I have a love/hate relationship with team building exercises. I think investing in culture and team health is essential. But when I look to find team building exercises to do, most are so far from being operational in my day to day work that it is difficult to see what the value is.
I do not remember the source of The Lemonade Stand, but now I’ve finally done the exercise with a team. Though I knew the exercise as a co-located exercise, we did it in a distributed setting and it work like a charm. The exercise spread a good mood and energy, and it was touching to hear the team members share.
Here comes my lemonade stand and then I’ll walk through the parts
If it is not obvious from the above, the exercise is not about drawing skill 🙂 The exercise is about what you bring to work.
You draw a lemonade stand, with a banner, a table, some posts to keep the banner up, and then of course the awesome host – you!
On top of the table you add the items that are your active skills that you bring to work. In the example above I’ve mentioned Git, Jira, DevOps and Agile.
Below the table are the secret menu, or the skills that you bring, but are not immediately relevant to your work. In the example above I’ve written Public Speaking and Playing Music. While the connection is not obvious, it is potentially very nice to know that I can be approached if you need some pointers or feedback on a big presentation.
On the posts you put the things that you’d like to add to the table, the skills you would like to learn. For me that would be SAFe, Coaching techniques and building visualizations.
These would be the things in the original exercise, but I think we can add another useful layer.
On the host we put the things that motivates us in the heart, and our worries in the mind. In this example I’ve put “Teaching something” as a motivation and “Unsure if I provide value” as a worry. I’ve used them as an example because they are true.
We did this exercise in 90 minutes on a team of six. We had ample time and even got to discuss team names a bit.
I spent the first 5-10 minutes introducing the exercise showing the example above.
I recommend that you put a lot of emphasis on the fact that it is not a drawing exercise and there are no right and wrong answers to this.
We then spent 25 minutes drawing our lemonade stands including a five minute break.
We then took turns presenting our lemonade stands, and it was awesome! Presenting the lemonade stands was 5-10 minutes per person.
If you are co-located you can do just fine with some A3 sheets or flip overs and post-its. In this distributed setting I said that they could use Paint just fine, two of the participants used other drawing apps, such as draw.io.
I did not do anything particular to use a collaborative tool or anything, the participants simply shared their screen when it was their turn. I recommend selecting the solution with the lowest barrier to entry, and what is available in your ecosystem already.
The lemonade stand is a great exercise for getting to know each other without it becoming too kumbaya for my tastes. The feedback I got from the team was also very positive, although of course that might be biased because I asked for it as a vote in a public slack channel. I remain positive though. The team shared their lemonade stands in their slack channel. That gave some persistence to the whole exercise.
I recommend doing it in your team, and it will not be the last time I have done it.