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Status Center

What if Status Meetings were like Sports News?

Object of Play
Sitting through status meetings is boring, right? Well, then why do many of us go home and watch status reports for an hour or more every night?We watch news shows, ‘fake’ news shows, Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, ESPN’s SportsCenter, and many more. Something about those status reports must be working better than the ones we sleep through at work.StatusCenter is a ‘macro’ game structure that aims to apply the ‘rules’ of the TV status report game to the business status report game. The StatusCenter macro-game is populated with stand-alone games that can be linked throughout the meeting, following Gamestorming’s ‘opening, exploring, closing’ model.

Number of Players
4 to 40

Duration of Play
30 to 60 minutes for a weekly meeting; up to 4 hours for a quarterly or annual review

How to Play
Like TV, StatusCenter will link short game segments, in a manner that is interesting and time-efficient. While the segments are modeled after sports, news, or other television formats, they are equally effective for people who aren’t familiar with those metaphors.

Opening Games

  1. Question Balloons: Simulating the controlled question-asking mechanisms of status shows like Larry King’s ‘email questions’, this game lets attendees literally float a question. As questions are answered, balloons are popped, and any questions still remaining at the end of the meeting are visible at a glance.
  2. Top Scores: Simulating the ‘Headlines’ or ‘Scoreboard’, this game delivers business metrics quickly and succinctly, acting as a teaser for the rest of the meeting.

Exploring Games

  1. 60-Second Update: Mimicking a ‘Highlights’ segment, this game delivers short updates by each member, aligning everyone. More questions can be ‘floated’ here.
  2. Project Jeopardy: Allows one or two in-depth updates on key subjects, while creating audience involvement for those who may already know the answers. Rotating the ‘host’ from meeting to meeting gives everyone a chance to say a little more about their own projects or progress.
  3. Crossfire: This segment provides drama, while giving a ‘safe’ environment for those that like to argue. Meeting attendees select a topic of interest during the previous week, and two people prepare to discuss it from two different viewpoints. This segment is a great way to explore potentially controversial ideas, learn about new products or technologies, or assess the competition’s latest move.
  4. In-depth Analysis <link here>: This longer segment provides space for an investigative report, formal presentation, or guest commentary. Consider inviting speakers who are of interest to the group but don’t typically come to the meetings.
  5. Trade Rumors: What are the hot rumors? Clearly delineated from the facts that are delivered in the status updates, these rumors generate interest and energy. Again, keep it short – 15 seconds each. Remember that a juicy rumor could become next weeks’ Crossfire or In-depth Analysis topic.

Closing Games

  1. Coming Attractions: What hot projects or decisions are coming up in the next week? What meetings should I attend? Give each participant 15 – 30 seconds to provide these ‘teasers’ that are quick and to the point.
  2. Question Balloons <link here>: Close out any questions that have not been addressed during the meeting.
  3. Cliffhanger: Use a suggestion box to choose the Crossfire and In-depth Analysis topics and participants for the next (or future) meeting. This builds drama and anticipation for the next meeting.

Strategy

  1. We cannot recommend strongly enough that most status information should be pushed outside of the StatusCenter game. Dashboards, email updates, and the like should be used to distribute information that does not need to be reiterated with a captive audience.
  2. Alternate short ‘highlight’ games with longer ‘analysis’ games to satisfy audience members who want depth, while keeping the pace engaging.
  3. Stick to status subjects. Decisions, brainstorming, and other topics – no matter how legitimate – should taken off-line. Even Crossfire, which can be used to present two different opinions, should be seen as a way of exploring ideas, not as a way to come to a decision.
  4. Add, delete, or replace these games based on time and need.
  5. There are many proponents of standing status meetings (often called ‘huddles’). Try this method.
  6. Try ‘co-hosts,’ like many news shows.

Key Points
StatusCenter will be most successful if roles are clear and attendees have prepared in advance. Consider creating a template for 60-Second Update and Project Jeopardy to help attendees understand what kind of information to include. By moving basic status information to pre-meeting communications and then breaking the meeting itself into fast-paced chunks, you can transform a meeting that people tend to tune out of into one they will definitely want to watch.

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Project Jeopardy

Listening to project status reports can be deadly dull, but it doesn’t have to be. Imagine if the other meeting attendees were leaning forward in their seats, actively listening, and even calling out excitedly instead of thinking about what they were going to say on their turn, or checking their email! Project Jeopardy requires a little advance preparation, but is designed to make project report-outs engaging, memorable, and fun.

image of sample cards for Project Jeopardy
Sample Project Jeopardy Cards
Object of Play
For players, the object is to collect as many points as possible by correctly asking the project-related questions that correspond with the answers given by the host. For the host, the object is to convey information about the status of his or her project.

Number of Players
4 to 40

Duration of Play
5-15 minutes

How to Play

A. Preparation

  1. Prior to the meeting, the host (the person who will be reporting on his or her project) prepares a set of question-and-answer cards about aspects of the project. These should cover important points about the project that the team needs to know, with most of the information being in the answer. It helps to frame the answer first. For instance, an answer/question pair might be, “The project generated $45,000 in revenue over this time period.” and “What is Q3?”
  2. On a sturdy card, sticky note, or half sheet of plain white paper, write the answer and question. Write the answer at the top, and the question at the bottom. Make sure they can’t be seen through the back of the paper. On the reverse, write a point or dollar value. Harder questions should be worth more.
  3. Divide the question/answer pairs into categories (financials, clients, deadlines, or whatever is appropriate). Have a little fun with the category names.
  4. Attach the question cards or notes to a flip chart page in columns with the category name at the top and the value showing. (The questions and answers should be hidden.) The lowest value questions should be at the top and the highest value at the bottom. The idea is that a player would pick a category and value, such as “Financials for four points” or “Deadlines for $100.”

B. Play

  1. Explain the rules, if needed. Give a one- or two-sentence description of the project you are reporting on if there are people in the meeting who are not familiar with it.
  2. Play goes clockwise around the table, starting to the left of the host.
  3. The first player either chooses a category/value pair or passes. If s/he chooses a category/value pair, the host removes that card from the flip chart and reads the answer aloud.
  4. The player frames a question that goes with the answer s/he has just heard. If the question is the correct one, say “That’s right!” and give the card to the player. If the question is not correct, say, “I’m sorry, that’s not correct,” and replace the card on the flip chart.
  5. If only a few people are in the meeting, allow the player to choose another card if s/he provided the correct question. If the meeting is a large one, play should pass to the next person whether or not the correct answer was given. Any player is free to pass instead of choosing a card.
  6. Continue until all the cards have been awarded. Play should move quickly; if you wish, impose a one-minute time limit on responding, enforced by an hourglass, timer, or human timekeeper.

C. Concluding the Game

  1. When all the cards have been awarded, players add up the point or dollar amounts on the cards they received. The one with the highest number of points or dollars receives a prize (a free coffee, a chocolate bar, or something similar).
  2. Ask if there are any questions about the project that have not been addressed, and answer those. Congratulate the winner!

Strategy
When inviting team members to host a Project Jeopardy session, give them plenty of lead time to work out the questions. If you will be using the game over and over, consider creating a set of laminated cards that have values on one side but nothing on the other. Hosts can use dry-erase markers to fill in the questions and answers on the blank side, and the cards can be reused from meeting to meeting. If possible, create a master set of categories that hosts can choose from, as well as a set of sample question/answer pairs to guide them in creating their own.

Key Points
What makes Project Jeopardy work is effective question/answer pairs. Remember that the information is really flowing from the host to the players, although it appears to be otherwise, and make the questions general and easy to guess. The goal is to convey information about the project — not to completely stump the players!