Dr. Jim Anderson recently hosted a workshop for new IT managers to learn how to better work in teams. The purpose of the workshop was to take IT workers who up until recently had been individual contributors and show them just how powerful working in teams can be.
The workshop started out by having each of the members of the audience introduce themselves and explain the type of job that they were currently doing. The firm that they worked at is so large that many of the audience had perhaps seen each other in the hallway or the cafeteria, but had never spoken before.
After the introductions were done, Dr. Anderson delivered a short presentation in which he explained that their past roles as individual contributors had been leading them up to this point in time: now they were ready to become IT managers. As Dr. Anderson explained it, the trick was going to be for them to figure out just exactly what they had signed up for!
After his presentation was over, Dr. Anderson broke the audience up into four equal sized teams and presented them with both marshmallows and a box of dry spaghetti. Using these two simple ingredients, he challenged the two teams to build the tallest structure that they could. He didn’t tell them how long they had to complete this task in order to better simulate the lack of complete information that real-world projects have.
As the teams worked feverishly to complete their assigned task, natural leaders in each team rose to the surface. Additionally, there were fights and disagreements about the best way to build each structure. In the end, each of the teams built a tower, but only one built the tallest tower.
After the competition was over, Dr. Anderson had the teams take a step back and review how things had gone. Each team was amazed at the transformation that had occurred once the assignment had been given: they had transformed from a collection of individuals into a team. All of the workshop participants agreed that much was learned by all this day.
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