If you want full value for team building events, it pays
to review several important factors before planning the event.
Team building can add value to your organisation, but only
if the activities fit the team's needs.
We've noticed over
the past few months a resurgence of interest in team building.
Most development activities, in time of constraint, tend
to be given a lower priority. However, team building seems
to suffer more than most. This may be because there's a perception
by some that team building activities are frivolous; a few
days away in a nice resort playing games, climbing cliffs,
or falling back into each other's arms. And in some cases
there is more than a little truth in this view.
shouldn't tar all team building activities with the same
brush. If the event matches the needs of the team, then it
will result in a return on your investment. Here's a few
guidelines to ensure value-added team building.
Whenever I discuss team building with a
client, I start with two basic questions. The first is to
gauge the level of team integration. A fully integrated team
is one where each member's success is dependent on each other
member's performance. An example of a highly integrated team
can be seen in a manufacturing setting, in which supply chain,
R & D, product development, manufacturing, quality control,
and warehouse/logistics all have to work in concert. And
of course each of the support functions such as HR, IT and
Finance must fully support the operating units. If one function
doesn't do its job, or the interface between departments
isn't working, then the team suffers. At the other extreme,
a non-integrated team is one in which the departments are
more or less autonomous. I have, for example, conducted team
building with team members who have little in common other
than the fact they all report to the same person and meet
once a month to discuss corporate topics of common interest.
This level of team integration will provide the first clue
regarding the type of team building that best suits. As a
general guideline, for integrated teams, the focus is on,
not only the relationships between individual team members,
but on the interactions and interfaces between their departments.
For non-integrated teams, there is a far greater focus on
individual relationships and the effectiveness of the monthly
meeting. The former is, of course, a far more complex and
Current Team State:
The second question
focuses on the team's current level of performance. If a
team is working effectively, then team building activities
should be very different than those recommended for dysfunctional
teams. Functional teams will focus more on how to make a
positive situation better. This is a fairly easy and usually
trouble free task. The greater challenge comes with dysfunctional
teams. Members of such teams are quite often reluctant to
get involved, have given up, or give personal grudges a higher
priority than team work. There aren't any easy answers to
this one. A couple of brief pointers though; have a skilled,
objective facilitator, and attempt to get all team members
onside before holding a team session.
Two Activity Types
When you have an idea of team needs, you can then go on to
decide which team activities will achieve your objectives.
There are literally hundreds if not thousands of team activities
that have filled many books, but you can classify most of
them in one of two ways.
Analyze and Action Plan:
is more common with teams in the dysfunctional category,
because it focuses on analyzing the strengths and weaknesses
of the team. The team building session can then focus on
leveraging the strengths and improving weak areas. There
are several ways to conduct the analysis. The most effective
is to meet each team member individually before the session
to get their views. You can also do a simple e-survey before
the session. In some cases the analysis is done at the session,
but this takes valuable team time, can become acrimonious
in a dysfunctional team, and sometimes isn't an accurate
reflection of what really goes on within the team.
This approach is by far the most common
and probably most responsible for the bad reputation earned
by some team building sessions. It focuses solely on activities
that build team cohesiveness, rather than focusing on the
specific needs of the team. Its primary benefit comes from
the fact that the team works through a difficult experience
together and succeeds as a team. The more challenging the
experience, the more pronounced the success, and the greater
the cohesiveness built. Such experiences include physical
challenges, board games, intellectual games and just about
any activity that an enterprising consultant can think of.
There's no doubt all of these approaches can be effective
cohesiveness builders. If the team does overcomes a difficult
challenge then cohesiveness will build. However, keep in
mind that this difficult challenge can be a difficult business
challenge. It needn't be a game or an outdoor adventure or
any activity that may be viewed as frivolous. Some of the
most successful team building experiences I've led have been
a management team solving an extremely difficult business
problem, or developing an innovative strategy. Maybe not
as much fun as climbing a mountain, but a double dip payoff
of a more cohesive team and a business problem solved.
summary, do some analysis before the event. Look at the level
of integration and team effectiveness. Both of these factors
will guide you in the right direction. Then carefully choose
team building activities. If you want to improve a wide range
of team factors, then choose the analyze/ action plan approach.
If all you're after is increased cohesiveness, then go with
that approach (note: of course you can combine the two.)
Set realistic expectations. No team building activity will
perform miracles, but with effective planning it can add
value and also look like it's adding value.
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