Posted in Games

Ultimate Agile Games List

"Adults shouldn't play games at work."

It would be easy to think that playing games together is something that we should have stopped doing when we became adults and took on jobs and responsibilities. Games are important for children as they teach social, communication, and tactile skills, as well as many others. But as adults we should learn skills through PowerPoint presentations and reading documentation, right?

I mean, you can do if you want to.

But how many times have you daydreamed your way through a training session, or skim read some documentation because it doesn’t interest you?

There must be a better way!!

I'm a big fan of games.

Why not use games in our every day work? Games have all sorts of benefits for teams, and individual growth.

Many classic games are designed to teach us new skills in a way that is more engaging and allows us to immediately apply these skills to a simulated situation. These are key games in any Scrum Master’s toolbox.

Some games are ways of helping our brains process, sort, and act upon information. Retrospectives are chock-full of games (or exercises if you will) that allow us to understand the previous sprint and collaboratively figure out a way to move forward.

Others are all about fun. It may look like an excuse to mess around and not do work for a bit but I have seen teams gain insights, skills, and camaraderie from playing them. Laughter is a powerful tool at removing hierarchy, promoting safety, and boosting morale, all of which are key to a great Scrum team.

But what are these games?

This blog article is to introduce you to the ULTIMATE AGILE GAMES LIST which is essentially my list of all the games I have used or want to use in a google spreadsheet. (Note: I just used the title ‘Ultimate’ to sound cool, I have no accreditation to prove it is).

I am in no way creative enough to have imagined all these games for myself but as many people working in agile also love games there are so many to choose from. Lucky me! I often find myself spending hours browsing through websites and books looking for new ones to try out or ones that fit a specific purpose.

In respect of these wonderful people who create these games I have only included a summary in the spreadsheet and the link so that you can visit their site and show them some love for the game. For books, I have included the title.

Tell me more about this list!

The spreadsheet is a couple of tabs; the first being the full list of games, the second being retrospective focused.

I have added some filters into the spreadsheet to help find the right game for the context. The retrospective tab divides them into the steps that Esther Derby and Diana Larsen wrote about in their book in the same way that the phenomenal tool Retromat does. (I just wanted a space to hold my notes and which I could add to.)

And that’s something I believe you can do too with this spreadsheet! Copy and paste the spreadsheet into your own Google Drive and add your own notes.

There's a game missing!

There are so many amazing games out there. Please put in the comments below any games you want added to the list. I would love nothing more than to try out some new ones!

ULTIMATE AGILE GAMES LIST

Posted in Games

Murder Mystery meets Rock Paper Scissors

Motivation

Workshop fun game to get everyone warmed up and talking

 

Research

As far as I am aware I made this one up.

But obviously based on the beloved Cluedo board game and Rock, Paper, Scissors.

 

Method

Each person has a piece of card folded in half

  • They have their own chart on the back to complete to solve the crime
  • And their own weapon, room, or person on the inside of the folded card

Murder Mystery Grid

Everyone goes around the room playing rock, paper, scissors

  • If you lose, you show the inside of your card to the other person and don’t get to see theirs
  • If you win, you get shown the inside of the other persons card and keep yours secret
  • If you draw you both show each other

Keep meeting people, playing the game until you have solved the crime and then shout CLUEDO!!

 

Results

  • First time I played this I only put one of each type of weapon, person, and room into the game room so you would have to play with each person
    • This didn’t work as if you lost to someone, there was no value in them playing with you again and so you were scuppered!
  • For the second time I put three of each in the room
  • This game took quite a lot of preparation for what is a 5 minute game
  • Everyone was warmed up and had to talk to people they didn’t know but they didn’t really find out anything about each other so not so useful for a room who don’t know each other

 

Improvements

  • Possibly changing the rock, paper, scissors part to be something a little more physical and engaging. Not sure what just yet…
Posted in Thoughts

What I learned from children that has changed the way I work with adults

This post is based on a lightening talk I gave at Agile Nottingham in 2018.

The talk I gave focused on what I learned from working with the children in previous jobs. Children are honest, sometimes brutally so, which taught me a lot about interactions and ways to try getting the most out of people, even when they are having a strop.

 

My Background

During and after leaving University I worked as a Theatre Technician specialising in sound engineering but also working with props, set, lighting, and stage management. I worked with children as young as ten in schools up to professional theatre groups.

 

The importance of ‘why’

Children will tell you when they don’t want to do something. I’m sure we all remember when we were at school being told to do something merely ‘because I said so’ and then overexaggerating our body language to really tell you that I don’t want to do it. Maybe drag your feet, make a big point of rolling your eyes which apparently meant the need to roll your whole head and folding your arms tightly, and then putting the minimal amount of effort in to get the teacher to stop asking.

The most popular question that children ask you when you request they complete a task which I am sure we’ve all heard is ‘whyyyyyyyyy’ normally said in a drawn out way whilst making big eyes at you to show how hard this task would be at you to get you to give in and do it yourself.

As we get older we seem to get better at doing stuff we don’t want to do without making such a big fuss about it. And most importantly we stop asking why as sometimes it is just easier to get it done without asking. Or we can predict the response from someone senior still of ‘just because’. As adults we still do the bare minimum on a piece of work, just like the kids would do, just to pass the mark and move on, we just don’t make it so obvious that we are dragging our feet.

This vital question of ‘why’ is not one that I think we ask of our own work or what we are doing in our teams nearly enough. Knowing why we are being asked to do something, or why this particular thing is the most important feature to this stakeholder is a really important part of motivating us. And I think we should ask more.

I have in the past for example, and wave at me if you have been through something similar, thought the stand ups I was part of were going well because everyone turned up and said what they needed to say and we stuck within the 15 minutes. But then in the retro someone says ‘what is the point of the stand up?’ and suddenly you realise that every morning is just a show to say that the stand up is by not addressing the ‘why’ we do stand ups, it had absolutely no value whatsoever.

So knowing why is super important. I mean if explaining why can change 100 ten year olds on stage dressed as victorian orphans singing about food into a synchronised, harmonious, and rich scene, rather than 100 ten year olds looking like they are in an assembly and occasionally whacking each other with the wooden spoons out of boredom, I think it’ll be a much better show.

Great book here:

  • Drive by Dan Pink
  • Turn that Ship Around by L. David Marquet

 

Fun and Focus

And the other way that school shows manage to avoid scenes turning into a play ground is probably the best thing I learnt about working with school children. And it is from watching them go from bouncy ten year olds sitting restlessly, whacking each other with spoons, to having fun as a whole production, to getting into the zone and ready to give the performance of their lifetime. They taught me the importance of warming up for every occasion. Ranging from the high pressure pieces of theatre which would decide the results of their exam or when there were scouts in the audience, to just a good old fashioned pantomime with lots of silliness and no pressure whatsoever to get it perfect. Each theatre performance that I was involved in started with a specific set of warm ups.

They would warm up vocally and physically, as you would expect for theatre performers, but then they would always do something fun and freeing as a group. One school I worked with had a tradition of always dancing to ‘Build me up Buttercup’ before every show with their favourite drama teacher leading the moves. The fastest they ever moved to stage was when they heard that music playing! An activity like this helped them to feel a part of a whole, to come together as a team, to all do something a bit silly, and to feel at ease in what could be a very stressful environment for them.

The last thing every cast would do before going on stage would be a focus exercise. A common one was for everyone to stand in a circle holding hands and to pass a pulse around the circle by squeezing the person next to you’s hand. They stood in silence whilst they did this, no laughing, no fidgeting, and just thought about what they were about to do and get themselves in the right frame of mind to give it their all.

I love to start a workshop or a retro with a warm up. I don’t ask people to sing or to stretch funnily enough, but I do get them to do something silly to show that the space is safe and we are all in this together, and I do get them to focus on what we want to achieve and how we can put on our best show in the session.

Great resources here:

Posted in Games

User Story Mad Libs

Summary

A quick team builder game.

Mad Libs for those who are unfamiliar here is the Wiki definition:

“Mad Libs is a phrasal template word game where one player prompts others for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story, before reading the – often comical or nonsensical – story aloud. The game is frequently played as a party game or as a pastime.”

From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Libs>

Prep

Create paragraph from the techniques you use to write your User Stories. My example is below

As a [person]

I want a [noun]

So that I can [verb] [adverb]



GIVEN I have a [noun]

WHEN I [verb] [adverb]

THEN I can [verb] better.

Acceptance Criteria
  1. I can [verb] when I [verb] on the [noun] 
  2. If I select the [noun] I am shown the [noun] 

 

And the list of words you need to be filled in

Person x 1

Noun x 5

Verb x 5

Adverb x 2

 

Method

Do not show your team the User Story paragraph as this gives the game away

Ask each person in turn to name one of the lists of words

Read aloud the finished story that you have all created together

 

Results

A lot of laughter

Team building from doing something silly and creative together – there are no wrong answers in this game!

Getting to know each other a bit more from what the first word that came into people’s heads

 

Extensions

In the future I would like to try using this to teach User Story writing or BDD scenarios. I think it could be a good tool to act as a template for a simple User Story and could help create a conversation over structure and language.