People working in different departments and sections can quickly improve how they ask each other for what they need to be successful. You can restore misunderstandings or diffuse preconceived notions developed over time by making it clear and easy to understand what group members need in order to achieve common goals. Since participants, articulate core needs to others and each person involved in the exchange is given the chance to respond, you boost clarity, integrity, and transparency while promoting cohesion and coordination across clusters.
Bring to surface important needs across departments as well as accepting or rejecting requests for support.
Step By Step Instructions
- Summon participants to ask for what they need from others (often in different departments or teams) to be successful in reaching a specific goal.
- Invite them also to respond clearly to the requests from others.
2. Arrangement and use of materials
- A large room or open space to accommodate 3 to 7 functional groups of participants in different departments.
- Chairs for group members to sit in a circle in the middle of the room
- Paper for participants to record needs and responses
3. Participation distribution
- Everyone is included in his or her functional group
- Everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute
4. Groups Configuration
- Three to 7 functional groups (no limit on the number of participants in each group)
- One group of 3 to 7 spokespersons to speak on behalf of each functional group
5. The sequence of Steps and Time Allocation
- Describe the steps below as the process flow. Repeat the goal or challenge being addressed to make sure that the context is the same for all. Stress that requests must be clear and specific if they are to receive an unambiguous yes or no response. Make it clear that no answers other than yes, no, I will try, and whatever will be allowed. Position the functional groups around the room. Approx 3 minutes.
- Instruct the groups to make a list of their top needs from each of the other departments in the room. Needs are expressed as requests that can be delivered with care and nuance in the following form: “What I need from you is _____.” Each group has to reduce their lists to two top needs and write them down in their expected form, and select a spokesperson to represent the group. Approx 6 – 15 minutes.
- All spokespersons gather in a circle in the middle of the room.
- One by one, spokespersons state their two needs to each of the other spokespersons around the circle. At this stage, spokespersons take notes of requests, but no one gives answers or responses. Approx 15 minutes.
- Working individually (or by consulting with others in their department), each spokesperson writes down one of four responses to each request: yes, no, I will try, or whatever (whatever means the request was too vague to provide a specific answer). Approx 20 minutes.
- Addressing one spokesperson at a time, every other spokesperson in the circle repeats the requests made by him or her, then shares his or her responses (yes, no, I will try, or whatever). No explanation or discussions should be done! Approx 10 minutes.
- Learn how to articulate departmental and/or personal needs clearly
- Practice asking for what other departments and/or individuals need
- Learn how to give clear answers to requests
- Reestablish and/or improve communication inside departments
- Make progress across different departments
- Repair connections that have been broken
- Get all the issues out on the table at the same time for everyone to see
- Reduce frustration by eliminating preconceptions and rumors
- Build trust so that group members can share accountability with integrity
Tips and Traps
- Remind participants that a whatever response means their request was too vague to provide a specific answer
- Strictly enforce the “no immediate response” rule
- Strictly enforce the rule that the only responses are yes, no, I will try, or whatever (no further explanation is allowed)
- Encourage everyone to ask for what they truly need to be successful
- Have fun and encourage a safe amount of drama
- During the debriefing stage, try to draw out that people are good at complaining and not so good at asking for what they need. This activity helps you move from complaints to valid requests.
- Use question-and-response cards to help groups sharpen how they express their requests
- Consider a second round if too much appears to be unresolved or unclear: making concrete and clear requests is an essential quality!
- In the debrief stage, give participants a chance to express what was not asked of them: something neglected that would help achieve the departments’ purpose but was not requested
- Instead of departments, use the activity sequence with a group or a team of individuals who are interdependent