Recently I came across this very interesting and challenging article in the Harvard Business Review, titled:

Stop Wasting Money on Team Building by Carlos Valdes-Dapena

In a nutshell, the author argues that most corporate teambuiilding is a waste of time.  He refers to bowling, ropes courses, and the like, and references one company which took a team out to practice a Maori haka war dance and another organization that hired a symphony orchestra to help people work on their “harmony”.

His conclusion:  the benefits of working on “non-tangibles” like bonding, shared emotions, camaraderie, and rapport don’t stand up to the day-to-day pressures of work.  In other words, quality collaboration does NOT begin with relationships and trust!

Instead, performance rises only when you focus on individual motivation.

The problem, the author argues, is that collaboration is messy.  It’s inefficient and unclear.   Accountability is diluted.  And there are few tangible results.  WIIFM!

In other words, your typical manager is saying, “If I do it myself, I can get right to work, I know what the results will be, I can hold myself accountable and I’ll receive recognition”.

The author goes on to state that teamwork only flourishes when we make it VERY clear to everyone why working together is ESSENTIAL to achieving business results.  People need to know exactly what tasks require collaboration in order to deliver business results.

He concludes that the team should co-create a list of behaviors that will support those results, and then hold folks accountable to these standards.

What do you think?

To be honest, it all makes a lot of sense to me — and I’m a team-building veteran!!!

When you’re dealing with high-performance working adults, they ARE “individually” motivated.   They care about delivering results as efficiently as possible.      Warm, squishy platitudes don’t wash with them!      It’s get the work done.

As managers and leaders, we can’t just throw teambuilding at people and expect a change. We have to tie it to specific works tasks and show how working together at the right time, in the right way, will be indispensible for getting a particular task done.

Something to think about!

Here are a few more of my thoughts on the matter: