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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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Object of Play

This game has been designed to gather facts and opinions from the participants on different aspects of the issue at stake. It will help gain and share insight from all points of view, since everyone will have had the chance to contribute.

Number of Players: Up to 50

Duration of Play: 15min to an hour depending on the amount of participants

How to Play

  1. Prepare 5 up to 10 flip-charts where you address different aspects of the topic at hand. On each flip-chart you address a certain aspect of the issue by posing a powerful question about it, these questions should be impersonal and ask for facts and opinions. Focus on “what”, “when” and “how” questions.
  2. Spread the flip-charts through the entire room, making sure there is enough distance in between to allow group discussions between participants without disturbing the others too much.
  3. Quickly introduce the topic at hand and go through the questions of each flip-chart, making sure everybody understands the questions correctly.
  4. Aks participants to split into pairs, or groups up to 5 people if you have a bigger group. You should have one group per flip-chart/question.
  5. Ask each group to answer the question by adding their ideas, facts and opinions on the flip-chart either with images, writing or post-it artifacts in a way that it is possible for others to interprete the data presented.
  6. Give each group 2-3min time to add their information and rotate to the next flip-chart (clock-wise or counter clock-wise)
  7. Repeat until each group has answered all the questions.
  8. Give the entire group another 5-10min to review all generated content and move to the next step: prioritization and/or deeper research into some of the ideas generated.

Strategy

By limiting the time a group has to answer a question you will make them focus on the most important things. The idea is not to gather all information per participant but to gather meaningful information as a group. This gathered information will form the basis for a prioritization and/or deeper research into some of the ideas and opinions.

Gamestorming Training - 3396

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Circles and Soup

Object of Play
The goal of game, introduced by Diana Larsen, is to efficiently form high-quality plans through retrospective analysis by recognizing factors that are within the team’s control.  During retrospective activities, it is easy to hit a wall of unproductive blame. The moment the group reaches this barrier, “someone shoulds” and “if only you coulds” bounce around the room, knocking out any practical ideas for future advancement. Before determining what you can improve, you must first be clear on the dimensions you are able to regulate and what you need to adapt to. By identifying factors your team can control, influence, or cannot change, you can collectively discover how to respond to and overcome various situations.

Number of Players
5 – 8

Duration of play
1 hour

How to play
1. Before your meeting, collect sticky notes or 3×5 notecards. In a white space (a poster, whiteboard, etc.), draw three concentric circles, leaving enough room between each one to place the notes. Each circle represents a different element:

  • Inner circle: “Team Controls” – what your team can directly manage
  • Middle circle: “Team Influences” –persuasive actions that your team can take to move ahead
  • Outer circle: “The Soup” – elements that cannot be changed. This term — explained further by James Shore – refers to the environment we work in and have adapted to. Ideas from the other 2 circles can identify ways to respond to the barriers floating in our “soup.”

2. Hand out the sticky notes to your internal team members and describe the significance of each circle.

3. Allow time for each person to write their ideas on sticky notes. Once finished, ask them to post their notes into the respective circles.

4. As a group, collaborate to identify how each idea can be used to improve your project. Ask team members to expand on their ideas in order to further develop potential plans.

Strategy
In earlier stages of your retrospection, it is best to concentrate on “Team Controls.” This allows you to identify immediate actions that can be taken. As you see what works, you can alter potential plans and respond to any restraints.

A neutral facilitator is recommended to keep the activity from becoming too emotional. Evaluating negative aspects of your project is a sensitive but necessary exercise, and can leave people feeling upset or hopeless. Avoid any discussions about blaming people or wishing something would happen. This frame of mind places the control out of the team’s hands, both halting all forward motion and creating a negative environment. Keep the atmosphere fun and enjoyable so people will feel comfortable sharing their ideas.

Online Circles and Soup

You can instantly play the Circles and Soup online with as many members as you would like! Clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com.

As facilitator, email the game link to your staff to invite them to play. In the game, this picture is used as the “game board,” and you will find an icon of blue squares at the upper left corner. Each square represents an idea, which players describe and drag onto the respective circle.  As with the in-person version of the game, the game board is organized into three concentric circles, representing “Team Controls,” “Team Influences,” and “The Soup.”

Players can edit the placement and description of each square, which everyone can view in real time. Use the integrated chat facility and communicate with your players throughout the game to get a better understanding of each move.

Key Points
Negative self-evaluating activities often end up emotional and unproductive. Take advantage of this game’s visual organization and extensive collaboration to avoid the blame and hopelessness that cover up ideas for future improvement. By identifying factors your team can control, influence, or cannot change, you can collectively discover how to respond to and overcome various situations. Play Circles and Soup to determine what you can do to avoid barriers and gain insight on what actions will most effectively enhance your project.

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Project Jeopardy

Listening to project status reports can be deadly dull, but it doesn’t have to be. Imagine if the other meeting attendees were leaning forward in their seats, actively listening, and even calling out excitedly instead of thinking about what they were going to say on their turn, or checking their email! Project Jeopardy requires a little advance preparation, but is designed to make project report-outs engaging, memorable, and fun.

image of sample cards for Project Jeopardy
Sample Project Jeopardy Cards
Object of Play
For players, the object is to collect as many points as possible by correctly asking the project-related questions that correspond with the answers given by the host. For the host, the object is to convey information about the status of his or her project.

Number of Players
4 to 40

Duration of Play
5-15 minutes

How to Play

A. Preparation

  1. Prior to the meeting, the host (the person who will be reporting on his or her project) prepares a set of question-and-answer cards about aspects of the project. These should cover important points about the project that the team needs to know, with most of the information being in the answer. It helps to frame the answer first. For instance, an answer/question pair might be, “The project generated $45,000 in revenue over this time period.” and “What is Q3?”
  2. On a sturdy card, sticky note, or half sheet of plain white paper, write the answer and question. Write the answer at the top, and the question at the bottom. Make sure they can’t be seen through the back of the paper. On the reverse, write a point or dollar value. Harder questions should be worth more.
  3. Divide the question/answer pairs into categories (financials, clients, deadlines, or whatever is appropriate). Have a little fun with the category names.
  4. Attach the question cards or notes to a flip chart page in columns with the category name at the top and the value showing. (The questions and answers should be hidden.) The lowest value questions should be at the top and the highest value at the bottom. The idea is that a player would pick a category and value, such as “Financials for four points” or “Deadlines for $100.”

B. Play

  1. Explain the rules, if needed. Give a one- or two-sentence description of the project you are reporting on if there are people in the meeting who are not familiar with it.
  2. Play goes clockwise around the table, starting to the left of the host.
  3. The first player either chooses a category/value pair or passes. If s/he chooses a category/value pair, the host removes that card from the flip chart and reads the answer aloud.
  4. The player frames a question that goes with the answer s/he has just heard. If the question is the correct one, say “That’s right!” and give the card to the player. If the question is not correct, say, “I’m sorry, that’s not correct,” and replace the card on the flip chart.
  5. If only a few people are in the meeting, allow the player to choose another card if s/he provided the correct question. If the meeting is a large one, play should pass to the next person whether or not the correct answer was given. Any player is free to pass instead of choosing a card.
  6. Continue until all the cards have been awarded. Play should move quickly; if you wish, impose a one-minute time limit on responding, enforced by an hourglass, timer, or human timekeeper.

C. Concluding the Game

  1. When all the cards have been awarded, players add up the point or dollar amounts on the cards they received. The one with the highest number of points or dollars receives a prize (a free coffee, a chocolate bar, or something similar).
  2. Ask if there are any questions about the project that have not been addressed, and answer those. Congratulate the winner!

Strategy
When inviting team members to host a Project Jeopardy session, give them plenty of lead time to work out the questions. If you will be using the game over and over, consider creating a set of laminated cards that have values on one side but nothing on the other. Hosts can use dry-erase markers to fill in the questions and answers on the blank side, and the cards can be reused from meeting to meeting. If possible, create a master set of categories that hosts can choose from, as well as a set of sample question/answer pairs to guide them in creating their own.

Key Points
What makes Project Jeopardy work is effective question/answer pairs. Remember that the information is really flowing from the host to the players, although it appears to be otherwise, and make the questions general and easy to guess. The goal is to convey information about the project — not to completely stump the players!

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Actions for Retrospectives

Object of Play
Analyzing past events can get repetitive, leading to a lack of creative ideas and dulled critical thinking. Without an engaging strategy, you could get stuck in a pit of unproductive ideas, causing you to lose all sense of direction and become blind to areas needing improvement. To resist this useless slump, Actions for Retrospectives, based on Nick Oostvogel’s Actions Centered, allows teams to examine multiple aspects of an event or project in order to form original ideas on how it can be enhanced in the future. Break free from the barriers of boring retrospective analysis strategies to discover how you can make your next project, meeting, conference, etc., a success.

Number of Players
5 – 8

Duration of Play
1 hour

How to Play
1. Start by drawing a large 2×2 matrix with a square labeled “Actions” in the middle; this is designated for the changes that the team commits to making as a result of the retrospective. The four quadrants surrounding it represent different aspects of your event:

  • Puzzles: Questions for which you have no answer
  • Risks: Future pitfalls that can endanger the event
  • Appreciations: What you liked during the previous iteration
  • Wishes: Not improvements, but ideas of your ideal event

2. Provide the players with pens and sticky notes, preferably different colored notes for each quadrant. Have the participants write their ideas for “Appreciations,” “Puzzles,” “Risks,” and “Wishes” one category at a time, allowing 5 – 10 minutes for each section.  
3. Once players have written all their thoughts, ask them to post their notes on the chart. As a team, go through the ideas and cluster related ones together.
4. Discuss the novelty, feasibility, and impact of the ideas, and collaborate to analyze how they can be applied to the next event. Use this process to create practical, efficient “Actions” in the middle.

Strategy
There are many techniques you can use to amplify the benefits of this game. For instance, making players feel comfortable sharing their ideas is crucial to attaining high-quality results. One way to do so is to describe “Risks” as possible improvements, rather than negative aspects that could ruin the event. This will encourage participants to share their ideas about what should be done to ensure the success of the event without them feeling as though they are criticizing others. Also, to increase players’ concentration, you can wait to write and describe the titles of each section until just before it is time to think of ideas related to them. This will force players to focus on one category at a time. Don’t forget to create a playful environment so participants will let their thoughts flow and form higher quality ideas.

Actions for Retrospective has many applications in the business world. It can also be used for any product, service, or section of your company to identify how they can be improved. Take advantage of the game’s organized format and extensive collaboration to advance toward your potential.

Play Online
Clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com. Here, this image will be used as the “game board,” and there will be five different icons that players can drag onto the chart and describe to capture their ideas.

  • Puzzles = question marks
  • Risks = bombs
  • Appreciations = smiley faces
  • Wishes = stars

As with the in-person version, the chart is divided into five quadrants for the five categories of thoughts.

All moves can be seen in real time by each participant, so everyone can collaborate to edit the ideas. Also, you can use the integrated chat facility to encourage the players to expand on their ideas and come up with fresh insights.

Key Points
This unique strategy involves teamwork and spatial organization so your group can think differently about retrospectives and brainstorm changes for progress. Also, by writing thoughts down and working together, participants will be more comfortable providing ideas for how to improve the event rather than feeling as if they are criticizing past ideas. Play Actions for Retrospectives to reflect on the past in order to advance toward the future.

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Bang-for-the-Buck

Object of Play
Bang-for-the-Buck involves collaboration among the product manager and development team to prioritize backlog items. Rather than blindly moving down your agenda without any direction, this game allows you to analyze the costs and benefits of each task, and to organize them in a way that shows you where to begin and in what order to go in. Graph each item against cost and value so you can prioritize your to-do list and start checking items off.

Number of Players

5 – 8

Duration of Play

1 hour

How to Play

  1. Before the meeting, draw a graph with the “value” of the items on the y-axis and the “cost” of them on the x-axis, organizing each axis as a Fibonacci number. Write each backlog item on a sticky note and post them by the chart.
  2. Next, give your players sticky notes and pens so they can each write other backlog items. Have them place their tasks along with the ones you posted.
  3. As a group, take time to discuss where each item belongs on the graph. The product manager should focus on what the “value” position of the task is, while the development team concentrates on the “cost” placement on the x-axis. With multiple players, you can get different perspectives on the aspects of each item.
  4. After all the items have been posted, use the chart to get started on your agenda. Follow the graphed items in a clockwise order to optimize value delivery.

Strategy

This game is helpful to prioritize both short-term and long-run tasks. If one item must be accomplished soon but is too costly to start right away, work together to identify how to move it to the left on the graph. By comparing the value and cost of each item, you can collaborate to alter approaches for the tasks depending on which are most important. The discussion and visualization involved in Bang-for-the-Buck helps you think differently about where to begin working. This not only increases efficiency and productivity, but also allows you to see an impact faster.

Bang-for-the-Buck Online

Clicking on this image will start an online version of Bang-for-the-Buck  at innovationgames.com. You’ll see this image as the “game board” and an icon of a light bulb in the top left corner of this window. The light bulb represents the backlog items you want to prioritize. To add a backlog item onto the game board, simply drag it from the top left and describe it.
While any player can move a light bulb at any time, the game works best when the product manager focuses on getting the light bulbs in the right place vertically, while the development team puts the items in the right place horizontally.

Use the integrated chat facility to negotiate about the items. And any player can edit the items to keep track of the agreements of the team. This means that items will move around during the game as the value of an item increases or decreases or the development team considers various ways of implementing an item.

To get the final results of the game, simply download the Excel spreadsheet. All of the items and their Fibonacci values will be available to you for post-processing, including all of the chats.

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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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Virtuous Cycle

Object of Play

The goal of this game is to discover opportunities to transform an existing, linear process into a more valuable and growing process by taking a different viewpoint. This is useful in examining processes that are deemed “worth repeating,” such as the customer experience.

It might be a good time to play through this exercise if the current process is transactional,compartmentalized, or wasteful. Other indications are a group that is “navel gazing” and focused primarily on its internal process, or when there is a sense that after the process is complete, no one knows what happens next.

Possible outcomes include that the group may uncover new growth and improvement opportunities in an existing process by “bending it back into itself.”

Number of Players

3–10

Duration of Play

1–3 hours

How to Play

You will need a high-level understanding or documentation of the current state of things. Any existing, linear process will work.

  1. Introduce the exercise by “black boxing” the current process. This means that during the course of the exercise the group’s focus will be on what’s outside the process,not the fine detail of what’s going on inside the box.
  2. To make this visual, give each step in the process a box on the wall (medium-sized sticky notes work well) and connect them with arrows in a linear fashion.
  3. To start the exercise, ask the group to think about, to the best of their knowledge, what happens before the process: Who or what is involved? What is going on?  Repeat this for the end of the process: What comes after the process? What are the possible outcomes?
  4. You may ask them to capture their thoughts on sticky notes and post them before and after the process.
  5. Next, draw a loop from the end of the linear process back to its starting point. By doing this you are turning a linear process into a life cycle. Ask: “To get from here,and back again, what needs to happen? What’s missing from the picture?
  6. The group is ready to explore possibilities and opportunities. Again, sticky notes work well for capturing ideas. Have the players capture their thoughts along the line and discuss.

Summarize or close the exercise by generating a list of questions and areas to explore.  This may include looking at the internal, defined process for improvement ideas.

Strategy

Pick the right process to do this with. A process that warrants repeating, such as the customer experience, works well.  Knowledge creation and capture, as well as strategic planning, are also candidates.

Get the right people in the room. Some awareness of what happens outside the process is needed, but can also hamper the experience. One of the biggest potential outcomes is a visceral change in perspective on the participants’ part: from internal focus to external focus.

This game is credited to James Macanufo.

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Start, Stop, Continue

Object of Play

The object of Start, Stop, Continue is to examine aspects of a situation or develop next steps.

Number of Players

1–10

Duration of Play

10 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play

Ask the group to consider the current situation or goal and individually brainstorm actions in these three categories:

  • Start: What are things that we need to START doing?
  • Stop: What are we currently doing that we can or should STOP?
  • Continue: What are we doing now that works and should CONTINUE?

Have individuals share their results.

Strategy

This exercise is broad enough to work well as an opening or closing exercise. It’s useful in framing discussion at “problem-solving” meetings, or as a way to brainstorm aspirational steps toward a vision.

The source for the Start, Stop, Continue game is unknown.