Mars stopped using team-building, and collaboration improved

26 September 2018 -

Mars pet careTeam-building does not improve productivity, according to seven years of research at Mars

Emily Hill

Team-building initiatives may not improve collaboration or productivity, according to some surprising research conducted at food and pet care giant, Mars.

Mars has been officially looking to boost efficiency since 2011, when researchers began to interview 125 of its global teams. And now Carlos Valdes-Dapena, founder of Corporate Collaboration Resources, who was involved in the process – has reflected upon the findings. His conclusion? It’s better to focus on the motivation of employees as individuals and let them explain how best to work together, than engage in costly team-building exercises.


Like many organisations, Mars has traditionally sent managers to enjoy various experiences in pursuit of team harmony. They included stays at off-site retreats complete with orchestras. And while these events may have appeared to create temporary emotional bonds, Valdes-Dapena admitted in a recent interview that: “It did nothing to change how that group of leaders worked.”

Through its discussions with employees, Mars learned that individuals weren’t collaborating because they were excelling at managing their own tasks. “Collaboration was perceived as messy. It diluted accountability and offered few tangible rewards,” Valdes-Dapena said.

So for each task, Mars asked all teams to answer two questions: why collaboration was important to results; and what was needed to achieve collaboration. This exercise proved valuable: Mars Petcare China experienced growth of 33% in the following year when managers continued to ask themselves these two questions. The questions were effective because they put a framework for teamwork in place.


More efficient ways of working are increasingly demanded by business, not least in the UK where productivity lags behind its G7 competitors by 18%. CMI believes that management and leadership skills can play a pivotal role in closing the productivity gap, as outlined in the Management Manifesto.

Image: Shutterstock

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