Building Strategy, the Heart of Your Company


The power of a business strategy that comes from the heart of your company, your people, is undeniable. Yet few are able to successfully tackle the challenge of attaining abstract ideas and honesty from a large and diverse group of employees.

“LEGO® Serious Play® is a group problem-solving methodology for teams that’s designed to get at business results in a really quick, efficient and effective way. It harnesses the creativity of everyone in the room and leads to really some amazing results,” says Ellen Moran, owner of Leadership Dialogues.

Erin Inman, president and CEO of Primera, worked with Leadership Dialogues to implement LEGO® Serious Play® in her dynamic engineering firm. Following is their discussion:


Erin:  When I purchased Primera, we were very siloed. We had three divisions in three different offices, and our performance and financial metrics were set up to reward division performance. This year, we kicked off our One Primera campaign. It is a new unified vision with a comprehensive strategic plan and a new performance review system, centered around our core character traits. To be truly successful, we have to provide exceptional expertise for our clients, and we need our entire staff to buy into the idea that we’re one company, not a collection of divisions working on their own parts of projects.

LEGO Serious Play seemed like an ideal fit for engineers and architects. It seemed like the perfect medium to break down the silos and get people collaborating and working together on projects. The LEGO Serious Play process was really the perfect way to get the creative juices flowing and get people to start sharing their ideas. It allowed people to engage with one another in a fun, low-pressure environment because the questions center around what they think or believe.

Everyone had their own LEGOs to start, and they were building their their own ideas which put everyone at the table on an equal footing. It prevented situations where you have one person that jumps in and takes charge and that’s their idea and everything flows from that one person.

By the time we were building as a group, the table dynamics were set and everyone was contributing and discussing ideas collaboratively. I feel like the LEGO Serious Play session really created the foundation for people in different divisions and different offices to reach out to each other and collaborate on work together.

Erin: I think Ellen probably had to say several times to put the LEGOs down and listen to the next instruction, because they were so engaged.

Ellen: The first thing you have to be aware of with engineers and architects, is to help them understand that you’re not building something that represents a thing. What we’re trying to do is get people to express ideas in their head rather than the physical. So we start out with something physical, building a simple tower. We discuss how everyone’s tower is different, even though they had the exact same LEGO bricks to start. We have them discuss their different ideas about what’s going on with their tower and come to a very concrete understanding of how everyone interpret things differently.

Next we had them build out their perception of the strengths of the company to get a baseline read on that. Then we took them into another build which had to do with “what could we be doing better to serve our customers?” We found ways to have them not only build and share with each other so that everyone could hear the other ideas, but also to collect all of that data so we could use it later.

Then finally, we had them do what we call the moonshot, which is what could we do to knock out the competition. This was the final build, in which they had to now build a shared model, working to get their ideas to fit together.


Erin: We expected that the engineers would really enjoy the team building with LEGOs, but I wasn’t expecting that it would carry over so much. We now have the LEGOs in the conference room, and people pull them out during meetings. We have them in the break rooms, and people go sit in there and just say “You know, I just need 10 minutes to build a little bit, and then I can refocus.”

Now that we did the LEGO Serious Play, our employees made friends with colleagues in different offices across the company. LEGO Serious Play helped us create a foundation for high-functioning, interdisciplinary teams, especially important on larger, more complex projects. If the project manager feels like that the meeting is going off the rails, they can pull out the LEGOs.

Also, it gets millennials looking at the our website and noticing the fun stuff we’re doing to help develop teamwork and build relationships. I think it attracts the kind of people that we’re looking to help grow the business.

Employee engagement is up so that helps retention. People are excited about the things that we’re doing. We’re getting things done. People are excited about it. We’re building new opportunities in places that we hadn’t thought we would go in the past.


Ellen: For Primera, my partner, Greg Bliss and I generated a report for the senior team on all the groups’ ideas. This helped them identify some specific targets for the coming year. A business action plan is an important deliverable for us. I’ve done a project in which three teams in the company needed to serve the customer, but they had disconnects to work through. We brought them together to build their vision of how these three separate groups could work together.

I’ve done work with corporate values, where we’ve had people build their own personal values and then build an expression of what they think this particular value means in actual behavior. We break down complex ideas and work through them in a succession of builds that attain the outcome we are looking for.

Listen to the Podcast

Recommended Reading:
Ellen:  Conversational Intelligence by Judith Glaser and Building a Better Business Using the LEGO® Serious Play® Method; by Robert Rasmussen and Per Kristiansen.  Leadership Dialogues

Erin:  Good to Great by Jim Collins and Delivering Happiness by Tony Shea.  Primera