Team away days - where nothing and no-one changes

Boring team building day
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It’s become a rather nasty obsession in the world of work: a team away-day or strategy day or team build or whatever. And I’m not even calling out cocktail making, drumming activities or constructing a plank-based walkway around the grounds of a conference centre to see how well we communicate, use our imagination and project ourselves into a pointless scenario.

I’m talking about the flipchart-strewn; post-it note heavy; discussion-based days when we’re going to do differently this year what we didn’t do last year.

Where we’re creating a behavioural charter to (largely) stop Mel from being such a grump. 

Where Jay, our new recruit following our acquisition of the minor competitor, will be asked to provide reflections on our culture - what we should stop; start and continue. Or for Jay to become even more alienated by naming our dysfunctions.

Where Jo, as leader of the team, takes a backseat. Except can’t stop chipping in and taking over.

Where Ash, hung over from the night before’s bonding in the bar exercise, falls asleep in the group’s presentation back on the strategic priorities for the Admin team.

THAT kind of strategy day. Having been on both ends of these, there’s two overriding frustrations on top of Mel, Jay, Jo and Ash’s stereotypical performance.


We’ll have the same strategy day the year after, just maybe tinkered with or excuses given around the failed objectives or the unforeseen strategic priorities which landed on the team sometime in July.


We call out how we’re going to co-operate more; be more tolerant of differences; more open in our feedback; share learning. Yet during the year, Mel’s still grumpy. Jay is more left out in the cold; Jo is still asserting and directing everything and Ash is on the third round of a capability review.

Next time someone asks for a day like this, suggest this becomes a regular conversation and not a one-off showpiece of team-ness. 

And maybe show them this article and ask what and who needs to change and why. And push for a brutally honest answer before booking the stately home library room and grabbing more post-it notes.

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28th Apr 2015 11:53

An excellent summary about the superficiality of Away-Days. Progress and change are not events but processes that need time. At ROCBaSE we work on wellbeing issues for increased productivity, via a thorough process of preparation, workshops, 1-1 work and follow-ups over a long period to ensure change is embedded into the corporate culture and train directors and managers in how to create both a culture of progress and sustainability of change in the organisation. There are a lot of charlatans out there who trade on the "must have it now" culture and who promise much but deliver nothing. Anton

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29th Apr 2015 12:34

Few points

1) Where you've got low employee engagement or an under-performing team, you're likely to get ineffective strategy days.

2) But in contrast, when there's momentum and you're building on good things, getting everyone together out of the office, can work well. Because of the momentum of the business, the strategic discussions will have moved on from a year ago, so as well as a sense of achievement, there'll be new aspects to debate.

3) I also feel that when a team is working well strategic thinking is happening at almost every turn of the wheel - it informs all conversations (professional and social), so a full day out might not be needed.

4) Returning to an under-performing team, a strategy day may or may not be the best approach. There may be people, product or market actions that are more important!

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05th May 2015 07:04

Before hours were lengthened and weekends sacrosanct, colleagues used to go away together. Chartering yachts, surfing shacks, or just a carpool up to the snow built a team that the Services would envy. Then HR and L&D formalised the idea and ***** it up.

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