A Fun Exercise YOU Can Use to Aid Facilitation

I am trying to make Six Sigma meetings at my project in the UK fun and a little ‘different’ than the normal meetings there.

I am gathering up fun exercises and video clips to play in between facilitation of the DMAIC tools.

I will share with you one GREAT team exercise (I got from my company) which is a team building exercise that will break down barriers in teams especially when the group have just met.

Cane Exercise

All you need is:

1.A 2 metre bamboo cane. Get from DIY store.

2.6 people minimum

You get the bamboo cane and balance it just on your forefingers. (Your forefingers are under the bamboo cane).

You then state “All I want you to do as a group is lower the cane onto the floor”

With that, you lower the cane.

You then state “everybody stand up and get round the cane” In the case of 6 people; stand 3 people either side of the cane.

Then you raise the cane to chest height and state “Now as a group, lower the cane using only your forefingers.” Each team member must have two forefingers on the cane at the same time. Only the forefingers can be used. For example NO THUMBS.

You also state, if anyone cheats you will take the cane off them and put it back to your chest height.


No group I have tried this on can lower the cane straight off. The cane actually rises. It is then the task of the group to work out within the rules how to lower the cane.

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One person can lower the cane easily. But, when others have their input, a simple exercise for one can for a team become impossible without planning and teamwork.

I would really appreciate sharing with fellow bloggers and readers any similar exercises or videos you have.

Comments 8

  1. Greg Boos

    A similar "trick" that can be used to demonstrate the power of teamwork is the following:

    Have someone sit on a chair. Ask for 4 volunteers. One volunteer for each armpit and knee. Ask each volunteer to fold their hands together with only the forefingers extended forward. Tell the volunteers to place the forefingers under the armpits and knees and to lift the person off the chair. Usually nothing is accomplished.

    Then have the volunteers count to 3 and lift simultaneously. The person is slightly lifted off the chair.

    Coordination and teamwork is thusly demonstrated.

  2. Jim Ploszay

    My company uses the "ball exercise" as a teamwork tool. The class instructor starts by giving a small ball to a member of the class and tells the group to pass the ball around the room until every class member has touched the ball. Secretly, the instructor records the length of time it takes to touch everyone’s hands. The instructor then tells the group their time and asks if they can do it faster. The group complies and they improve. The instructor then informs the group that each previous class (at least at my company) has completed the task in less than 1 second. The class is then asked to repeat this feat. Eventually the group should get to a point where they line up their fingers next to one another forming a slightly “bumpy” hill. The ball starts at the top of the hill and rolls down touching each finger along the way.


  3. Sven Saerens

    Hello John,

    I came across this excercise a while ago. It was called "the cane game". I think it’s a excellent demonstration of the values of teamwork, communication and planning.


  4. Jane

    What a neat idea to cultivate teamwork! I also like the "ball exercise" too! Great ideas!

  5. annie

    Great, i will surely give-up a try to this exercise, hope the outcome will be an interesting game….

  6. Toria

    I have used both of these exercises and they work well but my favourite is the pentacle rope. You need a length of rope, aprox 15m with the ends tied together and at least 5 team members. (I have done this with as many as 15)

    I drop a loop of rope (aprox 15m long, ends tied together) in a heap on the floor and tell the students they have to make a 5-pointed star with the rope. However the rope must be completely off the floor when complete and as soon as ONE member of the team touches the rope EVERY member must close their eyes for the remainder of the exercise.

    It works really well to highlight team dynamics and communication but i have also elicited discussions on planning, descision making, situational awareness etc. I have not had 2 teams do it the same way yet

    By specifying a 5 pointed star rather than a pentacle, you get more variety in the overall design (eg some do a conjoined pentacle, some do an outline etc), by specifying a pentacle you get some more debate from the students as their are always some who don’t know what a pentacle is.

  7. David Peel

    All good exercises, but try this, for communication. You need to know how many delegates you are going to have because you need to draw a random but complicated different shape on each sheet of A4 paper in heavy felt tip pen. You need one sheet between two people. You also need some pads of paper and pens.

    Spread your delegates around the room in pairs. Tell each pair to stand back to back and them give one a sheet containing the random design (face down) and the other a pad and pen.

    Then tell all the pairs that when you say go they have 2 minutes in which the one with the drawing has to describe it to the other who has to draw it!

    Great fun ensues as they realise no matter how carefully one describes the shape the second person cannot visualise it! Some will say draw up the page for one inch but because they havent given a start point it all goes wrong..others will go wrong because they can’t estimate an inch etc etc.

    YOu can go on an use this as a basis for a communications exercise illustrating how important it is to see the person you are communicating with if you are to avoid confusion and error.

    You can vary the exercise by giving all the pairs the same shape and compare the results from the group as a whole.

    As them what they learnt from the exercise.

  8. Marian Currie

    Another one … involves 3 parts.

    Part 1 : give everyone a piece of A4 paper and tell them to close their eye and follow the verbal instructions. Facilitators gives instructions as (a) fold paper in half, (b) tear off a corner, (c) fold paper in half again, (d) tear off a corner, (e) fold paper in half again, (f) tear off a corner. Now ask everyone to open eyes and unfold piece of paper. You will get a variety of different shapes.

    Part 2 : get people to pair up and stand back to back. Each person to have a piece of A4 paper. The pairs can now talk to each other. Facilitator to give the same set of instructions (do not say anything other than instructions). Once complete you will have some pairs with matching "pictures", but some still don’t match.

    Part 3 : everyone sitting with a piece of A4 paper, eyes open, can all talk to each other. Objective is for entire team to get the same "picture" at the end. Facilitator to give same set of instructions. It’s amazing at the end how you will still get one or two people that end up with a different "picture".

    Key learning : we always work better when we can communicate as a team!

    Note : it’s also surprising how no one will ask for clarification of instructions during the game. Relate this to the workplace whereby a Supervisor will assume that everyone understands his instructions and thus has no need to expand further. BUT everyone has a different understanding of "fold the paper in half".


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