Team Building: Cutting it Short – What’s up with That?

Team Building: Cutting it Short

First of all, I’m focusing on facilitated business team building not team activities or events that are primarily recreational.

ln a recent blog, I discussed the pitfalls of 1 day team building:

One Day Team Building : Is it enough?

What we are noticing is that, with increasing frequency, there is pressure to cut team building short on the last day. Suddenly there is pressure to wrap things up quickly, end the session early to let people go back to the resort early or have more free time for shopping.

When this happens what do we do? We ensure that the CEO is aware of what is left and we give options to ensure that the team gets value out of the time and money that has been invested. We caution that cutting short the debriefing will guarantee that the analytical learners never have an opportunity to tie up loose ends.

What happens after this discussion? Sometimes, one of the recreational activities gets cut. At other times, instead of breaking into groups for the last few exercises, they are completed with the group as a whole. This does a disservice to participants who learn most effectively through discussion or quite reflection.

One thing is certain, in future the debriefing and the first part of the business application exercises will not be left until the last day. More recreational activities will be shifted to the last day so that if things get cut short, we can still deliver a full business simulation.

During the planning phases, gatekeepers often don’t give access to decision makers. There is often pressure to offer more content in shorter and shorter timeframes. This is nothing new. It has been a trend in North America for well over a decade. Unfortunately, when the timeframe is too short, the session isn’t as interactive as it could be and participants often leave feeling rushed, pressured and just “not getting it”. For this reason, our company has not gone the route of delivering short team building but we have stuck to the following model delivered over 2 1/2 – 3 days:

  • Executive Briefing
  • Team Briefing
  • Business Simulation with or without recreation to flesh out the theme
  • Debriefing
  • Business Application

(We have a couple of programmes that follow this model using a 1 day timeframe e.g. Restaurant Inc. but these are rare.)

Has it cost us business? Absolutely….but we would rather deliver a quality service that produces results than cut things short and deliver less than optimal results.

I have some ideas about why this is taking place but I want to hear from blog visitors first. Any comments that would shed light on some of these dynamics and propose solutions would be great.

Questions for Discussion:

My questions are:

  • Are any of the other members who provide facilitated business team building facing pressure to cut sessions short both before and on the last day of the retreat or team building session?
  • For members from corporations that use external or internal team building facilitators, what is behind this pressure for a “fast food approach to team building”?
  • What dynamics are taking place that lead companies to want to cut things short on the last day?
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4 thoughts on “Team Building: Cutting it Short – What’s up with That?

  1. Matt McBride says:

    As an independent consultant, I have been asked to come in and provide my services. I have asked about their goals, themes and what the executive staff is after. On several occasions, the response has been that they just want the staff to have some ‘games’ to take a break from the ‘important issues of our retreat.’ I have struggled to explain that the purpose of my services is to enhance those issues and not to detract from them. I have intentionally deleted certain activities in order to extend the necessary debriefing phase.
    In doing follow up with business or groups, I have been told (on more than one occasion) that they really don’t remember what the main retreat was about, but they do remember what we did and how it has been able to be used in their everyday setting.
    I would hope that the same message is being relayed to executives.

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