To demonstrate issues associated with change I recommend this activity which works with any team size and requires about 10 minutes. No materials are needed for this activity.
You will need a space large enough to have the team to stand and “pair up” into groups of two. Introduce this activity as a way to demonstrate the effects of change. Ask the team members to stand up and find a partner.
Tell them to look at their partner carefully. Then ask them to turn “back to back” and make five changes to their appearance. As a facilitator, you may want to pair up with someone to demonstrate your instructions. Typically, the group will be very quiet and intent on its task.
After a minute, ask the team members to turn around, face each other, and identify the five changes to their appearance. At this point, you will probably hear lots of laughter! Roam around and ask how many changes the partners identified.
Ask them to turn “back to back” and make eight more changes. You may hear some moans and groans, and some may even “check-out.” That’s okay!
After a few minutes, ask them to turn around, face each other, and identify the eight changes. Roam around and ask how many changes were made and identified.
Debrief and Summarize
After all have had a chance to identify the changes, debrief the activity:
- Tell us what happened in this activity.
- How did you feel when asked to make eight additional changes? (Show them how easy it could be to “change your appearance” by picking up thirteen cents, or by picking up thirteen markers, etc. Team members will invariably respond by saying “You broke the rules!” You coyly respond, “What rules?”)
- Ask if anyone “benchmarked” your (the facilitator’s) demonstration. After all, the facilitator has been through the exercise before, and they should have observed what you did to make the changes!
From your specific observations as well as the discussion, summarize the key issues traditionally associated with change initiatives:
- People tend to focus inward when faced with change.
- People forget to look beyond themselves when faced with change issues – even when the answer is in plain sight.
- They also tend to impose boundaries and ground rules on themselves that don’t really exist.
- Too much change frustrates people.
- People don’t share their feelings when stressed by change.
- We make change too hard.
Conclude this activity by summarizing the key points. Ask them to be open-minded as they continue with their team’s work.
Inspired by Larry Mercier
If you like this activity, check out my book, Team Energizers, for 49 other team activities!