It might be fun, but its not team building

I watched a program last night about city brokers holding a downhill ski racing day. It was all very lavish and the organizer justified it by saying “But its all great team-building” It irritated me because there is a lot of money spent on questionable team-building.

I am sorry but skiing fast downhill on your own is fun but it is not team-building. Neither is motor-sport or go-karting (which I love) or anything else you fundamentally do on your own. At best some community building happens around these events or in the evening, but the community building is a by-product, not part of the activity.

Matrix teams are expensive and difficult to get together and we really need to get the best out of this scarce face to face time. To do this we need to be clear on our objectives and then design events that meet these objectives.

The first thing to realize is that we may not need to be a team (see previous posts) so building a broad but shallow network of relationships may be fine (we call this a community). If we really need to be a traditional team then we need to work more intensively on a limited set of relationships.

At my company meetings we always include some community building. Our criteria for this are that it should be:

  1. Something we can do in small groups of 4-6 that regularly change to encourage interaction and conversations
  2. Something that structures the time but is not so intense and absorbing that we don’t have time to have a laugh and catch up too
  3. Something that is different than our everyday experiences so we build a shared set of experiences that we otherwise might not get to do, and see our colleagues in different contexts.

Things that have worked well include white water rafting (fabulous), circus school (painful the next day), stunt school (painful the same day if you misunderstand instructions on how to smash a bottle over your colleagues head – sorry Phil!) and horse whispering (hard to explain but great learning).

So start by being clear about your “team-building” objective and then match the design of the event to these objectives.

Of course if you are just looking for an excuse to enjoy yourselves and using team-building as an excuse this is also fine – enjoy!

What is the best or worst “team-building” event you have ever been on?

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