You don't need a fancy offsite in Tahoe or a PhD facilitator to build team cohesion. Some of my favorite team-building activities are online and can be organized over a long lunch. Here are three assessment tools to evaluate how your team operates. Even if you have a few skeptics in your group who don't agree, your team is talking about how they work together and that's what really matters.
Basadur Creative Profiler
Regardless of our team's specific function, all projects tend to follow the same path:
- identify a problem,
- find a solution
- develop a plan
As individuals, we tend to be stronger in some areas than others and when we're working in teams, we want a healthy mix of idea generators, conceptualizers, optimizers, and implementers.
The Basadur Creative Profiler identifies where each team member is strongest in the problem-solving process. If your team is lopsided, you'll have some natural tensions. For instance, if you have ideators and implementers, but no one who excels in the conceptualizing and optimizing phases, you'll likely have a hard time choosing which idea to run with.
The Basadur Profile isn't free -- it's $10-15 per person. But in my opinion, it's worth it. I love the scatter diagrams that it generates to visualize team dynamics. Once I realized I was an implementer (some might say a bulldozer), I started being more careful about not jumping the gun or leaving folks behind in the process.
World Management Survey (WMS)
Management is a little fuzzy, but one of the most non-fuzzy assessments you'll find is the World Management Survey (WMS). The survey's researchers interviewed 10,000 companies in 20 countries to develop a standardized measure to benchmark management and leadership. More recently, an academic group, Bloom and Co, showed that Indian textile companies that adopted the WMS best practices (e.g. goal setting, goal monitoring, quality control, incentives, accountability) were more profitable and productive.
The WMS benchmarking questions are fantastic to use as a survey to see if your team's assessment matches yours and to identify areas where you could improve. A distilled set of questions is also available in the index of the Bloom and Co academic paper (pages 45-47). Some of the WMS questions include"
- "Can you describe the product process for me?"
- "How do you introduce new processes?"
- "How do problems get exposed and fixed?"
You may need to tweak some questions to be more tech-oriented but it's a great starting point.
You've probably heard of the Myers Briggs test that has been around for over sixty years. It's the most-used personality assessment tool and is comprised of four scales (E-I, S-N, T-F, and J-P) to classify individuals into one of 16 personality types (i.e. INTP, ESFJ, etc). It's frequently used to help identify social interaction styles and individual career paths.
However, it's also useful for analyzing team dynamics. Once each team member has taken the Myers Briggs, turn to these other free online resources to compare the work styles between any two personality types. For instance, the INTP (the Engineer) likes to use logic and evidence to resolve conflict while the the ENFP (the Advocate) prioritizes harmony and whether individual needs have been met. Understanding why each perspective is valuable in advance makes it easier to overcome those inevitable impasses in the moment.
Happy Team Building!
About the guest blogger: Elaine Wherry was co-founder and chief experience officer (CXO) for Meebo, which was acquired by Google in 2012. Prior to starting Meebo, Wherry worked at Synaptics as a Human Factors Researcher and later became the manager of Usability and Design. Image credit: Domitille Parent via Flickr.