(First published, June 2007)
This opening activity works well for topics that deal with the challenges of change. It is adapted from an activity developed and used by Crestcom, a management and leadership development company.
To link the topic of change to something the participants already know
- Countdown timer
Ask participants to pair-up with a partner, and stand back to back.
Identify one partner as “A” and the other partner as “B”. For example “A” could be the person who has worked for the company the longest.
In the next 60 seconds, partners “A” please change 5 things about yourselves. Keep your back to partner “B” so that partner “B” can't see you.
When time is up, instruct partners to face each other.
Partner “B”, in the next 60 seconds, see if you can identify the 5 things that partner “A” changed.
Announce when time is up, congratulate the participants and instruct the partners to return to the back-to-back position.
In the next 60 seconds, partner “A” change 5 more things about yourself.
When time is up, instruct partners to face each other again.
Partner “B”, in the next 60 seconds, see if you can detect the 5 additional changes made by partner “A”.
Announce when time is up, congratulate the participants, then instruct the partners to return to the back-to-back position.
Partner “A”, please change 5 additional things about yourselves.
By this time, the participants usually start to groan and indicate that they do not want to participate any longer. Calm the participants, then ask them to return to their seats and begin the debrief.
To prevent participants from treating this activity as a mindless ice-breaker, conduct a debriefing discussion by using the following sets of questions in the specific sequence. Notice that each set of questions emphasizes an important learning point by looking back on the activity, relating it to the workplace, and brainstorming appropriate change-management strategies.
Change as removal
- When asked to make changes, how many of the “A's” removed items (such as belt or tie)? Why did most of you choose to remove things rather than add things?
- Is this how we often look at change? Do we assume that change means things are going to be taken away? What can we do to help emphasize the benefits of the change?
Too many, too fast
- How did you feel when I asked you to make changes the third time? I heard a lot of groaning. You weren't as enthusiastic as you were the first time.
- How does this relate to the workplace when we ask our employees to make too many changes too quickly?
Return to status quo
- Right now, how many of the “A's” have already changed back to how they were originally? This is interesting, because I didn't tell you to change back yet.
- Is that what happens in the workplace? Without continued support and direction from upper management, do employees tend to go back to doing things the same old way?
- How can we lead by example to prevent this from happening?