Facilitator Journal | Issue #0183, December 14, 2004 | 7,000 Subscribers...
I recently ran across a thought provoking article on team-building
that really caught my eye. It's entitled, "Why Team Building
Doesn't Work and How You Can Build Your Team," by Hildy Gottlieb.
In this week's article, "Does Team Building Work?,"
we draw on some of Hildy's insights and advice, to make several
intriguing points about team-building of which I think all facilitators
and trainers should be conscious.
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If any of you have any interesting stories or experiences about facilitation,
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Does Team Building Work?
This popular intervention may not be what the doctor ordered.
I recently ran
across a thought provoking article on team-building that really caught
my eye. It's entitled, "Why Team Building Doesn't Work and How You
Can Build Your Team," by Hildy Gottlieb. In her article, Hildy highlights
several intriguing points about team-building of which I think all facilitators
and trainers should be conscious.
First off, she notes that Team Building has become increasingly viewed
as "the solution" in organizations where team members aren't
getting along. These efforts usually focus on the particular individuals
who have "bad morale" or who are unproductive. She summarizes
the thinking behind team building as always the same:
proposes that it is possible to build trust and engender positive working
relationships among people who obviously aren't feeling any of those
feelings to start with (otherwise, the team building wouldn't be necessary!),
although concerted effort on the part of those who are "misbehaving.
There are certainly
untold numbers of cases where organizations have tried Team Building and
declared it a failure--usually blaming the team. "We've tried everything,
but we just can't get them to work together!" Still, organizations
continue to look to Team Building to boost both morale and productivity.
So what's going on here? Does Team Building work or not?
Where "Team Building" Often Fails
Many people hate Team Building exercises that may feel contrived and too
"touchy-feely," especially by those people who may be distrustful
in the first place. It may be difficult to build trust using a tool the
participants don't trust.
Team building often happens offsite in a retreat-like setting away from
the workplace, or over a weekend. This new environment, combined with
Team Building activities might create some great short-term effects, but
once back in the environment where the problems started, they usually
return, and in full force.
Very often, Team Building is management's prescription to heal the symptoms
of deeper issues they are failing to seek or to see. If this is truly
the case, no wonder Team Building results are so often short lived. They
can be likened to taking pain killers for a broken leg--they work great
when you're taking them, but miss a dose and you're hurting again!
If team dysfunction is only a symptom of deeper issues, issues that frustrate
and confound team member's best efforts, it's natural for frustration
to increase. And when we're frustrated, we're not usually on our best
behavior. So we snap at each other, argue, get sloppy with our work, etc.
which just adds to the confusion and frustration further. In time, this
appears to be a team with a problem, which is certainly true. But if we
only look at the surface level problem and not the deeper cause, we become
like allopathic physicians treating chronic illnesses--we keep medicating,
never getting to the source.
With that said, what are some of the suspect sources to the deeper issues
we're alluding to? I think we all have experienced them. Things like lack
of leadership and direction, ineffective policies and systems, no vision,
poorly articulated values, dysfunctional or mis-assigned individuals.
None of these problems lie with the rank and file, nor will they respond
to Team Building efforts. These problems need to be dealt with head-on.
to the Source
Once we're aware that
something is amiss in our team, Hildy recommends asking the following
simple questions about the apparent problem to help peel away the layers
to its source:
1) What is this stopping us from doing?
2) Why is this important?
3) How is this keeping us from better helping our group or the organization?
Though these questions
sound simple, sticking with them long enough to uncover their answers
causes us to dig down to source issues. Here's a hypothetical example
to show how these questions might work in a real situation.
A 10 person working group at an IT organization feels
it needs Team Building because they argue all the time and are always
missing deadlines. Taken at face value, one would assume the goal of Team
Building is that the team would work better together. By asking "What
is this arguing stopping us from doing?," the team might note that
the arguing was keeping them from solving problems and getting their jobs
done effectively. When asked "Why is it important for them to do
their jobs effectively?," some members might admit that they really
didn't know. Now the team can begin talking about their uncertainty about
roles of some members and how their work supports the organization's overall
mission. By asking "How is this keeping us from better helping the
organization?" the discussion can lead the team to realize that if
they don't clearly know their tasks and how they fit into the overall
picture, they can't do much to make their team or their company any better.
approached by a group wanting Team Building services, engage your client
in an interview to uncover the source of the issue that's causing the
team problems. Team Building may still be needed, but perhaps not. Perhaps
the leader needs coaching on leadership or management skills. Perhaps
one team member needs to be confronted individually about his/her behavior
and clearly presented with expectations and consequences. It could be
that the policies or systems in place in the organization are stifling
and frustrating the efforts of the team. Maybe certain dysfunctional behaviors
are being rewarded either directly or indirectly that are impeding the
team. Perhaps the tools, resources, or something else in the work environment
is frustrating the team's efforts. And maybe all the foundational pieces
are pretty well in place and a Team Building intervention could really
help the group. If this is the case, it's very likely to make a difference
if the systems and structures people return to flex to accommodate the
new desired behaviors. In either case, be a detective and look for what's
under the cry for help to best serve your client.
there any new actions you might take before engaging a group in a Team Building
session in the future?
us your comments.
Teams Don't Work: What Goes Wrong and How to Make It Right.
by Harvey A. Robbins, Michael Finley
Read Chapter 5 on "misplaced goals, confused objectives," and
you'll start getting a good handle on where most team problems lie. How
many of us really understand what Demming meant when he stated that a
good goal is not a number? The authors do. They know that a good goal
is something that brings out passion. A good goal gives people something
to respond to, buy into, claim ownership over. This is not a happy talk
book about teams. With all the things that can go wrong with teams, and
do, it's surprising they work at all. "Teams are trouble." Having
this book available on your reference shelf will help you handle and minimize
the inevitable missteps the next time you're asked to serve on a team,
or lead it. --Michael Chiodi, author, The Art of Building People
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