Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 81 – The Secret Power Of Code Names

Dear Leaders, 

Celebrating the small wins is one of the many hacks most overlook when building and rebuilding teams. 

I have shared a number of frameworks and hacks to help to inspire positive change within your culture and business. 

Your favourites have been (from internal data)

  1. improved culture with agreed principles,
  2. risk vs benefit framework,
  3. one problem two solutions framework,
  4. two up two across framework,
  5. the handover hand back framework, calendar audit.  

This week I am going to share one of my favourite hacks, the hack is having dedicated code names. Code names are brilliant in creating an internal language (part of building psychological safety) and being able to associate with a project at weird and different levels. 

Below are three examples from my past:

(1) Vicki
During a big software launch, there was a huge investment into a new software system, it was a huge shift and investment for the company and rather than creating a boring software name, the internal code name was selected as Vicki.
Why? it was actually named after the owner’s first girlfriend and it was a connector for the team working on the roll-out (software house + IT team) and the name specifically became an ongoing discussion point. Speculation from the company of why the name and what the name’s significance was around the software kept so many people guessing. It helped a rough rollout to become more palatable and stuck as the official name for the software. 

(2) Nostalgia
More recently, while running a new business line, when rolling out big product sprints and product enhancements, the team created code names in reference to late 1990’s football (soccer) players, typically from Arsenal and Man Utd players.
For some, it meant having to do a bit of research (which is actually an important layer to bonding) and for others, it was a core piece of nostalgia.
FWIW Keane and Vieria were selected for the hardest and biggest projects. 

(3) Friends
Most recently, a team were big fans of the classic tv show Friends and the big projects were given character names like ‘fun time Bobby’, Mr Heckles, Janice and Gunther. It was important they were not the names of the main characters. 

You’d be surprised how projects are then given names associated with how much they like or loathe the project, a bad project might be called Emily (in reference to a British character who got married to Ross) or Charlie (Wheeler) if they liked the project (in reference to the palaeontology professor who dated Joey and then Ross, who was always funny).  

It’s important to note: Hacks work for a certain period of time, once it becomes commonplace the playful element may diminish, however, it is important to remember you are trying to build layers of improved connection, therefore ensuring hacks roll up into other tactics to continue the connection and build trust in what you are trying to achieve. 

One last hack before I leave you, creating meme’s as a hack will also help to lighten the mood and tension around larger projects and campaigns and enable people to remix the meme themselves and continue the hack. 

Thanks and have a great new years,

Danny Denhard 

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