Object of Play
The goal of this game is to explore or clarify a process by following an object through its flow. Through this exercise, a group will create a memorable, visual story of their core process. After it is completed, this artifact can be used to identify opportunities to improve or educate others involved in the process. The notion of “stapling yourself to an order” comes from process improvement, but can be useful in a variety of scenarios. A group with no documented process, or an overly complex one, will benefit from the exercise. If the process is taking too long, or if no one seems to know how the work gets done, it’s time to staple yourself to something and see where it goes.
Number of Players
Duration of Play
How to Play
- The group must have an idea of what their object is, the “bouncing ball” that they will follow through the process. It’s best to decide on this in advance. Some example objects could be a product, a trouble ticket, or an idea. A familiar example of this type of flow is “How a bill becomes a law.”
- Introduce the exercise by drawing the object. The goal is to focus on telling the story of this one object from point A to point B. Write these commonly understood starting and ending points on the wall.
- Ask participants to brainstorm a list of the big steps in the process and record them on the wall. If needed, ask them to prioritize them into a desired and workable number of steps. For a high-level story, look to capture seven steps.
- Before you start to follow the object, work out with the group the vital information you are looking to capture in the story. Ask: in each step of the process, what do we need to know? This may be the people involved, the action they’re taking, or the amount of time a step takes.
- Now it’s time to draw. The group will tell the story of the object as it moves from step to step. As much as possible, capture the information visually, as though you were taking a picture of what they are describing. Some useful tools here include stick figures, arrows, and quality questions. Questions that produce an active voice in the answer, as in “Who does what here?” will be more concrete and visual. Other good questions include “What’s next?” and “What’s important?”
- Be aware that the story will want to branch, loop, and link to other processes, like a river trying to break its banks. Your job is to navigate the flow with the group and keep things moving toward the end.
Use the object as a focusing device. Any activity that is not directly related to the forward motion of the object can be noted and then tied off.
If possible, add a ticking clock to the story to help pace the flow. If the object needs to get to the end by a certain time, use this to your advantage by introducing it up front and referencing it as needed to keep up the momentum and interest of the story.
One trap to be aware of is that participants may move between the way things are and the way they want them to be. Be clear with the group about what state in time—today or the desired future—you are capturing.
Does the process have an owner? If someone is responsible for the process, you can use this person’s expertise, but be cautious not to let her tell the entire story. This can be a learning experience for her as well, if she listens to the participants describe “their version” of the story.
There are many ways of conducting a “day in the life” type of visualization. This version of the game is credited to James Macanufo.