Experience Sharing by Dr. Vishwanath Lele

My experience with the outbound team building training programme

I came to know about the outbound team building training programme in 1999. I was working as an Engineer. Twenty team members from our department went to the exotic place for three days. The place was really the nice, close to the nature and an excellent staying arrangement. Two trainers cum consultants were appointed by the organization.

Lot of fun activities were conducted by them and after each activity both conducted debriefing sessions.  On the closing session, we sat in a circle and we listened to the nice meaningful song. I was fully charged up and motivated. All of us did the two resolutions, every day morning before we began our work we would do a group exercise and we would write the hand written thank you notes for our team members. If we had the good experiences or received the suggestion from them.  Lateron this programme was repeated across the organization. At least 20 teams participated in this programme. Our senior leaders participated with their spouses. All of them were highly impressed.

For two weeks, we were doing the group exercise before beginning of the work and sending the thank you notes. The trainers came for half a day for follow up session.  After the third week situation started coming to a nought and after a month the team effectiveness wore out completely. This was my first experience with the outbound training programme. I left with the thought why the outbound training went wrong?

In 2008 when I was heading the HR Department with a giant chemical manufacturing organization. One suggestion came from the top management was to organize the outbound training programme before our annual strategic planning meeting.  We went out of the office, trainer conducted ‘Prisoners Dilemma game’. We decided trust is the foundation for the team effectiveness. All of us were charged up! The final activity was the fire walk activity. Again, we had the excellent experience. Within a month original team issues hindering the team performance started emerging one after the other. We concluded that the outbound training didn’t add desired value. Our reflection was, without giving much thought on the expected outcomes one shouldn’t carry this intervention.

My own reflection after attending the various outbound training programmes, this is one of the mean to sensitise you team. Deeper issues are organization culture, leadership team’s commitment and lack of clarity on the reward and consequences if the team norms are not followed.

Team building is a long-term journey. The team effectiveness will not improve by a few outbound training programmes, unless deeper issues are addressed.

Do share your experience regarding outbound training programme.

Dr Vishwanath Lele

Contact id: – vishwanath@people-builders.com