The Faceboard Game

The Faceboard Game is a get-to-know exercise which was specifically designed for large groups (of 50+ people) and initially targeted to entire software engineering departments which lack cross-colleague, cross-project and/or cross-product awareness and suffer from departmental and/or team silos. The desired outcome was participants: (1) to associate names and faces with concrete colleagues; (2) to learn interesting facts about one another (and thus be able to find associates and form groups of interest); and (3) to learn interesting facts about company’s projects and/or products. Moreover the expectations were to have an artifact created at the end of the exercise which could be further used to continuously promote cross-colleague, cross-project and/or cross-product awareness. The latter was called the faceboard and was envisioned to have individual pictures of all participants together with few interesting facts about themselves and the projects and/or products they are working on.

Timing

The timing largely depends on the number of participants and teams. For 5 teams of 10 people it takes around 2 hours.

Materials

Pens, A5 papers, scotch tapes and scissors. Individual pictures for all participants and some interesting facts about company’s projects and/or products. For the latter the recommended format is superlative statements as this would encourage people to exchange information between themselves. For example “Won the biggest number of innovation awards” would require participants to share how many innovation awards are won by each product in order to find the correct answer. It is also recommended to build up the teams in advance so you could ensure diversity – or that each team consists of people who are from different departments and/or teams and do not know each other very well. For larger groups additional facilitators might be needed as well.
While planning the exercise you’d have to specify a number of parameters depending on your concrete time limits and number of participants. These parameters are given below (together with their concrete values in case of 50 people and 2 hours limitation).

Parameter Value
(in case of 50 people and
2 hours limitation)
Number of teams 5 Size of teams 10 Number of personal facts (per participant) 1 Number of professional facts (per participant) 1 Number of project / product facts (per team) 5

As the timing of the gameplay largely depends on these parameters – the timing in the next section is adjusted to reflect the values from the table above.
Finally you’d have to place all the individual pictures on a wall (in a horizontal line) and leave enough space underneath so people could place their corresponding facts.

Gameplay

I. Write down the facts (10 mins)
Distribute pens and A5 papers to all participants and ask them to write down their individual facts – one fact per a A5 paper. The more interesting (or exotic) the facts are – the better.

II. Shuffle the facts and set up the teams (10 mins)
Collect all the individual facts and shuffle them in a pile. Ask people to set up their teams and pick up an equal number of individual facts from the pile. You could calculate this number in advance by multiplying the number of participants by the number of facts per participant and then dividing the result to the number of teams. With the given parameters of the exercise this would be: (50 * 2) / 5 = 20.
The project and/or product facts should be randomly distributed as well (following the predefined number of project / product facts per team).

III. Guess the owners, projects and/or products (30 mins)
Each team would be given 30 minutes to figure out the owners, projects and/or products of their facts. Teams (and participants) are allowed to communicate freely between themselves.

IV. Present the guesses (75 mins.)
Each team would be given 15 minutes to present their guesses. This should happen in the following manner:

  1. The team reads loud a fact and announce who they think is the owner.
  2. The suggested owner stands up (or gets in front) and either confirms or denies. In case of the former the team is awarded one point. If the guess is wrong, the real owner stands up (or gets in front).
  3. The team places the fact on the wall just under the picture of the corresponding owner. Additionally they could put the projects and/or products the owner is currently (or has been previously) working on.

The above steps are repeated for all individual facts and then for project and product related ones. For the latter – the correctness of the team’s guesses would be verified by the facilitators.
In case more than one person stands up (or gets in front) for a given individual fact – the real owner should be identified through her handwriting.

V. Announce the winners (5 mins)
Calculate the points earned by each team and announce the winner. Alternatively you might consider having separate winners for people, projects and product related facts.

The Faceboard

The Faceboard is the resulting artifact of the exercise – a wall full of individual pictures of the participants together with few interesting facts about themselves and the projects and/or products they are working on. An exemplary Faceboard is given below.

The Faceboard Game - The Faceboard

As seen from above the individual facts are placed just under participants’ pictures and names, while the projects and/or products they are currently (or has been previously) working on are on top. Colors might be used to differentiate personal from professional facts together with company’s projects and products. Given below is an exemplary Faceboard scaled to 24 people.

The Faceboard Game - Scaled Faceboard

The Faceboard is expected to be placed in a public area at the office (e.g. office cafeteria, reception, waiting or recreation rooms, etc.) and used as a live artifact – people should be encouraged to add or remove facts/projects/products and enrich it however and whenever they think it is appropriate. The ultimate goal is to continuously promote cross-colleague, cross-project and/or cross-product awareness and prevent the occurrence of departmental and/or team silos.
Additionally the Faceboard could be used to popularize appreciation at the workplace. This could be done by regularly distributing “Thank You!” stickers in the office and letting people place them anonymously next to the person on the Faceboard who they think deserves appreciation.

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