Posts Tagged ‘Team Intervention’

The Myth about Team-building – Build What?

Jul 23, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Change Initiation | HR Insights | Team Intervention

Picture source: Spain Team by prismatico via Flickr

Picture source: Spain Team by prismatico via Flickr

Team-building has been within the theory and practice of Organization Development (OD), but from schools to non-profit organizations, sports arena to political scenes, it can be applied to almost any context. Almost everyone will be involved in some form of team-building in their lifetime wherever they play their roles…But have you ever ask the question:

“What really is team-building?”

“What are we actually ‘building’ when we team-build?”

“For what? Why?”

If you ask someone who has initiated team-building the reason why they do it you will be surprised with the many responses…

  1. To motivate them…so that they can perform to what’s expected of them.
  2. To build trust…so that they are able to resolve conflict and perform.
  3. To bond them…so that they can work well across their roles and function.
  4. To better communication…so that they can work well with one another and perform.
  5. To skill them in working in teams…so that they understand how to be a team member and perform.
  6. To “incentivise” them…after all they deserve a break! (after that, they better perform).
  7. To have fun…because we believe in having fun in the work we do. (so that we can perform better).
  8. To energize them…there has been a dipped in performances lately.
  9. To do what other teams have been doing…after all it is an “in” thing nowadays and we happen to have the budget!
  10. (Fill in your say…)

It is not difficult to realize that one of the key expectation for most team-building initiatives are about performance; there are many team or group performance/effectiveness/development model researched, selectively:

  • Tuckman’s Group Development Model
  • Tubbs’ System Model
  • Fisher’s Theory
  • Richard Beckhard’s Team Effectiveness Model
  • McGrath’s TIP Theory
  • Belbin’s Team Inventory
  • Drexler Sibbet Model and many more…

But have we really take a step back and ask…what have we done (team-building) in the past that we have yet to do? Have we seriously ask WHY we team-build before the how and what? Or maybe we seriously need to consider what’s there to be done before and after team-building? What can we learn from team-building? About our people, our people’s manager, our leaders, our system and processes, roles and accountability, our relationship with one another?

Yes, there is always a place for team-building to induce the fun and playful elements. What about using fun and playfulness to gain entry to the hearts and minds of the people? Would there be a time when people get tired of fun and playful team-building? Can team-building take a dimensional change of its purpose and intention? If we have a valuable window of opportunity to help teams develop using the context of team-building, would it be a pity to let that slips?

I was giving this a serious thought some years ago and compared a group/team to a pool of water forming and moving in a concerted direction to serve its purpose/goal. It may grows in size (new members), reduce (members leave), quench thirst (meet objectives) and so on…moving in the direction decided by the organization body. I realized that for the water to stay relevant and useful it should be examined and evaluate from time to time…The three stages that I discovered were:


At some point, the ‘group’ (water) need to stop doing (moving) what has been deemed useful or detrimental to their performances. By freezing, the ‘group’ may begin to examine the group elements by its actual size, volume, weight and shape.


Once the elements have been evaluated, the group will begin to unfreeze (a calculated process) by asking important questions such as why, who, what, when and how the team can perform well again.


A collaborative and effective teams with intentional leadership are able to refreeze at specific point of time to regroup and collect and change to a new form of water with renew goals, roles, processes and relationship.

Many of my peers and senior practitioners that I shared with have agreed that team-building has taken an ambiguous positioning in the context of OD. From event company to hospitality industry, many would claim that they are able to help you to “build-team”. Therefore I urge you to re-examine the purpose and reason for you to send your team for team-building program.

Ask the question: “Why? For what?”. If you are unsure of the purpose for your intended team-building, let’s have a conversation.

Team-Building or Team Intervention

Mar 29, 2010 // 1 Comment » // Team Intervention

Picture source: Wishard_of_Oz via Flickr

Picture source: Wishard_of_Oz via Flickr

Some well-meaning trainer friends recently commented:

“Allen, it will be difficult to get people to show interest about your Team Intervention work. You can’t even ‘google’ team intervention on the web.”

“You have to tell people that you are good at team-building. You have to accede to the mainstream.”

“You got to do what the clients want…not what you think you want.”

Well, I intended to stay the course…but let me explain.

The idea of team-building can be trace back to the year 1920s-30s with the now classic Hawthorne studies. These involved a series of research activities designed to examine in-depth what happened to a group of workers under various conditions. After much analysis, the researchers agreed that the most significant factor was the building of a sense of group identity, a feeling of social support and cohesion that came with increased worker interaction.

My sense is that most mainstream ‘team-building’ events are designed specifically to address the above bolded factors:

Sense of Group Identity – the event are usually high in energy, competitive or challenging activities to arouse collective sense of group identity. The team/group may leave with recollection of what their purpose is and new found camaraderie at the end of the day.

Feeling of Social Support - the sessions tend to give maximum opportunities for supportive action (holding one another, belaying and supporting in low/high adventure learning settings etc), brainstorming and problem solving, discussion and cheering for one another when the chips are down. The idea is to let team members rekindle the feeling of social connection again.

Increased Worker Interaction – Not the least, a typical team-building event will have team members spend maximum time eat, sleep, have fun and suffer together usually at an off-site location far away from their workplace environment. They will usually have group presentation, role-plays and activities like amazing race, river-rafting and building anything using lego bricks to cooking together in a posh kitchen and even spraying paint ball at each other.

Don’t get me wrong, my points above are perfectly alright and legitimate for building a team. In fact, I have been doing this for the last ten years and still enjoys doing and think that it does impact team development to some extend…Here’s my problem, I constantly question myself;  is that what team-building is about? I have seen enough sweat and laughter with the team during the event but at the end of the day when I watched them walk out of the room, I doubted the “feeling” they have just acquired was sustainable.

ConversationCircles want to do more and deeper work with team that goes beyond just sense, feeling and interaction.  We want to intervene right from the beginning during consultation, listen to your real issues and challenges that is facing the team and together take some calculated risk to provide CIRCLE solutions to group intervention that may be sustainable.

We are prepared to intervene…are you ready?