This tool can be used in team building, leadership development, communication workshops woven into an experiential activity where a specific task needs to be accomplished.
- unless required for base activities.
Setting: A sufficiently complex team building activity that requires the participants to be doing multiple tasks at one time to succeed.
Enough room that participants can split into multiple sub-teams that will not easily over-hear each other.
Types of participants: Anyone who has to communicate within or between teams.
Ideal conditions: Participants who have already taken part in some experiential team building activities.Type of Facilitator-Client Relationship: Facilitator should have good knowledge of actual real-world activities and culture at the client, to ensure exercise can be related to these during feedback.
Facilitator personality fit: Facilitator must be comfortable monitoring multiple activities at same time, and strong enough to enforce some strict rules.
Preparation: Select and prepare the experiential activity, adapting to small group tasks.
The basic process is to run any team-building experiential activity that requires the participants to be doing multiple tasks at one time, which at some point require a level of co-ordination. (E.g. a challenge that requires the building of equipment - a raft, hoist, etc while others are preparing to use this by mapping out routes, preparing guide ropes etc, although can also be done with smaller scale and indoor "construction" type activities).
Make them split into sub-teams to do the tasks, either during their initial planning or by allocating them.
Appoint or allow them to choose a leader (who is not part of one of the sub-teams).
Instruct them that NO direct communication is allowed between the sub-teams, they can only communicate via the leader. The facilitator must enforce this strictly, and have penalties for any who break this rule (e.g. make them start the current task again).
Run the activity to its end, successful or not, and then debrief.
Follow-Up Required: Ensure that the debrief focuses on the issues of communication and leadership, rather than on the mechanics of the activity itself. The focus should be on how the difficulties of having to communicate via certain channels makes the task more complex, but that this is often a real-world constraint and is there for good reasons. If anyone broke the rules, then discuss the impact of this - if everyone is expecting that communication WILL go via the leader and in one case it doesn't, what impact can this have?
Usual or Expected Outcomes: Participants learn how to combine planning and execution skills with the difficulties often faced in real world communication, and importance of putting good communication plan as a priority. Some breaking of the rules is likely and is useful in feedback, considering the potential pitfalls of not following the chains of communication.
Potential pitfalls: If not strongly facilitated, adherence to the rules may break down either through deliberate subversion (in order to "win") or by participants getting carried away.
How success is evaluated: How well were the rules adhered to? Did the team(s) succeed in the activity? Do they recognise during feedback that this is a good analogy of real-world challenges? Have they learned lessons in how to improve communications?
Examples of successes and failures: Succeeds where suitable activity is chosen and well-facilitated.
Source: Bernard Gore
Derived from: Variant experienced in some team building activities, extracted as a generic variation that can be applied to many activities.
Alternative names: Constrained Communication, Activity variation