If you want to build teams, skip the team-building fluff – Colin Browne

There’s a big difference between a fun day out with tequila slammers at the end, and an effective long-term delivery strategy …

We all want better teams. Better teams require less management, are more supportive of one another and offer the benefit of collective wisdom, effort and skills.

So it is that an entire industry has been built around so-called team-building exercises, in which employees are randomly sorted onto competing tug-o-war squads or something of that ilk, to get the sense of how to work together.

A day of team-building is usually a fun day out and for the most part, one assumes people enjoy it. I’ve done them before and always had a blast being away from the office for a day that inevitably ends with alcohol.

It’s not obvious to me however, that team-building exercises do anything other than give the adventurous people in our organisations a few laughs.

Without follow up, of which there is usually none, or any further similar interactions, any benefit tends to be lost.

Examine the goal however, and there’s a better, cheaper and far more obvious way to build teams: put people together and give them a long-term project.

Teams get built when people have to rely on one another over a protracted period of time. They learn one another’s strengths and weaknesses and they naturally either form or do not form bonds as individuals. You achieve, through the natural flow of work, the thing you’re aiming to achieve through a wasted day of play.

Those that don’t fit get squeezed out; those that contribute, are embraced. That’s culture at work.

We’re so enraptured with finding shortcuts; with trying to accelerate our results with the least effort; we often forget that building something deep and worthwhile is supposed to be a process of time and work.

Teams don’t instantly form. They need that steeping effect.

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