The Team Building Away Day – And Why They Never Work


“In order to strengthen the concept of team working and/or cross sector team working, part of the awarding authority’s training budget is allocated to teams/regions for development days out of the office. Corporate training days for all the awarding authority’s staff are also held three times per annum, with the aim of promoting communication and sharing …”

I see this sort of thing on an almost daily basis – and it drives me mad!

An ‘authority’ with silos and poor cross-sectoral working thinking things will be fixed with some time out of the office teambuilding.

When teams start solving problems involving planks, barrels, rafts, pretend minefields/alligators/swamps and so on, team work will come shining through, because it will be incentivised, praised and rewarded. Trainers will look for behaviours that lead to good teamwork and cross departmental collaboration (open, honest communication, good listening etc) and will reward these behaviours with affirming feedback, praise and a warm cup of Bovril. Behaviours that undermine good teamwork will attract adjusting feedback and suggestions for behaviours that might work better. Team performance will be compared and clear winners and losers will be established – and no-one will want to lose.

The trainers will do what good managers would be doing every day. Observing what people do, comparing it to what the organisations requires from them and providing feedback and coaching.

Instead of burning the training budget with expensive off-sites and corporate training days the ‘authority’ should invest in setting up a process for clarifying the kinds of behaviours and outcomes that it wants to see in the organisation.

It should then set up a rigorous system of supervision and support (121s) so that every employee gets weekly feedback and coaching designed to encourage the desired behaviours and discourage the rest.

For a fraction of the cost of these ‘offsites’ the desired behaviours would become prevalent throughout the organisation within 6 months.


So the next time you find yourself asking your training department to set up a Team Building away day – just ask yourself if there might not be a better, more systematic and cost effective way of getting the results that you want.

Or better still – give me a call!

4 Responses

  1. My experience too (I did outdoor education as part of a post graduate certificate in education and worked for two years with the Outward Bound Trust) is that most times the recipients have lots of fun.
    However I don’t think that the authority is primarily looking to give their employees ‘fun’. They have real problems with silos and lack of co-operation across departments. Something that works will tackle these problems and ensure that they don’t come back in a hurry. This will not be achieved by an off-site or an awayday.

  2. My own experience of offsites and away days is that the attendees primarily want fun and more often than not they are very successful. Some of the least successful events I’ve seen are when too much work related stuff gets in the way of the fun and people become tired and irritable.

    Perhaps away days and training days are very different things.

  3. I thought long and hard about ‘never’ and decided to stick with it. The problem is not the lack of team working skills/knowledge/experience. It is in the context in which individuals are expected to work. Developing this context to encourage ‘teamworking’ (whatever that might mean specifically) has to be done in context. It is about getting the managers to manage effectively and positively .

  4. Never?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: