Practice Makes Perfect?

2 Jun 2016

Every month, the whole OpenCRM team comes together to chat about what we’re all working on, preview new development work, and talk about changes to internal policies. We call these catch-up sessions “Show & Tell.”

At our most recent Show & Tell, we added something else to our agenda: role playing.

Sadly this wasn’t a friendly office game of Dungeons and Dragons (although I know some of the guys would have loved it if it was), but rather a scenario for us to run through as a team so we could practice how we would handle a serious service outage.

This kind of role playing can feel a little silly while you’re doing it, but can be incredibly beneficial for your team. It gives you the opportunity to practice those worst-case scenarios to make sure that, if they happen, people know exactly how to respond.

When you’re running this kind of role playing, I’ve noticed that there are three ways people respond; embarrassment, overly dramatic, and deadly serious.


There are people who, though they may be incredibly knowledgeable and capable in your office, turn into a bashful bucket of nerves when they’re being watched and graded on their response.

To try and prevent this kind of reaction from the more stage-shy of your team, make sure you give them time to discuss their responses in a small group, free from the prying eyes of whoever is running the simulation. This will give them the chance to relax and share their knowledge with their team.

Overly Dramatic

Oh yes, we’ve all got a couple of those in the office! The second your company’s drama queen hears the words “role play”, even if it is in a security practice scenario, they’ll rise to the challenge…and quite possibly steal the show given half a chance.

You don’t want to smother the enthusiasm of your budding thespians, but you will need to harness it.

Maybe give them a role in the scenario that plays to their strengths, have them role play as an irate customer or, if your simulation isn’t quite that active, get them to read out the responses their team has come up with for each of the key stage questions of your scenario.

This will give them the attention they want, but also make sure that they are working with the team to reach an answer—they certainly won’t want to take the stage without a script!

Deadly Serious

And then we’ve got these guys. You’ll know them as soon as your scenario starts…someone will pipe up and say “Stop messing around, this is serious!”

The problem here is that you do want people to take your practice simulation seriously, but there is a limit to how long adults can play make believe without having to crack a few jokes.

When you’re planning your scenario, make sure you leave room for a bit of light-heartedness, for example, the last simulation we ran involved a suspiciously direct and focused lightning strike on a key facility. Not a hugely amusing story, but one that was unlikely enough to put a smile on people’s faces and let them know that, while we wanted them to take the practice seriously, that doesn’t mean that it has to become a Greek Tragedy.


Running these kinds of simulations, especially for the first time, can make everyone feel a bit foolish, but if your team understands the reasons for it, they’ll buy into it. And once they do that, they will realise on their own how valuable this kind of practice can be.