TTT Houston: We have a Problem!!

TRAIN THE TRAINER

for

HOUSTON: We have a problem!!

Source: Northgate Training Ltd

NIKET KARAJAGI profile

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 Founder Director Atyaasaa Consulting Pvt. Ltd., Atyaasaa Consulting Foundation & Atyaasaa Global Alliances LLP

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OBJECTIVE of the simulation

It is an activity for four teams who all need to share

information and problem solve in order to succeed. Good

communications, within and between teams is key.

HOUSTON: WE HAVE A PROBLEM!! background

It is based on NASA’s Apollo 13 mission

There are two problems

1. Planning the tasks and exchanging supplies

Making the filter

2.

Duration is 70 minutes

TASK 1 by each team

Each of the 04 teams is located at a different base on the Moon. They

are preparing for blast-off, in approximately 70 minutes time, for

their return trip to earth.

03 tasks to be fulfilled - erect a flag, collect some moon rocks, switch

on a laser beacon. Teams do not actually complete the tasks, they

simply come up with a plan.

Each of the 04 teams have a slightly different briefing sheet and

these show that some teams are short of certain supplies and

cannot lift off from the moon until they have topped them up. Two

vital items are: Ice from an ice field (to provide water) and Lithium

crystals.

TASK 1 by each team

Teams have limited supplies of ‘spare’ oxygen to do all these tasks,

and the more they move around the moon’s surface the more ‘spare’

oxygen they use.

It soon becomes clear to teams that they must share the tasks to get

them all done. For maximum efficiency they need to decide who

should do which task and in what order.

Teams need to communicate with one another and there are 02 ways

they can do this. They can either send texts to each other using post-it

notes via a central MESSAGE POD or they can meet the other teams.

TASK 1 by each team

Though there are special rules for this meetings

At any time 01 team member may meet with 01 other team member.

All meetings take place in a neutral area (specified by the facilitator).

Only 01 team member may be away from their group at any 01 time.

Teams must give prior notice of a meeting to the facilitator.

No materials (briefs, pens, pencils, paper, flag, ice, lithium crystals)

may be taken to meetings or exchanged between teams.

There is no extra use of spare oxygen in connection with attending

meetings or sending texts.

TASK 1 by each team

A key early task is to establish how much ‘spare’ oxygen each team has

and therefore how much they have in total.

This task is not too difficult – the details can be quickly gathered by

TEXT, with no need for meetings (though not all teams agree!).

The sooner one team instigates the process the sooner it can be

relayed to other teams – so every team knows the total amount of

‘spare’ oxygen they have to work with. The same can be said for

finding out about the other essential supplies.

SUPPLIES AVAILABLE with each team

Teams

Has

Needs

Excess

Shortage

Lithium crystals

18

20

- 2

A

Water

28

30

- 2

Fuel cells

24

20

+ 4

Oxygen

34

-

B

Lithium crystals

18

20

- 2

Water

30

30

Fuel cells

20

20

Oxygen

26

-

C

Lithium crystals

20

20

Water

30

30

Fuel cells

20

20

Oxygen

36

?

D

Lithium crystals

18

20

- 2

Water

30

30

Fuel cells

16

20

- 4

Oxygen

28

-

TASK 1 TO TASK 2 by each team

After 30 minutes, whether or not teams have finished working out a

plan, the facilitator issues each team with a Message from Houston.

Care should be taken to ensure that each team is given the correct

handout as each is different.

This message gives teams an additional problem. They are told there is

a fault on the spacecraft and only by working together can the teams

fix it.

They must follow the instructions they receive from Houston to create

a replacement carbon dioxide filter.

If each team can build a different quarter of the whole filter they can

succeed. Each team is given just the right amount of materials.

TASK 1 TO TASK 2 by each team

A4 sheets of white card, scissors and tape to construct their section.

They will of course need to communicate, through text and or

meetings, to get the structure exactly right.

The white card is distributed as follows

A – 04 sheets

B – 05 sheets

C – 03 sheets

D – 04 sheets

At the end of the activity teams must bring the 04 sections together,

assemble them on a table and check that the filter works.

TASK 1 TO TASK 2 by each team

A small ball must pass freely through all four of the interconnected

sections of the filter from one end to the other.

If the filter fails to work teams have three minutes to make

adjustments and try again. If it fails this time then they are trapped on

the Moon!

TASK 1 by each team

1

Divide the group into four teams. Ideally you should have between 03 and

06 participants per team.

2

Give a brief overview of the activity but DO NOT MENTION the filter or

the content of the brief – just the overall objective of being on the Moon

and preparing for lift-off.

3

Point out the location of the ‘neutral’ MEETING AREA.

TASK 1 by each team

4

Point out the Message Pod (an area or section of wall where text messages

on post-it notes can be ‘posted’. Write each team’s letter (A, B , C or D)

on separate post-it notes and stick them either on a spare table or on a

wall. If one team has a message for say, Team A, they simply ‘post’ the

message under the Team A header, for Team A to read or collect. No verbal

communication is allowed between those delivering and receiving

messages at the Message Pod.

5

Issue briefing sheets and post-it notes to each team.

6

Observe teams and make notes on what you see.

MATERIAL REQUIRED per team – task 1

Pad of post-it notes – (04 different colors, 01 for

1

each team)

2

Pencil

3

Eraser and sharpener

4

Set of team briefing sheets

MATERIAL REQUIRED with the trainer – task 1

Extra material distributed amongst the teams

1

Pad of post-it notes – (04 different colors, 01 for

2

each team)

3

Message pod - card

Meeting place - card

4

TASK 2 by each team

7

After 30 minutes issue the ‘Message from Houston’ plus the white card

ruler, scissors and sticky tape. Make sure each team has the correct

message (they are all different) and the correct amount of card: 04 sheets

each for Teams A and D and 05 sheets for Team B and 03 Sheets for team

C.

8

After a further 30 minutes, or when they have finished making their filter

sections, bring all teams together to join 04 quarters. Test the finished

filter system with the enclosed small ball which should run freely from the

opening in Team A’s section to the exit point in Team D’s section.

TASK 2 by each team

9

Conduct the debrief. Check teams’ plans for completing their tasks and

collecting the necessary resources.

MATERIAL REQUIRED per team – task 2

White cards (as per the instructions)

1

Message from HOUSTON

2

3

Scissor

Sticky tape

4

5

Scale

MATERIAL REQUIRED with the trainer – task 2

1

Ball

2

Extra material distributed amongst the teams

3

White cards distribution table

THE PROBLEMS that teams encounter

Here are some of the logistical problems that teams

come up against as they try to meet their objectives

Team A has the flag but it needs to be erected at a

1

point 100 metres south of Team D. Team D being the

nearest to this point are best placed to put up the flag

but they don’t have enough oxygen to go and collect

the flag from Team A and then go and position it.

Similarly Team A does not have enough oxygen to take

the flag to Team D and do the tasks that are closest to

them. Someone has to help Team A by giving them ‘spare’

oxygen so they can take the flag to Team D. Team C can

help (if willing).

THE PROBLEMS that teams encounter

Team D needs 02 lithium crystals and, as the crystals

2

are close to D, it appears obvious that they should

collect them.

Team B needs 02 lithium crystals and they could

3

collect these (plus 02 more for Team A and 02 for

Team D). They could then deliver the extra lithium

crystals to team D and Team A.

Team A needs 02 lithium crystals and 02 units of water.

4

These can be brought to them by Team B and Team C

respectively.

Team D is short of fuel cells but Team A has the

5

equivalent amount in spare cells and could take them

to Team D when they take the flag.

THE PROBLEMS that teams encounter

6

Team C needs nothing but can help out Team A and

therefore help the total group.

THE SOLUTION for planning the supplies

From the supplies chart it can be established that

there are a total of 124 units of ‘spare’ oxygen

distributed as follows amongst the teams

C

A

36 units

34 units

B

26 units

D

28 units

The brief tells teams that with one unit you can cover 10

metres- so there is enough for 1240 metres

THE SOLUTION for planning the supplies

The uneven distribution of ‘spare’ oxygen and other

essentials means that some supplies will have to be

exchanged between teams and some replenished

from sources on the Moon so that all teams have

what they need for lift-off.

To have a full picture, all teams need to know that

Team C has all its necessary supplies (and apart from oxygen has nothing in excess to give to any other team). 1

Team A has an excess of 04 fuel cells which can be taken, by someone,

2

to Team D which is short of 04 fuel cells.

THE SOLUTION for planning the supplies

Team A is short of 02 units of water. No team has any

3

spare so a journey to the Frozen Pole is necessary, by

someone, to give water to Team A.

Teams A, B and D are all short of 02 units of lithium

4

crystals, so a trip to Crystal Crags is needed, to give

these teams the crystals they need.

THE SOLUTION for planning the supplies

At the same time there are 03 tasks to perform,

which also involve journeys that use up ‘spare’

oxygen

 Erecting the flag at Armstrong’s Leap

 Collecting moon rocks from Aldrin’s Folly

 Switching on the Laser Beacon at Michael’s Mount

With these full details established,

teams need to plan their strategy to

achieve their objective.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION with each team

‘Spare’ Oxygen available

Oxygen units

Action

= 124 units

remaining

after each

A

B

C

D

34

26

36

28

stage

Team B collect 06 units of lithium from crystal

crags and return to base on a circular route via A

- 26

98

and D dropping off 02 units for themselves. This

journey is 260 metres and uses ALL their ‘spare’

oxygen. They can do this straightaway.

At first, from the map, it may appear that Team

D should collect the lithium but overall this is

too inefficient and the overall task cannot be

accomplished. It is essential Team D does NOT

collect lithium crystals.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION with each team

‘Spare’ Oxygen available

Oxygen units

Action

= 124 units

remaining

after each

A

B

C

D

stage

34

26

36

28

Team C collects 02 units of water from the

Frozen pole and takes it to Team A. At the same

time C hands over 40 units of ‘spare oxygen’ to A

+ 4

- 4

and returns to base (C has 36 units but needs

only 32 units to collect the water, deliver it to

Team A and return to base). This journey is 320

- 32

66

metres. They can do this straight away.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION with each team

‘Spare’ Oxygen available

Oxygen units

Action

= 124 units

remaining

after each

A

B

C

D

stage

34

26

36

28

Team A goes to Michael’s Mount to switch on

the laser beacon and returns (200m) then goes

- 20

46

on a 2 nd trip, this time to collect moon rocks

- 10

36

from Aldrin’s Folly and returns (100 m). They

can do these trips straight away.

After Team C has delivered their 04 units of

spare oxygen, Team A can add this to their own

(remaining) 04 units to make a 3 rd journey, this

time to D to hand over the flag and their 04

surplus fuel cells

POSSIBLE SOLUTION with each team

‘Spare’ Oxygen available

Oxygen units

Action

= 124 units

remaining

after each

A

B

C

D

stage

34

26

36

28

(the supplies that D is short of). This is 60

metres, so they still have 02 units of ‘spare

oxygen’.

- 6

30

Use of these 02 remaining units of oxygen plus

04 of Team D’s, allows Team A to return to base.

+ 4

- 4

This plan depends on Team D having ‘spare’

- 6

24

oxygen. If they used it collecting lithium

crystals then Team A will not be able to get

back to base!

POSSIBLE SOLUTION with each team

‘Spare’ Oxygen available

Oxygen units

Action

= 124 units

remaining

after each

A

B

C

D

stage

34

26

36

28

Team D. After Team A has delivered the flag to

Team D, D takes the flag to erect it at

- 20

4

Armstrong’s Leap and returns. This round trip is

200 m.

Total amount ‘spare’ oxygen remaining

0 0 0 4

4

This plan achieves all the objectives so that all teams have supplies they need, the 03 tasks

are completed and in the end there is even a surplus of 04 units of ‘spare’ oxygen, (which

can be either Team D or Team A)

There may be possibly other solutions but if any emerge, check teams do not run out of

oxygen!

LEARNING POINTS team work between each team and all the 04 teams

Group

Uncertainty

maintenance

Storming

Leadership

Objectives

Clarification

Strengths and

Dominance

weaknesses

LEARNING POINTS additional threats

In this activity the team structure is threatened by two

more issues. First, the message from Houston gives

teams an extra task to construct a filter.

It comes at a time when the teams are just beginning to

get their heads around the original task. Suddenly there

is a major change.

LEARNING POINTS additional threats

How will they cope in terms of

Interrupting the flow of planned work

to discuss the new task

Carrying on with what they are already

doing

Prioritizing in the light of the new task

Reviewing their objectives

Switching manpower around

Communicating with other teams

LEARNING POINTS additional threats

As we know change can be very disruptive and disturbing.

What are the effects on the direction the group has taken,

the relationships within the group, the need for new skills,

the team’s motivation levels?

The second issue is the increasing need to communicate with

other teams. The need is for even more giving and receiving

of information. Time is suddenly a bigger issue, there isn’t

much left!

LEARNING POINTS additional threats

When working with different departments within

an organization (which is what this activity relates

well to) there are a number of key issues

To maintain relations between groups

To give information freely and accurately (be fair, honest,

not mislead)

To ask for the right information and listen

To prepare for meetings to maximize their usefulness

To share information amongst the whole group

LEARNING POINTS additional threats

If teams keep their heads and prioritize well then there is no

difficulty in this activity. The tasks are simpler than they

seem. However, many teams tend to panic and make more

problems for themselves that actually exist!

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING stages

1

Feelings of the team members in the very start

2

Behaviour during the main part of the activity

3

The final 10 minutes

4

Action plan by each team

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES

Probably the best way to conduct the debrief is to work

through the activity in three stages: the feelings of team

members at the very start, then their behaviour during the

main part of the activity and then the final 10 minutes.

Put a series of questions to teams about each of the 03

stages - listen to their answers, encourage cross team

discussion and attempt to draw up on a flipchart the key

points that emerge.

Flipchart issues can then be consolidated and related back to

the workplace.

How can teams improve their performance on issues such as

team work, communications, problem solving and

understanding other people and their problems?

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES feelings at start-the first 15 minutes

Comment

The first 10-15 minutes of any activity is a period of

uncertainty and low energy.

Everyone in the team has to read the brief and often

someone tries to summarize what they believe the task is

all about. Other people ask questions.

Slowly the team moves towards an understanding of what

they are being asked to do.

At this point an individual may take on the role of leader or

chairperson or, alternatively, the group may discuss things

between themselves with no one formally taking the lead.

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES feelings at start-the first 15 minutes

Comment

Then one of two things happens. The team begins to work

immediately on either communicating or problem solving

OR they try to set some objectives, decide what has to be

done and perhaps who should be responsible for each task.

If the individuals taking part do not know each other the

atmosphere can be one of relative calm. In team theory

this is the ‘forming’ and ‘storming’ phases of team

development. While the team begins to form, you may see obvious

conflict or ‘storming’- or it may not be so obvious but still

going on under the surface! If groups know each other, the

‘storming’ phase can be much more obvious!

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES feelings at start - the first 15 minutes

Possible questions

What was it like during the first 05 minutes?

What were you individually thinking?

How did the team get started on the task?

Did the team understand the task easily?

Did team members have different ideas about how to

proceed?

Was a leader nominated/did a leader emerge?

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES feelings at start - the first 15 minutes

Possible questions

How did the team get organized?

Did the team set objectives?

Was there a clearly-stated decision process?

Did you assign different members of the team to different

tasks?

Was everyone involved?

What did teams do well at the start? What did they do

badly?

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES behaviour during the main part of this activity

Comment

This is the business part – working on the problems

and communicating with other teams

Two problems to solve

Planning the task and exchanging the supplies

Making the filter

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES behaviour during the main part of this activity

Comment

Both call for good organization and prioritization within each

team and clear helpful communication between teams.

Often teams begin by trying to compete with one another

until they realize that the only way they can move forward is

through cooperation (some still try to extract information

from other teams without reciprocating).

Once the team realize that cooperation is vital for survival,

they develop open and free communications but how long

does it take to get to this point? Often the communications

using the post-it notes are hilariously bad with all sorts of

misunderstandings and omissions.

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES behaviour during the main part of this activity

Possible questions

How long was it before the team sent their first communication?

How long before they held their first meeting?

How long before they retrieved their first message from the

other team?

Did they copy out the message or actually bring back the post-it

note?

How much did they plan their communication before sending?

Were the logistics (planning tasks and supplies) seen as easy or

difficult?

Were teams taken by surprise by the message from Houston?

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES behaviour during the main part of this activity

On receiving the message from Houston

How did teams cope on receiving it?

Did they stop what they were doing to discuss it?

Did they allocate people to work on it?

Did they first finish what they were already doing?

Did a time keeper emerge?

Did they feel under pressure?

Did it disturb the group dynamics?

Did they quickly get in touch with other teams?

Did they start cutting card straight away?

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES behaviour during the main part of this activity

While working on the filter parts

Did they communicate with just 01 other team or with

them all?

Did they plan for the meetings they held?

Did they send agendas to other teams before meetings?

How were meetings debriefed to other team members?

How well did they communicate within their own team?

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES behaviour during the main part of this activity

While working on the filter parts

Did anyone take responsibility for collecting or

recording data received from other teams?

Did a leader (or a new leader) emerge to coordinate

total efforts?

How good were the team’s problem-solving skills?

Was there any conflict in the team? If so, how was it

managed?

From the start, did teams compete or cooperate?

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES the final 10 minutes

Comment

With good planning, teamwork and common sense everything

should ideally come together at the end so that teams have

a workable logistics plan and can celebrate a successful filter

trial.

Effective teams work towards a common deadline and finish

in a cooperative and friendly fashion.

In less effective teams, relationships with other teams

breakdown before the end and recriminations occur (but the

positives are in what is learnt from the experience).

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES the final 10 minutes

Possible questions

Did teams manage their time well towards the endpoint?

Were the team meetings going well by this stage?

Was construction well under way?

Had the oxygen problems been solved?

Were there good relations within the team?

Were there good inter-team relations?

Was there a ‘finisher’ making sure everything come together

on time?

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES the final 10 minutes

Possible questions

Did all the filter parts come together easily?

Did the filter work?

Was the team rushed at the end or had they managed their

time so there was a calm build-up to testing the filter?

Were they able to celebrate the success?

STRUCTURED DEBRIEFING NOTES the final 10 minutes

This activity, about cooperation with others on a common

task, reminds teams of how they need to behave back at

work

Rather than being torn apart by withheld information,

rivalry, internal competition and suspicion, organizational

teams need to function with each other cooperatively – so

they all perform at a high level, at ease with each other

Finally, ask each team to review their work together and

to come up with a 10 point action plan to describe how

teams should work together back at work in order to be

efficient and to avoid the kinds of problem that teams can

encounter when under pressure

MAIN POINTS TO LOOK OUT FOR!

1

Teams not sending messages for ages and ages (e.g.

for over 30 minutes from start). Why remain isolated?

Teams not holding meetings in the last 30 minutes.

2

Why not? Get to know people, establish relations, break

the ice, exchange information. Its free!

Teams not realizing they need to work with one

3

another. They cannot do it alone!

4

Teams taking other team messages away – rather

than leaving them so everyone can see them. Why not

share information with everyone?

5

Teams taking messages meant for other teams. It has

happened!

MAIN POINTS TO LOOK OUT FOR!

6

Teams trying to compete with other teams (until the

penny drops that they MUST cooperate).

Teams failing to give information – in their huge

7

desire to seek information for themselves.

8

Teams finding it difficult to cope with change – when

the message from Houston arrives.

Teams working ineffectively or even against each

9

other within their own team.

10

Teams failing to manage the time available.

KEY LEARNING POINTS

1

An effective teams needs to settle down quickly. What is the task

all about? What is the objective? How is it to be achieved?

2

Effective teams have a coordinator, chair, facilitator or leader. Is

one appointed or does one emerge?

3

A team is a group of people working together for a common goal.

Everyone’s opinion needs to be heard and valued.

4

Good teams have high energy and are self motivated. But if

motivation slackens someone needs to carry the team through.

KEY LEARNING POINTS

5

Different members of the team need to take on key roles that

are needed – leader, time manager, team worker, ideas person,

challenger, harmonizer etc.

6

Good teams can cope with change. The work may need to be

redistributed and new objectives set.

7

Prioritization of tasks is crucial. As is delegation and time

planning. How long will tasks take? What is the ultimate deadline?

KEY LEARNING POINTS

8

Communication is essential not only within the team but also

between teams. Maintaining good relations with everyone is vital.

9

Communications need to be clear and to the point. All

communications should be acknowledged and responded to

quickly. Tell others what you are doing. Give information

freely.

10

Face to face meetings are important to maintain relations, to

give and seek information. But communications need to be

planned for and thoroughly debriefed. Agendas are crucial.

THANK YOU

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