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

Tag: large event team building

IRS needs Large Group Team Building instead of $27,000 Innovation Speakers

Lessons Gained from the IRS about Team Building, Training and Development

On hearing that the IRS is coming under scrutiny for the high price of its various and, perhaps in this case, probably not effective, team building programs and outrageously paid speaker presentations, one can’t help but reflect on why these kinds of things come about. 

Two links to news shows that detail some of what I am referring to:

I’m not one for piling on, but seeing that the IRS spent ALL that money for speakers standing there talking about things like innovation or talking about leadership while demonstrating how to paint pictures of Michael Jordan, Abe Lincoln and Bono for $17,000 – I wonder who got the pictures? —  sure seems like a waste. (And I am a MJ FAN!)

The planners actually took people off the job to “train” them how to line dance and to do the skits, that were professionally recorded and packaged. You can even find the IRS videos online (!)

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with the people participating actually complaining on the video about the waste and irrelevancy of it all! Amazing! And the woman with the broken leg? They infer it was dance-related!!

Ya think that maybe the IRS might sell those three pictures at auction? I am guaranteeing that they would fetch a huge price, especially now! Boehner would love the one of Lincoln, I am sure, but maybe not the one of Bono…

Years ago, Burger King did a Firewalking team building program and it made headlines because one of the participants in the event was burned and hospitalized. As I read about this IRS leadership conference stuff and also learn about the IRS and its many issues now coming to light, I can’t help but reflect on why it’s always been a crucial point to me to develop team building games and do presentations that are more than just fun and engaging but give something of value to the participants while also adding value to the workplace.

In the case of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building exercise, for instance, I designed it to include a debriefing that would give the players an opportunity to see how their method of playing the game could impact how they perform their jobs within their organizations. People come away from this game feeling that they actually learned some important behaviors toward increasing workplace performance and outcome. For about one third of what they paid the painter, they could have bought and run the game for ALL of their people and then discussed the real issues and opportunities they face. Think that happened with that presentation?

All told, the IRS spent $135,000 on 15 speakers for their  Leadership Development event and you have probably seen the Gilligan’s Island skit that they had produced for $50,000. They have reportedly spent nearly $50,000,000 in support of these “developmental conferences” with no accountability or even any defined outcomes, from what one can gather. I mean, a “happiness speaker” for $11,000? They could have just given out chocolate bars!

Not sure how much their line dancing lessons cost but for $10 including food, you can go to a place locally and do all of that you want. I am guessing that the senior leadership and the conference design people’s underlying thinking was, “We cannot spend too much money on having fun, can we?” 

Well, it appears that they can. And to a great degree of overall embarrassment to one and all. And I wonder what outcomes they got from all this; what documented ideas and opportunities for action resulted from these sessions and all that spending?

When doing presentations using my Square Wheels illustrations, yes, there is humor involved but the bottom line is that people are given tools that they can take back to the workplace and actually use to make a difference in how the people they manage, perform. This is good for both the individual and the organization.

Anyone who is interested in doing a team building program or having a speaker present at an event, should want to receive value for the cost involved. Another pet peeve I have regards the cost of doing a workshop or program. A company can pay high prices to get what they might perceive as an interesting program or speaker. To me, high prices do not have to be part of the mix to getting a solid program in place. This is another reason that I have designed products that are reasonably priced, especially considering that users feel they are a great return on their investment.

Team building games and exercises should be high quality and high impact, certainly, but not all are. Many are simply fun events that cost a lot of money (can I hear “Golf at Pebble Creek?” for example?)

When a situation occurs where we hear about the seemingly ridiculous scenarios that happen out there with companies using programs that seem to have no benefit, what it does is hurt the credibility, in general, of programs that are worth the investment.

Not all team building is bad at all… Some can really focus on organizational change, engagement and involvement in people,  spark new ideas and improve actual job teamwork and collaboration.  Unfortunately, the IRS seems to have not prospered so well with choices they made.

Have Fun out there, but also learn something!

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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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Why use Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for large team building events?

I was chatting with a human resources director and we were planning  the presentation of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for about 250 people — her whole organization — in one big fun learning event. This was for a financial institution priding itself on customer service and customer / employee retention and collaboration and communications, so the fit was quite good.

The plan we discussed is for her to have her senior management team do a team building program using Lost Dutchman, where they will sort out their issues and opportunities and what they choose to do differently and improve on and then teach them how to support the delivery for the large group. As I posted up in the blog the other day, using senior management to help deliver is a pretty common model for me, one where the internal people do all the training and delivery work without using an outside person. It dramatically helps generate alignment and makes these people part of the actual perceived organizational support team!

Why use Lost Dutchman and Senior Managers for such events?

Well, the design of the game precludes my personal involvement — I am not required to help deliver it, which has many positive impacts. If I understand the desired outcomes, I can customize the suggested debriefing. If a trainer can use the game with her executives — and the metaphors of the exercise and the actual behaviors of the executives — she can deliver a highly congruent program and deal with the results without “personal involvement.” She will not be attacked for her leading discussions about the sub-optimizing choices of the leadership team.

AND, she management/leadership prepared to support the delivery of the exercise to all the employees. This saves a great deal of money and dramatically improves the relevancy of play to reality of how things are working and can work.

After all, two main themes of the game are focused on organizational alignment and collaboration:


The Goal of the game is to COLLABORATE and optimize results...

These are business card magnets that we often give out as reminders of why we played the game. They generally wind up on file cabinets and breakroom refrigerators.

The word we use is, “WE” but teams take that as, “My Team, My Team, My Team” in many cases.

Dutchman is a powerful game that’s easy to learn to deliver, bombproof and congruent in its play and focuses discussions on choices that we make and alternative choices that are available in the game, and then back in the workplace. Collaboration and engagement are the things that lead to employee involvement and intrinsic motivation.

And because it is straightforward and easy to play, it becomes a great event for managers to truly demonstrate their active support for helping teams be successful and optimizing results of the entire group.

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Dutchman works great for very large groups

Dutchman is a powerful exercise for large events since you run the game with internal people (and leaders if you can involve them) and the game metaphors are completely congruent with the concepts of collaboration between departments and engaging people to motivate high levels of performance. The discussions focused on actual behavior and the choices that people could make in the future are also great ways to discuss possibilities. It is these visions of how thing could be that help drive improved overall results and engage and motivate individuals. It is the alignment to missions and visions that helps push things forward.

Generating alignment is a key factor in performance and optimization of results

Have fun out there, get people aligned and performing, and improve things!

You can see more about the exercise on our websites at and at where there is a LOT of descriptive information.

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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Rental of Team Building Exercise for Large Groups

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a great team building exercise for focusing teams of people on themes of leadership, alignment, collaboration and the optimization of performance results. We’ve been selling and supporting the exercise worldwide for almost 20 years.

And it has been pretty crazy here lately, with some new business coming from some old friends, which is really neat. Two different consultants contacted me about renting our team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to run large events for their clients. And both are old customers.

The wild thing is that both used to be with corporate training departments that bought the exercise from me about 10 years ago. They had great successes with it and, as they described the situations, they wanted a high impact and bombproof session for their new clients. Thus, they remembered the exercise and thought to contact me.

Renting the exercise is one option. It is best for those “Large Group Team Building Events” that are a one-off kind of thing. Many of the customers of our small games (for 3 or 4 tables of 6 people each) like being able to run it once or twice for really large groups without having to invest in our large game version. It is also useful for a one-time team building event such as an “all-hands” meeting where the management staff will run everyone through the game. We have supported many of those kinds of trainings and there is no upper limit on the size of the group — one client had a session of 870 people in the same room!

Unlike a lot of the other designed team building simulations, we have a truly elegant and pretty bombproof design, which allows us to NOT offer train-the-trainer or require certifications or have other kinds of restrictions. Many of our customers simply get the materials, review the overall support documents, go through the powerpoint and — maybe — call me. Many choose not to bother!

I offer free and unlimited telephone support – you talk to the game designer and a master facilitator, not to some “support person.” Few people seem to need the support, though, which says that the included materials are pretty complete. They should be, since we first delivered the game back in 1993 and have played with its design and supporting documentation since that time.

I can also customize the design in small ways, and work with you to design and refine a debriefing that fits with your goals and objectives and within your time limits. Generally, for large groups of 60+, we like to have 3.5 hours to do the game and the debriefing. I like at least an hour and even 90 minutes for the debriefing, since that will help generate the commitment to improve collaboration and teamwork, planning and communications.

We are surprisingly inexpensive, high-impact and very memorable, and the game can be specifically tailored to generate your desired outcomes. This is THE world-class team building exercise focused on improving inter-organizational collaboration and aligning people to shared goals and objectives. It can be run by line managers and executives, too, not just people in training and consulting.

We also have a posted pricing schedule, so you can look at the costs of renting this team building simulation and the detail of delivering the exercise before contacting us.

We think we are the best value in large group teambuilding events, costing lots less and offering more benefits than most other competitors,

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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