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Team Building or Team Development

‘We need some kind of teambuilding activity’, is a phrase that is often heard.  But often the people saying it don’t really know what they mean. It’s as if we all know that teams are good. We understand the sum of the parts thing, but we don’t quite know how to make a team work in the way we think we want it to. When it comes to team building, the very first question we have to ask is, what for? In other words, what are you building it to do?

Sometimes it can genuinely mean building the team: new people coming together, a change of roles, new expectations, sorting out difficulties or communication issues: all things that prompt the need for team building. But sometimes it isn’t that at all. For example, recently we were asked to run a team building day for a group of people and almost as soon as we met them and started putting the programme together, they realised they were a very ‘built’ team already. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was that their ‘output’ wasn’t what the company expected from them and so they (the company) thought if they had a team building event the team would work better.

That’s not team building, it is, however, team development. And increasingly, we find that when people talk about team building that’s what they really mean. Part of this whole process is learning about how teams work. And,  no matter what the books say (and there are plenty of them) – every single team is different: there is no model you can follow that will create the perfect team. However , the key to the planning is the question below:

What do you want your teambuilding to achieve? Teams are complex machines and it’s not surprising that they malfunction occasionally or need re-alignment.

  • Do you want people working better together?
  • Do you want to set new team goals and agreements?
  • Do you need to iron out communication difficulties that have crept in?
  • Do you want a jolly – to reward the team for being terrific?
  • Do you simply want to get everyone’s creative juices going and brainstorm new ideas?
  • Do you need to set clear parameters and boundaries so everyone knows what’s expected of them?Do you want to inject some fresh enthusiasm and energy into a group that’s been working too hard and may have lost sight of the goal posts?
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