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Team Building - Activity of the Month
July 2010, Saran Shuffle

This initiative can be done with anywhere from 6-12 people. 

Get the team to clump tightly together, all facing the same direction. Make sure they are about as tight as they can comfortably get. Now have the people on the outside of the circle raise both hands above their heads so that you can encircle the entire team with a couple bands of plastic wrap.

Now they are ready for your instructions.
The goal is to get their team from one cone (or similar marker) to another, approximately 10 yards away, as quickly as possible. 

The rules are simple: Do not break the band (emphasize this!) and keep the band around the midriff without grabbing on to the band with their hands. Time the group on the first couple of attempts, encouraging them to make process improvements to speed up their time.

On the last attempt, ask the group (or those on the outside of the circle) to take a step out, stretching the band as they step. They will quickly discover that they can get a pretty good stretch, way before the band breaks. Their next attempt should result in a much improved time and lots of celebration!

Safety Tips:
  • The larger the group, the more dangerous. It is easy for heels and toes to get stepped on. Be sure that everyone has on flat shoes. This should never be done with high heels on. 
  • As the group gets faster and faster, be ready with spotters to help decelerate the mass as they approach the finish line (cones).
  • Caution the people in the middle of the mass. They should hold onto shoulders of those around them to prevent tripping and trampling.
Processing Points:
Boundaries -- this activity is great at illustrating how groups sometimes create self-imposed boundaries around their process and operations.
Ask:  Do we ever have tendencies to perceive boundaries that may not exist?  What are some examples?
         What should we do if we perceive a boundary is not real, or should be challenged?
         How do we best communicate "boundary questions and concerns, both to leaders and team members?
Ask:  How do we determine process limits in our day-to-day work?
         How are limits set and how are they best communicated?
Ask:  How are paradigms created regarding how we do our work?
         What are the challenges associated with seeking new paradigms at work?
Ask:  Explain where and when teamwork is critical in your actual work.
         How do you facilitate excellent levels of cooperation and teamwork?
This activity is great at stimulating teams to think about and to be proactive is looking for improvements in how they perform their work together as a team.

May 2010 , The Envelope

Welcome back for another team building activity.  This particular challenge once again uses a rope to form a shape.  When you are facilitating a team building day for a group, it can be an advantage to sometimes have several activities/challenges that utilize the same props.  You can combine these similar activities back-to-back for ease and efficiency of facilitation, or you may choose to spread them out over the day so that you can provoke the team to think about using past experience and learning as they tackle new assignments and problems.

This activity, as an example, can use the sampe prop (the long rope) that you might have used for other activities we have described in past months on this blog:

  • The Blind Polygon
  • The Star 
This is another great activity that can be done with a rope. Many activities such as Blind Polygon, require that participants be blindfolded. For this particular challenge, blindfolds are not necessary.

The challenge is for the group to create the above shape, which looks like the underside of an envelope with the flap open, with the rope. The rope can never retrace the same line. In other words, it is like one of those puzzles with a pencil and paper, where you must draw the shape without lifting your pencil or re-tracing a line.
Equipment: 50 ft. or greater, soft nylon rope.
Setup: Have the team line up along the rope, and all grasp the rope. Instruct the team about their objective. (I’ll usually show them an index card with the shape.) Tell them that they must each keep their same location on the rope. They can slide up and down the rope, but they cannot hand the rope back and forth to each other. In other words, the rope and the people must move to create the shape. Also advise them that they cannot retrace any line, or double the rope back on a line.
Some groups take quite a bit of time to solve this. Others get very innovative, such as drawing out a sketch on the ground, etc., to create a plan of action.
Ask the team how they began.
Have them describe their planning efforts. Did they plan, or just proceed with trying ideas?
Did leadership emerge? If so, have the team discuss how this occurred, and the importance of it.
How was cooperation during the activity?
Did everyone share a vision about how to complete the task? How did they arrive at this shared understanding? Or, what would have helped them arrive at a shared understanding?
Did the team apply "lessons learned" from previous exercises?  How important is it in the real work of the group, to be able to apply the collective learning and experience of the team to new problems and challenges that confront them?




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