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Warp Speed Reprise

This exercise is most powerful when performed after the team has experienced the Warp Speed Exercise. The reason is that Warp Speed Reprise or Warp Speed II looks to the participant as if it is going to use the same principles as Warp Speed but it has a totally different emphasis. For materials you will need 6 to 7 different round objects or balls of approximately the size of a tennis ball i.e. tennis ball, wiffle ball, koosh ball, rubber ball, etc. A few minutes in Target's toy department will usually provide the needed variety.

The coach forms the team of eight to 15 people into a circle. As in Warp Speed, the coach hands a team member a ball and asks the team to establish a pattern so that each person catches the ball. Instead of returning the ball to the starting team member, the last team member drops the ball into a box. Once the pattern has been established the coach explains that he will be handing 10 balls to the initial team member one at a time and that each ball will need to go through the process in exactly the same order as established by the initial pattern. The coach emphasizes that the team will not be allowed to change position relative to one another. The exercise begins, the coach starts the stop watch, and starts handing balls to the starting team member. When the last ball drops in the box the coach stops the stop watch and the reports the time elapsed to the team.

At this point the coach explains that the customer is pretty impressed with the team's performance at this point and wants to know how long the team will require to pass all ten balls through the process without dropping any balls. The coach explains that, unlike Warp Speed, the team members must maintain their relative position to one another. As the team begins to discuss the question, the coach interrupts and asks how much time the team will need in order to respond to the customer's question. The coach allows up to five minutes for discussion. When the coach has the answer, he or she starts the stop watch, and hands the starting team member the first ball. When the last ball drops into the box, the coach stops the stop watch and reports the elapsed time.

The process is repeated several times at which point the team has figured out that getting through the process as fast as possible is not what the customer requires. In essence, this is a just-in-time problem, where the customer is asking the team for a delivery schedule so that the customer can set his own production plans. Reliability of delivery is paramount versus throughput speed. Therefore, when the team succeeds in getting the balls through the process within two seconds of the time they agreed upon, the exercise ends.

Coaches should realize that team behavior is fairly variable in this exercise: When 6 balls, of different weights are being thrown around a circle at the same time the results can be chaotic, with balls banging into one another, or being shuffled too fast. Some teams will take steps to minimize the cross tossing and may come up with a solution that involves bringing the circle in very close where the starting team member's hand is on top, the box is directly below and all other team members hands are in the correct order between the starting team member's hand and the box.

When the team has successfully passed 10 balls without dropping any and has performed the process in the committed time frame, the coach declares the exercise at an end, leads a team celebration, and helps the team process the experience:

What did we learn from this exercise? What did we learn about team communication? What assumptions did the team make about the objective of this exercise that was not present? What can we take back to our work environment from this exercise?

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Copyright (C) 1996-2002 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.