› News & Events
Building Castles and Teams
It was a perfect San Diego beach day…79 degrees, the sky was bright blue and the sand was soft and warm while it glistened in the sun. No, this wasn’t just a typical day at the beach; it was the setting for Dr. Phil Hunsaker’s Sand Castle Exercise in his Working in Teams class, one of the required classes in the MBA program at USD.
Dr. Hunsaker developed the Sand Castle Exercise over 30 years ago to train students in leadership roles about how to become effective change agents. Since then, it has been utilized in dozens of MBA classes and business organizations to enhance team building, to educate students on team processes and structures, and to introduce effective leadership and teamwork skills.
This exercise involves teams of four or five MBA students, who work together to build the best sand castle based on height, beauty and stability. The rules are simple – students are given one hour to brainstorm, decide what sand structure they want to build, and plan their construction strategy. Each team can bring tools to use in the construction, but only items found at the beach can be used in the final structure. Students then have two hours to build a castle, with each team giving a presentation about the theme of their project.
“The Sand Castle Exercise reveals to students how their personality and leadership style impacts the effort of their team, and how this applies in the workplace. It is a tremendous teambuilding opportunity for new MBA cohorts to get to know each other personally and as team members,” said Hunsaker.
Building a sand castle requires coordinating interrelated tasks performed by people with different strengths and preferences to achieve a common task in a limited amount of time. The same leadership and team skills necessary for success in the Sand Castle Exercise are essential for building high performing business teams. During the debriefing, students develop action plans for applying the leadership, communication, team building and conflict management skills they have learned from the Sand Castle Exercise to their own organizations.
What the students learn about themselves and how they work in teams turns a day at the beach into a memorable educational experience.