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Personal Kanban

Many thanks to Bensound for the excellent music and to Boardthing for the online whiteboard tool.


Object of play
Personal Kanban is a tool for organizing your work to be more efficient and productive.

Number of players
Any number of people can play this game.

Duration: 10-15 minutes.

How to play
1. Divide a whiteboard or sheet of paper into four columns: Backlog, Ready, Doing, and Done. Or you can use this template.

2. Using sticky notes, fill the “Backlog” column with all the work that needs to get done.

3. Move the highest priority jobs to the “Ready” column. Then rank the jobs in the “Ready” column, from highest to lowest priority.

4. Take the top one to three jobs from the “Ready” column and move them to the “Doing” column. These are the things that you will work on right away.

5. As you finish each job, move it to the “Done” column.

Strategy
The key to understanding and using Personal Kanban effectively is understanding the nature of work. First, the importance of each job on your to-do list shifts over time, so you want to regularly re-prioritize your backlog, taking things off that are no longer important and moving important things to the top of the list (That’s your “Ready” column). Second, there are only so many things you can do well at any one point in time. So limiting the work-in-progress in your “Doing” column ensures you are not taking on too much and keeps you focused on getting things done.

Personal Kanban can be used by individuals or teams to make their work visible and transparent to customers and colleagues. This allows better group conversations about what is important and why. Another advantage is that kanban boards show what people are working on, so it can help teams gain a better understanding of their capacity, which can in turn help teams justify new hires when they are needed.

Personal Kanban was created by Jim Benson, based on kanban as used in Lean manufacturing.

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Agile UX Sketching and Scrum

Last-Import-09-300x300“Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” That was the advice of Arthur BrisbaneEditor The Syracuse Post Standard March 28, 1911. Despite originally referring to newsprint, the adage still holds true in the digital age.

Sketching for understanding” is an efficient and effective way to gather tons of ideas in a short period of time while cultivating shared understanding across agile teams. With the right structure and active participation, sketching with Scrum teams can really pay dividends throughout the release life cycle.

Use the following guide to help plan and facilitate your next agile sketching session. Continue reading Agile UX Sketching and Scrum

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Code of Conduct

Object of Play

This game has been designed to help set the right culture in a group of people and help build mutual trust. It will empower all participants to act upon the results of this game.

Number of Players: Up to 30

Duration of Play: +/-30min

How to Play

  1. You write down the words “Meaningful” and “Pleasant” in the middle of a flip-chart or whiteboard.
  2. You aks everybody in the group to shout out what they believe is necessary to make sure this meeting or workshop will be meaningful and pleasant.
  3. As participants are providing thoughts and ideas, you record the information given in a mind-map structure.
    Note: Preferably by using images instead of words.
  4. Quickly pass by each of the ideas recorded and make sure everybody has the same understanding of the idea at hand. If necessary adjust the item to avoid misunderstanding. = Values within the group.
  5. Now go back to the first item addressed and ask the participants how they believe would be a good way to make sure this idea is carried out during the meeting or workshop. Record the items attached to the given value addressed. = Actions.
  6. End the game with pointing out that this code of conduct that the group just created needs to be upheld by everyone. Every participant has the responsibility to make sure everybody in the group respects this code. = working agreement.
  7. Optionally: You could ask people if they want to take ownership of one of the actions registered.
    Note: Be aware that this may cause a typical human reaction from the others: “It is this persons problem to monitor, not mine anymore”.

Strategy

Make sure everybody contributes to the making of the mind-map. If you believe the group is not strong or comfortable enough for this, you could substitute the shouting of ideas by letting everyone write down their ideas in silence combined with an affinity map to achieve similar results that can be recorded in the mind-map. It will take some time to create this shared code of conduct but it will help groups of people where there is little to no trust and openness to break through the initial barriers.

code of conduct
code of conduct
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Impromptu Speed Networking

Gamestorming

Object of Play

Ideal activity for flex points in a gathering (the beginning, when coming back from lunch, at the end of the day). Give everyone at a gathering an opportunity to “get there” mentally by engaging with the purpose/subject. Give everyone a significant amount of “air time” so that everyone’s voice is in the conversation (no matter how many participants, everyone 5-10 minutes). Energize participants and get oxygen to the brain by standing and moving physically).

Number of Players

Unlimited. This activity “scales” really well from a minimum of around 12 to thousands.

Duration of Play

20 minutes

How to Play

1. Invite everyone to leave their “stuff” and move to an open space in the room where everyone can stand and there’s room to move around.

2. Pose a juicy question that is directly related to the purpose of the gathering.

3. Ask everyone to reflect on the question silently for a full minute

4. Explain the simple rules;

– When you hear the chimes, find a partner (someone you know less well than others is more interesting). If you’re looking for a partner put your hand in the air so someone else who needs a partner can find you easily.

– Have a 5 minute conversation about the question.

– When the chimes ring again, find a new partner (remember the hand up trick) and have another conversation.

– When the chimes ring continuously, stop and find out what happens next.

5. Three ‘rounds’ of the process are usually good.

6. At this point, there are many possible variations for a next move. Two possibilities: (1) Invite everyone to sit back down and start the next part of the gathering. (2) Invite partners to hook up with one or two other pairs and sit down in a knee-to-knee circle and talk about what struck them about the conversations.

Strategy

Debrief this process in addition to harvesting the content from the discussions Invite participants to reflect on what it was like to have the conversation using this process. Things they might notice include: How starting a meeting standing up builds rather than drains energy, how having several iterations of the same conversation with different partners changes understanding, and how questions open up more space for creative thinking than presentations. The goal is to introduce participants to the pattern language of these generative processes.

Source: Shared by Lisa Kimball of Group Jazz.

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Graphic Gameplan

photo

Object of Play

Plenty of us are visionaries, idea generators, or, at the very least, suggestion makers. But ideas never come to fruition without a plan. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said.” Following up on a big idea with an executable action plan is one of the monumental differences between teams and companies that are merely good and those that are outstanding. That’s why this activity deserves special attention. The Graphic Gameplan shows you how you’ll get where you want to go with a project.

Number of Players

Small groups, but can also be done individually

Duration of Play

30 minutes to 2 hours

How to Play

1. Before the meeting, think of one or more projects that need to get traction.

2. In a large, white space, preferably 3–4 feet high by 6–12 feet wide, draw a picture similar to the following.

3. Display the graphic on the meeting room wall and tell the players that the goal ofthe meeting is to get consensus around specific tasks required to complete a project.

4. Write the name of the first project to be discussed at the top left of the first column.As the group leader, you can write all associated projects downward in that same column or you can ask the players to add projects that they agree need attention.Either way, you should end up with the relevant projects listed in the leftmost column.

5. Based on the projects listed, either tell the group the time frame and write the milestones in days, weeks, or months along the top row, or ask what they think it should be and write that time frame along the top. (Note: you can also establish a timeline after step 8.)

6. Sticky notes in hand, ask the players to choose a project and agree aloud on the first step required to accomplish it. Write their contribution on the sticky note and post it in the first box next to that project.

7. Ask the players for the second, third, and fourth steps, and so on. Keep writing their comments on sticky notes until they’re satisfied that they’ve adequately outlined each step to complete the project.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 for every project on your display, until the game plan is filled out.

Strategy

Completing a game plan as a group has two major benefits. The first is that it breaks big projects into manageable chunks of work, which encourages anyone responsible for a project. The second is that because the “group mind” creates the game plan, it raises the quality of the flow of project management. It becomes less likely that important steps are left out and more likely that the project is approached thoughtfully and strategically.But as you post the sticky notes, don’t assume that the first flow the group maps is the best one. Ask the players challenging questions about their comments: Does this have to happen first? Can these two steps be combined? How are steps related across projects?Do steps in one project affect the progress or outcome of another? Ask hard questions to help the group get to the best place and write any food for thought on a flip chart nearby.

When determining the timeline to write across the top, it’s important to note that it can be determined after the project steps are established. A time frame written beforehand can impact the steps people are willing and able to take, so think about whether it serves the facilitation process better by assigning time before or after the play is complete.

If you find that the players want to assign tasks to specific people or departments as they go, let them. Simply add the names of the responsible parties to each sticky note (obviously,these assignments should be realistic). And if the players want to discuss available resources, or a lack thereof, ask them to share what they expect to need in order to complete the projects and capture that on a flip chart in the room.

The game plan can be customized with several rows and columns in order to support more complex projects. You can draw however many rows and columns you’d like as long as you have sticky notes that will fit within. Whatever the matrix looks like, the visual that results from this group discussion can serve as the large-scale, step-by-step of a project, or its contents can be funneled into more formal project management software or some other platform used by the organization. Either way, the discussion around creating it will be of significant value.

  • Optional activity: Draw smaller versions of the game plan on flip-chart paper and have breakout groups tackle specific projects using markers and small sticky notes. Then ask each group to present their approach to the larger group and to get feedback on the steps they proposed.

The Graphic Gameplan is based on the Leader’s Guide to Accompany the Graphic Gameplan Graphic Guide from The Grove Consultants International’s strategic visioning process,which involves using a template of the same name.

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RACI Matrix

Object of Play

Sometimes responsibilities aren’t clear. Nothing erodes morale and performance faster than a difficult problem that belongs to someone else—or to everyone. When these situations raise their head, it may be necessary to call a group together to sort out who does what. By creating a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix, a group will tackle the responsibility problem directly.

Number of Players

2–6

Duration of Play

1.5 hours

How to Play

To set up the matrix, you will need two lists:

  • A work breakdown:  These are the items or activities that the group shares responsibility for creating or managing.  These should be specific enough to answer when a team member asks, “Who does X?”
  • A list of roles:  Instead of creating a list of individuals, create a list of roles that represent a group of related tasks.  For example, “Project Manager”, “Business Analyst”, and “Architect” are better than “Tim”, “Bob”, and “Mary” because individuals can play multiple roles on a project, and multiple people can contribute to a single role.

Create the matrix by listing the work breakdown along the vertical axis and the roles along the horizontal axis. Inside the matrix, the group will work through assigning levels of responsibility by coding R, A, C, I:

  • Responsible:  This is the doer of the work.  Although this person may delegate or seek support from others, ultimately this one person is responsible for doing the work.
  • Accountable:  This person is accountable for the work that the Responsible person does, and signs off on the work. The golden rule of RACI is that only one person can be Accountable for each task.
  • Consulted:  These contributors provide input, opinions, and advice through two way communication.
  • Informed:  Although they are not contributors, these people are kept up-to-date on progress or completion through one-way communication.

In working through the matrix with the group, it is best to follow the natural progression of the work breakdown from start to finish. The matrix is complete when every task has a clear set of responsibilities.

Strategy

The work breakdown is needed to set up the matrix, but don’t be reluctant to change it as the group works through the matrix. In some cases, you may discover that items are unnecessary, redundant, or poorly defined. For example, where it is difficult to assign a single Responsible role, it may help to split the item into two smaller, better-defined pieces. Other items will have no Responsible role at all, and the group may decide to eliminate them.

RACI Matrix is based on the same-named diagram traditionally employed in the management of cross-functional teams.

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Post The Path

Object of Play

The object of this game is to quickly diagnose a group’s level of understanding of the steps in a process.

Often, there is a sense of confusion about who does what and when. The team is using different terms to describe their process. The group has no documented process. Things seem to be happening in an ad hoc fashion, invisibly, or by chance.

Through this exercise, the group will define an existing process at a high level and uncover areas of confusion or misunderstanding. In most cases, this can flow naturally into a discussion of what to do about those unclear areas. This exercise will not generally result in a new or better process but rather a better understanding of the current one.

Number of Players

2–10

Duration of Play

30 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play

Introduce the exercise by framing the objective: “This is a group activity, where we will create a picture of how we create [x].” X in this case is the output of the process; it maybe a document, a product, an agreement, or the like.  Write or draw the output of the process on the wall.

Establish a common starting point of the process with the group. This could sound like “the beginning of the day” or “the start of a quarter” or “after we finished the last one.”  This is the trigger or triggers that kick off the process. If you believe the group will have a hard time with this simple step, decide it for them in advance and present it as a best guess. Write this step on a sticky note, put it on the wall, and then proceed with the exercise.

  1. Instruct participants to think about the process from beginning to end. Then give them the task: write down the steps in the process. They can use as many notes as they like, but each step must be a separate note.
  2. After the participants have brainstormed their version of the steps, ask them to come up to the wall and post them to compare.  The group should place their steps above and below one another’s so that they can compare their versions of steps 1, 2, and so on.
  3. Prompt the group to find points of agreement and confusion. Look for terminology problems, where participants may be using different words to describe the same step.  Points of confusion may surface where “something magical happens” or no one is really clear on a step.

Strategy

The group will draw their own conclusions about what the different versions of the process mean and what they can or should do about it.

For a larger group, you may want to avoid individual readouts and instead have people post up simultaneously.

If you sense in advance that the group will get caught up in the details, ask them to produce a limited number of steps—try 10.

The Post the Path game is credited to James Macanufo.

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Product Pinocchio

Object of Play

Quite naturally, most of us don’t think of products or services as being alive and animate.  But there are a lot of benefits to imagining a product as a friend rather than an instrument. By pretending that a product has come to life, we can personalize and evolve its features in a way that is not accessible to us when we think of it as inanimate. Product Pinocchio is a game designed to establish, refine, and evolve the features of a product or service so that it becomes more valuable to the end user. By personifying it, we can better relate to it and better craft it into a “friend” that a consumer might want to take home.

Number of Players

5–20

Duration of Play

1 hour

How to Play

1. For this game, a “scene” is any simple situation in which the character (the product or service) is required to make a decision or take action. Scene examples might be “someone attempts to steal an old lady’s purse” or “a driver encounters a hitchhiker on the way to a party”. Before the meeting, invent four scenes and write them on index cards, one scene per card.

2. Also before the meeting, write each of the following five questions on the tops of flip-chart paper, one question per sheet:

  • What am I like?
  • What are my values?
  • What is my community?
  • What makes me different?
  • What is my fight?

3. Starting with “What am I like?” draw a picture of the product/service in the middle of the sheet of paper with arms, legs, and a head. (This character should be used throughout the exercise, but in different poses.)

4. Ask the group to imagine that the product or service has come to life and is now a fully developed character that they know well. Ask them to call out adjectives and phrases that describe that character and write their responses around the picture.  During this step, you can also ask players who the product/service would be if it were a cartoon character or a celebrity and write down those responses as well.

5. When you have enough information to adequately describe the character, ask the players to dot vote next to the three to five adjectives that best describe the character.  Circle or highlight the information that got the most votes and make a note of it with the group.

6. Move to the “What are my values?” flip chart and draw a picture of the character.  Divide the group into four small groups and give each group an index card describing a scene (or work with all four scenes as one group if you have seven or less players).  Ask the players to read their scene quietly and discuss in their groups what the character would say or do in that situation.

7. Bring the groups back together and give each one an opportunity to share what they agreed their character would do. Write each response down and then ask the group as a whole what the behaviors suggest about the character’s underlying values.  Add their responses to the flip chart.

8. Move to the “What is my community?” flip chart and draw another picture of the character in the middle of the sheet.  Ask the group who the character spends her time with. What groups does she belong to? Where does she volunteer? Who needs her the most? What do her friends have in common? What are the qualities of her community? Write down the responses.

9. Move to the “What makes me different?” flip chart and draw a picture of the character in the middle of the sheet. Ask the group how this character is different from other characters in her community.  What makes her stand out? What are her strengths? What could she do better?  Why would someone want her on a team? Write down the responses.

10. Move to the “What is my fight?” flip chart and draw a picture of the character in the middle of the sheet.  Find out the character’s mission in life. What motivates her? What keeps her up at night? What does she do for people? What is she trying to prove? What obstacles are in her way? Write these responses down.

  • Optional activity: Ask people to toast the character as though they were at her wedding. Alternatively, ask them to give a eulogy to a competing product or service as though they were at its funeral. Or ask the players to share a true story from the character’s life, something that happened to her that makes her who she is.

11. Summarize the overall findings with the group and reflect on the personality and identity of the character the group created. Discuss the implications of the character traits, values, and behaviors on the features—current or potential—of the related product or service.

Strategy

This game works best when the players suspend disbelief and jump into the idea that a product has a personality, a value system, and a life. For some players it will be a hard leap to make, which is why the picture you draw is important, as are the questions you ask: they both force responses as though the “it” were a “he” or “she.” Be receptive even to character names suggested during the group’s interactions. Calling it “Cameron” makes it easier to imagine the product or service as a person rather than an object or a process.  Encourage storytelling during this game to flesh out the character’s identity based on the scenes you concocted;  for example, “What would Cameron do?” Don’t discourage the group from creating outlandish characters or personality traits, because the actions taken by a zany character may lead to an innovation in the way people perceive of the use of a product or service. Let the players go as far out as they want; if need be, you can move them toward consensus on a more believable character as the game closes. Just be sure to discuss with the group the parallels between the character traits they created and the benefits those traits may have on the next version of the product or service.

The source of the Product Pinocchio is unknown.

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Pain-Gain Map

Object of Play

The object of this game is to develop an understanding of motivations and decisions.

Number of Players

3–10

Duration of Play

10–15 minutes

How to Play

Many decisions often boil down to one’s basic choices between benefit and harm.  By capturing these specifics for a key person, your group may uncover the most relevant points to bring up in presenting or influencing the key person’s decision. This key person may be the ultimate user of a product or may be the leader of an organization whose approval is sought.  Start by writing the key person’s name or creating a quick sketch of him on a wall.  Ask about this person’s pains first by prompting the group to step inside his mind and think and feel as he does.  Capture the answers on one side of the person:

  • What does a bad day look like for him?
  • What is he afraid of?
  • What keeps him awake at night?
  • What is he responsible for?
  • What obstacles stand in his way?

A persona’s gains can be the inversion of the pain situation—or can go beyond. Capture these on the opposite side by asking:

  • What does this person want and aspire to?
  • How does he measure success?
  • Given the subject at hand, how could this person benefit?
  • What can we offer this person?

Strategy

Summarize and prioritize the top pains and gains from the exercise. Use them when developing presentations, value propositions, or any other instance where you are trying to influence a decision.

The Pain-Gain Map game is credited to Dave Gray.

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Campfire

Object of Play

Employees spend hours sitting in training sessions, sifting through orientation manuals, and playing corporate e-learning games to learn the know-how for their new positions.  But the reality is that the bulk of employee knowledge is gained through storytelling.  Employees train each other by sharing their personal and professional experiences.  Campfire leverages our natural storytelling tendencies by giving players a format and a space in which to share work stories—of trial and error, failure and success, competition, diplomacy, and teamwork. Campfire is useful not only because it acts as an informal training game, but also because it reveals commonalities in employee perception and experience.

Number of Players

8–20

Duration of Play

30–45 minutes

How to Play

  1. Before the meeting, brainstorm 10–20 words or phrases you can use as trigger words to start the storytelling session. Write them on sticky notes.  Keep the ideas positive or neutral: partnership, venture, first day, work travel, fun project, opportunity, and so forth.
  2. Post the sticky notes in the meeting room in a space visible to all the players and give them access to markers and more sticky notes. Tell them that this is a workplace “campfire” and the only thing they’re invited to do is share stories back and forth as an informal “company training program.” Show them the “wall of words” and ask them to take 1–3 minutes to look them over and recall a story associated with one of them. To help the group warm up, start the storytelling session yourself by removing one of the words on the wall and posting it in a space nearby. Then tell your introductory story.
  3. Ask for a volunteer to continue what you started by peeling another word from the wall and posting it next to yours. This begins the sticky-note “story thread.”
  4. Before the first player begins his story, ask him to read aloud the word he chose and then instruct the other players to listen carefully to his story and to jot down a word or phrase on a sticky note that reminds them of another work-related story.  If no words in the player’s story jumped out at them, they are welcome to pull a sticky note from your original “wall of words.”
  5. After the player concludes the first story, ask for another volunteer to approach the wall and to either post her own sticky note or take one from the “wall of words.” Ask her to read her word aloud and to then share her story.
  6. Repeat this process until the players have created a snake-like “story thread” which acts as an archive of the campfire conversation. Use your best judgment to determine when to end the storytelling session. Before you “put out” the fire, ask the players if there are any lessons learned or final thoughts they want to add.

Strategy

Your role as the meeting leader is simply to encourage the sharing of work-related stories.  If you find a lull in the storytelling thread, refer the employees back to the “wall of words” or ask someone to throw out a “wild card” story. You can also share work-related stories of your own that are triggered by stories from the players. You can let the stories drift toward less positive or neutral topics if you think the players need some catharsis, but be prepared to manage what may come up and don’t let the meeting conclude on a sour note.

The point of Campfire is simple but powerful. It encourages sharing, shows the many things employees have in common, and leverages the natural tendency of employee training to take place through informal dialogue. Humans want to tell stories; you’ll likely find that the players linger to share experiences even after the meeting ends.

This game was inspired by Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence (Rethinking Theory),by Roger Schank and Gary Saul Morson.