Having a Ball – Introduction

There is a simulation I build into my Agile training curriculum. It is based on a very old game that has been used for ages. I’m not the inventor of the game, but I am a very strong adapter of it. Here I examine the core game followed by variations I have used…

The Ball Game

The game starts, as most do, with everyone in the room forming up into loose groups of teams to learn the rules:

The Rules:

  1. You are a Cross-Functional Team
  2. Each Ball Represents a Requirement
  3. All Requirements are put into play by the Product Owner.
  4. All Requirements are removed from play by the Product Owner.
  5. Each Requirement must be touched at least once by every member of the Team.
  6. When Passing a Requirement, it cannot be passed to the person to your Right or Left.
  7. When Passing a Requirement, it must have Air Time (no two people may touch the same ball at the same time)
  8. When Passing a Requirement, if it is Dropped, you cannot pick it up.

Sequence:

  • Planning – The Team estimates how many Requirements they can “deliver” in 1 minute, they record this value in the “Estimate” column.
  • Execution- The Team executes their plan for 1 minute
  • Review – The Team records the actual number of Requirements that satisfied the acceptance criteria. They also record how many ‘dropped balls’ (defects) there were during the round.
  • Retrospective – The Team takes a minute to discuss how to improve their process.

These rules are quite common, and there in really no difference here between what my teams start with, and what all the other ball gamers do. In fact, if you were to run the simulation for a couple of teams, for a couple of “sprints”, then within a half hour, they would have probably run four or five iterations and improved their process dramatically.

Lessons Learned:

Upon completion of the simulation, following only these rules, the teams would learn some valuable agile lessons like:

  • Planning is important
  • Time Boxes Cause Stress
  • Skill Plays a Part
  • Faster Isn’t Necessarily Better
  • The Importance of Communication
  • etc…

Once I started cataloging variants of this game, the post got very long. I’ve taken the liberty of breaking it up into smaller, more bite-sized chunks. The full table of contents is listed below.

There are also navigation buttons to help you advance through the different sections.

Enjoy!

Author: Michael Marchi

Michael Marchi CSM, CSPO, SA4 Co-Founder and Board Member @ APLN Chicago (michael.marchi@aplnchicago.org) Manager, Management Consulting / Chicago Agile Practice Lead / Agile Coach & Trainer @ Strive Consulting (mmarchi@striveconsulting.com)

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