Games For Training Agile & Scrum
When it comes to training groups of people about empiricism and the mechanisms of self-organizing teams, it helps to include simulations and games. I mean, it’s difficult lecturing folks on how to self-organize. They gotta just do it.
Making do with BPG
One of the most popular exercises is the Ball Point Game, credited to Boris Gloger and used to teach Scrum concepts. Most Scrum trainers I ask say they’ve used it at least once to demonstrate concepts such as self-organization, inspect & adapt, and estimation. If you’ve taken a Scrum class or two, you’re likely to have played it.
Here’s a link to a video I recorded in 2012 of a large team (~40) playing the Ball Point game.
When playing the Ball Point Game (BPG), a team will organize themselves around the goal of getting as many balls as possible passed through the system within a defined period of time. There are a few specific rules / constraints, and groups will typically undergo three to five iterations while tracking their progress. It’s a fun, lively activity that introduces empirical processes and lays the groundwork for a more tangible exploration of Scrum.
Personally, I was getting bored with this activity. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the game and the takeaways that participants discover, but I sometimes find it limiting or counter to what I’m trying to teach. For example, many trainers facilitate the BPG with all participants forming one team – for some classes, this can be over 40 people shouting across a large space. Some trainers will break the group into multiple teams, but I find it difficult enough to monitor one team to make sure they don’t cheat or ignore defects (and therefore miss critical learning).
Seeking an Alternative to BPG
In late 2018 I started looking for alternatives, and it wasn’t long before I came across the Lean Workflow Design Game by Nancy Van Schooenderwoert and introduced at the Play4Agile conference in 2011. I haven’t spoken much with Nancy or anyone else who’s played Lean Workflow Design Game (and I’ve only found a few references to it online including a nice write up by Sven Röpstorff and a video by Nancy herself), but I found the game to be useful and fun.
While I might still use the Ball Point Game with small classes (under 10), I like the more complex Lean Workflow Design Game (LWDG). In addition, I feel that by extending the game to introduce more complexity in subsequent rounds, the lessons of empiricism and self-organizing teams become more apparent. I hope that you agree.
To help “sell” the game to a roomful of participants, I came up with the name CardZinga! as an extension of the LWDG.
Update – as of March 2020, CardZinga! has been adapted for virtual delivery.