Finally launched my agile training game

We set up a stand at the recent Software Development Conference to run the Agile Release Planning Game I designed.

It seemed to go down really well, so I have decided to make the game available publicly if anyone is interested in using it.

In the game, participants are a group of scientists and engineers who are stuck on Mars after a “less than successful” landing.  They are on a mission to make scientific discoveries but must now rebuild a basic infrastructure for survival before returning to their original mission.

Participants then create a strategy based on rebuilding their ship, building a base and/or returning to their basic goal of research.  In doing so they must make trade-offs between quality and velocity.

The game introduces concepts such as release planning, iteration planning, velocity, release planning trade-offs, building by feature and adaptive planning.

The game is designed to be led by a facilitator, but can be run without one.  The release planning game takes around half an hour to play and can be replayed multiple times to explore different concepts in more detail or to improve the outcome based on lessons learned in the first attempt.

Different options allow the game to be played as a very simple introduction to the concepts of release planning or a more complex game involving more realistic trade-offs and decision making under conditions of uncertainty and pressure.

In addition, there is an extension included in the game that focuses on planning within the iteration (or sprint) rather than across the wider release.

Let me know if you are interested in learning more, or even trying the game for yourself.


Delegation part 1

I believe that a lot of decision making is negatively impacted by unclear delegation.

The result is that both the delegator and delegatee (if such words existed) want the right outcome and behave intelligently – but act on different information or assumptions.

So it should help when delegating decisions to a group, if you am really clear on what decision you want made :

  • Not just the item that is up for discussion but also whether people are helping you decide what the solution should be or just how to implement the solution that has already be decided; and
  • Not just whether you want to talk about a decision but what outcome you want to achieve in the meeting.

For example – pick one of the following for the decision in question:

  • I have made a decision and I want to explain it to you, as well as get your feedback;
  • I am going to ask for your ideas and then make a decision;
  • We are going to decide this together, but I will decide if we cannot reach agreement;
  • We will decide this together and we need to all agree before we move forward;
  • Let me know what you want to do as a team and I will back you; or
  • Everyone can decide their own course of action separately after we have discussed the decision.

Similarly – set one of the following as an expectation before you ask the group to make a decision – At the end of this discussion:

  • I want everyone on board with the decision and acting on it;
  • I want the decision made, but we can come back later and talk about how to implement it; or
  • I want everyone to go away and think about it, so we can come back and make an informed decision later.

It often surprises me how a little clarification leads to a realisation that we were much less clear as a group than we thought we were … which means we were probably wasting our energy working in different directions.