Thoughts on Team Building

The last post suggested constructing a fighting robot machine as a team building exercise. As a sole proprietor for the last eleven years, I am a bit out of the loop on the current thinking on this once “hot topic.” Many “Ropes Courses” have appeared in parks and campgrounds, but they may get no more use than the world class Frisbee golf course in the park across the street from me.

Over the years, I participated in a number of professionally developed programs that were supposed to overcome personal conflicts and mold the staff into a smooth- running managing machine. Some thought to do this via physical challenges — e.g., the ropes course — or through sports such as golf, tennis, or bowling.

When a gear shop had over 1,000 employees, the sports angle worked great. Departments fielded squads, people got to know each other, and massive amounts of adult beverages were consumed. Over time, things deteriorated with “ringers” and “transfers” brought in by overly competitive “leaders.” As headcounts declined it got difficult to justify the sports budget.

The best “teams” I worked on were forged by challenging projects. My walkie-talkie- tossing co-worker (see Tuesday’s blog) was a genius at figuring out “workarounds” so parts could still progress despite someone breaking a critical tool, scrapping a key forging, or forgetting to order some bearings. Another guy with a “salty” reputation might give you a dozen reasons why you were a worthless waste of oxygen before quietly going out of his way to juggle a dozen machine schedules to get your problem part expedited.

Nothing gets everyone moving in the same direction more than an intense desire to get a tough project over with. If you have ever worked a mill shutdown in the dead of winter, you will probably agree with me. Those old buildings only get warm from process heat, and until you get that process back online, you will be freezing your butt off. Similarly, nothing tastes better than an adult beverage and a good pizza after you and your “teammates” finally get a sign-off and can go home.

Attempts to force camaraderie via a contrived psychological experiment never impressed me, but I was tagged early on as someone who “worked well independently.” What do you think of team building as a company activity?”

About Charles D. Schultz 611 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

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