Management 3.0 Game: Meddlers

How do you build a strong, supportive organizational structure.

Meddlers, named after a popular German board game, is a popular change management best practice played at the Management 3.0 Foundation Workshops. The exercise allows players to visualize and discuss organizational structure, in a way that matches the concept of value networks. It lets you work together as a team to determine your own roles as you’re managing change within your organization.

Meddlers is one of the many Management 3.0 activities that offer you tools and frameworks to arrive at your own solution, that you can then take back to your office.

Organizational structure significantly impacts how an organization works and how people feel about the hierarchy and communication it encourages or hinders. Meddlers teaches you how to:

  • Work with multiple products and product owners
  • Be agile in a geographically distributed team
  • Adapt organizational structures to agile management
  • Grow an organization structure like a fractal
  • Balance specialization and generalization
  • Choose between functional teams and cross-functional teams
  • Deal with dependencies among teams
  • Treat teams as value units as a part of a value network
  • Allow teams to self-organize
  • Empower individuals to define their roles within a team or company

Buy your own Meddlers today!

You can order copies of the game or you can download Meddlers here, print the suggested number of copies, and spend some time cutting. Game instructions are available in English.

How to Play Meddlers with Your Team

Before we share some examples of how to play, remember that this is a self-organizational game so get creative with how you play it! Just make sure you create a legend to remind yourselves what each face, hat and hexagonal function tile means to you. On many teams, the faces represent individuals (and you can even add name tags), the hats are roles, and the function tiles represent the different teams coming together for a certain project, but it’s up to you and your team!

One way to get started is by giving each other challenges via explaining a situation, a goal, and a number of constraints. For example:

  • You have a business unit of 18 people, responsible for two big customers and two small ones. What could the organizational structure look like?
  • You have a start-up of 15 people, offering Software as a Service (SaaS) to a hundred different customers. How will you grow it?
  • You are a development manager in an enterprise, responsible for distributed teams in three countries. How will people collaborate?

The result of the exercise should be an organizational structure, consisting of one or more teams, where each team contains one or more roles.

There are very few game rules. Only two things are worth pointing out:

  1. A functional team contains only people with the same role. A cross-functional team has people with different roles.
  2. By connecting the sides of teams, you visualize that the teams are collaborating and providing value to each other.

Players can deviate from the rules and bend the constraints in any way they like. Some people add extra roles to their structures. Some people connect tiles in creative ways. Some people position roles across boundaries or outside of the teams. Some people combine roles into one. Everything is allowed, as long as the players can explain what the benefits and the risks are.

How Meddlers Drives Value

Meddlers’ objective is to facilitate discussion about organizational structures, where multiple teams work on multiple projects. The result?

  1. People are forced to work on a flat surface. This means they cannot grow the organization as a hierarchy. They must grow their business as a value network.
  2. The game concentrates on teamwork (instead of having them work solo), which means we recommend limiting the size of teams to fewer than ten.
  3. This game makes it easier for managers to let teammates invent their own team structures and to have them discuss the benefits, risks and value teams are providing to each other.

The exercise has no clearly defined outcome in terms of winners and losers. When players better understand how to grow their organization as a value network, then everyone is a winner!

Management 3.0 in Action: Teams playing Meddlers:

Buy your own Meddlers today!

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