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

Tag: experiential learning through teambuilding games

Engaging Senior Managers in Organizational Teambuilding

Since we started focusing on the rental of our large event team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, I have been engaged with consultant trainers asking me more questions about impacting organizational effectiveness and engaging senior managers in strategy improvement and change.Dutchman is one of the truly great team building exercises that works well with really large groups.

The large group play of Lost Dutchman's teambuilding exercise

Generating real organizational change is always an issue – how does one generate real involvement and alignment and ownership among the senior management team? And how does one really get value and focus from a large group event? We think it is active involvement and engagement along with clear discussions about past and future choices for changes and behaviors.

benefit of teambuilding exercise simulation

In actuality, delivering a large group event using the simulation represents an unparalleled opportunity to really accomplish executive team building and alignment because of a specific design feature in Dutchman: its’ direct simplicity.

Dutchman was designed to be easy to facilitate — I did not want to need a staff of people to do licensing or certification nor did I want to make the exercise too hard for players to understand. I also wanted non-training people to be able to deliver the game — we have had many line managers run the exercise over the years with great success. (See the Megan and Robin testimonials here)

The end result after 20+ years of polishing was a very straightforward team building program where there are few hidden tricks and a complete congruence of all of the facilitation staff to support the players in solving the challenges that are presented. The banking of the game and the tracking of team behaviors was made really simple. There were few “mechanical” issues and it was easy to learn how to operate so that a facilitator could pay more attention to the observed behaviors rather than needing to become some expert on game mechanics.

And the result exceeded expectations; in actuality. FEW people ever call me after purchasing the exercise and going through the instructional materials. Few people ever contact me after they deliver the game with questions and only occasionally do we get into nuanced discussions about design and tweeking the game to focus on details. It’s simplicity became a feature and benefit!

When I first started my deliveries, I would assemble some outsiders and pay them to help me deliver large games (50 people or more).  And as I was asked to deliver even larger programs, I would often get internal people together for an hour or so to teach them the mechanics — these were often the training or HR staff who were supporting the event.

What I eventually discovered is that I could deliver an actual team building session for a group of senior managers, running them through the actual exercise with a normal debriefing of results and impacts. If I could get them to commit to a full day, I could also get their agreement on alignment and shared goals for the organization, link that to the desired debriefing of the results of their large group team building event, and then put them into an active role for that delivery. Some could be “bankers” and some could help as coaches on the floor answering questions and providing direct team support.

THIS became my most effective overall design focus:

  • Get the senior managers in a collaborative and aligned mode of operation and give them an active role in the exercise = ownership
  • Have a collaborating team of senior managers supporting their people in the large group event and in the debriefing, improving actual organizational alignment and directly / actively supporting inter-team collaboration

Dr. Scott Simmerman facilitating team building gameThis design gave me the ability to put my coaching hat on with a real purpose and also enables me to run really large groups with only ME being required for delivery.

You can imagine how that positively impacts my profitability and minimizes any staffing issues and we also have plenty of management help for running the game. I can also charge the client a LOT less than my competitors because we are not charging for extra staff and travel expenses and all that. AND my delivery staff has a vested interest in making the event optimally successful.

Imagine the staffing needs to run a typical experiential exercise for 300 people versus the ability to deliver a senior manager team building session plus the large teambuilding event with only my active involvement and participation. Simplicity and effectiveness!

Plus, we generate a much higher likelihood of behavioral change and implementation after the event, since the managers have a really powerful hands on collaborative experience in working with each other to maximize the results of the event itself. The debriefing of that senior manager session focuses on discussing the kinds of behaviors these senior managers would like to see from the people at the large event. A focus on the shared mission / vision and generating alignment to goals, objectives and expectations becomes quite clear.

Having these real Senior Managers in this game delivery role is a great leadership learning lesson on how to implement change and support high performance. One cannot simply TALK about what leaders and players should be doing; they have to behave consistently and congruently to actually generate results.

And behaviors of the teams playing the game directly parallel what we see in organizations. While a few of the tabletop teams will have precisely what they need to perform at a maximum level, those same teams will often choose NOT to collaborate, to thus “win” the game at the cost of negatively impacting overall organizational results. This is one of the great debriefing points — that collaboration is a desired overall organizational outcome!

Anyway, it is really neat to see these kinds of large events happening, 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!

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 quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

 

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Focusing Attention on Performance Improvement through Interactive Engagement

Yeah, I avoided the word “game” in the title and used “Interactive Engagement” as an alternative. It sounds a lot more impressive, right? I do it because it seems that many “serious senior executives” have an issue with how interactive learning is framed. So the choice of game, simulation, exercise, experience, and all those other labels sometimes come into play in decision-making.

The reality is that involvement and engagement are critical factors in any kind of performance. Fun can be fun but it is about anchoring experiences in some event to the choices that people will make about what to do differently. High performance is often accompanied by some level of ownership involvement and commitment to change.

If they feel some peer support and have some ownership involvement, they are more likely to do things differently. If people are un-involved and dis-engaged, they are probably providing “compliance-level performance” in the workplace and not giving you the productivity they might. That is one big reason I use experiential activities, anchored to business metaphors, for a lot of the developmental work we suggest.

We can call these engagement activities things like:

  • Game
  • Exercise
  • Simulation
  • Interactive Engagement Tool
  • Limbic System Brain Activation through Asymmetric Stimulation of Peripheral Receptor Cells

(How do you like that last one? After all, playing games involves kinesthetic movement as well as stimulation of sensory cells in the eyes and peripheral nervous system having to do with sensory nerve cell activation and kinesthetic movement, right? All this nerve cell stimulation rushes up the spinal cord into the midbrain of the participating animal to increase activity of brain cells and create new learning pathways, right? (grin) )

Yeah, games have a way of engaging us and linking to learning, if appropriately designed and implemented. And there is actually some game playing going on in the world. According to Jane McGonigal, author of “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,”  more than 3,000,000,000 hours a week is spent in gaming globally. (That is unreal!)

People love to play games and challenge themselves. What businesses need to do is provide more context for learning and organizational collaboration within the framework of engagement and team building. Focusing on realistic simulations and challenges can improve the skills and organizational cultural to allow more collective improvement. This is different than a focus on single-players beating others in some challenge.

PMC Creates Simulations that teach

Games can generate engagement because they generate focused behavior designed to have some kind of impact. Gaming often appeals to our intrinsic desires or our intrinsic motivation for self-actualization or accomplishment. People really do love achievable challenges, which is one of the bigger drivers of workplace performance improvement. They want to add skills and gain peer recognition for them — think of that auto-repair place and the various certifications that the mechanics can earn and wear on their sleeves. People WANT to achieve and they want their performance to count for something.

intrinsic motivation is about succeeding

McGonigal classified the intrinsic motivators into four categories:

  • achieving satisfying work,
  • experiencing success or the opportunity of success,
  • making social connections and
  • having purpose or meaning.

All four are relevant and important but I think a really good experiential activity can help accomplish the latter (and most important) factor if that experience can be neatly and elegantly tied to the workplace and the expectations and goals. We can do more to involve and engage people into a collective, collaborative and supportive peer group working to make improvements in how things are accomplished.

It is not so much winners and losers, but the issue of generating the maximum collective result, what we refer to repeatedly in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine as,

The Goal is to Mine as much Gold as WE Can
and optimize overall ROI.

There are a lot of really good tools out there, and lots going on in the development of individualized online learning courses (MOOCs) to support desired personal development.

Focusing on using experiential learning to involve and engage teams of people to allow them to focus on Mining as much gold as WE can is the prime driver of our Lost Dutchman game. We think that the energies generated can help work groups better support organizational development initiatives and that the intrinsic motivation can have positive spill-over to issues of personal growth and development.

But all we can do is provide the tool and our support. Our users have to provide the context and the environment to move things forward.

Ivette Helal Dutchman Testimonial

Let us know if we can be of any assistance to you — and recognize that you are dealing with ME, not some big corporation or salesperson. If we can develop a tie-in to your overall objectives and goals, we are most willing to do that,

For the FUN of It!

Scott 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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