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