A journey of change: the history of team building in organizations, 1900-1989

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Virginia Tech

This historical study, covering the period 1900-1989, examined how team building became a discreet educational intervention in organizations. Team building, unlike other training interventions of the 1960s, continued to be used throughout the 1980s despite the major changes in organizations. The study reveals some of the story of how people in organizations worked to develop ways to get along with each other and to improve their performance.

The study is divided into three time periods. The first, 1900-1950, was a period of the discovery of the value of teams in the workplace. The second period, 1950-1969, when team building emerged, was marked by an increased focus on the social interactions of managers, supervisors and workers. The third period, 1970-1989, saw team building change its focus. During the 1970s, team building became a stand alone educational process focused on solving productivity and quality problems.

The factor that most influenced the evolution and development of team building was the management theory and practice of the times. Ranging from team building focused on relationships during the era of human relations, to team building focused on problem solving for total quality management, this group learning experience continued to meet the needs for training groups in organizations.