Learning to work effectively in a team environment carries different requirements than functioning successfully as an individual contributor. Many projects fail because team members have not learned how to share, collaborate and communicate with and trust each other, according to Scott Berkun, Microsoft project manager and author of “Making Things Happen–Mastering Project Management." Planned team-building exercises can help people get through the typical stages of learning to work together.
Change Key Behavior
Marshall Goldsmith of "Harvard Business Review" suggests a team-building exercise for staff meetings that focuses on improving one key behavior of the team members. The activity lasts over several staff meetings and begins by identifying the degree to which team members believe that the team’s performance falls short of needs or expectations.
Team members list two key behaviors affecting project performance that everyone can improve upon. Place each suggestion on a master list and ask the team to vote on the one change that would show the biggest impact. Team members discuss the behavior in enough detail to allow each member to identify specific changes to make in his behavior. For the next four staff meetings, have members provide examples of behavior changes and performance impact.
A logic puzzle, also called an Einstein or Carroll puzzle, offers clues that, when analyzed carefully, lead to a solution, according to BrainBashers.com. Depending on the size of your staff meeting, divide into teams of five to seven people. Give each person a clue from the puzzle. For example, in the softball puzzle from California State University at Pomona, one person holds the clue, “One of the outfield positions is played by either Perry or Sue.”
Ask the team to share clues. In the softball game example, ask the team to identify the names of each player and her position. Multiple teams can compete. Afterward, ask team members to identify strategies that helped or hindered solving the problem.
Create a scenario that places team members in a challenging situation such as an approaching forest fire. Give the team general information about its location and resources.
Ask the team to generate a list of items to take when members leave the cabin that improves their chances of survival. Begin the team-building exercise by brainstorming a long list of potential items. The team then works to reduce the list to 10 items through cooperation and communication.