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Trainers tip: Change management exercises – stepping out of the comfort zone


Looking for a quick and easy change management exercise, with no props required? Our trainers have come up trumps with their suggestions. Read on, and do please let us know if you’ve got a practical ‘change’ activity that works for you…

Caroline Eason asked on our Any Answers forum:

I have been asked to give a half hour facilitation session on either Change Management or Johari window. I am looking for ideas for exercises particularly to open the session with. They can't be too long due to the time restriction but also I am only allowed to use paper and pens in the session and there will only be five to six delegates.

David Lumley suggests something simple but effective:

A brief Change Management exercise I've used in the past is to give each delegate paper and pens. Say something like you have just won the lottery and you would like them to design a house for you. Give them a few minutes and at some point before the pictures are done say you have changed your mind and you want them to design a boat. Again, at some point before they finish say you've changed your mind again and ask them to draw you a castle. Keep changing your mind until people get a bit fed up. As you keep changing your mind you should see some of the negative behaviours associated with change, and it’s also a good starting point to discuss feelings around change.

Andrew Wood suggests getting participants to think about the stages of change:

How about writing out the seven stages from the change curve on separate sheets of paper. These are: Shock, denial, anger, frustration, acceptance, practice, realisation, integration (or variations on this).
Draw a picture of the curve on flipchart paper and leave off the words. Ask the participants to work on putting the sheets of paper in the correct order ie how they think someone moves through stages of change (this works well if you have two teams competing).
Once they have finished, ask them to line up, holding the paper in the order they have chosen (or stick to wall). Then talk them through the emotions of each stage as you reveal the answers to them.
It is not often that people get them all correct and it makes a fun way of explaining the emotions and feelings of change.

Jane Hodgson suggests this light-hearted exercise:

A really quick-fire exercise that I've used before is this one. Only resources required are pen and paper.
Ask all delegates to sign their name 10 times. This will take a minute or so. Ask them to do it again. Then ask them to put the pen in their other hand and do 10 signatures again. This will cause much hilarity/huffing-and-puffing etc. Then distract by talking about how hard it was, how people struggled, anything really to take their mind off the 'exercise'. Then ask them to sign their signature again 10 times. Now, at this point, most people switch back to their normal hands and do 10 signatures. Let them do this.
Summarise... why did they switch back? You certainly didn't tell them to. As far as you were concerned, the pen should have been in the 'other' hand and you didn't say otherwise. Lesson: people will nearly always revert to what they know unless there's a conscious effort not to.
It's a light-hearted exercise and only takes a few minutes, but is a good intro to change and just why so many people struggle with it.

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Change management or Johari exercises

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