The Wonders or Perils of the One Day Team Workshop

Much of the work I do in team development is of a one session nature. We prepare, meet with the senior manager and staff, hone the aims and write a succinct, critical and professional summary or diagnosis. In the end though, much of the contact with the team is only short-term. Is this a bad thing? Should I apologize to my fellow consultants who look at short-term interventions with horror and disdain? Is the one day workshop just a form of entertainment on a par with stand up comedians and uplifting motivational speakers? Does anything less that a long and multi phased process have any positive effect?

Here are some of my observations and learnings:

  1. Do more good than bad. This is probably the most critical test. If during the preparation process it becomes evident that the process, no matter what the length, is going to do damage to individuals, the team or the team manager then pull out the red flag. Examples of this are the manager who plans to reorganize (hire, fire, demote) the week after the workshop or the manager that wants only fun but refuses to allow anything painful or controversial to come up leaving everyone frustrated.
  1. Where does the event fit into the overall plan? What has happened in developing the team prior to the workshop? What is planned afterwards? Does a consultant work with the team in the present or in the immediate past? If there is a coherent view of the place the team workshop takes in the team leadership’s vision then the green light can be lit. If this sounds like they are only going through the motions then avoid the approaching train wreck.
  1. Entertainment is mostly a passive activity. The entertainer tells stories, sings, dances, imparts wisdom and keeps everybody happy. I do not do any of these things. My aim is to keep bring people together, learning and challenged. The expectation is that the participants will push the envelope in discussions, activities, in giving feedback and even committing to a plan back in the work place should that be part of the day.DSC02883
  1. Sometimes regular consulting processes fail. I have worked with teams where previously the consultant has been banished, the problems have remained and the leaders are looking for a different platform. A short-term intervention just may be the ticket to get things rolling.
  1. A simple team survey can be used before and after the workshop to measure the effect of the process on the desired team behaviours. A tool can raise anticipation, keep everyone – the management, team members and facilitators – focused and quantify what went on, beyond the fun and good feeling that is often expressed.

Richard Milecki