by Jurgen Appelo
One of the popular exercises of the Management 3.0 workshops is the Meddlers Game which facilitates discussions around organizational structure and organizational design. The exercise has been in “beta” for about five years (just as long as Gmail!) because there were always other things with higher priority on our backlog.
Well, not anymore! It’s time to finish the game.
Give the pieces to a small group of players with the following explanation.
- The large hexagonal tiles represent teams or units.
- Hats represent roles (or hats worn.)
- Faces represent people. These can be team members or other people that affect the organization, both internally and externally.
- The same hat on a tile means all members do the same work.
- Different hats on a tile mean that the members have different roles.
- Connect tiles with each other to indicate that the teams produce value for (or with) one another. It means they need to collaborate.
- Use the separate hats to represent additional roles on a team or extra roles outside of a team. You can place them at any point that makes sense to you.
- Use the face pictures to indicate specific people on a team or outside of a team. Again, place them anywhere you want. It will be your design.
- You can combine people with roles, but this is not a requirement. You may use both faces and hats separately.
- You can also use the people and/or the roles to indicate customers, managers, suppliers, or other external stakeholders.
- If you want, use the last page in the PDF as a legend to keep track of the meaning of the roles (hats).
- For everything else: just agree as a group what specific placement of the pieces means.
There Is Only One Rule: Everyone at the table agrees on what the design represents.
After giving the players these pointers, it’s time for a few challenges. You can choose any of the following goals, or you can invent some yourself:
- Design a 20-person web design company that needs to manage many small projects.
- Design the audiovisual production department of a social media marketing agency.
- Design the organization structure for a popular, local coffee bar.
- Design the 30-person mobile apps department of a bank.
Sadly, with the Meddlers Game, there are no points, no rewards, and no chance of winning anything. What a terrible game! However, what you get is great conversations about organization design that are much easier for people to understand when they can play with tiles and pieces.
Do you have suggestions for improvement of the game? Please let us know. Or tell us how you’ve played the game either via that email or in the comments below!
Differences with the previous version
I published the beta version of the Meddlers Game five years ago. Based on experiences by our facilitators, we made the following changes:
- Removed the terms “functional team” and “cross-functional team,” which gives more freedom to players and translators.
- Removed the separate tile for “customer” which enables players to invent their own types of clients with hats and faces.
- Removed all specific (software-related) roles and icons and replaced them with neutral hats, which allows players to come up with their own preferred role names.
- Added a collection of faces which makes it possible to separate people from roles and use one or the other, or both.