Practical methods for team building between teams
People in one team, say in marketing, often know very little about the people in another team they depend on, say in production. So a very simple idea is to visit the people in the other team, listen a lot and try to understand their pressures, needs and concerns. This will work best in very small groups or pairs and in friendly and informal way, even over lunch. When you meet, encourage everyone to have a turn to speak and listen respectfully without interrupting. There is more about support on the website and Nancy Kline’s book “Time to Think” is very good on the process.
Things sometimes go wrong between teams and this can lead to bad feeling and poor cooperation which can last for years. You could lead people from both “sides” through some of the elegant dialoguing processes from Marriage Enrichment to get to a more productive place. You may say “What has marriage got to do with work?” Rebuilding bridges in marriage is often very difficult because of the strong feelings involved. The situations at work are rarely as difficult so methods that will work in these situations often work easily at work!
Consider a recent conflict. Then ask each side to list separately, what was the conflict about?, what could I/we have done differently to manage it better?, what could you have done differently to manage it better?, what can we learn about managing conflict so we don’t get in the same difficulty again? Then each person or side says what they have concluded while the other side listens respectfully. Then ask them what they will do.
An inter-team workshop
However good the relationships and cooperation are between teams, they can always be improved. The outline that follows is of a workshop between an analytical and a production group in a company that made ethical medical products. The theory behind the design draws on work from the co-counselling world that shows that people are more able to listen to people from different groups if they are reasonably comfortable in their own group. So, people did work on their own groups first.
1) Presentation (up to 10 minutes) from each group on who you are and what you do. Your role in the company and the value you add. Who are your customers? What do they need from you? After each presentation, answer questions to clarify things people do not understand.
2) Form separate groups (two groups from analytical and two from production). In each group, list on flip chart paper: –
- What pressures and frustrations do you experience in your work and why?
- What would you like from the other Section (Analytical or Production)?
- What would you think they would like from you?
- If you could use a magic wand to make things better, what would you use it for?
This is to improve efficiency, effectiveness, job satisfaction, reduce stress and have more fun!
3) Share and discuss the results from both groups. First, have people mill around and look at the flip charts, then share their impressions and comments in the large group. Finally, have people form small groups to identify the topics or activities that require some action.
4) List the topics for further work. Put in priority order.
5) Set up temporary working groups to work on the topics. Ask for volunteers. Some will attract volunteers from both Sections.
6) Working groups meet and produce one practical way of improving their issue.
7) Collect up the best ideas from the working groups.
8) What next? Review of the workshop. What have people learned? How have their feelings about the other group changed?
I have used similar processes for team building between teams with research scientists and technicians. In this case the relationships were one to one between the scientist and his/her technician and we used the workshop format to help with the learning. As a result, the scientists spent more time in the lab and used the technicians practical expertise much more. The technicians understood and valued the scientists’ thinking more too.