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

Tag: Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

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.

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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

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Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

What do you do when they do things PERFECTLY – some thoughts on team building

This blog is about Perfect Performance and shares some ideas about how we can support teams and leadership in the quest for continuous continuous performance improvement. The context is how groups play our business simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a team building exercise focused on, “Mining as much Gold as We Can.”

My framework is that I think we can do this better. I think that situations around individual and teams performing well are not generally handled well and that some managers think that doing nothing might have fewer side effects than actually recognizing results. My thinking is buttressed around all the dis-engagement we see in statistics about workplaces (70% of people are dis-engaged and badly managed (link) and that 53% of “job separations” are from people quitting the workplace (link).

I also assume that some people, some days, do exceptionally well. Should they be recognized? Sure, but the reality is often that the (extrinsic) rewards system in place will not handle such a thing and the supervisor does not want to differentially reward someone for the perceived problems it might generate in the other people. Good bosses are expected to recognize good performance, but that first article on dis-engagement (link) would suggest that there are a lot more bad bosses than good ones…

There are lots of coaching writings on giving praise and similar, so I will leave you to your own devices when it comes to ideas for dealing with individual performance. My thinking is more along the lines of how teams and groups respond so I will focus on that.

Not knowing quite how to start this off, I will simply relate a personal experience where I was at one of those group “outdoor experiential events” where we were solving a series of those simple problems as a group outside. There are a lot of different kinds of these things but they are basically the same: a group of people is told about a problem, they collaborate and trial-and-error some solution, and meet or beat the time allowed for that activity. Then, sometimes, they are allowed to do it again to see if they improve (they always do — duh!)

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The belief is apparently that the group thinking process will work to help them solve a problem that an individual might find difficult. And the facilitator seems almost frustrated when the problem gets solved easily — it is almost like they feel that they screwed up. So that “facilitator” may now get into a sabotage mode where they tell certain people they cannot talk or they move them out of the group of some such thing. (They did it to me — I was not allowed to talk because some of my ideas were actually facilitating the group process — Note: I am still pissed about it many years later.)

Maybe the facilitator’s goal was good, that they wanted to be sure that everyone’s ideas were heard, that they wanted some stumbling and fumbling, etc. But when I tried the strategy of directly asking this Group Leader for the best time achieved or a sample of the solution, it got almost adversarial between us. The person was NOT facilitating group performance; they were facilitating the exercise!

I build all my exercises so that the leader is facilitative. My belief is that leaders should help and that teachers should teach and all that stuff — and when those same people seem like they are sabotaging learning, I have a problem with that.

In my games and facilitation toolkits, I reinforce this opposite kind of situation, For my money, leaders and facilitators should be actively supporting ideas and energy and helping move things forward instead of getting into the way and blocking things.

Thus, it was really cool when David Simpson emailed me last week saying that a group of three teams in a session he ran for a client actually pulled off a Perfect Play of my team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. He asked if I would generate a Certificate of Achievement.

Certificate of Perfect - 40

The teams performed well. Instead of designing in failure, the Dutchman game rewards high performance. Every team is successful, but the ones who get more information and plan better perform measurably higher. SO, his three teams did a Most Excellent Job in playing and the debriefing was focused on applying the same lessons of collaboration, planning, communicating and sharing ideas and best practices within their business. All players were managers of retail stores and all of them had ideas that helped their stores perform, so why not share those ideas to improve overall company results.

David and I talked on Skype yesterday and we shared some ideas about how he could continue to reinforce these ideas. My suggestion is to have the more senior manager of these stores (and HR) do some group recognition and individual reinforcement of what they accomplished and to do it publicly. I believe that the game is really hard to beat — this is the first Perfect Play that has been accomplished — and thus it would be interesting to challenge the other groups who will play the exercise to do it to perfection. We have not tried that framework before.

This blog is getting a bit long. I will post up some of the issues around Perfect Plan in another post.

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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