Using Ice Breakers to Reinforce Improvement Steps

Ice breakers are a good way for a facilitator to get to know the team they are facilitating, as well as help the team build a bond together.

I have always used ice breakers to start a day.  It helps get the team engaged to start the day.  Recently, I worked with a couple of guys who took the ice breaker to another level.  They tied the ice breaker into the next phase of the improvement process.

Here are a couple examples:

1.  Stranded on an Island: As we moved to the future state design of the process we used an ice breaker designed around a deserted island.  The group was split into teams and given some time to come up with 5 things they would keep with them on a deserted island.  After a few minutes, each team would state what they would keep and why.

My partner explained that as we move to a future state design there will be a lot of discuss on what to keep and what is extra.  During this time, the team is going to have to come to high agreement of what they process needs and how it will work just like gaining high agreement on what items to keep on the island.

2. Untying the Knot: Half way through the first day of a kaizen event my partner ran an ice breaker designed to untie the human knot.  Everyone bunches in as close as they can.  Each person takes the hand of another person (two hands means each person should have the hand of two different people).  The goal is to untangle the mess so the group is standing in a nice circle.  The trick is no one is allowed to let go of the hands they have grabbed so it is people stepping over people and twisting around to get untangled.

The purpose was to explain that over the next few days the team will feel confused and frustrated but as they keep working as a team the solution will start present itself.  In the end, the team will have a clear picture of the current and future processes and be linked as a team coming out of the event.

These are just a couple I have seen used and plan to incorporate into my portfolio.

Ice breakers can be something fun to loosen the group up also so pick and choose what makes sense for the audience and the situation.

What ice breakers have you used?

Posted on August 2, 2012, in Engagment, My Continuous Improvement, Tools and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Matt,

    A very simple one I run at the start of a session is get everybody to line up along a wall, in one corner I have the people who think process improvement is a waste of time, in the other people who think this will be the best day of their life, then let people decide where they want to be along the continuum.

    Then I split the group in two down the middle and get them to do 1 minute each on their respective view points.

    It gets peoples prejudices out, opens their minds, gets them moving and gives me 1/2 an idea who I have in the room.

    I like your “human knot” idea very much. I might try it with the self confessed “awkward squad” in my sessions later if things start to go wrong.

    Thanks for the ideas


    • James, that sounds like a great ice breaker. I am going to have to try that one. It can help inform possible resistance to change. Change management is abig piece of improvement.

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