3d rendering of a diamond ringWe all know it’s vital to get senior management engagement if we want our improvement programmes to be successful. We also want our managers to lead them with the right attitude to change.

Here are two quick exercises you can use to help you influence the approach management teams take to improvement initiatives. They require minimal equipment and advance preparation and so you can use them exactly where and when you need them.

  1. Picture1The Cane Game
  • Objective
    • The team must lower the cane to the ground keeping it perfectly level at all times!
  • Instructions
    • Break into teams of at least 8 people
    • Line up opposite each other
    • Each team member holds out the forefingers of each hand
    • When the fingers are level, but not touching, the facilitator lays a garden cane on top of the fingers
    • The facilitator starts the exercise by saying ‘go’, and makes sure that the team keeps the cane perfectly level
    • They must stop and level up before moving further down to the floor

I have never found a team yet who can keep the cane level all the way to the ground on their first attempt!

Now capture their comments on how they found the game.

Learning points

  • Working as a team is hard
  • Change is hard
  • Sometimes an obvious request goes frustratingly slowly

Tip: You don’t have to have a garden cane, any straight pole will do, like a brush handle. If you travel a lot then buy a folding tent pole; usually under £10 from camping shops.

  1. iStock_000002265975_LargeThe Wallet Exercise
  • Objective
    • The team will be asked to conduct an improvement activity on other members’ possessions.
  • Instructions
  • Ask everyone in the room to stand up and place their wallet or purse on the table or floor in front of them. (Don’t panic if people opt out. Put yours in to encourage a few takers)
  • Have everyone move one place to their left (or right, it doesn’t matter)
  • Tell everyone to pick-up the wallet/purse in front of them and when the facilitator says go, they have to dump it all out and reorganise Get rid of everything they don’t think is needed and put items back where they think they work best

At this point, everyone in the room will get a bit upset… this is good.

  • Don’t actually go ahead with having anyone reorganise another person’s wallet, but capture peoples reactions on a flipchart

Learning points

  • The emotion you feel at the thought of having someone else pry into your possessions is what employees feel if outside teams come into their work place and start to make changes without them being involved or consulted
  • How did the people who did not hand over their wallets feel compared to those who did? They might be feeling safe, and possibly a little smug!

How would you deal with these people in the workplace if they were refusing to join in with your improvement activity?

Have a look at The tale of the team and the newt to see what could happen depending on the choice you made.

Tip: This exercise is useful for heading off situations where prior communication and consultation has been sub-optimal and you haven’t got time to introduce the Change Management principles in full.

Have you tried these exercises before? Did you get the results you were looking for or do you have a different “game” that works?