Performance Management Blog

Debriefing Great Team Building Experiences

There is an art and a science around debriefing great team building experiences. Here I want to share some practical ideas to generate better discussions and impact, using The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine as an anchor point.


Just for perspective, we have been using LDGM for 30+ years, globally, to impact collaboration and engagement in organizations worldwide. A press release is here.


(apologies — my blog uses DIVI Builder, which is the most horrific blog editing software there is. I simply cannot make the blog formatting look acceptable no matter what I do. I have two other people looking into this with no results as of yet, and it has been going on for months… I am totally frustrated. Our website is built on DIVI Builder and I am told I MUST use this for my blog. )


When designing an approach to debriefing a team building game around a particular subject, it’s important to focus on facilitating reflection and drawing insights from the experience. Otherwise, you have just delivered some fun activity, so don’t expect anything to change. The insights can be individual or collective, with the latter underpinning your organizational culture in many ways.
Debriefing Dutchman is easy, because of the very clean design for play, the clear metaphors linked to measured performance results and because the Expedition Leader’s role is to help teams be successful. This makes game leadership congruent with the overall goal of supporting performance improvement.* The facilitator behaves in a way to improve teamwork and results.
*  – in many game designs, the leadership is adversarial to the players. This makes no sense to me…
We ask specific simple questions to generate collaborative System 2 thinking for individuals, tabletops and the group overall. ** We allow individual thinking, tabletop discussions and some group sharing. MOST of the work happens at the tabletops.
** –  In many game designs, the situation is a competition, with a Winning Team. How intentionally having a bunch of losers in your debriefing makes no sense to me. Dealing with the defensiveness or hard feelings is not going to help improve anything.
Reflection and Reframing – Make your debriefing most effective by focusing on reflection and reframing. Get players and teams to reflect on the choices they made and what they did and then have them consider how that occurs in the workplace. Reframe the competition into the more desireable collaboration, for example, and ask them what choices they could make differently.
The game focuses on measured results, so ask them to reflect on what results would change if they collaborated more effectively, for example.
  • Change will never happen if you tell them what to do differently.
  • Nobody ever washes a Rental Car. They need to feel they own things.


General Thoughts on Debriefing:

Align Debrief Questions with Learning Objectives

The best debriefing questions relate to the key desired outcomes or learning lessons you want participants to take away from the activity. Play gives you meat for discussions and your followup actions and you can help them to understand desired behaviors. For example, if the subject is collaboration, ask questions such as:
  • How well did your team collaborate during the activity?
  • What role did shared information play in your team’s decisions and performance?
  • How did assigning team roles help ensure everyone’s active involvement in the play?


Use Open-Ended Questions

Avoid yes / no questions. Especially avoid asking, “Why?” because people will make things up. The reality is that people do not really know why they do things… (I am a psychologist!)
Instead, use open-ended questions that encourage deeper reflection and discussion, such as:
  • What did you learn from your experience?
  • What did you learn about team decision-making?
  • What challenges did your team face, and how did you overcome them?
  • If you could play Dutchman again, what would you do differently?

The slide on the left is the Key Theme of the game, so we ask about this in the debriefing to get improvement ideas. “Mining Gold” represents real issues for doing things better.

Encourage Diverse Perspectives

Each player sees things differently. Each role filters the information differently. Everyone brings different experiences and insights to the game. It is why,
All of us know more than any of us.
Given time restraints, try to ensure all participants have a chance to share their thoughts, insights and experiences. And individuals at tabletops need to all be active in discussions.
Ask follow-up questions to draw out quieter members or get alternative viewpoints, if you can. (This really gets into the art of good facilitation and is much easier to do in small groups as opposed to larger ones.

Connect to their Real-World Issues

Help participants translate lessons from the game to their actual work environment. Ask questions like:
  • What does Mining Gold mean to our organization?
  • How might the strategies we used in this activity apply to our daily work?
  • What insights from today can we implement to improve as a team? What do we need to do differently to improve?

Keep discussions REAL!

Provide a Safe Space

i often use the phrase, “It’s Just a Game” to lighten the mood. One person might have been disruptive and there might be a tendency for people to blame frame them for outcomes, somethimes. I use the “Just a game” to lighten the mood and deflect blame away from an individual towards the overall choices made during play.
Create an open and judgment-free environment where participants
feel comfortable sharing honestly.
Knowing your culture, you might want to stablish ground rules like respecting differing opinions. By thoughtfully designing your debrief approach and selecting specific metaphors and questions, you can maximize the learning and team development from any team building activity.
The key is to ask them for commitments to do things differently. Each player makes many daily choices around their level of engagement and collaboration.
Ask for Actionables and Commitment
The actual behavioral changes that will happen from most training events will be “waiting for others.” Sure, you will have a few people gung-ho for making improvements but the majority of workers in organizations are Coasters, who are just going along and avoiding risks.
Asking for specific desired changes and improvements and then asking people if they are willing to work together to implement things is not a common outcome to most team building activities.
With Dutchman’s focus on measured results and measuring the actual collaboration between teams (with Turbos and other factors), your debriefing should generate some tangible desired changes.
We use two phrases to point to personal accountability, both of which can be used for tabletop discussions:
I present these as key, normal, desireable realities. I mix up quotes and themes with the open-ended questions to help define the direction we want to take in the discussions.
Slides and questions like the above can work to get people sharing personal commitments with others at the tabletop or among the group.
If you want to improve collaboration within your organization to address The Silos and to improve performance, you need to address the many issues that underlie the competition and implement some real changes.

We include a wide variety of themed images with the purchase of our team building game, including hundreds of possible slides of quotes and questions.

More collaboration will generate more engagement, More engagement reduces employee turnover and impacts so much of your performance culture.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game.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
Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Here is a link to a press release about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding exercise and its 30 years of positively impacting people and performance.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a trademark of Performance Management Company
Square Wheels images © Performance Management Company, 1993 – 2023. All rights reserved.

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of the amazing Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game and the Square Wheels facilitation and engagement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced global presenter. -- You can reach Scott at and a detailed profile is here: -- 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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