I been working with Jason Little (@jasonlittle) on delivering Vision Collaboration Workshops for my company, PointClickCare. By ‘working with’ I mean he’s been doing all the presenting and I get to stand around, watch him and chip in my 2 cents whenever necessary. I will be conducting this workshop on my own in the coming months and leaning on Jason’s experience to get me through them.
One of the great games that he has introduced me to is a communications game that highlights the benefits of doing things the agile way.
You break the group into two teams, “Product” and “Developers”. Have the Developers leave the room while you give the instructions to the Product team. The Product team is given a picture:
and 5 minutes to write a specification document describing how to draw this. The Developers come back in and read the spec and draw what they have read. They are not allowed to ask the Product any questions other than handwriting clarifications.
You get some very interesting diagrams:
The instructions said “draw the bull symbol from the stock exchange”, so I can see how this happened.
Ask the Product people if they would accept this version and the vast majority reject. There are some exceptions, this drawing, for example was fantastic:
The next round has a different drawing and a different set of rules. This time, in 5 minutes, you have the Product and Developers sit together and the Product describes what they want while watching the Developers draw. The only rules are they can not show the Developers the picture and they can not use their hands.
After the 5 minutes you get a very different result. Nearly everyone experiences a sharp increase in acceptability, a better drawing that closely matches what they were working from.
I’ve used this as a team building exercise for a couple teams outside of agile and had great success with it. When using it for communication techniques, I had the teams sit back to back for the first round instead of writing out the requirements. The second round I had them facing each other. It really highlights the benefit of proper communication.
The PM’s time is spent on a myriad of activities (as found here):
• Planning and Defining Scope • Activity Planning and Sequencing • Resource Planning • Developing Schedules • Time Estimating • Cost Estimating • Developing a Budget • Documentation • Creating Charts and Schedules • Risk Analysis • Managing Risks and Issues • Monitoring and Reporting Progress • Team Leadership • Strategic Influencing • Business Partnering • Working with Vendors • Scalability, Interoperability and Portability Analysis • Controlling Quality • Benefits Realisation
Notice the centralization of responsibility and the single focus on this one individual for the planning (mentioned several times) and documentation as referenced by ‘estimating’, ‘developing’ and ‘analysis’. The PM is the one person with their neck in a noose as far as the project goes, a very visible and real alliteration of what happens if the project doesn’t go well. But also notice that of all of these actions, none of them create any real business value. They are all based on making sure everyone knows what they are doing and where the project is going.
The real business value is created by doing actual work.
Planning and defining scope happen in real time and is distributed between the entire team. Distributed work is still getting done, however with Agile it’s getting done as needed and it’s not a separate phase of a project. Same goes for almost all of the other activities; they are all done as and when needed and not as a stand alone effort. As well, the work is distributed to the entire team or it is deferred indefinitely.
I learned this one a few months ago and have been using it in retrospectives and in some of the training I have been part of. It’s called “Fortunately/Unfortunately”. I explain that this warm up exercise helps with communication skills by making the participants actively listen to what the previous person said and then responding appropriately.
The instructions are quite simple. The first person in the group starts a sentence with “Fortunately” and the next person follow up on the sentence with “Unfortunately”. It’s important that they listen to what was said and make their sentence follow the same theme. During one session I had started with “Fortunately my wife is pregnant” and the next person, who obviously wasn’t paying attention stated “Unfortunately the Raptors are out of the playoffs.”.
I use the “Fortunately my wife is pregnant” when I am explaining the game to the group because it also loosens them up and gets them laughing as I follow that statement up with “Unfortunately the baby isn’t mine”!
During this exercise there is a lot of laughter and creativity, which really helps everyone loosen up before your session.