Balls! Learning agile principles with the ball game
At Kainos, we don’t aggressively advocate one particular agile methodology. This is because:
We do this with training courses and with focused coaching over time to make sure that change beds in. Our aim is to make sure that when we finish working with a client, we have not only left new skills with an organisation, but also helped that organisation understand how to learn for itself. Organisations are made up of teams, and teams of people. So we like to encourage people to embrace their curiosity and passion for learning.
One of the key approaches to support this is “Inspect and Adapt”. In other words, “look at how things are going and make changes to correct for problems”. It has its roots in the work of W Edwards Deming, whose work was fundamental to the incredible post war development of Japanese industry, and whose “Deming Cycle” pops up all over the place in various forms:
The Deming Cycle – Plan Do Check Act
The cycle happens all the time: in standups, in show and tell sessions, in daily work, and of course the retrospective has “Inspect and Adapt” as its main focus. I’ve noticed that, like many things, this all sounds really good in theory when we’re running a training course, but only really beds in once we get people trying it out in practice.
So we play a game. It’s not a new game: I first played it over ten years ago, but it’s a great way of exploring “Inspect and Adapt”, and giving people a good understanding of a simple agile process. I usually cap off agile training courses with it, but often just run the game on its own.
It takes about an hour. It works best when you have a minimum of five people playing, but you can theoretically have dozens playing at once. You will need a flip chart and pen, a stopwatch, and about 150 ping pong balls (You can get them cheaply here: http://amzn.to/2k1GbXg).
Here’s how to facilitate the game:
Tell the team that there will be five rounds, broken up as follows:
Draw up a score template for each team and give the team the following guidance for scoring:
Ball Game Score Sheet
Then let them get on with it. But be mindful of the following during the exercise:
At the end of the five rounds, get the team together to explore what they have taken from the experience. Some good questions for the group include:
Some key things the team learns from the game:
“I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand” – Confucius
Hopefully you’ll find this game useful for coaching your teams. Not only can you use a lot of analogies from the ball point game during ongoing coaching, but the shared experience of the game brings people together, and going through the process of the game really helps bed in the discoveries your teams can take away from the game.
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