LEGO building blocks have long been enjoyed, particularly by children, as playthings for building and designing an almost infinite variety of structures, from cars to entire cityscapes. LEGO blocks have also become popular as a morale-building operation for company employees and managers to practice effective communication, cooperation and teamwork by working together to build one or several LEGO structures.
Workers and Management
This exercise uses a complicated, at least 500 pieces, LEGO set. Divide the complete group into three equal groups: workers, middle management and senior management. Place each group in a different room, preferably not within hearing of each other, although there should be a phone connection between each. Workers receive the LEGO pieces and instructions they've been contracted to build something, but no pictures or directions are provided. Middle management is told to wait for senior management to contact them. Senior management is given a picture of the finished project, instructions on how to build it and are informed that a client will pay $1 million for the finished product with two hours to deliver, but the company will lose $5,000 for every minute it goes past the deadline. Team members are allowed to communicate between groups both over the phone and in person.
This exercise requires two or more sets of the same number and type of LEGO pieces. Divide the complete group into smaller ones of four to six people. The groups are given 20 minutes to construct a tower to earn the maximum amount of "profit." Profit is calculated as the height of the tower, measured in centimeters, multiplied by three. Deduct planning time in minutes times two, construction time in minutes times five and $50 per brick used. Bricks can only be connected once planning is finished. The tower must be able to stand on its own for at least one minute. Following completion and calculation of profit, have each group discuss what worked and what didn't in their construction process.
This exercise uses two or more of the same LEGO set. Separate the complete group into smaller groups divisible by two (two, four, six, eight, etc.). Have the smaller groups divide in half and sit back-to-back to each other. One half of the group has the set instructions while the other half has the pieces. Neither may look at what the other half is doing. Have the teams race to see which team can finish the set fastest and with the fewest errors. Have the group consider which communication strategies worked best and how their performance may be improved.
As We Go
This exercise requires one or more LEGO sets, depending on the number of groups. Give each group handwritten instructions on how to complete the set, but no pictures. Instruct the team(s) that they are to complete the project without knowing how it will end. Variations include having each team or team member use their instructions, again without pictures, to make one piece of a larger structure, emphasizing that if one segment isn't constructed correctly the finished product will suffer.
Jess Kroll has been writing since 2005. He has contributed to "Hawaii Independent," "Honolulu Weekly" and "News Drops," as well as numerous websites. His prose, poetry and essays have been published in numerous journals and literary magazines. Kroll holds a Master of Fine Arts in writing from the University of San Francisco.