An Exercise in Flow, Value and Teamwork: The Dice Game

Games are a great way to learn…especially as a team.  Here is one simple but powerful exercise that can be used to demonstrate several aspects of flow, value and teamwork: The Dice Game, by Lithespeed.

You can have several teams – each representing a different method of delivery:  Watherfall, Continuous Flow/Kanban, Scrum.   And compare results afterwards.

Key Learning Points:

  • Value is delivered more rapidly in small batches
  • Steady delivery of features mitigates the risk of non-delivery
  • Small batches reduce the impact of customer changes
  • Teamwork is more prevalent when activities are shared and there is frequent interaction
  • New skills can be built over time by frequent interaction between those performing neighboring activities, leading to more polyskilled team members and hence more fruitful collaboration
  • Work in small batches is less complex
  • Optimal release strategies can maximize the flow of value, hence the necessity of the Product Owner role

>> Click here for Full Game Instructions



Playing Games: Project Management’s Next Innovation

Communication and social dysfunctional relationships are often associated with project teams’ inability to meet their project goals and objectives. This all too often leads to project’s coming in over budget and/or schedule.

The social and emotional skills of a project teams and individuals have been de-emphasized in favor of process and procedural fulfillment on part of the project profession.  In some respects, this is leading towards the commoditization of project management.

There’s a clear need to acknowledge and value of emotional and social intelligence in project teams. Research shows the best way to increase emotional and social intelligence is through experiential processes like ‘serious games’. Serious games provide a powerful, proven new tool for the PM toolkit. They are an engaging, economical way to create respect, trust, appreciation for diversity and ultimately organizational value.

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WEBINAR – Prioritizing Project Portfolios using Innovation Games (11/30)

November 30, 2010 (9-10 am PST, 12-1 pm EST)

Portfolio Prioritization is a critical aspect of project work. In this interactive session, serious gaming expert Luke Hohmann will present the Innovation Games Prune the Product (Portfolio) Tree and Buy a Feature (Project) — two new approaches to prioritizing project portfolios.

Based on principles and learning’s from cognitive psychology and organizational behavior, these collaborative, serious games, enable small, co-located teams, or larger, distributed teams, to efficiently prioritize project portfolios.

HOST: PMI’s Agile Community of Practice.

SPEAKER: Luke Hohmann is the Founder and CEO of The Innovation Games Company, the leading provider of serious games that enable organizations to solve complex problems through online and in-person collaborative play. The author of three books, Luke’s playfully diverse background of life experiences has uniquely prepared him to design and produce serious games. Luke graduated magna cum laude with a B.S.E. in computer engineering and an M.S.E. in computer science and engineering from the University of Michigan. In addition to data structures and artificial intelligence, he studied cognitive psychology and organizational behavior. He is also a former National Junior Pairs Figure Skating Champion, as well as a certified aerobics instructor. In his spare time, Luke likes roughhousing with his four kids and his wife’s cooking. He also enjoys long runs in the Santa Cruz mountains to burn off his wife’s cooking. Luke’s a bit of an old school Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Instead of building a company to flip, he’s building a company to change the world. You can join him by playing games at Games for Democracy.

PDU: 1
COST: Free




Understand Technical Debt by Playing a Game

Packing Peanuts

There is no better way the learn then by doing.   And games are a great way to do that as well as very popular in the Agile community.   Here is another game by Masa K Maeda one of The Agilista PM’s popular speakers.   Try playing the game during a lunch-n-learn at your organization or team.    And you’ll have a lot of fun doing it !!!!

This games gives people a great understanding of what Technical Debt is and why it is so costly to projects.

Timing:    10 minutes


  • 4 cardboard boxes. Size: around the standard size of a moving box (13”x18”x12”)
  • Enough packing peanuts to fill two of the boxes
  • 2 people (these folks are the key ingredient ;-p). You can do this exercise with more people (adding 2 at a time, up to 6 people without the need to have more boxes or packing peanuts). For even more people you’ll need to add more boxes and packing peanuts

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Learning KANBAN by Playing a Game

Making Pamphlets Game

There is no better way the learn then by doing.   And games are a great way to do that and very popular in the Agile community.   Here is a game by Masa K Maeda one of The Agilista PM’s popular speakers.   This is great to do during a lunch-n-learn at your organization or team.    And you’ll have a lot of fun doing it !!!!

TIMING: 1 hour

RECIPE: This is a game to understand some of the mechanics of Kanban such as balancing the work-in-progress, resource allocation, and waste management. Each team has to create its own Kanban board as they see fit and improve it as the game develops.

  • Teams: 1 or more of 5 to 6 people
  • Color paper: 4 different colors (20 pages or each color per team)
  • Glue sticks: 2 per team
  • Scissors: 2 pairs per team
  • Envelopes: 2 different sizes or colors (20 of each per team)
  • Color pencils: 1 set per team
  • Masking tape: 1 per team
  • Post-its: 3 different colors per team
  • Misc stickers (optional)

The objective is to create paper pamphlets to promote a vacation resort. Each pamphlet will have some drawn and some pasted artwork in addition to written information.Note: each paper and envelope has to pass through the entire production line and each person can do only one thing at a time (e.g. a person cannot be writing on a pamphlet and passing envelopes at the same time). One story per pamphlet, meaning it has to be broken into smaller tasks (think epic=pamphlet).

  1. Each team will have:
    • Paper: 3 different colors (you keep the 4th color paper for later)
    • 1 glue-stick (you keep the other one for later)
    • 1 pair of scissors (you keep the other one for later)
    • 1 kind of envelope (you keep the other one for later)
    • Color pencils
    • Stickers (optional)
    • Duct tape
  2. Explain the roles and responsibilities:
    1. Header: writes company name and campaign name
    2. Cutter: cuts the artwork (sun, palm tree, flying bird, boat)
    3. Artist: draws the ocean line, the beach, and pastes the papercuts
    4. QA guy: verifies all is correct (all pamphlets must be similar)
    5. Folder/sender: folds pamphlet, puts it in envelope, writes customer name/address and puts on a stack for sending.
    6. Manager: manages the kanban board
  3. Before starting:
    • Make sure all teams have their material available and roles assigned.
  4. Explain the game:
    • They must create pamphlets, one at a time
    • Pamphlet, envelope, and paper cuts must be of different colors
    • All pamphlets must look the same
    • All envelopes and paper must start at the beginning of the production line
    • Nobody can do more than 1 thing at a time. (e.g. either I pass a sheet of paper to the next person or draw the beach but cannot be drawing and passing papers at the same time)
    • They must have periodic stand up meetings to improve the process.
  5. The game:
    1. Give them 5 minutes to define and create their Kanban board on a wall
    2. Give them 2 minutes to get set
    3. Start!
    4. Each 6 minutes stop them so that each team has its own 2-minute stand-up meeting
    5. For iteration 3 ask the managers to expedite the creation of 2 pamphlets of different color with different artwork (palm tree, 2 boats and one diamond-shaped kite)
    6. For iteration 4 change ask managers to use the other kind/color of envelope.
    7. For iteration 6 change team sizes (merging 2 into one or breaking one team to integrate into other 2. This is even better if the teams end up being of different sizes)
    8. Let them play for 2 more iterations
  6. Post-game discussion

Learning Points:

  • Collaboration is key to success
  • Some aspects that require changes on WIP are very obvious while others are subtle
  • Roles and responsibilities continuously change (titles lose importance)
  • Response to variability is highly effective
  • Lack of iterations make the work smooth and efficient
  • Regular discussions to improve process are key
  • It scales because daily stand up duration does not depend on the # of people in the team