Change is an inevitable fact of life. In fact, Greek philosopher Heraclitus may have said it best when he said that "everything changes but change itself." Unfortunately, change can be a difficult process with which to deal, especially when it involves the workplace. That's why it can be beneficial to get your staff used to transitions by engaging them in games about change for groups of employees.
Before picking a particular group activity about change for your team, it is important to understand what change management is and how it applies to your situation. Change management simply refers to the ability to manage change in your life or workplace, which is why activities to teach change management are ideal in helping to reduce employee resistance to change.
While change is a part of life, you typically don't need to take time to schedule dealing-with-change games for your team unless you are planning a big change in your workplace. This could be anything from attempting to increase diversity in the staff to adding a new manager to changing your employee health care plan to downsizing.
Change management exercises can help to break the ice before you make a big announcement about an upcoming change or can help employees to deal with their concerns about an upcoming change after it has already been announced.
Ask everyone to imagine that they are aliens who have been invited to a human dinner party. Ask them to point out all of the things that might seem strange to them, ranging from the handshakes and toasts to the fact that humans drink alcohol that poisons their body and fatty foods that clog their arteries.
Once your team has exhausted the list of human behaviors that would seem strange to an alien, tell them to think about how widely accepted customs that may seem normal are not necessarily the only way or the best way to do things. Ask them to have more of an open mind toward trying to do things in a different way, which might actually be more efficient and even become second nature to them if they just give it a chance.
Get all of your employees together in a spacious room with closed doors and then hand each person a small, bouncy rubber ball (the kind that you get in a vending machine). Ask them to bounce the ball between themselves or against the walls and expect the balls to bounce across the whole room (just make sure you don't leave anything out that is breakable).
After a few minutes, have them stop bouncing the balls and then ask if anyone ever had any doubts that the ball would bounce back up after they threw it toward the ground. Then explain that just like the ball, they will always rise back up no matter what challenges push them down.
While this exercise might not be the most effective because people will largely be thinking about playing with the balls, it is one of the most fun ways to teach change management. Plus, if you let the people keep the balls, this could result in their reconsidering the message in the future.
Divide employees into groups of about five people and then tell them they need to come up with an idea for a new product, letting them know that it can be ridiculous, like tap shoes for dogs. Then, tell them that once they have a product idea, they will need to assign each group member to a position in the new company, such as engineering, marketing, sales, etc. Finally, ask them to create a presentation for their product and a mini business plan.
After each group has given their presentations, move a few people from each group to another group and then ask them to take on new positions in their "companies" to make a new presentation and business plan for their company. You can move more people into new groups and have them rework things for a third time if you have the time.
After everyone has finished the presentations, ask them to discuss how they adapted to their new "company" despite going through major staff changes. Ask if anyone came up with improvements to their imaginary products or companies after getting a new team member. This can be a great change management activity for employees in companies that are going through a merger or other major staff changes.
Print out photos showing older technology and photos showing the progression of the devices into their modern incarnations. You might have old telephones, then basic wired landline phones, then cordless phones, then old cell phones and finally smartphones. You could also show a laptop computer from the '80s, one from the '90s, one from the 2000s and a modern laptop.
Break up your team into smaller groups, each with a wide variety of age ranges. Then give each group a set of the photos and ask them to discuss how these devices changed, what made them better and how they changed society. Also ask everyone in the group to talk about how many changes they remember going through with the technology and how they coped with the changes. When they are done discussing one of the photo sets, give them another and another until each group has gone through the history of at least three products.
Finally, bring the groups back together. Remind everyone that while these changes all may have seemed unnecessary or challenging to get used to at first, they were all major improvements that helped society as a whole. Ask if they would really rather go back to using a phone from the 1930s to talk to their friends or a video projector to watch silent home movies. Emphasize that while change can seem scary, it is often for the best.
One problem some people have during times of transition is the inability to focus on anything but the change. This exercise helps remind your team of the importance of focusing in an ever-changing environment.
To play, put everyone in a line and then tell the person on one side that she is number one, the person beside her is two, etc. Tell everyone to not only remember her own number but also the number of everyone else in the game. Explain that when someone says her number, she needs to say the number of someone else who is still in the game. If she does not reply when someone says her number or she says the number of someone else, she is out of the game.
The game lasts until only two people are left, each of whom remember one another's numbers. After the game is over, remind everyone of how important it is to pay attention and focus on your work, even when things are changing drastically and rapidly.