Why do you need to do any of this?
Team building is a difficult task to accomplish but is essential in the creation of a quality product. A team of people who have become invested and passionate about a project are more willing to work harder and more likely to provide a higher quality of work. They will also make your life a lot easier, being more likely to follow through with task deadlines and make themselves more available for you.
In our instructions of how to report on post-mortems, we were instructed to avoid describing successes as “try to work with ‘Bob'”, Bob being the one person on your team who pulled the whole project through and made everything just… work.
Team building is essentially turning every team member into a ‘Bob’.
The aim is to generate a passion for the project in everyone working on it. Create a strong emotion for the project in each team member, as emotion is an insanely powerful driving force. It is what advertising aims to do in only a few seconds and is so powerful that there is a whole industry behind it. Here is a quick explanation of how that works. You don’t need to use these particular techniques to get your team to feel anything for your project, but you do need to sell it to them, this is why we have pitched to other students to get them to work on our teams, rather than having them equally assigned.
You don’t need to use these particular techniques to get your team to feel anything for your project, but you do need to sell it to them, this is why we have pitched to other students to get them to work on our teams, rather than having them equally assigned.
Be a good leader, above all else.
There are a lot of resources available on becoming a good leader, however, most of it will seem disingenuous.
The main points you should focus on is avoiding hypocrisy, delegate tasks equally, be aware of the needs of your team members, be positive, avoid shaming and know (and have passion for,) your project.
Always remember that these team members are people, not resources. If they have failed to complete a task, it is most likely your own fault, for not understanding why they could not do it and working out a solution.
Yet another well-known subject that is commonly mocked or treated with disdain. Most situations in which you may have experienced this will be some horribly artificial ‘team building task’ and you may find yourself rolling your eyes at just the mention of this. You do not want to create this situation yourself, as it will do very little to help build a tightly knit team or a passion for your project.
Instead, the entrance into a team building exercise should feel very natural, like simply allowing for the forming of a conversation. At the end of meetings, I did not close off the call but instead asked people questions about how their other projects were going, or their interests.
As a team, we played around and made jokes, learned more about each other. This also helped to find out about specific tasks that each member would excel at or struggle with, allowing for task management procedures or management styles to evolve into what was needed to effectively look after my team and ensure tasks were being completed.
Some of the team also took part in a ‘multiplayer drawing session’ using the google draw tool. As a team, we had a lot of fun together and developed in-jokes and a team identity.
The team members who were involved in this told me that they felt much more a part of a team after this session than before, and had a greater interest in not ‘letting the team down’
That is the main goal of team building, exercises or strategies.
The main issues with setting up a task list or breakdown that I have come across is the insurmountable task size of breaking everything down, allocating time and resources to each task and somehow divining all of these required tasks before the full requirements of the project are realized. I am mainly not fond of Gantt charts and would not wish them upon my worst enemy, let alone the new bonds forming amongst a team of people who may not have met each other yet.
What I found to be successful was to create a more ‘general’ task list, that did not require full completion within its conception for it to be useful, instead relying more heavily on its iteration and upkeep. Due to it being set up in a google drive sheet, it was also available to each team member to update their own tasks as they were completed, rather than one person needing to spend an hour every day updating everyone’s tasks.
Everyone was allocated to each of the tasks, and required to assign their own deadline and estimated time, so each of these tasks could be transferred into a Gantt chart when available.
It did not require each task to be broken down into separate tasks, but allowed for that, and also allowed for these separate tasks to be swapped out between team members, but left the person originally assigned to the task culpable for that swapped out sub-task in charge of keeping track of the work (this divided the job of tracking task completions down amongst the team. the sheet kept track of these changes, making it simple for each member to remember who was working on what)
Regular meetings are very important, they should be scheduled out and everyone should make themselves available for them. Plan out topics, structure your meetings, as this will help your team feel as though there is structure throughout the entire project.
These meetings should be used to go over tasks that are due and find out any developing blockers like required research for lack of skill.
This time can also be used to show to each team member and the team as a whole, the effect that their work is having on a project, for example, my team of animators were creating all of the models required in the game, so I showed them where their models were placed in the game, so they could see how they looked in engine, what they were being used for and how they affected the scene overall.
This should help give closure to the team member, seeing the culmination of their efforts and getting a chance to sit in the spotlight, allowing the team to give praise for their hard work while also incentivising other team members to put their best efforts in for their own work.
Not all people will wish to share this spotlight, though, so you need to identify as early as you can those who would find themselves uncomfortable in this scenario, so you can quietly praise them.
This also sets up a good environment to provide feedback or ask for changes that are required in the task, as team members should be in a generally good mood.
I had my meetings set up for every night at 8:00 pm, so I asked my team members to set cascading deadlines for each of their task milestones, this way several members will have completed some part of their tasks for each meeting. This helped to keep a positive attitude amongst the team and also allowed me to spread out the task of confirming that each task was completed and determine if it needed any further work, rather than having to do everything at once. It also offered more control over scaling workloads up or down and gave me the ability to reassign tasks before their group of tasks were due, so I did not find out something was not completed after they were due to be put into the project itself.
It also offered more control over scaling workloads up or down and gave me the ability to reassign tasks before their group of tasks were due, so I did not find out something was not completed after they were due to be put into the project itself.
Remember that this is not a place for public shaming, nor should that be any part of your management structure. You may find that some team members are either not completing tasks on time or at all or their provided work is sub-par. This needs to be handled carefully.
You need to ensure that they are aware that their work is not good enough while focussing on finding out what the problem is and fixing that. The best way to help is have the team work together on finding a solution, like swapping out tasks or offering help or instruction on how to better complete the task.
Remember to ensure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and the next tasks that they are due to complete.
Do some research on team building techniques, like exercises or find the standards of successful businesses and the stuff they do to get their team members to get more invested in their projects. What about you? have you been a part of any great (or terrible) team building exercises? share your experiences in the comments!