Team building events offer companies ways to align people to shared missions and goals and to generate motivation for improvement and collaboration across organizational lines. And business improvement focused events can be used as tools for strategy rollout and initiating change. After all, for most such events,
The focus of this post is to share some ideas that go well beyond the team bonding kinds of events that are fun and engaging but that do little to impact operational results. While fun, they are hard to tie to the real behavioral changes needed to improve interdepartmental collaboration or to break down the barriers to real improvements.
Playing with strings and balls and boards may be fun and interesting, but the metaphors linking back toward behavior change in the workplace are unclear and ineffective. Learning to juggle can be fun, but is it really connected to the fine art of motivating employees or sharing the common goal of improving customer service? Playing paintball is a great outdoor adventure, but do we really want our own people shooting guns and hard projectiles at our own people? Seriously? Do we gain something from violence against one another? Heck, it might be cheaper just to go into a room and call each other names!
In my work and the work of my associates on organizational improvement, it is common that a significant roadblock to improvement is the issue of senior management alignment and commitment. This can take the form of interdepartmental conflict or issues when it comes to strategy implementation or many other things that require a cohesive kind of organizational response.
Most of our management people are already pretty loaded-up with things to do and most improvement initiatives are simply seen as: More Work combined with potential personal risk. Plus, new initiatives are often associated with more chaos and confusion. Frankly, it is sometimes easier to nod one’s head in a yes-motion than it is to actually generate new behaviors and any actual commitment to doing something differently. After all, what will you have to stop doing to do this new thing?
A critical issue for organizational improvement is the one on alignment and impact: Will this new initiative have direct positive impacts on me? Since it is common that nobody ever washes a rental car, it seems essential that the senior manager must share some sense of ownership involvement and also feel that the program for improvement will be a positive benefit for them.
In Implementing Changes after Team Building Events, I focus on issues of team building simulations and the kinds of followup needed to generate real behavioral change weeks after the event. The Lost Dutchman team building exercise focuses on mining as much gold as we can and on the issue of collaborating between tabletops to share resources that help optimize results.
In this post on Large Group Team Building Events, we discuss how we present and debrief exercises to optimize discussions and decisions about choices made and about how to engage the most senior management people in behaving to support teams and teamwork. In this other post in a similar vein, I discuss some ideas about some of the more misaligned kinds of things that organizations do in the name of team building and organizational improvement.
It seems critical that our group event has an optimized shared overall desired outcome, rather than a focus on one team winning (and the others all losing)… Too often, we structure events so there are the winners and the glory and then all the others. While this might reflect the actual organizational politics that are in play, it is not an effective strategy for generating teamwork and collaboration.
People will hold back. People will resist change and changing behavior. People will fault-find and nit-pick rather than look for more possibilities and things to try to do differently. We need to focus on the positives and get the group focused on the possibilities. Innovation will come more from collaboration than competition.
I’ll not go into the more typical large group event of sit and watch and listen versus Commentator from Corporate. I think all of us have attended those dog and pony powerpoint show and tell lectures and I will also guess that few of us can really remember much about them. My position is that if something can be elegantly done as a screencast audio slideshow, it should be done as a screencast audio slideshow! Bring on the podcasts and keep my butt out of some meeting room padded chair! Group face-to-face time is too valuable for a lecture.
Large group events should be delivered as engaging, memorable activities that have some shared goals and purposes. They should appeal to all learning styles and be delivered in a way that helps generate behavior change, not just consideration. Large group events can be engaging team building events. Large group events can be interactive, collaborative and focused on problem solving to benefit organizational results.
And, large group events should set the stage for continued organizational improvement,
For the FUN of It!
Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.