The first thing HR professionals ask about a team building program is its ROI for the company. Clients are becoming more conscious of their returns on team building programs. Why? Because hundreds of companies waste hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue every year on “Team Building” programs that do not produce the desired results. The programs fail to develop a team atmosphere within their organizations. The term “Team Building” has itself become a bit confusing. So much is being offered today at the name of team building that the client gets perplexed. In order to ensure ROI on team building one should ask this question to oneself. How do I define team building? I read somewhere that “team building is any exercise or program that helps a group of INTERDEPENDENT people create LONG-TERM behavior change resulting in a more efficient or productive culture”. In my experience, the first question that the training department of an organization should response before organizing a team building program is “Is the group of people being sent on team building training is interdependent?” When I go to a company for need analysis of a team building session, my first question to the concerned person is “Do you believe that the success of each member of the group depends primarily on the success of the other members of the group?” For instance, the success of the operations department might depend heavily on the success of the sales department which might depend heavily on the success of the marketing department. Conducting a team building program among the managers or employees of these departments at the same time might be beneficial. However, in many cases the success of each individual sales person does not probably depend primarily on the success of the other sales people. If you don’t keep these things in mind, as a sales manager you might end up spending money on a team building program that does not produce the desired outcomes for you. When I confirm the fact that the group is interdependent, then the next question I ask is “What kind of things are happening within this group that lets me know they are not acting efficiently as a team?” or “What areas can we improve in as a result of this team building initiative?” I also ask more specific questions to determine individual areas for improvement such as the following: Are there conflicts which bring down morale? Are there areas of mis-communication that slow down processes or cause to work? To what extent the departments focus on their own success at the expense of other departments? Is it tough for new employees to fit in with the experienced team members? Are changes in policy resisted by team members? Do team members feel as though they have no say? These questions help the team leader determine what types of team building programs might be most effective for his group. If the person still finds it difficult to determine the individual areas that would have the most dramatic impact on the performance of the group, we run assessments that can be conducted on a one-on-one or group basis to the entire team. In the next step, we help the leader in determining the right program for the group. Pursuant to complete analysis we determine what kind of a program will give his team improvement in the most areas that he has identified, and which will give his team long-term improvement so that he will not have to continually repeat the training process over time. Team building is not a fashion. It is a serious activity. Without proper analysis and evaluation of specific issues within the team, team building can just prove to be the wastage of money, time and company resources. It will fall short of objectives set by the training / HR department. Keep your eyes wide open; stay focused, research well; spend reasonable amount of time in assessing the actual need for the team development. Ignoring these guidelines will fail to ensure ROI on a team building initiative. Content by Anne Thornley Brown