Team Building Activity: Tug of War

Posted by Kristin Arnold on January 11, 2018

This is a terrific activity to creatively demonstrate the use of the force-field analysis “tool.” This exercise is ideal for 8 or more people and requires 10 minutes. You will need a long rope with red tape in middle and a pen.

Use a space large enough for 8 people to have a tug of war in front of the team. Explain to the team that there are a lot of forces “driving” the team to move in a new direction. Ask for 4 volunteers to line up on one side of you.

Explain to the team that there are a lot of forces “restraining” or keeping the team from moving in a new direction. Ask for 4 more volunteers to line up on the other side of you.

Explain to the team that whenever you are trying to change something, there are driving forces and restraining forces – much like a tug of war. Then let the teams pull on each side, trying to “win.”

Debrief and Summarize

From this discussion, debrief the activity:

  • So what happened?
  • Who won? (Typically, no one really wins…)
  • Does this happen when we try to institute a change?
  • What are some of the reasons for this? (It’s important to understand where people are coming from and why they are pulling so hard.)
  • Is there a “show-stopper” in the crowd? (Sometimes, there’s a legal, safety or ethical reason why we can’t move forward.)
  • How might we be able to ensure we can move in the new direction?
    • Bolster the strengths (add people, muscle, etc.).
    • Mitigate the restraining forces (take away people, muscle, etc.).

Inspired by Beth Scolton

If you like this activity, check out my book, Team Energizers, for 49 other team activities!

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

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