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Team Building/Strategic Planning

Although I have used and designed a number of methods to help groups get on the same page or do strategic planning, the one I favor is Team-based Group Assessment, as designed by the late Brendan Reddy.

I like to use it because it’s fast and energizing and gives people who participate a sense of ownership in the results of the process. I’ve used it for simple team-building to very elaborate strategic planning sessions. For the latter, please see this case study and this one.

To get a sense of the method in action, picture a room on which three walls are filled with about a dozen individual sheets of flip chart paper, spaced a few inches apart from each other. Each chart contains distinct individual exercises or activities that are designed to allow the group to assess its ability to handle conflict, its skill at decision-making, its sense of cohesiveness – plus other factors.

After a brief explanation of the method, the consultant (me!) tells the team that they will shortly go to the flip charts and complete the activities. She then describes the activities in detail and tells the group that it’s time to get to work.

Team members thoughtfully get to work on filling out the flip charts or writing their answers on Post-It notes that they then transfer to the flip-charts. There is a sense of heightened energy as the group completes its task. Then, the group walks around as if in an art gallery, and individuals compare their thoughts about the group to the perceptions of others. This part is done in silence.

Next, subgroups form and these subgroups are asked to identify the major themes the data on the wall suggest about the team. The group reforms as a whole, and each subgroup relates its conclusion.

After some discussion, the group as a whole then votes on the themes that best describe the group’s functioning.

After lunch, new subgroups form and these groups use the consensus themes to identify action steps for improving the team’s functioning. After each subgroup explains its action steps, the group as whole votes on the best choices, thereby creating the rudiments of an action plan.

During the remainder of the meeting, the group decides on a means to implement this plan.

Individual Versus Group Assessment

Pros  Cons
• Fast and energizing

• Promotes skill of collaboration

• Consistent with team-building concept

• Promotes team ownership of results of the process

• Requires facilitator skill

• Not usually indicated for academic/technical people

• Demands motivation on part of the group to improve its functioning

• Won’t work for group relying on consultant to solve group’s issues.