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

Tag: interdepartmental collaboration

Is it teamwork that falls flat in most organizations?

My friend Brian Remer posted up a short article he entitled, “Two Team Elements for Instant Success,” and in it, he writes of the issues of shared Identification and Interdependence. You can see his thoughts on his newsletter.

In it, he says:

A sense of shared Identification refers to the positive ways individual team members relate to one another. The more interests and experiences they have in common, the more affinity they feel to each other. These commonalities can be associated with culture, history, experiences, interests, beliefs, language, and so on. The more unusual the examples of Identification, the stronger the ties within the group are likely to become.

Interdependence refers to the way a team works together to accomplish its goals. Group goals should match individual goals so that the efforts of everyone are integral to team success. The team needs to see the value of being a team; that their work could not have been accomplished by disconnected individual activities; that it makes a difference to be a member of this team.

To foster Interdependence, emphasize cooperation and recognize each team member’s contribution to the shared goal. Provide opportunities for the team to work together and be successful. Talk about the importance of their efforts and describe how their goal could not have been accomplished without every person’s input.

I think Brian makes good points. But I also think that this thinking is somewhat short-sighted and narrow when applied to an organization, which tends to be my focus. Sure, teamwork is important within a workgroup, but I also think that these two dynamics only work with small groups. That is the focus of his writing, work teams, but it should not be the focus of organizational leadership.

A Transaction:

With an old consulting friend who is now internal and senior with a large bank’s leadership development organization, I just shipped her my Professional Version of my team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. She has a session planned for tomorrow, so getting her the materials to her quickly was important.

THREE MONTHS AGO, we started positioning the sale with Purchasing. She had the approvals and the requisite information. I sent my details, tax structure, etc. And nothing… A week ago, I shipped her all the materials. I am STILL not set up as a vendor and they have NOT paid me for the exercise.

She has emailed and called Accounts Payable a number of times over the past months, and they finally sent her forms that she forwarded to me on Friday, including a number of materials relevant for non-US companies, a registration for sales of personal services, a non-vendor payee for direct deposit, a minority business registration, and yes, a W-9. She simply wants to purchase a GAME, with no personal services or related. It has a fixed price and I am the sole-source vendor.

After three months, no one is Payables has contacted me, even though I “registered” on Saturday with them and they have had my email address for months. It certainly feels like they are treating me (and her) as adversaries, even though all she wanted to do is buy a team building exercise that she had used for years with her former company. Ironic, huh? But it is actually not that uncommon, from my past experiences. There are many adversarial dynamics in large companies.

It is this common lack of collaboration between her training and development organization and different groups within the bank that reaffirms that:

Interdepartmental Collaboration is an oxymoron.

And it is that kind of choice and focus that causes a great deal of lost productivity and friction. She HAS the authorization from her boss to purchase the materials, and they have the budget. But a group like Purchasing plays its own games and focuses on its own processes to even actively block other groups from being productive. WHY?

My Big View says that the top managers are more likely to be competitive more than collaborative. Departments compete against each other as much as they work together to get things done.

The irony is that we clearly smoke this out using Lost Dutchman, the exercise she is trying to purchase, Dutchman gives teams the opportunity to collaborate with each other to optimize the overall results. It is about a shared focus on, “Mining as much Gold as WE can,” with “we” meaning the group, and not each tabletop.

The tabletops play great. There are seldom issues of shared Identification and Interdependence in how they plan and play. They bond up right away and operate reasonably effectively together. They process and handle the transactions pretty well. Their teamwork is good and it happens fast because of the nature of the challenge they face. It is this choice of working with the OTHER teams that is always the issue — and the real opportunity that is available for performance improvement of the entire organization.

Brian is right, but it is small group thinking. The bigger context of how organizations really work would suggest that shared organizational visions and goals, that are clearly understood and evidenced in organizational behavior, that are the keys to real teamwork and collaboration.

And maybe my friend needs to do some sessions that involve these Accounting people along with other departmental leaders and managers. It would probably have a wide variety of impacts on overall performance results,


For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at
Twitter @scottsimmerman




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

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

Optimizing Profit through Collaboration – Ideas for Lost Dutchman Deliveries

We designed and sell The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a team building exercise focused on planning and collaboration, among other key outcomes. A recent purchaser sent me an email this morning with a simple question but one that I thought merited some elaboration, since there are any number of design features and delivery spins that impact the desired outcomes of the client.

Hello Scott,

I am thoroughly enjoying facilitating the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building.  🙂

So far I have had groups between 40 – 50.  Next week I have a smaller one (4 teams).  How many videos do you suggest I have on hand of each?  

Thanks so much!


First, it is nice to get the positive feedback (testimonials) and to know that she is making money from her investment in purchasing the exercise. Secondly, it is a very good question that I somewhat address in the training materials included with the exercise, but something that obviously could use some additional explanation and some awareness as to issues and opportunities.

So, I sent her a brief overview of my thoughts and promised that her questions would generate a more complete blog post from me today, one that expands on a number of ideas around this simple question. Like my post yesterday, where I discuss the philosophy around the game board design as it relates to my goals of generating more planning and  collaboration (found here), this post also discusses themes of how the available resources can link tightly to desired outcomes.

The Videos are a metaphor and game accessory that ties to strategic planning and best practices. The Mine Video is about the gold mine and contains Cave Cards that teams find useful. Getting that Video costs one day of time and the team getting it leaves on Day Two of the 20 day exercise instead of Day One. (See more on this on the other blog post if that is of interest.)

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine Video Covers

The second video, on Tortilla Flats, contains best practices resources and one video can actually support three teams if the resources are shared across tabletops. I choose not to expand on that here.

So if there are four tabletops playing, her question is how many Videos should she make available for play?

The answer is that it depends on the desired outcomes for the session. Allowing the teams to all get both videos would mean that there are wasted planning days and a bit of analysis paralysis… They do not NEED to spend that much time gaining information and they are losing days of Mining Gold because of it. Plus, with all that information available to every team, it takes away some of the excitement and risk and all that.

Having too many resources is NOT motivating. Having sufficient but not excessive resources to accomplish something adds more challenge. People are not motivated climbing stairs but they are when using ropes and climbing gear to make that ascent!

Having only ONE of each Video available is a scarcity model. The Mine Video resources and information are not as available to the others and there would be little incentive for a team that acquires that to share it — the competitive aspect of it would play in. Having one Tortilla Flat Video would enable 3 of the 4 teams to optimize their performance if – and only if – those resources were shared. If one team got both videos, they would see all the teams leave on Day One and they would leave on Day Three. They would also mine more gold than any of the other teams and they would have an easier time of it, overall.

So, one needs to balance resource availability.

Generally, for a group of 4 tabletops, I might play with three Mine Videos and two of Tortilla Flat so that resources could be shared with all teams.

But there is another option that I really like to do with smaller groups and one that emphasizes the issues around inter-team collaboration even more than the regular design. That involves what we refer to as the Optimizing Profit Performance Option or what I refer to as The Assay Office Version, since that was what it was originally called. There is a long history as to how it evolved but here is what it is and how it works:

Assay Office Mine Video Cover IconThis Assay Office version of The Mine Video contains extra Cave Cards, more than one team could possibly use. So, the design is that the team acquiring this Video would absolutely know that they have extras that they could share with another tabletop. And, this Video also contains information that by using a Cave Card, a team could acquire an extra ounce of Gold each day, 11 ounces rather than 10.

We tell the teams getting this “new edition” of the video that it is different than the old ones — we generally use only ONE of them in a delivery. We tell other teams getting the “old editions” that they should check with that other team to understand the changes that were made in the new edition. WE TELL THEM TO CHECK; WE TELL THEM TO SHARE; WE GIVE THEM EXTRA CARDS!

If a team reaching the mine uses a Cave Card, they can ask for an extra ounce. ANY team using a Cave Card can ask for an extra ounce. Thus, if they got the Assay Video, they should remember to get the extra gold and if they heard about the Assay Video and used Cave Cards given to them (or if they got their own Mine Video with cards), they could also get the extra ounce.

We now simply use a spreadsheet to track when the team asked for the extra ounce and we know which team got the Assay version and which teams could have benefited.

Assay Office spreadsheet

In the above example, the Yellow Team got there a day later (staying home and getting both Videos) and they got the Assay Office version of the Mine Video. We know this because of the day they arrived plus the reality that they used the information to acquire the extra ounce the first day of mining. We know that they got the Tortilla Flat Video because they did not leave on Day 14. (this is information that only game owners would understand!) The Yellow team optimized their results and mined the most gold, contributing the most to the overall gold mined. Remember:

The Goal - Gold Hand gold

You might guess that the Red team got an older version of the Mine Video and spent that extra day at Apache Junction and never did find out about the extra gold. They left on Day 14.

The Blue team got there on Day 7 so they did not spend a day planning — they acquired Cave Cards (or at least started using them on Day 9) and someone shared the Assay Office information with them. Only on Day 13, the day  before they left the Mine, did the Purple team actually use a Cave Card.

(These are actual game results, by the way. This version is harder to administrate than our regular one because there is more tracking. I also think it would be really confusing in a large group environment and harder to debrief.)

If the different teams would all share information and collaborate, they mine more gold and the goal of the game is to mine as much gold as we can, not to compete and win as your own team! If the teams asked the Expedition Leader for advice or assistance, we would also help them to understand how this works. We explain this only to the team getting the first Mine Video, the Assay Office one.

This blog is written for users or those about to facilitate and support a delivery of the exercise so apologies if you got this far and remain a bit confused. For those of you familiar with the normal delivery, I trust that this will make some elegant sense. If you click on either of the two icons above, you can go to the order page for the exercise to add this to your toolkit. It comes free in our Professional Version of the Lost Dutchman game.

You can read more of my thinking on collaboration versus competition at this blog post of mine – click here

You can find a nice screenshare overview of the complete exercise by clicking on the image below:

Slideshare Dutchman icon

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

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

Thoughts on Hiring the Right Presenter for a large event

I have posted up ideas for improving large events and generating more participation and engagement in other posts in my blog. One of these builds on Ideas for Success for Off-site Meetings as well as others on speeding up team building events such as The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and others that compare icebreakers to effective learning frameworks. There is one on using games versus exercises, for example. I also focus on using purposeful icebreakers in training and events in this post, looking to stimulate better or different ideas for getting more done in less time.

This present post was stimulated by reading an email in Promotional Consultant Today that shared some ideas of Joe Heaps and Dave Reed. the owners of I have no relationship with them, but thought some of their ideas and frameworks made a good place on which to build some thoughts. Their ideas were proposed as follows:

1. Outline the content and goals for the event.
2. Know your budget.
3. Cast a large net.
4. Start the narrowing process.
5. Make your selection.

My thoughts are somewhat broader than that of simply selecting a presenter, that your senior management involved in a large event need to know and clarify the precise purpose of holding that meeting.  This helps determine what you are trying to generate as desired outcomes and what results can be expected. The simple transfer of information or the generating of a spark of awareness are no longer good reasons for holding a meeting.

These days, so many things can be done through social media and webcasting that the thought of pulling together a large group of people for an off-site or even a within-the-building kind of event can be costly as well as time consuming. Even when it is on-site, it is hard to shut down a department and do an all hands meeting unless there can be backup for those attending. Also recognize that many people are fearful for their job security and do not want to do anything that would affect their performance results (like attend a training session or even take a vacation — click here for an article discussing that).

You need to have a solid case for why you are getting people together. Usually, that would have to include some interactive and engaging activity to help formally build teams or improve collaboration. You can do powerpoints right on their computers if you simply want to share information! But teaching some group skills and generating alignment and collaboration among the key players is hard to do with email; sometimes, engaging activities are more practical and effective. When we plan and help others to plan, we try to generate an interactive program that links directly to some desired group outcome, such as improving the planning process and leaving some impact:

Assistant LD testim 100

On the budget issues, you will have the costs of all the “loaded labor rates” of the participants plus the cost of the venue plus meals and maybe some overtime for some. If you hire a speaker, those costs can go off the roof. How some of these “professional presenters” can claim fees of $30,000 or more for standing there talking at your audience with little knowledge of how things work — something that everyone will surely forget a couple of days later — is way beyond my comprehension. But that is a reality.

(Big Name Speakers want first class travel and accommodations, in addition to Big Time Fees. And the speakers’ bureaus get a nice profit from the booking, also — they want commissions higher than the fees that we charge!)

One question you should ask is simple: Will they leave behind anything tangible that actually changes anything, or is the Big Name simply to appeal to the egos of the senior managers so they can share the, “Oh, we had XYZ at our annual retreat and I hit golf balls with him the next day!” with their buddies at the country club. Sure, that might be a neat thing to do, but at the cost of having everyone else’s salaries sitting there for the comments? (Years ago, I saw Joe Theisman present on customer service at a client’s Big Annual Meeting with Customers. Great. I not sure any of them chose to go to that meeting because Joe was presenting (he owned a restaurant) nor do I think anyone could remember anything an hour afterwards. And, I am not sure he hung around for golf the next day, either. I think he is still out there speaking…)

Heaps and Reed talk about casting a wide net for speakers and selecting 6 to 10 that might appear to be good matches. This makes sense since they run a speakers bureau kind of service with plenty of speakers from which to choose. I would suggest casting a wider net, looking for alternatives to simply having a talking head. There are many presenters and facilitators out there who can do interactive and activity-based things that actually generate involvement. I think that is a far different kind of activity than sitting on one’s seat and listening to some well-rehearsed joke.

moose color

You can get my Moose Joke, my best session closing story, by clicking here.

If you are going to hire a speaker, be sure to ask a lot of pointed questions to insure that his presentation is memorable and that it aligns greatly to your desired goals and outcomes. And remember that if you don’t know where you are going, any path will get you there. You MUST have a pretty tight grip on your framework in order to best evaluate a presenter or an approach that will work for your organization and people.

Checking for references is also a must, and you should ask for ones that were presentations years ago to see if there really was any stick. The CEO may remember the golf a lot more than the work that he paid for.

My approach these days is to talk people out of hiring me for presentations and workshops — they should do things themselves and keep it internal to save money and keep things really relevant.

A large insurance company had their Senior VP of IT go around delivering Lost Dutchman and to focus on interdepartmental collaboration. His role in delivery was Expedition Leader and the expressed goal of the game, “To mine as much gold as we can” explained his role in managing IT to support the operational groups. Who better to do this? And, he was also an engaging presenter, which helps even more. Being a real organizational leader, that kind of event leaves a lasting positive impression on everyone involved.

Herb LD testim 100








I think our materials work just great on their own without outside facilitation — they are designed for that — and we often will chat about who in their organization would be the best presenter for a session on Square Wheels or who could be the Expedition Leader for a Lost Dutchman game. Because I use cartoons and ask tabletops for their thoughts and ideas, the metaphors presented have a lot of “stick.” And even when I do wind up presenting, I will generally involve and engage the most senior managers to help me lead the debriefing and discussions of things to be done differently. After all, they can do that so much better than me.

Bala is the senior HR guy for a billion dollar retail conglomerate in India and he shared with me that we met at a conference in 1994 when I presented Square Wheels to an ISPI conference — I asked him what he remembered and he went through my course outline and key points of my presentation. (People tend to remember me a lot less than they remember the cartoons, which is perfect!)

We sell inexpensive Square Wheels toolkits containing speaker notes, powerpoint presentation files, worksheets and the like. We will rent our Lost Dutchman game for large groups, too. It is easy to deliver and bombproof and is designed for people to facilitate themselves. (We also sell the game for repeated usage).

Kyla LD testim 100

PMC is one of a gazillion companies offering solid programs for organizational improvement that can be self-delivered without a great deal of cost. Plus, you are presenting it with internal people and saving large “presenter fees.” Few presenters really care if anything happens as a result of their work. I find many quite polished and entertaining, but I cannot personally think of anything that I have gotten (other than some positive as well as negative teaching approaches) from any of those people.


Just Do it.

Don’t hire some famous basketball coach who thinks he can tell you how to run a large operation of adults when he supervises a small staff of people plus some athletes. Do you think a football coach and commentator can really give you or your people (or your senior executives) any ideas that are really useful and actionable? Don’t think that climbing Everest gives one any real insight into the motivations of a Gen X’er in your workplace. I did a 130 meter bungee jump, but I don’t think I actually learned anything from that! Does anyone think that my talking about that would have any impact, whatsoever?

Find a program that matches to your desired outcomes and look to see how you can do this yourself,

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Interdepartmental Collaboration’s Vital Link to Organizational Profitability

HR Management Magazine asked me for an article a while back and I thought to make a copy of it available here, since I think it is well-illustrated, clear and focused on the issue of impacts and profitability as they relate to teambuilding. You can find access to the article at the bottom of this post.

The topic is improving inter-organizational alliances and building more collaboration between naturally competing workgroups as a means of impacting profitability and improving innovation and other organizational impacts. Better people collaboration and interacting toward shared goals and missions.

Competition is a motivating factor in most organizations and is a good energizer until that competition begins to sub-optimize overall organizational performance. Most companies do not measure those kinds of things yet they can have huge impacts on service, quality and morale.

Similarly, teamwork within a workgroup is good, until it slows or stops collaboration between different teams, a situation we call, My Team, My Team, My Team, as illustrated below:

We also know that most individuals and most teams do not take advantage of the support that already exists in organizations. This is a critical learning point of much of what we teach.

We also added thoughts on using The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to engage and enlist people to choose to form alliances and improve performance.

Collaboration and Profit – an article on team building and organizational improvement


For the FUN of It!

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


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