30 Days

The plot of a typical story involves a series of situations and responses. These elements create the ups and downs in the arc of the story.

In this interactive storytelling activity, the participants create a series of positive and negative situations related to 30 days in the life of a typical manager. Later, participants choose one situation at a time and plan how to respond to it.


To plan for capitalizing on positive situations and containing negative situations in the workplace.


Minimum: 4

Maximum: Any number, organized into groups of 4 to 6

Best: 12 to 30


15 to 45 minutes


Sample situation cards, four for each group

Supplies and Equipment

  • Blank cards
  • Pieces of paper for outlining planned responses
  • Small pieces of paper for recording score points
  • Pencils or pens
  • Timer
  • Whistle


Prepare sample situation cards. Prior to conducting the game, prepare four sample cards that specify types of workplace situations that a typical manager may face. Two of these situations should have a potential positive impact and the other two, negative impact.

Here are some samples that we used recently:

Mar-30 days.jpg
  • Your team has finished a project ahead of schedule and 10 percent under budget.
  • Your company is planning to outsource its data processing operations to Ukraine.
  • Your manager asks you to let two people go from your team. Everyone in your team is a good performer and you feel they all serve essential functions.
  • An executive stops you in the hallway and grills you about your project.

Reproduce each situation on a separate piece of paper. Assemble a set of four situations for each playgroup.


Distribute sample situation cards. Give a set of four situations to each playgroup, with two positive and two negative situations. Ask the participants to review the situations for later use as models for creating their own situation cards.

Ask the participants to write situation cards. Place several blank index cards in the middle of the table. Ask the participants to work independently and write different situations, one on each card. Encourage the participants to write as many cards as possible, balancing between positive and negative situations. Announce a suitable time limit. Collect the cards from the participants at the end of this time.

Exchange the situation cards. If more than one group is playing, give the cards written by one group to the next group. (The cards from the last group go to the first group.)

Begin the game. At each playgroup, ask someone to turn the cards written side down and shuffle the packet. Take the top card, turn it face up, and read the situation written on it. Place this card in the middle of the table so everyone can read the situation.

Come up with a plan for handling the situation. Ask each participant to develop a plan for capitalizing on the positive situation or containing the negative one. Remind the participant that the goal is to reduce the negative outcomes and to increase the positive outcomes that may arise from the situation. Instruct the participants to write a brief outline of their plan on a piece of paper. Announce a 2-minute time limit for this planning activity.

Present the plans. Identify the participant with the birthday closest to the current date and ask him or her to read the plan. Then ask all other participants to take turns to read their plans.

Evaluate the plans. At the end of the plan presentations, ask each participant to reflect on the plans of the other participants and give 1, 2, or 3 points to reflect the potential effectiveness of the plan. After making their decisions, participants write the number of points on small pieces of paper, fold the paper, and place it in front of the appropriate participant.

Continue playing the game. Turn over one card at a time and use the same procedure: come up with a suitable plan, read the plan, and award score points for each of the other participant’s plans.

Conclude the game. Keep your eyes on the clock. After a suitable time period has elapsed, blow the whistle to indicate the end of the activity. Ask the participants to open the folded pieces of paper in front of them and add up the score points. Find the participant with the highest total score and congratulate this winner.

Debrief the activity. Discuss the similarities and differences among the strategies used for capitalizing on positive situations and containing negative ones.

Variations and Adjustments

Don’t have enough time? Use a prepared set of situation cards. Conclude the session after two or three rounds.

Have ample time? Ask the participants to generate several situation cards. Have them edit these cards, remove duplicates, and select the most realistic ones.

Don’t trust the participants to generate situations? You are probably suffering from unnecessary paranoia. Anyhow, collect their cards and replace them with edited cards generated by previous participants. 

Not interested in management training? Change the backstory to some other character that is relevant to your training topic. Like, 30 Days in the Life of a Leader, 60 Days in the Life of a Mortician, 90 Days in the Life of an Accountant, or One Day in the Life of a Forensic Pathologist.