I recently put a workshop together to take a new team through to help describe some important agile concepts including the benefits of working collaboratively and swarming on tasks; the value of communication; how to self-organise; how limiting work in progress achieves more value and what we mean by T-shaped teams.
The workshop itself was a lot of fun and left us with a bunch of balloons and sweets to share with our colleagues(which can’t be a bad thing), as well as a good grasp of the concepts above.
The team is a party supplies organisation, they supply balloons, place cards and party favours (wrapped sweets) for small parties.
They have a backlog of orders to fulfil and only get paid for high quality, complete orders. They get nothing for unfinished orders except grumpy customers.
Supplies needed (your shopping list)
- A pack of party balloons (x50)
- Balloon pump
- Jelly beans (lots)
- Plastic ribbon (x3) – for balloon ties and favour ties
- Black sharpies (x2) – for drawing on balloons
- place cards (x 50)
- Metallic pens (x2) – for decorating place cards
- Black pen (x2) – for writing names on place cards
- Tissue paper – for wrapping up sweets
- Backlog of names (cut out)
The game is for seven people, there are three more optional roles if you have more people. These can also be played by the facilitator.
- Balloon blower: you blow up balloons (and tie them)
- Balloon decorator: you tie ribbons on the balloons
- Balloon face drawer: you draw happy faces on the balloons
- Place card name writer: you write names on cards
- Place card decorator: you decorate place cards with a border
- Sweet counter: you count out sweets into tissue paper
- Sweet decorator: you tie up favours with a ribbon
- Quality check (optional)
- Timekeeper (optional)
- Client (optional)
Each team member has a specific role to play in getting orders fulfilled and they must stick to their role. Everyone on the team should pick a role and grab the supplies they need to do their role. The team should organise themselves however they want to.
Give the team the backlog of orders and six minutes to complete as many orders as they can. The timekeeper should call out relevant points along the way.
Once the six minutes is up, the client should review the orders and how many are complete (it’s likely that there are not many complete orders, if any and you have lots of place cards, but less balloons and party favours)
Discuss how the exercise went and what the team noticed. Questions you can ask if the team do not bring them up are: what bottlenecks are there? How did the team communicate? Who needed help? What waste has been created? What processes could be improved? Have you asked the client what they expect?
Then ask how would you do it differently.
The team can break their roles and organise themselves however they want. If you have someone on quality, they can also take on a new role. Give the team time to talk about how they will improve their process before they start.
Give the team the backlog of orders (you can use the same ones) and six minutes to complete as many orders as they can. The timekeeper should call out relevant points along the way.
Once the six minutes is up, the client should review the orders and how many are complete (There should be more!)
Give the team a chance to discuss how things improved, reflect on the changes that were made and how they helped the ability to get orders out. Ask how they would do it differently if you were to run the exercise again.
If the team doesn’t bring it up, then talk about: communication; swarming on tasks; prioritisation and work in progress limits; T-shaped people and teams.
Let me know if you try it out in the comments below.