If you work as a project manager or play the role of a group leader you probably organize team events from time to time. Team events are very useful in order to give your team some rest, help them to get to know each other and improve communication between peers. The two main questions which project manager faces organizing a team event are “What?” and “When?”.
In fact, there are two ways to answer these questions: either you decide on everything by yourself and just inform the team about the details of the event or you discuss everything within the team and make the choice collegially. I prefer the second option because if you choose the first one, there is a high chance for team members not to be happy with your choice. Actually, I think that not taking into account the opinions of the team members is one of the most common managers` mistakes.
The important point is that mentioned above “what and where” questions follow from a more basic question – How to get the whole team together? It means that you as a manager have to find a suitable for everyone date to participate in the event and the activity which every team member can and would like to do. In fact, this is not an easy task.
Let’s start with the “what?” question. I personally prefer to let the team brainstorm on this one. Usually, I create some place for discussion – it may be a Skype chat, Slack channel or Google Spreadsheet, and suggest the team members coming up with ideas. To give the discussion a good start you as a project manager may come up with some initial ideas (you may take them from the previous experience, from experience of other teams, from your colleagues, etc.). It’s important to announce that this is the phase of collecting ideas and it is limited in time. As usual, a week or maximum two weeks is completely enough to collect the ideas.
The next phase is voting. You simply put together the list of all ideas collected during the previous phase and make a survey asking your colleagues to vote for the ideas they like. You may use such tools as Google Forms or Survey Monkey for this. But there is also a question of methodology. I usually let people vote for several ideas, limiting their choice by three options. However, you may not limit the number of choices at all, allowing the team to vote for all the options they like. I think it depends on the number of ideas on the list and some other factors.
After you have collected the results, the things may look pretty simple – you just pick up the idea with a majority of votes, right? Hold on, it’s not so simple and needs some corrective actions. These corrective actions are the prerogative of a project manager because he knows the team better than anyone does.
What corrective actions do I mean? Let’s assume that most of your team members voted for some steakhouse restaurant, but what to do if you have a vegetarian in the team? It’s your duty to check if the restaurant chosen by your team offers a menu that satisfies everyone, if not – you must explain to the team why that particular restaurant is not a good choice.
Also, there may be some situations when most of the team members want to have a certain activity, but there is a person or two who are completely against it. I suggest mitigating this situation by having a couple of activities at a time to make sure that everyone will participate at least in one of them. For example, you may go to a roller coaster with those who like this kind of fun and after that continue your rest in some cozy restaurant.
Now let’s talk about the “when” question. You have to take into account a couple of factors to pick up the date that everyone on the team can make. The first thing you should decide on answering the “when” question is whether it will be a weekend or a working day. This is a big dilemma. If you choose a working day, the only time you can have an event is evening and there is not so much time for activities. On the contrary, if you choose a weekend or a holiday, some of your team members are likely to have planned something with their families or friends, and they can not participate.
How to make a decision? I think that you can decide based on the activity that you have planned. If after hours is enough to make your event, it is better to choose a working day for a team event. Otherwise, if you plan something that takes the whole day or even several days (a tour, for example), then it will definitely be a weekend. In the latter case plan an event in advance to make sure that everyone is free on that day. I personally spread team event over several days if there is a couple of activities planned. For example, we can go to some restaurant on Friday eve and then have some fun activity on Saturday morning. This allows team members to spend almost all the weekend as their personal time.
I know that some companies dedicate special working days for team events and from the first sight it seems like the best option. Though, it’s not rationally from the business point of view and not every company can afford this. This approach may lead to significant money loss if the team is big.
One extra question I`d like to touch here is if it is possible to gather all the team members for a team event. From my point of view, the answer is – it depends. If you have a small team of 5, it’s not a big deal to organize them. But if your team is larger than 10 people, it will be a challenge for you. Earlier in my career, I cared too much about having all the team members together on team events. But now I realize that it is almost impossible if you have a large team. There is a high probability that on the event day someone from your team will decide to get a time off, will get sick, or some other unforeseen circumstances prevent him from participating in the team event.
So, your job as a project manager when planning a team event is to take into account the interests of all the team members. That is why you should define the activities and announce the date of the event in advance so that everyone could adjust their plans for this day. It’s a pity if eventually, someone can`t participate in the event. But hopefully it’s not the last team event and you will have some more in the future.
P.S. As you`ve read (or scrolled) till the end of the article, I have some bonus for you. Please, watch this funny video about getting the team together.