Do you know the board game HALMA? „Oh, I played this long time ago with my mother, when I was a child!“ is the most outspoken answer I hear for weeks – whenever I tell people that my family started playing Halma in 2018, all grown ups and male :-). Why I tell you: This game is so much about leadership in change. You have to move all your people to the new land. And you need to be very agile in using opportunities that show up suddenly. Sounds familiar? That is the story.

I like games, as I am a professional facilitator using games all the time. And I love to find out about the story behind the games: Who made them, why? And what is the logic of the game, who plays them? Most of the people remember their childhood-game. Some remember Monopoly, others played Chess. We Germans played a lot „Mensch ärgere dich nicht„, a game that was called „Do not get angry, buddy“. Today I write about Halma – the star-board game.

It has so many relations to our world today, though it was also designed in the late 19th century by a medicine from Chicago. „Halma (from the Greek word ἅλμα meaning „jump“) is a strategy board game invented in 1883 or 1884 by George Howard Monks, a US thoracic surgeon at Harvard Medical School. /Wikipedia en
Learn more about the history in the book
American Games: A Historical Perspective, by Bruce Whitehill. Leiden, The Netherlands: Board Games Studies, Vol. 2, CNWS Publications, 1999. page 125

Halma has a special story and logic:  „You can only win, when you take all your pieces with you into the new field – all of them. So if you miss one, you loose.“  

This reminds me very much on the story of people who flee and try to keep their families together. It is a bit of the old wild west, when whole families tried to cross the country and find a new home in the West. But it is also the transformation from the old company to the new one, when people have to move in their heads, rather than their chairs. So this is one point as the morale in the game. No hierarchy, all equal, all or nothing.

for 2 or 3 players

The tactics are also special: You have two options of moving: one step forward, side or backward – as you like. The other step is a jump,  using a player and jump over it – straight. You can also do multiple jumps, if you find several pieces that gives you jump positions. You can jump over your own figures or the ones of the other players. You can also go into their territory and use the good position from there. Sounds easy, but the positioning on the board game changes with every move. And the just well planned jump-line is blocked just before you. So you need to find another good jump or move – quickly.

The game is very much about strategic steps and planning, but also about spontaneous jumps that happen because the situation changed just before you. Take the opportunity, leave your plan and jump.

That is exactly the behavior we teach in project management: Plan, check, act, take opportunities, make shortcuts, keep the goal in your mind and take all the people with you. So why do you not play Halma? It is a lot about agility and the possibility to see „patterns“.

It is about using the competitor as a strategic alliance – even when they do not really think this way, they are your chance! Use them. You cannot kick out somebody in this game. You might block somebodies way. Do not focus what they do, just check if their move helps you to get home in a jump-run.

If you create a jump-street – do not be angry if your competitor is using the same way, better learn where he/she goes to use similar roads. It is a lot about movement and observation. Try out for yourself – and let your employees play Halma in the lunch breaks – reflecting on it – they had a mini-seminar. Talk about it – how well you improved to see the patterns and opportunities – combine this to your business – let Halm became a language to talk in strategic decisions. „Never forget to take all home“ – talk to them and convince the people that have fear to move in reality.

Don`t you think that the moral and story behind Halma is much more equipped in our internet world than to save the king in Chess? Today it is also available for mobile phones – try it out. The complexity of Halma gross with the players knowledge, but the on boarding takes only 3 minutes! You play from 20 minutes to 40 minutes … and if you do this regularly, your brain learns to adapt to changing environment.