Managing change with Taller Stack: Alex’s activity guide

Learn how Taller Stack supports change management. Providing an in-depth look into MTa favourites, Jamie, Alex and James have created this series to share with you a detailed understanding of the activities which engage audiences and deliver considerable learning.

What is this activity?

In this activity participants use MTa Insights to design and build a complex structure whilst having to adapt and deal with change.

Why is it a good activity?

It’s a strong starting activity: it has a fast pace which energises a room as the coffee kicks in. Taking approximately 40 minutes it provides valuable learning opportunities on how to manage change, capitalise on expertise, gain commitment to ideas and collaborate with leaders

Junior and middle leaders and managers always say they learn a huge amount from Taller Stack. They appreciate the unique opportunity it gives them to gain constructive feedback on their leadership style.

Why is it such a powerful task?

It surfaces the functional and dysfunctional behaviours in teams and leaders whilst demonstrating how all the participants deal with change. It’s a revealing exercise!

From a theoretical perspective it is underpinned by Kotter’s 8 steps of change:

Kotter's 8 steps of change image

The activity begins with a simple task. Teams become established and individuals settle into their roles. Life is good! Until unforeseen circumstances bring about a change in team leadership. If approached effectively, there are big opportunities to improve performance.

How will teams and leaders respond?

An effective leader will get the team off to a fast start, with a clear sense of urgency. As new ideas are prototyped, tested and remodelled concerns are raised and alleviated. These initial few minutes are often a focal point of the after activity reflection (or learning reflection) as not only is the strategy being set, so too are the team dynamics.

As leaders attempt to get the best out of their teams their natural leadership styles invariably come to the fore. Do leaders empower teams to take action, or micro manage? Are they able to create short term wins that generate buy in to their approach?

With the strategy set there’s an opportunity to observe how individual visions are communicated, agreed upon and translated into a common goal and action.

As Taller Stack reaches it’s climax the pressure increases! Can the leader keep everyone on board when things start to go wrong, or will the team revert to old ways of working?

How do you ensure that learning is embedded?

At MTa we believe that an engaging activity followed by thoughtful reflection is by far the most powerful way to embed the learning and is the experiential approach. It’s why every activity brief comes complete with specific review sheets, to challenge participants to think critically about their role and impact in activities.

Reflections on this activity are likely to be focussed on change with an opportunity to discuss leadership styles and one of the most important, but most commonly overlooked skills: followership.

This task also lends itself to a discussion on situational leadership and how the leaders adapt to a changing reality. A conceptual discussion of this nature introduces the theory in a practical and relevant context.

Taller stack image 3

What feedback have you had after this activity?

Team members have told us how it makes them feel more comfortable with change. They feel able to raise their opinions and expertise in a constructive way that enables them to solve problems rather than waiting to be led.

Leaders and managers always say they learn a huge amount from Taller Stack. They appreciate the unique opportunity it gives them to gain feedback on their ability to lead in a challenging situation.

“I have found MTa materials to be the perfect solution to team development needs, combining a fun approach with well structured opportunities for discussion, feedback and action planning.” Mike Linsell, BNY MELLON

Facilitators also love this activity. They say that this activity is really useful for when they need to get people engaged, it’s a particularly good starter activity!

Any tips for using Taller Stack?

It’s sometimes tempting to select leaders who ‘need the practice’, i.e the quiet ones. In this activity it’s preferable to let the group choose the leader so that the team is bought in. This makes the change much more emotive and impactful for the group. This will provide a richer experience and create many more valuable learning opportunities for the entire group.

As a facilitator it is also worth being cautious about giving your own opinions about what you observed during the reflections. It’s far better if the participants come to their own conclusions and resolutions!

“The MTa kits have so many different uses, if you’re ever unsure or would like guidance just pick up the phone and chat to us.” Alex Greenwood – Senior Facilitator

If you want to run Taller Stack within your organisation you’ll need MTa Insights and you can further develop your facilitation skills on our Facilitator Masterclasses.