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Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Tag: off-site team building programs

Off-Site Meetings, Teamworking and Engaging People for workplace improvement

In a LinkedIn thread, we started discussing company activities and teamwork. My thoughts are along the theme that building teams within an organization is not the same as doing a lot of things that are called teambuilding. What I did was show this picture in a discussion called “Teamwork? Why is this called TEAMwork?” and comment:

Every so often, I am simply struck by what some people call team building. I have written extensively in my other blog about things like go-kart racing, golf, bowling, firewalking and other activities and how a connection to team building behavior and organizational performance change is tenuous at best.

FUN is not team building.

CHALLENGE is not team building.

Teamwork High Ropes Guy

One of my friends talked about her teambuilding experiences thusly:

Hi Scott! I think these activities help build teams when people *choose* to get together and do fun things together; not because the company forces them to do so. The reason certain coworkers will choose to do things together on their own is because the working environment is open and friendly and lends itself to people *wanting* to get to know each other outside of the office. The best team building activities I’ve ever experienced were completely voluntary and informal.

I read a thought this morning that helped me frame this up a bit more clearly in my mind.

It is a simple reality that building a community within an organization is not the same as building real teamwork.

Forming a softball team can have the benefit of helping people get to know each other so as to improve that sense of community; it may help improve communications and trust. But it is not going to help the team build a better sense of alignment to the organization’s goals and visions, nor will it improve systems and processes to have impacts on performance metrics.

The kinds of problem-solving faced by the second baseman when considering whether to throw the ground ball to first base or second base (one out, tie score, 3rd  inning) or the person forty feet off the ground standing on a board is not thinking about improving customer service or generating a sale or shipping an order. Teamwork is adding brains and engagement to business process improvement, more than doing a firewalk or winning at paintball.

I’ve written a lot about the issues I have with things like bowling or golf paid for by company funds and framed as “team building events.” A company started here in Greenville SC with indoor go-karts framed up its first advertisement with it being “a year-round team building opportunity.” Racing about in go-karts is a team building event? How will that impact organizational performance? How will that improve collaboration and decision-making?

There was a lot of media a while back about the Internal Revenue Service and such a formal event they structured. You can read about it here under the title,

IRS needs Large Group Team Building instead of $27,000 Innovation Speakers
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IRS Line-Dancing – click to see the video

They spent a gazillion taxpayer dollars on a huge fancy choreographed event, hiring “motivational speakers” (an oxymoron – do any actually motivate you?*) and took time to “train” a whole bunch of people to do different things like the line dancing above (team building, I guess) when they could have done something like The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for maybe a total of $10,000 (including a leadership development session for senior managers) and generated some serious discussions about organizational and departmental goals, choices about collaboration and improving communications, discussions of shared risk and leadership of others, etc.

* I can remember attending a corporate event years ago when a famous football quarterback / restaurant owner was paid $40,000 to speak to a group of employees and vendors about his experiences with customer service. Does anyone really think that any listener walked away and did anything differently? It was a photo-opportunity for the company execs to get pictures taken, though.

Just as icebreakers to energize can be a waste of time and energy when they are completely unrelated to the training goals and session subject (see Motivation, Training and Icebreakers. Keeping it Real),  organizational team building activities should have a real connection to improving the organization.

Note: You can find a solid article on ideas for success for off-site team building event management ideas on this blog post.

That is not to say that company activities aren’t good things to do, because they are. But when limited budgets for organizational improvement are spent on picnics, bowling, softball and other community-building activities, you can miss the opportunity to do things that actually make impacts on people and performance. Do both, if you can.

Note:  We rent and sell an absolutely world-class team building exercise focused on alignment and inter-organizational collaboration. It is called, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and there are many posts in my blog about the exercise and its design features.

Here is a recent testimonial that I thought to add:

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Renting the game is a really inexpensive way to have a great large group event team building at a very inexpensive price. Read more about renting Dutchman here:

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. 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.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

 

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Large Group, Off-Site Team Building Event Ideas

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 Goal - Gold Hand gold

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?

Organizational Alignment:

GeeseV

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 SimmermanDr. 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.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

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