7 Fun and Engaging Change Management Exercises (2023)

Are you struggling to get your employees to adapt to new ways of working? The change management process can be long and complex because people tend to resist change. But your business needs to become adaptable to thrive in an evolving market.

So, how do you engage workers in your change management strategy? We’ve created a helpful guide inspired by research from Kotter’s 8-Step Process for leading change to “Who Moved My Cheese?’ by Spencer Johnson.

Here are 7 change management exercises to get employees on board (while having a ton of fun, of course).

Table of Contents hide

What are change management exercises?

The Importance Of Organizational Change Management

Why Do Employees Resist Change?

Lack Of Communication

Trust Issues

Self-Interest

7 Fun and Engaging Change Management Activities

2. The Alien at Dinner

3. Changing Places

4. The Ups and Downs of Change

How to play:

5. The Four P’s

6. Bouncing Back

7. Can Do Company

Follow Up With Stellar Change Management

Keep your Team Focused with Fun

What are change management exercises?

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Change management exercises help change workers’ attitudes toward organizational transformation. Played at the beginning of a meeting or work retreat, these exercises promote conversations about the upcoming change. These games also help management to anticipate employee concerns and better communicate the benefits of their change initiative.

You might think playing games in the workplace is counter-productive, but the opposite is true. As we’ll discuss in more detail, the change management process can be taxing on workers. You can improve your change management by addressing resistance through games and activities. These change management activities encourage employees to self-reflect on their approach to organizational change.

The Importance Of Organizational Change Management

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The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how the business world could transform at a moment’s notice. The pandemic has permanently changed how corporations react to change. Organizations are investing heavily in change managers to help them restructure their company’s approach. These businesses understand the importance of creating a change-friendly culture.

Recent insights from McKinsey suggest the scale of this change in attitude. ‘Each sector, industry, and function will have to reinvent itself to achieve maximum growth and sustainability.’ This is especially true in the digital age.

You need a comprehensive change management strategy to get the most out of digital transformation. A step-by-step plan will address your employees’ resistance to change. Then you can manage potential disruptions and approach transformation holistically.

Why Do Employees Resist Change?

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If you have a resistance problem within your workforce, it can be hard to know how to move forward. Despite your best efforts, your employees are reluctant to adopt new work methods. The harder you push change, the more frustrated employees become. The best approach is to address resistance at its source.

Resistance in the workplace is contagious. If one employee starts reverting to traditional processes, others will follow. Before you know it, your change strategy is falling apart. You need to understand why your employees struggle to adapt to tackle this problem.

Here are some common reasons an employee might resist change.

Apprehension & Low Tolerance

Employees with a low tolerance for change will become frustrated the more their organization pushes a transformation. It’s tempting to think that employees are only resistant to large-scale change, but studies show that small, everyday changes contribute to high workplace change fatigue. Gartner reports that ‘different types of change exert on employees and… day-to-day changes, such as moving to a new manager or team, are far more damaging.’

Lack Of Communication

Employees often report feeling disregarded during a change initiative. Keeping your workers in the loop is critical to the success of your strategy. Communicate your business goals and explain how your change project will benefit employees.

To engage employees, you also need to listen. Be open to employee feedback and make changes to your plan. Consider using a digital solution or platform to collect feedback and analyze the change process. Digital platforms are a great way to connect the aims of management and their staff during times of change.

Trust Issues

Transformational leaders value trust between themselves and their workforce. But many fail to build that all-important relationship. Companies that maintain trust experience a much smoother transition and less resistance to change. But remember, building trust requires a proactive approach. Building a solid relationship takes time.

Trust also means inspiring confidence in your workforce. The last thing you want is your employees to doubt your change management strategy. Work hard to improve your technique and communicate it to employees.

Self-Interest

Most people find comfort in things staying the same. When a company undergoes a large-scale transformation, its workers are the first to feel it. They worry about becoming redundant after the introduction of new business processes.

Employees are more likely to resist change if they aren’t shown the benefits of a change initiative. To appeal to your worker’s self-interest, explain the perks of change: more efficient and rewarding work, more opportunities to scale up, and more opportunities for collaboration.

7 Fun and Engaging Change Management Activities

Below are seven entertaining exercises to help employees overcome their fear of change. Go ahead and try one for yourself before your next significant change.

1. Cross Your Arms

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How to play:

Ask employees to cross their arms. Ask them to cross their arms the other way when they are comfortable. Once they’ve done this, ask them why the second attempt might have left them feeling uncomfortable, even though it’s the same action.

What’s the point?

This activity steers the conversation towards specific changes within your organization. Examining how tricky it is to cross your arms in different positions highlights the difficulty of change.

Benefits:

Employees can get used to the idea of change being uncomfortable at first. Soon, they realize that the new way of doing things becomes comfortable over time. This teaches resilience and prevents employees from giving up too quickly.

2. The Alien at Dinner

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How to play:

Ask employees to imagine themselves as aliens observing a human dinner party. Their task is to point out unusual human social norms and to explain them to the beings on their imaginary planet. Why do they drink poisonous alcohol? Why do they knock their glasses together when celebrating?

What’s the point?

Encourage your employees to be more open-minded toward changing long-standing methods. This exercise highlights alternative ways of doing something. It helps employees shake off traditional ways of thinking that might be stalling their progress.

Benefits:

This game works to transform mindsets about traditional ways of working. It helps employees detach from old processes and adopt new ones with minimal disruption. When introducing a new work process, you can remind employees of the lessons of this game.

3. Changing Places

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How to play:

Allow employees to sit wherever they want in the workplace. Then have them move to a different seat. Ask them to think about how their perspective changed in moving to the new seat and why.

After stretching for a minute, tell them they can now sit wherever they like. Watch which seat they choose.

Play the game twice and see if people behave the same way the second time. Discuss why people may have changed their choice the second time around.

What’s the point?

Guide the discussion to highlight our innate resistance to change and the benefits of moving away from a comfort zone to the unknown. Take this opportunity to acknowledge the fear of the unknown and share information about the need for upcoming changes.

Benefits:

Getting your employees out of their comfort zone is crucial to a successful change project. Too often, employees resort to old habits because it’s easier. This activity demonstrates the advantage of taking a new perspective on your environment. Physical management exercises like this have a bigger impact on employee mindsets because it sticks with them for longer.

4. The Ups and Downs of Change

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How to play:

Ask employees to stand in a horizontal line, facing outwards. Before starting the game, write down a list of terms related to change management—for example, training, digital transformation, digital adoption platform, business process, etc.

Read out each word on your list. Employees must either take a step forward if they feel positive about the term or a step backward if they feel negative.

After completing your list, notice the positions of everyone in the room.

What’s the point?

Employees can self-reflect on their approach to change management terms by visualizing their reactions to change. The pattern of employees around the room demonstrates the lack of cohesion in the workforce during change.

Benefits:

This activity shows the detrimental effect of an individual’s resistance to change. By seeing how different workers react to change, the team can collaborate more easily to find a way forward. Use the opportunity to discuss the importance of sticking together as a team during times of change.

5. The Four P’s

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How to play:

Start this exercise with a large whiteboard or flip chart. Create four columns and label them left to right: Project, Purpose, Particulars, and People.

Then, have your group of employees fill in each column as follows:

  • Project — list the upcoming changes.
  • Purpose — ask what benefits the change will bring. Will it increase revenue? Will it make processes more efficient?
  • Particulars — list the details of what needs to change.
  • People — have the group identify which employees will need to change how they do things or participate in the change.

What’s the point?

This exercise will help participants connect the four areas and see the greater purpose of the change they will soon experience. Participants conclude that if they don’t change the way they do their job, then they won’t achieve their objectives.

Benefits:

The takeaway from this activity is that change management is a multi-step process. Employees are more likely to engage with change if they understand the change management process.

6. Bouncing Back

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How to play:

In a spacious area, hand out bouncy balls for pairs of employees to bounce back and forth for a few minutes. Then, ask them if they ever doubted the ball would fail to bounce back up. Point out that, like the bouncy balls, they too will be able to bounce back from challenges. Finally, let them keep the bouncy balls as a tangible reminder.

What’s the point?

The game itself is pretty simple. But don’t forget, the memento of the ball is the real point of this game. The ball represents an employee’s capacity for resilience. This game acts as a reminder they can overcome any challenge.

Benefits:

This activity teaches determination by addressing employees’ fear of failure. Most employees resist change because they aren’t sure it’ll pay off. As a change manager, your role is to communicate the benefits of change. This activity helps to remind employees that they can bounce back after failing. This change management exercise reduces fear of failure and encourages employees to take more risks.

7. Can Do Company

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How to play:

For this final change management exercise, divide employees into groups. Have them develop an idea for a company, such as candy bars for cats or water bottles for dogs.

Assign members of each group-specific job functions like designing, marketing, distributing, etc. Have each “mini-company” prepare a product and business plan presentation.

After 10 minutes, change the group dynamic by moving participants from one group to another. Change the specifications for the final presentation and share important information with only one group member.

Depending on how much time you have, you can repeat the changes or spread them out throughout. After the allotted time, each group can present and pick a winner at the end.

What’s the point?

This exercise will force participants to be flexible, communicate, and work together. After the activity, follow up with an open discussion on how teams adapted to changes. What benefits came from their new members or new specifications? Employees can reflect on how they collaborate with different teams. Ask workers to reflect on what works and what doesn’t.

Benefits:

This game shows employees how quickly they adapt to changes when they need to. Jumping into a new work dynamic can be daunting, but practice certainly helps. When faced with a change in the future, employees can remember this activity and how they thrived in unfamiliar environments.

Follow Up With Stellar Change Management

These seven change management activities are all designed to help minimize employee resistance to change. To question why we fear change and to encourage a more productive attitude toward change.

Not only will they give individuals a chance to examine their attitudes towards change in-depth, but they are also sure to enrich any work environment and improve productivity. And that’s a change that no one will be complaining about.

But for these change management activities to truly mean something, organizational leadership must follow up with stellar change management. This means supporting change through comprehensive training. Be sure to create space for feedback through surveys, or other company communication channels. Change managers must make adjustments to their strategy based on feedback from employees.

Keep your Team Focused with Fun

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Enterprise-wide change initiatives demand a lot from their employees. Even smaller-scale change management impacts the workforce. The learning process can be daunting, but your initiative will fall apart if you don’t make change fun.

Change management activities like the ones we’ve listed above can add variety to the training process. Practical change management exercises encourage workers to collaborate. Collaboration is crucial to achieving your business outcomes.

Remember, successful change management is all about supporting staff during times of change. Change can be tedious and uninspiring for lower-level employees. Unlike executives, they don’t see the company-wide benefits of transformation. That’s why change management activities are such essential change management tools.

Address the anxiety of your employees by focusing on their needs. Ask them to be honest about their concerns and find ways to make the process fun. Not only will these change management exercises engage employees in learning new processes, but they’ll also encourage engagement in future change projects.

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