The Ugly Dog

Here’s a jolt that explores the importance of customer care.


Ask the teams to select a suitable subject and draw a picture within 2 minutes. When done, introduce a customer who rejects the pictures because none of them meets his (or her) needs and preferences. Debrief the participants with a series of questions related to the dangers of ignoring the customer’s needs and preferences.


To explore the importance of satisfying the customer.

Training Topics

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Project management
  • Teamwork


  • Minimum: 4
  • Maximum: Any number, divided into teams
  • Best: 10 to 30


4 minutes for the activity. 5 minutes for debriefing.


  • Paper
  • Boxes of crayons, color pencils, or felt-tipped pens


  • Whistle
  • Stopwatch


Recruit a confederate. Before the session, meet with someone who will be in the training room but will not be participating in the session. Recently, we have used a waiter at the hotel and one of the bosses who was observing the training session. Explain to this confederate what is going to happen in the jolt. Ask him or her indicate a preference for the picture of an ugly dog during the jolt.


Organize teams. Divide the participants into teams of 3 to 5 people. Seat each team around a table.

Distribute the supplies. Give each team a sheet of paper and a box of crayons or color pencils.

Explain the task. Tell each team that they will must draw a picture within a 2-minute time limit.

List the choices. Tell the teams that the picture could show any one of these subjects: mountain, pond, rainbow, tiger, or an ugly dog. Emphasize that the teams have to select only one of these subjects.

Conduct the activity. Blow the whistle and start the stop watch. Tell the teams to get started and remind them of the 2-minute time limit. At the end of two minutes, blow the whistle again and ask the teams to stop drawing.

Introduce the customer. Introduce your confederate as the buyer for a museum that specializes in primitive art. Ask each team to show its picture to this customer so he (or she) could select the preferred one. As prearranged, the customer selects the picture of the ugly dog. If there is no such picture, the customer rejects all the pictures and explains that his (or her) heart is set on an ugly dog.


Conduct a debriefing discussion. Ask these types of questions:

  1. Why did you not ask, ‘Who is this picture for’?
  2. Did you analyze the customer’s needs?
  3. Did you ask the customer for his or her preferred subject?
  4. What medium and what picture size does the customer prefer?
  5. What else could you have asked the customer?
  6. Not all team members were occupied in drawing the picture. Why did you not assign the customer-care function to one of your team members?

Discuss the excuses. Ask the teams to explain why they ignored the customer. Share these typical excuses and discuss how legitimate each one of them is:

  1. We did not have enough time.
  2. Nobody told us there will be a customer.
  3. We selected the easiest subject to draw.
  4. Nobody in our team has any artistic talent.
  5. We had too many people in our team.
  6. The customer does not have good taste and we don’t want to compromise our artistic standards.

Learning Points

  1. There is always a customer, and this customer is always right.
  2. It is easy to ignore the customer. It is dangerous to ignore the customer.
  3. Different members of a team could be performing different functions.