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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Not Another Ice Breaker! Team Building with a Purpose

"We just don't work as a team!" Janet, a group manager for a large insurance company, was complaining to Larry, her human resources consultant. "Everyone just seems to do their own thing, they don't share information, don't try to help each other, and don't seem to care about anyone else's problems. What we need is a team building offsite!" Janet and Larry decided to put together a two-day offsite for the team at a resort about two hours away from work. Janet wanted immediate focus on the problem so Larry worked double-time to put together the event to be held later in the month. Larry put together an agenda full of trust-building exercises, ice-breakers, and brainstorming sessions on how the team could work better together.

On the first day of the offsite only about half of Janet's team had shown up; the other half were working on a hot project that needed to be completed later in the week. The remaining team members politely participated in the team building exercises, but didn't seem very interested in the activities as they felt too "squishy." Because Janet wanted to focus the offsite on team building, there was no clearly stated business purpose for the event. The brainstorming sessions were good, but no tangible actions were taken down for the team to follow up on. In short, the offsite was met with a resounding thud from the team and was a dismal failure.

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