Last week I ran a strategy/team-building day for a newly merged department of around 30 people. Part of the day was about the goals of the department, the reporting lines and key deliverables. The other part of the day was about getting to know each other and how to work together as a team.
We decided to keep it theory light, but (in reference to the fact that they were a NEW team) we did cover Tuckman – just to reassure them that it would get harder before it got easier, and that was normal and actually could be quite a good thing.
To illustrate this, we went to an Escape Room. With 30 people we had 6 groups, so during the activity, my associate and I observed 3 groups each – approximately 15 minutes each. It was very illuminating!
The group I was with first were a bit shell-shocked by the whole situation. They didn’t know what to do, everyone was reluctant to take control, no-one said much, it was all quite polite and although some people did start to fiddle with some of the props and puzzles, they did so alone. There was very little communication. As an experienced Escape Roomer, I found it frustrating, but couldn’t step in – it wasn’t my role, but it was clear that they needed guidance. Classic “forming” behaviour as described in Tuckman’s Model. I really didn’t think they would make it out in time, but clearly once I left, something clicked, as they did.
I then went to observe the second group, who had been working together for 20 minutes. There was a bit more energy here, and they were clearly trying different things. They still lacked direction and whilst still very polite, they were asking lots of questions and making lots of different suggestions about what they should do, but not really listening to each other. They were trying things, but giving up easily, not seeing things through, talking over one another, talking each other OUT of certain actions and getting frustrated with the lack of progress. Again, because of my experience, I could see that they were on the right lines with a lot of things, but they didn’t have the confidence or common approach to see things through. Classic “storming” behaviour.
By the time I got to the third group, they were well on their way. I didn’t ONCE feel the urge to help them out – they clearly had it all in hand. They were working at pace, they had some sort of informal system worked out – tasks were divided up, they trusted each other to complete the tasks they were working on, and IF that person was struggling, they asked for help and allowed someone else to try. Communication was clear, focused and constant. They listened to each other and trusted the solutions their colleagues provided. One team member realised that she wasn’t as good as the others at solving the clues, so positioned herself at the door with 6 locks and took the codes from her team mates, methodically trying them. They cheered when a lock was opened, they didn’t blame each other when they got something wrong, and escaped the room with time to spare. Real “norming” and “performing” behaviour!
Although I’ve run exercises in the training room to explore these stages before, this worked brilliantly because it was “real”: they were totally immersed in the task for 60 minutes, working with people they didn’t know well, in a situation where they had to quickly learn to work as a team to succeed.
Of course, the debrief is all important, so we took care to analyse the behaviour in the game and link back to behaviour at work – what worked well, and the potential pitfalls to look out for, and how they could have got to performing more quickly!
If you want to run an active bite-size session on team development, check out these materials from Power Hour Training. It doesn’t require an escape room, but there are lots of alternative activities to try!