMC’s Team Building Activities

We’re supporting an ever increasing variety of impactful team building games these days and I am working on a few more to add to the mix. And it is getting complicated…

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine uses 20 “Days” for play and Seven Seas Quest uses “Months” and the Innovate & Implement exercise uses “Minutes” and the Military Might program uses “hours,” so just getting the right word for the timing is a challenge! Play of the games, though, is pretty straightforward and the designs solid, based on a lot of feedback.

To help explain the different products, our website has a  “Team Building Games Comparison Chart” that tries to outline the basic keys such as number of players, desired outcomes and applications, benefits and similar. We have games that work for 4 people and most games can scale up for hundreds.

And we even show the actual price (it’s interesting that so few of our competitors will actually post the prices of their games; they seem to be almost embarrassed by the costs) as we feel we have the best cost to benefit ratio in the world for the kinds of products we design, sell and support. Plus, we sell “unemcumbered,” without the per-participant or annual licensing fees so common in the industry for full-blown simulations.

AND, we’ll often customize for free if we think that work will result in a better team building product that we can distribute…

You can see the full Comparison Chart on the PMC website by clicking here – a version is added below but I am guessing that it will not be readable because of its size.

Matrix of our team building and leadership development exercises

We think the current products carry forward into a lot of different kinds of organizational development initiatives and also have some new things in development.

For executive development and strategy implementation, we are rebuilding and reframing a game built around planning and executing a climb of Everest. The challenge is to carefully plan an expedition that will take at least some of the players to the top; there is also the reality that some players can simply support the others to generate a success and that not everyone can always summit. Collaboration and planning is the main focus. We will link Everest to our strategy communications and implementation materials with Square Wheels.

For a great followup to Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we will be rebuilding our Seven Seas Quest game into different bundles and a full-day integrated program on teamwork and communications.

I am reframing the Military Might! strategy and tactics exercise into an oil exploration game, one that will involve a great deal of upfront analysis of the situation and opportunities and will have serious risk / reward consequences to impact decision-making.

The Temple Game is built around a storied search for treasures in Asia to construct a Temple. Ships will sail to different ports to acquire the treasures of those countries in order to raise funds for the Shogun to construct an elegant temple near Kyoto. It is a great story line and will result in an exercise that blends planning and adventure with coordination and collaboration among the ships and the leaders.

More fun is in store for all and I love it that we can design and offer these games that link so well to workplace issues at a low cost and as a great value.  If you have any issues that you might like to see addressed with an interactive and engaging exercise, please drop me a note. My friend Brad wants to build a game on corporate sustainability for an executive development program he conducts at Furman University. And we have also played with the design of an emergency preparedness exercise.

Comments and suggestions are always appreciated!

For the FUN of It!

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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