Ways to distinguish yourself #139 – Align your agendas

It was an ACG event and Kimberley Wiefling was presenting an interesting workshop. I had seen the teamwork exercise that she conducted two times before but this time the learning was crystal clear. The exercise was simple and you can do that in your office too. It works like magic.

Get about 12 people and split them into two teams of six. Make this six people stand in front of the other six and get all of them to put their hands forward. All the 24 hands should be aligned with open palms and thumbs up. Now place a long thin pole on their hands. Ensure that everyone of the hands is touching the pole. The objective and the conditions are:

a) lower the pole to the ground as a team

b) ensure that throughout the process no one disconnects their hand to the pole.

c) If anyone disconnects from the pole, the person exits from the team.

Now, watch the magic. Instead of the pole coming down, it starts going up (in most cases.) You can let people strategize, plan and execute how many ever times they want but the results are the same. The pole won’t come down.

Now, what might be the problem? The answer is simple again. Look at the agenda of the team (a) and the agenda of the individual (b) and you will see the problem. The agenda of the team is to bring the pole down. However, the individual agenda (to not get out of the game) is to ensure that the person does not disconnect from the pole. Seems like a conflicting agenda? You bet! Every person will first ensure that he or she is always connected to the pole – this means that he or she is silently pushing the pole UP when the team agenda is to get the pole DOWN.

The game is just fine. It makes a point. This can happen in real-life. Observe your own team agenda and see if it conflicts with the team members’ individual agendas. If there is a conflict, there will be a problem and the team goes down. Personally, your goal should be to ensure that in all the teams that you belong to, agendas are aligned. That will ensure that you spend less time in non-productive stuff!