Organization Level Communication TEAM ACTIVITY


Communications within an organization is very often a challenge and managers are often unaware of how challenging it really can be for employees to fully understand a message. Working in a matrix style organization can further add to the complexity of correctly interpreting communicated messages from the various managerial directions.

The Organizational Level Communication activity  resource link

This team activity/exercise helps teams or groups to experience some of these challenges and therefore motivates participants to take a new look at how they are communicating in their own organizations and if they could possibly make improvements. The Organizational Level Communication activity can be run with groups of different sizes since the large group is split into smaller groups of 5 each for this exercise.persons org chart for activity

When you are left with less than 4 people after creating the small groups, add each of them to other small groups of 5 and give them the handout of Person E. Do not run the exercise with a small group of less than 4 people since it will impact the dynamics you are able to create for the small group.

Make sure you give the participants enough time to complete their reading of the handouts they each receive since the exercise is and looks simple, but it is very important that they understand the words and symbols they are to use for communicating with each other. Move among the reading groups of participants to answer any individual questions that may exist before you start the exercise.

The resource contains details of the set-up, the activity rules, the handouts that should be given to participants and also materials and room space needed. Debrief questions about the activity and discussion question options are also covered.

The indication is for the actual exercise to last between 10 and 15 minutes. You may need to use your own judgment regarding when to stop the exercise. Most of the small groups must have had the opportunity for all persons to exchange at least a few notes with those they are permitted to communicate with. This makes for a richer debrief and discussion session afterwards.

You can add your own discussion questions depending on the reasons why you felt this group of people needed to go through this activity and the changes you are hoping to bring about in the group/organization that they belong to.

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Icebreaker Advertising boards


postersThis icebreaker works well with new teams or when you have had quite a few members of a team change.  The time, materials and space requirements are very economical so this is easy to combine with early team meetings. Running this exercise can help you lead a new team into the right discussions to break down barriers to trust among (new) team members.

Advertising board Icebreaker resource link

The Advertising board Icebreaker is a simple exercise which requires very limited instructions to get started and completed. The most valuable part is most likely the debriefing questions you (as the facilitator) choose to use: (some options)

  • Did anyone see something on an advertising board that was surprising about team members?
  • What are the strengths you think this team has?
  • Where do you think this team could get into trouble (given these team members and what you now know about them?)

I would recommend that you use this exercise as part of a series of exercises to help new teams succeed in the long run. The Team Effectiveness Snapshot can be a great follow-up tool to introduce to the new team to help them on their journey of trust building and achieving a high level of performance.

Brand-new teams typically work well since most of the team members are “playing nice” at first, but as the team moves through the various stages of team formation  things can change. Most teams never make it out of the Storming phase so early introduction of team orientation, induction and assessment tools to help teams understand naturally occurring team dysfunctions can help them deal with these situations successfully. The advertising board icebreaker is a great way for teams in forming mode to break through the “niceness” and go a little deeper into the “who are you really” and “what do you bring to this team” discussion.

Conflict Resolution between Teams ACTIVITY


Teams or groups mostly get upset with each other due to ill-defined or badly executed processes or unclear interface issues between them. There are of course other reasons too, but whatever the cause inter-team upsets can cause an overall failure to perform according to expectations and a project/location not achieving planned business objectives and targets.

Intergroup conflict and effectiveness

The resource I am sharing is a process that can be used to help two (or more) teams/groups work through their issues with each other and how they are impacting each other.

The Conflict Resolution Activity is described in terms of set-up, process steps including some estimated timing for each of the steps along the way.  The timing is based on only two groups/teams working through the process. If you add teams/groups, do add additional presentation and discussion time to the combined portions of the process.

The process requires at least one facilitator provided the combined groups comprise of no more than 18 people. If you combine more than two groups I would also consider having an additional facilitator to assist in the breakout sessions. The opening and closing sessions should be attended by one senior manager or executive that interfaces with all of the attending groups – to make opening comments to set the scene and establish the importance of the meeting and also to close off the event with encouraging and appreciative comments.

Conflict Resolution Activity resource link

Note:

  • The process is flexible and it would be up to you, as the facilitator, to make judgment calls along the way. Looking at how you are doing on timing and how well the process is going you may choose to avoid the second breakout session and instead have that discussion in the combined-group setting.
  • This process may not work well if the inter-group/team dysfunctions have been going on for quite some time and the frustration levels are high. In such cases I would recommend that you prepare for the session by first doing a pre-session interview with all or most of the intended participants. That way you can prepare for the event having a clear understanding of the issues at hand and the mindsets of those that will be attending. This may cause you to choose for a more comprehensive intervention.
  • If more than one facilitator is involved, do make sure every facilitator is completely aware of how the process will work. This is especially important when you choose to make some changes along the way – i.e. skipping the 2nd breakout session in favor of a large group discussion on the same topic.  It can be quite frustrating for groups/teams when they receive mismatched instructions from different facilitators for the activity they are to complete.

Evaluate balance in life TEMPLATE


Some coaches I have met like to use a tool to help someone they coach look at his or her own life and how they are running their lives from a big picture perspective as opposed to just focusing on one specific aspect of someone’s life like their career success. A coach typically uses a tool like this one to help someone work on their values and how those priorities show up in their life choices or as a check-up maybe once a year to see how things are going in terms of having a balanced life. People dealing with signs of burn-out may also benefit from using this kind of tool with their coach to see where their lives may not be balanced or may not be a good reflection of their values or the aspects that they say are their highest priorities.

Evaluate Life tool resource link

The Evaluate Life tool can help facilitate the evaluation of one’s “life set-up” and discussions around having a balanced life – the importance thereof and how to achieve it through specific goal-setting in each area (named pizza-slices in the attachment). Sometimes people tell me that a specific area is not important to them and this may be best explored by their coaches. In my opinion a tool like this is most valuable to help create awareness around the importance of having a balanced life and to support subsequent goal-setting for improving specific areas of a life.

Interpreting the results from this kind of tool is best done with someone who has experience in this area – like a coach or a trained mentor or even someone with the right experience and background within the HR or Learning and Development departments.

Inbox Exercise Example


Inbox exercises are often used when there is an evaluation of leadership/management style and skills or training in time management, judgment or decision-making. I believe the value of this resource lies in revealing the thought processes of an exercise participant. While you can score the number of pages completed within the allotted time or how many of the actions aligned with what is deemed “correct” in your company (and desired company culture) the highest value (for me) is the coaching conversations that can be had around the reasons that the actions were chosen.

The attached Inbox Exercise  requires you to print out items and provide them to intended participants in the exercise. The first page describes the situation which you should share with the participant(s) of the exercise. The next two pages are for your eyes only and help you to understand the set-up and what you, as the facilitator, should do. The section that follows behind the “Worksheet” page is provided to participants once the Q and A portion of the instructions discussion is over.

Inbox Exercise resource link

Considerations:

  • If you choose to include priory setting as one of the test elements, consider using something like the Eisenhower/Covey matrix:

eisenhower covey priority box

You can read more about it here : Priority matrix write-up  If you decide to                  include priority-setting as an element, this  approach will give you a  better                  foundation for debriefing discussions.

  • You can use this exercise with a class of participants and then I would suggest you have each participant check the work of his/her neighbor once the exercise has been timed-out. Read out the action considered best for each of the incidents and assign a score for correct answers. Of course you can use your own judgment when some participants have similar answers/responses, but just worded it differently.
  • I prefer to use this with a small group of people who are in a coaching program. The results of their work can then be debriefed more fully with their coaches who can explore their responses deeper by asking questions around : how did they interpret the note/incident? Why did they choose that action? Did they consider other options? If so, which ones? How/why did they decide to select that particular action? How did the limited time impact their thinking and responses?

I am a firm believer in leaders learning through reflection. The hardest part about that for any leader is gaining awareness of his or her own style or impact or how to make something visible that is subconscious. Examples could be own motivations, unknown assumptions they make about their world and those they work with, how they really make decisions etc. Exercises like these can help by specifically tasking individuals with making decisions in a short time-frame which could increase pressure and therefore may highlight paradigm blind-spots.

Some Ice Breaker Questions


meeting (2)

Starting a meeting or dealing with the after-lunch session involving a group of people often requires that you use some sort of ice breaking exercise or activity to help participants get to know each other better, have some fun and in many cases move around the room a bit. Most facilitators have their own set of ice breaking activities and exercises in their mind in case they need it. If you are new at it, you may need some inspiration though.

Ice Breaker Questions resource link

This list of Ice Breaker Questions can be used to help you. You can do this in a few ways:

  1. Use it to start the meeting and incorporate the introductions and capture expectations at the same time. Ask each participant to share his/her name, location, role, expectations for the session/day and then answer one of the questions on the list. (There is a reason to ask them to share their answer to one of the questions AFTER they stated their expectations – so you have time to write down their expectations on a flip-chart before the next participant starts sharing)
  2. Use it at the start of the meeting. Ask participants to get up and introduce themselves to others sharing their answer to the question and asking the other person to share their answer. Let them mingle in this way for about 5 to 10 minutes (depending on the size of your group). Ask them to return to their seats and ask a volunteer (or a few) to share the most surprising response they heard.
  3. If the group is small (12 people or less). Ask each person to provide an answer to the question on a post-in note. Collect all of them. Read out the answer and have participants try to guess who responded in this way. (Rules for this exercise includes that the writer of the answer cannot participate in guessing who wrote it).
  4. If you have more time, you can do this: ask each participant to guess what others would answer to a question, and put it on a post-it note. [You can assign who should guess which other participant’s responses to ensure everyone in the room will be covered. I would not have anyone guess more than 3 responses or it will take a really long time to complete the activity.] Once everyone has guessed and wrote down their guesses, they start finding one of the people that they were assigned to guess a response for and discuss their guess with the other person. What did they guess and why? The other person shares his/her real answer to the question. Then they split and find the next person that they have guessed an answer for. Sometimes some waiting may be involved if none of the people are available for a discussion around the guessed response. When everyone has completed the conversations you can debrief the group with questions like: How often were you right in what you guessed the other person would say? Did you learn anything surprising from those you talked to ? (aspects of his/her personality that you had no idea about?) How accurate do you think guessing is when it comes to how other people think?

Ice breakers can be really effective in breaking down barriers to making contact with people you have never met before at a meeting or training event. Yes, extroverts mostly don’t have any difficulties approaching and talking to strangers, but introverts often do. These kinds of exercises help everyone to get to know each other without feeling too inhibited during the initial contact moments.

Problem Solving Template


puzzle (2)

The most frustrating part of noticing that outcomes planned are not achieved is trying to figure out where exactly things are going wrong. Sometimes it could be an object or piece of equipment that is not working well. It could also be a process that is at fault or perhaps it is human action or inaction that is causing the lack of performance. The resource I am sharing helps one to work through the known facts about the lack of performance and what is generally known about the equipment, process or activities needed to make the planned outcomes materialize in a structured manner. This offers a better chance that the root cause leading to the lack of performance can be discovered.

The Problem Solving Template is MSWord format and consists of a table. The What, Where, When and How Big aspects are covered in column one and discovering the differences between what is known and observed vs known about how things should work is covered in the rest of the columns. The last column is an opportunity to reflect on what is written in the other columns, notice the differences between what is observed and what is known about how things should work to identify possible root causes for the lack of performance.

The Problem Solving Template link

It may seem tedious at first to complete the information indicated, but when the reasons or causes are less obvious this is a great way to summarize what you know about the situation in one place. We often know more than we realize and we simply need a way to put things together logically to spot the reasons behind a malfunctioning element in a failing piece of equipment or a process.

This tool can be used by an individual or in a group context. Sometimes it helps to have more than one person look at the same information and brainstorm through the elements shown in this template to get to the root cause(s). I also recommend that you retain a copy of this completed template to serve as a “lessons learned” to others.  I believe each one of us and every company/team should continuously strive to learn to remain competitive and innovative (creative). Others may be able to solve future issues by reviewing your completed sheet for the issue you solved.

How to set priorities in an action plan


After a survey, a brainstorming session or a discussion it is often true that you end up with a long list of actions that should be put into an action plan. With many actions, a small number of people available to execute on those actions while also doing their normal day jobs and possibly low funds available for some of the actions this could seem overwhelming.  At such a time it becomes really important that you are somehow able to prioritize the list of actions to focus your limited resources and funds on the most important actions. But which ones are more important than the others?

The Priority Setting resource I am sharing with you contains a section where you can enter all of the actions you have in the text column – simply replace the example statements I have there with your own actions. The next column is called Ease of Implementation. Consider how many people you would need to dedicate to an implementation, how long will it take? How much do you need to spend/invest in order to implement this action? If it will take a lot of people working intensively and it may cost a lot to invest – for example in buying expensive licences to a software package/system – then you should score that action closer to a 1 for this column. The harder it is to implement the lower the score should be. Your scores in this column should be between 1 and 5.

Priority Setting resource link.

The next column is called Impact Potential. This column requires a score for each action item in terms of how much will it improve your business or move you closer to achieving your strategies and business goals if you had this action completed? If the impact will be low then your score should be closer to 1. Low would mean that employees and customers would barely notice the difference after implementation. It could also mean you would not gain much strategic advantage, market share improvements, long-term positioning, synergies, major cost savings or any other business impact that would be noticeable. The scores in this column should be between 1 and 5.

The graph with dots will be generated automatically on the electronic worksheet after you have put in your actions and the scores as indicated. The numbers appearing next to the dots are the numbers that correlate with your list of actions. Use the graphic below that to interpret your score results and understand which actions you should prioritize over overs.

prioritising actions legend

If your dots appear in one of the yellow sections, you have some questions to ponder. If you can solve the question in each case you may be able to move that particular action into a different “zone” by changing the score. This means you are able to for example make it easier to implement by solving an issue which made it particularly difficult to implement. Or it could mean you realize the business impact is bigger than you previously realized because the company could gain a competitive edge if you implemented that particular action.  Your final action plan for immediate focus areas should contain those actions which finally end up in the green zone on the legend.

Be sure to communicate the reasoning behind your high priority actions to the key stakeholders in the outcomes of the action plan. They may have additional insights to share which could further cause you to change the scoring of actions.

You can use the Action Plan posted here to capture the actions that you will implement, monitor status of and report on regularly.

Functional Capability Analysis Example


Wanting to improve on how a function, such as Human Resources (HR), performs requires one to analyse the difference between your expectations for the function, the norm in the marketplace for that kind of function and of course reality. The resource I am sharing today helps you look at various functions/departments at a location/office and compare the reality vs what you expect to see. This knowledge or insight helps you plan your approach going forward.

What you expect from a function could be a mixture of what you know is considered “normal” service delivery and capability for that function at that particular location and it would also contain operational expectations based on your strategy. For example: you may have a strategy to gain more marketshare by applying your IT department in different ways to support R&D and that means your expectation for the service delivery and capability of the IT function may be higher than what is considered “normal” in the marketplace for the location where you are at.

Functional Capability Plotting is an excel spreadsheet which helps you rate existing functions at a location against expectations for capability and service delivery. You may also wish to split those two topics into two different graphs in case you feel that there may be differences in your ratings. (The graph is generated automatically when you have filled in the scores in the yellow and orange cells)

Functional Capability Plotting  resource link

When you have completed the analysis portion using the attached resource, consider this: what do you need to Stabilize in the next year? [situations that are fluctuating/not stable or actually currently meeting expectations so do not make any further changes just maintain status quo]. What do you need to Improve and Develop? What do you need to leverage and incorporate in your value propositions going forward? [Where are you currently doing better than customers know and/or you are far better than the norm and it is giving you a previously unknown edge?]

Knowing the capability and service delivery for each of the functions at your location can help you map out operational and organizational development priorities when you review how important these functions are to achieving your strategic goals. Any changes you need to make to up-skill a function or change the mindset or management approach in a function can be documented by using an Action Plan. (The Action Plan shared in this post can help with that).

Coaching Effectiveness Survey


While it is a good idea for coaches to periodically discuss how well the process may be working for those that they are coaching, it is also a good idea for HR/Learning and Development to get feedback on the coaching program on an annual basis. Occasional informal feedback from the person being coached to the coach directly may help the coach improve the person’s coaching experience and outcomes reached. A formal annual survey helps the department responsible for managing and monitoring the coaching program to understand a few things:

  • General questions that coaching participants may still have about the process or program objectives
  • How to improve the training of coaches to improve developmental outcomes
  • How well the relationships are working between coaches and those being coached. Perhaps an intervention may be needed in cases where a high level of dissatisfaction is recorded?
  • Whether the coaching process is working well in general – meetings are held on a regular basis and the right topics are being discussed.

The coaching effectiveness survey contains questions you may want to consider for your annual survey and it also contains some suggested wording in an email to those who are being coached to introduce the survey and its purposes.

The coaching effectiveness survey  link

Gather the survey feedback and analyze it for overall coaching program effectiveness, but also look at individual responses to see if anyone is having a particularly negative view about his or her coach or the coaching process.  When you take action on individual responses pay close attention to the confidentiality statement you put in the email that went with the survey. Do not reveal someone’s input to his or her coach unless it was expressly established that the survey respondent consent to this course of action. Also use the information gathered from the survey to improve your orientation slides for the next coaching program and to improve future training you offer to coaches.

Other coaching resources that may be useful for setting up your coaching program: preparing for coaching, coaching questions, coaching program orientation slides.