Organizational Development Consultant and Leadership Coach

Seven Techniques to Boost Creativity and Teamwork: #6 Milestones

April 17, 2014

“I’m want a technique for helping our group understand and appreciate the diversity of experience and backgrounds in the room, but in an informal and interesting way.  Do you have any ideas?”



MILESTONES is a technique that allows for participants to learn more about the members of their meeting group, thereby building a stronger sense of team.  By focusing on MILESTONES in each participant’s life, the exercise promotes learning more about each other, both on a personal and professional level, which ultimately helps people work together more effectively.

It is often an underlying goal of any meeting for participants to have the opportunity to get to know each other better.  MILESTONES provides for this type of experience, quickly and informally.


  • When you want to build a stronger sense of team.
  • When you want your participants to learn more about each other’s personal history and interests.
  • When you need a productive break from a long and serious agenda.


Before the Meeting

1. Include MILESTONES on your agenda.

NOTE: Allow about 15 minutes total for the exercise, and place MILESTONES on the agenda immediately before a break.

2. Create a MILESTONES chart using large butcher paper, or a few chart papers taped together.  Create the chart with five year interval markers, similar to the chart illustrated below, and be sure to leave enough room under each year for a number of post-it notes.


1945    1950    1955    1960    1965    1970    1975    1980    1985    etc. …   


NOTE: Decide how far back your MILESTONES chart should go by estimating the age of the oldest person in the group.  If you aren’t sure, create your chart based on the maximum age before retirement.  For example:  The year of your meeting minus 65 years.

3. Prepare an instructions chart for MILESTONES similar to the one illustrated below.


A.  Think of three personal milestones in your life.  Write one per sticky note. Write your milestones in the third person.  For example:  Amy was born on the first day of the Iraq War.

B.  As you leave for the break, place your sticky notes at the appropriate year on the chart provided.

C.  During the break, read the MILESTONES of the others.

During the Meeting

1. Introduce the technique and explain the purpose of MILESTONES.  You might say, for example:  “The purpose of this exercise is to share important information about ourselves.  This is designed to help us all understand more about the backgrounds of the individuals on the team.  Let’s take the next 10 minutes to chart our personal MILESTONES.”

2. Give the following instructions for MILESTONES, and support your explanation with a pre-prepared chart, as illustrated above.

a. Using sticky notes, have your participants write three personal MILESTONES in their lives, one MILESTONE per sticky note.  MILESTONES should be written in the third person, and can be funny or serious.  Give some examples to your group.  You might say, for example,  “Helen rode her bike across the country in 1995.”  “Richard skied for the first time at age 40.”  “After ten years of not so serious study at the university, Roger finally received his bachelor’s degree in 2011.”

NOTE: If the group is small (less than 10 people), you may choose to have everyone provide 4 or 5 MILESTONES.

b. After they’re finished, have your participants place each MILESTONE sticky note on the MILESTONE chart under the appropriate year.

NOTE: This exercise can also be used for sharing company, department, or work area MILESTONES.

c. Encourage your participants to read the MILESTONE chart at their leisure, preferably during breaks or at lunch.

OPTION: If your group is small enough, you can ask each participant to come up to read their sticky notes to the group.

3. When everyone understands the instructions, complete the exercise.

4. Debrief the exercise.  Debrief questions could include “What were the big surprises?” “What information did you learn that could be valuable to our work in the future?”

In Summary:

MILESTONES is a technique for building a better sense of team.  Learning important and personal information about others in their group helps create a bond between the people and brings them together as a group.

Before the Meeting

1. Place MILESTONES on your agenda.

2. Create a MILESTONES chart.

3. Prepare a MILESTONES instructions chart.

During the Meeting

1. Explain the purpose of MILESTONES.

2. Give the instructions for MILESTONES.

3. Complete the exercise.

4. Debrief the exercise.


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