Category Archives: Serious Play Case Studies

Case studies of successful Lego Serious Play facilitation events

Weak ties. Strong team – Lego Serious Play Case Study

by Fabrizio Faraco, written with Simona Orlandi and Ercole Renzi

Making an organization successful is extremely difficult. It’s hard to achieve success with a company where people have strong ties (working relationships, careers, etc.). With a volunteer association could be a nightmare, considering that people have very weak ties with it.

Girl Geek Dinner LOGOGD, i.e. Girl Geek Dinners, “is an informal organisation that promotes women in the Information technology industry. Girl Geek Dinners has 64 established chapters in 23 countries. Girl Geek Dinners was founded in London, United Kingdom in August 2005 by Sarah Lamb (nee Blow) who was tired of being the only woman at technical events” as perfectly described by Wikipedia.

The Rome chapter went through a generational change last April. A new breed of young women gathered together in a plan to revamp one of the most successful GGD chapter in Italy. Time passed by from the 2005 where there were few girls populating the technical scene. So just gathering together is not enough to promote the association goals.

That’s why the group of active GGDs of Rome decided that was the time to build a shared identity to the group and for doing properly they choose to undertake a Lego® Serious Play® workshop.

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Michael Fearne LEGO Case Study - Onboarding

LEGO Serious Play Case Study: Onboarding

This is the 2nd post in a series focusing on case studies and companies that have used LEGO Serious Play to help solve real challenges they were facing.

The Brief

Over the last 2 years I’ve incorporated LEGO Serious Play into the development workshops I run with graduates (through my other company Burst Development). Burst specialises in helping companies fast track their graduate’s development, getting them up to speed quicker and laying the foundation for a successful career.

While there was no one brief from a particular company, all my clients are looking for innovative and more effective ways to onboard and develop their graduates. LEGO Serious Play has proven itself an effective additional technique for a particular subset of graduate development needs.

What We Did

That fast tracking of a graduate’s development begins as soon as they start, through their induction and onboarding. These sessions include skills training (e.g. communication basics, time management) but also include sections where graduates need to express themselves individually and as a group (on personal branding, expectations, self-awareness and company awareness). It is these topics where LEGO Serious Play really shines.

Examples of how it’s used in graduate onboarding:

  • Expectations play a huge role in how well a new starter fits into their work environment. Using LEGO Serious Play we get graduates to build their expectations. What will their managers be like, their colleagues, their day to day tasks. This uncovers any potential gaps between expectation and reality, allowing the graduate to manage their expectations instead of getting a rude shock when first joining their team.
  • Personal Branding is an important skill for graduates to understanding as they begin to build their career. We get them to build their personal brand using LEGO. We find the layering of metaphors that LEGO allows fits perfectly with a graduate defining their own personal brand and how to implement it.
  • Understanding the company, it’s past, it’s present and it’s future is vitally important for graduates. We run a group activity where graduates build their understanding of the company with LEGO, assessing their understanding of where it’s been, where it’s at, but also highlighting the future they will be a part of.

The Result

At the first superficial level, graduates of age 21-25 love using LEGO. No surprises there. So they are definitely engaged. But is it effective?

From my experience delivering the same topic before I used LEGO Serious Play and after using it, the clear answer is yes it is more effective. The concepts, ideas, situations and solutions that the graduates are bringing up and discussing are far deeper and more meaningful than when using other techniques.

From the client’s perspective, they are impressed with the discussions that LEGO Serious Play generates. I’ve also had clients say that over 12 months after their induction, graduates are still referring back to the LEGO Serious Play activities. They find that the concepts raised and the skills learnt are much “stickier”, staying with the graduates longer and positively impacting their first year in full time work.

Like with many development activities, it’s difficult to empirically quantify the benefits of applying LEGO Serious Play to onboarding. But this case study shows that the three groups involved (graduates, facilitator & client) all believe it enhances the process and promotes more powerful conversations. This clearly leads to memorable experiences that help a graduate to fell more integrated into the team, help them define their place and help them understand the company they have joined.

About the Author

Michael Fearne is the founder of Pivotal Play. An unconventional consultancy helping companies to solve problems and create more meaningful conversations through the power of LEGO Serious Play. To find out more about Michael and Pivotal Play go to www.pivotalplay.com.au

Using the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Method to Improve Collaboration

In January of this year we had unique experience of rolling out a series workshops to all 180 staff of one of our client’s production units. The objective was to explore ways in which the plant could perform better as a cohesive collaborative unit and at the same time to provide a platform for healthy constructive dialogue between the different teams.

Alan McShane Considiom Using the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY to Improve Collaboration
Alan McShane Considiom – Using the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY to Improve Collaboration

Workshop Format

To maximize impact and to minimize production downtime, we decided to run identical workshops in parallel sessions throughout one day, thus bringing everyone through the process in one 12 hour period.

In order to maximize knowledge sharing opportunities across the factory and to create new synergies between teams and individuals, we ensured that each group had staff from the various departments and business units with managers and supervisors spread across all the tables.

We used the first two challenges to get everyone in flow and to create a sense of trust at each table. After that we explored three key areas:

  1. The skills and competencies we expect from the people we work with. This was followed by discussion and reflection at each table and sharing of personal strengths and growth areas
  2. The characteristics of a perfect team, starting from a personal perspective and then converting them into a group vision at each table. This was followed by discussion at each table on how their respective teams, and the plant as a whole, measured up to this “perfect team”
  3. Tangible and specific ideas that will help them to build perfect teams across the production plant at all levels.

Outcome

Despite the varied profiles of the participants there was perfect “flow” and as we have seen in the past with our clients, workshops with a mix of administrative, managerial and production roles always uncover some deeply sincere and valuable insights for all.

Turning Models and Stories into Real Follow-up

Given that each workshop was identical with the same outputs, afterwards we were able to collate all the information we had and harmonize it into one document, categorizing the various concepts dealt with at each table and analyzing the groupings and classifications in pivot tables. This provided very useful insights into common threads running through all the workshops and also highlighted key training and growth areas for individuals and teams and in our report we presented these opportunities and issues back the client with recommendations on how to build on the positives and improve on the growth areas. We are all ready looking at how to build on these workshops with more specific proposals.

Lastly,at the end of each session, we finished with a simple round of “what have we done?” and the simple recognition by the people in each session that that they had: talked, listened, been creative, respected each other, collaborated, shared and played made it clear that they had taken a significant step forward.

This case study was first published here: Considiom, Madrid – Using the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY Method to Improve Collaboration.

LEGO Case Study: Team Culture

This is the first in a series of posts focusing on case studies and companies that have used LEGO Serious Play to help solve real challenges they were facing.

The Brief

First up is a case study from 2014 that focuses on improving Team Culture. Pivotal Play (the company I run) were engaged by a large Professional Services firm in Australia to work with one of their high performing teams.

LEGO SERIOUS PLAY teamwork
The very successful team was facing a new challenge. They had recently lost some of their middle managers and communication between different levels within the team had suffered. It wasn’t impacting performance yet, but it had the potential to derail the firm’s most profitable group.

What We Did

Working with all levels in the group, Pivotal Play helped define and clarify what the problem was.

We ran a LEGO Serious Play workshop with the whole group. As part of the session we asked individuals to build LEGO models that represented their team environment as they saw it at the present moment. We got them to combine and integrate their individual models to get an overall picture of how the team saw the current state. This allowed everyone to have buy in and come to a common understanding of what the problems were.

We also asked them to build the team environment that would empower them in the future. The future state they would like see. Again combining individual models to build a shared vision.

The final step was filling in the gap, building what they needed to do as individuals and as a group to move from their current team environment to that shared vision of their future team environment.

With LEGO bricks we got all these issues on the table, where everyone felt comfortable discussing them. Leaders got to hear different perspectives and juniors got to understand the challenges faced by leadership. In the end the team co-created their own solution and an action plan to make it happen.

The Result

Group wide, positive feedback on how the underlying issues were brought up and addressed. Everyone was engaged and felt they had input in to the solution, creating powerful buy in.

New initiatives were put in place both officially and from a grass roots level. Stronger mentoring, juniors taking more initiative, greater knowledge sharing and group learning, more agile and nimble work arrangements and open communication between levels.

An issue that had the potential to derail a high performing team was instead turned into an opportunity to engage the team and drive even more success.

Team Culture is just one challenge that can be tackled using the LEGO Serious Play method. In future posts we’ll look at how it can be used in other areas such as strategic planning, a Lean Start Up environment, for on boarding / induction and in education.

Michael – www.pivotalplay.com.au

LEGO SERIOUS PLAY Helps Build a Shared Understanding between the Scrum Team and the Product Owner

by Stan Kurkovsky, kurkovsky@ccsu.edu, @SKurkovsky

Scrum is an agile iterative software development methodology in which a team of software developers works in well defined increments (sprints). Each sprint typically results in adding new features to the software product. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY has been successfully adapted both for team building and as a tool for conducting sprint retrospectives in Scrum software development projects. A retrospective is a meeting of the entire development team facilitated by the Scrum Master and conducted at the end of each sprint, during which the team reflects on the past sprint and answers two key questions: what went well and what can be improved during the next sprint? If applied properly, LEGO SERIOUS PLAY can make sprint retrospectives more productive by getting people to discuss their experiences in the last sprint more openly and communicate their ideas in a more constructive way.

Individual Strength: Flexibility When Working with Constraints - by Stan Kurkovsky
Individual Strength: Flexibility When Working with Constraints – by Stan Kurkovsky

It is relatively easy to make the development team members to communicate with each other since they all work on the same project on the daily basis, and they most likely share a similar background and experience in various aspects of software development. However, ensuring clear communication between the Scrum team and the product owner is not always an easy goal to achieve. A product owner is typically a lead user of the software being developed. The main responsibility of the product owner is to establish a clear vision for the product being built, which is accomplished by writing project specification in the form of prioritized user stories. In practice, a product owner does not always understand the problems the developers may be facing in order to build what the product owner wants. And vice versa, the developers may not always have a clear idea of what the product owner really needs. This situation is perfectly illustrated in this infamous comic.

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Building a Global Manifesto Through LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® – A Case Study

LegoNEWimage
Group Build DW S2S Manifesto

I had the honour of working with Deutsche Welle Akademie at the end of last year on what for me was an interesting and important challenge:

How do you create a global manifesto on information sharing and freedom of expression with participants from 14 different countries, when each has with their own culturally valid and particular way of doing things and seeing things?

There were many challenges when deciding to do this work. There was a postal strike in South Africa and all my LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® starter kits I had ordered went missing. I had ten kits I had been working with but certainly not the beautiful, pristine white boxes which included a manual and some comfortable and easy building starts.

A challenge in itself coupled with the fact that only 4 hours had been set aside to do this. When I started working in LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® I was an absolute purist. I would only do work which lasted a day at the very least. I was turning away a lot of business… so I decided I would eat my own cooking and try and be agile. I agreed to the assignment not knowing whether four hours could ever be enough to achieve what they needed.

It was not only possible, it was a huge success. Here is the feedback:

“Elaine designed and executed a very clever and creative program using LEGO Serious Play that helped us to achieve our goal – crafting a set of principles to foster freedom of expression. Moreover, with colleagues from 14 different countries, LEGO became a common language and generated ideas that may have remained unearthed in a more traditional workshop methodology. Our delegates were hugely impressed!”

                           Steffen Leidel – Editor onMedia, Deutsche Welle Akademie

I wanted to share with you how and why it worked and give you some insights into how you, too can do this kind of process in a very short period of time.

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