25 Engaging Software Development Team Building Activities

For new technology managers team building is a great way to reset the direction of product team or to build momentum. Mindfield offers over two dozen ways on software development team building activities, for new and seasoned technology managers. Define your team building strategy today or work with a trusted partner to empower an industry leading software development team.


Why is Team Building Important for Software Delivery?

Create Resilience in Team to Guard Against High Pressure

Development managers and directors need to look for ways to build strong teams that can brave high pressure delivery sprints to finding innovative solutions with limited resources. Engineers are typically independent contributors who are concise and to the point. They are commonly introverted but offer a wealth of insights and technical aptitude to any team. Then there are other technical resources whom are bubbly and enjoy reaching out and checking on how the team is doing.

Smooth out Past or Department Tensions

On the other hand delivery managers need to bring together people who operate across competing priorities on a project. Without the ability to help team members understand each other on a more personal level there can often times be differences or projected personas i.e. QA is always trying to stop us from shipping bugs, or the engineer never focus enough of their time to ensure code is bug free. This tension of project personas tends to dehumanize team members while investing in team building can help the team see each other in a more human and more forgiving manner.

Create a Culture of Risk Taking and Openness

When team members are allowed to be themselves managers will receive better feedback and also see their people explore new and innovative ways to do things. This helps organizations move from best practice to leading practice. Planning team events is a great way to foster collaboration and innovation by allowing people to feel comfortable round each other and leaders of the company.

No matter there reason technology directors are responsible for the working efficiency and synergy of their team. Exceptional teams aren’t simply about great people working in the same places but great people in becoming exceptional through elevated performance through team capability.

Software Team Building Activities Ideas to Entice Even the Skeptics

25 – Board Games and Bar

People having beer near a chess board

Scope out a  local bar that offers board games and a beverage to take your team out to. If there aren’t any pick up a copy of the Werewolves Game or get the App and play with your software development team. Nothing beats having a drink with coworkers while getting a chance to deliberate on who is the culprit that took out the SCRUM master during the intermission.

24 – Play LAN Games to Together

As popularized by the office a game of Call of Duty or another first person shooter may help the team relax and move enemies into more familiar ground with one another. Playing team vs team games can help restructure dynamics within a team while offering an opportunity for team members to better understand each other in new situations where fun meets stress and adrenaline. Another sure fire way to create stronger bonds across the team.

23 – Create a Team Video Competition

This one requires participation from other departments. The idea is to create a short comprehensive video on what every team in the company does. This allows a software development team to communicate with other departments while also offering opportunities to share more humorous or insightful aspects of the work done by a digital team. Common features to the contest include not using any special cameras other than a smart phone, and light video editing.

For a light weight version of this idea, every team member can instead be grouped together to do a short video of the specialities or areas they look after. This can be another opportunity to dial down the seriousness of work or to explain age old mysterious like why a certain team member always checks-in their code on a Wednesday.

22 – Participate in a Sporting League

People playing dodgeball with man with blackshirt making a throwUse the regular cadence of training to continue to build on areas where the team can work more closely or to communicate more clearly. This is particularly important if the team can land on a sport that has a league, where there are opportunities to practice and to have an opportunity to work on personal health. Often times great conversations or ideas arise in informal settings where focus is directed at another activity other than work.

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21 – Go for an Afternoon Run or Workout Together

Another great way to encourage team members to have informal conversation or to build stronger bonds is to schedule regular jogs and runs for team members. Offer incentives like extended lunch to participate or training gear subsidies. When team members run together they also have lots of opportunities to get to know each other outside of work and to also balance their life styles.

20 – Budget or Plan for Weekly Snacks or Coffee Time

Going out for coffee together is an outcome of teams that have forged through numerous  go-lives and releases. Planning team coffees or simply initiating is an impactful way of fostering closer team communication and allowing new team members to become more  quickly acquainted. Going out for snacks together like pretzels, ice cream, and popcorn is another approach and often times a small budget can go a long way, especially when managers pre-negotiate with vendors.

19 – Go on a Retreat

Cottage in a scenic area with mountains in the background

When there are significant course corrections or new initiatives underway, a retreat is an immersive experience that can help team members adjust to the new climate. Further high performance teams like in the the military, when participating in retreats,  help team members establish routines and norms within a company by having troops live together. This approach has been seen to be effective on a number of occasions but will definitely need to be budgeted and planned well in advance.

18 – Offer Simulation Training to Team Members

One of the best ways to build team cohesion is to have people go through challenging circumstances together, allow them opportunities to rise to the challenge, and support one another through this. Professional consulting firms often provide milestone training to early stage career resources using this interactive model.  To elevate the realism of the simulation, incorporate senior leader participation in being part of the simulation or the panel. The duration can sometimes last about a week but the result is a noticeable close-knit group of professionals that end up being connected or simply sharing fond memories of their time together.

17 – Go Hiking Together

Hiking is another great opportunity to check out local destinations while providing an easily accessible activity for team members. Though the weather may need to cooperate, hiking allows for team members to enjoy nature while also having ample opportunities to mix and mingle with team members. Further the planning of this event could be delegated to someone who is interested in leadership roles for resource development purposes.

16 – Plan a Cook Off or Build Off Competition

A pot with steam coming out of it from heatingA familiar ice breaker for teams can be to pit team members in groups, provide them with an objectives, and define constraints. Examples include:

  1. Providing ingredients and allowing participants to come up with a creative dish
  2. Offering materials for team members to build a bridge

For further engagement have a team member try and sell the finished product or dish along with company employees from another department to judge or rate each submission. Rent an Air BnB property for a full day event with space to kick back together with the team after or before a gruelling sprint.

15 – Plan a Tour/Observation of a Retail or Customer Facing Department

For software organizations that are looking to become more customer-centric providing a first hand view of the struggles and challenges of end-users or customers is invaluable in two ways. One it allows engineers to see the real world issues they are solving and more importantly develop empathy for the people they help. This observation may also help teams rally around common themes observed or with identification of real solutions. It is advised however that the manager or director take an initial tour to visit and determine if this could be beneficial for team members.

14 – Participate in a Wine or Brewery Tour

Venturing into a wine tour offers refreshments while providing team members an organic platform. Team members can comment on what the tour guide is sharing relating to the beverages they are enjoying as well as bounce between groups to ensure even interaction across team members. Tours are often low complexity team building event but requires a bit of planning to ensure any corporate themes are effectively delivered.

13 – Checkout a Local Korean Sauna

Korean sauna front view
By J. Patrick Fischer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Japanese big corporates have already unlocked the potential of bonding in a relaxing setting with colleagues. The advent of Korean saunas  allows for equal convenience and participations between male sand females, since they opt for a clothed assemble versus simply towel with traditional saunas. The premise is simply to lay around to relax or to stretch for an extended period of time. During that time team members can relax or simply strike up a conversation. This is one way to ensure the team is well rested and ready for the next sprint.

12 – Volunteer at a Local Charity

Many of the major corporations and professional organizations provide employees with an entire paid day of volunteering. This is an opportunity to allow team members to give back to the community while offering ways your team can utilize little known skills they had to help. Allow your team to choose the charity and ensure that all team members or as many possible can participate. This provides a meaningful way to collaborate and allows the team to work together outside of the project context.

11 – Try an Escape Room

An assortment of escape room hints with a space in the middleEscape rooms are interactive rooms and space layouts filled with puzzles and mechanical triggers that pits a team against the clock to escape or to solve a mystery. It allows team members to work together to solve puzzles, gather clues, and most importantly have fun. Escape rooms are a great way to gauge and build communication skills and analysis skills in a group setting. Best of all corporate rates are available which can allow for repeat opportunities for your team to participate.

10 – Watch a Charity Video Game Run on Twitch Stream

Twitch streaming celebrities are often found playing or covering a topic of their choice. Some Twitch Celebrities have even been using their digital star power to help charitable causes by playing a video game through in its entirety in what is called a speed run. Twitch attendees can donate money as part of the event and interact with what is currently happening in the game. This could be a novel way to bring the team together outside of the usual outing ideas.

9 – Plan a Charity Fundraising Event for the Company

Working on extracurricular or team building events as a team is a great way to build up new skills in team members and also identify who culture or team champions are. A charity fund raiser allows analytical or relational team members to really excel by providing them a channel to utilize their talents. Further the company can also increase its public image while benefitting from having closer knit team members. Organizations like United Way, World Vision, and Unicef are great charities to support using a number of events like Jean Fridays or bake sales to raise awareness of issues and to fundraise.

8 – Have Team Members Create a Mixtape or Playlist and Share it

Mix tape picture
By Waynestock (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Everyone loves music, getting the team to come up with a mixtape to share with team members is a great way to offer up more of their authentic selves. Team members may then later get connected on top artist they listen to while also providing manager with a way into better understanding who they are working with. Music brings people together and maybe theres a team anthem in the mix if consensus is reached. Though audio tapes are more rare the process of creating a a playlist and sharing it with the team over a dedicated period for discussion is an effective way to round out the team.

7 – Run a Meme or Caption Contest

Memes are a low key, fun, and humorous way to communicate in the office. Some of the leading organizations use memes to share information or to comment in jest. This form of communication are particularly effective for millennials and earlier as they are already accustomed to speaking in this manner. This approach is particular helpful to managers looking to boost the confidence of more junior staff. Caption contests can also work well for all generations of team members providing an outlet for teams to tease and make fun without offending or alienating team members.

6 – YouTube Top Comment Search

YouTube is home to an extensive amount of content from rocket ships being built to the latest music videos. What avid viewers of YouTube often notices is that the top comments are often the most hilarious and amusing feature to a video. Set your team out on a hunt for the top video comment and have them share the excerpt of the video and the comment. Arrange a friendly competition for the best comment to win a prize or a special accolade.

5 – Read Mean/Funny Tweets Made to Celebrities

President Barack Obama talks with Jimmy Kimmel during a Jimmy Kimmel Live! video taping in Los Angeles, Calif., March 12, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama talks with Jimmy Kimmel during a Jimmy Kimmel Live! video taping in Los Angeles, Calif., March 12, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Jimmy Kimmel often has guess on his show read mean tweets sent to them by public Twitter accounts. Have your team during a team building hour or portion of a meeting to find mean and funny tweets sent to celebrities. Have each team share and read the tweets in front of each other. Select a top mean tweet or simply recognize the team for their contributions.

4 – Invite Guest Speakers for Lunch and Learn Events

Create a  line up of speakers from influencers to thought leaders in the digital technology field is a great way to bring team members together and to also allow them to be exposed to new ideas. Team lunch and learn events are a safe way for team members to share experiences together. What makes a speaker series so impactful is the fact that leaders get to shape their culture with voices outside of the company that can provide a more well rounded perspective. Team members can also be encouraged to be part of the lunch and learn series to encourage knowledge sharing.

3 – Organize Team Viewing of Major Sporting Events

During World Cup or Olympic season its hard to keep employees entirely focused on work. World class athletes offer an exciting view into the results of what discipline, rigour, and determination can look like as they perform at the top of their game. Get ahead of the schedule and rally the troops around key events or games during these sporting events. Provide the team an opportunity to watch together while sharing in some snacks and refreshments. This also allows you to plan ahead and manage the schedule instead of having hours get ghosted while team members watch events on their own.

2 – Provide an Opportunity to Find their Why

A common question that arises in any career is why professionals are in the field of work they are in and what that journey has looked like. Finding your why involves a introspective process that invites a trusted but objective individual. Having team members participate in this exercise can be a great way to reinforce and communicate what drives them, while enabling team members to recognize and support each other in realizing these aspirations. Often times team members may even resonate with one another in terms of a shared past experiences or relatable outcomes pursued like helping a family or building a home as an immigrant in a new country. For more details on finding see Simon Sinek’s site on Start with Why.

1 – Allow Time for Team to Work on Proof of Concepts

A castle appearing out of an iPhoneDevelopers and digital professionals are naturally passionate about technology. Allowing regular bursts of time for team member to investigate cutting edge technology helps grow teams closer and technically, one that can be even more exciting as teams are assigned to multiple different technology streams. Then allowing different teams to share their insights there becomes a growing excitement as to who will find out what next and which discoveries make it into a product roadmap. The benefits are obvious for the company but this proves also to be an effective way of retaining great team members who have an interest in branching out to be thought leaders in emerging fields.

Dedicated and Motivated Developers a Click Away

software development team kanban board

Motivating and retaining talented software developers isn’t a trivial task. Mindfield helps organizations access high performing teams so they can focus on meeting schedules and serving their customers. Talk to us about how to start a project or to add high performing developers to your team.




Building Mission Critical Teams

Mission critical teams deliver the key work in an organization’s value to stakeholders it includes the people running leading practice software to producing the world’s most trusted products. Team building is a crucial aspect of maintaining high performance teams that allow organizations to become efficient and achieve industry leadership.

Mindfield Consulting has been delivering mission critical software , eLearning corporate training, and JIRA consulting for over two decades and helps organizations meet their most pressing challenges and opportunities with the right people and technology. The difference Mindfield offers is the ability to business case, delivery, and operationalize a  strategic vision enabled by technology.

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