Performance Management Company Blog

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

Tag: corporate team building activities

Strengthening Fellowship for a Healthy Workplace

Fellowship can be defined as that friendly feeling that happens among people who are joined for a common purpose. While many people may think of this in terms of their church, synagogue or temple, it should be considered a crucial element of workplace happiness and engaged employees.

Healthy workplaces happen when people are able to enjoy working together in an environment that builds camaraderie and supports the addressing of problems, finding new solutions, trying out new strategies and celebrating successes. Fellowship, therefore, fits right in as a cornerstone of workplace health and happiness.

You’ll find many suggestions for creating a healthy workplace but at PMC, we’ve enjoyed watching how our team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, strengthens fellowship as people spend time together, share a fun and unique experience, work towards a common goal and enjoy being away from a typical day at the office. And, that includes the healthy aspect of getting away from the technology and screens encountered each day!

Energize teamwork with The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building exercise

The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise is an experiential interactive board game that delivers an additional valuable team-based insights and discussions through its hands-on play. Players learn about collaboration, communications, strategic planning, leadership and other enriching information in an unforgettable way and the game structure allows for powerful business-improvement oriented debriefing discussions. It works exceptionally well with very large groups.

People play in team tabletops of 5 or 6 and there is energy, laughter, discussion, decision-making, movements, understanding and learning taking place during the game play and from its powerful debriefing session.

What are you waiting for? 

You’ll find that Dutchman is surprisingly reasonable regarding cost and planning time. You can either Rent or Purchase the exercise depending upon what works best for your situation. Another plus is that you can facilitate the game in-house, yourself, for any size group, without the need to hire a master presenter.

People love a non-threatening change of pace and research shows that fellowship and playing games improves physical and mental health, lowers stress and blood pressure, produces endorphins and boosts our immune system. Set up a fun and beneficial learning environment and increase fellowship and motivation with The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. It’s been used, worldwide, for over two decades and remains just as appreciated and relevant today as it was originally.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman

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

See my newest teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
P
oems and performance haiku at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.S


Teams, Teaming and Teamworking

There have been a number of articles around the idea that teamwork does not work to improve organizational performance. Teambuilding is seen as a complicated and expensive endeavor that does not pay off.

And I can see why people might say that, given some of the team bonding kinds of activities that many people label “teambuilding.” Just because people are active in some activity does not mean that their actions will actually improve organizational performance or increase collaboration. Team BONDING is not team BUILDING, not by a long shot.

If you follow #baaadteambuilding through google or twitter searching, you can see some of the things that a few of us working with team building tools have found SO bad as to deserve special tracking in twitter.

  • A “Bubble Bounce” in which everyone bundles up in bubble wrap to bounce off the floor and walls?
  • A PediCab tour of a city (good if everyone is physically fit and not handicapped, maybe, but what about the disabled)?
  • Pub Crawling (as if the people might not embarrass themselves or do something really stupid on what is legally company time), or (seriously)
  • Pin the Tail on the Donkey?

Team building should have impacts on actual workplace behavior, framing up innovation or change or collaboration. It should be focused on observable improvements, generating the commitment to change, and maybe even have some measurable impacts on results. It should not be viewed as “fun and games” or as social networking. Those might be nice to do, but hard to use for measuring a return on investment.

Hey! I will admit a vested interest in the issue, since I design and sell interactive exercises focused on issues of engagement and collaboration between teams. But there IS a lot of crap “training” out there calling itself teamwork — my particular pet peeves are things like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes courses. There are lots of similar “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together, interacting to define things to improve, collaborating to fix problems, etc.

Golf as team building? Sorry. Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play in golf all about working together for shared results. (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole or doing that pub-crawl thing, but not during play of the game, most certainly. Heck, you are not even supposed to talk much of the time!

Bowling? Maybe.
Cooking? Maybe.
Darts? (NO!)
Cat Bathing? (just kidding on that one…)

And, just now in twitter, I see where a company is offering up, “Ireland’s largest inflatable obstacle course, The Big Daddy.” Seriously, we are supposed to believe that bouncing through some inflatable challenge course is going to make us work together #morebetterfaster ? Sure, that might be fun, but I am guessing they don’t want obese people, pregnant women, wheelchairs, or people who carry knives and swords. But, like go-kart racing, it is framed as teambuilding.

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then expect people to work together and collaborate. In so many organizations, with lots of research supporting this, many of the people are not engaged. One should not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people who really do not care about their workplace or about shared results.

But we can motivate people in our organizations and workgroups. People want to work together if the situation can support it, and they want to feel successful and not be scared by the risks of performing.

Motivate people through success

In high performing workplaces, you will also see a collaborative culture where people work together to handle issues and solve problems. Granted, that approach may not work too well in places like Real Estate, Mortgage Lending or Stock Market sales, but we do see a strong need for collaboration and commitment where things like production or product design or customer service come into play.

Take any group of people, give them some common goals, measure them on shared performance, and allow them the ability to help each other and you have the basics for a workplace situation where teamwork will arise. Then, do some activity that demonstrates the benefit of collaboration on the overall results — something like, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Then, debrief that activity and discuss the choices that people made along with the choices they COULD have made, link it to the issues they see in their own workplace, and allow them to make commitments to each other (peer support) and you are highly likely to see improvement (if there is a bit of followup after the session).

Think of all the activities that we engage in where real teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment.

And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Celebration plane color green

Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. And improvement is a continuous activity requiring visible support from the management team.

Sure, individuals can excel, but only through collaboration and engagement and motivation can we get a group of people to high levels of accomplishment and performance that they can celebrate and then continue to impact.

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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

 

Teamwork Works! Teambuilding has Positive Impacts.

There have been a variety of articles and posts on different leadership development groups taking the position that teamwork does not work to improve organizational performance.

Huh? Seriously?

I would be hard pressed to think of one situation where some kind of teamwork wasn’t necessary to produce an optimal result in some relatively complex situation. Teams and teamwork are how things get done, so taking a position that team building does not have any impact on results and performance seems a bit goofy, right? There are troubles with teams and they do not always work smoothly, and creating a team is not always the best solution to solving a problem, but it is certainly a good one, in general. There is no question that diversity of perspective and ideas gives a better result on most problems in most situations.

Yeah, sometimes we have situations like this:

Square Wheels and competitionbut that is not to say that teams do not work!

But maybe it is the kind of team building training that is the issue behind few observable improvements? Maybe there are some less effective approaches in play.

Last night, I saw an advertisement for Booking.com that was about “The Annual Company Retreat” — It is pretty much a hoot! Click on the image below to see this 30-second commercial (by Booking.com).

Annual company paintball teambuilding retreat booking dot comI think this pretty clearly shows how a LOT of people see teambuilding combined with paintball — does teambuilding need pain, suffering, losers and winners?

Hey! I will admit a vested interest in the issue, since I design and sell interactive exercises focused on issues of engagement and collaboration between teams. And there IS a lot of crap training out there calling itself teamwork — my particular pet peeves are things like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes and other similar “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together, interacting to define things to improve, bonding together to fix problems, etc. Sure, the events themselves are challenging, but does river rafting really build a team of people focused on improving the business?

And Golf as team building? Gimme a break — Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play is crucial to their overall success (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole, but not during play, most certainly. Bowling? Maybe. Cooking? Maybe, if one is running a big commercial kitchen in a restaurant or hotel…

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations, IMHO. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then expect people to work together. In so many organizations, and lots of research supporting this, many of the people are not engaged and many are DIS-engaged. One might not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people.

But we can motivate them. People want to feel successful and not be scared by the risks of performing. We need to get them to a new place, mentally.

Motivate people through success

In high performing workplaces, you will see a collaborative culture where people work together to handle issues and solve problems. Granted, that approach may not work too well in places like Real Estate, Mortgage Lending or Stock Market Sales, but we do see a strong need for collaboration and commitment where things like production or product design or customer service come into play.

Take any group of people, give them some common goals, measure them on shared performance and allow them the ability to help each other and you have the basics for a workplace situation where teamwork will arise. Then, do some activity that demonstrates the benefit of collaboration on the overall results — something like, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Then, debrief that activity and discuss the choices that people made along with the choices they COULD have made, link it to the issues they see in their own workplace, and allow them to make commitments to each other (peer support) and you are highly likely to see improvement (if there is a bit of followup after the session).

Think of all the activities that we engage in where teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment — sports is but one endeavor. And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Celebration plane color green

Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. And improvement is a continuous activity.

Sure, individuals can excel, but only through collaboration and engagement and motivation can we get a group of people to high levels of accomplishment and performance that they can celebrate and then continue to impact.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Lost Dutchman 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/

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

Large Group, Off-Site Team Building Event Ideas

Team building events offer companies ways to align people to shared missions and goals and to generate motivation for improvement and collaboration across organizational lines. And business improvement focused events can be used as tools for strategy rollout and initiating change. After all, for most such events,

The Goal - Gold Hand gold

The focus of this post is to share some ideas that go well beyond the team bonding kinds of events that are fun and engaging but that do little to impact operational results. While fun, they are hard to tie to the real behavioral changes needed to improve interdepartmental collaboration or to break down the barriers to real improvements.

Playing with strings and balls and boards may be fun and interesting, but the metaphors linking back toward behavior change in the workplace are unclear and ineffective. Learning to juggle can be fun, but is it really connected to the fine art of motivating employees or sharing the common goal of improving customer service? Playing paintball is a great outdoor adventure, but do we really want our own people shooting guns and hard projectiles at our own people? Seriously? Do we gain something from violence against one another? Heck, it might be cheaper just to go into a room and call each other names!

In my work and the work of my associates on organizational improvement, it is common that a significant roadblock to improvement is the issue of senior management alignment and commitment. This can take the form of interdepartmental conflict or issues when it comes to strategy implementation or many other things that require a cohesive kind of organizational response.

Most of our management people are already pretty loaded-up with things to do and most improvement initiatives are simply seen as: More Work combined with potential personal risk. Plus, new initiatives are often associated with more chaos and confusion. Frankly, it is sometimes easier to nod one’s head in a yes-motion than it is to actually generate new behaviors and any actual commitment to doing something differently. After all, what will you have to stop doing to do this new thing?

Organizational Alignment:

GeeseV

A critical issue for organizational improvement is the one on alignment and impact: Will this new initiative have direct positive impacts on me? Since it is common that nobody ever washes a rental car, it seems essential that the senior manager must share some sense of ownership involvement and also feel that the program for improvement will be a positive benefit for them.

In Implementing Changes after Team Building Events, I focus on issues of team building simulations and the kinds of followup needed to generate real behavioral change weeks after the event. The Lost Dutchman team building exercise focuses on mining as much gold as we can and on the issue of collaborating between tabletops to share resources that help optimize results.

In this post on Large Group Team Building Events, we discuss how we present and debrief exercises to optimize discussions and decisions about choices made and about how to engage the most senior management people in behaving to support teams and teamwork. In this other post in a similar vein, I discuss some ideas about some of the more misaligned kinds of things that organizations do in the name of team building and organizational improvement.

It seems critical that our group event has an optimized shared overall desired outcome, rather than a focus on one team winning (and the others all losing)… Too often, we structure events so there are the winners and the glory and then all the others. While this might reflect the actual organizational politics that are in play, it is not an effective strategy for generating teamwork and collaboration.

People will hold back. People will resist change and changing behavior. People will fault-find and nit-pick rather than look for more possibilities and things to try to do differently. We need to focus on the positives and get the group focused on the possibilities. Innovation will come more from collaboration than competition.

I’ll not go into the more typical large group event of sit and watch and listen versus Commentator from Corporate. I think all of us have attended those dog and pony powerpoint show and tell lectures and I will also guess that few of us can really remember much about them. My position is that if something can be elegantly done as a screencast audio slideshow, it should  be done as a screencast audio slideshow! Bring on the podcasts and keep my butt out of some meeting room padded chair! Group face-to-face time is too valuable for a lecture.

Large group events should be delivered as engaging, memorable activities that have some shared goals and purposes. They should appeal to all learning styles and be delivered in a way that helps generate behavior change, not just consideration. Large group events can be engaging team building events. Large group events can be interactive, collaborative and focused on problem solving to benefit organizational results.

And, large group events should set the stage for continued organizational improvement,

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.

 

Lessons from The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a game on teamwork and collaboration

There are many lessons that can be learned from playing team building games, and we feel that our products generate more than their share of great learning opportunities. Reactions are as varied as the groups of people that play and the kinds of cultures they represent. It works for very large groups as well as really small ones. Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is quite flexible in how it is delivered.

Microsoft WordScreenSnapz001

One neat thing about Dutchman is that the organizational culture will show itself measurably and clearly — if people are highly competitive with each other, we see it in the dynamics of play and the lack of measured collaboration. If the culture is analytical, we see that in the inventory numbers at the end. If there is distrust among people, that shows itself clearly in that people will resist the help of other teams or even the game leadership. It is easily discussed in the debriefing and those issues can be challenged and alternatives discussed for implementation.

My Team, My Team color

If you are interested in the possibility of using Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine as a team building or motivational exercise for a retreat, large event or even purchasing it for use within a training program, I can help you make a good decision in a few-minute conversation about your group, your goals, and your desired outcomes. If Dutchman is not a good fit, I would certainly offer other recommendations that might mesh with your goals with some other vendors and consultants. There are many good options for corporate team building events and workshops out there.

These are some of the most common and important issues and outcomes from the play of The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine:

Collaboration, even when it is encouraged, can be difficult to actually achieve, much less implement:

  1. There is a big difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. Safety does not generate good results and it can measurably sub-optimize results
  2. Many people will choose competition rather than collaboration as a strategy and a few of those on a team will make the team less collaborative
  3. Openly encountering and assessing the risks involved and seeing a clear benefit is vital to generating collaboration in both the game and in the workplace
  4. Making these issues visible and somewhat uncomfortable is a good first step in generating the cognitive dissonance that is important for behavioral change and choice

There are three “Most Important Resources”: Time, Information and Each Other

Time:

  • Decisions made up front often have the greatest impact on final results. Planning time is often time well spent; do-overs in business are often fairly costly and sometimes decrease the likelihood of change
  • Strategies and plans are often forgotten when in the midst of pressures for results – “plans often do not survive the first contact with the enemy”

Information:

  • We must understand the challenge, plan for necessary resources, prioritize our activities and value our resources in order to optimize results
  • Decisions, no matter how good, are made based on considered alternatives; if little or no information is available, good decisions are impossible.
  • Alternative choices and analysis of cognitive biases can often lead to improved decision-making

Each Other:

  • Activity is no replacement for productivity and accomplishment; Peer support is often an essential component of critical thinking and action
  • People can add better perspective to risks and barriers to performance; shared risk is more easily endured
  • Alternative choices often come from people with different views and viewpoints. Perspective is a valuable tool for performance improvement

Decision-making, combined with clear understanding of the goals and objectives, will often help to optimize performance, productivity and results.

  • Team consensus generally leads to better decisions if it is focused on clear goals and desired outcomes and results; unfocused consensus leads to mediocrity and compromise
  • Your past experiences will color your decision-making and risk taking and teams will often take more considered risks than an individual. Confirmation bias can be a real sub-optimizer of future results
  • The best goals are  specific, attainable and realistic, measurable, clear and agreed-upon by your teammates

In the Lost Dutchman exercise, the goal is clearly presented: “…to mine as much gold as WE can.” It is common, though, based on the above factors, that tabletops will often frame “we” as “My Team, My Team, My Team” because that is commonly how things work in their workplaces. Each team is often designed to be an independent one, and thus collaboration is not actively encouraged nor managed.

My Team, My Team color

In the game, as well as in most workplaces, performance is optimized when cross-functional and interdepartmental teamwork is the norm. The exercise reinforces that, clearly showing the costs of competition.

My Team needs to be OUR Team,
and “ALL of us” is much more impactful than “most of us.”

This is delivered elegantly well with Dutchman, since this team building exercise so clearly and measurably rewards collaboration and communications with leadership and with other teams. Collaboration was a main design feature in how the game was constructed. We can neatly measure collaboration in different ways.

Many of our users tell us that  Dutchman is the best team building exercise in the world, and we have a lot of testimonials that support that conclusion. It will soon be 20 years that this game has been in play (and in continuous continuous improvement).

Frankly, talking about Lost Dutchman with prospects and users is one of the best things that I can do in a day. I feel really fortunate that we could put all this together into such a well-playing team building simulation that fits worldwide. It generates clean results and very actionable ideas for implementation. And users have told me that the, “ah ha’s!” continue to happen long after the session.

You can find out more by clicking on this link or on the game board below:

LDGM 1 80

If we can help you with anything about this exercise, let us know,

For the FUN of It!

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

See another great teambuilding game: The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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

 

Teamwork Works!

A recent thread in one of the LinkedIn groups took the position that teamwork does not work to improve organizational performance.

Huh?

Team building does not have any impact on results and performance? Or is it that the kind of team building training is the issue behind few observable improvements?

Hey! I will admit a vested interest in the issue, since I design and sell interactive exercises focused on issues of engagement and collaboration between teams. And there IS a lot of crap training out there calling itself teamwork — my particular pet peeves are things like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes and other similar “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together, interacting to define things to improve, bonding together to fix problems, etc.

Golf as team building? Give me a break — Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play is crucial to success (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole, but not during play, most certainly. Bowling? Maybe. Cooking? Maybe, if one is running a big commercial kitchen in a restaurant or hotel…

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations, IMHO. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then expect people to work together. In so many organizations, and lots of research supporting this, many of the people are not engaged and many are DIS-engaged. One might not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people.

But we can motivate them. People want to feel successful and not be scared by the risks of performing. We need to get them to a new place, mentally.

Motivate people through success

In high performing workplaces, you will also see a collaborative culture where people work together to handle issues and solve problems. Granted, that approach may not work too well in places like Real Estate, Mortgage Lending or Stock Market Sales, but we do see a strong need for collaboration and commitment where things like production or product design or customer service come into play.

Take any group of people, give them some common goals, measure them on shared performance, and allow them the ability to help each other and you have the basics for a workplace situation where teamwork will arise. Then, do some activity that demonstrates the benefit of collaboration on the overall results — something like, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Then, debrief that activity and discuss the choices that people made along with the choices they COULD have made, link it to the issues they see in their own workplace, and allow them to make commitments to each other (peer support) and you are highly likely to see improvement (if there is a bit of followup after the session).

Think of all the activities that we engage in where teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment — sports is but one endeavor. As my North Carolina Tar Heels demonstrated (yeah, I know about Duke winning the ACC Tourney), their improved collaboration and teamwork was visibly what enabled them to run out 20-3 for the last part of the season. Lacking that teamwork, they started at 6-4… Same players, but a different level of confidence, communication and effort.

And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Celebration plane color green

Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. And improvement is a continuous activity.

Sure, individuals can excel, but only through collaboration and engagement and motivation can we get a group of people to high levels of accomplishment and performance that they can celebrate and then continue to impact.

 

For the FUN of It!

<a rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123">Scott on Google+<a>

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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