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Nick Hindley

Norfolk County Council

Global Learning and Development Manager

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Experietnial exericses – role play scenarios – “real”/same industry situation or analogy – any views?


4 Responses

  1. Settings

    This is an interesting question Nick and one that I believe does not have a simple straightforward answer.

    The use of experiential exercises – role play is fraught with problems and the choice between ‘real’ and ‘analogous’ settings depends upon a number of variables.

    At the heart of the matter is exactly what is it we are trying to address? What is the existing or potential performance gap the target group experience and what are the settings in that situation?

    If we are trying to develop people in context specific situations which require a specific sequence and approach such as Return to Work Interviews or official disciplinary settings then I would be inclined to use those settings and situations as the driver of the role play, for two reasons:

    1.The requirement to comply with organizational operating procedures and legal requirements is unique in this setting and must be adhered to; there is essentially no equivalent or transfer to other settings of this process.

    2. The setting its self presents its own unique challenges which other scenarios do not replicate.

    However, if we are trying to develop competence in skills which are more generic and intended to be transferred to other settings and situations then the ‘managing the rock group’ *might* have some benefits.

    Depending upon the experience of the individuals we may be asking them to develop alternate approaches and behaviours and placing them in familiar or comfortable scenarios could just encourage them to stick with the typical or usual strategies. (If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got.) By placing them in settings with which they are not wholly familiar can be helpful in moving them away from their ‘coping’ behaviours and try out new approaches and methods. But, and it is a big but, the process has to be managed.

    One of the key challenges I have with Role Plays relates to the people who are attending. In the past I would pair people up and would sometimes find they were clearly rejects from their local AmDram group and simple scenarios would be blown up into three act melodramas. At the other end of the scale I would be faced with individuals who the moment ‘role play’ was mentioned would become deaf, dumb and apparently blind. I am much more careful about pairing up.

    The design and delivery of the Role Play is also important and sometime ago I put together a flow chart process to help a group of trainers I was working with order their approach, I attach it here, it may be of some use and interest to you.

  2. Real or analogy

    Thanks for such a structured and definitive answer Garry and the flow chart.  I have suffered with similar problems with role plays and now introduce a scene setting instruction for people to "be themselves" and react positively to something positive, frustrated to something that frustrates them etc.

    I also state that we are not looking for acadamy award winning performances.

    To date this has done the trick though I am sure there will be a group / individual out there who will want to play the main role for the non existent cameras.

    Thanks again. Nick


  3. role playing


    A very good article indeed.  Role playing exercises are very important as  they allow the assessors to know your capabilities of behaving professionally with others. Role playing is very important for the assessment of every employee ranging from a supervisor to a senior manager. This article has helped me a lot to understand the concept of role playing exercises.

  4. Managing role play scenarios

    Hi Nick

    Good question and one I have grappled with over the years when delivering training. I particularly enjoyed Garry’s response with a very useful flowchart.

    For me, the question of whether to use role play comes down to how close real work life can be replicated to help learner buy-in. For instance, in recent years when running telephone techniques training I haven’t included role play because the work environment (e.g. in a call centre with computer screens and information databases; the noise and general buzz) cannot be re-created in the training room. With management type role plays (e.g. appraisal skills; recruitment interviewing; coaching; disciplinary interviews) it is often easier to replicate because set pieces such as these often happen in a quiet meeting room anyway.

    I think what helps acceptance from participants is careful briefing (e.g. degree of empathy; no video cameras; not role playing as a total group but split into smaller groups; stop role play and rewind if make a mistake); short role play briefing sheets to avoid worrying about who they are playing; having observers from the participant group; encouraging structured de-brief (e.g. asking role players their views first of how it went – what was good and what might they do differently next time).

    Participants also warm to tools to help the feedback process. I use Observer Checklists as a way of making it easy for Observers to capture the feedback during the role play. It also acts as a tool to recap some of the training content covered before starting the role play. I don’t have a checklist for facilitation skills however there is a copy for group training skills at




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Nick Hindley

Global Learning and Development Manager

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