Author: Thierry Altenhoven, PMP
Every year PMI Switzerland Chapter invites all volunteers of the organization to a special event: the “Volunteers Day”. It permits to meet each other, to exchange ideas and purposes, to share experiences, to discover the activities of others, to reflect about the organization, to network, to celebrate and of course, to have fun.
This time, the event took place at the "Haus der Universität" in Bern on Saturday, the 13th of November 2021. It was introduced and moderated by two excellent coaches, Dr. Sandra Roth and Kristin Warnecke. They guided the participants in an uncommon journey with a very well-known material: a ton of LEGO® bricks!!!
In this article, I want to present to you this event and to share with you my observations.
Have you already played LEGO®… but seriously?
Me? Not "seriously", until this event… Sandra and Kristin introduced the whole team to the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.
Let me tell you first the origins of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®:
Once upon a time, in the mid-1990s, Dr. Johan Roos and Bart Victor, professors at IMD Lausanne, had a dream: they wanted to facilitate the work of the managers when they had to develop, explain and question the business vision of their companies. For that, they imagined a concept and a process of "Serious Play". It was consolidated in the LEGO Group, with Robert Rasmussen, the head of R&D for LEGO Education and Kjed Kirk Kristiansen, the former CEO of LEGO Group. It became an open-source methodology with a trademark on SERIOUS PLAY® submitted by LEGO Group. Today, it is used worldwide, generally moderated by certified coaches, to develop organizations, to grow teams and to bring companies to the next level.
Now, follow me back to our event in Bern:
After presenting each other in a one-to-one configuration, all the volunteers were ready to be led by Sandra and Kristin. The two coaches presented the program of the day, distributed to each participant a little bag of 50 LEGO® pieces and invited them to warm up. The goal was to familiarize everyone to the plastic parts and put them under light pressure because the exercises were limited in time (4 minutes per exercise).
After the warm-up, the participants could attack the important topics for the Chapter:
- What is the vision we want to establish for the organization? What does our WOV (Way of Volunteering) look like?
- What are the values and behaviors we want to focus on?
- What are the actions each participant will make immediately?
Ten suitcases full of LEGO® bricks were at disposal to serve the participants in answering these questions. Here is a model created by one of the volunteers’ tables, representing the vision of our organization:
"An organization based on a strong and stable structure, a community growing year after year, with the share of professional knowledge through our events, publications and social activities. An organization ready to brave the challenges and the uncertainties of our world, ready to let back inefficiencies, old principles and things out of our focus, ready to inspire and connect people through project management and to welcome new members with high engagement and a lot of fun"
To answer the question about the values & behaviors, each member made a little model to show her/his important ones. In total, 18 models were built. Here are three of them, with the positive behaviors in green and in blue the key values:
To close the meeting, the participants had to communicate to the group what they will contribute to the Chapter in a positive way in 2022. Here is the action wall:
Now I want to share with you my observations of this journey.
First of all, I think that most of the participants didn't know each other so well because there was a mix of seniority from fresh new members to long-term faithful ones. On the other hand, along the year, the volunteers have activities in different domains in the organization but these activities are not necessarily cross-functional. So, the only efficient way to meet all of the other volunteers is to participate in several events of the Chapter. What was exceptional here is how fast the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® broke the ice between us. Building creative models, describing them, sharing the different points of view accelerated the interaction between each other.
In fact, PEOPLE CONNECTION was one key to success for this day.
Secondly, commonly it says that a picture is worth 1'000 words. Here it was: a model of LEGO® is worth 1'000 abstract ideas. We were able to "materialize" ideas, visions, values, strengths and behaviors. The LEGO® builds were used as a support for communication. I could see stars in the eyes of most of the members, when a builder was explaining what she/he wanted to show or demonstrate with her/his construction. It was very inspiring to see how well we expressed our feelings through these colored plastic parts.
In fact, CREATIVITY was one key to success for this day.
Thirdly, during the different sessions, the room was full of positive energy: music was played in the background, a tension was felt because of the time constraint of each session, but we were still doing our creations with lots of laughs, joy and pleasure.
In fact, FUN was one key to success for this day.
Finally, I thought of you, dear professional: in your business, in your company, in your project, if you have to define a mission, the values and/or a strategy of your business, of your department or in your project, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® could be a very interesting tool to consider.
If it arouses your curiosity and matches your needs, please contact Dr. Sandra Roth, she will guide you in this journey to achieve your goals, with high professionalism and full of enthusiasm.
Thierry Altenhoven, PMP
- Coaching Sandra Roth: https://sandra-roth.com/en/lego-serious-play-organizations/
- Source Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lego_Serious_Play
- Photos of the articles, shot by Sandra and Kristin. Thanks a lot!