Here is the outcome of the teambuilding exercise that I wrote about on yesterday!
Team one was the old school – paper and pencil. Watching them passing notes back and forth (writing as fast as they could) – looked a lot like grade school. Quick the teacher is not looking – pass it on! Their exercise was centered around Riddles to decipher.
Team two had email only as their communication vehicle. Viewing their progress was quite different. Many of them were either completely heads down (reading/typing) or sitting waiting for their next message. Their exercise was unscrambling 10 US cities. This team had a team member that was not from the US… (No, I did not do that on purpose)
Team three had Instant Messaging only. Like the email folks the view was the same. Their exercise was to sketch one charade phrase out of the two that was given to each of them. By the way – we did a quick review of the sketches at the end – and the staff was able to get 50% right.
Team three – the IM team. Had no chance! The leader of the team, had his laptop freeze up! Had to reboot. How many times have we attended a meeting just to hear someone say – sorry me system has locked up and I have to reboot? After the reboot was completed – he was unable to connect wirelessly (he received a request for a wireless driver patch – that he could not complete that day). While this was going on the other team members tried to make due by communicating to each other – multi-tasking (doing their email, etc). Many were just sitting waiting… Have you ever noticed that when you are in a meeting – and someone asks a question – you get sorry “I was on mute” or what was that question again?? Multi-tasking were they? Once the team got going, the complaints of way too many IM’s was pretty common. Trying to juggle 2 IM conservations was a bit tough (lost some focus). This team did complete their tasks – just about 20 minutes from the winner.
Team two – email team. Came in second! Discussion with them – highlighted the overload of emails. Trying to make decisions or get information – they must have had about 60 emails total over the exercise! They found that they answered one – when the answer was already sitting in their inbox. How many times has someone answered an email – in the string – that if they looked at the last one – they would have seen the answer. Since the exercise was set up just for them to email with one person – limited the email traffic some. Think if they had set up a group distribution and replied to all. What a mess that would be – about 240 emails for each! They took more time to read, react and answer. The team was about 10 minutes behind the winners.
Team one – paper and pencil – the Winners! If you ask the team why – they would simply say – “they were the strongest team.” They did not have to worry about connecting. They simply jumped into the exercise and kept working till they were completed. No one ran out of paper and the pencil did not break. They did find that they were overloaded with notes and at times it was difficult to keep up. But, they just kept plugging away. What helped them the most was they were able to get to the instructions the fastest…
What does this tell us? Team one was probably the closest situation to being a face to face. Our technologies, have helped in many ways – but, we probably may not always pick the right capability for the situation we are in. Instant messaging is great for that quick question that needs an answer (problem solving – maybe not the best). Email is used quite heavily – and we just don’t know what to do when it goes down… We always hear about email overload. The phone is a wonderful capability that has been around for quite some time.. Look at audio conferencing, I wonder how many minutes your company consumes! We have all of the capabilities at our fingertips – it all comes down to apply the right capability, or set of capabilities, for the solution that you need.
I can’t wait to update this exercise again with some of the newer technologies… The results maybe slightly different, but I would argue face to face will always win out.