In this in class activity, you will be demonstrating how organizational design impacts communication. This a great experiential exercise for courses in leadership, organizational behavior, and management.
- Envelopes, each containing a piece of paper with role, role names, and symbol
- Pencils/pens (students can use their own)
- Take copier paper, and cut them into 8 separate pieces (as much as needed, depending on your class size) – each participant in the game ill need lots of small pieces of paper to write “communications”.
Setting Up The Room:
You will need to be able to move tables away. Each “team” will have eight people. If you have 24 people participating, then you will have three “teams”. The only way to modify this game is to perhaps have one manager, instead of two, or cut down on the number of workers. Your results could vary if modified. If you have a few extra people, they can be “observers”
Each team of eight will need 7 chairs, in a circle, with their backs to center of the circle. The Big Boss, two managers, and four workers will be seated in the chairs and one person will act as the “courier” delivering messages between the members of the “team”.
Instructions to the Teams:
- Have the teams get into their circles
- Each chair has the team and one person standing is the courier
- Explain that each team member, the 7 sitting in the circle, can only communicate on the small pieces of paper you have given them.
- Explain that all the information they need to complete the game is on the piece of paper that describes who they can talk to – be sure they write down who is the Big Boss, the two managers, and the workers. You can choose the roles in any way you want to, such as making the Big Boss the person that has the closest birthday to today, or have a blind draw.
- The communications they write must be given to the courier. The courier will deliver the message. Think of the courier as an “email” system.
- Explain that once the game starts, there will be NO verbal communication.
- Tell them to start
Note: The participants will be very confused in the beginning. But there are no questions to start the game. This is critical to the successful conclusion of this activity and the learning that will take place once you end the game.
Once you have the game end (you may let them work at this for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, your choice), there will be a time to discuss learning:
- It is at this point that you reveal that the Big Boss had a task to do – and did the Big Boss achieve his or her goal? Most of the time, the goal is never reached, and it is because of communication issues
- Often, the team does not realize that they need to put a “name” on their communication on the small piece of paper, thus the courier ends up with a lot of “undelivered” mail
- The Big Boss may have trouble explaining to the managers what he or she needs to know
- Because the workers have NO idea what is going on, the workers will start asking questions of the managers
- The managers become the “communication” roadblock, because they have demands from the big boss and a lot of off topic questions coming from the workers
- Some groups may turn to circumventing the rules or becoming very creative in trying to get information
A video demonstration of this exercise