There seems to be a surge in the demand for crisis related exercises at the moment. I’m not sure of the reasons for this, perhaps the recent events in Paris have reminded us of the need to be ready for threats or maybe it’s just one of the parts of the annual programme that’s all too easy to postpone and delay. I’ve written before about the challenges we sometimes face in getting people to participate.

I enjoy putting exercises together. It’s always good to get the creative juices flowing in order to build realistic scenarios and to predict the behaviours and responses the teams will generate. One of the key aspects I look to work on is to keep the exercises interesting, relevant and challenging. If we slip into the routine of churning out the same thing each time we really will lose the audience and once that happens you won’t get them back.

Obviously the maturity of the team being exercised can determine how complex and involved the exercise will be so, over time you can shift from being educational and guidance to more of an interactive and realistic experience. The scenarios can change but if the event looks and feels the same as last time the participants will remember it as just another ‘kick the tyres’ activity, you know, get a tick in the box to keep compliance happy, see you next year!

So what can you do to make exercises more relevant and interesting?

  1. Get the participants to do stuff – if they turn up with a notepad, pen and skinny latte waiting for you to entertain them that’s not really approaching the event with the right attitude. Make the team actually execute the actions. Even the simplest of tasks take longer than teams realise so this is a good starting point in building a bit of pressure.
  2. Add some crossfire – don’t deliver all the injects via the facilitator. Messages, questions and even non exercise communications coming in to mobile devices during an exercise changes the dynamics and the tensions the team have to manage.
  3. Get out of the classroom – who says you have to exercise in a classroom? Why not start the exercise from your evacuation point? Sure you can bring your latte but your building is screwed so now what are you going to do and where do you go from here?
  4. Go to war – a lot of teams trot through an exercise deciding their actions and they live happily ever after because all the imaginary stakeholders do exactly as they say and deliver back to the team just what they need. How about stirring things up a bit by using a team to robustly challenge the decisions and actions of the team? Raising demands in the way that real stakeholders would, particularly over the speed or sequence of activities can be really valuable.

Whichever approach you use it is essential to be clear on the objectives, what do you want to achieve or learn from the exercise? The exercise is not about the scenario, rather the scenario is a means to an end, it is simply the vehicle to get the team to do what you need them to do. Some exercise facilitators seem to be seeking literary prizes and end up writing amazing stories but the point is you have to nail the objectives otherwise we are straight back to ‘entertain me’.

I hope this has helped give you some food for thought. If you are about to churn out the same thing as you did for the team last time around just pause and think about some of the options available to you for livening things up a bit. Your teams will thank you for it.

December 13, 2015 at 8:21 pm
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Category: Crisis Management, Training & Exercising
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