Magazine article Training & Development

The Team-Trust Game

Magazine article Training & Development

The Team-Trust Game

Article excerpt


Team trust is essential for meeting team goals. Many people say that, so it must be true. Then why don't more teams practice trust? Perhaps because we tend to think of trust statements as soft and fuzzy. They're statements of what people want to be true, not necessarily of what is true.

When we set out to design a team building workshop, our gut instincts told us that we needed trust. The challenge was to prove it. We tested our instincts at the new regional office of a formally centralized service organization. Regional managers wanted a program to help employees get to know each other better and learn how to work in teams.

Employees--125 of them--from every area in the regional office participated in the team building workshop. We divided them into groups of 16 each--one group per session. Each group was divided into two competing teams.

We used a single task to address the issue of team trust and its effect on meeting team goals. The task took the form of a training game.

The task

Each team received an identical set of 15 objects--scissors, keys, and so forth.

A set of the same 15 objects was arranged on a table in the front of the room. All the objects were hidden behind a screen so that participants couldn't see them from their work areas. The screen was arranged in such a way that when someone walked up to the table, he or she could see only half of the screened objects.

The goal was for each team to duplicate the exact arrangement of the objects on the table, using its own matching set of objects. The team that accomplished the task in the least amount of time won a prize.

We gave participants the following instructions: * Take no more than 30 minutes to complete the task. * Each participant on a team may view one-half of the screened table for 15 seconds. * Each participant may view the screened table as many times as he or she wishes. * Participants may not write, draw, or talk while viewing the screened table. * Each team is charged 15 time-points per individual viewing.


We told each group that either team might have one or two saboteurs.

We explained that saboteurs would work against their own team to keep it from winning. We said that saboteurs were allowed to use any method to sabotage their team's efforts, as long as they tried to avoid detection. When saboteurs succeeded in getting their team to lose, they shared the prize won by the opposing team.

We designated several participants to be saboteurs and informed them of their selection. They were forbidden to reveal their identities as saboteurs to other participants.

The deciding factor

The task itself wasn't difficult. The complicating factors were competition between the two teams in each group and the possibility of saboteurs on the teams.

During the course of the workshop, the competition factor worked against several teams. Some of the teams wasted valuable time on excessive planning. Others were too concerned with their competitors' progress and failed to focus on the task at hand. But competition alone didn't seem to affect the completion of the task. Success or failure had to do with the saboteurs.

The saboteurs were ingenious in their efforts to derail their teams. They gave incorrect information after viewing the screened objects. …

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