The blueprint for today’s workplace centers on collaboration; it’s everyone’s objective for their teams to work together seamlessly. Office workstations and layouts beckon small team meetings. Management encourages collaboration whenever possible. White boards are everywhere with Infinity diagrams on all of the walls. Team members are located in the building, some work remotely and others are offshore.
In reality, teams are formed to solve business problems within a defined period of time. IT teams can be tasked with implementing radical change that affects many internal users or thousands of customers with a single implementation. In order for the team to be successful, each individual team member must play an important and unique role which when combined with the others’ work, will result in a successful outcome, hopefully. It is no different than an NFL team that hits the field for their opening game.
However, there is one big difference. You would not expect an NFL team to play the first game without many months of practice. However, every day we put people who do not know one another, or the company, the customers, and the company’s rules and expect them to immediately and successfully work together on complex projects. This is done daily in many companies.
Before the official project “kick off meeting” the entire project team, including stakeholders deserves a “warm up” period. This will set the tone for the camaraderie and the rhythm of the team throughout the project.
Team members who trust each other also enjoy an environment that feels physiological safe. Opinions can be shared without fear of criticism, judgement and ridicule.
Tips for team warm up activities:
Get to know each member of the team (5 – 8 member team = 2.5 hours)
- Conduct a personality style analysis (I recommend Psycho-Geometrics ™ because of ease of use and high accuracy results) to determine each person’s first and second personality preferences.
- Exchange the style analysis with each team member. This will allow the team to understand each other’s’ strengths, likes and dislikes.
Practice together (5 – 8 member team = 3 hours)
- Allow for at least two team building exercise before actual work is scheduled to begin. This provides dedicated time to learn more about each others’ thought process and communication styles.
Describe the game plan, the rules of engagement (2 hours)
- Review the company, the division and the project’s goals.
- Describe each person’s role, their individual responsibilities and accountabilities. What does each role require to be successful?
Total time needed to complete the warm up session – 7.5 hours
I recommend that the warm up be spread over a two day period to ensure retention and always before actual work begins.
Include this time in the project schedule; the payoff is worth the investment.
Periodically play together
Throughout the project, time should be scheduled for periodic team building activities. Going out to lunch qualifies! Children have proven that playing with friends on the playground builds the trust and respect for one another in the classroom and in life. When we provide a little bit of “play time”, the team is better equipped to communicate, dissolve hard feelings, level the egos, laugh again, and relax together. It can re-energize an otherwise lethargic team that is out of steam.