Do you dread team bonding exercises? Do you feel like they are a waste of time? No more! The team building exercise I am about to teach you will:

  • Help your team be more productive
  • Encourage deeper collaboration
  • Assess what tasks are working and which aren’t

This is the team exercise my team and I do all the time. I also use it myself!

It’s called: Start, Stop, Continue.

The premise is simple. This team bonding exercise is a way for you to easily check-in with your team and your projects. Here are the goals of the exercise:

  • What’s working? Let’s do more of that.
  • What’s not working? Let’s do less of that.
  • What’s meh? Let’s discuss.

Materials Needed:

  • Multi-colored sticky notes
  • A large space
  • Pens

Step #1: Pick a Topic

You can do this exercise with any topic–work, personal or project specific. You can even do it by yourself, with a pair or in a large group. It’s very flexible — which is why it’s so great. The first thing you want to do is pick a topic area. The one my team just did was on:

Marketing at the Science of People

This is something we all work on, think about and is important for the business. You want to pick a topic that matters — something that affects everyone on your team, or greatly impacts the bottom line or even a topic that needs a reset. Here are some ideas:

Business Ideas:

  • Financial Plans
  • Year in Review
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Branding
  • Team Tasks

Personal Ideas:

  • Health
  • Family Chores
  • Household Finances
  • Scheduling and Time Management
  • Family Values

Step #2: Sticky It Up

The next step is for everyone on your team to write everything that comes to mind for that topic. Each thing should get its own sticky note. If you can, give everyone their own color post-it. Specifically, everyone should answer these questions and write as many post-its as they can:

  • What tasks do you do related to this topic?
  • What tasks do you think should be done related to this topic but aren’t being done?
  • What ideas do you have about this topic?

For example, my team did this for Marketing Strategy at the Science of People. Here are a few of the things written on post-its. We only wrote down one or two words to keep it easy and below, I added descriptions for explanation for you:

  • Blog Posts: Write blog posts about people skills
  • Medium: Submit articles to Medium
  • Facebook: Post articles to Facebook
  • YouTube: Make a video for each article on YouTube
  • HuffPo: Syndicate articles to Huffington Post
  • LinkedIn: Put articles on our LinkedIn
  • Twitter: Post articles to Twitter multiple times per week
  • Email: Send out articles in email newsletters
  • Instagram: Make an image for the article and post it on Instagram

This list can be as long as you like.

Step #3: Place the Tasks

Now that everyone has written their tasks, they should begin to place them on a large white board or table with three columns.

Start Column: People should place their sticky note in this column if they think it’s a task that should be started–meaning it’s not being done at all or enough right now.

Stop Column: People should place their sticky note in this column if they think it’s a task that should be stopped–it’s not productive or effective.

Continue Column: People should place their sticky note in this column if they think it’s a task that should be continued or enhanced. These are tasks that are working well.

People can place these in each column and if each person has their own color it is easy to see who placed what where.

Special Note: If you are worried people might be shy, you can give everyone the same color so people do not have to be embarrassed by their answers. Sometimes anonymity is a good thing if you want people to be honest.

Here is where our team placed the tasks above:

Start:

  • Medium
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram

Stop:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • HuffPo

Continue:

  • YouTube
  • Email Marketing
  • Blog Posts

Step #4: Discuss

This is where you can discuss and debate the list. Any disagreements? Explanations that need to be made? Do it now! This is the best part of the exercise because it allows people to re-evaluate tasks that they or others might be doing that don’t serve them.

What if there are disagreements? Good! Then the activity is really getting to the heart of the matter. I like to put questionable tasks in between columns. For example, my team and I couldn’t agree about StumbleUpon. We get some traffic, but not a ton. It went in between the Stop and Continue columns to be re-evaluated in 3 months.

*Be sure to create a safe space. Make it clear that every idea is welcome and no idea should be shot down too quickly.

Step #5: Assignments + Action

Once everyone is happy with the board, assignments and re-assignments, action should be taken. What tasks should be re-assigned? Who is closing up or ending the “Stop” tasks? Who is targeting the “Start” tasks? Pull out your to-do lists and your calendars and make each task an action step.

  • Set a check-in time for questionable tasks. Did you have a lot of disagreement? Agree to gather data and intel and reconvene sometime soon to re-address.

Bonus: Really, Any Topic!

You can really do this with any topic. For example, I wanted to do “Health” at the beginning of the year for my partner and I. My husband and I made a bunch of sticky notes and then made our own board. It ended up looking like this:

Start:

Stop:

  • Eating out on weeknights
  • Eating after 7pm
  • Soda

Continue:

  • Hiking
  • Afternoon Yoga
  • Badminton
  • Soccer

It was a great couple activity. We started blocking out time on our calendars for activities, purged the house of soda and bought some great protein shakes. Boom!

Try this activity with your team, your spouse or your family.

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and human behavioral investigator in our lab.

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