Your team is working on the World’s Smallest Online Bookstore, a site that provides the best results (just a few) for every search, not every result on earth. We’re a vulture capital funded company, so if we don’t deliver, our funding will be cut.
So begins the opening of the High-Performance Teams Game.
My goal is to help you see the effects of choices/tradeoffs on productivity and team cohesion. While some of the benefits of Agile happen at the individual level, there are many things that affect the relationships between team members, and therefore the overall cohesion and productivity of the team.
The game is played by a team of 5-9 people, in a series of 5-6 rounds. During each round there is a little bit of teamwork, a little bit of discussion of the science, and some game play. Each round represents 6 weeks, or three 2-week sprints. In each round you have budget for the amount of work/stuff you can do based on your team’s capacity. Some of that budget must be spent on delivering features, otherwise the business will threaten to let you go. Some of it should be spent on growing the team and their engineering skills, otherwise you don’t get more budget capacity.
Some of the leading research  suggests that a key requirement for high performance teams is Cohesion. Cohesion is a measure of the strengths of the relationships between individual team members.
In this session we will use this research to discover:
- Simple communication patterns we can monitor to spot the health of the team.
- Simple tools we can use to measure and track those patterns.
- What effect does the location of the watercooler have? What effect do lunch tables have?
- Can cohesive teams get you into trouble?
- The importance of dissent and diversity within teams.
- Bonuses – the negative effects of individual bonuses are well understood by the Agile community. However, we’re left with the question: Are there good bonuses?
Game Material (Dropbox folder):
- Team Actions Worksheet (1 per team)
- Teams Game
- Sample Games – four possible paths through the game played out
In addition to the game material, I’ve written a paper on the “5 Steps Towards High-Performance Teams”.
Enjoy playing with your team.
High-Performance Teams Game by Mark Levison – Agile Pain Relief Consulting is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Feedback from GOAT (Gatineau Ottawa Agile Tour 2015): During game play at the conference, only the facilitator knew the benefit/effects of each action while the game progressed. As a result, in the 90 minute session some teams had a difficult time keeping track of the calculations. Future editions will reveal all the calculation details on paper to the attendees in the round after they’ve played.
 Ben Waber – People Analytics
Mark Levison has been helping Scrum teams and organizations with Agile, Scrum and Kanban style approaches since 2001. From certified scrum master training to custom Agile courses, he has helped well over 8,000 individuals, earning him respect and top rated reviews as one of the pioneers within the industry, as well as a raft of certifications from the ScrumAlliance. Mark has been a speaker at various Agile Conferences for more than 20 years, and is a published Scrum author with eBooks as well as articles on InfoQ.com, ScrumAlliance.org an AgileAlliance.org.
Thank you for sharing this material. I’ve been looking forward to it since GOAT, and wanted to share it with my office colleagues.
Is it okay if I reuse or modify it to help increase corporate buy-in at my work? Not sure what level of copyleft you desire 🙂
(Maybe Creative Commons “By-SA” license)
Mark Levison says
Sure I think you just suggested: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License – which suits my personal style. Use it, adapt it, share what you learned. I will updated the game material accordingly.
Thank you! / Merci beaucoup!