When I frist began my training as a challenge program practitioner I attended a workshop where the trainer talked about being aware of, and watching out for, Task Actions and Maintenance Actions of a group. She called it the Task vs. Maintenance balance.
This concept, I learned later, has come from the work of Kurt Lewin, Johnson & Johnson, specifically noted in their Joining Together publication, and others. Here is a Wikipedia Snap-Shot of the idea. Also, take a look at this brief summary of Task and Maintenance Roles that can develop within a group. As I understand it, balancing these Task/Maintenance roles makes for a better group experiences in relation to working together towards common goals.
Recently I stumbled into a way to help my groups experience the idea of Task and Maintenance actions. I use the activity Get It Back - first appearing in the POSSIBLESbag Activity Manual I created for a light-weight team building kit. The activity can also be found in Playing with a Full Deck by Michelle Cummings. I learned it as an Ice Breaker activity from my friend Diane Phillips.
GET IT BACK
Deal out a playing card to everyone in the group (I've not tried this with more than 30 people yet - basically you need a different card for each player. It might work with more people, but it will take more time). Participants are free to look at their card. Ask each person to remember/memorize his or her card, because at the end of the activity each person will want to get this card back in his or her possession. Here are the directions I give while we are all standing together in a circle formation:
"When we are ready to start - after I give the directions - I would like you to mingle around within the group and exchange the card that you have with others. All cards are held face up for all to see. Just keep walking around, introduce yourself if needed, use each others names when you greet them, but keep exchanging the card in your possession. When you hear me say, 'Get it Back' I want you to continue exchanging cards - keep playing the game - until you end up with your original card. Once you have your original card, step to the outside of the group and start forming a circle - like we are standing in now - around the players who are still exchanging cards, looking to get theirs back. Once everyone is standing in the circle we'll look back on what took place. Any questions?"
I answer any questions and then we start.
Once everyone is back into the circle I ask the group to describe what took place during the activity. I might say something like, "What significant things do you remember taking place while you were exchanging cards?" I keep asking this same question until I get an answer like this:
"When you said get it back, I didn't pay attention to the people around me anymore, I was just looking for my card." I ask if anyone else had this same experience. So far, most of the participants I've worked this activity with agreed that they did the same thing. Then I ask if we can go into another round, but this time:
"When you hear me say 'Get it Back' please stay focusing on the people around you. In the end everyone will get his or her card back - right?" [All agree - as they think about it, getting your card back is inevitable.] So, we give this activity another go. Once we are all back in a circle I have always heard someone say this, and others do agree, "That time it just felt better."
From this jumping-off point I ask about why it felt better and then eventually I introduce the idea of Task and Maintenance actions within a group. This initial beginning is something I can refer back to as I work with groups to understand about the roles that are important to develop as they work together.
Thoughts? Please share with a comment.
All the best,
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This blog is a space for hands-on programable fun - energetic activities and ideas that can be used as a means to bring people together; activities and ideas we as educators can add to our social development curriculums.
Dr. Chris Cavert is an internationally known author, speaker, and trainer in the area of adventure-based activity programming and its relation to community and pro-social behavior development.