Last year I created a short session – Learning Scrum Through Games – to help people explore the basics of Scrum in a one hour format. This year I rewrote it and took it to both Agile Tour Toronto and Ottawa.
We learned a number of interesting things from both sessions:
- Even with a poor quality Product Backlog (the Backlog I gave attendees has many issues) the team was still able to create a pretty good product.
- I don’t give the best instructions to start the exercise and yet attendees manage to create some great comics. When a real Scrum team starts, it’s chaotic at first. I would prefer attendees get a sense of this during the exercise so I give deliberately vague instructions.
- Ask the Product Owner Questions – in Ottawa only one team did this. As a result many teams were surprised when it turned out that a nine-page comic book was the only thing I accepted as complete.
- Done or Not Done – Incomplete Comics lead to a good discussion, there is no such thing as 80% done in Scrum. Working software (or comics in this case) is the only measure of progress. This topic led to a brief conversation around the importance of shippable product after every Sprint.
- Many teams jumped around the Product Backlog: choosing whichever stories they felt they could complete. They didn’t ask the Product Owner if it was okay to implement items out of order. Some teams went even further by implementing things the Product Owner didn’t ask for. Quick reminder: if the team wants to do things in a different order or do new things, they have to ask the Product Owner first.
- In Toronto several attendees remarked that it was difficult to understand what was going to happen next. In Ottawa I created an Index Card – Scrum Task wall.
- Timings – the timings in the one handout didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped. It’s not realistic to run two sprints in one hour. If you’re trying to run this yourself I recommend one and a half to two hours which will allow enough time for two Sprints and a good debrief.
Finally, when running this the goal isn’t a perfectly run exercise or perfect comic book; its aim is to have people experience the chaos that is Scrum and see how it can work.
Intro to Scrum with Games Backlog and Schedule (pdf)
Introduction to Scrum Concepts (pdf)
Caveat – the slides were just indeed as a backdrop and not stand on their own.
Photos by Mark Levison.
Jamie Smith says
I just used this activity to introduce a group of high school Advanced Computer Programming students to scrum. They took to it very well.
Mark Levison says
Fantastic and thanks for giving it a spin.
Dam Tam says
I used your Goldiloks game framework in French in workshop and it was a real success!
(French versions of your work available upon request at firstname.lastname@example.org)
My objectif was to introduce SCRUM to students of the best engineer school in France, and I had one hour.
After the first sprint, I (as a PO) changed the Backlog: “The book shall be in English, not in French” and “the home security sponsor mention shall be removed ” and “Bledina product placement shall be predent inside the book”.
For the first sprint I give them 4 minutes for sprint planning and 4 minutes for the first Daily Scrum, and I coach them so they know how to do.
The exercise is great, they work as a team very quickly. They are disoriented because they have no leader but they finally find it powerful.
In the middle of day 3, I stop the game “You ar all gonna fail because nobody asked me what was the priority of “The book shall be in English, not in French” …
Each time (as in real life), they are afraid to ask the PO, they prefer to do their best… while the PO would only need the simplest!
Many thanks for the ideas!
Mark Levison says
Dam – well played. Delighted to hear you had so much fun with it. Your approach to play is similar to mine. See how we can surprise our attendees 🙂 Thanks also for extending the game to French.
Claes Engelin says
I have taken this game and translated it into Swedish. I run it as a three hour exercise with a lunch break for groups of IT students at community college level. I also took Dam’s idea and changed up the Product Backlog between the first and second sprint, keeping the requirement that the story should be in English as the last one. Let’s just say that not all groups caught that last one…
Mark Levison says
Claes – I love the adaptation to Swedish. The variant sounds like fun. What amazes me, is that 9yrs after I created the original version people are still finding ways to play and make it better. Have fun and thanks for helping new people learn about Scrum.