Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The essence of Role Plays - An Indian perspective

Aptly used, corporate acting, role playing to be more precise, is a powerful tool to address a host of people issues - both within the personal and professional sphere.

The essence is in re-creating business situations based on client specifications to unearth the elusive human element wrapped in business interactions.

More often than not, the patterns that emerge challenge convention and fuel innovation.

Measurable business value is guaranteed, provided the “learnings” are conveyed to the target audience as an integral part of the enactment - plotting the refinement road map for individuals/groups.

The actors play a vital role as the conveyers – they have to “breathe” the roles they play – whether a disgruntled employee, pompous manager, matter-of-fact project manager or a patronizing business owner.

The art is to release enough clues through the enactment such that the session is not subjected to sudden jerks, periods of lull or derailment. If the actor “plays to the gallery” or is seeking applause, the session becomes self defeating.

It’s imperative that the actors should be well aware of the dynamics of corporate situations – routine and otherwise. An emphasis on grasping the domain and technological specs of the work environment proves highly rewarding – as the participants gain momentum only when the actor begins to “speaks their language”

A good actor salvages a near-hopeless situation by shrewdly keeping the conversation on track with a great sprinkling of wit and wisdom.

A good actor subtly helps participants with clues for better performance.

Typical Role Play designs

Interviews - Developing sensitive, focused and business-centric interviewers

Induction - Bridging the academia-industry divide to enhance the transition to the workplace

Difficult situations - How to convey the “bad” news with grace, how to minimize the “stress” associated with an “exit”, how to inculcate the right work culture, how to promote ethics at the work place

Appraisals - How to eliminate acrimony among groups and improve camaraderie for effective performance management

Change management - How to inculcate the desired culture across the enterprise in ripple-causing situations like M & As, takeovers, technology adoption, diversification and business fluctuations

Learning by experience

The sessions conveying the importance of brevity and preciseness of role play sessions to participants should be more elaborate. Else, many participants seem lost on defining the purpose of the role play session, even if they do it successfully, they are not able to drive it with conviction.

Role players need to be conveyed with more clarity that this media is not for displaying their acting prowess, but for “living” the role of a guinea pig which subtly helps participants understand the hidden aspects of day-to-day human interactions and emotions .

Since the participants are the ambassadors of the program, it would be a good idea to recognize good performance, such that the good word spreads across the organization – this will help convey the message that role plays deliver measurable business value , it’s not a mere fun session. It will also help minimize the popular contempt against this tool as being a “non-business” pastime.

Even though the role players need not grasp the depth of the domain/technical knowledge, a curtain raiser can be arranged by the facilitators for a quick summary of the essence of the role.

The observers can be powered to with more authority to be able to control and monitor off-track and derailed situations rather than citing them in offline conversations.