Challenges to Successful Team Building
Team building is not necessarily a good fit for all organizations. In fact, studies show that certain organizational structures, cultures, programs, and procedures undermine teams. So no matter how much team-building initiatives are pushed, teams won't be effective in these work settings. These types of organizations include ones with:
- Hierarchical or bureaucratic structures.
- Authoritarian cultures, which lock power and control in one place.
- Cultures that primarily reward individual performance and initiative.
Even if it's determined that such an organization needs teams to improve financial, operational, or human performance, its culture and structure will first need development before team-building initiatives will work.
Research shows that senior management and leadership teams are the toughest to develop of all. This paradox stems from the fact that rising to positions of power in most organizations favors people who are individualistic, autonomous, and headstrong. It takes a lot of patience and diplomacy to develop a team with such members. They need to first appreciate what teams are, how they can raise performance, and how team-based leadership really works.
The top eight reasons team building fails
The saddest thing about team-building efforts that flop is that their outcome was predictable, and therefore avoidable. Even a basic team-readiness analysis and organizational assessment can foresee the following pitfalls:
- The so-called team building consisted of a one-time event.
- There was little or no pre-event preparation or post-event follow-through to make the new skills and behaviors stick.
- Teams were the wrong structure to begin with. Given the nature of the work, performance was better served by people working individually.
- There was a general misunderstanding about what teams are and what they do.
- Management, participants, or both were not genuinely committed to teams.
- The culture worked against teams by primarily rewarding individualism and competitiveness.
- The team building initiative was scrapped before new behavioral patterns and performance improvements could take hold.
- The team training and development effort itself was never evaluated, revised, refined, or reinforced.