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Tag: debriefing corporate team building

Optimal Debriefing of Experiential Learning and Team Building

More than 20 years of working with organizational performance improvement and team building and experiential learning has taught me a few things, I think. So, I wanted to share some reflections around how to optimize the impacts on individual and group learning.

There has always been a discussion in the experiential learning literature about the need for focused debriefing versus the inherent learning that naturally occurs. After all, how much time needs to be spent talking about the obvious?

One might think that the experience itself would be sufficient for learning to occur and that no debriefing is necessary since the key learning points are all so obvious. The other perspective is that a focused discussion and reflection are paramount for learning to occur.

Overall, I think that the key is BALANCE. Key learning points should be discussed, with the reality that some people will learn more than others and that individuals within a group will each see different things, depending on their perspectives and experiences. But spending too much time in too much detail will dull the brain and cause a loss of interest and engagement.

I take the position that individual reflection and group discussion are integral to understanding from any event and especially for building a shared commitment to doing things more better faster
(or at least differently than before!).

Learning can occur within an individual simply as a result of some experience. But I also think that reflection and discussion generate much richer learning.

As an example, let me use my Square Wheels® illustration as an example. One person looking at the illustration may come up with 2 or 3 insights as to possible meanings, where another might find 10 to 15 learning points. Commonly, a group of people feeding off each others’ ideas and comments can readily identify 30 or more key points.  And, they will have more fun doing it.

How things work in most organizations = Square Wheels images LEGO

So, reflection and some discussion DO generate a richer learning environment and one that is more likely to generate some impetus for change.

My personal belief is that an exercise like Lost Dutchman is an excuse to do the debriefing and that the exercise is merely the platform for the group learning that will occur.

The authors of “The Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators” (Pfieffer and Jones, 1983) felt that it was “axiomatic” that the processing of the experiential learning program “are even more important than the experiencing phase”. These authors even urged facilitators to take care that the activity “does not generate excess data”. Rappelling a mountainside or descending whitewater in a raft with 5 others would be the kind of experiences which would “generate excess data.”  Too much, in fact, to capture and categorize, and not much real learning would occur.

Experiential exercises offer the benefit of links to preferred information gathering and decision-making styles.  It can match with the kinesthetic, visual and auditory learning styles and confirming systems.  The various roles can also benefit when a team applies the different thinking styles to the information processing and risk-taking situations.

So, one of the benefits of an exercise like Lost Dutchman is the clean design and straightforward metaphors that allow for a relatively structured debriefing of individual and group experiences.  In all of our game designs, we pay attention to business issues and opportunities and thus structure our suggested debriefing approach to allow groups to focus on realities of the workplace as well as the applications for the future. The themes and relevance are designed to be obvious.

collaboration generates optimal results in Lost Dutchman

At the same time, shared experiences also allow the facilitator to link the program to their existing and preferred tools. Should someone be using DISC, for example, they might use the game at the start as a tool to set the stage for a discussion of possible styles or at the end to test out applications of others preferred styles toward themes of teamwork and problem solving.

If people are focused on strategy implementation, they can use the issues about confusion regarding the overall goals of the exercise – “to mine as much gold as we can” in the case of Dutchman — to discuss the reality that choosing to compete will sub-optimize overall group results, the main cause of why “interdepartmental collaboration” is an oxymoron in most organizations. The game experience helps link the choice in the game to the reality of workplace choices, helping to define what could be done differently.

a user testimonial about team building exercise

By taking the time to debrief the program, you gain the benefit of group perspective and individual learning. What you got from the game is thus less likely to be lost among the informational noise and data. And a team focused on how they handled risk, for example, will most certainly generate different insights than simple reflection by an individual; the nature of the discussion and the different viewpoints will allow more objectivity and perspective.

Years ago, I jumped a 130-meter bungee jump in New Zealand, the Nevis. It was risk-taking in some ways. But a failure to debrief on decision making and perceptions of safety and other issues did not occur and there was not a lot of learning that occurred, in reality. I see this same kind of thing in the actual learning from a lot of different outdoor adventure activities – learning will come from the debriefing and reflection and not simply from the experience itself.

picture by Robert Young

It is when the activity and its review are combined, facilitated and discussed among teams that the real benefit of the event occurs – the learning that occurs with possibilities for personal and social development. Future-pacing possible outcomes is also beneficial.

Dutchman creates a learning event which includes some interdependent elements:

  • new and challenging collaborative decision-making
  • new group team building events and
  • various learning modes related to decisions
  • various information processing needs

The challenge is to discover ways of merging these learning elements into real individual and organizational improvement. In the short term, a single element may dominate the experience, but ultimately this dynamic form of learning depends on the harnessing and intermixing of these many elements and learning that come from reflection and discussion.

I hope that this is helpful and that you can apply it to your own learning and development events for building teamwork and improving people and performance,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games Scott small picand 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
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Debriefing Teams for Optimizing Impact – some thoughts on facilitation, planning and debriefing

I have been supporting the use of my team building board-game simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine since I started selling it to consultants and trainers back in 1994. Because I am so familiar with how it works and because I have done it so many times, I simply forget about the learning curve and the challenges faced by a new facilitator. So, I thought to share some ideas on keeping things simple and bombproof.

The exercise comes with a variety of instructional supporting materials plus the oft-repeated notion that the user can readily contact me by phone, email or Skype or whatever. But I would guess I actually hear from maybe 15% of the new users. More often, I tend to hear from the experienced users looking to spin the game off into a different direction or that have some delivery constraint they would like to solve. You can find some ideas around those issues in other places in the blog.

• Read about some general key learning points about team building and collaboration on the blog that is found here (Learning Lessons from Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.)

• You can find some ideas about how to run large group team building events here. (This is focused on Dutchman but applies somewhat generally.)

• Here are some thoughts and ideas about delivering cross-cultural kinds of learning and team building events. (See more about cross-cultural frameworks for leadership development using Lost Dutchman here.)

• Here are some thoughts about getting through Day 1 of the exercise, when you are going to have a crash course in banking the game and also teach the Team Traders their role. (Find the blog about Surviving Day One here.)

• You can find some ideas for operating The Trading Post here. This is about how to “bank” the exercise. (Click here for Provisioner Training blog)

Generally, if you will search the blog with the search term “Dutchman,” you can find a variety of abstracts about many different articles on delivery.

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine THE Games for Teambuilding PMC Home Page icon 2

I recently got a most excellent email from a new user, a person who I think is relatively junior in his organization of team building experts but one of the few who speak English. They purchased the Pro Version of the game and that game comes with a huge variety of play and debriefing possibilities. So, he asked me some questions:

Opening to my email reply:

Basically, I do what the client needs me to do to generate the desired outcomes they want. From their goals and objectives, I “automatically” adjust many of my leadership behaviors to align with their goals.

Please do understand that there are a few different aspects to all things about Dutchman, from small ideas that can be stressed in some client situations and not in others as well as differences in how the exercise is functionally facilitated. One can deliver the game and make people stick tightly to the rules and timelines or one can allow tabletops some flexibility.

Like cooking a meal, there are various ways to put it together. I do NOT play tight with the Beacon Card, for example. I do NOT take half of the gold from the team if they ask for help. That would embarrass them, in my opinion. So, the Beacon Card is simply a relief valve for the stress of planning and playing = they can always get help if they mess up and it takes the fear of “death” out of the play. I simply use that process to ask the players at the tabletop what choices they made and what they might have done differently and I relate it to their business practices if I can.

I try to go out of my way to explain how the exercise works and how to frame the game to optimize outcomes. Here is a post I did a while back as a specific reply to some questions about linking the play of the game to some issues for a large global senior manager meeting. (That delivery went extremely well!) My goal is to share the best ideas I can with my user-customers.

•GAMES link for homepage

On Mar 28, 2014, (new customer) Robert wrote:

Please give us a feedback on the Debriefing: – There are many debriefing formats. Is there any order to which we can review them?

There are many dozens of ideas and discussion topics in the combined debriefing slide files. And there are many different styles for debriefing — I would guess that every facilitator using the game has evolved into doing things in their own unique way based on their personal style, their experience, and the audience.

This is over-viewed and discussed in some new video recordings I made available and I have included the links to these. When you get to the debriefing, there are all sorts of possibilities. I generally start my debriefings with the use of a series of cartoons, which allows me to comment visually on some of the key observations and make connections to desired outcomes.

MY style tends to show a question that I know is directly relevant to the client’s goals and outcomes. It is a high priority slide both in discussion time required and in its intended impact, for example. I show the slide, ask the question and then allow time for each table to discuss the issue. I will often move around through the group, listening to ideas they are discussion and possibly commenting or supporting or suggesting that they mention that to the larger group (when I allow the more public individual comments during the group discussion time on that question.)

My selection of which slide to use is also a fairly complex decision process, since I will never have all the time I would like for debriefing.

Plus, if we were doing a general debriefing after the session and returning back in the afternoon for a WORK session to define specific ideas to be implemented and to form work teams interested in implementing those ideas, my two debriefings would be somewhat different.

There is NO “Best Debriefing” and no ONE Debriefing. That is why so many different debriefing slides are included with the exercise.

Personally, I think I do a good job with my facilitation of the debriefing. But Thiagi would do something totally different, as would other users like Jeff Taylor or Gregg Baron. Each of us has our own style and every client is different. AND NO ONE WOULD DO IT THE WAY I TOLD THEM TO, ANYWAY!!! (grin)

There is a kind of script with that video link that I mentioned above but even that is not a fixed script. I simply talk about what I saw in the context of what the client wanted in the flow of the cartoon series. Some things are somewhat constant and consistent while some other slides generate wildly different comments from me.

I do have some notes included within the comment sections of some of the slides and there are some written discussion debriefing ideas in various places.

If you are debriefing a game focused on generating ideas about how to improve your personal facilitation of the game, you would do a much different debriefing than if you were running a session for the most senior managers of Samsung who were interested in the implementing of a new strategy, right?

The funny thing about your questions to me is that you are providing me with no real context other than “debriefing.” If I do not know what you are trying to accomplish with the debriefing itself, it is really hard to help. That is why I engage the client in clearly defining their desired outcomes; it helps me focus all things toward those goals.

I do not use the formal paper debriefing handouts that are included in different versions in your toolkit. Others might. It depends on the use of the handouts and what they are to accomplish. If people feel that they will be collected and analyzed and that they are personally responsible and accountable for what they write, you would get a much different outcome than if they were told that they were just simple worksheets on which they might capture their ideas.

There is no one way to cook a meal. And, since you are in Korea, there are many styles of kimchi with every chef doing things differently.

Basically, we are not some solution looking for a problem, but a tool that can be skillfully used to generate behavior and discussions of choices and the planning for different desired outcomes. These are two very different frameworks.

My approach to delivery is as a Facilitator, not a lecturer. My goal is to generate thinking and considered alternatives.

But this is all a result of facilitating organizational improvement initiatives since 1978. I am still learning…

For the FUN of It!

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

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

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

Teambuilding with The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

We’ve been selling the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine game for twenty years now and I continue to feel that this is the best program in the marketplace niche in which it appears. And it continues to surprise me that the exercise seems as fresh to me today as it did 10 years ago when the materials were fully developed, fine-tuned and polished. I guess I am also surprised that the opportunities for improving inter-organizational collaboration are still evident everywhere and corporate team building seems to continue to be an area of high leverage for impacting productivity. Companies should have made more progress than they have!

We have active consultants working with corporate team issues, worldwide, and the opportunities for trainers and internal consultants to use this exercise and approach seems like an untapped opportunity. After all, don’t these internal people see an advantage to using a bombproof exercise that generates the precise competitive behaviors that need to be better blended with collaboration and engagement opportunities as well as the need for inter-organizational alignment?

A recent conversation with an outdoor training organization in Asia resulted in a potential collaboration with that firm and networking them to three other global experiential training companies who have blended my programs into their other offerings. It seems like the collective idea of sharing and the learning about positioning team building simulations into the other kinds of corporate teamwork programs is a simple and straightforward one. I am glad that my network continues to be quite collaborative in sharing ideas for delivery and marketing.

You can find a pretty solid description of the Dutchman game in this slideshare overview, which shares key design features and benefits.:

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine overview slideshow

You can also find a solid video about how I debrief the exercise and link the behaviors exhibited to the organizational issues here. This is not a marketing video but a candid discussion of what I see as organizational realities and potential ways to impact performance improvement opportunities:

Debriefing Ideas and Frameworks

An overview about how we use our Square Wheels illustrations as tools for debriefing the Lost Dutchman team building exercise is found by clicking the icon below:

Debriefing LDGM with Square Wheels

Hope you find this information and the links of use in evaluating our Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine game into your corporate team development. We are more than happy to discuss specific issues and desired outcomes for your improvement efforts at any time,

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

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