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Mr Banker

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Corporate team building: what’s it really for?

Tuesday morning was spent pondering the question: just how many misnomers are contained in the phrase “corporate team building.” Just as I had decided fairly confidently that the answer was three, I was struck by a further insight about the problem that corporate team building is intended to solve.

Consider this chain of unlikely events. First, assume that your correspondent can summons the physical and emotional energy necessary to produce a sustained display of sycophancy combined with corporate inertia.

Not a months-long effort typical of senior management, but the sort of decade-long display that is necessary – in the absence of a foreign accent – to secure a position as CEO of a major financial services organisation.

Next, assume that the board that appoints your correspondent is somehow sufficiently naïve to believe that massive profits are the result of management effort rather than government regulation that prevents competition, and yet, curiously, is at the same time astute enough to provide your correspondent with a tasty package of options that will motivate him to increase profits.

Thus motivated, your correspondent is now determined to break the habits of a lifetime and will, hypothetically, act decisively and implement the following plan:

Step 1 – Create a corporate objective that can be easily understood, for

example: “Make as much money as we can by lending money to customers who can pay it back.” Of course, management theorists will argue that this is not a valid corporate objective because it does not contain the words “key stakeholders” “ancilliary services” or “maximise” – but we must brush these quibbles aside.

Step 2 – Reward those who make a genuine contribution towards that goal.

Get rid of those who don’t. (Apparently the modern phrase for this is to ‘bone’ them, which shows how much times have changed since your correspondent was a young man)

By the end of step 2, the status of the team will be thus: built – notwithstanding the absence of corporate abseiling, corporate karaoke, or corporate lego brick assembly.

Or, to put that another way, it’s your correspondent’s firm belief that corporate team building is only suggested by those who do not have a clear idea of what they can do to improve a business or who are unable to articulate those ideas.

If your correspondent, as hypothetical CEO, was confronted by anyone too lazy to find out what they could do improve the business or unable to explain those ideas, he would respond by ‘boning them.’ (in the modern sense of the phrase, of course).

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