I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how Team Building activities in 2019 are a waste of time and money.
Some articles about Team Building refer a couple activities examples that back fired originating the “catastrophic” end of the department, instead of becoming more productive. Others compile lists why Team Building activities will not work in 2019. Finally, a few more state, that in this new digital era, we should be more focused on the individual creativity and specialization than team work.
I’ve been working in Team Building activities for 3 decades now, so let me show you my case.
Times are changing – But aren’t the goals the same?
Even in a highly digital era, a company will succeed if its teams succeed and not due to a brilliant individual, no matter how brilliant he/she may be. Whether it is a traditional industry or tech-driven, most enterprises hire people because they need teams to make it happen. It doesn’t matter how digital the world is and how many jobs are being replaced by robots and automation: we still need people in our companies. And now, as it has been for the past centuries, the most productive teams will achieve their goals faster, with fewer costs. This hasn’t changed since Taylor and Ford, more than 100 years ago.
If Human Recourses weren’t so important for organisations, why, currently, is so much effort is invested in recruitment? Companies are looking for more than just leadership qualities but also take great care to ensure that employees are team players.
Technology makes Team Building redundant
Some people believe that technology is going to take all our jobs and therefore Team Building is no longer needed. Others just bluntly affirm that technology is helping our relationships and communications so much that we won’t need Team Building anymore.
I could point to several studies that show how social media affects our lives and what drives well-being at work. For starters, I don’t believe that Social media is helping foster better relationships. In this early stage of digital technology, we now need even more human interaction /Team Building in our diversified human resources structure:
- To help us connect and communicate better.
- To join different generations that were never so apart: There are still baby boomers in our work force mixed with millennials and generation Z that have never seen a Fax Machine.
- To see a real smile instead of a 😊 in our display.
Team Building that had bad results
In this Harvard article, Carlos Valdes-Dapena gives a couple of Team building examples that were a waste of time, money and with even worse results. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not questioning the examples. One of these activities consisted in going to London and learn a Maori dance. Another was to just watch an orchestra play in order to understand how to work as a team.
This has been my point all these years. Like in so many other industries there is good Team Building and bad Team Building. If a house falls down because it was poorly built, should we all go back live in caves?
These are examples of bad Team Building.
For example, related to Orchestra, in Team Dynamics we have an activity that is called Human Orchestra. But instead of making our teams watch an entire orchestra trying to figure it out by themselves how they function, they are the orchestra. They use their body as the instrument of sound. This way, they become organized and cooperative. At the end, they realize they all need each other to reach a positive synchronous result.
Carlos Valdes-Dapena also gives a positive example where the Mars company in China, instead of Team Building decided to take a couple of days off and, internally, organized a series of activities of fun and productive games. According to Carlos, the results were outstanding.
But isn’t this what Team Building is all about? It doesn’t matter if you do it in house or hire the best pros in the business – like Team Dynamics – It’s still Team Building.
Other Team Building myths
There are so many posts pointing out how Team Building isn’t worth the time or money. But when I read them, they look like they are making my points for me. There is bad Team Building and good Team Building. But don’t blame the good Team Building because you had a bad experience. Just don’t buy that company service again. It’s like never going to any restaurant again because you had a bad meal at a cheap joint.
Team building only improves good communications
Recently I read this:
“Team Building results may not be encouraging because the team spirit can’t be created all of a sudden. Most often they end up just breaking the ice and improving communication between employees, but that doesn’t make a good team.”
That’s why there is a lot more to good Team Building than just improving communications. There is also a motivational and a learning component. If we follow up the activity with a debriefing, we can enhance what we’ve learned and are more likely to take the knowledge from the Team Building to our offices and start implementing them.
Fun Activities Don’t Yield Results
This is important to me, at a later date I’ll write a full article about how fun is so important to learn and retain knowledge. In the mean time, I can point in the direction of this Brain Research by Judy Willis and The Impact of Fun and Enjoyment on Adult’s Learning by Dorothy Lucardie.
Mismatch Between Organization’s Goals and Targets
Team building should be seen as a continuous activity and not as a one-off exercise involving some fun, adventure and indoor meetings.
Good teams are formed when there is a good leadership, each member is aware of the objectives of a project or task and works together for the success of the team. It is a cliché but it is true; unless each team member thinks in terms of ‘we’ instead of ‘I’, any one-off exercise may prove to be futile.
Team Building Becomes a Competitive Exercise
This argument states that team building activities end up as a competitive exercise resulting in comparisons and rewards, where in some cases employees may feel unmotivated if the focus is purely on winning.
Our focus as Team Builders is to motivate everybody. Not separate the winners from the survivors. Quite the opposite. Bring them together and make them see that united they are happier and produce better results with less effort.
What is the point of team building?
- To improve cohesion amongst employees?
- To “break the ice” between employees who previously didn’t interact?
- To have a day off from the office and have fun?
Well yes. But so much more.
Watch high-performing teams in any domain, and you will see a group of people operating with a shared sense of mission and a feeling of camaraderie. Teamwork requires constant and open communication and while this seems simple, it’s so hard to accomplish on a daily basis because, despite all this technology, we are still the same humans as 100 years ago.
In this fast pacing era we’re living, good effective teamwork is needed more than ever. Most start-ups don’t fail because they had a bad idea. They fail because partners, investors and their teams fail to work together towards the same goal.