Team Management Systems

Team Management Outdoors

By Dick McCann
Copyright © Dick McCann. All rights reserved.

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The Margerison-McCann Team Management Wheel is an excellent model to use for outdoor environments, helping managers understand their key strengths and preferred way of working in a team. Throughout the world there is currently great interest in helping managers to develop by exposing them to outdoor learning opportunities where they are challenged by an environment that is new to them, but where the tasks to be completed have substantial parallels to those faced at work.

During recent years, I have run three outdoor Team Management Systems (TMS) events in widely varying environments - ranging from the splendor of the Swiss Alps, to the lush canopied rainforest of Queensland, to the rugged expanse of Kakadu National Park. All these events were run for senior managers, mostly over 40 years old, who had led a more-or-less sedentary life for the past 5-10 years. Outdoor management programs do not need to be strenuous - so long as there is a strong element of problem-solving in a time-constrained, competitive situation.

Indoors, Outdoors and 'Forgotten' Lessons"

My designs tend to have a combination of indoor-outdoor activities. Often on the first day I will run an indoor session on the Team Management Wheel where everyone receives their Team Management Profile and where perhaps the concepts of linking are discussed. On the second day, the outdoor activity is run, and at the end of the day the characteristics of the various teams are discussed and interpreted in terms of the Team Management Wheel. Even though participants have spent a day learning about differences, balanced teams and Linking, the pressure of an outdoor activity causes them to 'forget' all that has been discussed on the first day. During the debriefing, the connection is made between Day 1 and the experiences that team members have just undergone in their outdoor activity. Actually experiencing the 'action' of a Thruster-Organizer or the result of a poorly-linked team will internalize the learning and make the TMS concepts long-lasting.

Points for Achievement

A design I often use involves a 5-6 hour activity where teams compete against one another and collect points for achieving tasks. Perhaps the most important task is to find out where lunch is being held! A location matrix has to be solved by gathering clues from the area where the activities are being run. These clues are scattered far and wide (2-3 kilometers or greater) so that the team has to split up to gather the information. We have had some panoramic lunch venues - high in a small Swiss cottage at the end of a cable car, on Picnic Rock overlooking the Numinbah Valley on the Gold Coast Hinterland, or by the Anbangbang Billabong in Kakadu National Park. Some teams have even starved, arriving just in time to see the plates being scraped!

Challenging Tasks

The teams must complete three compulsory 'team' activities during the exercise. These are specially designed to show the importance of working as a team when a team solution is required. One of my favorites is retrieving a bucket from the other side of a stream using a plank, a pole and a rope - none of which are long enough to stretch to the other side. There is an interesting, unique solution using the team, but unless there is good cooperation, someone falls in the water.

In addition, there are usually up to 30 optional tasks to be completed when the opportunity arises, for which more points are collected. I continually set these tasks to be more and more unusual, but the competitive nature of the challenge makes people attempt the impossible. One optional task that all teams in the Swiss Alps failed was getting a local to buy them a drink. It was easy to drive the local train, to get locked in jail, to fly a helicopter - but even after buying a local the first drink, no-one could get a return offer!

Observing Differences

These outdoor activities must be well-planned, with adequate observers to note the characteristics being shown by various team members. These are all recorded and fed back to them using the language of the Team Management Wheel. In one orienteering activity with a competitive element, a Thruster-Organizer grabbed the compass, called his team to follow him, and when lost 100 meters into the bush, stopped and asked whether anyone could read a compass! In another team task, the Thruster-Organizer said "This is easy," told the other team members what to do, and then promptly fell into the river. It was the introverted Creator-Innovator who had the solution, but no-one listened to him!

TMS works in an outdoor environment because it is a robust model which explains the different ways people approach problem-solving in teams. Most outdoor trainers love it, because it gives them a structure on which they can build exciting and stimulating activities with a high perceived risk but a low actual risk.

Detailed information on these and many other outdoor session designs and games/activities can be found in the following publications:

Copyright © Dick McCann. All rights reserved.

With a background in science, engineering, finance and organizational behavior, Dick McCann has consulted widely for organizations such as BP, Hewlett Packard and Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank. He is coauthor of Team Management: Practical New Approaches with Charles Margerison; author of How to Influence Others at Work, the TMS E-Book Series and The Workplace Wizard: The Definitive Guide to Working with Others; and coauthor with Jan Stewart of Aesop's Management Fables and The Half-Empty Chalice. Dick is coauthor and developer of the Team Management Systems concepts and products and also author of the QO2™ Profile, Window on Work Values Profile and the Strategic Team Development Profile. Involved in TMS operations worldwide for over 25 years, Dick is now Managing Director of TMS Australia and a Director of TMS Development International.

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