Everyone loves team building events. You all get together, build pretend bridges, decide what items to keep when your plane crashes on the desert, and learn a lot about yourself and you team mates. So, it’s worthwhile then? Well, it depends what you’re measuring. If it’s a feel-good factor, then yes. But four months later, when there’s a major problem with a customer shipment and everyone is tearing their hair out, then no. So, why is this? Because a lot of the time ‘team-building’ activities focus on pretend problems, and in our experience, there are enough genuine problems to be resolved. Why do ‘role play,’ when you can do ‘real play?’
The best definition of a team we’ve heard is: ‘A small number of people, with complementary skills, committed to an agreed purpose, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.’ It’s good isn’t it? Let’s look at it again: ‘A small number of people, with complementary skills, committed to an agreed purpose, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.’ Can you see the four criteria through which you can measure your team?
So, a small number of people. If there’s too many then it because unwieldy and break into sub-groups so an optimum number for a working team is 8-12. Complementary skills. The early work of Belbin taught us that any team needs a balance of personalities, skills and experiences to function well. Committed to an agreed purpose. Does the team understand what is expected of it, how it should function, what outputs are required? The happiest teams won’t be productive unless they know why they exist and what’s expected. Mutually accountable. Once they know what’s expected are the all accountable, do you have each other’s backs, do you understand and care about each other’s problems? This way you can use the definition as a template to measure your team and, if any are missing then you can address the there and then, get a resolution and a plan. Or…you could build planks to cross shark-infested custard!