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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Change-Ability


Sometimes I do not realize that I’m onto something. I’ve been facilitating this game called Helium Stick in my team building workshops for a number of years and didn’t realize that I’ve been doing some kind of social experiment all along. I will share with you today my observations, conclusions and suggestions on how to apply what I’ve learned from playing and facilitating this learning game.

The rule of the game is simple. The team must bring the stick from eye-level down to the ground but they have to make sure that everyone’s index finger touches the stick all the time like shown in the photo or else they have to start all over again. Looks easy right? But it’s not. Is there one best strategy for the team to beat the challenge? As far I know, there’s none. I learned though that there is a common key to success. And this is what I’ll share today.
First, I realized that the strategy itself is not important.

I’ve seen team use identical strategies with varying results. One team’s lousy strategy could be another team’s secret to success. A lot of things go into the execution of a strategy. Leadership, personalities, talents and limitations can get in the way. I think that what makes a strategy works is its suitability with the personality or culture of the team. The teams that win are the ones who are able to find the right strategy. Most often, they find it after trying a host of other strategies and failing. I have never seen a team that stuck with one strategy and succeeded and I mean never.

I also noticed that the teams whose members are too polite to say that the strategy is not working, take longer to finish…or never finish. The team whose members cannot tell a team-mate he is not performing well, is bound to drag themselves to the finish line if they ever get there.

The teams who recognize that they have to try out several strategies at the onset and decide to build a system for gathering suggestions, execution, and changing strategy often finish ahead of others.

In my previous posts, I mentioned trust, open communication, conflict management and collaboration are the keys to teamwork. This exercise proves that they are. I noticed however that some teams still fail despite this because they miss one key. I like to call it “Change-Ability” or the ability to change. Just to make sure you understand me clearly, I’m not talking about “changeability” or the tendency to change.

My conclusion is not original. It only serves to confirm what many others have said about change. How important it is and how important it is to build a strategy for managing it. For many, the matters of managing change comes naturally for many others, it’s not. In fact a lot of times change is avoided even at times when they are most necessary.

Here’s my call to action. Have a change management strategy. If you need help, let me know.

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