Every project needs a marshmallow!
Tom Wujec developed a well-known “team” exercise. It’s based on Peter Skillman’s idea, ‘The Spaghetti Tower Challenge or ‘The Marshmallow Challenge. This is a race against time where people work together to build the tallest tower out of dried spaghetti, string, and tape. At the end of their time, they must place one marshmallow on top of their structure.
Tom Wujec describes him as “a technology pioneer and TED speaker, entrepreneur and writer who helps people solve complex issues and create wickedly amazing outcomes”.
This engaging and entertaining exercise was created by Tom. This engaging and entertaining exercise has been presented by many people, including myself, to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the globe. Each time, it provides both entertainment and insight for those involved.
The object is to use the provided resources to create the tallest structure possible and place a marshmallow on top.
The structure must be independent.
The team with the tallest tower (with the marshmallow on top) is the winner.
This is great fun! This is really fun!
Image Source: https://bit.ly/2njQdHm
It is true that all of the time can be fun. The best time to observe team behavior is at the end when the marshmallow is carefully placed at the top of the tower. The average time the team spends together is 16 minutes.
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This is the moment when many teams realize their true potential. Although not all teams will admit it, many will. The tower is indeed majestic and is freestanding according to the instructions. It is a marvel of beauty and height, but it’s not! It was not tested with the marshmallow on top, and it did not collapse until the last few seconds. Yes, it collapses with a groaning from the amateur builders and architects when the tower is too heavy. Sometimes it just sways over with the marshmallow barely touching the ground. This is the ‘ta da’ moment.
Every project has a marshmallow. It also has a deliverable (or deliverables).
In his TED talk, Tom shares some amazing insights into these phenomena.
He is referring to the fact that many of the top tower designers are not business graduates, but kindergarten children. This is because children always start with a marshmallow and then use it to prototype their ideas. The rest of us, on the other hand, tend to start with a tower and add the marshmallow at the end. The ‘ta da’ moment quickly becomes a ‘uh-oh!
It is important to remember that every project has its marshmallow. It has an end-goal and a deliverable (or deliveryables), a anticipated business benefit, and an expected outcome.
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A while back, I was on a panel of project management experts. There was a lot of interest from the audience in project quality. This led me to talk about what I call the ‘visibilityof purpose’ or understanding the end goal of a project. It’s the’marshmallow, if you will.
I conducted regular reviews of projects under the PMO’s (Pr) supervision.