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How to Make the Most of Team Building Activities for Work By John Wright

teamAccording to Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson, team building is essential to organizational learning, the organization’s ability to respond to opportunities, and improving internal processes. She states that teams should be dynamic, and not static; they must change quickly to address new projects and business needs. Often, this means a team doesn’t have much time to bond before getting started on a specific project. In situations like this, when managers need to quickly build a team based on different skill sets to maximize collaboration, team building activities are especially important. Despite its importance, team building activities often lack relevance and are done “for the sake of it”. Activities are done in this manner, lack the relevance to be truly impactful. To make the most of team building activities, follow these

Make It an Unforgettable Experience

Doing something fun together does more than help people like and respect one another: it leads to more cooperation and collaboration. The impact of the group is greater when others join together to achieve a common outcome. Rather than classroom training that features speakers or entertainers, participants who learn by experiencing the material first-hand tend to find the learning experience more memorable and energizing. This also increases the chance that participants will retain the lessons from their team building activities and employ them on the job.

Make It Relevant

As leadership teams become more and more aware of the importance of team building, the risk is that the reason behind the activity can be lost. It can become one of those things that you just do because you think you should. To maximize your investment in the team building activity, you must take time to stop and think about what can be learned from the activity and how you can connect these learnings to incorporate new behaviors in the workplace.

Establish Goals & Measure the Outcome

Once new behaviors have been identified, the team must determine how the impact of those new behaviors will be quantified.

For example, let’s say you have an engineering team that does not collaborate and work together as effectively as they could. After debriefing their activity they realize that there are three things that they should be doing differently to improve collaboration: communicate more frequently, share resources and build trust. Further, they may establish that weekly meetings, a shared resource site and more disclosure about deadlines and customer needs are the specific ways they will manifest these new behaviors. Lastly, the team may establish some efficiency metrics such as meeting scheduled deadlines as their measurement of effectiveness. By tracking and correlating the new behaviors to the deadline metrics and associated cost savings the team can effectively measure the benefit of their team building event.

Remember, Team Development is a Process Not an Event

No team remains static. New members join the team, key players leave, budgets shift, and many other organizational events impact a team’s cohesiveness. Moreover, as a team matures, the issues they are dealing with also evolve. Revisit team development on an ongoing basis. When you do, make the learning as impactful and sustainable as possible by focusing on behavior change through experiential learning.

Leadership Must Be Included

The body follows the head. When leaders are involved, they are able to consistently reinforce why the new team behaviors are important. Further, by modeling the new behaviors, they accelerate buy-in and provide clarification or support when obstacles stand in the way of team progress.

Many organizations have moved to a cross-functional team based structure to support cultures of innovation, learning, and overall growth. Further, since human capital is an organization’s most important asset, companies that encourage employees to discover and use new aspects of knowledge and skills through team development activities will be better positioned to prioritize learning, empower change, and engage staff in adopting new ways to work.