A meta-analysis of data from 103 studies provides the strongest scientific evidence to date that team building can have measurable, positive effects on team performance. The original studies, conducted between 1950 and 2007 showed results that were weak or inconsistent. However, the 2009 study by a research team from the University of Central Florida and Army Research Institute looks at a large number of studies and their underlying data to reveal a clear picture. Specifically, they found evidence that four team-building components (goal setting, interpersonal relations, problem solving, and role clarification) are positively related to cognitive, affective, process, and performance outcomes.
The team says it was “beginning to find some positive empirical support for the effectiveness of these commonly applied team-development strategies.” The researchers looked specifically at activities “typically done in settings that do not approximate the actual performance environment.” In other words, the teams were not practicing their job skills together. Rather, they engaged in team building activities range from “outdoor experiential activities” to “group process discussions.”
The researchers ended up with a number of significant correlations between the different variables they looked at, including the goal of the each study and the size of the team. Team building activities had moderate positive effects on how people felt about their teams, and in improving processes. The link between team building and performance was also positive.
The goal of the team building made a difference. Goal-setting and role-clarifying activities had the strongest impact, but the team also found positive results for interpersonal relations and problem-solving.
Team size made a difference, with teams of 10 or more people gaining far greater benefit than smaller ones. The authors attribute this to larger teams having more problems and thus more room to improve. (Although studies of group dynamics suggest there would also be a wider range of possible responses in a larger group, which can feedback into creative solutions, and less likelihood that 1 person can stifle the process.)
The authors suggest when managers are deciding whether to do team building and what type, they need to consider the specific problems their teams are facing, the outcomes they desire, and team sizes.
Can cooking team building help improve your team performance? Yes, with the right guidance, team building culinary experiences can be a powerful physical metaphor for goal setting, interpersonal relations, problem solving, and role clarification. Chosing the right provider is essential here; make sure you’re getting more than a ‘happy snaps’ experience with a cafe cook to make the outcomes meaningful.
Source: Klein, C., et al. (09), “Does Team Building Work?” Small Group Research 40(2):181. http://sgr.sagepub.com/content/early/2009/01/06/1046496408328821.abstract