Group Exercise

Our last IT Dept training was a situational analysis exercise. I divided everyone into four random teams and gave each team one of the following cases. They got about 30 minutes to put together their responses then each team presented their question and response to the group. The entire group then discussed each response and offered commentary.

Case #1: Critical Cross-Functional Team Problem

You notice that another team member is pulling less than a full share of the team's load.

If you were the team leader, what would you do?
If you were another team member, what would you do?

Case #2: Team-Meeting Time Robbers

You are running a team meeting. A lot of time seems to be wasted because of irrelevant conversation.

What should you do right now?
What should you do in the future?

Case #3: Personal Priority Setting

You are a member of a part-time product development team that is working on an important new product. However, you also have other responsibilities associated with the ongoing work of your department.

You must set priorities to help you decide what to work on first.

What questions would help you set these priorities?

Case #4: Gaining Acceptance

Your team has developed a plan for making some dramatic improvements in customer service. However, the plan involves some significant initial cost associated with new systems as well as a restructuring of the customer service function.

Your senior management sponsor has never opposed anything the team has done in the past but has not show any great interest either.

How should the team approach her now?
What should be the team's long-term strategy with her?

Case 1 definitely generated the most discussion. Every one's experienced the situation and it was sometimes difficult to give examples without outing a specific person. Some of the strategies offered up were direct confrontation in private or public, verifying that the person is clear on his/her tasks and reassigning the person to a different task they may be better suited to.

We didn't come up with some magical answer (I said that if I had the answer, I'd be a lot better boss than I am) because people have different motivators. It was interesting that most of us said we would just pick up the slack because we know the work has to be done and it was our perception that people know they're not carrying their weight so they're not going to change their behavior anyway.

I thought Case 2 would get a lot of talk, too. However, it looks like I'm the only one who goes to meetings around here and who suffers through them so there wasn't a lot of discussion. One strategy the group came up with was to "act like Kathy". I thought it was funny and actually flattering. Even if I'm not facilitating the meeting, I often say things like, "OK, let's get back on track now", "So, who has the action item so we can move on", "Sounds like that discussion needs to be taken offline" and my new favorite that I used a bunch at our last club meeting, "One person's talking and that person is X".

I think it was a good exercise. We had most (but not all which is frustrating) people offer up insightful comments and suggestions and I think a few people actually took something useful away from it.

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