I wrote about this last week on InfoQ but I thought it worthwhile to call out the games I think are the most useful and interesting. In the news item I used a quote from Mike Sutton, that neatly sums up the value of games to my mind: “There is nothing as effective to accelerate learning as a physical immersive game. The simpler the better, better still with near to no props. As low tech as possible. You get to see the penny actually drop with some folks too – and that is a great moment”.
Have a team that isn’t focusing enough on process improvement? Try Boris Gloger’s ball point game:
“The objective of the Ball Point game is to get as many balls through the team as possible within two minutes. Each ball must be touched at least once by every team member and must end with the same person with whom it began. After two minutes the team is allowed an additional minute to discuss the process and how it could be improved. The game is played a total of five times….”
Want to illustrate the value of early delivery? Try We’re having a Party!:
Once everybody is comfortable with all of the steps, start the timer and have participants build 3 cards each by completing each step to completion before moving on to the next step; this is known as batch & queue. Stop production about half way through and ask everybody what would happen if we decided to change the color of the paper. How much wasted effort would there be? How does this map to software? Let production continue and note the time when the first card is delivered to the customer and again when all cards are complete ….
Need to demonstrate the value of working on problems in small batches and without specialisation? Try the Penny Queueing Exercise:
This simple simulation exercise helps people to understand the efficiency that can come from moving away from a waterfall or large batch process. The exercise can be done with 20 pennies, 5 people and a clock with a second hand.
More problems in specialisation? Try building paper airplanes with specialists:
In teams of 4 or more, have participants create as many paper airplanes as possible. When thrown from behind a table at one end of the room, airplanes must cross the room and touch the opposite wall. The facilitator, playing the role of the customer, can reject any planes that do not meet their quality standards. Track the number of planes created/approved, time to get the first plane approved, time to absorb a new team member, time to incorporate a new requirement (first yellow plane)
The Tasty Cup Cakes wiki has a number of other interesting games that can be used to help introduce new ideas or illuminate existing problems.