If you have been following my blogs, you would know that I am using LEGO to help impact organizational improvement and to reframe some of my Square Wheels ideas. I posted this one up today on my poems blog, for example:

SWs LEGO RW Feel something better

The simple and basic theme is that we are rolling on Square Wheels but the round wheels already exist.

There are also a whole bunch of “posters” that I have anchored to various things, like this one on team building:

LEGO POSTER - Teamwork with SWs One

So, I roll down the road of continuing to illustrate some basic realities around communications, engagement, experiential learning and team alignment.

A friend asked me if I was aware of these LEGO being used for team building exercises and it reminded me of some of the exercises from my other website that were contributed to me 15+ years ago. You can find a long series of them by clicking on this link but I thought to post up a good example below:

Darin Ulmer’s “LEGO Communications Exercise”

Darin offered up this activity focused on collaboration and communications to viewers of my website. He indicated that the activity works best if participants return from the exercises’ suggested meetings unaware of the value or significance of the information they received because that lack of relevance tends to mirror the reality of so many workplaces.

Have at least 5 people at each table and have them chose who will go to each of five simultaneous meetings and set it up as follows:

“Often we go to meetings and we are asked to return to our direct reports and disseminate that information back to them. Between the meeting and the reporting many things can happen to the information that is to be shared. We are going to see how effectively you can communicate information that you learn in a meeting back to the people at your table.”

“The meetings contain extremely important information about the company’s vision. In order to build the best company possible, everyone will have to come back to the tables after the five-minute meetings to share what they have learned. Please go to your meetings now.”

Direct everyone to the rooms or area of the room where they can view the written guidelines listed below. It is best if they are out of earshot or even out of view of the other meetings. There should be at least one representative from each table at each meeting.

While everyone is meeting, place one bag containing all of the pieces to build the “Baja Buggy” (or similar kit / set of LEGO materials) on each table. Make sure you have enough kits for each table you have set up and that you have all of the pieces in the bag. (Nothing upsets teams more than being set up for failure so be sure that ALL the pieces are in the kit.)

Note: If you wish to push the need for collaboration between the groups and they are somewhat functional teams to begin with, you may with to give each table all of one particular piece in a plastic bag so that they have to go to the other tables to get missing pieces. This bartering can cause many issues about sharing of resources to arise. You also open the group up to set each other up for failure by choosing to withhold pieces from other groups. Your debriefing can focus on how interdepartmental competition is detrimental and creates lose-lose situations.

After 5 minutes, collect the written guidelines and ask everyone to return to their tables. Announce that:

“You have 20 minutes to build a better company. You have been given the vision and now it is time to act on that information. Be aware of the process that you go through to complete the vision so that you can share your experience with the other tables.”

You may wish to document the progress by teaching flow-charting and having someone at each table take responsibility for documenting the steps that a team follows. The flow-chart lesson could be at a sixth meeting for those people. It is important that they look for both effective and ineffective behaviors as learning examples.

After the 20 minute building time, ask everyone to stop and have each table show what they have built and relate to the other tables what process they went through to reach that vision. Debrief with the whole team afterward about what was important from the exercise to take back to the work place. (See debrief above)

Here is what is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #1 (for the Baja Buggy set. Instructions would be different for other assembly packages):

  • The hood and the handlebar base are white. The base is two pieces and the handlebars are one.
  • The bullhorn sits on one wheel well peg behind the drivers four-peg seat and in front of the white roll bar.

What is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #2:

  • The front is five pieces high with a bumper protruding (white/red/yellow/gray/white).
  • The front wheel wells are on top of the lights. The rear snaps directly to the body.

What is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #3:

  • The rear is five pieces high with two hooks protruding (white/red/red/gray/white).
  • The front bumper and rear flag and walkie-talkie holders are gray.
  • The rear holders are below the body and the front bumper is next to the body.

What is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #4:

  • The man with the yellow legs has a blue hat.
  • The rear axle does not touch the red body piece, but the front axle is centered below the red body piece and gray front bumper.

What is written on the sheets of paper at Meeting #5:

  • The lights are yellow. Two are on top of the front bumper and two are on the roll bar sides facing forward.
  • The bullhorn, walkie-talkie, tires, and the two pieces found above the rear axle and immediately behind the headlights are black.

This exercise was designed by Darin Ulmer. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission. © 1997

You will make up your instructions based on the particular kits that you acquire. The nice thing is that all of these are reusable and that you can very easily link over to a variety of organizational improvement discussions because of the experiential and interactive nature of the activity itself.

You can find ones similar to this that I published back in 1998 at http://www.squarewheels.com/content/legotrdev.html

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, Surprised 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.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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Scott’s blog on People and Performance is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group