Change is often unwelcome in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with a group of employees or a team from the C-suite. When change is necessary, it’s important to lean on team building to help.
Team building provides a constructive way to navigate change. It can unite teams and help them work through new experiences together. Here are several change management team building activity ideas to help your group survive and thrive during a period of change.
Also, absolutely make sure to watch this excellent talk about transformation by Simon Sinek.
Team building activities that provide structure and enhance communication
The primary goal of change management — especially as it relates to teams — is simple. It aims to implement a new strategy or process in your business with minimal negative impact on your team.
While straightforward, change management is anything but easy. It requires purposeful structure and plenty of communication. Here are a few change team building activities to smooth that process.
1. Create a business idea
Best for: Encouraging flexibility while collaborating.
Teams operate well when they’re structured. Everyone knows their place and has their role. When you tamper with that arrangement, it can throw everyone off.
This exercise helps teams overcome this tendency. You can try it by:
- Splitting your team into multiple groups. (If you’re online, try assigning every group to their own rooms.)
- Ask each group to come up with a business idea.
- Require details, like assigned roles for each person.
- Part way through the exercise, switch multiple individuals from one group to another.
- Ask everyone to adjust to the change, finish the activity, and then present their business plans to the entire group.
This is a great way to help your team adjust to change on the fly and learn to think on their feet. It can also help them hone their collective problem-solving abilities.
Pro tip: If you want to really challenge your group, change people around twice during the exercise.
2. Directly elicit feedback
Best for: Gauging the mental state and feelings of your team.
Communication is a critical part of the change management process. It’s easy for an individual to feel unheard or cubbyholed during periods of intense change.
To avoid this, hold a feedback session. This candid activity is a respectful way to gauge your team’s thoughts regarding any ongoing changes. When a leader is willing to listen first and talk second, it cultivates trust and camaraderie within your group.
Pro tip: Try to use reflective listening as you receive feedback. Strive to hear, understand, and then communicate that understanding back to the speaker.
3. Have a “fishbowl discussion”
Best for: Teaching structured communication.
It’s common for change to stoke insecurity in people. When that happens, they can become controlling. Insecure individuals might try to dominate conversations or make solo decisions.
When that happens, have a “fishbowl discussion.” To do this:
- Set up a circle of chairs for less than half of your team (we’ll use 8 chairs as an example). If you’re team building online, simply announce that only 8 individuals can have their microphones unmuted at a time.
- Select 6 team members to sit in all but two of the seats. If online, pick 6 people to unmute their microphones for the entire activity and announce that up to 8 people can be unmuted at a time.
- Give your seated/unmuted group “in the fishbowl” a topic to discuss or a problem to solve and 10 minutes in which to do so.
- Have those outside the fishbowl take turns participating in the conversation up to 2 at a time. However, they can only interject during a break in the conversation or if they receive permission from you.
This is a great communication exercise that helps your team remember to include everyone in group activities. It forces them to observe restrictive structures and encourages active listening.
Change management team building activities that soften pushback
Humans work in rhythms and routines. They don’t like it when they’re interrupted and disoriented. When change happens, members of your team will often push back.
If you feel resistance from your group, it’s important to address it. Here are a few team building activities for change management to assist in that process.
4. Have dinner with an alien
Best for: Helping your team open up to change as a positive element.
Start this team building option by choosing an activity. You could have a meal, conduct a meeting, or even go for a walk as a group. If you’re online, simply gather on a video chat and play a game or a similar activity.
Before you begin that activity, select someone to be “the alien.” Task them with analyzing what everyone else does. Ask them to note behavior, mannerisms, and conversations. When you’ve completed the activity, ask “the alien” to report their findings.
This is a great way to help set an open-minded tone when navigating change. It’s particularly useful right before announcing a major adjustment or transition.
Pro tip: Don’t hesitate to dig deep here. Ask the alien about subtle things, like facial expressions, idiomatic phrases, and even observed personal perspectives.
5. Play a round of The Ups and Downs of Change
Best for: Stoking self analyzation in regards to change.
For this activity, all you need to do is come up with a list of change-related terms. “Transition,” “adjustment,” “variation,” and “transformation” are a few good ones. You can use a thesaurus to come up with others.
Begin to say these words out loud. Each time you do, ask your team to give you a thumbs up, a thumbs down, or a thumbs sideways. These should depend on if the word made them feel positive, negative, or indifferent, respectively.
Follow up with each round and ask your group to consider how they’re responding.
Pro tip: Have your team write down how many of each response they give over time. The overall results can be quite revealing.
6. Try the Four P’s
Best for: Disarming concerned group members through open communication.
If you’re getting a lot of pushback from your team regarding a change, try a round of the activity called the Four P’s. All you need to do is:
- Write down on a whiteboard — or post on an online whiteboard — the words Project, Purpose, Particulars, and People.
- Ask everyone to write down one major concern that they have about how a change will impact each of the four categories.
- Gather each person’s responses and go over them as a group.
This is a good way to let your team “air their grievances” in a constructive manner. It can also help alert you, as a leader, to trouble areas within your team’s dynamic.
Team building games about change
Often the degree to which change impacts individuals varies from one team member to the next. Even so, change can be a major overall stressor on your team.
When you notice stress wearing down a team in transition, use these fun activities and games to keep your group unified and positive.
7. Solve a gamified problem together
Best for: Learning to work together through a crisis.
Change isn’t a bad thing. But it sure can feel like it at times. When your team is struggling to adapt to change, take some time to solve a problem together.
These activities work both in person and online. There’s nothing quite like putting your team in a high-pressure situation to get them used to collaborating out of their comfort zone.
Pro tip: These are fun activities. However, make sure to get the most out of them by following up afterward and discussing how your team learned to navigate a problem together.
8. Count together …zen style
Best for: Relaxing and working together as a team.
Zen counting is a great way to practice team building and communication in a relaxed, gamified environment. It’s also a free team building game that is quick, easy, and remote friendly. All you have to do is:
- Gather your group in a meeting or online.
- Pick a number to count to and select someone to start the counting.
- Inform the group that they must count together, taking turns, without anyone interrupting one another.
- If anyone interrupts, the group needs to start over.
- Play until you reach the number or you decide to end the activity.
This is a short and sweet game to kick off meetings during times of change management. It encourages everyone to work together and helps them get comfortable and on the same page on a consistent basis.
9. Play 10 Things in Common
Best for: Building camaraderie and trust during times of change.
This next one doubles as a great agile team building activity. Why? Because it’s a good way to help your team bond and work together as a single unit.
All you need to do is tell your team that they have 10 minutes to find 10 things that they have in common. When the time’s up, have them share their findings.
This is a fun way to help your team connect. It also provides a sense of togetherness and familiarity, even when things are in flux around them.
Team building during times of change
Change management is an umbrella term. It takes into account all of the structural and communicative elements that need to take place during a time of change — including team building.
If your team is struggling to stay motivated, productive, and calm during times of change, it’s important to take steps to bring them together and encourage them. Use the team building activities for change listed above to help your team not just survive but thrive, even when the work world around them is unpredictable or uncomfortable.