Hot Times at Burger King Team Building!

I am sometimes truly amazed at what passes for team building and some of the stunts that consultants and executives pull without regard to the health and safety of participants. They must, I hope, look at things afterward and think, "Did we actually DO that?"

The complete article about this is linked below. Also have posted a couple of thoughts to various training listserves, mostly the trdev list on Yahoo Groups (training and development focused).

The simple situation is this:

A group of about 100 people from marketing at Burger King in Miami hired a consultant to do some team building including a firewalk (to get people fired up, I guess (pun) ). The Miami Herald picked up on it after a dozen or so were blistered or burned (1st and 2nd degree, apparently) in the event. This led the trdev listserve group to do a good bit of spoofing around with the group. Below is my input:

We should let you know that we have come up with some new team building events like HardBall PaintBall, played with frozen paint balls (for an added hit and a memorable mark) as well as other team building events. And I did see a "Paintball Mortar" advertised in a magazine; it had a 60 foot kill radius as I recall. Boy, doesn't that add a sense of "team involvement." SPLAT! <grin>

So, I'm motivated to start planning the "Slop Walk" where participants muddle through an obstacle course up to their waists in Gack (Elmer's Glue, water and borax to form a sticky colloidal suspension - see recipes here) while pulling a wooden wagon with Square Wheels and a cargo of various rubber car and truck tires uphill while being attacked by mosquitos and other annoying insects. I figure that this will model the corporate world making a debriefing unnecessary and generate the level of self awareness needed to profoundly affect morale and teamwork.

Anyone want to be certified? We can probably trademark "Slop Walking®" and start up a professional association. More on this later in this article...

If you went to the Miami Herald original article of October 6, 2001 about Burger King's experience. In it, you read interesting quotes from the "team building organizer" such as:

"The majority of the people get through it without a nick or a blister. When you see over 100 people and only 10 to 15 people have blisters, I don't term that unusual."

That one, hot off the press <grin>, is a lot like how some execs think of human resources -- "heck if we can keep the casualties to roughly 10 to 15%, that's certainly acceptable!" (Maybe there should be a new team building word created: "exceptable." Meaning: some casualties are acceptable)

Quoting from the article again:

Despite the injuries, Burger King executives termed the event a success.

"It was a great experience for everyone," said Dana Frydman (snip)

Kind of makes me want to run out and do team building. Or maybe just run! After all, this event was reportedly designed, "to help motivate the marketing department's employees for the challenge they face in turning around the struggling Burger King brand."

The aforementioned leader / organizer of this session also was quoted as saying,
"Some people just have incredibly sensitive feet."

Yes! Blame the feet for the feat. After all, it cannot be badly designed processes since the failure rate is only 10 to 15% and it is within the norm...


Another laugh came from the note that this facilitation leader was "certified."

Certified? To lead Firewalking? Here in South Carolina, we license our barbers, but I never thought that the firewalker facilitators needed to be licensed. Maybe they need to take a look at this activity if these are SKILLED facilitators with the expectation of a 10% injury rate. Or maybe there is a professional association of Professional Firewalking Teambuilding Instructors or some such thing -- guess it IS a big industry with a lot of revenues...

Here's the final thought:
The facilitator reportedly charged them $15,000 (!!) for the one-day session. Wonder what the actual costs of this experience will be after the lawsuits are done! (Is that what consultants mean by, "plus expenses?")

You'll find a couple of websites out there that will link you up to experience the thrill and potential medical expenses of firewalking for only $325 plus expenses. (You might want to check your medical insurance and be careful about any papers you sign!) <grin>

The Miami Herald article is off-line, but you may be able to read it at: and (it occasionally pops up again here and there)

A Really Funny recap of this, by Dave Barry, was online but has been removed, probably because of embarrassingly funny writing but maybe the copyright issues of the Miami Herald, which tries to sell this article.

Okay -- and my next article in a similar vein will probably be on doing a team building, outdoor activity at a water park, which seems to be the new rage. Well, as Joan pointed out, it might be a new rage for those under 30 and physically fit but it might simply cause rage if it is for the "older crowd" of more senior executives.

That session might look something more like this:

Our Senior Managers

Whaddoyathink about that? Yeah, a really GREAT idea to get these guys out running around half-naked in a hot sunny theme park for half a day. Bring on the defribulators!

Yeah, I got to get some pictures and get going on the creative writing again...

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