Over time, organizations have come to appreciate the importance of fostering teamwork within the organization. It therefore follows that apart from facilitating a work culture that embraces collaboration, team building goes a step ahead to create a workplace environment built on mutual understanding and a common approach to issues.
It is hence in order to realize that team building also brings about synergy at the workplace where one plus one adds to three instead of two; an analogy that seeks to highlight the relevance of team building as far as organizational success is concerned. It therefore follows that the discussion of the nature of team building, its significance as well as the various methods of team building is not only timely but highly relevant.
According to Maddux et al. (2003), team building can be defined as a large number of activities which are adopted by organizations, businesses as well as other entities so as to enhance team performance. It therefore follows that team building can only be undertaken by embracing a number of practices which include but are not in any way limited to creations of simulations which are rather complex to simple exercises tailored to enhance as well as facilitate bonding. Hughes et al.
(2009) notes that today, organizations like Google, Microsoft as well as Nokia Corporation are spending millions of dollars in multi-day team building retreats in an attempt to ensure that their employees approach issues at the workplace from a team work perspective. According to Kaptan (2002), team though team building is essentially founded on organizational development theory and practice; it has found acceptance in a wide range of other fields and contexts including but not in any way limited to schools and sports.
However, it is important to note that there is a definite difference between team building and team recreation. Though the two sounds similar, they are distinct in a number of ways where team building consists of activities that are tailored to enhance team performance while team recreation is made up of activities that are entirely recreational. With that said, it therefore follows that the relevance of team building cannot be overstated especially when it comes to enhancing team work for purposes of self-development as well as problem solving.
However, Hughes et al. (2009) argues that for all intents and purposes, coming up with teams that can stand the test of time as far as their effectiveness and relevance is concerned remains a tall order for many organizations. This has been attributed to the fact that workplace environments are more inclined towards the accomplishment of goals at a personal level as well as the maintenance of reward and recognition structures that are essentially tailored to focus on individual achievement.
There are a wide range of reasons why corporations like Google spend millions of dollars in team building initiatives. However, it is equally important to note that each business or organization has its specific requirements and hence the reasons for team building may vary from organization to organization. According to Maddux et al. (2003), long gone are the days when employees used to work in isolated cubicles cut off from each other and oblivious of what is happening beyond their area of responsibility. Today, the interaction of individuals at the workplace has taken a new turn and for organizations to maintain their relevance in a marketplace that is becoming increasingly competitive, deliberate efforts must be undertaken to enhance team work.
Team building is often credited with making the workplace more enjoyable and livelier. One of the organizations that has benefited tremendously in this regard is Google. By the adoption of a largely casual workplace as well as periodic bonding seasons, Google has been able to motivate its workforce in a great way that has seen it create a more vibrant working environment.
According to Kaptan (2002), a more vibrant and exiting work environment tends to work on the psychological psyche of individuals in that they give their best and, in that regard, contribute towards the continued success of an organization. Hence with that in mind, embracing team building efforts enhances the vibrancy of the workplace as individuals work freely with each other and as Glover et al. (2005) notes, a vibrant and exciting workplace is more beneficial for service firms as it tends to rub off on clients hence facilitating more deals for the entity.
It is important to note that from time to time, organizations may need to institute changes to the mode of their operation, activities or even undertakings. This is mostly in line with the concept of Kaizen i.e. continuous improvement where organizations have to continuously improve their activities as operations and processes so as to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace. One of the problems that frustrate the change process is sabotage from employees who are essentially resistant to change.
According to Maddux et al. (2003), though there are a number of ways to in which to manage the change process effectively, the need to involve employees as well as ensure that the need for change is approached from a common perspective cannot be overstated. Hence with that in mind, it follows that team building prepares the employees to approach the need for change from a common perspective so as to ensure that the change implementation process is not marred by inconsistencies.
Kaptan (2002) notes that today, the world has become a global village and the interaction between people of diverse backgrounds is a norm rather than a rarity. In the face of these new developments, organizations must institute measures aimed at ensuring individuals interact freely at the workplace regardless of their religious, ethnic as well as economic backgrounds. Team building is one such measure which may go a long way towards the enhancement of free interactions between people of diverse backgrounds at the workplace.
Teamwork which is a byproduct of team building efforts goes a long way towards the enhancement of communication between individuals at the workplace. According to Glover et al. (2005), enhanced communication within the workplace is one of the greatest assets a business can have as it averts instances of miscommunication which may impact negatively on the bottom-line of the organization. The premise in this case is that by team building, employees become increasingly free with each other and the usual boundaries which frustrate effective communication at the workplace are brought down.
Further, employees that are free with each other are more likely to work better and harder that those employees who are grungy in their relations with each other at the workplace. According to Maddux et al. (2003), every organization is informed by two kinds of communication pathways, that is, informal and formal. Informal communication networks fall beyond the boundaries of the formal and more acceptable communication but are very important when it comes to the enhancement of a camaraderie feeling amongst the employees. Team building efforts go a long way to enhance both kinds of communication at the workplace.
Kaptan (2002) is of the opinion that team building goes a long way towards activation individuals within the organization to approach the various organizational goals from a common rather that a divided perspective. The teamwork mantra seems to be founded on the phrase “together we win, divided we fall.” In such a way, organizations that adopt team building initiatives are positioned to reap the benefits of teamwork. Most of the team building activities are tailored in such a way that the participants achieve something by collaborating in a task.
The allusion here is that by approaching an issue from a divided perspective, the same becomes more complex as well as difficult and chances of failure are hence increased. This is the same mentality that is transferred to the workplace where individuals approach all the organizational goals as well as undertakings from a united perspective hence enhancing the probability of achieving such goals.
While this concept can be applicable across the organization, it is most beneficial for teams at the departmental or functional level (Glover et al. 2005). The premise here is that team building efforts create a sense of unity amongst employees in such a way that they embrace teamwork which is mirrored at the departmental level when it comes to contributing towards the solving of a perennial problem or coming up with a new idea tailored at enhancing the effectiveness of operations at the departmental level.
One organization which ca be said to have benefited in this regard is Apple under the leadership of C.E.O Steve Jobs. According to Kaptan (2002), efforts at team building championed by Apple has paid off in terms of innovation where groups at departmental levels brainstorm on ideas in an informal setting and those ideas that seem most likely to succeed are adopted and given organizational wide support. This is team building in action. In that regard, Apple has gone ahead to be one of the most innovative firms in the electronics marketplace.
According to Hughes et al. (2009), the choice of a team building exercise should be tailored to the specific needs or circumstances of an organization. By definition, team building exercises consist of a wide range of tasks which are tailored to enhance the ability of group members within the organizational setup to work together in an efficient as well as effective way. When it comes to the specific types of team building activities an organization has a variety to choose from ranging from tasks that are relatively complex to kid games which are carefully tailored for specific purposes.In this section, I discuss a number of team building exercises whose main purpose is to build the cohesiveness of teams so as to enhance their ability to work together towards tasks completion.
Just like the name sounds, communication exercise are designed to enhance the communication skills of participants through problem solving. These exercises are also tailored to incorporate issues which may require enhanced communication between each other so as to solve. The goal of communication exercises is hence the formulation of activities which go a long way towards entrenching effective communication skills within a team.
These exercises are some of the most popular as far as team building is concerned. These exercises are tailored to incorporate situations that may call upon the groups to come up with decisions that are seemingly complex so as to solve a problem or set of problems. The purpose here is to ensure that the team approaches the situation as a team where the input of every member of the team is needed so as to come up with a solution. According to Kaptan (2002), the popularity of these exercises have been on the upward trajectory mainly as a result of what employers see as a way of enhancing their teams performance as afar as problem solving is concerned. The goal of these exercises is hence to avail to a team problems or scenarios that require their collective approach to solve.
Glover et al. (2005) notes that the main focus of these kinds of exercises is to is to develop the ability of employees when it comes to change adaptability as well as planning. The main significance in these exercises lies in their ability to enhance the ability of employees to maintain their balance as a team when faced with tasks that are largely complex as well as when tasked to execute tasks that may call for tough decisions. It therefore follows that one of the main goals of these exercise is to demonstrate the significance of proper planning before the execution of an important course of action.
Las but not least, we have the trust exercises. Svyantek et al. (1999) notes that trust exercises are tailored in such a way that the trust between employees or participants is induced by the performance of tasks under the activities. He goes ahead to note that these are some of the most difficult exercises to execute essentially as a result of the prevailing distrusts and misplaced suspicions that exist between individuals. It therefore follows that the main goal of trust exercises is to build trust amongst team participants in such a way that they do not fee threatened sharing or working in close proximity with other members of the team be it at the organizational level or elsewhere.
In conclusion, it is important to note that a team must constantly assess itself so as to validate the effectiveness of team building exercises. Team assessments also go a long way to help in the identification of variations from the expectations and hence in such a way, corrective actions may be instituted in a timely manner. It is also important to note that team assessment is largely founded on the organizational development context and therefore, there is need for group members to avail feedback which may be beneficial as far as charting the strengths or weaknesses or a team is concerned after which team building initiatives may be undertaken.
Maddux, R.B. & Wingfield, B. (2003). Team building: an exercise in leadership. Cengage Learning
Svyantek, D.J., Goodman, S.A., Benz, L.L., & Gard, J.A. (1999). The relationship between organizational characteristics and team building success. Journal of Business and Psychology, 14(2), 154-281.
Glover, D. R. & Midura, D.W (2005). Essentials of team building: principles and practices. Human Kinetics
Kaptan, S.S. (2002). Team Building. Sarup & Sons
Hughes, R.L., Ginnett, R.C., & Curphy, G.J. (2009). Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.