Extraordinary Team Blog

Team Building Activity: Test for Consensus: A Straw Poll

Posted by Kristin Arnold on December 9, 2015

This is a great team activity which allows the team to see what it thinks of a decision, without actually agreeing on the final outcome. It works with any size group and requires about 10 minutes. You will need a prepared easel chart with a “5L” scale and one removable colored dot for each team member.

Assemble the team members in a space large enough for each person to see the others and the easel. When aiming for consensus, take a “straw poll” of the team’s energy and commitment to a specific outcome using this fun and simple tool.

First, ensure a complete understanding of the straw poll issue. Clarify any lingering questions the team may have.

Then have each person take one colored dot. (Note: you may “stratify” the team by giving different colored dots to distinct groups.)

Draw the “5L” scale on the easel chart. Walk through the definitions of each “L” and ask team members to silently vote on what they think of the solution:

  • “You loathe it or hate it.
  • You will lament it and moan about it in the parking lot.
  • You can live with it.
  • You like it.
  • You really love it.”

Ask the team members to place their colored dot on the item, so that they are building a bar chart. After all have placed their dots on the easel chart, step back and evaluate.

Debrief and Summarize
Based on the results of the straw poll, see if the team agrees there is consensus. Consensus is that all votes are at least a “live with” or better.

In the event there are votes that are “loathe,” “lament,” or just a few “live with,” ask the team why someone voted that way. Be careful not to pick on a specific person, but get the team’s feedback on why there isn’t consensus.

Integrate the new feedback and build a better solution.

If you like this activity, check out my book, Team Energizers, for 49 other team activities!


Kristin Arnold is a professional meeting facilitator and international speaker who is passionate about helping leaders and their teams think things through, make better decisions and achieve sustainable results. The Extraordinary Team’s approach to building high performance teams combines consulting, coaching, training and process facilitation within the context of working real issues.

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  • Steve

    Thanks Kristen for another useful team exercise. You taught me everything I know about the effective use of colored dots and easel charts 😉

    I have a similar exercise I often do with teams who are working on a “big change” effort. Periodically, as we work through the process, I use colored dots and a five level Likert scale like yours (or “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”) across the top of an easel chart to assess team reservations about the direction of the “big change” solution being developed.

    I will ask them to post dots on the chart where I have also written the following “six levels of reservation” along the left side of the easel chart. This comes from Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints “Thinking Process”:

    1) We are working on the right problem.
    2) We have chosen the right “direction for a solution” (high level).
    3) The detailed solution, if deployed, will solve the problem.
    4) We have adequately addressed “Yeah, but . . .” concerns – OBSTACLES to deploying the solution.
    5) We have adequately addressed “Yeah, but . . .” concerns – PAIN associated with deploying the solution.
    6) Leadership will “stand-up” for and support this change.

    In the early stages of the effort, you expect the team to have reservations at levels 1, 2 and 3 above. In later stages of solution development you hope to see reservations raised that fall into levels 4, 5 and 6. It’s a good indicator when you are moving too fast and leaving some of the team behind with unresolved concerns.

    Best Regards for Great Success!

    • Kristin Arnold

      Steve – LOVE this Thinking Process! I can see how this would be great for a project and/or change management team – and what a great way to show progress.

  • Brad Harper

    Good stuff!!