Team building exercises are very important in the development of base teams, task-oriented teams that will work together for an extended period of time on a complex project. Experiences designed to facilitate team development should be focused on some, if not all, of the following five issues.
This is the issue of how each member's outcomes are determined, at least in part, by the actions of the other members. The structure of the team task should be such that it requires cooperative interdependence. Functioning independently of other team members, or competing with them should lead to sub-optimal outcomes for the entire team. Both the learning task and the team-building task should have such a structure. Tasks that require the successful performance of subtasks by all team members are called divisible, conjunctive tasks. The team-building exercise should be structured so that the team becomes aware of, and experiences their interdependence.
2. Goal Specification
It is very important for team members to have common goals for team achievement, as well as to communicate clearly about individual goals they may have. Some team building sessions consist entirely of goal clarification exercises. The process of clarifying goals may well engage all of the issues on this list. Indeed, shared goals is one of the definitional properties of the concept "team." A simple, but useful, team building task is to assign a newly formed team the task of producing a mission and goals statement.
This term refers to the attractiveness of team membership. Teams are cohesive to the extent that membership in them is positively valued; members are drawn toward the team. In task-oriented teams the concept can be differentiated into two subconcepts, social cohesiveness and task cohesiveness. Social cohesiveness refers to the bonds of interpersonal attraction that link team members. Although a high level of social cohesiveness may make team life more pleasant, it is not highly related to team performance. Nevertheless, the patterns of interpersonal attraction within a team are a very prominent concern. Team-building exercises that have a component of fun or play are useful in allowing attraction bonds to develop. Task cohesiveness refers to the way in which skills and abilities of the team members mesh to allow effective performance. Exercises that require the application of the skills that will be necessary for completion of the team assignment, but require them in a less demanding situation, allow the team members to assess one another's talents. Such experiences can lead to consideration of the next issue, the development of team member's roles and of the norms that govern role enactment.
4. Roles and Norms
All teams develop a set of roles and norms over time. In task oriented teams, it is essential that the role structure enables the team to cope effectively with the requirements of the task. When the task is divisible and conjunctive, as are most of the important team tasks in our society, the assignment of roles to members who can perform them effectively is essential. Active consideration of the role structure can be an important part of a team-building exercise. In some cooperative learning designs, it is the instructor's intention to rotate task roles so that all team members experience, and learn from, all roles. Even then, it is important that the norm, in this case imposed by the instructor, governing the assignment of roles is understood and accepted by team members. Norms are the rules governing the behavior of team members, and include the rewards for behaving in accord with normative requirements, as well as the sanctions for norm violations. Norms will develop in a team, whether or not they are actively discussed. The norms that govern most cooperative learning teams are imposed by the instructor, but that does not preclude a team building assignment in which those norms, as well as some that are specific to a team, are discussed and accepted.
Effective interpersonal communication is vital to the smooth functioning of any task team. There are many ways of facilitating the learning of effective communication skills. Active listening exercises, practice in giving and receiving feedback, practice in checking for comprehension of verbal messages, are all aimed at developing skills. It is also important for a team to develop an effective communication network; who communicates to whom; is there anybody "out of the loop?" Norms will develop governing communication. Do those norms encourage everyone to participate, or do they allow one or two dominant members to claim all the "air time?" Team building exercises can focus on skill development, network design, and norms, but even when the exercise is focused on another issue, communication is happen