by Chris Roland and Lenny Diamond


Team building, problem solving, planning, seeing the big picture, frustration at being out of the loop.

Learning Environments: Indoors or outdoors


One (1) square (carpet, felt, piece of paper, etc.) per person plus one.

Squares are placed in a straight line approximately 18 inches apart as illustrated below with extra square in the middle.

Group Task:

Teammates A, B, C, D must switch places with teammates W, X, Y, Z (see Result) according to the rules below.


Person: A B C D W X Y Z

Square: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Letters = People

Numbers = Squares, with Square 5 left "empty"


Desired Result:

Person: W X Y Z A B C D

Square: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


One person at a time moves forward one square.

Move only forward into an empty square in front of you or around someone going in the opposite direction to an empty square behind that person.

The group must start over when:

Anyone moves around someone going in the same direction.

You can no longer move forward legally and have not completed exchanging places.

Anyone on your team moves backwards.


Traditional Solution:

Suggestion: To visualize the solution on a sheet of paper, draw lines with corresponding numbers representing the squares. Place pennies marked A, B, C, D and dimes, marked W, X, Y, Z. on the lines and move them according to the solution sequence below.

1. D 4 moves to 5 13. B 3 moves to 5

2. W 6 moves to 4 14. A 1 moves to 3

3. X 7 moves to 6 15. W 2 moves to 1

4. D 5 moves to 7 16. X 4 moves to 2

5. C 3 moves to 5 17. Y 6 moves to 4

6. B 2 moves to 3 18. Z 8 moves to 6

7. W 4 moves to 2 19. C 7 moves to 8

8. X 6 moves to 4 20. B 5 moves to 7

9. Y 8 moves to 6 21 A 3 moves to 5

10. Z 9 moves to 8 22. Y 4 moves to 3

11. D 7 moves to 9 23. Z 6 moves to 4

12. C 5 moves to 7 24. A 5 moves to 6


A Creative Adaptation:

During a recent team building program, the team was introduced to a three-phase model of team development. Traffic Jam was used to reinforce this three-phase concept (detailed in Roland/Diamondís newsletter Frontload, Vol. 7, No. 1). For a copy of the article, please call 603.357.2181 or e-mail

In the first two phases the team learned how to solve the problem as previously outlined. In the third phase the team was challenged to develop a creative method to solve the problem in under 20 seconds. During a 20 minute planning session, the team created the following plan:

L4 L3 L2 L1 R1 R2 R3 R4

As in the original problem, each person was assigned a specific square. But now each person was assigned a name based on the square (s)he was standing on, e.g., ìL2î.

Next, the team created the table below on a flipchart. Each person was assigned 3 specific moves, e.g., Person ìR4î had the moves #10, #18, and #23.

With the flipchart as an visual aid, each person called out his/her move number and immediately moved forward to the empty square or around a person to the empty square).

Thus, the activity began with L1 calling out ì1î and immediately moving to the empty square. Then R1 called out ì2î and immediately moved around the person facing her into the empty square. R2 called out ì3î and immediately moved into the empty square. This process continued until L4 made the final move #24, completing the task in 15 seconds!


© Roland/Diamond Associates, 23 December, 1998 Reprinted with permission


67 Emerald Street ( Keene, New Hampshire 03431

603.357.2181 603.357.7992 (fax)


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