Team Building Exercises (Or Not)

Today someone posted the following on a listserver to which I subscribe:

I have a consulting assignment in a few weeks with a board of a
professional membership association.

While most of the time will be spent in building an annual action plan
from their strategic plan, the Board President said there are a few
"camps" within the board.  He’s requested a couple team building
exercises: one fun and one more serious.

Although a major focus of my work is teams, I end up reeling, most of the time, at the use of the phrase “team building.” The notion expressed above is common: that teams can be built through a combination of both fun and serious exercises.

It doesn’t work like that. I wrote about this in the Always Done It That Way book.

But I will add that there is nothing inherently wrong with “exercises” (both fun and serious). My reply on the listserver mentioned the fact that I’ve seen many Boards use simple “ice breakers” that are fun and help the group get to know each other a bit more deeply. This won’t “build” the team necessarily, but it does contribute to the development of trust (it’s easier to trust people you know), so it can play an important role. The group above is not going to resolve it’s “camp” issue by doing two exercises, but the right exercises could help build the trust they will need to have that more difficult conversation.