Gremlins in the wild

'At the start (2)' by p2-r2, on Flickr

'At the start (2)' by p2-r2, on Flickr

Chatting with @P0bsta recently we discussed a shudder-inducing facilitation ‘tool’ – the one where delegates position themselves in one of four quadrants (Participant / Passenger / Prisoner / Pirate). We’d both experienced the model at training events and neither of us were enamoured by it. That said, it’s a potentially useful prompt for discussion but trainers generally expect every delegate to be a ‘participant’.

Gremlins in the wild have predictable forms, with both Prisoners and Pirates being commonplace; leaders who are Monty Python fans will also recognise members of the Peoples’ Front of Judea (PFJ) in their teams!

Johnny Depp live on the set as Captain Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack Sparrow by Stuck in Customs, on Flickr

I caught myself being a Gremlin during the first few days of our most recent expedition – part Pirate, part PFJ. The key roles within the team were restricted, but the people responsible for those roles was neither explicit nor clear. To be fair, our team were developing the approach to a complex task as well as learning to work together. As a ‘Pirate’ I was being critical and hostile; in ‘PFJ’ meetings the discussions were unproductive. Once I caught myself I had to genuinely consider whether I was on the right ship. Once satisfied I carved out a role for myself, settled quickly and made a useful contribution.

My point? Well, my previous post focussed on the leader’s responsibility for defining and monitoring roles within a team; that’s a hierarchical norm however, and the world is moving on. @P0bsta made me think about the responsibilities of individuals and why every team member needs to be mindful of roles. Group Think stems from ill-considered ‘participation’, and it isn’t always the right approach. It’s perfectly acceptable to be a ‘Passenger’ from time to time, but being a ‘Prisoner’ or ‘Pirate’ isn’t necessarily wrong. What matters most is recognising your current position and working out what that means for you and your team.


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