You may have used a professional team building company in the past, you may have organized fun excursions and activities for your group in the name of "team building," but how do you know if it is really working. If your goal is just to go out and have fun, then just about any social activity will suffice. However, if you are really trying to build a more effective team, a fun activity alone will not do it. It is going to take concerted effort over a long period of time.
After nearly 20 years in the team building arena, we see that there are all sorts of companies that purport to do "team building." Some companies do their own team building -- with varying degrees of success. But it is evident that "team building" falls into several different categories:
\Level 1: Party, picnic, excursion. These are fun, group events that are typically planned internally. They may or may not include organized games (like volleyball, bocce or picnic games). The result is that people get to interact with others that they don't know-- helping to increase camaraderie and create a better comfort level at work.
Level 2: Organized team building activity. These are events that are engaging and fun, but also require people to use the skills that they need to be successful at work: communication, group problem solving, building consensus, etc. It is a more pointed team building experience. It is a step up from Level #1, but it's value is highly dependent upon the person or persons facilitating the activity. If the facilitator fails to make the connection of the activity to the workplace, it is a huge opportunity lost. Good debriefing provides incredible value.
Level 3: This is what we call "serious team building." It is a combination of training and practicing using relevant game activities. Encouraging participants to share their own experiences and ideas, brainstorming, listening and being committed to moving forward-- these are all key elements of a Level 3 Team Building program. If a team is having serious obstacles to working together effectively, we suggest a number of tools, including one-on-one interviews prior to a team building program. These "conversations" seek to discover the perpective of each team member individually. This allows a facilitator to understand the dynamics of a team and why they are failing, before trying to prescribe something that will help them. This is the most professional approach to team building.
Most businesses usually request a Level 2 team building activity. However, as the economy has become so uncertain and teams are "right-sizing" everywhere, companies are finding a greater need for a Level 3 approach. This is more hard-hitting, encouraging immediate change, and is longer lasting. It is also an excellent use of monetary resources and provides a better return on investment.