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Team Building Games: More Than Just Fun - HRDQ

Team Building Games: More Than Just Fun

Improve your workplace with team building games

Hands-on training games are an excellent way to engage participants, make learning active, bring real group dynamics to the surface in a "safe" environment, and drive home key points.
Whether you choose to use them as stand-alone learning tools, or as part of a larger training initiative, training games can generate quality results when used properly. But not all training games are created equal. Before you add a training game to your curriculum, consider these points:
  • Make it Relevant. Games are effective when they provide knowledge, skills, or insight. A game that addresses real-life situations or organizational issues has far greater results than a game played for its own sake, or to "liven up" a training session.
  • Look for Proven Research and Theories. The training solutions market is filled with a wide range of games for virtually every training situation from board and card games to web and video-based games. Be certain the game's marketing doesn't overshadow its credentials. As with any training tool, those designed using proven research and recognized learning theories provide the best results.
  • Keep it Simple. Even if the game is a perfect match for the training topic, it is only useful if participants can quickly grasp its objective and understand how it is played. Over-complicated or confusing games don't generate results because participants become wrapped up in the process rather than the experience. Clear directions and rules help the learning process continue quickly and smoothly.
Why Games Work
Training games embody experiential learning, a methodology considered to be one of the best -- if not the best -- ways for adults to learn. The learning "sticks" because individuals are immersed in the activity. For example, a team-building game that requires all players to participate, develop common strategies, and face consequences encourages memorable learning that's easily transferable. Games create a comfortable learning environment where learners become active participants in the learning process by providing the opportunity to process new information and practice new skills in the safety of the training room before they are required to apply them to real-life situations.
Types of Team Effectiveness

Healthy organizations have compelling visions of the future and clearly defined and well-communicated statements of purpose. Plans are developed collaboratively and work is managed against goals or objectives. When priorities are revised, the need for change is discussed and agreed to by the group. Organizations with blockages in this area often do not have a clear vision of their future, nor have they taken the time or devoted the energy to define clearly their purpose or reason for being. If the mission was clear at one point in the organization’s history, it is not clear at the present time.

People at various organizational levels are not sure what “business” they are in and find it difficult to comprehend the organization’s direction. They carry on their own activities with a degree of uncertainty or refrain from engaging in some activities at all for fear of doing the wrong thing. Planning may be informal, haphazard, or exclusively top down, with little if any involvement from lower levels. Specific, measurable goals and objectives may be hard to come by, not published, or ignored, except for the ritualized annual preparation for the corporate files. Priorities may shift rapidly and without apparent reason. All of these deficiencies can create significant performance blockages for the organization and individual work groups.

Team Roles and Work Organization

In highly effective groups, work is organized to support the group’s function. Roles, relationships, and accountability processes are clear to everyone. Members are qualified to perform their jobs or have immediate plans for acquiring needed knowledge and skills in order to perform future tasks.

An inappropriately-structured group or one in which the members have unclear or confused perceptions about their roles and relationships can lose considerable energy in performing tasks. The group may not have identified clearly all of its tasks or agreed on the exact nature of the work to be performed. Standard job descriptions are usually inadequate because they do not specify the exact nature of the accountability each person has to each task or to each person in the group. Lack of role clarity results in poor quality work, missed responsibilities, and overlapping accountabilities that generate needless conflict.

Operating Processes

Policies and procedures that are used to manage the work of the group support both task and maintenance needs. Task needs are activities required to accomplish work objectives. Maintenance needs are the human needs for recognition, participation, appreciation, and general quality of group life. Operating processes include such activities as problem solving, decision making, conflict management, and meeting quality.

Groups that have effective operating processes have consciously examined each policy and procedure by which the group functions for efficiency and effectiveness. This analysis is undertaken from time to time to ensure that important processes have not become dysfunctional. Meeting format, for example, needs to be discussed periodically to confirm that this important vehicle is adequately serving the needs of all the group members to communicate with each other and solve problems.

Groups with ineffective operating procedures may have unproductive or not enough meetings. Those meetings that are held are regarded as irrelevant or characterized by unilateral reports of information group members already know. Serious problems are not addressed or when they are addressed they are neither systematically analyzed nor creatively solved. Group decisions are made by the appointed leader or a strong coalition of a few people. Disagreements are ignored or swept away so that hostile feelings remain in the group and color future interactions.

Working to improve teamwork is important for every organization. Team building activities can help. Learn more about the team building process here.

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.