Making Your Mission Visible: A Spaghetti Exercise for Teams

Everything your organization does and puts out into the world - from the application process to the way your team delivers services - is a reflection of your agency. Ideally, this reflection should be in line with your agency's values and mission statement. 

At the CASA Pacifica conference last month, our founder Stefanie lead a group of social workers and nonprofit representatives through a fun exercise demonstrating how mission (should) shape our work.


You might have taken part in the "spaghetti challenge" in school or at an event: participants race against the clock using a packet of dry spaghetti and a roll of tape to build a tower and place a marshmallow on top.

Since Stefanie's conference session focused on using values and mission statements as a process improvement tool, she lead her audience through the spaghetti exercise with a twist. In her version, teams had to use the materials to create a structure which represents a mission statement, and see if others could guess what their mission is by looking at it. 

The "mission statements" available included:

  • Create the tallest tower
  • Create a piece of "modern art"
  • Create a moving structure
  • Create a protective structure for the marshmallow

Not surprisingly, given the audience, every team choose to create protective structures :-) 

This exercise is a fun way to show your team how missions and values shape what you do. If you want to start off your next meeting with this activity, here are the steps:

Materials (per team)

  • 20 sticks of dry spaghetti
  • 1 roll of tape
  • 1 large marshmallow


  1. Get into groups of 3-5
  2. Pick one of the mission statements up on this slide
  3. Spend 7 minutes creating a structure or setup that represents your mission
  4. Can others guess what your mission is?

Systems theorist, Tom Wujec, discussed the original spaghetti exercise in his TED talk: "Build a Tower, Build a Team." This is a must-watch video if you want to do the challenge with your team!