Stop wast­ing money on cor­po­rate team build­ing.

The East African - - BUSINESS - By CAR­LOS VALDS DAPENA Har­vard Busi­ness School Pub­lish­ing Car­los Valdes-dapena is the CEO of Cor­po­rate Col­lab­o­ra­tion Re­sources

MOST COR­PO­RATE team build­ing is a waste of time and money. I saw this dur­ing my 17 years at Mars Inc.

Many com­pa­nies do off-site events like bowl­ing nights or ropes cour­ses. At Mars, we spent thou­sands of dol­lars to hire an orches­tra to spend an hour with a group of se­nior lead­ers at an off-site re­treat and help them work to­gether in har­mony. It did noth­ing to change how that group of lead­ers worked to­gether.

In 2011, se­nior hu­man re­sources lead­ers at the com­pany de­cided to fig­ure out how to max­imise team ef­fec­tive­ness. The re­sult­ing re­search, which I led, re­vealed that most of what we thought about team build­ing was wrong.

Our study drew on data from 125 teams. It in­cluded ques­tion­naires and in­ter­views with hun­dreds of team mem­bers. We asked, among other things, how clear peo­ple were about the teams’ pri­or­i­ties, what their own and oth­ers’ ob­jec­tives were, and what they felt most con­fi­dent about and most wor­ried about.

The ques­tion­naires re­vealed that team mem­bers felt the most clar­ity about their in­di­vid­ual ob­jec­tives, and felt a strong sense of own­er­ship of the work they were ac­count­able for.

Mars had peo­ple who loved to get busy on tasks and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that had their names next to them. Col­lab­o­ra­tion, on the other hand, was an ide­alised but vague goal with no con­crete terms or rules. What’s more, col­lab­o­ra­tion was per­ceived as messy. It di­luted ac­count­abil­ity and of­fered few tan­gi­ble re­wards.

Based on that in­sight, we de­vel­oped a frame­work to make col­lab­o­ra­tion clear, spe­cific and com­pelling — to make it some­thing to be achieved. At the core of this frame­work are two ques­tions. The first: Why is their col­lab­o­ra­tion es­sen­tial to achiev­ing their busi­ness re­sults? And sec­ond: Which spe­cific tasks, would re­quire col­lab­o­ra­tion to de­liver those re­sults?

We had a chance to test our frame­work in early 2012 with the Mars Pet­care China lead­er­ship team. Over two days we posed our ques­tions. We agreed that our pur­pose would cen­tre on peo­ple development and de­ploy­ment of the new strat­egy. We also sorted our list of projects into those that could be han­dled by in­di­vid­u­als and those that re­ally would be im­proved by col­lab­o­ra­tion. We ended by cre­at­ing a plan for how each in­di­vid­ual would sus­tain the progress made dur­ing those two days to­gether.

Over the next year Mars Pet­care China’s growth rock­eted up by 33 per cent. The sense of ac­count­abil­ity for the em­ploy­ees’ work to­geth­er­made their work­ing re­la­tion­ships far more pro­duc­tive than they had been be­fore.

Con­nect­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion to the mo­tives of suc­cess-minded team mem­bers is what un­locks pro­duc­tive team­work.

Pic­ture: File

Many com­pa­nies in­vest in out­door events like hik­ing for team build­ing.

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