Team building is something most of us are familiar with. We tend to think of some group exercise or training to discover our strengths and then working together collaboratively to solve problems.
But most of us don’t look at team building systematically. We might attend a training session or read a book about leadership but we have a difficult time going from lesson to implementation.
The reason is that improving competitive teams takes work. It takes time to build trust on a team and the team dynamics to be successful. Yet most businesses look at team building as something to do with a single seminar or something that can be done passively.
To me this is strange. We watch ultra competitive teams in sports. We read about complex missions of the military’s Special Forces units. We all seem to know the importance of the team working together as one unit and being effective, but we don’t spend the time to develop the right process on our own business teams.
I have attended a lot of trainings and seminars. One theme that seems to resonate with anyone who spent time at these events is that the motivation from that day doesn’t last. We come away with a great new idea, but fail to execute. In a few days we are back to our normal routines and forget all about our plans to change.
But this is the same as being motivated to start exercising but failing to keep going. The reason isn’t that we didn’t have enough motivation to start. It is that we expected motivation to be the driving force.
But motivation is fleeting. It ebbs and flows and doesn’t give the proper structure to improve. Unless motivation is extreme and there is a constant reminder of that motivation, we are unlikely to make any real, lasting change.
So just as we switch to focusing on the systems and habits in our personal goals, we have to use the process improvements as the driving force, not the motivation, to improve the team.
The team can improve. But it won’t improve without the right focus. I’m not saying that the focus should be on rigid process. But we should understand the process in order to make systematic adjustments to get better. And we should take the long-term approach rather than looking for a quick fix or 1 day seminar.
One thing that I like about agile project management is something called a retrospective, or retro. A retro is used at the end of a sprint (which is a short iteration with various tasks). The team gets together and discusses what went well and what didn’t go well. This helps the team continue to improve and address problems quickly, without letting them go unnoticed and ignored for long periods of time.
The retro is not meant to be a one-time meeting. It is recurring and done after each iteration of the project. Done over and over it helps to address issues and experiment with ways to fix problems and improve the project.
There are many ways to start to look at team building in a systematic manner. By making small improvements that can be done over and over again we can start to grow the team and reach new levels of success.