Team building is a collective term for various types of activities used to enhance social relations and define roles within teams, often involving collaborative tasks. It is distinct from team training, which is designed by a combination of business managers, learning, and development/OD (Internal or external) and an HR Business Partner (if the role exists) to improve the efficiency, rather than interpersonal relations.
Many team-building exercises aim to expose and address interpersonal problems within the group.
Over time, these activities are intended[by whom?] to improve performance in a team-based environment. Team building is one of the foundations of organizational development that can be applied to groups such as sports teams, school classes, military units or flight crews. The formal definition[which?] of team-building includes:
– aligning around goals
– building effective working relationships
– reducing team members’ role ambiguity
– finding solutions to team problems
Team building is one of the most widely used group-development activities in organizations.
Of all organizational activities, one study found team-development to have the strongest effect (versus financial measures) for improving organizational performance. A 2008 meta-analysis found that team-development activities, including team building and team training, improve both a team’s objective performance and that team’s subjective supervisory ratings.
Salas and his team describe four approaches to team building:
This emphasizes the importance of clear objectives and individual and team goals. Team members become involved in action planning to identify ways to define success and failure and achieve goals. This is intended to strengthen motivation and foster a sense of ownership. By identifying specific outcomes and tests of incremental success, teams can measure their progress. Many organizations negotiate a team charter with the team and (union leaders)
This emphasizes improving team members’ understanding of their own and others’ respective roles and duties. This is intended to reduce ambiguity and foster understanding of the importance of structure by activities aimed at defining and adjusting roles. It emphasizes the members’ interdependence and the value of having each member focus on their own role in the team’s success.
This emphasizes identifying major problems within the team and working together to find solutions. This can have the added benefit of enhancing critical-thinking.
This emphasizes increasing teamwork skills such as giving and receiving support, communication, and sharing. Teams with fewer interpersonal conflicts generally function more effectively than others. A facilitator guides the conversations to develop mutual trust and open communication between team members.
The effectiveness of team building differs substantially from one organization to another. The most effective efforts occur when team members are interdependent, knowledgeable and experienced and when organizational leadership actively establishes and supports the team.
Effective team building incorporates an awareness of team objectives. Teams must work to develop goals, roles, and procedures.
Effect on performance
Team building has been scientifically shown to positively affect team effectiveness. Goal setting and role clarification were shown to have an impact on cognitive, affective, process and performance outcomes. They had the most powerful impact on effective and process outcomes, which implies that team building can help benefit teams experiencing issues with negative effects, such as lack of cohesion or trust. It could also improve teams suffering from process issues, such as lack of clarification in roles.
Goal setting and role clarification have the greatest impact because they enhance motivation, reduce conflict and help to set individual purposes, goals, and motivation.
Teams with 10 or more members appear to benefit the most from team building. This is attributed to larger teams having – generally speaking – a greater reservoir of cognitive resources and capabilities than smaller teams.
Challenges to team building
The term ‘team building’ is often used as a dodge when organizations are looking for a ‘quick fix’ to poor communication systems or unclear leadership directives, leading to unproductive teams with no clear vision of how to be successful. Team work is the best work.
Teams are then assembled to address specific problems, while the underlying causes are not ignored.
Dyer highlighted three challenges for future team builders:
– Lack of teamwork skills: One of the challenges facing leaders is to find team-oriented employees. Most organizations rely on educational institutions to have inculcated these skills into students. Dyer believed, however, that students are encouraged to work individually and succeed without having to collaborate. This works against the kinds of behavior needed for teamwork. Another study found that team training improved cognitive, affective, process and performance outcomes.
– Virtual workplaces and across organizational boundaries: according to Dyer, organizations individuals who are not in the same physical space increasingly work together. Members are typically unable to build concrete relationships with other team members. Another study found that face-to-face communication is very important in building an effective team environment. Face-to-face contact was key to developing trust. Formal team building sessions with a facilitator led the members to “agree to the relationship” and define how the teams were work. Informal contact was also mentioned.
– Globalization and virtualization: Teams increasingly include members who have dissimilar languages, cultures, values and problem-solving approaches problems. One-to-one meetings have been successful in some organizations.