Subscribe to My Feed   Follow Me On Twitter   Join Me On LinkedIn   Friend Me On Facebook

Working Across Cultural Boundaries – A Case Study – Part II

The First Team Meeting

Read Part I for background information

After the agenda went out for the team meeting, we asked team members to begin to make travel arrangements to ensure arrival prior to the dinner (during the cocktail hour.) We realized some members would be flying in rather early so we ensured the hotel could accommodate early arrivals and arranged for lunch for those early arrivals. The sponsor and project manager arrived early in the day so that they could begin to interact with the team members. Effectively – we were beginning the team building early!

Cocktail hour prior to the dinner enabled team members to spend a bit of time getting to know each other. At this time Abudi Consulting Group (ACG) distributed the “get to know each other” team building activity. ACG also participated in the activity as it enabled for increasing the comfort level of other participants by us taking the lead in getting started. It only took a few brief moments before others joined in. By the end of the cocktail hour everyone was asking questions to fill in the blanks on the activity! We realized that the team activity started off well because of a number of reasons:

  • We kicked off the “get to know each other” activity which helped others to feel comfortable participating.
  • The sponsor participated in the activity. Since a senior leader was participating, it would not have seemed appropriate for a team member to not participate. (This helped us drag along those team members who may not otherwise have participated.)
  • We shared ahead of time information about the activity so that team members would understand what we were doing and why (as well as the benefit to them individually.) This also helped the more quiet team members can acclimated to the fact that participation in activities was an expectation.

At dinner, the sponsor introduced himself and thanked everyone for attending. He set expectations by telling team members that in addition to learning more about the project and starting the work of the project, they would also have a number of activities to participate in that would enable them to get to know each other. The sponsor shared a personal story about the value of building relationships. This helped to get team members engaged.

After dinner the group broke up into smaller groups and went their separate ways. While it would have been nice to have everyone stay together, much progress was made that first evening and ACG, the sponsor and project manager were pleased with the results so far.

Rather than get into details of the next two days of the team kick off meeting, let me share the following key points:

  • Everyone participated in the team building activities. The number of activities enabled for the group to begin to develop strong working relationships that would serve them well through the duration of the project.
  • While conflicts did arise, they were at a minimum. This was attributed to spending time on team building activities rather than simply jumping into the work of the project.
  • Even during “down time” we noticed that individuals grouped together to have conversations. In fact, we noticed that individuals who had never worked together before were spending more time with each other. Certainly the initial “get to know each other” team building activity we started on the first evening helped as team members were still working through the questions!
  • Many of the team members participated in the discussions around processes and procedures for the project. A few of the quieter team members did not participate as actively initially, but by doing facilitated round robin brainstorming and sharing of best practices we were able to ensure everyone contributed.
  • The sponsor stayed throughout the entire team kick off meeting though mainly participated by answering questions and participating in team building activities. By staying and participating, he showed his support of the project and the project manager.

At the end of the second day, it was apparent that team members have begun to make great progress on the project plans and were more comfortable with each other. This increased comfort level – and camaraderie – would serve the team well as they continued the project work and checked in with each other in virtual meetings.


The initial team kick off meeting is absolutely essential to the success of the project. Do not shortchange this meeting! It needs to be well planned out and orchestrated so that it is of value to all team members participating and enables for accomplishing three key goals:

  • Building a strong and cohesive project team
  • Sharing information about the project – strategy, vision, mission
  • Developing processes and procedures for how the work will  get done

Comments are closed.