Performance Management Company Blog

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

Tag: debriefing experiential exercises

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 Team Building Games – Some Ideas and Reactions

A few weeks ago, I posted up a 35-slide Slideshare compendium of some of the main debriefing themes we use, anchored to our teambuilding exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. The goal was to share how the exercise connects to organizational development issues and opportunities as well as to illustrate how we feel team building exercises of ALL kinds should work.

LD Slideshare Debrief cover

Dutchman focuses on aligning teams and players to shared goals and on generating collaboration between the tabletops as some of its unique competencies. It also links to leadership, motivation, strategic planning and project management themes.

Once I uploaded that file to Slideshare, I sent the link out to some of our existing consultant and trainer users of the exercise for their comments and reactions. All were positive and a couple of people offered up some good frameworks. Raju Madhaven, who used the game to train thousands of people when he was with Wipro in India (and who is now out consulting and training with his purchase of it) shared some good comments that stimulated me to blog about this:

  1. You can consider including the Tuckman model of Teaming – Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing (slide 21/22)
  2. Asking the question – Does your organization reward collaborative thinking? What are the ways in which it can reward? (slide 20 & 26)
  3. Slide 23 – While the poem is great- I wish the readers don’t misinterpret the visual! (it shows a driver and his vehicle on a mountain flat with no way to go up/down!
  4. I use the text in slide 33 a lot- very effective

So, let me embellish his comments with some of my own:

1. The Tuckman Model of Teaming is a very simple expressive model of four stages of team development: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. It is often useful in describing how people feel when they are challenged as a group to make a decision but it is not a tight model nor one that has proven itself as an organizational tool.

In referencing that model, Raju was referring to the slides that I use to express the common reactions of teams to the challenge and the need to go from differing ideas to a shared consensus in order for the team to operate efficiently and effectively:

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 21 and 22 60

The tabletops do move from discord and disagreement to a readiness to operate, and they accomplish this in the 15 minutes of allotted Planning Time before the start of the game. That simply demonstrates that people CAN reach a decision and work as a team under time pressures, if the goals and objectives are shared and the mechanics of how to operate are known.

2. Collaboration – Raju likes to ask questions about how organizations deal with the culture of collaboration — is it supported or is the culture more competitive. Much of the Dutchman game design supports the measured benefit of collaboration, since we can track how sharing information and resources helps to optimize overall results.

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 20 and 26 60

The issue of rewarding collaboration is a difficult one, I think, since the addition of extrinsic rewards generally increases complexity of the interactions (do you reward all team members for the extra efforts of a few of them or do you reward all the teams participating in an organizational improvement initiative when only some of them were major contributors and some may have faced legitimate roadblocks like a lack of funding for their work. I am a Big Believer in using intrinsic reward and self-satisfaction to push behavior rather than the extrinsic rewards to recognize success. Some balance is certainly needed!

Collaboration is an obvious benefit to organizations, but the way that we often structure measurement and feedback systems is to generate competition rather than teamwork. In many cases, the term “Interdepartmental Collaboration” represents an oxymoron (words that do not go together) and we even call different operating units “Divisions” in many large organizations, somehow expecting divided organizations to function together.

The consulting and alignment and leadership development of these aspects of organizational structure are a difficult issue to address in many organizational cultures, simply because they have always been competitive in their orientation. Dutchman accomplishes this better than anything we are aware of…

We have a number of consultant users framing the Dutchman exercise into one for strategy implementation and restructuring and similar massive organizational change initiatives.

3. Intrinsic Motivation – I have long used this illustration, along with a body language physical exercise, to stress the important feeling of success that comes from accomplishment.

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 23

So, I am using the concept of pinnacle or reaching the top as the anchor point for the image, not the fact that they are “stuck” or any such thing.

In my trainings, I sometimes have people stand up and then raise their arms over their heads. I ask them how that feels and responses are uniformly positive. Then, I have them droop their arms down and round their shoulders forward and put their heads to look down and I ask them how that feels. Routinely, they will say things like “low energy” or “depressing” or “heavy.” Then, I repeat the arms over their head, have them cheer or jump up and down or similar and then tell them that they always have a choice in terms of how to react to situations!

So, for me, the cartoon illustrates a success state, a state of accomplishment, and I discuss things from that perspective.

I am not thinking that anyone would not see that from the way I debrief that slide! You can use that kind of framing in most any training, I would guess. You might also note that the vehicle in the image has round wheels, but that is a whole different conversation!

4. My two simple ending or closing statements:

LD Slideshare Debrief Slide 32 and 33 60

I like to anchor my sessions in the concept of choice and choices. We all get to choose our reactions to things and having a more diversified set of choices or considered alternatives helps us to choose better.  Ownership is important, since

Nobody ever washes a rental car

Click on above to read Scott’s blog on ownership involvement

All of our games and toolkits are designed to generate active involvement, a sense of ownership and commitment from the resulting discussions, and a set of considered alternative choices for future decisions.

I hope that you have found this framework useful and that maybe a new idea has been generated about improving the impact of your training and organizational development initiatives,

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.

 

 

 

 

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén