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Teamwork Training: Learning to Build a Successful Team


Teamwork is a process that can be experienced outdoors and well as in the workplace. A lesson learned in one environment can be applied equally well in another. Teamwork: We Have Met the Enemy and They Are Us, a book by Dr. Steven Stowell and Matt Starcevich, describes actual teams that have participated in a variety of outdoor teamwork training programs. These programs have been as long as five days and as short as one. Each account has been chosen as illustrative of one of the phases all teams go through in the progression from inception of a team to fully functioning interdependence. This sampling of teams has been selected for each particular event, one or another best illustrates why some teams work together better than others. Not all teams engage in the events reported here, nor are these events an exhaustive report of all the teamwork training actives that could be used to improve teams.

A majority of the accounts in this book describe teams that have failed to succeed at their assigned task. We focus on their failure to highlight those factors that contributed to the team’s demise. We do not to suggest that all these teams are failures. The best discussion and insights have resulted when the teams have had to explain why they did not accomplish their objective in a teamwork training event.

The client teams we work with already see themselves as effective. What they are seeking from us is teamwork training to improve on their effectives – to be stretched, tested, and to grow as a group. As we said before, not all teams fail, but these accounts are typical of how a majority of teams approach the outdoor challenges they face. As with an actual team, if you focus on success or failure, you will miss the important opportunity in exploring how the teams functioned in performing the tasks, or their processes.

Each account in this book has been written as an independent narrative followed by a summary of the key points that would have contributed to better teamwork. The summaries are in varied formats including a didactic approach, a panel of experts’ discussion, participants’ personal reflections, a fable, and the team’s own reflective discussion.

Our hope is that you can translate the outdoor teamwork training metaphors and summaries to the workplace and to situations within your own team. The crucial leap involves taking the lessons these teams have learned experientially and applying the concepts to improving your teamwork.

Like any journey, many different routes can be taken. You don’t have to read the book from cover to cover to capture the significant messages. Choose those topics or aspect of teamwork of most interest and zero in on them. We hope the format will lend itself to an enjoyable journey into the inner working of group dynamics and teamwork.

Chapter 2 and 3 discuss the problems that start-up teams face. Issues of individuality versus team, low trust, who’s in and who’s out, and an unwillingness to listen will be explored.

Chapter 4 and 5 study the issues existing groups have in working as a team to solve problems and accomplish their tasks. Specific ways to overcome poor planning, lack of commitment, unequal participation, an inability to deal with difference in the group, and the under-utilization of resources are presented.

In Chapter 6 and 7 we look at the problems two independent teams have when they must operate and cooperate as one. Managers who confront the challenge of melding two competing groups into one team will find these sections of particular value.

The subject of teamwork would be incomplete without a discussion of “resistance to change.” Chapter 8 and 9 explore why teams become too comfortable and resist change even in the face of extinction. Our focus is on not only why this happens, but what a team can do to overcome this growing entropy.

Successful teamwork is the subject of Chapter 10 and 11. Here readers can watch a group of individuals operate as a winning team. Through this unique looking glass, readers see first hand the component of effective teamwork and how team members create and maintain the element necessary for team survival.

Chapter 12 is for the reader who is concerned with bringing team members to a common vision and way of operating. We discuss the importance of a team vision, consider what this vision entails, and suggest a process any manager can implement with his/her team to establish the commitment needed to adopt a vision of team excellence.

For those teams or managers who would like to start off by assessing their team’s strengths and weakness, Appendix I is the answer. We present a model for thinking about team effectiveness and a questionnaire to assess how your team rates itself on each component of this model.

Appendix II is provided for readers interested in using outdoor adventure-based training to empower their teams. Specific guidelines, as well as caveats, are presented. In Appendix III we present unique issues when facilitating an outdoor adventure-based teamwork training exercises.

About the Author

If you would like to learn more about our books, programs, and workshop on Teamwork Training please contact a Regional Manager from CMOE. You can reach them at (801)569-3444 or visit our website.


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