Stop wasting money on corporate team building.
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.
Many companies invest in outdoor events like hiking for team building.