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

Tag: building ownership and teamwork

Bad Teambuilding, Good Teambuilding

I continue to be struck by how much team bonding is confused with team building. The latter has impacts on organizational behavior and performance improvements and links to improving results while the former is about having fun and doing things to build camaraderie. The issue is that people expect things to change with more workplace friendliness, but with no changes in measurements or feedback or actual consequences (rewards and punishers), why would anyone expect anything to change?

And why is it that so many exercises that consultants would use for front-line or middle managers, they would not remotely consider doing with senior executives? Does that CEO or CFO or CTO really benefit by having some cooking class event, doing some pot-luck lunch or, as I recently saw in Wired magazine, really benefit from having the comedians from Second City teach them improv? Will those activities REALLY translate to anything improving?

It is so bad that I just set up #BadTeambuilding as a twitter hashtag and I plan on noting some things called “team building” that aren’t and don’t. Maybe I will be seen as a troll, but the operational idea is that we cannot expect change if awareness does not shift and some sort of real enlightenment occurs, right? It will be hard to ignore retweets with the #badteambuilding and it will surely generate some responses and reactions — and at age 68, I don’t have a lot of years left to leave a footprint, right?

Badteambuilding is a theme of perception by Scott Simmerman of The Square Wheels Project

I hope I have earned the right to comment, having delivered exercises for organizational improvement over the past 25 years and working in a global marketplace for ideas for impact. In addition to the blogging and presentations, I sell and support a number of team development exercises, with one of mine being used extensively by a network of consultants and pretty much generating rave reviews.

A survey among people who have purchased The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding exercise, for example, generated feedback that anchored that the game as Most Excellent. And nearly all of them will confirm that the common team bonding fun “exercises” have little to do with improving the actual interdepartmental collaboration and alignment to shared visions that we can accomplish with the exercise. Most of our users are a highly experienced group, with 70% using 6 or more different team building exercises in their organizational development work.

You can download a full summary of results by clicking on the link below:
Dutchman Survey Results Summary

But it is amazing how many companies will choose to do something fun over something impactful, apparently feeling that since people are so pressured from working, that spending fun time at Dave and Busters or going go-kart racing will somehow make a difference. If that is true, I would love to see some actual data supporting that belief.

I am not a troll on things like this; it is just seeing that better alternatives to a lot of the choices being made about “doing some teambuilding” will not actually generate any results and actually set the stage for executives to believe that all teambuilding has no real impacts on results.

Here is Scott helping Mrs. Claus and the elves make improvements to Santa's wagon

My focus for years has been on people and performance, and everything I see says that we can improve teamwork and collaboration and that we can improve employee engagement and innovation and have all kinds of positive impacts on organizational results. We need to simply choose to make a difference and do something differently!

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
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


We believe that GOOD teambuilding can generate real change and improved results by making people more aware of their decision-making and their choices and collaborative behavior. Here are some additional thoughts and statistics from our survey of users about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine:

We asked a really tough T/F question:

LDGM is the best exercise I know of to work with senior managers on issues of strategy, alignment, and organizational collaboration.”

Fully half (53%) said this was TRUE! (Only 9 people said this was False, which given the highly experienced and global nature of our users, is pretty fantastic. We are NOT the most expensive exercise out there, just apparently the best value!.)And comments were uniformly supportive of our design, packaging and pricing.

Another tough question and positive response was this one: 30 people (55%) responded that Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is “the best overall team building exercise I have used.” For such an experienced user-base, this was outstanding!

Fully 100% of users would recommend the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine game to others for purchase and use, with 63% saying they would recommend it to ANY trainer or consultant.

As to value, two-thirds of users (64%) strongly agreed that the purchased of the exercise represented an excellent value to their organizations and 11 merely agreed, with 5 people sharing a neutral response.

The exercise was designed to be useful for organizational development, alignment, leadership and teambuilding. It was designed for impact.

  • Fully 7 in 10 agreed or strongly agreed that the simulation was effective in generating observable, “desired changes in behavior after the session ended, back on the job.” One person disagreed.
  • 96% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that, “the exercise linked well to our issues of workplace collaboration and performance management” with two people being neutral.
  • As to, “representing the Best Value for a teambuilding exercise in the global marketplace,” 21 people strongly agreed and 16 others agreed of 52 registered responses, or 71% of our users.

Again, we framed that question up as a real test of perceived value and even the neutral responses were supportive! It seems we are doing pretty well out there, and no one would actually name an exercise they thought was better than ours.

We asked some tough questions and we got some great answers.

If you are looking for a real team building exercise, one that does the building a lot more than it focuses on “bonding” like so many other exercises in the marketplace, check out our simulation. It is powerful and yet inexpensive.

After all, fully three quarters of our users felt it represented a Best Value in the global marketplace of tools for organizational improvement and communications.

a team building simulation exercose

We think that companies can accomplish real teambuilding, if they focus on it and use good tools. And we stand 100% behind our tools,

For the FUN of It!

Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car – Ownership and Herding Cats

Nobody ever washes a rental car is a phrase I have been using in workshops and in my writings since the mid-80s to describe the basic issues around ownership involvement and engagement. The basic concept is simple: people do not take care of things very well unless they have a feeling of ownership about them.

The reason I bring this up is funny, in a way. I had written a chapter for a to-be-published book and the editor makes the change giving the attribution of this quote to someone who published an article in 2002. That was a bit insulting, actually, that she made the change without asking me. Just Do It is not always a good strategy when making changes to someone else’s hard work. Plus, she also added the comment that the phrase was actually “in dispute.”

Seriously? Of course, someone in a workshop will pipe up something like, “I washed one once” when referring to their own car-renting experiences, but under a followup question, they also admit that they did it because they totally trashed the car and were worried that the rental agency would fine them or something, or that their spouse was so appalled by the awfulness of the exterior that he or she would not get into that car!

The explanation actually reinforces my point precisely. People do NOT take very good care of things they do not own. The reality is that some people might actually wash a rental car, but they sure don’t take good care of them. It reminds me of the old joke:

What goes faster than any police car, handles speed bumps and potholes like a Humvee, corners faster with more screeching tires than a drifting WMV, and can crash through small trees and bushes like a tank?

Give up? It’s a Rental Car!!

If you have ever owned a house you rented, you will know precisely what I mean. Or, if you ever lent someone some of your tools or a book, you may come to understand that the ownership has just been functionally transferred…

“But Scott,” you might say, “You write on issues of people and performance, about organizational improvement. What is this “rental car” stuff?”

Simply put, you cannot expect the people to support you to buy into ideas for improvement and change unless they have some ownership involvement in generating those ideas or in putting together an implementation plan. It might look something like this:

square wheels image by Scott Simmerman

On the left, we have typical organizational reality – leader pulling and people pushing and not much alignment, engagement or communications.

On the right, we have people actively involved in making improvements to the situation, with the obvious support of the manager and others. Taking time to be involved generates engagement, can help to implement better processes, and can generate peer support and even more organizational successes down the road.

Lastly, let me end with the line-art illustration we first used in 1993 to illustrate this concept. The cartoon is actually named, Nobody ever washes a rental car, and it addresses one other issue of successfully implementing change and improvement. It looks like this:

square wheels image by scott simmerman

In this case, you might consider that the wagon is now  beginning to roll downhill faster than the wagon puller finds comfortable. When people feel pushed, they generally push back and resist the change. It is ownership, again, but in a situation reverse to the above. Managers can also resist changes and ideas brought to them from the teams. It is a natural thing for those who are facilitating change and innovation.

If you are interested, we sell a simple and straightforward toolkit for impacting employee ownership:

square wheels image toolkit

Leadership is not a simple thing. So, Heads up! Engage them where you can.

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

You can find some powerful tools for impacting corporate teambuilding and improving organizational performance at our website, featuring The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and our Square Wheels tools:

teambuidlng products by scott simmerman

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

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