We have devised a working method to make teams feel how autonomy and self-management work – and how powerful it is. And the nice thing: you immediately demonstrate flow . We use the metaphor of the intersection and the roundabout. It takes some preparation, but then you also have something
- Large empty floor space of at least 5 x 5 meters
- Painter’s tape (only do two rolls)
- A chair or similar object
- Minimum 10 participants
Make a large intersection on the floor with tape. Make sure the ‘roads’ are at least 1.20 meters wide.
- The participants – the cars – line up in equal numbers in front of the roads leading to the intersection
- Their task is to cross the intersection directly
ROUND 1: CROSSING POINT
- In the first round you play a crossroads with traffic lights. This is a metaphor for an organization that is governed by rules and processes.
- The participants cross the intersection with no more than one car at a time from opposite directions.
- Then the traffic light will turn red and only when the car has completely crossed, the traffic light to its left (clockwise) will turn green so that the opposite cars can cross in the other road. Here too one at a time.
- Do this for two minutes and, as a facilitator, count how many cars have crossed
ROUND 2: THE READY-OVER
- In this situation, you play that the traffic lights are off and a ready-over controls the flow. This is a metaphor for an organization controlled by managers.
- Ask one of the participants to be the manager or do it yourself as a facilitator.
- The manager moves to the center of the intersection. His task is to keep two vehicles through, one from each direction.
- The manager raises his hand as a stop sign to the cars that have to stop and beckons to the cars that are allowed to cross.
- Do this for two minutes and count how many cars have crossed
Discuss the findings with the team. Go deeper into the metaphor of the intersection with traffic lights and the one with the ready-over. Ask for the alternative – you do not call the exercise ‘intersection and roundabout’
Discuss the roundabout as a concept and then let the cars line up again.
ROUND 3: ROUND-ROUND
Place a chair in the center of the intersection to create a roundabout. In this round there are no rules, everyone can cross at the same time, as long as the cars do not touch each other. Again two minutes and crossed cars count
Discuss the insights and differences. What does it take from the organization and management to become a roundabout? What does this say about self-management and autonomy?
Make sure to remove the tape soon after the exercise to prevent damage to the floor. Never stick it on an expensive wooden floor anyway.