Having a Ball – Part 1 : Solutions

The Ball Game is a simulation I like to build into my Agile training curriculum. The rules of the game are quite simple and were introduced in the “Intro” post. What follows is is discussion of some common solutions I’ve seen teams come up with for the core rules.


Two common solutions for a six-person group are illustrated below.

The first is a simple star pattern (or circle), where the initial intent was to have each person throw the ball to the next person beyond the person to their immediate right or left. Each ball effectively circles the group twice. If there are an odd number of people on the team, it works perfectly getting back to the product owner. If there is an even number of team members, then a little creativity is required to get the last ball back to the Product Owner without violating rule 6. This variant is a lot of fun to watch, especially if they get more than one ball moving at a time.

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Solution 1 – Star Pattern – six people

It seems rule 6 (no tossing to the immediate right or left) is the most troublesome. Solution 2 is an interesting variant because it involves the participants facing off in two lines, and tossing the ball across from one line to the next, instead of next to them. In the end, the last player has to throw the ball all the way down the length of the line, back to the product owner – which could result in a dropped ball. I did see one group that had so many people, they were able to loop the two lines around so the line ended right next to the product owner.

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Solution 2 – Face to face

There are other variants that are harder to illustrate. One involved the team members cupping their hands, one above another forming a virtual tube for the balls to descend through. The product owner dropped a ball in the top, then crouched down and cupped their hands at the bottom to receive the ball after they fell through the last set up hands. The solution does not violate any of the rules, and it makes dropping a ball very unlikely. But the product owner ends up standing and squatting down in rapid succession throughout the iteration. If they’re not in good shape they could wind up passing out! 🙁

Okay. So we’ve looked at the rules of the game. We’ve seen a few sample solutions. What have we learned from all this? The Core Lessons are discussed in Part 2.

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Author: Michael Marchi

Michael Marchi CSM, CSPO, SA4 Co-Founder and Board Member @ APLN Chicago ([email protected]) Manager, Management Consulting / Chicago Agile Practice Lead / Agile Coach & Trainer @ Strive Consulting ([email protected])