In today’s world where resources are ever scarcer, we need to think about where best to “place our chips”. The key to the use of teambuilding is, like everything we do in business, to determine our outcome. Is it a reward for the team? “Or maybe a day or two away from the office to get to know each other a little better? Or maybe it is a true learning and development opportunity? Whichever it is, make sure you have clarity as to what difference it will create after the event. And make sure your programme provider is clear too.

Many team-builds become events that offer the memory of fun and little else. True team-builds are programmes that are embedded into the development and culture of the team. Outcomes are sought by the provider and programmes designed around the short and long-term needs of the team. The activity itself should offer personal and team feedback on styles and behaviours of Team members, determining impact on others. Great team-build programmes will identify the behaviours during a fun out-of-office programme that are elicited in the workplace too. It is then key for individuals and teams to identify those styles, approaches and behaviours that are useful and those that require flexibility in order to get an even better result.

Bruce Tuckman certainly identified this back in the 1960s with his model of Group Development. He identified the evolution from Forming to Storming, through to Norming and peaking with Performing.
Forming – individuals are keen to be accepted and avoid conflict. This “best behaviour” stage is comfortable but not much is achieved. The team is dependent on the Leader for direction.

Storming – team members open up to each other and confront each other’s ideas and perspectives.

Storming can be uncomfortable but it is necessary for the growth of the team. The Leader will still be guiding the team at this stage.

Norming – team members adjust their behaviour to each other as they develop work habits that make teamwork seem more natural and fluid. The team becomes more motivated as it gets to grips with the project or task. The Leader can now be more participative.

Performing – the team is now able to function as a unit as it finds ways to get the job done effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for external supervision.

So what is the art of producing a high-performing team and how do they behave? The first interesting point is that a recent study made by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) provides us with information that it is not an art at all. It’s in fact a science – and it’s the scientific process of communication that is key.

MIT’s analysis showed that energy and engagement outside formal meetings was key to productivity – less formality increased productivity. In fact the study, within a call centre of an International Bank, created an improvement in its KPIs by increasing the length of tea breaks and having teams take them all at the same time.

With the combination of Tuckman and MIT we can think about where our team is now (Forming, Storming, Norming or Performing) and what are the environment, energy, engagement and behaviours that are required to move it along to collaborative and interdependent peak performance.

When seeking out a team-build programme to identify and develop this, ensure you are able to work with your programme designer to create the outcome you need to progress the individuals to develop the team. It will be the culture and dynamics of the team that brings the success rather than the standalone skills of its participants. How will you embed the learning – is it an event or a process or programme?

Consider the value of team build programmes and ask yourself, what is the difference that will make the difference for your team?”

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Malcolm Taylor is founder and director of Your Excellency an innovative Organisational Coaching and Development Company. Its flagship programme "Oarsome" is a Team Development Programme using rowing as the ultimate metaphor for communication and ... (Read More)

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