Twice a year, my management team and I plan an offsite even for all of our supervisors and managers (13-17 total). We use these events to get to know one another better and to rally around a common goal (increase efficiency in department, reduce turn over, etc.) and have done a lot of the typical team building things like race go-carts, go on a scavenger hunt and sell girl scout cookies in front of grocery stores as examples.

Question to the forum users (almost 100 of us)... what are some of the events you've hosted or been a part of?

- Dave

pinzraider's picture

Each summer our management team goes on a retreat to a small ski resort town a few hundred miles away. About 10 people usually go. We spend the time working on our vision and goals for the upcoming year, as well as hiking, bowling, gambling at the local casino, and yes - drinking. I think it is a great opportunity to get to know people a little better as we have several offsite workgroups that don't have frequent contact. We also get an amazing ammount of quality work done.

Brent's picture

This wasn't a management team retreat [i]per se[/i], but when my current project finished a major milestone, we raced go-karts once, and we went bowling another time.

In my opinion, the bowling was the better time. Go-karts just got adrenaline-fueled competitive, whereas the bowling was more relaxed. And it was easier to grab some food (the company provided a small but ample buffet).

Mark's picture


Thanks for your responses to Dave. I'd just like to add something tangentially related to his question.

Team building doesn't happen in those off-sites. Don't get me wrong, I love them, they're fun. Go for it.

But you don't need to go off-site, and I would argue it's fundamentally counter to team building.

All team building is trust building. All trust comes from strong relationships. All relationships are built on communication.

All communication is evaluated by the listener with two dimensions: quantity and quality. That means, someone with whom you are attempting to build trust will ask themselves two questions:

1. How often does this person talk to me? (This is terribly underrated).

2. Does what they talk about have value to me? (That's the quality piece).

If you want to build teams, increase communication amongst the members about things that are important to them.


(Best way to do this? One on ones.)

MattJBeckwith's picture

Mark, I disagree that team-building doesn't happen at off-site events. Based on schedules and different roles, some of these managers rarely interact with others in the group. Last summer we all met for dinner after work at a nice local restaurant and just talked. Just the "get to know you" time was great. I am not suggesting that I take my staff off-site to build teams with them, I am saying that once or twice a year we get out of the office for a couple of hours, or half-a-day, and have some fun. They do not replace one-on-ones, or team meetings or any communication. They allow my managers to work together (or just sit down and have a great meal without the worry of time).

I was just hoping to get some good ideas. Frankly, I looked at a few categories before I posted the question to Influence & Persuasion category. Couldn't, then, almost every question such as this be answered with more and better communication and more and better one on ones.

I appreciate the point you are making but would still like to hear other ideas.

tom.evans's picture

... and I would argue it's fundamentally counter to team building.

Mark, please elaborate more on this statement. My company seems to view it as the only way to solve communications problems and do team-building. I would love to know where they are going wrong, conceptually.

Brent's picture

[quote="tom.evans"]My company seems to view [team building] as the only way to solve communications problems and do team-building.[/quote]

I'm certainly not Mark, but here's my take on it:

If a company can't solve communications problems and make teams better during the regular work-week, then that company has really fundamental problems. Going out in the woods and doing falling exercises might help cameraderie and get people to talk about some things, but it won't make a team significantly more effective in doing its work in the long term.

At least, that's what I think.

Mark's picture


First, to Dave's solid point, a correction and some elaboration.

I erred in what I wrote. I MEANT to write, "team building doesn't happen ONLY at those off-sites." DANG! :D

That said, let me elaborate further, and attempt to dissuade you that that change makes a huge difference. It doesn't, in my opinion.

Team building happens through frequent communication of high quality. That builds trust, trust builds teams.

The point I was stumbling around trying to make was that if you take someone off-site with the expressed intent of team building, there is a set of inferences drawn that are counterproductive to your (supposed) intent.

The vast majority of managers I know are mostly clueless about team building. Look, no offense, but they DO NOT KNOW about trust building and communication. They don't know that you can absolutely build teams without ever leaving the office. So, when they tell their teams that they're going to do team building, and it's at an off-site, they essentially send a message that teams are built off-site. Without specifically describing what the connection is between the location, the activities, and the outcome, the "team" is left with a vague sense that team building is "something that happens somewhere else."

That leads to my point about it being counter-productive. If the team thinks team building happens somewhere else, then they don't see it as happening very much in the office/at work. This reduces the manager's ability to build his or team.

And this says NOTHING about the COST of team building activities. Budgets send messages too, and this message is, "I have to pay to build my team." Yes, it also says, "I'm willing to pay to build my team," but the team KNOWS that one ought to be able to do so without paying - they've been a part of teams before - cheerleading, debate, football, little league, drama - that didn't cost a dime.

How IS is that so many organizations have such wonderful teams WITHOUT such activities? Because they do all the other stuff well enough they can save on the outing.

CAN you have team building at an off-site.? SURE. Like I said, go for it, it can work. But it has to be made so crystal clear... and I've never seen a manager do it. For instance, Dave mentioned "getting to know" was valuable. Other than the fact that you don't have to go off-site to do that, did you TELL everyone that those moments were CRITICAL, and you wanted them to not consider them ancillary, but rather of PRIMARY value, and that meant sticking out your hand ;-) even when you were tired?

I have more to say, but would love to hear responses to what I have shared so far.


Brent's picture

Well put, Mark, and that's basically what I meant by my post.

Mark's picture

Brent et al-

I meant to say, in my post, "What Brent said," and somehow forgot it or deleted it out of one of the drafts. My bad. You said it more economically.

Were I a better writer or had I more time, mine would have been shorter. Apologies to Pascal.


Brent's picture

Ha! No need to apologize, Mark; I thought you were providing an expanded take on the situation. I was just offering my support for your more detailed explanation.

You rock.

esanthony's picture

Ok I will just say this really quick. Mark is dead on with communication at work being the PRIMARY piece of the puzzle without it there is no team. I think that the key here is that off-sites can create breakthroughs in relationships that are not as likely to happen at work. Therein lies the value of off-sites. Getting out of the office environment can cause a paradigm shift and in turn causes breakthroughs in communication which last after your team goes back to the office.

tom.evans's picture

[quote="esanthony"]... which last after your team goes back to the office.[/quote]

This last part of your statement does not strike me as necessarily true. I was watching the movie "Remember the Titans" a couple of days ago. Those boys learned how to be a team while off at football camp over the summer. When they went back to school and faced racial pressures of the school and the town, everything immediately fell apart.

I don't think the transition of everything learned back to the office is automatic.

esanthony's picture

In that case I would agree Tom. But the office environment is much more homogenous. A high school football team has many more social and environmental (not to mention hormonal) forces working on it than the members of a team in an office. Even the time spent working together is drastically different. A high school footbal team at most is together probably 15 hours per week. They are in school about double that. A project team spends 40+ hours per week together.

Also, my point was not about what they learned. It was about breaking barriers in communication.

Sorry, just my 2 cents.


Brent's picture

Does anyone know of any studies that have been done on this?

Has anyone actually measured the effectiveness of a business team before and after they've been on a retreat? I can't recall ever seeing any solid numbers.

Obviously, this is something that can't be exactly measured, but we should have something to go on to prove the effectiveness of these things.

Mark's picture

I don't, but I think it will happen, or already has but some pointy-headed academic hasn't figured out that publishing broadly outside the schools community might help thier funding immensely.

I guarnatee, though, the funding to do it would be to abolish it. The costs are too high relative to what smart executives know can be done with day to day managerial discipline.


MattJBeckwith's picture

Actually, there's a formula:

e(OSE) = (qual(O3)^(((O3)*n)*((O3)-(O3-1)))) + (qual(com)^(((com)*n)*((com)-(com-1)))) / (p + r + (ex*-1) + (f*-1) + ($*-100))*(OSE)

The effectiveness of the off-site event is equal the quality of the O3, to the power of the quantity of O3's multiplied by the frequency + the quality and quantity of the communication... blah, blah, blah divided into the professionalism, relevance, extravagance (negatively), frequency (negatively) and price (100x negatively).

Mark, thanks for clarifying your point.

I think we all pretty much agree... "team building" does not a team make!

Mark's picture

I love it!


esanthony's picture

Awesome Dave!!!! Love it!

bflynn's picture

Since this old thread popped up, a new thought entered my mind - team building off site is like a really intense O3...which is like starving yourself 4 times a year and calling it a diet.

I've heard something like that somewhere before, but can't remember where (tongue firmly planted in cheek).