I'm Not Against Team Things, Really I'm Not

I’ve been subjected to a bunch of team building activities that fell flat for me. My Last Word column in this month’s STQE talks about alternatives to team building. Here’s the quick recipe:

  1. Choose a topic the team has a vested interest in solving. (If the people can’t come up with one, you don’t have a team, you have a group. Let them go back to work.)
  2. Create a situation where the people have to work together to solve the problem.
  3. Debrief the solution and the activity.

Every so often I’m asked to speak at a big corporate event that’s supposed to be a rah-rah or team-building activity. When I do that, I ask for enough time so we can perform an activity together, either all of us, (or more likely) in small groups. Then people learn from each other and create sub-groups that can function as teams.I dislike pep rally-like things (nope, didn’t like them in high school either), or other situations where some desired result is based on something I can’t control.If you’re looking for team-building, or you want the whole company behind you, first break down the problem into something teams can solve. Then break into small groups that can function as teams. (Teams can be cross-functional, depending on the problem.) Facilitate the teams to perform at their best. Voila! Now you’ve created a team situation that works, where you’ve helped solve some problem important to the company, and we haven’t rah-rah’d, hugged, or sung a (foolish) song.And, if you’re the kind of person who likes those rah-rah things, or singing company songs, more power to you. (I don’t think many technical people fall into this category.) Let us technical people help you by providing background work to make you successful.I do like team situations; I don’t like artificial closeness to people with whom I work.For more on meeting ideas, see:

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