Celebrate team success

Image by roym at sxc.hu

In response to a question on a trainers’ forum asking for an hour-long activity to celebrate a team’s accomplishments, this is what I came up with off the top of my head. I hope you find it useful.

First off, get the team into pairs. If you can pair up people who don’t usually work closely, or are in different roles, so much the better. Get them to interview each other using a variant of the ‘Appreciative Interview format‘ from Appreciative Inquiry that goes like this:

  1. Tell me about the team accomplishment that has meant the most to you this year – your best moment with the team.
  2. What’s important to you about this story? (this will give you at least some of the values that motivate team members)
  3. What factors were present that made this accomplishment possible (this starts to look at what had to be present for the success to happen – if you identify these enabling factors, it should make it easier to have more successes in the future)
  4. If you had one wish for the future, what would it be?

Time for the whole interview: 15 minutes each way

Notes: give them a crib-sheet with the questions on. Brief them that in question one you are after stories, not analysis or opinion. Also that you’re looking for the positives, successes, achievements. Get them to write a ‘headline’ for the story on a post-it note, with more post-its for the answers to each of the other three questions.

Then get the team to collaborate in placing the accomplishments on a timeline (drawn on one or more pieces of flipchart paper in landscape mode, depending on how many accomplishments you have to fit into the year).

Above each accomplishment put the post-its with the values that have been identified. Immediately before each event, stick the enabling factors. And at the ‘future’ end of the timeline, stick the wishes.

Take a high-res digital photo of the whole thing – or preserve the physical artefact.

That should just about fit into an hour. What you will probably find is that the interviewers will start to feel inspired by the interviewees’ stories, and also that the dialogue helps people understand each other better, so it’s a useful bit of teambuilding as well.

An activity to celebrate team success

6 thoughts on “An activity to celebrate team success

  • Do you really think that this would work better in pairs or in triads? I have sometimes found that pairs have or get bad chemistry and you have a 50% chance of disengagement. Most of my debriefing work occurs with tabletops of 4 to 6 people, with them challenged to put together a mind map or flow chart or list of bullets on an easel pad that they are then asked to share with the others.

    Plus, I will often use “Dot-Voting” as a way to generate some forced browsing of all the ideas before any presentations. I give them all 4 blue dots with the request that they post on the main ones they like — or maybe also green dots to vote on the ones that have the best impact on something (customers, profits, teamwork, collaboration between departments, etc.)

    The only rule is that they cannot vote on their own table’s work, thus the forced browsing…

    I like the overall approach, but just wonder if the structural side of things is optimal. And note that a LOT of work gets done at the tabletop in those discussions.

  • Thanks Scott!

    Pairs is the way it’s usually done in Appreciative Inquiry – you’ll get more of an in-depth story than you would in a triad. It’s an appreciative interview rather than a discussion: one interviewer, one interviewee – I’m not sure what the third person would be doing in that situation.

    The sort of disengagement that you mention doesn’t happen very often, perhaps because we preframe the activity to emphasise that we’re looking for what went well, for achievements and accomplishments, and for what meant most to people. Generally people are easier to like and relate to when you’re asking them about these things – certainly less defensive and more open than when being ‘grilled’ about mistakes and failures.

    Dot-voting is a very useful way of getting people to consider options, although in this exercise we’re not selecting out the most impactful or liked events. Of course one could do that as well. If more than one interview has highlighted a particular event it will have more of a post-it ‘cloud’ around it.

  • Andy,

    many thanks for this – I am new to AI… Can you say a bit more about what you mean by ‘Get them to write a ‘headline’ for the story’

    I hope to do this next week with a few folk…… Help…

    Many thanks


  • Hi Francis,

    Sure – the story might take them 5 or 10 minutes to tell, so the ‘headline’ is just the gist of the story condensed into 25 words or probably less so it fits on a post-it note. It helps the other team members to identify which event is being talked about, or at least gives people an identifier which helps them ask more questions about the story. If other team members have also found the same experience inspiring, the shared experience means they have something additional in common.

    1. Andy,

      many thanks for this – very helpful. So how do we take the output from this and turn it into a “Provocative Propositions”? I am going to do some work with a new team of nurses next week. They are a team but work in diffrent parts of the SW. My hope would be that we can come up with a“Provocative Propositions” that they can all sign up to, even if they work on diffrent sites and only meet on-line once a week…

      This is a great way of working within the NHS – just what it needs at this time…

      Once again many thanks


  • The next stage in the classic Appreciative Inquiry format (https://coachingleaders.co.uk/what-is-appreciative-inquiry/) would be the ‘Dream’ stage, where you get the team to build a representation of how the future could be, ideally using artwork or a theatre-type presentation – something more than words, anyway. We usually ask them to come up with a ‘slogan’ to sum up what the future can be – this is pretty close to a ‘Provocative Proposition’.

    I actually suspect that the PPs are a bit of a historical accident, rather than being integral to the AI method. The textbooks are pretty vague on how to come up with them, and when you look for great examples there aren’t that many. Here’s one from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, often quoted as a case study:

    “GMCR leverages technology in innovative ways to create business benefit for all of our stakeholders.”
    (source: http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/ai/uploads/Summit%201%20-%20Propositions.doc)

    I’m not sure that’s going to get anyone’s heart beating faster.

    You may want to call them something other than ‘Provocative Propositions’ as it doesn’t really explain what they are – ‘Possibility Statements’ is a good alternative I think.

    Here are a couple more articles you may find useful:
    And if you’re familiar with NLP

    I am probably going to run a 2-day Practical Appreciative Inquiry course in November, which would give you everything you need to get started with AI for groups and also individual coaching, if you would find that useful. It would be in Sutton Coldfield.

    Andy Smith

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