Zin wasn’t built in a day – the importance of teamwork

16 May 2018

by Annie Grant


In the ancient city of Atlantis, a solid, rectangular obelisk, called a Zin, was built in honour of the goddess Tina. The structure took less than two weeks to complete . On which day of the week the obelisk was completed?  It takes a team to work it out, as delegates on the fourth session of Camden’s 2017/18 Middle Leaders Programme found out.

The purpose of this ‘nonsense’ puzzle, set by facilitator Janet Wallace, was to get delegates to collaborate, cooperate and use their specialist skills to solve a tricky problem in a short space of time. One group emerged triumphant – they had a ‘chair’, a scribe and someone with a good grasp of numbers in their team.

Next delegates used a selection of photos as a stimulus to discuss the characteristics of effective teams – what is it about a marching band, a human pyramid, a rowing team or the Beatles that makes them a good team.


After a quick coffee and with the end of the school year in their sights, delegates worked in new teams to apply their learning about teamwork to that all important educational question, ‘What shall we do for the end of year staff party?’.

‘How did these teams work compared to the Zin task,’ asked Janet Wallace. ‘What worked better and what didn’t? What have you learnt about effective teams?’ Everyone had learnt a lot, especially about how different roles  contribute to effective teamwork, plus they had planned some excellent parties.


After lunch Janet drew delegates attention to some theoretical models of team effectiveness, including:

  • Beckhard’s ‘Goals, Roles, Processes and Relationships’ model’
  • Belbin’s team roles, and
  • Tuckman’s ‘Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning’ model of how teams develop.

Working in coaching triads delegates thought about how their own teams operated, and drawing on insights from the course, how they might be more effective.


Finally, the group shared their experiences of teambuilding exercises and events, which ranged from departmental awaydays, to paintballing, and for one school a Zombie Apocalypse experience around the site where staff had to work together to escape to the pub.

Read the previous blog, ‘Learning to Coach’.


We have released the dates for the Middle Leaders Programme 2018/19.

Click here for more information and to book your place!

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