In order to be successful in meeting final project deliverables, teams need to be fully engaged and connected, — but this is not always the case. Engaging in team building exercises helps to establish and solidify the linkages between individual and group contributions to meet project goals. Here are six fun exercises that can strengthen team communication, strategic thinking, resource planning, ideation, budgeting, troubleshooting, and can help reduce stress.
1. The grapevine
In this exercise, one person thinks of a sentence, phrase, or instruction that they need to get across. They quietly share their message with only one team member. That team member writes down what they heard without letting anyone in the group see it and then quietly whispers the message to the next person who does the same thing, and so on. The last person in the group shares the message they wrote down. The goal of this exercise is to figure out how many times the message was decoded differently than intended by tracing each iteration. This helps team members focus on improving how attentive they are when they listen to others and how well they interpret messages.
2. Who do you think I am?
Each person in the project team is given a list with all the team members names on the left of the page and a key skill or attribute list on the right. They will need to draw a line from each name to the skill or attribute that best matches that person. Their name is also on that list, and they need to match their name to a skill or attribute as well. The project manager gathers all the information, summarizes the findings, and shares it with the team at the next meeting. This helps each team member identify how they see themselves in terms of strengths compared with how their team members view their strengths. This helps each person recognize their true strengths and leverage the strengths of others on the team.
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3. MacGyver it
The project team is broken down into smaller groups of two to four people and each group is given a few miscellaneous items that can be used to complete the same assigned task. Each person within the group has to think of how they can use the items to complete the task and then compare their solution with their team members' solutions. The groups have a set amount of time to get the assigned task completed. This exercise helps teams troubleshoot, and practice their strategic thinking as individuals and as a group.
4. Life raft
In this exercise, the project team is broken down into smaller groups and tasked with finding a way to successfully get the entire team balanced on a small space that is not meant to easily accommodate the entire group. The group must be able to balance all members for a specified amount of time without any member falling outside of the space. The goal of this exercise is to build the concept of inclusion, teamwork, and the sharing of resources.
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5. Something out of nothing
Similar to "MacGyver it," the project team will need to be divided into smaller groups and given several items. The team is not given specific instructions on how to use the items. Instead, they are asked to figure out what and how they can build or create something useful with the items in a limited amount of time as if they were stranded on an island or remote location. This exercise is used to help the team with brainstorming and innovation under stressful conditions.
6. Shoestring budget
In this last exercise, a project team is given a project and a highly limited budget and tasked with figuring out how they will complete an assigned project. The entire project team works together on this exercise to complete the task within a limited timeframe as well. The goal of this exercise is to help the project team work together within strict requirements, prioritize, compromise as a team, and find ways to think creatively.
Exercises like these can be fun while building skills and improving how individuals and their teams communicate, brainstorm, prioritize, troubleshoot and work together. Using a combination of these exercises can help focus on specific aspects of working in sub-teams or a team as a whole.
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Moira Alexander is the author of "LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership" and Founder & President of Lead-Her-Ship Group. She's also a project management and IT freelance columnist for various publications, and a contributor and co-host of the "technically speaking" segment on the Price of Business Talk Radio. She has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada. To find out more about Moira, go to www.leadhershipgroup.com.