Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 4, Issue 23;   June 9, 2004: Team-Building Travails

Team-Building Travails

by

Last updated: August 8, 2018

Team-building is one of the most common forms of team "training." If only it were the most effective, we'd be in a lot better shape than we are. How can we get more out of the effort we spend building teams?

It was the end of the team-building training, and as everyone politely applauded, Maria began gathering her things. The binder. The picture of her with Diane holding the eight-foot paper elephant. Her certificate. And of course her notes, which included long lists of to-dos that came to her during the times she was zoned out. Feeling both energized and depressed, she turned to her left to look at Diane.

An elephant

An elephant bull, head-on. Photo by Joe Milmoe, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Diane looked back, saying nothing. They were both tired. Finally Diane said, very quietly, "Two days. What a waste." Maria nodded and they both stood and walked silently out of the room, among the first to leave.

Back in Diane's office, door closed, Maria kicked it off with, "And how long will it be till we forget this?"

Maria's impish side triumphed: "Forget what?" They both laughed. A needed laugh.

"You know what I mean," Diane said. "Will we ever use this stuff?"

Maria and Diane are experiencing some of the letdown that frequently follows team-building training. It's a common reaction, but it needn't be. Here are some simple ways to make team learning last longer.

Think of it as "learning" rather than training
It's amazing how powerful the words are. Learning is the real goal, so let's call it learning. Training is for puppies.
Inflicting education rarely works
Give the team a choice. Allow budget and schedule for team learning, if they want it. Mandating it instead of supporting it produces different and inferior results.
Structure learning in short bursts
Is it "team training"
or "team learning"?
Words do matter
Unless air travel is involved, even two days of education is usually too long. Leaving space between "modules" gives people time to practice and integrate new ideas into their work.
Limit turnover on the team
Changing the composition of a team is disruptive. The new people often didn't attend the recent team learning experience, and more important, change entails Chaos (see "Now We're in Chaos," Point Lookout for September 19, 2001). You might get more out of a team by keeping its members in place than you would by cycling in an expert for a short-term specialized task.
Leave some slack for experimentation
After a team goes through a team learning experience, we hope they'll apply what they've learned. They'll be a bit clumsy at first — it's like learning to walk. Give them the slack they need to experiment with the new methods they've learned.

Most important, follow up. Setting an actual date for a "post-graduate" follow-up to any educational experience makes actual application of the learning much more likely. Setting a date creates an expectation that we'll be reviewing the results of applying the methods we've learned.

A year later, what will people remember from the team learning experience? Will it be the important lessons that were so difficult and valuable to learn? Or will it be the eight-foot paper elephant? Go to top Top  Next issue: Team Thrills  Next Issue

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenvhsCedfxeiwNGbARner@ChacBjmvWPVvsLKgYDLhoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Glow of lava reflected in steam plume east of Kupapa'u Point, on the Big Island of HawaiiWhen Meetings Boil Over
At any time, without warning, you can find yourself in a meeting that boils over. Sometimes tempers rise, then voices rise, and then people yell and scream. What can a team do when meetings threaten to boil over — and when they do?
A forest glenGames for Meetings: I
We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized games. Here's Part I of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we can do about them.
Don't rely solely on your spell checkerEmail Antics: III
Nearly everyone complains that email is a time waster. Yet much of the problem results from our own actions. Here's Part III of a little catalog of things we do that help waste our time.
Lake Chaubunagungamaug signDeciding to Change: Trusting
When organizations change by choice, people who are included in the decision process understand the issues. Whether they agree with the decision or not, they participate in the decision in some way. But not everyone is included in the process. What about those who are excluded?
Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and President Bush in a press conference on September 17, 2001Overconfidence at Work
Confidence in our judgments and ourselves is essential to success. Confidence misplaced — overconfidence — leads to trouble and failure. Understanding the causes and consequences of overconfidence can be most useful.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A pair discussion in a speedstormComing February 27: Brainstorming and Speedstorming: II
Recent research into the effectiveness of brainstorming has raised some questions. Motivated to examine alternatives, I ran into speedstorming. Here's Part II of an exploration of the properties of speedstorming. Available here and by RSS on February 27.
A meeting that's probably a bit too largeAnd on March 6: A Pain Scale for Meetings
Most meetings could be shorter, less frequent, and more productive than they are. Part of the problem is that we don't realize how much we do to get in our own way. If we track the incidents of dysfunctional activity, we can use the data to spot trends and take corrective action. Available here and by RSS on March 6.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenaljZQwEmusGRbAssner@ChacxAGlXFWuXcpVdqGmoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Reader Comments About My Newsletter
A sampling:
  • Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
  • You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
  • I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
  • A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
  • …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.
  • More
101 Tips for Managing ConflictFed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you the target of a bully? Learn how to make peace with conflict.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.