There has always been a debate around workplace team building; do team building exercises really work? There are 3 different schools of thoughts on this.
School of Thought #1:
Team Building exercises are like marketing, half of it is a waste but you never know which half was affected and which was squander.
School of Thought #2:
Team building exercises are counterproductive, especially in tough economic times and recession. For this group, team building exercises and many other organizational development (OD) interventions are mere fads and total waste of time, money and team energy.
School of Thought #3:
Go for it! For this group, team development exercises are the make or break to a company’s profitability. Team building exercises are viewed as a way for teams to establish team identity and a shared vision that sparks and ignites them to do more and accomplish more.
All three of these viewpoints are fairly extreme and lack common ground. Hence, the burning question still remains; do team building exercises really work? And the answer is …, it depends.
Depends? Yes, on factors like:
- Why is the team building exercise being conducted? A team building exercise must have a logical goal behind it, whether it is a 5 minute activity or full day activity. Activity objectives of the exercise must be properly communicated to the team and not just in the head of the team leader.
- Was there a proper need analysis for the exercise done, a needs assessment is a systematic process for determining and addressing needs, or “gaps” between current conditions and desired conditions or “wants”. The discrepancy between the current condition and wanted condition must be measured to appropriately identify the need. The need can be a desire to improve current performance or to correct a deficiency.
- Was the activity targeted on any specific team trap or it was like medicine for a disease that did not exist and result in negative after effects.
- How was the exercise or team activity executed? Who facilitated? An inexperienced or unprepared person can really turn the exercise into catastrophe.
- Was proper feedback given once the activity is over? Conducting an exercise and providing no feedback on why was the exercise conducted and what lessons can be learned from it is not only wasting time and money but can also distance the team members from each other.
- Timing and selection of the activity is a key to success the same activity or exercise is often not appropriate during all stages of team building. An activity designed for the formation stage of team development won’t necessarily be as effective during the performing or adjourning stage.
- Customization is vital. Team building exercises are not one size fit all. They need to be customized as per the need and specific nature of the team.
The key to leading successful team building exercise and activities lies in the 7 P formula:
Exercises and activities must be planned and designed in advance with due customization and must be facilitated by a veteran. Once the intervention is over proper feedback must be provided.
If the above mentioned points are taken into due consideration while designing and conducting the team building exercises, the answer to the burning question, “Do team building activities really work?” will definitely be affirmative.
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