Clear trade offs is a team-building activity for creating and documenting a common understanding for trade-offs. Many decisions and conversations are based on individual views and assumptions between choices. A few examples: What is most valuable, quality of work or delivery speed? Compliance to the process or efficiency? Making more money or spending more time with family? Company finance or employee happiness?

Running the activity:

  1. Explain to the team what trade-offs are:
    “Trade-off is an exchange in which you give up one thing in order to get something else you also desire. Effective teamwork is directly related to team members’ ability to make decisions based on the team’s (common) understanding of trade-offs.”
  2. Write down the categories under comparison on sticky notes. Write them as a group activity. Try to eliminate duplicates.
  3. Place the categories on the canvas as row titles, then draw a horizontal line for each category.
  4. Draw vertical lines (same number as horizontal lines). Write highest on top of the left-most line and lowest on top of the right-most line.
  5. Ask participants to mark their initials on several sticky notes and place one per row. The constraint: each column must have one sticky note with their initials (e.g. only one of the categories will be marked on the highest column line).
  6. Trade-offs equalization: with a different sticky note color, decide as a group how each category relates to the other. The steps above make this conversation easier as group agreements and disagreements are very visible on the canvas.

This activity fosters an open conversation based on a visible and collaborative canvas. Making trade-offs very clear will avoid future disagreements and will fasten decisions.


Remote-team advice: This activity works well for remote teams. Use a remote board of your choice.