Mayhem!

Ideal starter activity which identifies those with leadership potential and those who understand the benefits of cooperative working. Great fun! Highly revealing!

Learning Objectives

  • The value of cooperation (not rivalry) between work teams
  • About maintaining team performance when under pressure
  • The need for command and control
  • The need for calm and a measured approach
  • Importance of clear, agreed objectives
  • The need for active listening and attention to detail
  • The value of good communications
  • Participants

    4 teams of 3-6 per team

  • Timing

    35 minutes

  • Uses a computer?

    Not required

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The Activity

Each of the four teams nominates a leader or you, as Trainer, can nominate the leader. Leaders then receive a brief containing instructions on their particular team’s task. (Each of the four briefs is different.) After reading it through leaders return to their teams to brief them. The task is in two parts.

Part One

First, teams have 15 minutes to listen to the leaders, understand the task and plan their strategy. During this stage they can ask just three questions - in writing, to the Trainer who is bound to answer truthfully. How well will teams use this important opportunity to get to grips with what the task really entails?

On a nearby table in the training room you should place the six packs of circular playing cards – all packs randomly mixed up together but there is just one card missing (all explained in the Trainer’s notes). These constitute the shared resources with which each team needs to fulfill its particular task.

They can all achieve their objectives but because the resources are shared there is a need for organisation and planning. Tasks include making matching sets of cards, identifying a missing card and counting the number of ‘eyes’ within the pack.

Part Two

Teams have 20 minutes to work on their tasks. Now, all communications between the four teams must take place ONLY between the leaders. Under time pressure - and teams not necessarily understanding other teams’ tasks and how they might fit together - can all four teams work together to complete on time? Win-win or lose-lose?

The title Mayhem is chosen for a reason - as chaos usually ensues! The key factor is whether teams can work cooperatively together, within the deadline, to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The perfect energiser to start the day or to recharge batteries after lunch!

Trainer's Role

  • Divide participants into teams and explain the general nature of what is going to happen. Do not give away what is on the Briefs but explain that there are some shared resources (but with no details about the cards).
  • Select (or have the teams select) leaders. Call the leaders to the front and issue a Team Brief to each one.
  • Write down the current time on a flipchart or whiteboard or announce the time. Tell teams they have 15 minutes planning time and then a 20 minute Action Phase.
  • Observe how teams react to their briefing and what they discuss in terms of the questions they want answered. How well do they formulate a plan for the upcoming Action Phase?
  • Answer any questions teams have. Keep track of these to discuss later.
  • Set out the cards (the shared resources) on a separate table at the front of the room. They should be placed face-down and can be in one big pile or in six stacks or in four piles. You can try different combinations.
  • After 15 minutes announce that teams can begin the 20 minute phase where they try complete their individual tasks with the shared resources.
  • Stop the activity at the deadline.
  • Lead a discussion. Ask each team to report back on how they approached their tasks, what options they considered and what they agreed on. How well did it go? What went badly? How did they recover the situation (if at all)?
  • Relate the activity to what happens in the workplace in terms of teamwork, shared resources, working with others etc. Draw out some key lessons and consolidate the learning.

Full guidance is provided in the Trainer’s Notes.

Pack Contents

  • Trainer's Notes
  • Leader Briefs
  • Packs of circular cards x6

'Mayhem!' went down a treat and did everything I hoped it would do. Bearing in mind this was a team building event (!), here's what happened: one team decided to sidle up to the table where the cards were: other teams immediately got suspicious and I heard comments such as 'what are they doing?' and 'watch them carefully!'. When the time came to work with the cards, this team snatched them all up and started sorting through them. This caused, as you might imagine, bedlam, mayhem, screams of derision, 'what the hell are you guys doing? We need to collaborate.' - which all fell on deaf ears. Team leaders were desperately trying to negotiate, but people soon realised that team leaders had no control. Other teams decided to form commando teams and started snatching cards! Then I heard the ultimate comment: 'As much as I love to collaborate, it's more important that we hurt them!'. It was lots of fun debriefing and learning - it definitely did what it said on the tin.

C. Chin, Curious Learning

This activity quickly descended into chaos! So I intervened after 8 minutes and talked to the whole group asking a few key questions. I then reset the clock and they finished the task with 30 seconds to spare. A triumph! And loads of learning points simply tumbled out.

Steve Laing, QC Training International

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