Many organizations are implementing agile at scale, often through SAFe, an online freely revealed knowledge base of proven, integrated patterns for implementing Lean-Agile development.
Within these frameworks, agile teams are expected to coordinate and work with each other to efficiently deliver an integrated product. This can be a difficult task, especially for teams used to the autonomy of working as a single independent unit. The following game was designed to help transition autonomous teams into a scaled agile framework or help existing teams that need a refresher on when and why cross team collaboration is necessary.
The following game takes about 30 minutes and can be scaled depending on the number of people in your team. For this example, I'm using a team of five. You'll need the following materials:
- Large whiteboard or drawing surface
- Pens and whiteboard markers
- Scrap paper
- 5 slips of paper, one with each the following number sets. This is for the first stage of the activity.
- 121 147 103 137 127 131 103 104 107 187 103 147 114 162 160
- 231 281 262 239 299 280 248 217 257 228 209 204 300 230 209
- 321 367 338 327 382 371 343 335 370 340 375 381 324 366 359
- 481 443 481 488 493 426 442 499 482 457 438 439 489 441 412
- 586 580 522 581 575 539 523 583 582 556 520 531 503 598 594
- 5 slips of paper, one with each of the following number sets. This is for the second stage.
- 119 135 146 215 240 249 310 321 400 445 466 467 486 511 595
- 161 171 179 187 195 269 288 295 331 354 389 414 453 490 584
- 115 153 223 256 291 294 314 355 366 369 385 405 414 513 514
- 108 150 151 153 409 427 449 464 475 494 525 538 548 558 583
- 165 175 181 183 190 214 218 287 357 361 405 408 475 491 573
Introduce the game as a race to sequence numbers. Tell each player they will be given a slip of random numbers, which they must rewrite in ascending order as quickly as possible. First person to get them all ordered correctly is the winner. Pass out one slip of paper with the 15 random numbers for each person, face down in front of each player. On your signal, the game begins. Once everyone is finished and the winner is congratulated, you can move on to the next phase.
With the newly ordered data sets before them, tell the team they need to integrate their work. To do this, they need to work together and order their datasets into one long list on the white board. This will result in a list of 75 ordered numbers ranging from 100 up to 600. Alert the team that they are being timed, so they should try to do this task as quickly as possible.
Once the final ordering is complete, mark down the time on the white board and do a very quick debrief. Note, that most people will mention that they found the task easy because there was no overlap between the number sets.
Hand out the last five slips of paper, one to each person. Each of the slips contains 15 ordered numbers ranging from 100 to 600. Tell the team that they should repeat the steps from Phase Two, trying to beat their old record.
It will quickly become evident that this task is much harder than the last, and they will not beat their previous time. Once people have stopped having fun, jump in and transition right to the debrief.
Each individual in the group represented an agile team. The race to sequence their own work was an iteration, and the final sequencing of all the work represented the integrated product. The Phase Two task was easy because there was no interplay between the teams, each person could just stack their number set on top of the others. However, Phase Three was much harder, and generally a more realistic picture of what it looks like to deliver integrated product in a scaled agile environment.
A couple specific questions to ask:
- Why was Phase Three more difficult?
- In what ways is our team able to function independently when it comes to our daily work?
- In what ways must me work with other teams to be successful?
- What are our current (or anticipated) pain points for team collaboration in the scaled agile framework?
The goal of this game is to introduce the concept of cross-team collaboration, and what it means to work together on an integrated product. For new teams, this should serve as an informative session, and help them transition into the scaled agile environment with the right expectations. For existing teams, the debrief should draw out current pain points that exist, and how they can be improved moving forward.