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What's the difference between 'team building' and 'team development'?

Team building and team development are two different concepts that are all too often used interchangeably, but they have quite distinct differences.

Team Building

Team building is a process, stereotypically activity based, that focuses on improving the relationships and communication between team members. The purpose of team building in an event or activity-based format is to create a more cohesive team that can work together more effectively. Team building activities can include icebreakers, , business games, trust exercises, and myriad formats of problem-solving challenges.

The goal is mostly just to create a positive and fun atmosphere that enables managers and leaders to foster teamwork and help team members get to know each other better. Whilst the process of ‘team building’ can also be used to describe team composition, the activity-based context is most common these days.

Team Development

Team development, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive process that focuses on developing the skills and abilities of team members to achieve better performance outcomes at depth. Team development involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of individual team members and identifying areas for improvement.

We use the Belbin Team Role Model as a reliable and evidence-based tool for measuring individual and collective behavioural strengths and weaknesses.

This process can include longer-term and ongoing workshops, training, coaching, mentoring, and other forms of skill-building activities. The goal of team development is to help team members develop deeper insights into their behaviours and working relationships with others. This should dovetail into their professional skills and competencies, which in turn helps the team function more effectively and achieve better outcomes.

To sum up, team building focuses on short interventions for improving the relationships and communication between team members, while team development focuses on developing the skills and abilities of team members at a deeper level to achieve better performance outcomes ongoing. Both are important for building and maintaining effective teams.


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