O.P.T.I.M.A.L. approach to
organizing a successful team building event
1. Objectives of team building
“Why are we holding this team building event, and what do we expect
To have an end in mind, a purpose, is crucial to planning a team building
session. Having objectives mean that you can skew or tailor the activities
to meet your expectations. The objectives would, in many situations, form
the guiding principals to select the appropriate activities.
Having clear objectives would also help to set the tone for the team building
session, and establish the expectations of participants involved, so everyone
is moving in unison towards the same direction/goal.
Having conducted team building sessions for a variety of organizations, some
of the more common reasons why team building is required, are as follows:
a) To create synergy in a new team/team with new members
b) To create an opportunity for staff from different departments/functions
c) To address certain work issues
d) To reinforce their corporate values
e) As a form of training
f) To reward their staff with a day away from the office
g) To interact and have fun
Each of the reasons listed above will result in emphasis on different aspects
during the team building session. For example, for a new team, we would want
to spend a little more time during ice breakers to allow the participants
to get to know one another better. If reinforcement of corporate values is
the imperative matter, we would want to ensure that the intended values are
visible to the participants, for example, as banners, posters or on the little
souvenirs that they receive.
2. Profile of Participants
“Who will be attending the team building session?”
Another important factor in planning a successful team building session is
the profile of the participants. Age range, gender mix and other background
information like educational level and job scope, should be taken into consideration
while sculpting the program, to ensure that the program would be suitable
and relevant for all participants.
Special consideration should also be made for participants who have chronic
injuries, medical history or disabilities - they should still be able to actively
participate in the activities, without aggravating their conditions.
One other point which organizers frequently overlook is the dietary preferences
of the participants. In a multi-racial country like Singapore, participants
may be Chinese vegetarians or Indian vegetarians, while others only consume
Halal food (food that is lawful and allowable under Muslim law) or even Kosher
food (food that has been prepared so that it is fit and suitable under Jewish
law). There may also be participants who are allergic to certain types of
food. The best way to find out about dietary requirements is to check with
the participants directly.
3. Time Frame for planning the team building
“What is the targeted date of the team building session and its duration?”
Dates are important, especially when there is a need to secure venues and
check the availability of key personnel or speakers. Typically, we would recommend
a lead time of about 2 to 3 months to plan for a small to medium-sized team
building event, catering for less than 80 participants. If the event is large-scale,
the lead time may escalate to 6 months, or even a year before.
When conducting team building outside working hours, some organizations may
wish to consider dates of school holidays or school exams, especially for
organizations, which place emphasis on a balanced work and family life. To encourage
maximum attendance from participants, organizations may wish to leave the
school examination and vacation periods untouched, for their staff to spend
that extra time with their spouse and children.
Duration of the team building session should also be taken into account -
is it going to be a half-day or full-day event? If there are specific issues
to be tackled or other forms of planning or training involved, it may be good
to consider a 2-day or even 3-day program.
4. Inclinations of the participants
“What will the participants prefer to do during team building?”
Having information about the profile of the participants is usually sufficient.
However, whenever possible, unearth the type of activities the participants
are inclined towards - are they indoor-games type of people or the outdoor
adventure type or do you have a good mix of both?
One can derive such preferences by having a poll or survey with the participants
if you have an intimate group size, or by gathering the views of a sample
group if your group size is overwhelming. Alternatively, reviewing previous
team building sessions and the feedback received could also give a good indication
of what is preferred (and what not to do again).
The rule of thumb is to have a good mix of indoor and outdoor activity especially
if your group size is big, unless you are deliberately exposing the participants
to a particular type of setting, or you know their specific preferences.
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