O.P.T.I.M.A.L. approach to organising a successful team building event
Planning a team building session but do not know how and where to start? Do not despair. This “dummy’s guide” to planning a team building session will give you important areas to consider and make you look like an expert.
The O.P.T.I.M.A.L. approach:
1. Objectives of team building
“Why are we holding this team building event, and what do we expect to achieve?”
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.
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 organisations, 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 to interact
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. Spend some time to decide on the main focus of the team building session before deciding on the team building activities.
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 team building programme, to ensure that the programme would be suitable and relevant.
Physical conditions of the participants of the team building session should also be considered.
One other important factor to a team building session which organisers frequently overlook is FOOD. 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 event
“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 organisations may wish to consider dates of school holidays or school exams, especially for organisations, which place emphasis of balanced work and family life. To encourage maximum attendance from participants, organisations 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 programme.
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 size is big, unless you are deliberately exposing the participants to a particular type of setting, or you know their specific preferences.
5. Money Matters
“What is the indicative budget for the team building?”
The budget would have a significant influence on the venue, food and beverage, as well as duration and type of team building activity. If there are no figures to work on as yet, use the previous years’ budget as a guide. If no such information is available, then plan for something not too ambitious, and adjustments can be made from there.
Next, you have to decide if the team building portion is to be handled in-house or to be outsourced to an external vendor. Of course, if the budget permits, there are many advantages in outsourcing the team building portion.
Firstly, to run a team building event, you would need manpower and chances are, if your colleagues are running the event with you, they cannot participate. External vendors would likely be more experienced in conducting the activities and less likely to make mistakes. The vendor would also provide all the logistics involved, leaving your team and yourself free to participate with all your other colleagues.
team building vendors also bring with them sufficient experience in knowing what works and doesn’t, so you are not only paying for their services, but also their rich experience.
6. Assessment of Success
“How would you measure the success of the team building session?”
How would the success of the session be measured? Is it considered a success as long as the participants enjoyed themselves, or if the participants got to know at least 3 other colleagues better?
While the effects of team building are generally intangible and the takeaways are somewhat more subtle, measurements of success can be derived from verbal feedback from participants, surveys or observation reports. Observation reports comment on behaviors and attitudes displayed during the activities. Pre and/ or post-event surveys track the effectiveness of the team building session based on the same set of questions they organisers wish to enquire about.
7. Location for team building
“Where should we hold the team building session?”
The location or venue would have an effect on the atmosphere of the team building session. The previous six factors mentioned above would have shaped the decision on where to hold the team building.
Other issues relating to location for consideration would be accessibility, function set-up and layout and contingencies for wet weather (if you are having an outdoor session).
With the O.P.T.I.M.A.L. approach developed by änergy, we trust that you would be able to plan for your team building event effectively. If you are running the team building event with your committee internally, be sure to draw up a detailed work plan and budget, with clear responsibilities for every task.
Next, remember that one of the key ingredients of effective team building is rehearsals. You would need to do a site-visit and rehearse the day’s activities, as it would help you trouble-shoot any potential issues, so that improvements can be made on event day and contingency plans are already in-place to tackle any glitches.