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Friend or Foe?

 

Any product change, project plan, change management initiative requires assessment of and approach to working with stakeholders, a term we use to describe anyone who can impact a decision. Stakeholders often slow or block change; in other cases, they bust obstacles and accelerate progress. To increase your likelihood of success, check out this activity from visual thinker Yuri Mailshenko and identify your stakeholders to understand how they feel about your work.

Object of Play
The object of this game is to create an organizational map of your stakeholders. In some cases this may look like your org chart. In other cases situation and context will dictate a unique shape — likely familiar but undocumented. In addition to mapping stakeholders’ organizational relationships, you’ll also analyze their contextual disposition regarding your initiative.

Number of Players
5 – 15

Invite players from across your project’s organizational spectrum to ensure thorough stakeholder mapping. Colleagues with experience from similar projects or relationships with suspected stakeholders may provide valuable information. Invite them, too!

Duration of Play
30-60 minutes

Material Required
Organizational Design Analysis works best on a whiteboard. Substitute a flip chart (or two) if necessary. To run a good session, you will need:

  • Dry-erase markers, we recommend using at least three colors (black, green, red)
  • Dry-erase marker eraser (or paper towels)
  • Sticky notes
  • Camera to capture the results

How to Play

Step 1: Map organizational structure

  1. Invite your players to a five minute stakeholder brainstorm, ask: Who are our project stakeholders? Ask them to consider teams and individuals both inside and outside your org or company. Have players write one stakeholder per sticky note.
  2. Once the brainstorm ends, have each player present their stakeholders by placing their sticky notes on a wall and provide to the group a brief description of their thinking.
  3. With all the sticky notes on the wall, ask the group to organize them into a rough org chart. This needs only to be an imprecise draft.
  4. With the sticky note draft org chart as your guide, create a cleaner version of the org using a whiteboard and dry-erase markers. Ask for a scribe to map the organisation top to bottom. When the scope is quite big (for example, you are mapping a large enterprise), map the parts of the org structure that are less relevant to the analysis with less detail, and vice versa.
  5. To help with navigation, label all stakeholders.
  6. Denote future parts of the organizations (ones that are missing at the moment but are important to be considered for potential impact).
  7. Draw a border around the areas that are affected by the change/initiative or are in the focus of the analysis.
  8. Your whiteboard map could now look something like these:
use dotted lines to identify matrixed teams
use dotted lines to identify matrixed teams

 

use colors to cleanly delineate multiple org dimensions
different colors work, too

Drawing considerations:

  • Avoid using prepared artifacts like your company’s official org chart. Create on-the-go with full engagement of the group.
  • Draw people. Draw a person as a circle and the upside down letter ‘U’. A group of people could be just three persons put close to each other; avoid drawing departments and teams as boxes.
  • Many organizations are matrices of different kinds. Introducing an extra dimension might create visual clutter. Try to avoid that by either using a different style of a line (dotted or dashed lines) or a different color for a weaker organizational component.

Step 2: Add insight

  1. Begin a group discussion with the goal of mapping stakeholder disposition and level of support regarding your initiative.
  2. Discuss each stakeholder one-by-one, try to uncover:
    1. Disposition towards the initiative: are they for, neutral or against? To what degree? Why?
    2. Level of impact: how much influence will this stakeholder have? High, medium or low?
    3. Relationship strength between stakeholders: who do they influence? who influences them? To what degree?
    4. Participation energy level: high, medium or low?
    5. If you are having difficulty dispositioning a particular stakeholder, move to the next one. Additional conversation may help you get unstuck and you can circle back to the troublemaker.
  3. As you near consensus, draw your findings using tokens or icons. Discover what works best for you, some examples:
    1. A green smiley face for a supportive stakeholder
    2. A battery with one out of three bars charged for a low-energy stakeholder
    3. A cloud overhead signals a confused stakeholder
use tokens and text to label different dimensions of stakeholder dynamics
Use tokens and text to label different dimensions of stakeholder dynamics

Strategy
Org charts are quite unambiguous and offer little room for opinion. This exercise’s value comes from mapping less obvious things like stakeholder influence, disposition and decision making power in relation to the initiative. Defined structures are rarely challenged but a necessary foundation. What is interesting is something that lies beyond the official org chart – people’s attitude to the topic of discussion, their real power and influence. Players will share their opinions openly — and surprisingly!–in a safe, structured and collaborative setting.

Complementary Games
You understand who your stakeholders are and the org design dynamics facing your project, now what?

  • Who do – identify what you need from each of your stakeholders
  • Empathy Map – get inside their heads to understand their pains and gains
  • Understanding Chain – create the story your stakeholders need to hear to contribute to your success!

Source

Activity developed by Yuri Malishenko – visual thinker, agile coach, product owner

Activity titled by Stefan Wolpers – agile coach and ScrumMaster.

 

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Navigate your market opportunities

Photo by Felix Pilz

Any innovation or technological invention can be applied to serve different types of customers. Understanding your set of market opportunities increases your chances of success: It not only allows you to focus on the most promising market, but also helps you to avoid a fatal lock-in. The Market Opportunity Navigator, developed by Dr. Sharon Tal & Prof. Marc Gruber in their book Where To Play, is a tool that helps you to map out your market opportunities and adopt a broad view of your options, so you can set your strategic focus smartly.

Object of play
Unleash the power of new market opportunities by stepping back from your current product and customer assumptions. The Market Opportunity Navigator offers a structured process for identifying, evaluating and prioritizing potential markets for innovation; examine and rethink your strategic focus or plan your future roadmap. This game provides a shared language to discuss, debate and brainstorm with your team and stakeholders.

Number of players
1-6 players (depending on objective).

You can work individually to sketch out your initial perceptions, but a diverse team is recommended if you want to broaden your view and map out your landscape of opportunities more accurately.

Duration of play
Anywhere between two hours (for a ‘quick and dirty’ process), to two days (for a thorough discussion). In general, the game includes three steps:

Step 1 – Identify Market Opportunity Set
Step 2 – Evaluate Opportunity Attractiveness
Step 3 – Depict Your Agile Focus Dartboard

Material required
To run a good session, you will need:

  • A large print of the Market Opportunity Navigator, preferably on A0 size. A1 – A3 will do the job. Downloadable here
  • Printed copies of Worksheets 1, 2 and 3 preferably on A1 size. A3 – A4 will also work. Downloadable here
    • If you can’t make large prints of the worksheets, it’s OK! You can easily reproduce all the worksheets on flip charts.
  • Flip chart paper with adhesive backing
  • Sticky notes of different colors
  • Markers and pens
  • Camera to capture the results
  • The facilitator of the game can learn more about the process at: www.wheretoplay.co

How to Play
Room Setup: Place the A0-sized Market Opportunity Navigator somewhere in the room. If you don’t have an A0, draw the templates on individual flip charts and hang.

Step 1: Identify a Market Opportunity Set

  1. Begin the game with a clear definition of what a Market Opportunity means. Write on the board: A market opportunity is any application of your abilities for a specific set of customers.
  2. Inform the players we will now explore each.
  3. Ask the players to take five minutes for an individual brainstorm to describe and characterize the core technological elements or unique abilities of the firm in their own right, detached from any current or envisioned application. Write one element or ability per sticky note.
  4. Once the brainstorm is done, have the players to put their notes on the wall. Ask for volunteers to sort the notes into meaningful categories (see Affinity Map). Once finished, ask the sorters to describe their process.
  5. Summarize the unique abilities of the firm and list their functions and properties on the upper part of worksheet 1.
  6. Repeat this process to brainstorm customer problems that can be addressed with these unique abilities. Ask the players to take five minutes for an individual brainstorm and describe customer problems, one per sticky. To broaden their horizon, ask them to think about who else beyond the current customer set might have these problems. What other problems might they have? Encourage players to think wide and broad. There are no ‘wrong ideas’ at this stage.
  7. Once the brainstorm is done, ask the players to put their notes on the wall. Ask for volunteers to sort the notes into meaningful categories (see Affinity Map). Discuss what these categories might mean for your company and products.
  8. With a strong understanding of both the firm’s capabilities and potential customer problems, discuss with the players different applications stemming from these abilities, and different types of customers who may need them. Summarize these on the lower part of Worksheet 1.
  9. At the end of the brainstorm, pick few market opportunities that seem interesting for further consideration. ask the players to briefly describe their idea as they place it on the Market Opportunity section of the Navigator. Use colored sticky notes to represent each of these market opportunities, and place them on the market Opportunity Set section of the Navigator.
  10. Your Market Opportunity Set is now ready.

 

 

Step 2: Evaluate Opportunity Attractiveness

At this step, players will assess the potential and the challenge of each opportunity in their set, to compare and prioritize options. Market opportunities are not born equal- some are more attractive than others.

  1. To begin the evaluation process, explain first what an attractive option is. Write on the board: An attractive option is onethat offers high potential for value creation, and limited challenge in capturing this value.
  2. Divide the group into small teams, and assign 1-2 market opportunities to each team.
  3. For each opportunity, ask the teams to assess the overall potential and overall challenge of each option, using the criteria described in Worksheet 2. If you do not have an A1 sized worksheet, recreate the template on a flip chart or use smaller prints.
  4. Once done, let each team present their evaluation to the group, discuss it with the others, and reach agreement. Then placeeach market opportunity (using colored sticky notes) in the mid part of the Market Opportunity Navigator. Your Attractiveness Map is now ready.

 

 

Step 3: Depict Your Agile Focus Dartboard

Having multiple options at hand is important for maintaining your agility. In the last step of the game, you can design your Agile Focus strategy.

  1. Begin with a clear explanation, write on the board: An Agile Focus strategy clearly defines your primary focus, the opportunities that you will keep open for backup or future growth, and those that you put aside for now. It will help you balance the ongoing tension between focus and flexibility.
  2. Players should pick attractive opportunities from step 2, and assess their relatedness to the currently pursued market(s),using Worksheet 3. If you do not have an A1 sized print, recreate the template on a flip chart or use smaller prints.
  3. Discuss and pick at least one backup option and one growth option that you want to keep open. Depict your decision (using colored sticky notes) in the right part of the Market Opportunity Navigator. Your Agile Focus Dartboard is now ready.
  4. Discuss the implications of this strategy to your company: How keeping these options open will influence the technology you are developing, the patents you write, the marketing messages you choose etc.

 

 

 

Strategy
This thought process is extremely powerful for companies seeking to understand and leverage their landscape of opportunities. The ‘big picture’ that it provides is especially valuable for:

  • Startups seeking their initial strategic path
  • Companies in need for pivot
  • Companies searching for new growth engines
  • Companies wishing to leverage existing IP

You can play this game to advance solid strategic decisions, but also to nourish and nurture the cognitive flexibility of your team, or simply to develop a culture that is more flexible and receptive to adaptations.

If you use this tool as a structured decision-making process, more time is required for market validation. In this case, you can map out your opportunities, state your assumptions while doing so, and get out of the building to support or refute them. You can then update the Market Opportunity Navigator and reflect on your learning.

Complementary Games
Finally, use the Navigator in combination with other great tools to set a promising strategic path:

  • the Empathy Map will help you to more deeply understand your stakeholders; play this game before exploring new opportunities
  • A quick ride on the Carousel will put players in a brainstorming mindset before exploring
  • Use the Business Model Canvas to further and more managerially flesh out the viability, feasibility and desirability of your newly discovered Market Opportunities

Variations
You can use each step of the Market Opportunity Navigator as a separate game, depending on your objectives. For example:

  • Use step 1 as a game to uncover different applications and target markets
  • Use step 2 as a game to assess the attractiveness of a specific business opportunity that you have in mind, and check out if it’s worth betting on.
  • Use step 3 as a game to develop possible roadmaps for your venture

Source
Prof. Marc Gruber and Dr. Sharon Tal created The Market Opportunity Navigator in their book, Where to Play: 3 Steps to Discovering Your Most Valuable Market Opportunities

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Mapping Organizational Culture

Are you struggling to break down organizational silos, increase creativity, engagement and collaboration? Do you feel like the people in your company are resisting change? Is your company’s culture holding you back?

Nobody denies the critical importance of culture to a company’s success. And yet, although everyone agrees that culture is of vital importance, culture still seems fuzzy, vague and difficult to grasp. Culture change initiatives are often well-meaning, but end up as a series of feel-good exercises. They create a feeling that progress is being made, but ultimately fail to deliver results.

Objective of Play
Assess, map and transform organizational culture via deep reflection. As a leader or manager in a large organization, you probably have a sense of the culture and people challenges facing you, but at the same time, you must also manage not only down but up and across the organization.

Culture Mapping gives you the intelligent information you require to make a business case for the interventions, executive support, and budget you will need to minimize risk and maximize the chances of success for your change initiative.

Number of Players
Use the culture map individually or with a group.

For group use, gather 5 – 6 people from the same function (IT, HR, finance, et al) who work together and know each other well. The goal of the session is candid and constructive criticism; the boss cannot come.

Duration of Play
Anywhere between 15 minutes for individual play (napkin sketch of a Culture Map) to 90 minutes for a group.

Material Required
Culture Mapping works best when players work on a poster on the wall. To run a good session you will need:

  • A very large print of a Culture Map. Ideally A0 format (1000mm × 1414mm or 39.4in × 55.7in)
    • Alternatively, recreate the canvas on a large whiteboard.
  • Tons of sticky notes (i.e. post-it® notes) of different colors
  • Flip chart markers
  • Camera to capture results
  • The facilitator of the game might want to read an outline of the Culture Map.

How to Play
There are several games and variations you can play with the Culture Map. Here we describe the most basic game, which is the mapping of an organization’s existing culture. The game can easily be adapted to the objectives of the players (eg, map your desired culture or that of another organization).

  1. Before you begin mapping, review with the group the Culture Map sections. A garden plays a useful analogy:
    • The outcomes in your culture are the fruits. These are the things you want your culture to achieve, or what you want to “harvest” from your garden.
    • The behaviors are the heart of your culture. They’re the positive or negative actions people perform everyday that will result in a good or bad harvest.
    • The enablers and blockers are the elements that allow your garden to flourish or fail. For example, weeds, pests, bad weather, or lack of knowledge might be hindering your garden. Where as fertilizer, expertise in gardening specific crops, or good land might be helping your garden to grow.
  2. Start with Behavior, it tends to be the easiest to discuss. These are the things we see everyday, the things we talk about when we ask someone if they “want to grab a coffee?” Use the guide questions to prompt ideas. Write a single behavior on a sticky note, put it on the map. Before moving to the next step, group similar behaviors and remove duplicates. Recommendation: be as specific as possible, use stories to elicit detail and specificity; avoid the tendency to be generic in describing these behaviors. Ask the players: how would you describe this behavior as a scene in a movie?
  3. Move to Outcomes. Go behavior-by-behavior and use the guide questions to prompt ideas, the most important being: What happens to the business because of the behaviors? Write a single outcome on a sticky note, put it on the map near its related behavior. Use a marker to draw a line between a behavior and its direct outcome.
  4. Move to Enablers and Blockers. Go behavior-by-behavior and use the guide questions to prompt ideas. Enablers and blockers describe why we behave the way we do: a listing of organizational incentives. Write a single enabler or blocker on a sticky note and place it near it’s related behavior. Use a marker to draw a line between an enabler or blocker and its resulting behavior.
  5. Once you have taken a pass at each section, examine the map and discuss with the group. Do the relationships make sense? Are the behaviors as detailed as they could be? Has your discussion sparked any other thoughts? If so, add them to the map. Recommendation: Keep relationships as direct as possible. For example, a behavior should have only one outcome and one enabler or blocker. It is likely this will not happen without discussion, editing and refinement. For clarity and communication, keep the relationships as simple as possible, for example:

Strategy
Depending on who you ask, 60–70 percent of change initiatives fail to meet their stated objectives, and the primary source of that failure, according to a Deloitte study, is resistance to change. So if you’re embarking on a change initiative, the last things you want to skimp on are risk-awareness and risk management.

Culture Mapping surfaces information that, as far as we know, cannot be collected any other way. It gives the C-suite access to frontline culture in a way that they could never get through their own efforts, because the water-cooler conversation always shuts down, or significantly shifts, when the CEO or senior leader walks by.

Variation
Map the Culture of industry competitors or an aspirational company

The Culture Map was developed by Dave Gray and Strategyzer AG.

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Manage What You Measure

Measures of success vary across an organization. Executives concern themselves with company-wide Objectives involving Revenue, Cost, Profit, Margin and Customer Satisfaction. Further down the org chart, management and individual contributors rate performance against more detailed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) tracking customer behavior: a product manager may measure app downloads, or number of shopping cart items per visit. These customer behaviors clearly affect the larger corporate Objectives, but how? and which have the most impact?

Objective of Play
Understand how customer behavior impacts higher level objectives; direct organizational efforts on the most influential of those behaviors.

Number of Players
5 – 15

Invite participants across the KPI spectrum: individual contributors, management and executive leadership. A successful game will demonstrate how all levels of KPI’s relate and affect one another.

Duration of Play
30 minutes – 3 hours.

Material Required
Manage What You Measure works best when played on a whiteboard. To run a good session you will need:

  • Sticky notes (i.e. post-it® notes) of different colors
  • Dot stickers
  • Dry-erase markers
  • Camera to capture results

How to Play

1. With the group gathered, introduce Manage What You Measure by stating that the purpose of the game is to focus resources and strategies on the most critical customer behaviors. To get there, the group will map the relationship between high-level corporate objectives and customer behavior.

2. Write at the top of the whiteboard a corporate-wide Strategic Goal.

3. Below that, write on sticky notes the measures of success (KPIs) for that Strategic Goal. Use different color sticky notes when possible.

4. Ask the players to take five minutes for an individual brainstorm: list all the customer behaviors impacting the KPIs identified in Step 3; one per sticky note. If possible, match sticky note colors of customer behaviors and KPIs — this will help organize what may become a crowded whiteboard.

5. After the brainstorm, ask the players to come to the whiteboard and post their sticky notes under the appropriate grouping.

6. Take 5-10 minutes to review the sticky notes. Lead a clarification discussion. Ask participants to explain any potentially confusing sticky notes. Note any customer behaviors mapped multiple times.

7. Repeat steps 4 – 6 once. Use the first set of brainstormed-customer behaviors as the baseline: what are the behaviors that drive those behaviors?

8. Once everyone is comfortable with the customer behaviors, conduct a Dot Vote. Give each player five dots to place on what they consider the most important customer behaviors in light of the Strategic Goal in step 2.

9. Tally the votes.

10. Once again, take time for discussion. Note unpopular choices; ensure their dismissals have merit. Have any results surprised the group? Why? Recommendation: If the Dot Vote results and ensuing discussion dictate further prioritization, consider playing Impact & Effort or the NUF Test.

11. Once the group agrees on the prioritized areas of focus, assign each a baseline value (what is the measure of this behavior now?) and goal (where would we like it to be). Recommendation: Consider playing Who-What-When

Strategy
Employees understand organizational goals at different levels. By defining relationships between high-level objectives, mid-tier KPIs  and the customer behaviors that drive them you have created a map easily navigated.

This clarity creates a shared understanding across all levels of the organization. Now, each time a team reports progress on their specific KPIs, executives will have a clear sense of why the team is working on that and how it affects the Objectives they care most about.

Complementary Games
The Empathy Map will help you to more deeply understand your customers and their behaviors; play this game before Manage What you Measure

Manage What You Measure derives from Jeff Gothelf’s Medium post: Execs care about revenue. How do we get them to care about outcomes?

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Mapping Design Operations

Today, companies in every industry seek to better their design capabilities: from products to services to experiences. Fueling the growing design function in large organizations is a new discipline called Design Ops, charged with scaling design and design thinking up, down, and across the organization.

Does your organization have a Design Ops function? If not, let’s design it!

Object of Play
Build shared understanding of how Design Ops operates within the larger organizational context. If a current Design Ops function exists, to visually map it. If it does not yet exist, to design it.

Number of Players
1-6 (depending on the objective).

As an individual, use the Design Ops canvas to quickly sketch out and think through a Design Ops organizational model or an interesting model portrayed in the press.

To map an organization’s existing and/or future model you should work in groups. Include partner organizations (e.g. project management) and stakeholders (e.g. clients). The more diverse the group of players, the more accurate the picture of the Design Ops function will be.

Duration of Play
Anywhere between 15 minutes for individual play (napkin sketch of a Design Ops model), half a day (to map an organization’s current Design Ops model), and up to two days (to develop a future Design Ops model, including vision, mission and metrics).

Material Required
Mapping works best when players work on a poster on the wall. To run a good session you will need:

  • A very large print of a Business Canvas Poster. Ideally A0 format (1000mm × 1414mm or 39.4in × 55.7in)
    • Alternatively, recreate the canvas on a large whiteboard.
  • Tons of sticky notes (i.e. post-it® notes) of different colors
  • Flip chart markers
  • Camera to capture results
  • The facilitator of the game might want to read an outline of the Design Operations Canvas

How to Play
There are several games and variations you can play with the Design Ops Canvas Poster. Here we describe the most basic game, which is the mapping of an organization’s existing Design Ops org (steps 1-3), it’s assessment (step 4), and the formulation of improved or potential new org designs (step 5). The game can easily be adapted to the objectives of the players.

  1. Start with the Stakeholders in the Who are we? circle. Use different color sticky notes on the Canvas Poster for each type of stakeholder (e.g. external vendors, internal support functions, clients). Complete this section.
  2. Subsequently, move to the What do we do? section and map out the value propositions your organization offers each stakeholder. Players should use the same color sticky notes for value propositions and stakeholder segments that go together. If a value proposition targets two very different stakeholder segments, the sticky note colors of both segments should be used.
  3. Map out all the remaining building blocks of your organization’s Design Ops model with sticky notes. Try to use the colors of the related stakeholder segment. Recommendation: once you complete the Stakeholders section, work around the canvas clockwise, beginning with the upper left section; leave the What Constrains Us? section last.
  4. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your Design Ops model by putting up green (strength) and red (weakness) sticky notes alongside the strong and weak elements of the mapped model. Alternatively, sticky notes marked with a “+” and “-” can be used rather than colors.
  5. Try to improve the existing model or generate totally new models. You can use one or several additional Design Ops Model Posters to map out improved org models or new alternatives.

Strategy
This powerful game opens up channels of dialogue about a new, lesser-known but vitally important design function. Use this game as an opportunity to not only create a thoughtfully designed and productive organization, but to introduce and educate the rest of the company about what design can do and how to plug in. Players not familiar with design may stay silent at first, but their participation will increase understanding and alignment, benefits with payoff into the future. Keep them engaged. Beyond including outside stakeholders in the game, use a completed Design Ops canvas as a conversation starter in evangelizing Design’s value to your company.

Variation

  • map out the Design Ops org of industry competitors or an aspirational company

Complementary Games

  • The Empathy Map will help you to more deeply understand your stakeholders; play this game before Mapping your Design Ops org.
  • The Business Model Canvas will provide a more technical (managerial?) understanding of how your Design Ops org functions; complete the Business Model canvas after mapping your Design Ops org. In the event you are looking to improve upon your current state, the Business Model Canvas will prove especially useful.
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Mitch Lacey Team Prioritization

Object of Play
Overwhelming backlog lists are paralyzing, making it seemingly impossible to take the first step in conquering accumulated assignments. Not only do these intimidating to-do lists constantly grow, but they lose efficiency as more important tasks are added without any order. How do you know the best place to start conquering this debilitating beast? How can you determine the most productive sequence for the assignments? Fortunately, the innovative Agile and Scrum expert, Mitch Lacey, has developed Mitch Lacey Team Prioritization: a revolutionary technique to manage backlogs. As described in his book The Scrum Field Guide: Practical Advice for Your First Year, this game provides a painless way to prioritize tasks, making your backlog list less daunting and more effective.

Number of Players
5 – 8

Duration of Play
1 hour

How to Play
1. To begin, draw a graph on a large poster or white board.

    • X-axis = “Size.” This charts the complexity of the backlog item
    • Y-axis = “Priority” to designate the urgency of the task. This can be measured by anything the players agree is important, such as ROI or business value.
    • Divide the graph into three vertical sections to help your team organize the assignments based on the amount of effort needed to complete them.

2. Pass out notecards and pens for players to write backlog items on and post on the chart according to their size and complexity.

3. When all participants are finished, look at the arrangement of the notecards and collaborate to rearrange them as needed. The top-left section of the chart will be at the top of your work/product backlog, as they are high priority and low-effort tasks. In contrast, the items in the top-right are high priority and large.

4. When all the notes are in their appropriate places, order them in a to-do list by starting with those in the top-left corner and moving clockwise.

Strategy
Examine the note cards in the upper right region of the chart. Is there any way to divide these items into more manageable tasks? These smaller assignments may then be separated to different areas depending on their size and priority level. This will make your to-do list less daunting and more efficient.

Play Online

You can instantly play Mitch Lacey Team Prioritization online with as many members as you would like! Clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com; simply email the game link to your team to invite them to play. In the game, the image to the right will be used as the “game board.” As with the in-person version, this graph measures the size and complexity of tasks. Assignments that players think of are represented by the note card icons found at the upper left corner of the chart. Players simply drag the icons to the game board and describe what they represent. Participants can then edit the placement and description of each notecard, 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. After the game, the results will be organized in a spread sheet to maximize the benefits of the game.

Key Points
This game gets team members thinking differently about backlog items. Rather than making a scattered list of debilitating tasks, Mitch Lacey Team Prioritization arranges your accumulated undertakings according to the level of priority and effort needed to accomplish them, allowing for productive advancements.

References
Mitch Lacey describes this game in his book The Scrum Field Guide: Practical Advice For Your First Year.

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Job or Joy

Object of Play:
This game helps you discover what you and your colleagues like best and least about your jobs. When doing something you love, it is easy to get lost in the activity for its own sake, which stimulates creativity and commitment to the task at hand. This can be applied to your work to make it more enjoyable and productive. With Job or Joy, participants share their favorite hobbies, tedious chores, and what they like or dislike about work. This enhances your understanding of your colleagues while uncovering ways to make work more fun.

Number of Players:
5 – 8

Duration of Play:
1 hour

How to Play:
1. Before your meeting, draw a graph with four quadrants. Write “not-work” on the left of the x-axis and “work” on the right. Then write “play” above the y-axis and “not-play” below it.

This gives each quadrant a specific meaning

  • Quadrant 1: Joy – work activities that people enjoy (ex. conferences)
  • Quadrant 2: Hobbies – activities outside of work that people enjoy (ex. reading, biking, cooking)
  • Quadrant 3: Chores – activities outside of work that people don’t enjoy (ex. cleaning)
  • Quadrant 4: Job – work activities that people don’t enjoy (ex. mundane office meetings)

Job and Joy (work) = external to the individual; liking of the activity depends on the situation or attributes of it
Hobbies and Chores (leisure) = internal to the individual; self-motivated activities outside of the workplace

2. Pass out sticky notes and pens to your team members. Ask them to write activities they do that apply to each of the quadrants.

3. After about 5 minutes, have your participants place their sticky notes where they feel the they belong on the chart. For instance, if someone likes cooking, they would put that in the “Hobbies” quadrant. If they don’t like cooking, they would place it in the “Chores” section. Things that people like to do at work go under “Joy” and work activities people don’t like go under “Job.”

4. Ask each person to explain the activities they wrote and why they placed it where they did. Use this discussion time to learn about each other and collaborate on how to make work more enjoyable for everyone.

Strategy:
The writing and discussion time should begin with activities people love to do outside of work and move to more work-oriented activities. This will help everyone think of ways to make their jobs more enjoyable while creating a fun environment.

Online Job or Joy

Start playing Job or Joy immediately online! Clicking on this image will take you to an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com, where you can invite participants to play. Here, there will be two icons:

  • Happy face: what you enjoy to do
  • Frown face: what you don’t enjoy to do

Simply drag these to the chart and collaborate about the moves in real time. When finished, your results are organized onto a spread sheet so you can get the most out of your game.

Key Points
When people enjoy what they are doing and become engaged through self-motivation, they can push themselves to form innovative ideas and breakthroughs. Their participation is catalyzed by the activity they are involved in and they channel their personal commitment toward achieving the goal. Discover what your colleagues like/dislike to do in order to better understand who they are and how you can all maximize your joy — both during and outside of work.

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Circles of Influence

Object of Play
The first step of achieving your business goal is always the most difficult. Where do you start? Who can you talk to? Is there anybody that will support you in your risky journey? Fortunately, Deb Colden’s Circles of Influence can help you reach your action potential by identifying connections that will lead you to success. Take advantage of this game to expand your network and turn your thoughts into plans.

Number of Players
5 – 8

Duration of Play
1 hour

How to Play
1. At the top of a large poster or white board, define your goal. This could be anything from finishing a task by the end of the day to increasing your sales before the end of the year. Write what you want to accomplish in one sentence to keep it concise.

2. Draw two large circles next to each other, putting a check mark in the center of the left one and a smiley face in the middle of the right one. Label the circles as followed:

  • Left circle: “Circle of the Task”
  • Right Circle: “Board of Directors”

3. Distribute pens and plenty of sticky notes to each person.

4. Focus on “Circle of the Task.” This is designated for people who could help you reach your goal or provide contacts of people in their network who could assist you. Ask participants to write names of people belonging to the category on their sticky notes and to post them on the edge of the left circle. Avoid generalizations, such as “somebody from Company X,” or “a professor.” By using specific names, you can transform vague ideas into tangible actions and identify who will help you excel toward your goal. Also, it will get you thinking about specific questions to ask them so you can get exactly what you need in an efficient manner.

5. As a team, reflect on and note how connecting with each person could be advantageous. Who benefits from the relationship? Who knows other potentially helpful people? Why is the interaction important? Focus on ways you can provide a win-win (give something, get something) experience to the people on your task circle.

6. Move on to the “Board of Directors.” This circle is for people who will help you no matter what, and who you can rely on to provide encouragement and advice. These personal acquaintances are perfect to speak with when you don’t know where to start or want to practice forming focused questions. As before, ask players to write names on their sticky notes and to post them on the edge of the circle.

7. Collaborate to uncover ways to use the support and advice of your “Board of Directors.”

8. Work together to identify who to speak with first from your “Circle of the Task.” Who is the easiest person to talk to with the best return? If going straight to your “Circle of the Task” is too intimidating, then select someone from you “Board of Directors” who can calm you down and provide advice. These people want you to succeed, and can help you identify where to start. Also, look for two-fers: people who belong to both circles. These are valuable connections, as they can assist you with the task and provide support.

9. After speaking with people on your “Circle of the Task,” make sure to ask, “Is there anyone else I should talk to?” This will encourage them to share their networks to help expand yours. When you return to the chart, attach a circle to the person’s sticky note, representing their connections. This will organize your potential contacts so you can see your expanded sphere of support.

Play Circles of Influence Online

You can instantly play Circles of Influence online with as many members as you would like! Clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com; simply email the game link to your staff to invite them to play. In the game, the image to the right will be used as the “game board.” As with the in-person version, the two circles organize your “Circle of the Task,” and “Board of Directors.” You will see two icons in the top left corner, which represent people in your network:

  • Green person – in your “Circle of the Task”
  • Blue person – in your “Board of Directors”
  • Blue stars – goals

To add the icons to the game board, simply drag them to their respective sections and describe what they represent. Players online are able to decide on multiple goals, symbolized by blue stars. As facilitator, engage your participants to discover which of the goals are most important.

Everyone can edit the placement and description of each icon, which can be seen in real time. Collaborate through the chat facilitator to build from each other’s ideas. When finished, the results will be organized in a spreadsheet for you to carefully analyze in order to get the most out of the game.

Strategy
Write names of people even if you do not personally know them or if you believe they will be difficult to schedule a time to talk with. Doing so will get you thinking about that person’s network, which can be just as valuable.

Key Points
This game involves visual organization and extensive collaboration to identify people who will help you move toward your goal. By writing out specific names, you can turn potential connections into beneficial relationships and form a more focused approach on how to achieve your objective. Get the job done by expanding your network while utilizing the support of those who know you best.

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Merrill Covey Matrix

Object of Play
Many of us are overwhelmed by our to-do lists, and work hard each day to accomplish just a few of our countless tasks. However, we tend to focus on urgent items while disregarding the importance of planning for tasks that are necessary to reach our overall goal. This negligence will lead to even more stress in the long run, as everything will eventually become urgent if not prepared for. Fortunately, Merrill Covey Matrix, based on  Stephen Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill’s description in their book First Things First, allows you to evaluate the urgency and importance of your tasks. The goal of this activity is to prioritize your to-do list in order to plan ahead and work efficiently. Play Merrill Covey Matrix with your team at work, key partners, or customers to clarify the purpose and value of your tasks and to discover which items should be minimized or eliminated.

Number of Players:
5 – 8

Duration of Play
1 hour

How to Play

1. Before your meeting, draw a 2×2 matrix on a large white board or poster. Label the axes as followed:

  • 2 left cells – Urgent
  • 2 right cells – Not urgent
  • 2 top cells – Important
  • 2 bottom cells– Not important

2. Distribute pens and plenty of sticky notes to your players; participants will use these to write tasks.

3. Allow 5 – 10 minutes for players to write to-do items on the post-its: one per note.

4. Have players present their tasks to the group. As a team, collaborate to identify where each to-do item should be placed on the matrix.

5. Once all of the notes are posted, rearrange the tasks in each cell in order of importance. Start thinking about how you can use the organization to make your to-do list more efficient. Keep in mind the value of each cell:

  • Cell 1: Urgent, important – these tasks should be at the top of your to-do list
  • Cell 2: Not urgent, important – these items are likely to be neglected, but are necessary for long-term success. Set aside time each week to focus on these in order to be more productive. We suggest making this cell a different color so you will remember its significance.
  • Cell 3: Urgent, not important – these tasks suck your time and are often the result of poor-planning. They should be minimized or eliminated.
  • Cell 4: Not urgent, not important – these items are trivial time-wasters that should be eliminated

6. Collaborate to clarify the value of the items and to identify which team members will be responsible for each task. Write down the new order of your to-do list, but make sure take a picture of the chart or leave it up so you can refer back to it.

Play Online

Now you can play Merrill Covey Matrix instantly online! Clicking on the picture to the right will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com. Here, this image will be used as the “game board.” This chart is organized the same way as the in-person version, and the second cell is highlighted yellow to remind you of its importance. However, instead of post-it notes, there will be two different icons that players can drag onto the chart and describe to represent the tasks:

  • Green squares – priority tasks that require attention
  • Red square – tasks to minimize/eliminate

All moves can be seen in real time by each participant, so everyone can edit the positions and descriptions of the icons. Also, the integrated chat facility allows you and your players to collaborate to form the most efficient to-do list.

Strategy
Delegation is an integral part of time management. Rather than assuming everyone will work together on each item, you must assign tasks in order to prevent social loafing. This way, people will feel more responsible for certain items and will accomplish them more efficiently.

Considering how easy it is to neglect the items in the second cell, it is advised to highlight or surround the region with a different color to portray its significance, as seen in the images above. At the beginning of each week, set aside time to work on these necessary tasks.

Avoid creating a long, intimidating to-do lists by breaking it down into smaller lists. For example, consider creating a task sheet for each person or a group list for each day or week.

Key Points
While we are all busy working through our to-do lists, we may not be doing so as efficiently as we think. Play Merrill Covey Matrix to identify the purpose and value of your tasks and to minimize or eliminate time-wasters. Plan ahead to avoid unproductive busy work and to accomplish your goal in a productive manner.

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Learning Matrix

Object of Play
Iteration retrospective activities are tricky; it is often difficult to think of practical improvements, and reflecting on negative aspects of the project can leave your team feeling upset and unmotivated. A great way to prevent these from occurring is to play a game that focuses on the positives while also pointing out aspects that need to be changed. As described in Diana Larsen and Esther Derby’s Agile Retrospectives, Learning Matrix does just this. In this game, teams collaborate to identify what they liked and disliked about a past project, as well as point out whom they appreciated and what they believe should be altered for the future. Whether analyzing the results of a conference, product, or meeting, Learning Matrix can help you uncover your top-priority items to enhance your iteration.

Number of Players
5 – 8

Duration of Play
1 hour

How to Play
1. Before your meeting, create a 2×2 matrix. Draw a picture in each quadrant to represent a different aspect involved in your retrospective analysis:

Quadrant 1: Frown face for aspects you disliked, should be changed
Quadrant 2: Smiley face for aspects you liked, should be repeated
Quadrant 3: Light bulb for new ideas to try
Quadrant 4: Bouquet: people you appreciated

2. Provide players with plenty of sticky notes and markers. Allow 5-10 minutes for participants to individually write down their ideas for the four topics on separate notes.

3. After all players are done writing their ideas, ask them to present their sticky notes to the group and post them on the designated sections of the chart.

4. Narrow down the notes to a few requiring immediate attention. Give each player 6 – 10 dot stickers, which they will use to dot vote for the ideas they believe are top-priority. Resolve ties by discussing which note is more pressing or having another dot vote. Count all the votes to determine which ideas should be focused on. Narrowing ideas down is important, as it allows the team to concentrate on priorities and increases the chance of effective improvements being made.

5. Move the notes around to reflect the order of priority. Collaborate to evaluate how these ideas can be used to enhance your next iteration and discuss where you can begin making improvements.

Online Learning Matrix

Clicking on the image to the right will take you to an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com. Here, the picture will be used as the “game board” and you will find four icons in the top left corner. As with the in-person game, the each icon represents a different topic:

Frown face – aspects you didn’t like
Happy face – aspects you liked
Light bulb – new ideas
Bouquet – people you appreciated

To add the icons, simply drag them to the board and describe what they represent. Everyone can edit the placement and description of each icon, which can be seen in real time. Collaborate through the chat facilitator to build from each other’s ideas and improve your past project.

Strategy
Encourage players to continue thinking of ideas for each quadrant, even after all the sticky notes have been posted or the quadrants have filled up. Write the additional comments around the topic images to maintain the positioning of the original notes.

A good facilitator is necessary for this game in order to keep everyone focused. If the project team leader does not feel comfortable in this position, it is best to hire a neutral facilitator. This must be someone who can gain the team’s trust and create an environment in which participants feel comfortable sharing their ideas.

Key Points
This exercise allows you to perform iteration retrospective analysis while maintaining a positive environment. By organizing your thoughts, you can lay out your plan for improvement and discover how to enhance your project for the future. Collaborate to identify what should be repeated, changed, or tried, and to congratulate team members for a job well-done.