Team Building is not a Half Day Event

Let’s be clear. I am talking about real team building that has an impact on the business, not a corporate play day or recreational event. They have their place but that is not what we are discussing today. We have previously discussed the key ingredients for effective team building. To achieve this, at minimum (and I stress minimum), you require:

  • Session Starter (15 min) in groups as people settle to reflect on the focus of team building
  • CEO briefing to set the stage within the context of your business challenges (30 min. minimum) and most CEOs go well over that
  •  Instructions, practice, opportunity for questions (30 minutes)
  • Facilitated business team building exercises to draw clear links between team building and the day-to-day realities of the team and industry and provide the teams with the tools they will need for the simulation (1 Hour)
  • Debriefing preparation in teams (30 minutes)
  • Debriefing (30 min.)

Sub-total: 3  1/2 Hours

So what does that leave for a short simulation?

  • 1 hour to  1  1/2 hours. It will be rushed.

So we end up with what would be a rushed 1 day team building session crammed into half a day.  Less time is spent on setting the context. Instructions are rushed. Little or no time is spent in debriefing and business application exercises are totally scraped.

Analytical learners and introverts will not have nearly enough time to pause, reflect and process. There won’t much time for discussions. What’s the point?

Notice,we have not even allocated any time for:

  • Business application exercises (2 Hours minimum)

Total: 7 – 7  1/2 Hours


Most Important: The only way for ANY team building regardless of length to be effective is with follow-up. Whether the follow-up is facilitated by an external facilitator or implemented internal with an expertly designed follow-up plan, this is the missing ingredient that dooms most team building to failure.

There are no instant fixes. Communication breakdowns do not get resolved through band-aid solutions. Neither can deeply a half day of play repair deeply entrenched silos. A half day of golf or paintball will not resolve conflicts. These activities incorporated into fully facilitated team building session may help teams get to know each other if they are well timed.

Yet companies continue to ask for 1/2 day team building. Within that timeframe one ends up with either a strictly recreational event or a 15 minutes of rushed instructions, a simulation and a 15 minute re-cap of what you were expected to “learn”. The analytical learners don’t “get it” and, once again, team building get a bad rap.

I am hearing reports of companies putting everyone in the company through cocktail mixing classes followed by learning to juggle beer bottles.

A reader of this blog post contacted me and during our discussion shared a programme involving painting tea cups that was being pitched as “team building” for $16 a person at a recent showcase for event planners. The disturbing thing is  that the event planners in attendance were enthusiastic about this. Give me a break!

If it’s the company picnic or a celebration of some kind and that floats your boat, no one can fault you for that but it’s hard to understand how any company could justify this type of investment in place of real team building.

Think of it this way. How would you feel if someone invited you for dinner and instead of providing a full meal served an amuse-bouche and dessert and rushed you out the door before you could finish your coffee? You would feel cheated and quite ticked wouldn’t you? Yet that is exactly the type of bite-sized “team building” that companies are delivering.

Team Building Ideas When you are Short on Time

You’ve discussed the pitfalls of short team building with your executive team or client (if you are an independent) but it’s no good. Half a day is all you have. If you are really pressed for time, here are some ideas of what can work in half a day or 1 day but you will definitely receive critical feedback from some participants that team building was rushed.
Notice, in these designs, the CEO presentation to set the context and the business application exercises have been omitted and the debriefing has been shortened. This is far from ideal. These essential team building elements should be handled before and after team building by the immediate supervisor or the director of your unit to ensure your efforts do not completely miss the mark.

  • Session Starter (15 min) in groups as people settle to reflect on the focus of team building
  • CEO briefing (15 min)
  • Instructions, practice, opportunity for questions (30 minutes)
  • Facilitated business team building exercises to draw clear links between team building and the day-to-day realities of the team and industry and provide the teams with the tools they will need for the simulation (1 Hour)
  • Activity or Simulation (1 Hour)
  • Debriefing preparation in teams (30 minutes)
  • Debriefing (30 minutes)

Sub-total: 4 hours

Your facilitator can provide you with slides and handouts so that a member of your leadership team or an internal facilitator can set the stage before team building and handle the business application exercises and follow-up.

Here are some of the activities that can be used to form the basis of a simulation:

Half Day

Here are some other suggestions as well as tips for doing team building in tight


Comments and Feedback Welcome
I encourage some of the executives who are asking their team members to request half day team building will weigh in on this.

  • Where did companies ever get the idea that a rushed team building session or half a day in contrived recreational activities would resolve business issues?
  • Wouldn’t it make more sense to allocate at least 1  1/2 day to provide an experience with some substance that takes the team through an experience and gives them sufficient opportunity to debrief it and apply it to their business?

I would also love some comments from the executive assistants, admins and other team members who get asked to make these requests. After all, you arranged it and, at the end of the day, you are the ones listening to the complaints that team building was a waste of time.

Photo Credit: Flickr – Guy Sie, CollegeDegrees360

How we can Help

Executive Oasis International is a Toronto Team Building firm that has been offering “real” team building that integrates facilitated business team building exercises with upbeat indoor or outdoor team challenges. We have had the pleasure of serving companies from 16 countries.

Now that you have sampled our innovative approaches through the many articles on this blog, please keep Executive Oasis International in mind the next time your company requires team building, an executive retreat or on-site consulting to boost the effectiveness of your teams.

Visit Executive Oasis International Website

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5 thoughts on “Team Building is not a Half Day Event

  1. Pingback: Will Ratliff
  2. Manoj Keshwar says:

    Team building is one of the most important things which a organization must have as it helps to maintain your employees and their internal relations

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