Teambuilding for Temporary Teams

The basic teambuilding approach is the same for temporary teams as it is for permanent teams. Team members must build relationships, create an emotionally supportive climate on the team, and establish methods for working together.  

According to noted teambuilding expert William Dyer, a teambuilding approach for a temporary team has four major steps (see Willam G. Dyer, et al. Team Building: Proven Strategies for Improving Team Performance, Jossey-Bass, 4th ed. 2007).

#1. Develop a Realistic Priority of the Team’s Work

The team members usually have other job responsibilities outside the team. Consequently, it will help members to understand the relative priority other members place on the team and the time commitment they can make. Consider having each team member assign a priority score to the team from zero to 100, where 100 is the highest priority relative to all their other work assignments and responsibilities. Also, have each member write down the amount of time he or she is willing to commit to the team over a given month. Summarize the priority scores and time commitments for the team and provide an opportunity for each member to explain his or her score. Then come to an agreement on a realistic amount of time and energy the team as a whole can commit.

#2. Share ExpectationsTeambuilding image

Have each member think about and respond to the following questions:

  • What is your top concern about working on this team?
  • How would this team function in your ideal scenario?
  • What are the barriers to this team working well?
  • What actions do you think are needed to ensure positive outcomes?

Give everyone an opportunity to respond to each question and identify major issues. The team should regularly monitor these issues.

#3. Clarify Goals

First, the team should define its “mission” – a statement of the team’s reason for being. The recovery leadership should have largely defined the team’s mission for it, but the team can put the mission in its own words. The team should use the mission to evaluate the actions it proposes to take – does the action further the team’s mission? Using the mission as a guide, the team can develop sub-goals. The recovery leadership may have already defined some of the team’s sub-goals. The team can put these into its own words and also develop any other sub-goals it deems necessary. Once the sub-goals are set, the team can make assignments to its members.

#4. Formulate Operating Guidelines

The team must define how it will work together, including how changes will be made if previous arrangements do not succeed. This step clarifies team members’ expectations on how the team will operate. Some of the questions to answer as part of this step include:

  • How will decisions be made? Consensus is preferred, but team members must accept that consensus-building is hard work and that consensus is not the same as unanimity (not everyone will always be thrilled with the final decision, but they will at least support it). Consensus is achieved by giving everyone a chance to participate in a decision and getting feedback on team members’ feelings on the direction of decision.


  • How will work be performed? Will sub-groups or individuals split off to perform assignments and then report back or will the group as a whole consider issues? Any method is fine, but the team should define its preferences.


  • How can concerns or issues be raised? It is critical that team members feel that they have the ability to raise issues of interest. There are many possible ways to achieve this. For example, team members may be permitted to add items to the agenda or there may be time reserved at the end of each meeting for open discussion.


  • How will differences be resolved? Eventual differences in opinion are unavoidable. Differences must be managed so that they don’t deteriorate into conflict that cripples the team. A guideline for dealing with differences can help circumvent such problems.

  • How will accountability for completing work be created? The first step is to agree that no assignments will be made or given where the assignee cannot honestly complete the task in the time given. The work from the first step is helpful here – if the team has a clear understanding of each member’s priority and time commitments, it can avoid making assignments that have no realistic chance of being completed.
    • Next, take a few minutes at the end of each meeting to clearly summarize the actions resulting from the meeting, including what the decision was, who is to do what, when they will do it by, and the date they will report progress.


  • How can things that are not producing results be changed? The team should agree on procedures to periodically review its work, take stock of successes and failures, and agree on a course to correct deficiencies.


  • How can major stakeholders be kept informed? The team should create a list of all major stakeholders who will evaluate the team’s final work product. The team should also define who needs to be kept informed of a team decision and who formally approves the decision. Finally, the team should plan to plan to engage these stakeholders at major milestones.

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