The importance of teamwork

Nowadays a lot is said about teamwork and its importance for successful organizations. However, actual teamwork is only rarely found in the business practice. The goals of teambuilding programs and activities are strengthening the cohesion and enabling more efficient work between team members, which can also results in better financial result of the company. 
Through different teambuilding activities the participants get to know each other better, open their communications channels, improve the mutual trust and work more efficiently - all this by having fun. 

What is teambuilding?

It is important to have a clear definition of teambuilding as it is often confused with the terms team bonding or just with employee socializing. Many professional article and books have been dealing with the topics of teams and their importance for the success of their companies However, there is much less professional literature written on teambuilding activities, let alone on their impact on the work performance and the proof that they are vital for the company’s success. Still, today team building activities are - at least in more developed countries and modern companies - widely accepted as one of the most important strategic tools to improve company’s success.

Team building is a purpose-driven process that follows a systematic plan with the aim to create, maintain, and enrich the development of a group of people into a cohesive team. It refers to the various activities undertaken to motivate the team members and increase the overall performance of the team. It is by no means a one-time activity; it is a series of programs, events or activities that shape a team and unify their members, resulting in the achievement of targets and synergies.
Team building activities are very important in the development of teams that will work together for an extended period of time on a complex project or a series of activities. Team building activities help people understand that they are greater collectively than individually. It helps people see the benefits of collaboration and leveraging on one another’s talents, expertise and resources.

History, present and the future trends of team building activities

The history of team building goes back to the late 1920 and early 1930 with now classic Hawthorne Studies. The research involved a series of research activities of a group of workers under various conditions. The results showed that with increased worker interaction the most significant factor was growing a sense of group identity, a feeling of social support and cohesion. But not much more in the field of team building was written after that as teams were not recognized as the driver of company’s success. The primal role in company success was attributed to the individual.
Team buildings become very popular in the 1970's. There was a boom in team building activities from the mid - to late -1980s, as effectiveness of teams was increasingly recognized by human resources professionals. Today, teambuilding activities are widely recognized as a very important driver of company’s success. However, in various countries and companies team building is on different developing stage. TBA created its own model of team building development and trends, which can in a way also indicates, on which stage of maturity the team building activities are in a chosen country/company.

Picture: The trends in development of teambuilding activities


Source: Polajnar (2012), internal TBA material

This model shows, how team building events evolved from fun events to well-planned educational activities. The first teambuilding events were actually team bonding. Their primary goal was to gather all employees to socialize and have fun. This is followed by a stage of planned activities with the aim to connect the team and also with some sort of strategy behind of how to connect them. This stage is followed by educational teambuilding events, where team – besides all the socializing benefits – also learns in a practical way how the teams function, what are the obstacles in good communication, what are different ways of problem solving etc. The maturity of team buildings are shown with the emergence of social responsibility as a very important part in team building activities. There are many different forms of socially responsible team building activities that will be revealed later. The last, final stage represent upgraded team building g programs that are based on team assessments that allow strategic planning of future team developments. 

Recommended reading:
Katzenbach, J. R. and. Smith, D. K. (1993), The Discipline of Teams: What makes the difference between a team that performs and one that doesn’t? Best of HBR 1993, July-August 2005, product 4428.

Katzenbach, J.R., Smith, D.K. (2003). The wisdom of teams: Creating the high-performance organization (3rd ed.). New York, NY: HarperCollins

Polajnar, Danijel (2011) Innovative approaches and trends in implementing of the active team building programs in the companies. HRM Magazine (Professional magazine for human resource sector). November 2011, vol. 9, no. 44.

Rozman, Ana (2012) Practical solution for creating awareness and promoting social responsibility within business segment through social responsible team building activities. Social responsibility and current challenges 2013. 8th IRDO international conference, conference proceedings.

Caracciolo, Annemarie (1999) Smart things to know about teams. Capstone US Business BooksNetwork.

Williams, P., Denney, J. (2009) Extreme dreams depend on teams. Center street.

Parker, Glenn M. (2008) Team players and teamwork (2nd edition). Jossey-bass.

A Harvard Bussiness Review Book (1998) The work of teams. Harvard Business school publishing, 1998

Pellerin, Charles J. (2009) How NASA builds teams. John Wiley&sons, inc.

LaFasto, F., Larson, C. (2001) When teams work best. Sage Publications.

Heller, Robert (1998) Managing Teams. Dorling Kindersly Limited.

Lencioni, Patrick (2005) Overcoming the five dysfunctions of a team. Jossey-bass.

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