Performance Management Blog

Common Traps when Debriefing – some ideas from Roger Greenaway

Roger Greenaway is a superb facilitator. Even though we have never met, we run in similar loops and his work is commonly referred to by my customers and other people in this business of learning. He and I have had some good correspondence on ideas and his work — regardless of your skills — is useful.

You can find his website here, and I wanted to write about one of his posts because I think it is really solid and related to what we do with our team building games and what we might do better.

Roger sees some of the common traps as these:

1. Apologising for holding a review
2. Asking ‘What did you learn?’ at the start of a review
3. Speeding: expecting instant thoughtful responses
4. Trivialising: expecting brief answers to big questions
5. Controlling the whole review process, or trying hard to do so
6. Keeping the whole group together for every review process
7. Filling up flipcharts
8. Strongly favouring one learning style
9. Assuming that everyone had much the same experience
10. Welcoming certainty
11. Talking too much as a facilitator

and he details his thinking on this page on his website.

I wanted to reframe one of these because it is  common to my suggested debriefing around game play in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and are commonly used in most game debriefings. Roger’s #2 problem is one of the ones that I disagree with (2. Asking ‘What did you learn?’ at the start of a review).

Roger suggests that there is an Unintentional Message, that:

“The learning has already happened – so don’t expect to learn anything new in this review.” Just four words (“What did you learn?”) transform an opportunity for new learning into a memory test.

Avoid trap 2  Follow a sequence that is designed to generate learning from experience during the review. For example:

  • Start by asking for descriptions of what happened and of what people were doing. (Consider how selective you want these accounts to be, and whether you want participants to focus on particular themes or perspectives.)
  • Ask yourself (or the group) whether visual aids would assist their reflection and communication (eg pictures, diagrams, photos, video or re-enactments of key moments).
  • Encourage participants to look out for different versions of events and experiences. Such curiosity helps to bring out new learning.
  • Notice how much description is ‘external’ (equivalent to CCTV footage) and how much reveals ‘internal’ worlds of feelings, reasons, intentions etc. Recognise that a lot of learning will arise from bringing out new information – both external and internal.

If you also want the group to recap what they have already learned, try to do so in a way that does not interfere with their expectations of new learning arising during the review process.

My thinking is that this is the BEST way to start the debriefing and learning part of an experiential learning session anchored to a game.

What did you learn from playing Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine exercise

I will suggest that this simple question of, “What did you learn from your experience,” done as a tabletop open discussion really allows our players to discuss the game from an ending perspective, that it allows them to discuss the decisions that they made that led to the different outcomes that they got.

One of my goals is to get that experience fully anchored in their thinking and to get the play of the game up front, so that we can discuss it and “put it in the back and move forward.”

Since it is done at a tabletop among teammates who shared an emotional experience, it has been my experience that the group is able to talk about information that was accepted and rejected, advice and help that they could have received early in the game, etc.

It was my experience in debriefing the exercise early on that the players would continue to talk about the play of the game as we tried to move ahead in our discussions of the choices they could make for improving the workplace, that the game was getting in the way of the learning… By allowing them to discuss their shared experience and decisions first, we could get that out of the way and move on.

I then repackage this same question and get them to focus on the learning as it relates to their organization, the desired outcomes for the session and the issues and opportunities they see for change and improvement. I want to use the behaviors of the game to link to the behaviors in the workplace.

Reading Roger’s thoughts on this is interesting and gives me pause. Maybe there are other ways of accomplishing the same kinds of things. My thinking was to spend a bit of time on this and NOT allow a long and divergent discussion of the game, but to move quickly toward choices and links to the workplace.

You can see an overview of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine here.

Your thoughts?

Discuss what you might do differently

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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Dr. Scott Simmerman

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, earning CPT and CPF credentials. -- You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com and a detailed profile is here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottsimmerman/ -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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