Measuring the value of team building: It’s a matter of context
I read plenty of articles about team building. Many bag out team building as an effective way to build teams or provide a positive influence in the workplace and many others are completely the opposite. The ones that bag out team building generally say something along the lines of “just by doing xxxx you won’t achieve xxxx.” And there is a great point there. In an age where you type team building into a search engine, you find everything from going ten pin bowling (activity) to a high end leadership course (lets say a development program). I have written before about the lottery with what you might expect from an activity that labels itself as team building.
When I started my career in training and development with a company in the UK, if there was a team development program that didn’t link back into the work place, it wasn’t worth doing. It had to provide more ROI than just the activity alone. It doesn’t mean everyone wasn’t having fun (as fun is essential to learning) but the program had to provide serious insight into the business. That was standard and our clients expected it.
Now, over 10 years, our business in Australia gets so many calls where teams just want to get out of the workplace and have some fun. The clients are really adamant about this. Nothing to do with work, just fun. Don’t mention ANYTHING to do with the workplace.
So how do you then work out the value of such a program? At the end of the day, only the team wanting to do the program can comment on the value of that program to their company.
If you are to understand if a team building program is valuable, you have to understand the context for wanting your team to participate in that program. Once you know what success looks like, you can then work out post session if the team building activity helped you achieve that. You can then judge if the program was successful for you and your team.
As an example, one person may bag out shaving Mohawks in each other’s heads as a team building program but if you really wanted to shave each others heads and this helped you achieve your exact aims of giving everyone funny hair do’s then the program was successful. Sounds pretty simple? If you were only looking the cheapest possible activity and say you take the team lawn bowling and everyone has a great time, then in your context the team building program has been successful. If you take your team bowling and you were looking for something that gives you outcomes that a round of bowls cant achieve, then the program wasn’t successful.
The very same program/activity/night out/whatever can be exactly the same but in a different context, it is wildly successful or a real pile of crap.
At the end of the day, only a team leader or team with a true understanding of their context can say if a team building program has been worthwhile. If the company who is delivering that program understands your context, you should have great results. The problem comes when a team building program promises things that it can’t deliver. This is where the majority of negative articles come from and rightly so. The ability for a team building program to change behaviour and make lasting change will be in another future blog.