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

Team-Building Travails

by

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? rbrenephZybVvOljQEoBAner@ChachEtczCEJvcyVtQMFoCanyon.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:

StonehengeHigh Falutin' Goofy Talk
Business speech and business writing are sometimes little more than high falutin' goofy talk, filled with pretentious, overused images and puff phrases of unknown meaning. Here are some phrases that are so common that we barely notice them.
PizzaCritical Thinking and Midnight Pizza
When we notice patterns or coincidences, we draw conclusions about things we can't or didn't directly observe. Sometimes the conclusions are right, and sometimes not. When they're not, organizations, careers, and people can suffer. To be right more often, we must master critical thinking.
Apple PieGive Me the Bad News First
I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that if you wait long enough, there will be some bad news. The good news is that the good news helps us deal with the bad news. And it helps a lot more if we get the bad news first.
A fancy diagram of the kind that often accompanies management fadsWhy Do Business Fads Form?
The rise of a business fad is due to the actions of both its advocates and adopters. Understanding the interplay between them is essential for successful resistance.
Firefighter lighting grass using a drip torchHow to Get Out of Firefighting Mode: I
When new problems pop up one after the other, we describe our response as "firefighting." We move from fire to fire, putting out flames. How can we end the madness?

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Prof. Tom PettigrewComing February 21: The Ultimate Attribution Error at Work
When we attribute the behavior of members of groups to some cause, either personal or situational, we tend to make systematic errors. Those errors can be expensive and avoidable. Available here and by RSS on February 21.
Daffodils of the variety Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'And on February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenKqTbndSiTLBDPijyner@ChacGcjirJZKvpBjvJDqoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, 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 Follow me at Google+ or share a post 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.