Team Building? You may need some Team Deconstruction

If you tell me you’re doing team building exercises with a team you have just formed from a group of strangers or loose acquaintances, then I think you’re going to get some benefit.

But, if you are doing team building exercises with a team that has worked together for a long time and is dysfunctional, then I have to tell you that your team building time would be better spent doing team deconstruction instead.

Team building is meant to unite people who are individuals, previously unconnected.

Team deconstruction is necessary to break apart and rebuild current teams that are carrying around anger, old slights, and general disrespect for each other.

If you have a team in need of some team deconstruction, here’s an exercise:

Have each member of the team take a piece of blank paper and create a matrix with team member names along the top and the numbers 1 through 5 along the side.  Have each team member answer Y, yes or N, no to each of these five questions for each of the members.

1. I think or feel that this person would ask me before making a decision they knew affected me.

2. I think this person would be open to my feedback if they made a decision that affected me.

3. I trust this person enough to have an open and honest conversation with them.

4.  I think this person trust me enough to have an open and honest conversation with me.

5. I think this person is a team member that makes our team stronger as a group.

Under your name in the matrix answer how you see yourself, i.e., I am the sort of person who asks before I make a decision that affects someone else, I am a person who is open to feedback if I make a decision that affects others, etc.

Then, total each person’s score.  A yes is a +1 and a no is a -1, giving a range of 5 to -5 as the potential scores.  Then, total your team’s score, the range is 5x# of team members to -5x# of team members.  Have someone collect the sheets then post the range of scores for each person and for the team.

Say you’ve got: Joe and Sally and Bill

Joe’s scores are -5, -4 and -1.

Sally’s scores are 5, -5 and 1

Bill’s scores are 5, 4, and 4.

You could then start conversations about what surprises you most about your scores, how similar were the scores, or how different.  Did you see yourself the way others saw you?  Did you think you were a 5 and they marked you a -1?  Why?  The why is where you start to peel back the layers and people start sharing, whether in the large group or in small conversation groups why they feel the way they do.

They start to share that there was that one time when they went to Bob’s office and he laughed at their idea so they have never gone back, or there is the repetitive times in meetings when John belittles others into silence.  Or, maybe there is a bright spot and Danny is always the one to pull the team out of the dumps.

If you need some team building, by all means do it.

But if you need team deconstruction, don’t waste your time with team building.  You’ve got some work to do first.

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One thought on “Team Building? You may need some Team Deconstruction

  • February 7, 2011 at 9:12 am
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    I was able to attend some really good training on this topic. We all know teams go through forming->storming->norming->performing. What people don’t understand is that it isn’t a natural progression; it doesn’t happen simply by the passing of time. There is another team dynamic that can happen and in organizations often happens…

    Storing. Some teams don’t properly go through the storming phase. Instead of addressing essential conflict, they store it. In organizations, putting your issues aside and storing them is more acceptable than addressing them. Later, when the team should be moving to norming and storming, and conflict arises, people will pull stuff out of storage. The team becomes stuck in the loop of forming->storming->storing and never achieve performing.

    I like your scenario because your making the team members get everything out of storage. It is the right thing to do to get the team past that storming phase. I also agree that typical team building is the wrong answer. I suppose if the team building was designed to address conflict it might work, but typically team building is designed to build trust and interpersonal relationships which wouldn’t help.

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