V3 – The Importance of Training
I usually like starting the Ball Game exercise right after a break in the training class when I’ve declared that we’ll start again at a specific time. This almost always ensures that if I keep my word about start time, that somebody has failed to come back to the classroom on time. I deliberately don’t recap any of the rules that have been explained. These team members have essentially missed out on the training (rules). It works even better if the round has begun and you just assign them to join a ‘sprint’ already in progress. They generally fall prey to some of the esoteric rules of the game – usually the airtime, right-left, or the dropped-ball rule. Suddenly the team will start shouting orders at the new team member, trying to explain the rules while mid-volley. It’s wonderfully chaotic.
Origin: This is the first of my personal variants, and it happened organically. The team was already tossing balls around when two of their teammates wandered into the classroom. They tried to sit down, and I made a point of calling them up to participate with one of the teams, making sure they were right next to each other. One of them received a tossed ball, and naturally handed it to their partner in tardiness, breaking the right-left rule AND the airtime rule in one fell swoop. I swept in and plucked the ball out of their hands. “Rules violation. Dead ball”. As they were processing that a tossed ball went wide. “Rules violation. Dead ball.”
Reality Check: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen organizations make the commitment to training the first group of agile transformation teams, then decide this is unnecessary for subsequent team members. They toss relative newbies into a team and expect the rest of the team to educate them on the fly. The metaphor here is both obvious and effective. Note: if you think this is an important lesson for your group to learn, snatch a couple of volunteers to stand in the hallway until the exercise is in full swing. Sometimes we make our own luck.