Short Team Building: Adding Value for Senior Executives

For years, I have been writing about the pitfalls of short team building. In One Day Team Building Pitfalls, I cautioned that one day is too tight for effective team building. In spite of this, time frames for team building are getting shorter and shorter. Now more and more inquiries are for 3 hours. Considering the fact that most agendas fall behind schedule, by the time team building begins, it often ends up being even shorter than 3 hours.

Key Components of Team Building

Effective team building involves:

  • executive presentation to set the stage
  • overview by the facilitator to tie team building into the business objectives
  • facilitated business team building exercises
  •  a simulation  with or without a recreational component
  • debriefing
  • facilitated business application exercises that apply what people learning to resolve specific business issues and challenges (in re-configured teams)

Why Short Timeframes are a Bad Idea

With 2 1/2 – 3 hours, it is impossible to hit all checkpoints. Something has got to give.

All too often, when the timeframe is short, team building gets replaced with a social event or an activity that is strictly recreational.

It is important to remember that fun and games are never a substitute for real team building.

Three hours is much too tight.  The risk is that content will be covered in  little depth. This will reflect badly on the facilitator and team building will be dismissed as fluff that adds no real value in terms of business results.

Disclaimer: Executive Oasis International does not recommend short team building. As, more and more, companies are opting for short sessions, here is an approach that can still add value.

Delivering Value if You’re Stuck with a Tight Timeframe

If 3 hours is all you have,  to deliver value , it is important to focus on components that address business and team challenges directly:

When faced with a choice between covering more content and generating solutions, always opt for making sure the group walks away with business solutions.

Option 1

  • Quick Intro (15 Min.)
  • short, relevant activity – optional (30 min )
  • mini-debriefing (15 minutes)
  • quick brainstorming/decision-making tools overview (15 minutes)
  • facilitated business application exercises (1 hour 30 minutes)
  • Next Steps (15 minutes)


Option 2

  • Quick Intro (15 Min.)
  • quick brainstorming/problem-solving/decision-making tools overview (15 minutes)
  • facilitated business application exercises (1 hour 30 minutes)
  • mini-presentations (15 min.)
  • Full debriefing (30 Min.)
  • Next Steps (15 minutes)

Balance the teams ahead of time so that each team has some members who are familiar with the toolkit for issue analysis. (Alternatively, do a hands-on pre-briefing to familiarize the team leaders with the toolkit and the activity.)

Better yet, let your objectives drive decisions about the focus, format and timeframe for team building. It’s a much better approach than arbitrarily setting a timeframe and then force-fitting content into it.

Photo Credit:  Kevin Dooley

As a senior executive, which key components do you perceive as priorities for team building that delivers bottom line results?

For further reading:


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