Posted in Liberating Structures, Purpose-to-practice - Building a New Team

New team, new name! How?

A name is important for creating cohesiveness in a team and for supporting the “feeling of belonging” for the individuals in the team. I have heard about teams, that use 5 minutes and then they have settled of a name. I am still to experience that in my team, but I have plenty of experience with teams struggling to agree on a name, and the process can seem to drag out forever. I have also previously tried facilitating a team to decide a name, and failing miserably.

I did challenge myself to come up with a process to help my team decide on a name they liked – within an hour, with a preference to an even shorter timebox. The challenges I needed to take into consideration were:

  • It takes time for people to come up with names they like. Not all are comfortable with brainstorming under strict time pressure.
  • People can have strong opinions about team names, especially the ones they don’t like. This can create a negative tension, that stalls the creative process.
  • A team name can be anything, actually. It is not the name that is important, as much as why the name was chosen.

The following is what I came up with, and experimented with with a team of mine.

Which structures and Why

To save time during the workshop, and to give everybody a chance to brainstorm names, I provided a Miro board where the team could post name suggestions. To ease up on the “fear of the white paper” I added questions like: “How would you like other people associate with the team?” and “If the team were an animal, what kind of animal would it be”. In this way, team members that are not creative in finding team names, could contribute, and inspire others, by answering those questions on the board. Also a few links to online team generators was added.

The actual session, was based on the Liberating Structures “1-2-4-all“, and “Shift and Share“.

The 1-2-4-all was designed in a way that it would narrow down the pool of ideas, by allowing people to remove names they didn’t like, as well as building consensus together with other team members. All individuals could vote on one name the would discard. The pairs had to agree on a name to remove and a name to keep. The foursomes should agree on up to three names, and prepare a 15 second pitch.

The “all” part of the 1-2-4-all, was replaced with the Shift and Share. The simplified shift and share was designed so groups could share their 15 second pitch to everybody. A simple dot vote help decide which name (and pitch) was the best.

My observation and experiences

  • The “open board” to give team members a chance to brainstorm names, at their own pace, whenever it fitted their workday resulted in 50+ suggestions for a new name.
  • Giving the team members a chance to remove names, removed the fear of the team picking a name that one team member could absolutely not identify with. This provided openness for other names.
  • Having pairs agreeing to discard a name and keep a name, enabled conversation and team members leaning towards each other, instead of just insisting on own ideas.
  • Asking the foursomes to prepare a pitch, enabled conversation on why a name was cool or not. Those discussions helped build consensus and understanding for names, that might not have sounded interesting in the first place.
  • The pitches was in itself a key, to this selection process. There was a clear winner, and it was all about the pitch.
  • It felt very natural to run this process right after defining our purpose. Both can fit into a 2 hour session.
  • I actually changed the type of voting in the end, to a standard dot voting (number of dots = [Number of options]/3 + 1 )

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