Overview: Trolleys are a staple of many experiential programs, and are a good tool for addressing team coordination issues. This variation offers a more strategic perspective, as coordination levels are benchmarked against those of competitors. Tactical issues are also addressed.
Two sets of trolleys.
Rubber or carpet mats. I buy fatigue mats (3'x3' or 3'x4') size from the hardware store, and cut them in 1'x1' and 1'x2' sizes. They're cheap, and incredibly durable.
Boundary marker. I use 1" webbing to set out a course roughly 10' wide and 30' long.
Scenario: Inform participants that they have been chosen to implement a new production process for the firm. The process was developed by an external vendor, and is also being adopted by competitors as well. There is expected to be a steep learning curve, and it is critical to be 'first to market' in this new adoption.
Set-up: Break the group into two competing firms, and solicit volunteers for each team. Set trolleys at opposite ends of the course, each on the (respective) right-hand side. Inform the teams that 'successful adoption' will be measured as crossing the boundary line on the opposite side. If anyone falls off or steps on the ground, the team must return to the start. By not allowing practice runs, this stage may take awhile.
If you are pressed for time, you can end the exercise and debrief at this point.
The optional second run is a great tool for discussing strategy and tactical issues. Give each of the teams a collection of mats. Explain that these are new resources which have become available, and may be useful in hampering the competition. The mats can be placed anywhere in the course, and cannot be touched by either team. If that happens, a team must return to the starting point. In practice, (a) competitors will often mirror the specific location of mats, and (b) placements hinder both firms equally. The mats will force the teams deviate from straight-line travel, and the trolley sets can become very close to one another. So, spotters may be helpful here.
Extra options: Some groups will find the physical coordination aspect within their team less challenging than others. If these exercise seems too easy, limiting communication among team members can ramp up the difficulty level. You can do this by:
Inform teams that the competition has been monitoring their
activities, in the hopes of capturing proprietary knowledge. In order
to maintain a competitive edge, the team should operate in 'stealth' mode --
Inform teams that all communication on the project will be directed by corporate. Assign an additional volunteer to take this role. This person is responsible for coaching and directing the team. Because most hierarchical organizations are 'top down', communication is one-way.
Team coordination and communication issues
Benchmarking relative to competitors
Competitive strategy and tactics
Click here for more photos on the competitive trolleys in action.