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Tall Ships

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A tall ship relies on interdependent parts to maximize power, speed, stability and agility while producing dependable performance. So it is with high performing teams. While it is important to focus on each of the critical aspects of performance individually, it is only through the integration and interdependence of each of these aspects that the conditions for exceptional performance are created.

Tall Ships is a highly engaging experiential exercise/learning game where the objective is to focus attention on the "Seven C’s", the key factors that define high-performing teams. The game challenges teams to race against the clock (and other teams) to build the tallest ship mast at the lowest cost. Players not only learn the skills behind the seven factors that research demonstrates are most critical to effective team performance; they will practice them long-term too.

How It Works

Tall Ships, an experiential learning activity, provides individuals with the opportunity to apply various team concepts and learn how to enhance team performance.

Teams representing imaginary companies have been selected by The Seven Seas Company to bid on a lucrative contract for designing and building a tall ship. Problem is, for any team to be awarded the winning bid, they must first demonstrate that they can successfully embody the Seven C's upon which The Seven Seas Company is founded:

  • Clarity
  • Capability
  • Collaboration
  • Commitment
  • Communication
  • Continuous improvement
  • Creativity

Three game rounds reveal the team dynamics that impact team effectiveness.

Round I starts by asking teams to assemble the tallest ship mast possible in the least amount of time. Lessons learned from this round are discussed and applied to the Seven C's model.

Round II challenges teams to rethink their strategy and build yet a taller mast in the same amount of time, but at the lowest cost.

Round III allows teams to make one last attempt at the task, assembling the mast according to new specifications and requirements. Finally, an action-planning phase provides teams and team members with an opportunity to improve their performance.

Uses and Applications

Tall Ships helps team members experience the value of addressing critical team performance factors through a fun and engaging activity. It can be used as a stand-alone learning event or integrated into a longer team meeting, workshop, or larger training context. The design can be easily customized for specific learning needs and contexts and/or adapted to address topics such as:

  • Leadership
  • Change management
  • Consolidations/mergers & acquisitions
  • Quality awareness
  • Process improvement
  • Safety awareness

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this workshop, participants will: 

  • Learn and practice the seven factors critical to effective teamwork
  • Explore strategies to improve team performance
  • Uncover how to identify and apply actions to real-life team situations

Product Details

Product Type: Game. The Facilitator Guide includes everything you need to lead a successful training session.

Target Audience: Newly formed groups or teams, intact groups or teams, groups or teams that need enhanced teamwork and greater team effectiveness.

Measures: How participants learn, use, and improve team-building skills.

Dimensions: Teamwork, team effectiveness, and team communication.

Time Required: Two hours.

What to Order

Complete Game Kit: Order One Kit to Train 21 Participants and One Trainer
Each Complete Game Kit includes materials to simultaneously train three teams of up to seven participants. All parts except for the participant guides are reusable.

Participant Guide 5-Pack: Order One Pack for Up to Five Participants
The Complete Game Kit includes an initial supply of participant guides, but you will need to replenish them when you run out.

Extra Game Pack: Order If Training More Than 21 Participants
For training sessions with more than three teams, order one Extra Game Pack for each additional team of up to seven participants.

About the Authors

Dr. Stu Noble, the president and founder of 3D Learning, has almost 20 years of experience in human resources management as well as quality and organizational development. Before forming 3D Learning, he was a senior associate with Block Petrella Weisbord, Inc., a leading-edge organizational development consulting firm. As an OD consultant, he specializes in high involvement strategic visioning, planning and works redesign, as well as leadership and team (including virtual) development.