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Are "team building" seminars worth anything?

I'm watching the training episode of The Office, and I'm wondering - does anyone think anything positive has ever come out of a team building training seminar? If you were a manager, would you pay for one? Or would you spend the money on a Monday afternoon employee party?


Thursday, June 19, 2003

Monday afternoon employee party. Scratch that, make that after-work drinks.

I think the strongest team building exercise is work. If you're a miserable leader, it won't matter how many team building exercises you send your employees on.
Thursday, June 19, 2003

I won't argue that at all. Now that you've mentioned it, I suspect it's a cargo cult issue - successful teams have parties because they enjoy each other's company (in a professional sense, if not a true sense of friendship). So struggling managers see that, think "I'll throw a party and be popular too!"...

When I wrote the initial note I was thinking that team building exercises probably started as corporate tax writeoff boondoggles. Now I'm sure.


Friday, June 20, 2003

Mark is right. You team either gels for it doesn't and no amount of video will change that fact.

It would be like playing a video of good architecture to the Tower of Pisa. You can play it all day long but don't expect it to suddenly right itself.

Friday, June 20, 2003

The most ineffective is the free food-and-drinks gathering. It is just a waste of money and time.  I find that effective team building involves a carefully planned activity, like a game or trip  in which all are "forced" to participate and show another face or personal angle.

Friday, June 20, 2003

I've been to too many of these and thought they were all crap. The first company I worked for out of college spent thousands on this type of training for their engineers and managers.  In some cases the training itself was very interesting and informative, but the net result was never more cohesive teams.

Despite all the money spent, only one of the teams I've ever been in matched the cohesion felt in my school soccer team or the platoon I was in while stationed in Korea.

The common elements: adversity, organization, and individual competence.  The key element: adversity - it forces you to pull together and get things done.

The downside is, the only one of those teams I'd still want to be on is the soccer team. The other two were so high-stress, go-go-go that burn-out was inevitable.

Friday, June 20, 2003

"Team-building" training sessions are just artifices intended to make employees more compliant with management directives. That's why they're popular with dumb managers.

As others have pointed out, genuine team work comes from team work, not from artifice.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Marc: "It would be like playing a video of good architecture to the Tower of Pisa."

It was probably not clear that Philo was talking about an episode of a British TV comedy programmes called "The Office". It's currently on BBC America apparently. In fact there's a clip of the episode in question here:

Duncan Smart
Friday, June 20, 2003

I think the boss offering to take the employees to lunch or dinner or ten pin bowling or whatever is a great idea.

I came from company with about 100 employees where they had 'team building events' where attendance was mandatory, posterity photographs were strictly choreographed, dictatorial emails were send out reminding people when and where.... even saying things like 'dont forget there will be FREE FOOD!"  which made me want to throw up.

It was a morale lowerer, we were treated like school kids.

Now I work at a place with around 40 employees, I have day to day contact with the guy who owns the place, next friday he is taking our office (8 people) to a flash restaraunt for a piss up. 

we have a 'mandatory' social event every three months, mandatory meaning the office manager must arrange something, attendance is optional.

The last time we all went lawn bowling/drinking and a client phoned a mobile with an urgent problem.  The owner (who is probably one of the most technically capable people here) went and handled it himself.

It's almost like working for Joel :D

Anyway....  team building events and the like are what is made of them.  If they come from a perspective of honestly trying to make people feel good and like a team they can work.  If they are merely an immitation, something somone thought they should to, then no they dont work.

I think in conclusion, if i ran my own business I would definately have some regular social events happening.


Friday, June 20, 2003

Nick - you hit the nail on the head. Adversity is what brings people together. I was going to say something about this when I mentioned bad managers (how they actually bring people together... to complain about the bad manager), but I refrained.

It all comes down to getting the people on the team to care about the project. Once they care about the project more than any possible petty squabbling or infighting, they'll focus on it.

I watched the surprisingly informative 10 year anniversary reunion of Married with Children (a show I didn't really watch, but I've seen enough of them to konw the premise). At one point they said that no matter how much they seemed to hate each other, they'd always band together whenever anyone threatened another member of the family. Kinda like the mob I guess.

Again, I mention Boot Camp and Fraternity Hazing has real-life examples of adversity bringing people together. Strangers who went to the same fraternity, even decades apart.

I don't know if any studies have been done, or books written about it (I'm sure there have) but the fact of the matter is, people bond through common suffering. Throw a party and strangers may be awkward and stiff around each other. Blow up the World Trade Center, and strangers on the subway will become best of friends. Go figure.
Friday, June 20, 2003

... So send them on a team building seminar that sucks. Make sure they do a lot of hiking in the rain, and maybe get run over by a few bulls...

Seemed to work for Deloitte and Touche (that's a joke, see the "Writing a resume or cover letter?" thread).
Friday, June 20, 2003

When facing adversity, something else takes higher priority; achieving a goal, trying to survive or be the winning team. When faced with something like that, it doesn't seem important to maintain the social facades we all wear. The barriers come down and people get closer.

Still, some people are natural at overcoming those barriers in ordinary situations and can help everyone get on a bit better. Some teams have a member who acts like "social glue" (I think Peopleware actually makes a reference to this, but don't quote me), and if they were removed you'd see a difference in the team dynamics.

Joel Goodwin
Friday, June 20, 2003

i think if works, somehow;

in a sence, most of the Steve Maguire are 'feel good' book
- in the sense that after reading them you will find enough motivation to go after the next big problem - (in the process you might find out that the book isn't worth much, anyway).

i would say that the fact that you got your whole team out for the workshop (for a couple of days) away from the daily stress, and with good restaurants in reach, is worth a lot (in terms of motivation).

... as an alternative, just organise some evening at a restaurants; allow them to show off take their spouses/girlfriends.

- now that has the same effect in terms of insentive; the next couple of days/weeks your guys will turn in with a much more content face.

Michael Moser
Friday, June 20, 2003

Team building is huge especially if you include alcohol and move the venue to a local pub and invite management along too.

It works wonders.

James Nicoll
Friday, June 20, 2003

Adversity brings us all together.


I'm looking forward to the day our boss gives us all cancer. We'll work as a fantastic team.

For fuck's sake people, get out and enjoy the sunshine!

Chad Cancer
Friday, June 20, 2003

> For fuck's sake people, get out and enjoy the sunshine!

Sounds good to me!

The problem is, you're hired to take your work seriously (it's easy enough to find someone else who can take the work seriously), and a manage's job is to make sure everyone below him takes the work seriously.
Saturday, June 21, 2003

I'd thought that the real adversity that bonded people together was having to get through the goddam team building exercise!

Stephen Jones
Saturday, June 21, 2003

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