What kind of team-building exercises and/or motivational practices have you used, or participated in? Would you recommend them for use by others? Have you been involved in a project that did not use such an activity or practice, but could have benefited from it?
Team building experience: The crux of all the team building methods are essentially the same – understand human psychology (tolerance, outlook of life, perseverance, thinking process, honesty etc) and then tune activities and processes that leads to synergy and success. I see that none of the methods does not mention a practical test/exercise that would be used as a tool to build a team according to that approach.
Let me mention a very informal way of team building during my initial training stages with my one of my previous employer. We were all freshers, selected as System Developers for this company and were invited for a socializing party before our training sessions. We were supposed to meet each employee (no matter which department), introduce ourselves and socialize. Later, I learned that the team leads and the HR guys were actually rating each of us based on our interpersonal and socializing skills. The way they structured the project teams for the upcoming projects could be seen as an exact reflection of what I noticed. Effective Team leads (and PMs) used the MBTI way to select team members for their projects. I would recommend this for onsite project teams.
Lack of Motivation – an example: There are various instances in my career, where I feel the project could have benefited from the more formal practices of team member motivation. Although I am pretty sure that these practices would have been applied indirectly as these are the basic human approaches to organize and resolve conflicts. In one of my past projects, I was assigned to lead a maintenance project of managing and enhancing the E-governance applications for a state in India. The project resources were allocated according to their professional degrees and were expecting more career growth in the long run. The company didn’t realize this need and was not able to satisfy their thirst to advance their careers. The company should have conducted team sessions to assess individual needs to self actualization and growth. Project resources could have been rotated so that the original resources be given more challenging projects assignments. They could have been exposed to professional training according to their technical/business tastes. None of these happened and at the close of 2 years, half of the team left the company.