Archive for July 8, 2010

Team Building – A Complete Guide

Posted in Management / Leadership with tags , , , , on July 8, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Team Building is the process of improving collective performance.

Small businesses need to work harmoniously to really thrive and this is why we thought this exert from the website was relevant for many of our clients.

Simple but effective way of making team building work include:

* Establishing ownership of shared goals
* Removing inhibitors/blockages to achievement of those goals
* Introducing enablers (awareness, resources, information, processes, etc.) to help achieve those goals
* Using team building processes (e.g.: health checks, performance management, 360 feedback)

Team Building is often ineffective because:

* In many cases, advanced techniques are used whilst there is a lack of buy in to the shared objectives (commitment to team building activities is predicated on commitment to the overall direction/goals)

* Interventions are made out of sequence (e.g.: a poorly defined structure, roles and responsibilities will undermine attempts to improve interpersonal relationships)

* Many offsite events fail to add any real, lasting value because the approach taken to team building is too generic(any offsite event should be designed to meet specific goals and outcomes

* There is often a lack of understanding of the difference between a group and a team (team building with a group can be counter-productive, detracting from individual performance without any compensatory collective benefit)

* There is a lack of assessment of the team (diagnosis is required in order to develop effective intervention strategies)


In the Forming stage (Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing), individuals are committed, at most, to their own objectives. Members will only invest time in Storming activities if they think it is worth it – that is, if the collective objectives are seen as important as their own.

A common mistake is for individuals to think that being committed to their own objectives means they are committed to the team.

As in the age-old metaphor where a house needs to be built on rock, the foundation of all team building is commitment to the shared goal.


If team building is viewed as a commodity, as a product to be purchased from a supplier, then it is unlikely to have any lasting value. Having an awayday, playing games or doing fun things will generally lead to lasting and improved collective performance only in the context of a good plan, where events are bespoke (designed to meet specific objectives and outcomes). In fact, having an awayday without good design is taking a gamble – it may achieve something, be a waste of time, or even damage teamwork.

The choice of intervention strategy depends not only on the current state of teamwork, but on the nature of the people. For highly motivated individuals, it can be enough to set a high level direction and then allow individuals to contribute to the detailed development of the goals. For others, whose natural motivations are more individual, there may need to be objective-based rewards that require teamwork. In some instances, where high levels of teamwork cannot be achieved, they may only be effective in the Forming stage, which is highly dependent on leadership.


A group is a set of people with individual objectives who happen to share the same boss, or the same workplace, or be part of the same organisational unit. In a group, individuals might even have the same objectives – e.g.: in a sales force, everyone might have the same sales target to meet, but they may also compete against each other rather than cooperate.

A team is a group that works towards a single, common objective. In fact, they might have different individual objectives, but those objectives contribute to the higher collective one. E.g. in a sales team, one person might make appointments, another provide technical sales support, another prepare a bid document, and another make the sale. But they are all accountable together for the sales and are not judged solely on individual objectives.


Interventions fall into four main areas:

* Individual – e.g.: development of individual skills; establishing familiarity with shared processes
* Relational – e.g.: improvement of unconscious dynamics; engendering a sense of common purpose and commitment
* In/Out Groups – tackling the barriers between different organisational units
* Cultural – building a teamwork ethos in larger organisations
The foundation of good teamwork is having a shared commitment to common objectives. Without this, all other forms of team building will have a limited impact. Therefore, before using any team building exercises and activities, or team buildinglooking at relationships in the team, or embarking on other forms of team building, you need to put this foundation of shared commitment in place by:

* Clarifying the team goals, and building ownership/commitment to those goals across the team
* Identifying any issues which inhibit the team from reaching their goals, rand emoving the inhibitors
* Putting in place enablers to help the goals be achieved to higher standards
* Using team processes in the correct sequence to help the team climb one rung at a time up the ladder of performance

Team Building is therefore not just a single event (though events can play a part), nor is it something that can be done by someone outside the team (though outside consultants can help). It is a task primarily for the team manager and the team members themselves.

Four Types of Team Building

Once you have established the basic foundation of shared commitment, the approach you then take to team building depends on the size of the team and the types of issues that may be inhibiting good teamwork.

Better teamwork is achieved through dealing with: individuals, small teams, team islands and the organisation.


In a project environment, where team composition is continually changing, the emphasis must be on selecting people who are self-starters and developing the skills in individuals to become effective team members very quickly. The ‘scale’ involved is 1 person, and the team building consultant or trainer is endeavouring to change the skills and abilities of the individual at operating within a team (or within multiple teams).

Small Teams

In teams where membership is static – typically in management teams – the motivational challenge is to align the drive of the disparate individuals around the same goals. There can be many inhibitors to performance – eg: personality, dynamics, processes etc., and how the individuals within the team relate to each other can have a big bearing on team performance. So, if a member leaves, or another joins, the dynamics of the team can be changed greatly and the task of team building has to start again. Here, the scale is small – say, 2 to about 12 – and the main priorities are to build the foundation of collective ownership of team objectives, and then overcome inhibitors through team bonding, facilitation, processes, etc..

Team Islands

A larger scale operates between teams. Where the teams do not relate well, they are called ‘team islands’. The motivational challenge is to overcome the problem of “in/out groups” so that people have positive attitudes towards those in other teams. There are often many barriers between teams that inhibit team performance, but not all of them can be removed. The main task, therefore, is the bridging, or relationship, between the teams.

Large Teams

The largest scale is organisational culture change. With the exception of the senior management team, any changes to personnel have limited impact on the corporate culture. The key aim of company-wide team building is to change the behaviours and attitudes prevalent in the organisation, which are almost independent of who actually works there – new recruits who are ‘different’ often start behaving in accord with the existing culture.


* A team is a group of people working towards a common goal
* Team building is a process of motivating and enabling the team to achieve that goal
* The stages involved include clarifying the team goals, building ownership, removing inhibitors, introducing enablers and using processes to move up the ladder of performance
* The nature of the team building varies in terms of scale, and what you are trying to achieve: