|Last week, I Facilitated A Business Simulation With A Management Team On The East Coast.
With 30 minutes remaining, the Chief Administrative Officer’s mobile rang with a small crisis and he stepped out of the room to address it, leaving his team to figure out what to do in his absence.
They stopped playing.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Waiting,” they replied.
“You’re aware of the time frame? You know you won’t achieve your goal if you stop now.”
“Yes, but what are we supposed to do???”
Most of the working world has this hidden agreement: That we stop and wait when a team member, especially a leader, steps away. We allow critical projects to stall — out of a strange combination of confusion, fear and consideration.
In the case of this simulation, the team was afraid their actions would make the game worse for him.
“But,” I asked, “instead of taking actions that would harm him, could you represent his interests while he is gone and keep things moving?”
Most of us have been playing in a business world that has taught us the false choice of acting against someone’s interests or not acting at all.
Asked how often this happens in their world, the resounding response was, “All the time!” And it was costing them literally millions of dollars a year.
The unpredictable is actually quite predictable. People who matter get called out to deal with other projects, get sick, go on vacation, take other opportunities, deal with family crises, and so on. And when a team stops and waits, the costs are high, especially when your organization is facing a regulatory audit, a competitive threat, a financial deadline or some other pressure.
In the debrief, we surfaced this real issue quickly and safely and discussed a recovery plan that could make all the difference.
This is the power of simulation. Simulation gets people ready to play at their highest level — in part by alerting them to the hidden choices they make every day.
Most importantly, as a group they demonstrated and accepted that the value of a team is its ability to pick up the slack when any given team member is pulled away. Simulation allowed them to see what went unnoticed in the rush of “real work.”
Taking the time to examine the way you play can change everything when it is time to put that knowledge to use.
To improve how your team plays, there is no substitute for practice.