"Right, everyone!" Kelly Pattrick shouted crisply, activating a powerpoint presentation. "Dale's set the scene and now it's time for some activity! Has everyone got a coloured sticker?" Various voices confirmed this. "Has everyone put their initials on the task chart over there?" The response was more confused. A few people shouted that they had. A few shouted "No!". Most looked confused and some guilty.
"It isn't clear what it means," Mike Finnegan complained.
"Ah, but you could have asked," Dale Brashcon commented. Mike looked cross but kept quiet. "Today is all about reaching out and taking risks!" Dale continued. "Kelly?"
"Now listen carefully, because I'm going to explain what the stickers and the chart mean," Kelly declaimed. "The stickers are red, blue, green, yellow and purple. All of these indicate roles we want you to play. There they are on the screen:
RED: Achieving go-getter
BLUE: Strategic visioner
GREEN: Holistic networker
YELLOW: Leader and motivator
PURPLE: Excellence beacon.
Everyone now know what they're supposed to be?"
"What about BORING BUREAUCRAT, PROCESS-OBSESSED ROBOT, PERPETUAL GRUMBLER and OTHER PEOPLE'S WORK NICKER?" Gwilym Roberts said under his breath. Kelly did not hear this, but she did see Reema Narlikar turn her head to give Gwilym a smile. Kelly did not smile: it was not the right point in the script.
"Now for the chart," Kelly announced - and the screen did her bidding. "Down that axis - a number of situations you'll be asked to solve in your team. As you see, they're called THE FLOOD, NEGATIVITY, THE AWARD, MODERNISATION, CHANGE and THE BUSINESS CASE. Along the other axis are roles you can take in the team - chair, facilitator, consultant, subject expert, newcomer, deputising for director. Where there's room for more than one person in one role that's reflected in the columns. Now put your initials in one of the vacant boxes and then - here's the slide - go to the tables numbered for your situation where you'll find briefings on the situation." This created a great surge towards the chart and a long, disorganised queue. Sally Berg, in a wheelchair, did not move. Dale bustled up to her and asked if he could help.
No," she replied, because I'm not going to get through that crowd. Also I won't be able to reach the chart to write on it." With Dale's promise that he would bring the chart to her as soon as possible, she stayed put.
The crowd was beginning to filter back and find the right tables. Neil Balderson, watching, was disappointed that they did not seem to be getting stuck into understanding the situations. This kind of exercise really divided the sheep from the goats.
"Kelly," said Hamish Carpenter, "there's no further information on the tables. The bits of paper are evaluation forms." But reacting decisively to unexpected problems was something the organisers believed in. The briefings were found in a box. Soon three people were rushing around between the tables handing them out.
The morning collaborative activity was about to begin in earnest.