A real estate and construction company provides an example of how a company can anticipate and flexibly respond to an economic crunch that demonstrates the strength rather than the weakness of the matrix. The company has developed a structure as well as procedures that are especially well suited to the economic uncertainties of the business.
The heads of the subsidiaries act as chief salesmen for their various services, and often head up the bidding teams that put together sophisticated proposals. As a proposal project proceeds, the selected project manager is drawn into the team in anticipation of securing the contract. This ensures an orderly transition to the project management phase. The project office is given first-line responsibility for control of costs, schedules, and quality of the project, but the top management team from the parent company reviews the project regularly as a backup. The company has used the matrix to advantage in weathering major shifts in both the availability of business by market segment, for example, from schools to hospitals, and the level of construction activity.
It maintains a cadre of professional specialists and project managers, who can be kept busy during the lows of the cycle, which it rapidly expands during the highs by subcontracting for temporary services. Treatment —This is one pathology that requires preventive treatment; we do not know of any cure. When the matrix does collapse during an economic crunch, it is very unlikely that it can be resurrected. At best, the organization will go back to its pendulum days, alternating between the centralized management of the crunch period and the decentralized freedoms of more prosperous times.
Even if top management should try again, it is likely to get a negative response from lower level managers. Diagnosis —On the face of it, a matrix organization would seem to double management costs because of its dual chain of command. This issue deserves thoughtful consideration. The limited amount of research on matrix overhead costs indicates that in the initial phases overhead costs do in fact rise, but that, as a matrix matures, these extra costs disappear and are offset by productivity gains.
In a large electronics company we observed in some detail how initial overhead increases not only necessarily occur in a matrix but also how they can inflate unnecessarily. In this case, the company decided to employ the matrix design from the outset in setting up its new operating division at a new plant site. This unique organizational experiment had a number of positive attributes, but one of its problems was with overhead costs. This resulted in a relatively small division having top level managers as well as full-time functional group and full-time product managers.
Within months, however, this top heavy division was pared down to more reasonable staffing levels; by assigning individuals to two or more slots, management got costs under control. Overstaffing is much less liable to occur when an organization evolves gradually from a conventional design into a matrix, and managers perform as both functional and product managers. While this technique can be justified as a transition strategy, it also has its hazards.
A safer route is to assign managers roles on the same side of the matrix i. As a final argument against the fear of overhead costs, consider that no well-run organization would adopt a matrix structure without the longer run expectation that, at a given level of output, the costs of operations would be lower than with other organizational forms. In what way can such economies be achieved? The potential economies come from two general sources: fewer bad decisions and less featherbedding. First and most important, the matrix can improve quality of business decisions because it helps bring the needed information and emphasis to bear on critical decisions in a timely fashion.
The second source, less featherbedding, is not so obvious, but potentially of greater significance. How can it work? These firms usually set up a matrix of functional specialists against client or account managers. The body of other consultants are grouped with their fellow specialists but are available for assignment to projects under the leadership of account or client managers.
Otherwise, their time is charged against the budget of their function manager. Of course, some time charged to functional departments, such as background study, research work, and time between assignments should by no means be thought of as wasted. But management can budget such time in advance so that it can scrutinize the variances from the budget.
For the long-term good of both the people involved and the organization, top managers need to keep such pressures from becoming too strong. Because it is perfectly possible to get too much as well as too little pressure, a creative tension is sought. The matrix has some difficulty in staying alive at high levels of a corporation, and a corresponding tendency to sink to group and division levels where it thrives.
Diagnosis —Sinking may occur for two reasons. Either senior management has not understood or been able to implement the matrix concept as well as lower level managers, or the matrix has found its appropriate place. For example, if a company sets up a matrix between its basic functional and product groups, the product managers never truly relinquish their complete control, and the matrix fails to take hold at the corporate level. But, say, one or two of the managers find the idea to be useful within their divisions.
Their own functional specialists and project leaders can share the power they delegate and the design can survive within subunits of the corporation. When sinking occurs because of top management misunderstanding, it is likely to occur in conjunction with other pathologies, particularly power struggles. For instance, if many senior executives consider adopting the matrix idea, but only one or a few really become convinced of its worth, there is a danger: those at the top who espouse a philosophy and method they did not employ themselves will be pitted against those who are able to show that it does work.
Prevention —If the corporate top management thinks through which dimensions of the company it must balance, and at what level of aggregation, it can keep the matrix from sinking. For example, top managers should ask themselves if all the business units need to be balanced by central functional departments. If the answer is no, then some business units should operate as product divisions with the traditional pyramid of command, while others share functional services in a partial matrix.
However, sinking is not always bad and should be prevented only when it indicates that an appropriate design is disintegrating. Treatment —Before matrix management can run smoothly, it must be in the proper location. As often as not, when a matrix sinks, it may simply be experiencing a healthy adjustment, and ought to be thought of as settling rather than as sinking.
Its entire company is the size of one of our divisions. In a company of 5, only about 50 managers are likely to be in the matrix; so in a company with 50, employees only about may need to be involved in dual reporting lines. With that number, the people who need to coordinate regularly are able to do so through communication networks that are based on personal relations. Whatever the size unit in which the matrix operates, the important thing is for management to have reasoned carefully from an analysis of the task to the design of the organization.
Matrices which lie within matrices which lie within matrices result frequently from the dynamics of power rather than from the logic of design. Diagnosis —Sometimes matrices not only sink but also cascade down the organization and filter through several levels and across several divisions. This layering process may or may not be pathological.
In fact, it may be a rational and logical development of the matrix, but we include it briefly here because it sometimes creates more problems than it solves. In terms of the metaphor we have used in this article, layering is a pathology only if the matrix begins to metastasize. When this occurs, organization charts begin to resemble blueprints for a complex electronic machine, relationships become unnecessarily complex, and the matrix form may become more of a burden than it is worth.
Prevention and treatment —The best remedies for uncontrolled layering are careful task analysis and reduced power struggles. A product unit, for example, developed its own functional expertise distinct from the functional units at the next level up. The best defense was a good offense, or so it seemed.
In each case, adequate conceptualization by top managers would probably have simplified the organization design and forestalled the layering, which occurred because of power maneuvers. Management can treat this unhealthy state best by rebalancing the matrix so that no manager of one dimension is either too threatened or pushed too hard toward a power goal.
Matrix design is complex enough without the addition of power struggles. A well-conceptualized matrix is bound to be less complex and easier to manage than one that is illogically organized. Managers in a matrix can succumb to excessive internal preoccupation and lose touch with the marketplace.
Diagnosis —Because a matrix fosters considerable interdependence of people and tasks and demands negotiating skills on the part of its members, matrix managers sometimes tend to get absorbed in internal relations at the expense of paying attention to the world outside the organization, particularly to clients.
When this happens, an organization spends more energy ironing out its own disputes than in serving its customers. The outward focus disappears because the short-term demands of daily working life have yet to be worked through. This inward preoccupation is more common in the early phases of a matrix, when the new behaviors are being learned, than in matrices that have been operating for a few years. Prevention —Whatever other pathologies develop in a matrix, attention to their cure is bound to increase the internal focus of the members; so prevention of other pathologies will certainly reduce the likelihood of this one occurring.
Awareness of the tendency will also help. Since the product dimension of the organization generally has a more external focus than the resource dimension, the responsibility for preventing an excessive introspection is not equally distributed. The product dimension people can help the others keep perspective, but a strong marketing orientation is the best preventative of all.
Treatment —If the managers in the matrix are navel gazing, the first step in the treatment is to make these managers aware of the effects. Are customers complaining a lot, or at least more than usual? Managers need to confront internal conflict, but also to recognize that confrontation is secondary to maintaining effective external relationships.
Navel gazing generally occurs when the matrix has been fully initiated but not yet debugged. People accept it, but they are engrossed in figuring out how to make it work. The second step is to treat the inward focus as a symptom of the underlying issue: how to institutionalize matrix relationships so that they become familiar and comfortable routines, and so that people can work through them without becoming obsessed by them.
Finally, it must always be remembered that any form of organization is only a means and should never become an end in itself. Can moving into a matrix lead to the strangulation of the decision process, into endless delays for debate, for clearing with everybody in sight? Will decisions, no matter how well thought through, be made too late to be of use?
Will too many people have power to water down all bold initiatives or veto them outright? Such conditions can arise in a matrix. We have in mind three situations—constant clearing, escalation of conflict, and unilateral style—each calling for slightly different preventive action and treatment. Constant clearing —In one company we know of, various functional specialists who reported to a second boss, a product manager, picked up the idea that they had to clear all issues with their own functional bosses before agreeing to product decisions.
This meant that every issue had to be discussed in at least two meetings, if not more. During the first meeting, the specialists and the product manager could only review the facts of the issue, which was then tabled until, at the second meeting, the specialists cleared the matter with their functional bosses—who by this process were each given a de facto veto over product decisions.
This impossible clearing procedure represented, in our view, a failure of delegation, not of the matrix. One needs to ask why the functional specialists could not be trusted to act on the spot in regard to most product decisions in ways that would be consistent with the general guidelines of their functional departments? Either the specialists were poorly selected, too inexperienced and badly informed, or their superiors were lacking in a workable degree of trust of one another.
Regardless, this problem, and its prevention and treatment, needs to be addressed directly without making a scapegoat of the matrix. Escalation of conflict —Another possible source of decision strangulation in matrix organizations occurs when managers frequently or constantly refer decisions up the dual chain of command. Seeing that one advantage of the conventional single chain of command is that two disagreeing peers can go to their shared boss for a resolution, managers unfamiliar with the matrix worry about this problem almost more than any other.
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They look at a matrix and realize that the nearest shared boss might be the CEO, who could be five or six echelons up. They realize that not too many problems can be pushed up to the CEO for resolution without creating the ultimate in information overload. So, they think, will not the inevitable disagreement lead to a tremendous pileup of unresolved conflict? Certainly, this can happen in a malfunctioning matrix. Whether it does happen depends primarily on the depth of understanding that exists about required matrix behavior on the part of managers in the dual structure. Let us envision the following scene: a manager with two bosses gets sharply conflicting instructions from his product and his functional bosses.
When he tries to reconcile his instructions without success, he quite properly asks for a session with his two bosses to resolve the matter. The three people meet, but the discussion bogs down, no resolution is reached, and neither boss gives way. The two bosses then appeal the problem up a level to their respective superiors in each of the two chains of command. This is the critical step. If the two superiors properly understand matrix behavior, they will first ascertain whether the dispute reflects an unresolved broader policy issue.
If it does not, they know their proper step is to teach their subordinates to resolve the problem themselves—not to solve it for them. In short, they would not let the unresolved problem escalate, but would force it back to the proper level for solution, and insist that the solution be found promptly. Often, conflict cannot be resolved; it can, however, be managed, which it must be if the matrix is to work.
Unilateral style —A third possible reason for decision strangulation in a matrix system can arise from a very different source—personal style. Some managers have the feeling they are not truly managing if they are not in a position to make crisp, unilateral decisions. Identifying leadership with decisive action, they become very frustrated when they have to engage in carefully reasoned debates about the wisdom of what they want to do. Such a manager is likely to feel frustrated even in regard to a business problem whose resolution will vitally affect functions other than his own, such as in a company that is experiencing critical dual pressure from the marketplace and from advancing technology.
A matrix that deliberately induces simultaneous decision making between two or more perspectives is likely to frustrate such a person even further. If managers start feeling emasculated by bilateral decision making, they are certain to be unhappy in a matrix organization. In such cases the strangulation is in the eye of the beholder. Such people must work on their personal decision-making style or look for employment in a nonmatrix organization.
We do not recommend that every company adopt the matrix form.
But where it is relevant, it can become an important part of an effective managerial process. Like any new method it may develop serious bugs, but the experiences that many companies are acquiring with this organization form can now help others realize its benefits and avoid its pitfalls. The matrix seems to have spread despite itself and its pathologies: what was necessary was made desirable.
It is difficult and complex, and human flexibility is required to arrive at organizational flexibility. But the reverse is also true; success has given the form legitimacy, and, as the concept spreads, familiarity seems to reduce the resistance and difficulties people experience in using the matrix. For generations managers lived with the happy fiction of dotted lines, indicating that a second reporting line was necessary if not formal.
As executives develop greater confidence with the matrix form, they bring the dotted line relationship out of the closet, and grant it legitimacy. Each time another organization turns to the matrix, it has a larger and more varied number of predecessors that have charted the way. The examples of wider applicability suggest that the matrix is becoming less and less an experiment and more and more a mature formulation in organization design. As more organizations travel the learning curve, the curve itself becomes an easier one to climb.
You can expand the exercise by splitting the group into teams and giving points and offering incorrect answers as bonus questions. These questions are just examples. Create your own, and ensure you clarify questions where ambiguity could exist. The exercise is especially relevant for a group after a break, for example after holidays, or when a boost or intervention is required to help people shift habits or assumptions.
The task suggested is 'how to tie a shoelace', but you can substitute any other easy instinctive skill e. Ideally something that people can actually do for real in the review. The purpose of the activity is to start people thinking and working, and particularly to assist thinking and learning about:. Obviously avoid arrangements that will be unnecessarily time-consuming and tedious, for example do not ask a group of twenty people to do the task individually and to present their results individually, or the exercise will take til lunchtime..
Ideally review the group's work so that at least some of the resulting instructions can be viewed by the whole group. You should also encourage people to try to follow - in practice - at least some of the resulting instructions which is often overlooked by writers of manuals and instructions. The activity offers a very neat association with the concept and principles of empathy, and the metaphor of 'putting yourself in the other person's shoes' when communicating to others.
This is a very simple and amusing introductions activity, and a super icebreaker and energizer, for groups of people, any age and level, or bigger groups subject to splitting people into smaller sub-groups and giving guidance to self-facilitate as required. Then, after everyone has taken their sheets do not issue these instructions until everyone has taken their sheets :. Aside from the obvious values of the activity energizing, ice-breaking, quickly introducing people to each other in an interesting way , the exercise cleverly makes the points that:.
Tuckman's Forming Storming model. Presentation skills. Christmas Quizballs Instruct delegates to individually consider and describe the personality of a well known admired person which you can suggest, or assist the group in deciding who to describe. A common cause of differences between delegates' views - and a fascinating aspect of the exercise - is that delegates' descriptions of a greatly admired person commonly match their own self-image. For obvious reasons it can be preferable to omit 'self-image' from the name of the activity before you run it with a group.
Select a well known admired person. Involve the group in this if you wish but avoid being distracted by other discussions about the selection, unless you welcome such discussion. You may select more than one well known person to repeat the exercise, but of course the point of the exercise is for the group to describe the same person at one time. If the group has expertise in personality theories and psychometric systems, then for extra focus on the technical aspects of personality theories you may select more than one theory for delegates to work with which means delegates give more than one view - i.
Importantly you must be able to explain the basic workings of the chosen personality theory to the group, or the group must already understand the chosen theory to a very basic level. If working with young people or others who have no appreciation of personality theory then begin the activity by helping the group to establish and agree key describing words of personality, which can then be used for the exercise.
Encourage delegates to use only words to describe the dominant features of the personality. You and the group will perhaps think of more appropriate examples for your local situation and the group's interests. Personality theories. Johari Window theory. Interviewing and selection. Multiple Intelligences theory. Commonly staff social events, especially at Christmas time, involve eating and drinking in a pub or restaurant somewhere.
The format tends to be: drink, eat, more drink, maybe dance a bit, maybe fall over in the car-park, and for many, have a hangover the next day. The organization, and more likely these days the staff too, spend a lot of money and have little to show for it, let alone a sense of fulfilment or spiritual uplift. Many organizations now seek more wholesome and responsible ways for team members to socialize, celebrate and bond at Christmas parties and other social events.
Instead of spending or asking people to spend a big amount per head on a meal out - instead do it yourselves 'in-house'. Perhaps ask every staff member of staff to bring in some interesting food. This can be especially rewarding for groups of varying ethnicity. Food reflects culture, and so offers a helpful basis for improving mutual awareness. If you have a kitchen most workplaces do , then you can handle a certain amount of hot food. If you don't have a kitchen, then be creative with some camping stoves or an outside barbecue.
That's assuming you want to serve hot food. Otherwise keep it to a cold buffet, which depending on the weather and time of year, can be perfectly acceptable. When you feed people in-house, on a biggish scale, it is very cost-effective and can produce excellent quality and quantities of food, for a fraction of eating-out costs. Many groups will expect an alcoholic drink of some sort.
Often alcohol is appropriate. Again be creative and imaginative. Again seek help and involvement from staff members with experience and skills in making and providing drinks for large groups. Recipes are available on the web. Consider the strength of drinks that you provide and consider implications of people's health, proper behaviour, transport, driving, etc. Most offices have a big space somewhere which can be quickly reorganized to produce a good-sized area for setting up a buffet and eating. Maybe offer starters, mains, and deserts in different departmental rooms, so people circulate and get to know each other better.
If you don't have a room or rooms then go out and find the space you need. Again be imaginative and creative. There are interesting spaces everywhere. Find some space and make it work. Decorate the venue. Appoint a team to do this - and to dismantle and tidy up too. A consistent problem affecting traditional workplace parties and social events is that people tend to drink a lot when nothing else entertains them. People engage relatively little, with the event, and with each other. Organized activities instead get people involved and mixing and having fun together, which develops mutual understanding, builds relationships and teams, and diffuses tensions.
So think of some activities on which to build your event - to give people some entertainment apart from eating and drinking. Think about activities which will be different and participative, so that people will be active and entertained, rather than sat down drinking and chatting about work and office politics, etc.
As already suggested, a really useful tone-setting idea is to have the bosses and executives take a leading role in serving and waiting on the staff. The tone of the event is important. Staff will be positive if the tone is right. If the bosses stand aloof and refuse to help and get involved, then the tone will be unfair and wrong, and staff will not put effort and commitment into the event. If the tone is right and good and fair, then staff will respond positively.
Consider that in very many organizations throughout the year, staff see senior managers and bosses enjoy longer lunch-breaks, expenses-paid-for trips and meals, big company cars, reserved car-park spaces, better salaries, bonuses and perks, and all sorts of other privileges. So wouldn't it make a refreshing change for once if the bosses served the staff? You bet it would. A workplace social event is an opportunity for the organization to say thank you to its people. A sit down meal with drinks in a restaurant will achieve this to a degree, and of course in many cases is entirely appropriate, but for many other situations, a social event can achieve a lot more.
Emotions and feelings within each of us are 'triggered' in different ways. We think differently and therefore see things differently. We often do not imagine that other people may see something quite differently to how we see the 'same' thing. Management and relationships, in work and outside of work too, depend heavily on our being able to understand the other person's view, and what causes it to be different to our own.
To illustrate this, and to explore how mental associations can 'colour' US-English 'color' our worlds differently:. Note: If anyone sees all the days as the same color, or sees no colour association at all, or perhaps sees or senses a more powerful alternative association, then this is another equally worthy personal viewpoint and difference. The days of the week are a simple fixed pattern. Yet we see them in different ways. It is easy to imagine the potential for far greater differences in the way we see more complex situations - like our work, our responsibilities and our relationships, etc.
Human beings will never see things in exactly the same way - this is not the aim or work or life - instead the aim should be to understand each other's views far better, so that we can minimise conflict and maximise cooperation. Johari Window.
Transactional Analysis. The Psychological Contract. Erikson's Life Stage Theory. Generational Differences. Personality Theories and Models. Versions of the 'Iceberg' may be mapped according to different perspectives, for example - how people see it currently; how they'd prefer it to be; from a personal, departmental or workforce standpoints. The exercise can be used as a basis for all sorts of learning and development activities, for example relating to:. For groups of any size. Split into pairs, threes, or work teams and review as appropriate, or run the activity as a quick ice-breaker.
What acronym can you devise or suggest one you know already that is particularly appropriate for modern times? Where groups devise their own acronyms you may optionally award a point for each letter in the acronym and bonus points for:. This is a simple and adaptable exercise which can be used to explore various themes. You could run a version on a table-top, or use it to get people moving around quite a lot. As facilitator you need just a tape measure and a pad of small sticky notes.
Here is the basis of the exercise. Adapt it and use different exercises to suit your own situations. This is an experiment to explore the brain's capability to estimate scale. Your guesses will be measured and results given. The exercises involve simple guessing, but provide a basis for understanding more about how reliably or unreliably our brains can estimate scale, etc. Sometimes guessing and instinctive assumptions are effective; often they are not. Note: As facilitator it will take you a while to measure and note scores for lots of guesses, so think how best to do this.
If using the exercise as a quick icebreaker, or if time is tight, especially if group is large, think carefully about how many measuring exercises to include. Just one is fine for an icebreaker. With big groups and treams issue people with tape measures and have them score each other. Or see the examples for simplifying the activities below. Depending on time and how you want to use the activities, other materials and measuring devices can be used for different exercises, for example:. Adapt the exercises depending on how active and logistically involved you wish the activities to be.
This is a simple exercise for groups between 8 and 30 people, and involves many different learning elements: understanding strategies, teamwork, presentations, argument, debate, analysis and group decision-making. The activity is based on the funny one-liner often attributed to comedian Stephen Wright , which is deeper than first seems:. Nominate one team to be 'early bird' and the other team to be 'second mouse' or allow the group to decide this themselves, which can be an interesting mini-exercise in its own right.
Give the teams minutes, each to develop a second presentation or longer for bigger groups and more learning depth as to why their strategy 'early bird' or 'second mouse' is best for business or work or life, depending on your situation. Optionally, ask the teams if in light of the presentations they would prefer to frame the question in a different way. People might now see a more constructive approach to the question. Again this can be a useful mini-exercise in its own right. After the debate hold a 'free' vote to see what the combined group now believes about the question.
Allow but do not encourage abstentions 'don't knows'. Encourage group members to vote as individuals, putting their team loyalty to one side. There are many possible learning areas to review after this exercise, depending on your situation and development purposes, for example:. Problem-solving and decision-making.
Here are some ideas and exercises to explore human physical contact and touching; the types, benefits, risks, associated feelings and reactions, in relation to self others. Touching people is understandably a neglected aspect of relationships and communications, especially in management and education relating to sexual harassment and child protection. Nevertheless touch is a highly significant part of body language, and crucial to human interaction. We therefore benefit by improving our understanding of touch and using it appropriately, rather than avoiding it altogether.
A New York Times article by Benedict Carey reported some interesting findings on human touching:. Many and various other studies have reported the positive powers of human touch. As with physical exercise, human touch triggers the release of chemicals in the brain. These are basic primitive human responses, not easily understood, and even now only beginning to be researched and analysed in reliable scientific terms. In time we will know what it all means and how it all works.
Meanwhile a little practical experimentation can be helpful and enlightening. Here are some ideas:. Love and compassion at work. Stress management. The nature of anything - especially feelings, relationships and communications - changes according to situation and context. This is vitally important in understanding ourselves, others, and the way that human systems operate, in which subjective views are commonly more dominant than objective facts, figures and evidence. Perceptions among people, especially given group effects, has a huge effect on systemic and organizational behaviour.
Here is a simple and pleasing demonstration of how something can change when experienced in a new context, particularly when the warmer spring season approaches in the northern hemisphere :. The demonstration is clearest if first people pour the drink and take a few sips indoors, and then walk outside, so as to compare the indoor and outdoor taste. Strangely the taste is quite different, sometimes remarkably different. This is probably due to the fresh air being smelled and tasted along with the drink. I am open to better explanations.
The effect also works with cold drinks. And picnic lunches, if you've time. In some situations the exercise will work better by not warning people of the reason for going outside, other than to get some fresh air and a leg-stretch, both of which are good for groups anyway. Taste is not the only characteristic altered, for example, in cold weather the drink cools far quicker. Small and insignificant though it is, the drink experience and memory is altered by the different outside environment.
The indoor cup of tea or coffee is perceived to be different because of the outdoor context and situation. The analogy can be used in many subjects which benefit from interpreting differences and implications within relative positions, for example:. Very many theories and models for learning, management, development, etc. Understanding relativity is not merely for theoretical explanation - it's a real practical tool for interpreting and acting with more appropriate meaning - rather than a 'one size fits all' mentality - especially concerning the widely different perceptions among people in different situations.
For groups of any size, subject to splitting into working teams and managing the review of the team work. The exercise will take minutes plus whatever review your think is appropriate for your situation. Enough for every person to have at least sheets. You may nominate specific models, or seek examples of models from the group, then write these on pieces of paper, fold, and have people pick them 'blind'. Allow discussion and debate of matters arising as appropriate, according to the needs and timings of your session. To save review time - ask people to work in pairs, or in teams - requiring each pair or team to present an interpretation of only one story, being the most powerful example that the pair or team can find in the time allowed.
If the group has access to computers, internet and group display this enables the use of online news websites rather than newspapers. Explore what alternative words people would use to describe each other? What words surprised us and why? What obstacles tend to exist when we don't know each other? And when other aspects of mutual awareness are not good? Why is it that lack of mutual awareness tends to cause difficulties, whereas good mutual awareness tends to produce benefits?
How does good mutual awareness in a team enable greater delegation of responsibility, and generally better and easier performance? Where the exercise is used as more of an ice-breaker for a group which has only recently been introduced to each other, a separate learning illustration is how much or little we seek, observe and absorb about new people we meet, and whether we can be more attentive at such times, since this reflects on perceived levels of empathy, and can influence people's self-esteem and confidence, and readiness to cooperate, etc. A quick icebreaker and kick-start activity with a helpful underlying purpose.
Commitments tend to succeed where there is a plan, especially for aims which contain steps leading towards the final result. Without a plan, little can change. Work backwards, identifying the steps necessary for achieving it, back to the starting point: i. In this situation it is particularly helpful to clarify that people do not need to reveal or discuss their aims with the group unless they want to, since for some people this enables more relaxed and creative thinking. Here is a selection of quick easy fun party games, including some already on these team games webpages.
Very funny. Who Am I? Issue each with a heavy key or spanner similar cold metal tool, tied to about fifty feet of string. The winning team is the first to thread the string through the whole team, passing underneath each team-member's clothing from top to bottom. Issue each with an orange or potato or other similar sized fruit or vegetable. The winning team is the first to pass the orange from person to person and back to the beginning by holding the orange between chin and chest no hands.
Dropping the orange incurs a two-person-stage penalty move it back two people in the chain. Play in pairs. Give each pair a raw egg still unbroken in its shell. Pairs face each other in two lines, five paces apart.
The egg must be thrown and caught twice between each pair. Move the lines three paces further apart. Again, throw and catch twice. Etc, etc. The winners are the last with their egg intact. If you are disturbed by the wastefulness of this game don't play it. Can be played in teams of three - one upside-down standing on head being supported by a team-mate, being fed a half-pint of a suitable drink from a suitable receptacle.
Drinking straws are optional at the discretion of the party games organiser. The winning team is the first to consume the drink. For additional challenge make the drink a pint and require each team member to take a turn in each of the three positions - holding, feeding and drinking. Be careful when planning games to ensure that they are appropriate for your situation. I accept no liability for any untoward issues arising. The activity is a simple introduction to project planning, and helps develop awareness of structure, scheduling, etc.
For groups of any size and any age. Split the group into pairs or teams appropriate for your situation. The task is to produce a simple project plan for making a cooked breakfast. Issue pens, rulers and paper, or arrange other presentation media as you wish. As the facilitator you may substitute or offer alternative tasks. Cooking a breakfast is merely an example; see other examples below. Introduce the group to a project management tool s as appropriate, for example a Gantt chart, critical path analysis flow chart, or a 'fishbone' diagram. To extend the activity you can add the requirement that teams must indicate where training or preparation needs are most likely required for any of the process elements.
Additionally you can introduce a financial element, so that plans must show a breakdown of costs, and a structure to monitor the budget for the project by each separate item. Note that this financial aspect can be a big extra challenge for some learners and is best excluded if the main development need is to learn the basic structure and process of building a project plan. Project plans can be presented, discussed and reviewed according to your own situation and timings. Other potentially useful reference materials, depending on the expertise and interests of the group are:.
Balanced Scorecard. A novel paper-cutting icebreaker exercise, played in pairs, or threes, or as a group. The activity can be used as a bigger group problem-solving and team-working task. Depending on your purposes, situation and group, you can change this exercise in various ways, for example:. As facilitator it is recommended you practice the suggested cutting solution so that if necessary you can demonstrate it before or afterwards, depending on your adaptation to the group.
Beware of using this activity in any situation that could cause embarrassment to overweight people or where delegates would be uncomfortable with the inter-personal proximity required. The qualification of putting the ring of paper over a given number of people is that while standing necessarily very close together they are able to pass the paper ring over their heads and down to the floor, enabling them to step over and thereby through the ring without breaking it.
Here is the cutting diagram, assuming that the sheet of paper is first folded. This is one solution to the exercise. Fold the sheet of paper in half, and cut it through both sides of the paper, as shown in the diagram, in the following sequence:. Cut slits 8 are adequate - the diagram shows 12 , from the folded edge up to about cm of the open edge, each slit being about 1.
Cut a slit between each of the above slits, from the open edge to about cm of the folded edge. Cutting more slits increases the size of the ring, as would using a larger sheet of paper. Slit dimensions can be increased for larger sheets. A further adaptation of the exercise is to issue one large sheet of paper for example from a broadsheet newspaper to a group of people up to ten or even twenty people and task them to work out how to cut or tear, for added difficulty the paper into a seamless ring which will fit over the entire group.
This creates lots of problem-solving activity in the planning stage, and much physicality and togetherness when the ring is being passed over the group. Team members can also plan the step-through strategy and other logistical aspects of the exercise. You will be surprised how large a ring can be created. An A4 sheet easily makes a ring circumference of 3m.
A big newspaper sheet easily produces a ring circumference of 7m. Cutting lines are shown in red and blue. The diameter of the ring produced would increase by lengthening the parallel spiral pattern, requiring cuts closer together. I understand from another contributor thanks Brian that in s London this method was used by young lads with bus tickets, to ease the boredom of the daily school commute.. The cutting lines are shown in red. The solution is similar to the first folded solution, but without the fold.
Inspired by a sketch on Armstrong and Miller's TV comedy show in October , this is an amusing variation of the usual around-the-table introductions at the start of courses and other gatherings. You have 30 seconds to think of your statements, after which according to the order decided by the facilitator each person makes their statements, pausing after each truth and lie for the group to decide which is which. While producing some amusement, the exercise can reveal surprising and impressive information about people hidden talents and claims to fame, etc.
The exercise also requires group analysis and decision-making in deciding which are the true statements and which are the lies.
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This exercise is adapted from the Armstrong and Miller comedy sketch. Adapt it further to suit your own purposes. According to myth, due to planetary gravitational effects or similar nonsense, it is possible to stand an egg on its end during the vernal Spring equinox, which is on or close to 21 March, when night and day are equal.
In fact it is possible with a little patience and a steady hand to balance an egg on its end on a flat level surface, any time. The big end is much easier. Here's one on my kitchen table. This interesting feat of manual dexterity and myth-busting provides the basis for an enjoyable and fascinating group exercise. The temptation to pun is almost irresistible. A raw egg is perhaps easier to balance than a hard-boiled egg because the weight sinks to the bottom and creates a sort of 'googly-man' effect.
The science is not especially clear about this and if there are any professors of egg balancing out there I'd welcome your input.
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You can use this activity in various ways, to demonstrate or emphasise patience, discovery, positive thinking, questioning assumptions, breaking barriers, stress avoidance; and for team contests. Incidentally you can tell the difference between a hard-boiled egg and a raw egg by spinning the egg. A raw egg spins slowly and speeds up, and continues spinning after you stop it; a hard egg spins faster and stays stopped.
These differences are due to the independent motion of the liquid in the raw egg, whereas a hard egg behaves as a single mass. An additional point of interest is that a few grains of salt enables a very quick balancing 'trick', which is of course cheating. Facilitators are recommended to practice the task before asking others to try it. The balancing is easier on slightly textured surfaces and a lot more difficult on very smooth surfaces. Eggs with slightly pimply shells are much easier to balance than eggs with very smooth shells. Some eggs are easier to balance than others so have a few spare for any that simply will not balance.
The game can be used to make introductions a little more interesting than usual, or as a separate ice-breaker activity. Split large groups into teams small enough to review answers among themselves. A quick flexible exercise for groups of all sizes and ages. It's based on a simple drawing game we have all played as children. Time spent by each person in turn on the drawing is limited to 5 seconds.
The facilitator can shout 'change' when appropriate. No discussion is permitted during the drawing, nor any agreement before the drawing of what the team will draw. After one minute of drawing each team must agree privately a description maximum three words of what they have drawn, and pass this to the facilitator, to be referred to later. Teams must identify their drawing with a team name. The drawings are then passed around the group for each team to guess and write on the reverse of other team's drawings what they believe the drawing is or represents.
Teams are not permitted to look at the reverse of the drawings at other descriptions guessed until they have decided on a description. Drawings are awarded two points for each exact correct description achieved, or a point for a partly correct description. Teams are awarded two points for each correct description guessed, or a point for a partly correct description guessed.
If you score the exercise, ensure teams are instructed to put their team name on their drawing, and alongside their guessed descriptions on the reverse of all other drawings. Deduct ten points for teams drawing any of the following 'obvious' subjects: cat, house, car, man, woman, spacecraft, etc. Award bonus points for teams drawing anything highly obscure and yet recognizable, especially if resulting from no prior discussion. When the facilitator calls out 'team change', one person and the drawing must move to a different team, which can be likened to certain changes that happen in real organizational work teams.
It produces complete chaos of course. You have five minutes to discover an interesting, surprising and separate connection you share with each person in your team. A different connection with each person, not a single connection that every team member shares. Try to find a connection or something in common that surprises both of you. The purpose of the exercise is to ensure that each person of the team ask some questions and gives some answers about themselves and all other team members, and so gets to know each other better.
Discussions can be in pairs or threes. The team can decide how best to enable each person to speak to every other team member in the time allowed. This requires more care in larger teams. Group review of individual connections is unnecessary although particularly interesting connections can be volunteered and highlighted as examples if people are keen to do so. More general review aspects include for example, optional depending on your own situation and wider aims for the group :. Larger teams need more time to ensure everyone learns something new and ideally establishes an interesting connection with each other team member.
Younger people might be happier with questions about less deep subjects, which is fine. Guide the group as you consider appropriate.
Multiple Intelligences. Personality types and models. Play as a team game in pairs, threes, fours or fives, which keeps everyone involved all the time, and introduces teamwork and tactics. The game is essentially team bowls played like beach bowls or green bowls using balls of newspaper. Scoring is one point for each ball closest to the 'jack' ball. If a team gets say three or four of its balls closer than the balls of any other team then three or four points would be scored accordingly. The potential to score high - notably for big groups split into big teams - means a winning team can emerge surprisingly late, which sustains full involvement of all players.
The larger the floor area then the more energetic the game will tend to be. The game can also be played outside provided there is no strong wind. For a more messy game outside for kids, supply a bucket of water and instruct that the balls should be wet.. The game is very adaptable. Consider and decide your own rules and scoring for your own situation. If playing the game with individuals for example in a small group of five , allow players two balls each.
This makes the game more interesting for individuals, in which the order of throwing can be reversed for the second ball, making it fairer for all, assuming playing only one 'end'. Or play big 'marbles' instead - best on a square playing area - in which players eliminate other players by rolling their ball to hit another player's balls.
Players take turns to roll their balls. The winner is the last player remaining whose ball has not been hit by another ball. Players have to decide how close to risk leaving their balls to other balls, so it becomes quite a tactical exercise. Simplest rule here is to eliminate only the first ball hit with each roll, not rebounds. This is a quick adaptable exercise for small groups, or for large groups if split into self-facilitating teams, or alternatively pairs.
Take a minute to consider - What thirty seconds of your life would you most want to re-live, if you only had thirty seconds left?
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For the purposes of the exercise participants can choose several different life experiences, provided the total time is no more than thirty seconds. Exclude sex from highlights if there is a risk that it will unhelpfully distract, embarrass or be too dominant. Shorten and concentrate the exercise by reducing the highlights time period from thirty to ten seconds, or lengthen and deepen the exercise by increasing the time period to ten minutes or an hour.
Note: To make the exercise more dynamic and forward-looking you can encourage people to consider especially life highlights which can be repeated or extended in some way. Childbirth is for many people a highlight which is not likely to be repeatable, although this can of course prompt thoughts and discussions about the importance of family compared to other life issues.
This website accepts no liability for any marital or romantic strife arising if you play this game socially in couples, especially under the influence of drink or other inhibition-reducing substance. Here's a really quick exercise, ideal for ice-breakers - minutes - for groups any age or size. Equipment: Lots of coins, in case participants need extra. At last a use for all the shrapnel in your piggy bank.. Large groups can be spilt into teams of people. Combine team coins. Produce a single team logo, themed according to the situation.
Optionally ask teams to guess the meaning of other teams logos, before the explanations. Split the group into two. Half leave the room while remaining half make their personal coin logos. Half return to room and try to match logos to people. Repeat the process enabling the guessers to make, and the makers to guess. Ask participants to explain their logos to the group, or if pressed for time and for large groups - split the group and have the logos explained among teams of threes.
If running the exercise in teams - review the discussions and feelings leading to the design of the logo, and the team theme if appropriate. The activity is more dynamic if played in competitive teams, minimum three players per team, ideally per team. The exercise involves devising and using a simple coded non-verbal unspoken communications system.
This is a very flexible game concept, and can be adapted in many ways to suit your situation and purposes. These instructions are for competitive teams playing the game. Adapt it accordingly for a single group. For groups of four people or more, best with six people or more. Teams of more than ten become chaotic which is okay if that's what you are seeking to demonstrate. It's a very flexible concept; adapt it to suit your needs. This exercise is subject to a lot of variation, including the solutions that people devise.
If you are a facilitator trying to imagine how it works, this might help.. At least three strings need to be connected to the top open end or near the top of the transporter tube, which keeps the tube upright and hanging from the connected strings being pulled tight by team members, and enables the tube potentially to be suspended and moved anywhere by and between the stringholders. Given that people cannot move their positions once the ball is loaded into the transporter tube, the method of 'playing out' string, as well as pulling it, is crucial. Strings that are too short become a problem.
At least one team member needs a string connected to the bottom of the tube to enable the tipping. If just one string is connected to the bottom of the tube then the tube can be tipped from just one direction, which means the team needs to have good control over the positioning of the tube.
Having more than one string connected to the bottom of the tube from more than one position increases the options for the direction of the tipping, but the downside is that beyond a certain point, depending on the coordination capability of the team the difficulty tends to increase with more people having more strings connected. Any bottom-connected string that crosses with a top-connected string will encounter a problem when it comes to tipping, because logically the bottom-connected string must get higher than the top-connected strings, hence the example solution which follows.
At its simplest, imagine the receptor tube the target into which the ball must be tipped being in the centre of a clock face. Three team members are positioned at, say, 12, 4 and 8 o'clock, each of whom has a string connected to the top of the transporter tube, and a fourth team member, say, at 6 o'clock, has a string connected to the bottom of the transporter tube to enable the tipping. The ball is placed in the transporter tube, say by the team member at 12 o'clock.
At this time no one can move from their position. The people at 4 and 8 take up the slack while 12 string is kept tight enabling the tube to be lifted. While 4 and 8 pull the tube towards the clockface centre, 12 plays out, keeping a tight string. When the tube is in the correct position for tipping, 6 can pull, while the other three strings stay tight to keep the tube's position, or adjust as necessary.
A quicker simpler version of this game can be played using drinking straws, a ball of rolled-up paper and a very thin dinner-table place mat:. A quick simple ice-breaker or bigger exercise related to questioning, and working together, here is the instruction, for groups of any size and any ages:. You can devise your own situations besides these to suit your purposes.
There are countless other possible situations. Increasing the variety of situations allocated will tend to increase the time of the activity and especially its review. There are no absolute 'right' or best questions - there are many effective questions, depending on the situation and people's needs, but there are certainly questions which do not work well and which should be avoided.
This exercise does not suggest that we can or should use merely one question to identify solutions for anything, especially crucial partnerships. The purpose of the exercise is to focus attention on quality, relevance, style and preparation of questioning, according to the situation and people involved. Questioning is powerful and helpful when prepared well, but wastes everyone's time and creates problems when it is not. This is a simple exercise requiring no equipment or materials preparation, for groups of any size and age. We all tend to classify and stereotype each other - 'pigeon-holing' is a common expression for this.
Usually this sort of classification is subjective, unhelpfully judgemental, and sometimes of course it's unfair to the point of being illegal discrimination. If as a facilitator you use these examples feel free to instruct the group to think of their own ideas, and not merely to use one of the examples.
The purpose of the exercise is to encourage people to get to know each other better, to collectively consider the nature of all individuals within the team, and to think of each other in ways that are quite different to how people tend usually to classify others. You can stipulate how many subgroups should be classified within the team s , and how many different classifications are required one split using a single classification is simplest and quickest , or you can offer wider more open flexibility, and see what the teams develop for themselves. Approach the activity with a broader view than reminding people about employment law and discrimination:.
The way we understand and regard each other is a big subject, offering far more helpful outcomes than merely applying a legal code. For groups of four to ten people. Split larger groups into teams with leaders who can facilitate the exercise. Introduction: Facial expressions are an important part of communications. There are many different emotions and corresponding facial expressions. Some are easier to interpret than others. This exercise helps illustrate different expressions and how some are more obvious and easy to 'read' than others.
Each team member must think of one emotion or two or three emotions, for a longer exercise , which they should then write separately on a slip of paper. Fold the slips of paper and put it into a cup or glass in the centre of the table, to enable 'blind' selection. Each person must then in turn take one of the folded slips and show the emotion on their face to the team, who must guess the emotion. Cut the picture retaining a copy into as many pieces - ideally equal squares or oblongs - as as there are participants for the exercise.
Issue each person a piece of the picture. The exercise is more challenging and fascinating if the group does not see the whole original picture until the end of the activity, although this question is entirely a matter for local judgement. Instruct people to create a copy of their piece of the picture exactly for example ten times bigger, according to length and width dimension.
Size increase ten-times, five-times, twenty-times, etc is up to you - the more then the longer the activity takes, and the bigger the final result. You should clarify what 'ten-times bigger, according to length and width dimension' actually means, or different interpretations of this could spoil the result which is a lesson in itself about consistency of planning and communications, etc.
Multiplying width and length dimensions by ten produces an area which is actually a hundred-times bigger in area. This seems a lot, but it's very reasonable if seeking to produce a good sized result to stick onto a wall. For example, if individual pieces are say 2 inches square, i. Technically 'ten times bigger' refers to area, but this isn't very easy to imagine - it's easier to plan and explain the exercise in terms of width and length dimensions.
Give a time limit minutes depending on complexity of the work and the magnification level you specify.
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When all the enlargements are completed ask people to assemble them into a giant copy of the original picture - on the table, or onto a wall using sticky putty, be careful not to use a wall whose surface could be damaged when removing the sticky putty.. London Underground Tube Map. Other ideas for pictures: geographical maps and weather maps, biological diagrams, well-known posters and cartoons. You can adapt the exercise by altering the 'ten-times widthand length dimensions' enlargement factor, for instance five-times would make the task easier and quicker; twenty or a hundred-times would make it more difficult and longer, and also more impactful, if you have time and space, and enough paper drawing materials The resulting assembled whole picture will indicate how well each team communicated and managed its own divisionalization of the task.
Based on an old numbers game this activity can be adapted in many different ways for groups and teams of all sizes. You can easily expand the game, add complexity, and turn it into a much longer planning and tactics exercise. With increased complexity the activity becomes increasingly suitable for teams and allowing a strategic planning stage.
Complex versions of the game are far less easy to plan and control. The game obviously allows mathematically-minded people who are often quiet and understated in the background to demonstrate their value to the group, which can be an additional benefit of the exercise. Obviously, given snowy weather, take everyone outside and build a snowman. Or several of them.
Throwing snowballs can be harmful to your team-mates' health and to the managing director's office windows. You have been warned. If the MD or other senior executive sees what is happening and asks you to explain the purpose of the activity, here are some suggested answers delete as appropriate :. Given all the training budget cut-backs it would have been daft not to make use of so much free material.
It was a positive thinking exercise and motivational analogy to illustrate how even in seemingly negative circumstances credit crunch, recession, snow, etc it's perfectly possible to innovate new things and to be constructive in some way. Having fun and building things is very good for the soul, and great for team morale. We are all now thoroughly energised and will never again see the snow as a problem, only an opportunity to be special and different compared to everyone else who sits on their backsides complaining.
Being out in the cold for so long meant that we could turn down the heating when we all came back in to save further costs. When we find out who built the ten foot snow-willy the culprit will be given a serious ticking off that's not a sexual pun in case you are wondering. Businessballs accepts no liability for damages arising from inappropriate use of this activity. If in doubt, make some newspaper towers instead. Activities and exercises for group selection days and assessment centres can be designed to stretch the participants more if the task is issued several days before the day of the assessment.
This allows more preparation and team-working among the candidates, which in turn enables a fuller deeper test and demonstration of people's capabilities. The exercise can be used if issued on the day of the assessment, but obviously due allowance must be made for the resulting time pressure in meeting such a big challenge.
Accordingly the exercise is suited to training courses lasting two days or more when delegates can work evenings in their team on the activities. Create presentation to sell proposition to the 'board of directors' or an investor - a part which can be played by the recruitment team.
This is a helpful and non-threatening way to show the effects of stress and confusion, especially in teams, and by implication the effects of stress on productivity, organisational performance and healthy working. Ideally for teams of eight to ten people. Split larger groups into teams of and establish facilitation and review as appropriate, appointing and briefing facilitators since each team requires facilitation. You will need for each team about five balls of various sizes, compositions, weights, shapes, etc. Five balls is probably adequate for most teams of eight people.
Using very different balls makes the exercise work better for example a tennis ball, a beach ball, a rugby ball, a ping-pong ball, etc - use your imagination. The ball must be kept moving the facilitator can equate this to the processing of a task within the work situation. A dropped ball equates to a failed task which the facilitator can equate to a specific relevant objective. A held ball equates to a delayed task. When the team can satisfactorily manage the first ball, the facilitator should then introduce a second ball to be thrown and caught while the first ball remains in circulation.
Equate the second ball to an additional task, or a typical work complication, like a holiday, or an extra customer requirement. Continue to introduce more balls one by one - not too fast - each time equating them to work situations and complications.
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