Eulogy for a team

How do you want your team to be remembered?

Objective: This will be an opportunity for team members to reflect on what they’ve accomplished, what they hope to achieve, and what could be problematic for their future.

Materials: Paper or shared virtual space to make notes and write the eulogy

Time required: 60 minutes

Instructions: As an example of how this has been done in the past, consider the memo written in 1969 in case the Apollo moon landing didn’t go well. Bill Safire was prepared to eulogize the astronauts before anyone knew how successful their mission would be. His memo states: “In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.” Can you create as compelling of a statement about your team to express their value and contributions?

Bill Safire's moon disaster memo

Tell the team to look ahead a year and that their team (or major team project) has now passed away. They were hit by some catastrophe that wiped them out. Ask them to identify what kind of catastrophe could do that. Would it be a disruption in the marketplace, a change of leadership, a restriction of resources, or something else? The team needs to settle on just one catastrophe.

Now write a eulogy for the team. It should include the following:

  • Who was on the team? (This can be a list of names, but encourage a description of the team members, such as highly motivated and courageous engineers or dedicated and empathetic practitioners.)
  • Where did the team do its work? (physical location, industry, field, or area)
  • Why did it exist? (Refer them to their team charter or mission statement, or write this from scratch.)
  • When was it at its best? What did it accomplish? What will it be known for? (This can be aspirational and give the team a chance to reflect on what the best outcomes could be for them in the coming months.)
  • What could others learn from this team?
  • What was the cause of death?
  • What has the organization, industry, community, or world lost because their team was lost?

After the team has written their eulogy, read it back to them. Ask them to talk about how they can prevent this catastrophic event from happening. Ask them to share what would make them most proud about their team and the team’s work. Share any relevant observations you, as facilitator, noticed during their discussions.


Eulogy example

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing away of the Consumer Insights (CI) team, a group of creative and insightful individuals who inspired and supported other teams at ABC Agency to find new ways to support our clients. This team provided leadership in the customer research field and others often looked to their members for a good laugh or for inspiration. We all remember their contribution to the All Together Now project last year and how they worked toward their ambitious goal of improving our net promoter scores by 35%. They were an excellent example of how a mixed on- and off-site team can work. However, no team can survive if they lose or fall victim to technology failures. That's what happened to the CI team. We wonder how many small moves toward better customer service will not be made now that this team is gone. How much more money will now need to be spent on customer research? What insights will other teams never gain? We do know that our organization will never feel as concerned, caring, and mission-focused without them.