Team Building is Building a Team. Easy, right?!

Where to begin?

Mary E. Henningsen
Jun 29, 2018 · 5 min read

Seems pretty straightforward. Sounds like something that all organizations should work on, especially when people are required to work in teams together!

Team building activities are actions that workers engage in to build and strengthen relationships between them. Successful team building can increase motivation among team members, improve communication and productivity within the group, and also spark new and creative ideas for solving problems and reaching the team’s goals and objectives. Good team building should ideally be planned in advance, but sometimes we inevitably do things on the fly, and that’s ok too!

You might consider forming a team building planning committee to include representatives from the group or teams that you are hoping to develop. As a pre-team building exercise, canvas their ideas about activities that might be fun, interesting and beneficial for them. Let the excitement build, and then do your best to surprise them!


Way back in 1965, an educational psychologist and group dynamics researcher from Ohio State University named Bruce Wayne Tuckman, developed the Tuckman Four Phases of Group Development that we still refer to today. The four phases are: forming, storming, norming and performing, and a fifth phase, adjourning, was added in 1977.

According to The Five Stages of Team Development: A Case Study, by Gina Abudi, here is a brief review of the Tuckman phases commonly experienced by new teams as they grow and learn to function effectively:

· Forming — the team meets and shares background information about themselves. They learn about their project’s objectives and goals, and what role each team members might play.

· Storming — the team members starts working and competing with each other for status on the team and recognition of their ideas. This stage is inevitable, and it passes once the team members get more comfortable with each other and their respective roles. This stage requires careful observation and facilitation by the team leader.

· Norming — the team starts working well toward team goals, with team members following protocols and routines that have developed during the forming and storming stages. The leader observes for effective collaboration and coaches the team members to keep things moving forward.

· Performing—the team is functioning at a very high level with all it’s members collaborating and relying on one another to reach their goals. High functioning teams at this stage operate interdependently with little oversight. Keep in mind that not all teams reach this stage without some intervention by the leader; some may even revert backwards. Team building activities might be one solution to get the group back on track.

· Adjourning — the team’s work is winding down and this is the time to worry about their well-being, documenting best practices and learning for future projects. More importantly, to celebrate the team’s accomplishments!

When teams cannot move beyond any of these stages; for example when they can’t resolve conflict during the forming stage, it may be necessary to take a time out from the work to do some team building!

There are so many ideas and resources online you can access, or certainly expensive consultants you can hire, to get some great ideas for team building activities. You may decide to spend just a few hours here and there, or a whole day outside of the office to work on building more harmonious and effective teams. That much is up to you!

To find some inspiration about team building exercises you can start by searching through the plentiful TED Talks on team building and building a better work culture. Here are 3 Timeless TED Talks that inspire better teamwork from the Weekdone blog. Global talent management agency, Robert Half International, recommends these 5 Inspirational TED Talks to help you assess your team culture.

Noticeably, Tom Wujec’s 2010 TED Talk Build a Tower, Build a Team appears on both of these lists! In his talk about design and problem solving, Wujec reminds the audience of the famous design challenge called the “Marshmallow Challenge”. The challenge is for teams to build the tallest free-standing tower they can in under 18 minutes using only 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string and one small marshmallow.

After engineers and architects, who do you think successfully builds the tallest structures?? Kindergarten students!

Children are competent!

The “why” falls right in line with some of the Tuckman five phases of group development. The kindergarten kids skip over the forming and storming stages and go right to norming and performing. They prototype and refine their work collaboratively in order to successfully complete the group task, without competing for position in the team. When you add a good facilitator to help manage the process, they do even better.

The marshmallow challenge is just one cool example of a kind of team building activity any team leader can introduce to encourage better team collaboration. This challenge, in particular, helps uncover some hidden assumptions among team members.

Wujec asserts that effective team building is about learning together and growing through a shared experience. With some good coaching and facilitation of team building activities, teams can build a common language and common sense about how to better move toward reaching the team’s goals.

Together, we did it!

Aimee's Blog

Aimee is a digital space for youth to create bios, showcasing their passions, activities and achievements. Join our community.

Mary E. Henningsen

Written by

Passionate about education, animal welfare & politics. My favorite places to recharge are spending time in the mountains or in the water!

Aimee's Blog

Aimee is a digital space for youth to create bios, showcasing their passions, activities and achievements. Join our community.

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