Performance Management Blog

Use Supervisors to Implement Virtual Workplace Teambuilding
The interface of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game in its virtual version

This blog focuses on the many benefits of using supervisors to implement virtual workplace teambuilding with their people, how this generates improve results and how it can quickly change the workplace culture.

We will wrap the discussion around the use of our new online, virtual teambuilding game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and explain why teaching the supporting facilitation skills has many other positive impacts on people and performance. We have 30 years of supporting the board game version, and I think this virtual one will be even more effective in impacting organizations of all kinds.


The Reality of Organizational Change:

Consultants or trainers can support the delivery of a teambuilding program, but they are simply not positioned to drive impact into the corporate culture and generate actual teamwork and organizational alignment across departments. That requires a line-manager kind of daily involvement, one where the manager or supervisor has hands-on involvement and where they generate the needed perception that they are committed to support change. 

• Workers will not feel committed unless they see active involvement and support from their boss.

• Managers simply cannot build trust and generate collaboration when they delegate building their high-performing, high-collaboration culture to outsiders or support staff.

Right? And goes even deeper when it comes to making organizational improvements…

In a 2022 Fast Company article around strategy implementation, the author said:

“If an organization wants to enact culture change at scale, it can’t just rely on top leaders to implement new behaviors. Instead, such change requires employees at every level to build new enduring habits by thinking and acting in new ways, literally every week.”  

The simple approach we propose is to teach supervisors how to facilitate the delivery and debriefing of Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine,


The Game:

We first released our teambuilding exercise in 1993, continually updating and improving it to its world-class status. Today, the onsite version is used by hundreds of organizations and consultants, worldwide.

Now, it is available in a powerful online, virtual delivery framework that provides great flexibility for its use in organizational development and alignment initiatives.

Here is a 2-minute general overview of the virtual version of this team building game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE6gDtZymwk

logo for Lost Dutchman Virtual online edition

 

It is very controllable with up to 6 teams playing at one time and with much of the play automated for ease of control. Playing in teams of up to 4 people each, a supervisor can run all of their people through a game or team with another supervisor to run two workgroups that could benefit by improving their collaboration and teamwork. The interface is very well designed and simple for players to use:

The interface of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game in its virtual version

The game is very congruent with the desired team building outcomes needed in most workgroups. How the game is facilitated is how workgroups can be supported and encouraged. The expressed goal of the game is for teams to, “Mine as much Gold as WE can” and the role of the Expedition Leader is, “to help teams be successful.” This frees the supervisor to act in accordance with the things that will impact their workgroup performance improvements.

The front end of the game is automated, with a voice-over powerpoint introduction which is followed by a 20 minute planning time. During this time, teams form up in breakout rooms and the Expedition Leader will move from team to team to clarify any questions, offer advice if asked, and help players put their strategy together. Teams are also reminded that additional information about the exercise is available if they choose to spend an extra day or two at Apache Junction before heading out on their 20-day journey to the Mine and back to Apache Junction.

What we teach in the course to accompany this teambuilding simulation is how to facilitate the delivery and to structure a series of debriefing meetings to define the ideas and possibilities of what to improve. Discussions are easily customized.

Teams get instructions as to how to play and the facilitator learns the mechanics of operations so they can assist teams that can’t quite figure it out, like how the trading process works to alter their starting inventory, how they generally move about the map (controlled by the program but allowing their choices to stay or move) and how they can acquire the additional information which is available.

All the above is quickly understood, but teams sometimes need help in getting started.That is the role of the supervisor acting as Expedition Leader. They support the players just like they would for any workplace team project. The Expedition Leader can also operate in The God Mode, doing whatever makes sense to optimize results and basically being able to override program constraints, give teams extra inventory and do what they need to do with the goal of “Mining as much Gold as We Can.”


The training focuses on Facilitation, a skill of benefit to all managers.

A major part of the training is on basic facilitation skills themselves. The Expedition Leader is taught how to ask questions and to engage the teams in helping them make alternative choices. Spending a day or two at Apache Junction is a good idea, even though it slows them from leaping out right away. The additional resources they can acquire allow them to exchange for more desired resources, for example, or they acquire a Turbocharger that allows them to go two blocks per day during play.

The Expedition Leader can encourage a team having Turbos to share the ones that are not needed and that will benefit another team, for example. (Teams receive 3, but only need 1.) But they facilitate that decision (rather than yell and tell and demand the team give that resource away). The Expedition Leader tries to optimize team collaboration and can also suggest a team connect to other teams and to generally collaborate more than compete, which will generate a more optimal outcome.

The bottom line of all this is that the supervisor, acting as Expedition Leader, can support the teams’ play and can help with extra resources if it helps meet the goal of “Mining as Much Gold as WE Can.”

He or she is the person funding the entire expedition, sharing the map to the mine and the Grub Stake they use for resources. He can help teams manage perceived resources, offer advice and even a little bit of coaching but all the while acting as a facilitator of their efforts to mine Gold. They are looking for optimal overall results, so winning is not of any real interest other than to the teams that are competing.


The debriefing is why we play the game.

In the discussions that follow play, the EL has many tools to facilitate discussions about choices made and possibilities missed. Teams can discuss what they can do to improve alignment to the workplace missions and visions, for example. Or, they can talk about the general situation where collaboration among them might generate better results than the existing competition. Issues around managing strategic planning or around general resource management and many other real-workplace issues they face can be discussed and improvement options generated.

We provide a variety of debriefing support materials and dozens of images and suggestions.

Four of the general kinds of debriefing slides used for discussions of issues and opportunities in Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game.

And, the followup does not have to be the general “nothingness” followup that occurs after 95% of all training programs. Because the supervisor has invested their time in learning and then delivering and then debriefing the Dutchman game, the likelihood of them being committed to change, followup and improvement increases greatly. And, they have solid content to use across many weeks of performance improvement meetings to help implement improvements.


Senior Managers SHOULD be involved.

Ideally, the use of Lost Dutchman would start at the level of “Most Senior Manager” to focus on issues of clarity of missions and visions and the overall issues around alignment to shared goals and values. There are also many reasons why these senior managers should be directly involved in cascading this organizational development initiative down through their organization. (Read More Here.)

That kind of active senior manager involvement really communicates a lot about the reality of how things work and the discussions about what might be done differently.

But the REAL leverage will come when the supervisors are put into a position to discuss the actual changes that the workplace requires to reduce employee turnover, align workers to shared goals and objectives and to direct actions toward decreasing workplace competition and improving collaboration. Motivation comes when people perceive a need for change and when they have the peer support and shared goals and objectives. Generating peer support is a critical factor in change.

General model for managing and leading change used with Square Wheels tools

Scott’s simple model for implementing change.

All the above can be accomplished through the play of the game and the discussion around workplace issues and opportunities.


There is NO WAY around the critical importance of the active involvement of the supervisor. They are the ones who make or break training in the reality of the workplace cauldron. By making them critically important actors in the delivery and debriefing of the game, we go a very long way in guaranteeing their active involvement and commitment to do things differently.


 

The likelihood that actively engaged and involved supervisors will be committed to helping implement the desired improvements of their work teams is pretty much guaranteed (or that manager should not remain in the workplace.)

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 who is trying to retire!! He now lives in Cuenca, Ecuador.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.


Here is a 2-minute general overview of the virtual version of this team building game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE6gDtZymwk

logo for Lost Dutchman Virtual online edition

 

 

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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