Big teams? No problem

Studies show and experience confirms that small teams work better than large teams in team building events. Opinions vary on the ideal team size, but generally experts agree that between five to seven members per team works best for most tasks.

But sometimes circumstances dictate larger teams. While organizations can still pull off enjoyable, effective team building events with groups in excess of ten or twelve - we've done it for groups of twenty or more - these large groups require some adjustments on the part of all concerned.

Here are five key adjustments to make when conducting team building events for large (more than twelve member) teams:

1. Multiply team roles.

Team titles (like “runner” or “communicator”) are usually geared toward making sure everyone on an ideal-sized team has a role to play in the team’s success. But coming up with fifteen or twenty separate jobs and titles is a stretch for even the most experienced Game Director.

Instead, double up. Have two runners instead of one. Add a “team historian” to help the “scribe.” Instead of a “cheerleader,” have a “cheer squad.” Use your imagination.

2. Multiply team tasks.

If your team’s goal is normally to build one bike, make them build two. A one-mile relay can become a two-miler, and so on. Keep everyone busy and involved.

3. Re-evaluate and adjust the agenda.

Make sure you have at least one activity early in your schedule that requires participation by the entire team. The objective is for the entire team to bond, not just a subset that is willing to “take over” the agenda - often with willing acceptance by those sitting out.

4. Be prepared for arguments.

Few activities can sustain continued participation by every member of a large group for any length of time. Also, larger numbers increases the chance that personalities will clash. Thus, the larger the group, the greater the likelihood for conflict - within teams, across teams, and between participants and game directors.

Squabbles within teams usually can be managed by the individuals or teams themselves, but keep an eye out for conflicts that could lead to teams breaking down or causing other individuals to check out. Work quickly to help teams defuse issues that arise and get the team back on track.

Some participants may disengage from the activity and engage in anti-competitive activities with participants from other teams. For example, in a bike build, they may “steal” tools or parts from another team. Be extra vigilant and work quickly to stamp out such activities. Hefty “fines” (time or point penalties) usually works well to discourage that behavior.

Others may feel that arguing with Game Directors might help their team find solutions to the puzzles or challenges. This makes the Game Director’s job much more challenging. Again, be quick to adjudicate and make sure that any assistance or clues offered to any one team is shared with all of the other teams at the same time. I usually don’t even respond directly to the individual making the challenge but instead I address the entire group, first repeating the question or challenge and then providing my response.

5. Add Game Directors and Assistants.

This may seem obvious, but some team building companies simply don’t have the staff or foresight to staff up as the group’s numbers rise. We find the most success with one game director for every 4-5 teams of 5-8 players, but expanding team size increases the complexity of the games almost as much as increasing the number of teams. Providing assistants to the game directors allows for better support for each player, which helps the teams succeed.

Large-team events can succeed, with a little foresight and planning. Experienced team building firms know how to make the adjustments and make your event work for you.



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