A Tasty Team Building Exercise

Jurgen! How would you encourage team building?

A good team building exercise which (at least to me) is preferable over helicopter droppings, mountain climbing and mud wrestling, is to invite a bunch of colleagues for an evening of cooking.

Team Building
I regularly organize these team building events so that employees have a chance to get to known each other, to improve communications, and to show off my Italian kitchen. On such an occasion six of my colleagues come over to my place, usually straight from work, and when they arrive I hand out some copies of different Italian recipes (after hiding the expensive wines and having made sure that all ingredients and cheaper wines are prominently displayed and ready for use). These team members have no experience in cooking together, while some of them have never had to cook their own dinner at all. And on top of that they are working in a kitchen they have never used before.

What I like about this team building exercise is…

  1. The team members have to self-organize and read, interpret and coordinate all tasks among themselves;
  2. By announcing a “required” dinner time you can turn the exercise into a timebox with variable requirements;
  3. Dinner is cooked for me and I don’t have to do anything…

Here are a couple of suggestions if you would like to try this out for yourself:

  • Select recipes with easy-to-understand ingredients. (Most people understand the difference between anchovis and mozzarella. But don’t make it any harder than that.)
  • Check that preparations for the recipes and cooking activities don’t get too complicated. You don’t want them to mess up a Hollandaise sauce. There should be a reasonable chance of having something edible delivered at the end of the timebox.
  • Check people’s diets in advance. If someone is allergic to mushrooms, peanuts, olive oil or water, you will want to know!

In these cooking endeavors with my colleagues I keep the time needed to prepare dinner (the budget) under control by selecting only simple recipes and limiting the number of people involved. Nevertheless, our little culinary projects are always underestimated and (usually) behind schedule. This is not because of too much work or too little time or bad coordination. The cooks simply talk and drink too much! The food is always good though.

Interesting? Not? Tell me about it! Or check out some of my other favorite articles:

Make It Simple vs. Do It Simple

AINO: Agile In Name Only

The Ethical Software Engineer (Not French!)

  • Follow Your Mind, Not Your Rules
  • How to Create a Pre-Project Document
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