Is building rafts costing your business money?

Graham Norris

Action In Change business development coach Graham Norris discusses the differences between team development and team coaching; and what may be best for your business.

As a team development coach, it never ceases to amaze me how much some organisations have paid to go on Team Building ‘Away Days’.

I am always tempted to ask whether the companies concerned were able to indentify a specific return on their investment. I suspect not.

Now based in Somerset, I have been involved in work teams within education, training organisations, sporting National Governing bodies, charities and voluntary organisations.

I have experienced how good teams function and get the best out of their staff, and how others frequently fail to accept that there is an elephant in the room and proactively do something about it.

Defining a team

Inevitably, the term ‘team’ means different things to different people. Within a sporting context it is quite straight forward: players all committed to the same objective – getting the ball over the line, or into a net, or pulling together to get over a finish line.

Within business, education, and local authorities it is less clear. What some people would call a team, I would call a work group. This differentiation is significant when trying to determine whether or not any investment in a team event is likely to make an improvement in productivity.

To some it may appear to be just a semantic argument, but Team Building and Team Development are very different processes, although I accept that the term Team Building is most commonly used within the industry.

Building a raft

If your aim is to have a fun day out for a group of company staff, create a sense of togetherness, use up an under spent budget, then a team building day paddling across a lake on home made rafts is as good a way of doing it as any.

However, if a particular group of people often fail to hit important targets, never manage to think creatively in order to solve key problems, appear unable to resolve difficult issues without falling out (sometimes accompanied by days of sick due to stress), fail to communicate between each other, etc, then a more structured team ‘development’ approach is more beneficial.

This is more likely to lead to a longer term improvement in team performance.

Any cursory on line search will identify those who have had a good positive team building experience and those feel it made a short term difference, but had no lasting effect.

There are many variations between cause and effect in these situations, e.g. how well the team is lead, the level of team skills within the group, the type and relevance of activities undertaken on the event and the skill of the facilitator.

What matters most is to undertake an inclusive 3600approach to defining the goals of the training intervention and equally important, an honest assessment as to where the team currently stands against these goals.

Team development

The term development implies a process: it requires careful thought in terms of short, medium and long term goals, which includes planned reviews on progress. The MOT process for a motor vehicle is there for a reason, it simply checks everything is in working order and highlights where things are not working well.

A team is no different in this respect – think of it as a well oiled machine which needs regular servicing and checks.

For those who are thinking about investing in your teams, from whatever size organisation, the critical factor that determines how well the team will subsequently perform is their capacity to learn, both as individuals and as a collective whole. Something we look at on our regular Team Development Seminars, run at the Business Retreat.