Posted on

Applying the Impact & Effort Matrix

Recently, my team got stuck trying to choose from four different architecture options for our website.  We need to find a balance between near-term tactical goals and long-term strategic goals. When we focused on our strategic goals, the solutions that we came up with didn’t meet our short-term requirements, and vice versa. We moved the pieces around the board for a month, and then finally we gave up and called for a Big Meeting.

In the meeting we had tech leads, solution architects and developers from my company and from our vendor. We also had other stakeholders like administrators, product owners, a couple of consultants from a design company and our UX (User Experience) guy. There were 20 of us, which made lunches expensive, but which made the situation ripe for some Gamestorming.

On the first day, we did the Impact & Effort Matrix exercise (p. 241) for our long term product strategy. We were looking to see whether there were strategic goals we could meet while developing on technology and development practices that were already in place. The result was something like this diagram:

Caption: Each point is a strategic goal. For each axis, 0-5 is low and 6-10 is high.

Caption: Each point is a strategic goal. For each axis, 0-5 is low and 6-10 is high.

This exercise put to rest our dream of being able to meet our tactical and strategic goals using the same platform. Meeting our strategic goals would require developemnt of a new platform, and the time-to-market required by a new platform could not meet our tactical market needs. We now had two projects on our hands. I considered this a success because the visualization definitely made it very clear that we couldn’t kill two birds with one stone – in this case we definitely needed two stones.

We already had a good option for the strategic platform coming from our in-house development team, so what was left was to determine how we were to meet our tactical goals. Our short-term capacity is strained by the projects already underway, so we gamed out a hybrid approach with our vendor using the SWOT Analysis exercise (p. 212).

SWOT Analysis

We had a plan, and the exercise confirmed that our plan had many strengths. This was not unexpected. But the exercise also unearthed anxiety that some team members had about the long term viability of the vendor and the partnership, which we discovered while documenting threats. I found these issues to be particularly valuable, and we can use them to shape our partnership contract with our vendor.

With the help of exercises from Gamestorming, we got our project unstuck after a month’s worth of chasing our tails, we sorted our near and long-term goals, and now we are on our way to setting up a  partnership to address our tactical goals and building a new platform for our strategic goals.

Brendan Sullivan
Product Director, Elsevier

Posted on 1 Comment

American Marketing Association interviews Dave Gray about Gamestorming

Summary: According to Dave Gray in his new book, Gamestorming, playing with office supplies is not a waste of time. Whipping out a stack of post-its in a meeting and jotting down notes or sketching ideas is actually helpful; otherwise all those ideas have to stay inside your head, getting lost and confused. Writing out ideas, moving them around like pieces in a game, and collaborating with others makes for faster meetings and more creativity. Every company needs those creative ideas to reach the top even just stay there.

Listen to the podcast here.

Posted on 1 Comment

SXSW panel proposal for Gamestorming

We have proposed a panel at the SXSW Interactive conference on Gamestorming. Here’s the description:

Work is getting flatter. There’s no central server dishing out orders. It’s a peer-to-peer, co-evolving world. The team that flocks together, rocks together. The future of work is not about dull routine, it’s about being more human. It’s about curiosity, exploration, flexibility and imagination. Gamestorming is for people who want to design the future, to change the world, to make, break and innovate. It’s a kind of Jedi-judo for inventors, explorers and change agents who want to engage the swarm, surf the infosphere and fan the creative hive to an excited state. Gamestorming is a practice made of people, paper and passion. The enabling technologies are sticky notes, whiteboards, index cards, loose rules and fast action. Gamestorming is a mashup of game principles, game mechanics and work. It’s about weaving energy and fast-feedback loops into your work, into your meetings with co-workers, into your design and development activities. Gamestorming is the future of work. Our panel of Gamestorming Jedi will infect you with the Gamestorming virus, so you can carry it back with you and unleash the contagion to the other nodes in your network. There is no antidote.

SXSW selects panels based on votes and comments from people like you. So get on over there and vote!

Posted on

Mouse Traps to Explore Exceptions and Solutions

Mouse Traps break the worry cycle to develop new habits and behaviors

create-learning team building & leadership

Worry is something that we all of have. Worry stops us from;

  • Taking risks
  • Exploring the unknown
  • Gaining new knowledge
  • Changing
  • Listening
  • Making more money
  • Confronting team members who are not doing their work
  • Being happy and doing meaningful work


Worry follows a familiar pattern

Event (internal or external) –> Worry (Thoughts & Feelings) –> Worry—Physical (Stress reactions) –> Worry—Behavior (Checking & Avoiding) –> returning to Worry

This cycle is vicious. 

So how do mouse traps break this? A mouse trap has an external worry attached. Fears from getting injured, to rodent phobia etc…

Attaching and working through a Worry, creating familiarity with the worry, determining the exceptions to the worry and what solutions can happen, and the final step is attaching a solution that the person has to the mouse trap.

Here is how I generally sequence Breaking the Worry Cycle with Mouse traps.

  1. Explain the worry cycle
  2. Explore techniques to reduce worry i.e. behavior replacement, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation.
  3. Illustrate how mouse traps work
  4. explore worries and individual worry of mouse traps
  5. Practice until familiar and have a working comfort with traps
  6. Explore when people felt comfort with the mouse trap, and how they increased their comfort.
  7. Explain about breaking the worry cycle. Looking for exceptions to the worry and facilitating a discussion about solutions finding. 
  8. Ask people to write a worry they have on the trap
  9. Ask people to write a solution or exception to the worry on a note card 
  10. Guide people though a visualization of worry reduction and techniques.
  11. Guide people through a visualization in feeling, seeing, smelling, hearing, observing when the solution / exception is taking place.
  12. Interaction with mouse traps through Trust:Trap:Sequence
  13. Facilitate a discussion comparing and contrasting comfort levels and worry of mouse traps.
  14. People gain concrete and metaphorical skills in breaking the worry cycle to find solutions and exception with the mouse traps.


Mouse Traps and the Worry Cycle – good stuff. To discuss this further contact me

Michael Cardus is the founder of Create-Learning an experiential based consulting, facilitation, training and coaching organization. Leading to successful results in retention of staff talent, increased satisfaction with work, increased collaboration and information sharing within and between departments, increased accountability of success and failures, increased knowledge transfer, increased trust as well as speed of project completion and decision making of Leaders, Teams and Organizations.

Posted on

In defense of games in the workplace

Gamestorming author Dave Gray was just interviewed by Mac Slocum of O’Reilly Radar:

We’re hardwired to play games. We play them for fun. We play them in our social interactions. We play them at work.

That last one is tricky. “Games” and “work” don’t seem like a natural pairing. Their coupling in the workplace either implies goofing off (the fun variant) or office politics (the not-so-fun type).

Dave GraySunni Brown, and James Macanufo, co-authors of the upcoming bookGamestorming, have a different perspective. They contend that an embrace and understanding of game mechanics can yield benefits in many work environments, particularly those where old hierarchical models are no longer applicable.

In the following Q&A, Gray discusses the collaborative power of games and how they can cut through increasing workplace complexity.

Read the whole interview here.