Companies become more effective, efficient and productive when it runs like a well-oiled machine, meaning that its parts are running smoothly in a persistently well-coordinated manner. Since workers are the force behind a company’s productiveness, they are the ‘parts’ that need to combine and conform as a team under the company’s primary goal to launch it into success. In fact, one of the most profitable pharmaceutical corporations in Europe, Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare attributes its success on the effectiveness of its self-directed teams. However, talented individuals, used to having their own motivations and setting their own goals, will find it hard to share and collaborate with other similarly oriented members of the workforce, especially if they are residing in different parts of the world. Hence teambuilding is now a recognized endeavor that companies spend time and effort to establish. The case study under review explores how a large multinational company is able to establish the concept of “team-playing” among its thousands of employees coming from diverse social and educational backgrounds. By analyzing the event’s activities and the participant’s reactions, the paper aims to establish the type of team building activity the event fosters, determine its effectiveness, and examine the specific practices in the event that help team members become more cohesive.
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The Power Point study guide to chapter 8 of the textbook maintains that team building programs should be able to efficiently help each team member achieve the 5C’s of team member competencies, namely: communicate, cooperate, coordinate, comfort, and conflict resolution. In an environment where the participants come from a diverse culture and educational background, it is imperative that they recognize, accept and understand each member’s diversity, learn from them and acknowledge each member as essential parts of the team – the transition from “them” to “us” – in order to form the team. Then they have to learn to communicate effectively, establish specific roles and coordinate their knowledge and skills through practice until a routine is formed and their competency become established. Finally the study guide describes an effective team as one that is able to accomplish task, satisfy member needs and maintain team survival.
The company being reviewed in the case study has acknowledge that their frequent worker lay-offs in previous years have fostered a “one man for himself” corporate culture that is less than ideal for encouraging team work. Hence they resolved to create a healthier culture via their annual Eco Seagate that aims to put people in unique situations that will require them to rely and work with others to reach a common goal.
Large multinational companies like Seagate employ thousands of talented people of varied social and cultural backgrounds. The diverse culture of its workforce in itself is already a major obstacle to working as a team since it may place members in conflicting beliefs, values and assumptions that others may find hard to accept. Moreover, these workers are located in different states and regions of the world. They are often tasked to work as a team then coordinate their efforts with those of other teams worldwide via email and other internet methods of correspondence. Though efficient, such methods of communication lack the personal touch that makes people more open and agreeable to working as a team. Hence, teambuilding programs that contain specific activities that would develop workers’ ability to build self-confidence and leadership skills, overcome and learn from diversity, promote positive interpersonal communication and raise the level of trust should be developed. However, such programs require a considerable sum of money to enforce. The case study under review showed that the company Seagate has to spend $9,000 for each participant of their teambuilding program, hence this raises the question of whether such programs are worthwhile when compared to the over-all productivity and profitability of the company.
The principles of team building can be imparted to employees either via the traditional passive observational or experiential learning techniques. The passive observational method involves the typical classroom education wherein the fundamentals of team competency are delivered in a lecture format with examples given to convey emphasis and allow reflection on important aspects. In contrast, experiential learning involves the application of the principles of team building on actual activities that a person experiences.
In the case study under review, the outdoor experiential learning method was implemented. Williams, Graham, and Baker enumerated the advantages of experiential learning over that of passive observational technique. They proposed that the former promotes long-term learning as practical application provides more lasting impressions and enable the employee to apply the principles to his job. It also boosts the development of creative thinking by placing the employee in a unique situation not related to his work. And it improves conflict management and raises the level of trust by exposing each participant’s strengths, weaknesses and expectations to all members of the team.
Since Seagate aims on organizational culture change as the main focus of their teambuilding program, they utilized the large team type of teambuilding. Such a teambuilding type is geared to change the members’ attitudes and behavior so that they can improve their relationship with one another and be able to function as a well organized and harmonious team. Unfortunately, a team composed of more than five members cannot function well in a cramped indoor environment, hence the outdoor setting of the Rydges Lakeland Resort where the Eco Seagate was held proved ideal.
Furthermore, the organization of each member and team are reminiscent of their actual arrangement within the company. The participants were pre-assigned into four large tribes akin to one regional division of the company. Each tribe is further composed of ten regionally, and operationally diverse five-member teams similar to the functional working units within each division. Such organization will allow interactions between each culturally diverse member of the team, and between one team and another so that their tribe will reach the ultimate goal which is to win the race and gain honor. And since the activities are ones that the participants are unfamiliar with and would require their constant communication and cooperation, their barriers were broken down fast and their strengths were immediately presented so they can instantly designate specific roles in the team and survive the physically draining exercises. Hence the outdoor experiential technique like the one employed by the Eco Seagate is the most effective teambuilding training method to improve team relations.
The program was implemented with numerous factors designed to maintain cohesiveness. First, out of its 45,000 employees, only 200 were chosen to participate, thereby giving the participants a sense of triumph for being one of the selected few lucky enough to enter the program. And since the administrators have discussed goals with the participants at the onset of selection, the employees are already deeply committed to meet the goal upon their arrival at the site. Also, despite the large size of the group, the division of the individual tribes into smaller teams required shorter time for members to get to know one another, coordinate their roles and develop deeper involvements. Furthermore, the unfamiliar and physically draining activities that require constant interdependence among the group members served to strengthen their commitment to the team. Finally, the deep satisfaction they feel in being able to accomplish the task whether they win or lose is enough motivation for the members to stay with their team and finish the exercise.
These factors are the main reason why every participant in the Eco Seagate finished the exercises and race with nothing but praises for the program. The deep interpersonal bonding that the program allowed to develop between team members can be conducted into the office environment to head-start behavioral changes that can promote better worker relations and lead to a healthy corporate culture. Though the effect of teambuilding programs on productivity and overall job performance is still impossible to determine, a positive corporate culture is enough motivation for employees to become satisfied in their jobs and commit to their corporation’s goals.