Team Building

Basic Team Building Design

This document is very generic, but serves as a basis from which to customize a team building intervention that meets the specific needs of an intact or newly forming team.

Six Phases of the Team Building Process:

Phase 1: Clarification/Agreement on Team’s Purpose.

The participants have a brief discussion of why their team exists – purpose(s) and membership.

Phase 2: Assessment of Team’s Current Effectiveness.

The members of the team brainstorm and seek consensus on the critical characteristics/attributes and behaviors required for their team’s effectiveness. They also benchmark their current level of effectiveness of displaying those behaviors.

Phase 3: Appreciating the Diversity of Individual Members.

Assessments of each member’s strengths and potential limitations. Discussion around personal styles, business values, and/or roles/functions in the organization/team.

Phase 4: Building the Team.

Discussion and experiences leveraging individual strengths and compensating for individual limitations. Build synergy via dialogue, constructive feedback, and integration of diversity factors.

Phase 5: Applications.

We observe/facilitate the team working together on their specific application(s). This phase is designed in response to specific, identified, required outcomes. Some teams we’ve worked with have:

  • Created a vision or mission statement
  • Defined leadership roles within or beyond the team
  • Learned how to conduct effective meetings
  • Learned procedures for effective problem solving
  • Planned/implemented a process improvement implementation
  • Discussed organization issues

Phase 6: Follow up.

After an agreed-upon time, we revisit the team and/or individuals to check application progress and team process. Reinforcement via dialogue or future team building interventions will be used as appropriate and agreed upon.

Our Philosophy:

Our philosophy and practice is to enable individuals and teams to own the process and carry it forward. This must be balanced with the individual and collective levels of readiness. We continuously work with individuals and the team to help them feel truly empowered and avoid undue dependence on us. In a similar manner, we ensure that individuals’ skills and attitudes are mutually and positively reinforcing and focused prior to withdrawing our services.


For many team buildings we use assessment instruments to provide feedback on such things as personal style, business values, leadership styles, organization culture and climate, and teamwork. We share results of such assessments with the individuals who then decide how much and when to share their data with others. In some cases, we provide some additional instruction about the theory behind a given assessment tool and its validity and reliability.

The team building phases listed above can be accomplished through a great range of approaches – from “very heady” (mostly talk about things) to “very experiential” (mostly do things). The specific approach must match the styles and needs of the participants – and then stretch them. It is this stretching – getting beyond the comfortable – that serves as a catalyst for change and growth.

We have found in most cases that a more-experiential approach is best. In such an approach, the team is provided with an exercise that requires their working together. The exercise may be primarily mental such as role playing or solving a case study problem. Or an exercise may be primarily physical. These can range from easy physical requirements, e.g. building with tinker toys, to moderate physical requirements, e.g. doing a ropes course. The debriefing – or processing of the experience – involves sharing reactions, relating it to the “real world”, and deciding how to apply what was learned about oneself or the team.


We work with each team leader or sponsor to custom design a team building that will produce the desired outcomes. When we work with you, you should be prepared to discuss the following questions:

  1. What is the current situation that makes you consider team building as a fix, prevention, or continuous improvement?
  2. Imagine it is 3 – 6 months after a successful team building. What would the team/situation be like at that time?
  3. Soon you will be participating in a team building. What concerns do you have about what might happen?
  4. What else do you feel we should know so we can be most effective?

If this is a follow-up team building, then you should also be prepared to answer these questions:

  1. What successes have you had since the last team building? What contributed to the successes? What barriers or obstacles did you overcome to enable success?
  2. What failures or short-falls have you had since the last team building? What barriers or obstacles were you unable to overcome and why? What could have been done differently (by whom) that might have led to success?

For more information, or for comments and questions, please contact us.

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