Buying the Floor Model

Published: June 6, 2023

Let’s play "Would you Rather." Would you rather sit in a retreat workshop and listen to the speaker drone on about the day’s curriculum...or...would you rather get up, move around the room, and see the day’s lesson in action? Hearing that a colleague is hesitant to share innovative ideas for fear of criticism is a much different experience than seeing your teammate place themselves in a location in the circle that lacks trust. There you stand - waiting to launch into innovation - while your counterpart declines the invitation to join you in the area where creativity happens. Awkward and silent eye contact usually happens next. Now what?

It’s a pretty simple exercise with three steps. This Team Clock® floor model enables participants to see every stage of the team’s lifecycle. Maybe there’s been a big change and people are struggling to adjust. Perhaps there’s an ongoing conflict about the team’s destination and the alternate paths to get there. Sometimes team trust just isn’t strong enough to support exploration. Maybe recent growth has had unexpected consequences. You won’t know until you see everyone’s current position.

Step 1: Everyone stands on whatever dot on the floor model that best represents their current challenge. Each teammate then answers the question, “Where are you on the cycle and why are you there?”

Step 2: Everyone moves to the place in the cycle that best represents where they’d most like to be in six months. Each teammate then answers the question, “Why do I seek this change and what do I need from my teammates to get there?”

Step 3: Craft an action plan that honors these three essential stances:

  • We must protect our history and legacy.
  • Our future will not look the same as it does today and we must prepare for change.
  • We need to clarify our priorities, agree on our strategy, and commit to a sequence of steps to take together.

Until the team has achieved a level of accountability that no longer requires tracking, it’s best to memorialize the goals, strategies, tactics, and timelines. Devote a portion of each team meeting to some version of a red-yellow-green check-in so that movement can be acknowledged and obstacles can be problem-solved. If you repeat the exercise regularly, the tracking will ultimately become unnecessary.

Everyone eventually buys into the culture of accountability because everyone’s position in the cycle has been honored. Goals, roles, and pace of change can be negotiated collaboratively. The mission will strengthen. Trust will grow. Innovation will become more daring and resilience will become the defining visage of change.

Then what? Keep asking and answering the three questions. Where are we on the clock and why? Where would we like to be next and what do we need from each other to get there? What plan of action will lead us to our shared goal?

In this case, it’s worth it to buy the floor model.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.