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An Adventure in Team-Building!


Dennis J. Dureno, C.P.M., CPIM, CIRM
Dennis J. Dureno, C.P.M., CPIM, CIRM, President, Dureno & Associates, Homewood, IL 60430-0291, 708-799-6393

81st Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1996 - Chicago, IL

Session Description.
Go on a weekend trip of fishing and glacier viewing from Juneau, Alaska on a chartered 36-foot boat and be challenged to assure your survival before you and your friends are rescued. This hands-on workshop will demonstrate through an adventure team-building simulation the importance of the group process in team effectiveness versus individual problem solving. Time constraints to complete the exercise may actually replicate your daily work environment. We will also discuss the characteristics of effective teams. These elements are important to understand as Purchasing personnel are being required to take a more proactive role on internal and external Teams. Due to time constraints, the workshop will be restricted to 50 active participants, with Teams consisting of 5 individuals.

Employee empowerment and team building are part of the continuous process improvements that businesses are currently implementing to meet the challenges of cost competitiveness and improving Customer responsiveness. This interactive workshop will focus on team building and will challenge participants to think and work as part of a team. The attendees will participate in group dynamics by utilizing an adventure simulation called "Alaskan Adventure". This simulation will demonstrate the effectiveness of a Team versus individual performance by requiring the attendees to solve a problem individually and then again as a team making decisions to assure survival. The simulation process will also let the participants practice effective interpersonal behavior in a non-threatening team setting.

The simulation will also provide the ability to measure the Quality of the decision, Team Effectiveness, Performance of the individual vs the Team decision, and assessment of the Team Synergy. Group dynamics, the Team process, characteristics of an effective Team, and the need for Purchasing to take the lead in Team building within the Supply Chain will be discussed.

Purpose of a Simulation.
A simulation is a mechanism that can be used to examine a Team and how it functions. The Team in many instances has external demands placed on it and that it very often needs to refocus as to its charter, purpose, vision, or function. These may include special purpose Teams, specific projects or ongoing functional or operations Teams i.e. system implementation, negotiations, Supplier certification, supply chain partnership, product development, reengineering, etc. The simulation exercise provides the opportunity to examine not what the Team does, but how it does it. During the simulation process and after, the Team can identify what practices interfered with communications, decision making, problem analysis and resolution, Team synergy, personality disruptions, or general Team effectiveness. The process can also identify potential challenges with Team member interaction that prevents development and resolution of conflicts.

On an individual basis the simulation offers the opportunity to assess how a person interacts within a Team and how their behavior can impact the performance of the Team. A dominate personality becomes more aware of their impact on the Team and how less dominate personalities can be drawn into the Team to improve its effectiveness and performance.

A simulation, whether it is an adventure or business type, does provide for a process that is stimulating, informative, and a fun exercise that gets to the core of the Team concept and provides important lessons in open communications, problem analysis, priority setting, leadership and decision making in a non-threatening environment that can be then practiced in the real work environment. The interactive nature of a simulation also brings the main points of group interaction into focus as part of a stimulating learning process.

The Situation.
The Alaskan Adventure simulation has you cruising casually in mid September of the coast of Juneau, Alaska. The trip is a combination of some late season fishing and looking at nature at its best without tourists. The glaciers are in the area, wild life is abundant along the shoreline, and the mountains drop abruptly into the Pacific ocean. The serenity and eeriness of the misty weather makes you forget about the dangers that lurk within the waters. Suddenly the 36-foot boat hits an iceberg and sinks. The Team is stranded and must make some decisions as to how they will survive until and when help comes.

The Exercise.
The exercise identifies what items are salvaged from the sinking boat. Working alone, the individual must decide how they are going to deal with the disaster by ranking the salvaged items in order of importance regarding their survival. This process is repeated as a Team with consensus decision making being one of the drivers. The ranking is then compared to what was developed by a group of experts.

The following individual and Team statistics are calculated upon completion of the exercise by comparing the individual and Team results to the experts' list:

  • Team 1 / Team 2 / Team 3 / etc.
  • Average of Individual Scores
  • Team Score
  • Team Effectiveness (Synergy) Score
  • Team Effectiveness Percent Change
  • Lowest Individual Score
  • Number of Individual Scores
  • Lower than Team Score

Score Interpretation.
Average of Individual Scores shows how well the Team members, on average, solved the problem working alone. Team Score illustrates how well the Team solved the problem working together. A lower score is better and is closer to the experts results. It can indicate the Team developing a successful solution in regards to content. It does not indicate how well they functioned as a Team. The Team Effectiveness (Synergy) Score shows how much better (or worse) the Team did in working together than they did working alone. If the Team Score is lower than the Average of the Individual Scores, the Team accomplished something that the individual working alone could not. It is the first measure of Team effectiveness.

Team Effectiveness Percent Change illustrates the amount of improvement the Team made working together. As a percent, it is the most accurate measure of Team effectiveness and can be used as a way to compare effectiveness levels between a number of Teams. The Lowest Individual Score when compared to the Team Score, shows if any individual did better working alone than the Team did working together. If the Team score is better than the Lowest (Best) Individual Score, true synergy has occurred. The Number of Individual Scores Lower than Team Score shows how many individuals did better working alone, than the Team did in working together. This illustrates how far from synergy the Team was. These measurements provide an opportunity to compare the performance of individuals versus Team performance in solving a problem.

Team Characteristics.
The following lists some of the elements that are found in an environment that fosters effective Teams:

  • Clearly defined, understood, measurable objectives, with a schedule
  • Ability to resolve issues rather than avoid them
  • Idea and thought contributions by every member
  • Members feel empowered to do the best they can
  • Members who actively listen to one another
  • Members who support and trust one another
  • Enthusiasm, boldness, and willingness to take risks
  • Willingness to hear and accept ideas from others - open minded
  • Ability to accept conflict as a reality and work it through
  • Ability to build on each other's ideas and strengths
  • Sense of humor, have fun - positive attitude
  • Ability to communicate openly and frankly
  • Strong commitment to goals and Team mission
  • Emotional investment in each other - respect
  • Decision making by consensus
  • Effective leadership that can move around and be shared
  • Total participation by all members
  • Willingness to differ in a way that brings out other perspectives
  • Ability to evaluate own Team effectiveness
  • Ability to adapt to change
  • Have full management support
  • Team stability - members and focus
  • Educates and trained in process, concepts and function
  • Understand the culture

Critical Skills for Optimum Team Performance. The following identifies some of the characteristics of effective Team members.

  • Consensus decision maker
  • Active listener vs selective listening
  • Creative thinker
  • Provide supportive behavior
  • Be honest to oneself and others

Data from large numbers of executed simulations supports that simulations can demonstrate how a Team will work together and assists in identifying the areas that need improvements. As mentioned, a facilitated simulation process: examines Team problem solving and decision making effectiveness, allows participants to practice interpersonal behavior in a Team environment, quantifies the advantage of Team decision making vs. an individual, provides feedback on Team performance, provides feedback on individual performance, examines the dynamics of Team behavior, and provides an educational experience within the Team concept. For Purchasing to effectively provide support to Teams, they must understand all of these dynamics and provide leadership in facilitating the process whether with internal or external Teams.

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