Volunteer Team Building Activities that Will Increase Productivity

We rarely think about how we manage.  Our management models are as invisible to us as our own breathing.  The way we choose to manage is either inadvertent or unconscious — we manage the way we do because that’s how we were taught, it’s reinforced by the organization we work within, it causes the least friction, or it simply matches our personal style best.  But, by implementing volunteer team building activities into our leadership model, we may get more out of our teams.

Gary Hamel, professor of strategic and international management at the London Business School encourages those involved in management to consider “management” as a technology that can be strategically designed to work for an organization in the same way a business strategy or service delivery might be developed.  In fact, he argues in his webinar Unlocking Opportunity with Business Model Innovation, research shows that innovations in management models, though generally ignored in favor of product or business model innovation, have the highest impact on organizational success.  So, if you’re struggling to realize greater program impact, you might want to look first at the way you choose to manage.

Hamel encourages entrenched businesses to imagine themselves as a startup.  With a clean sheet of paper, he suggests they begin to imagine a new way of going about the tasks of management.  It’s a fascinating exercise, but also extremely difficult.  If we’ve never acknowledged the hidden ghost in the machine, the unconscious, knee-jerk processes we employ when we manage, how can we possibly change them for the common good?

Hamel helps us by breaking down the tasks of management into discrete tasks (see my graphic above).  He also identifies several key processes where innovation can take place.  To generate ideas that might work for nonprofits, I picked five of his tasks and posed two questions for each.  These are certainly not the only choices available to you, but they may help you get started thinking about your own management strategy. 

Five Team Building Activities You Can Implement

1) Change how priorities get set.  Are your team priorities dictated by the requirements of your latest grant, or are they determined by a community needs analysis?
2) Change how performance gets measured.  Do you base your performance on how many people are served by your program, or by what happens to them as a result of interacting with you?
3) Change how knowledge gets applied.  Does your team decide to try new, but untested approaches because they sound like they might work, or do you have criteria for evaluating potential best practices and a way to catalog them so anyone can use them at any time?
4) Change how resources get allocated.  Is the budget process left to the executive level, or are people at all levels for the organization tapped, early in the planning process, for their thoughts on spending priorities and needs?
5) Change how power gets exercised.  Are the people who train your team the only ones with the power to decide what information is important enough to share, or can anyone upload and share newsworthy and helpful information in an easy-to-access online open forum.

Hamel also identifies other choices you can make — how opportunities get identified, how strategies get created, how decisions get made, how teams get built, how tasks get assigned, how rewards get shared, and how activities get coordinated.  

It can seem overwhelming, but don’t let it be.  If you’re serious about changing your management technology, pick one or two areas to innovate.  Get started with the decisions you can make at the local level without approval from the higher-ups (which are most of these, thank goodness!).  Then, ask your team to help you pose the right questions and make the changes that will benefit everyone.