A role profile for poject teams

According to management theory, we all do a better job if we have a clear understanding of our role and what value it is adding to the team and the organisation. We also find work more satisfying when this is the case.

But quite often the role profile, position description and annual performance agreement become more of a burden than a source of job satisfaction.

Continue reading “A role profile for poject teams”


The “what would someone else suggest” technique

Today I ran a workshop on workshops and predictably one of the things we did was brainstorming.

But one of the participants was a little bit bored with putting post-it notes on the wall, so we replaced our standard brainstorming with “what would someone else do””.

This approach can work really well in either a coaching session or a workshop.

The idea is that if we already knew what to do about something there would be no issue and no need for coaching or a workshop. So rather than asking “what can we do” and being stuck with our usual thinking we ask “what would someone else do”.

For example, I might ask you to answer the following questions to shift your thinking:

  • What would you never do that someone else might try?
  • What would your parents do?
  • What would a leprechaun try?
  • If we just found out out competitor had solved that problem, what would they have done?
  • What would your evil twin do?
  • How would Buffy the Vampire Slayer deal with that?  What about Spike?
  • What would never work?
  • If you were back at school, what would your friends have told you to do?
  • What would you tell someone to do?
  • What would Homer Simpson never think to do?

The aim is actually to ask more than 7 odd ways of solving the problem that we would not normally think of doing.  The reason for trying more than 7 is that someone told me that the first few approaches we think of are often repeats of the same ones … plus 7 is a lucky number.

But in our workshop one of the crew was a more inventive.  This is what he did:

  • Break people into teams of two;
  • Allocate a fictional (or famous) person to each group;
  • Give people to brainstorm some suggestions their fictional person might come up with;
  • Share the ideas with the group; and
  • Ask people to state how they could combine different combinations of the suggestions to come up with something that is actually sensible.

It worked really well in the group.  The only improvement I thought might work well for next time was to consider using some deliberately different characters to find some extreme suggestions, for example:

  • One team be Santa Clause and the other Scrooge; or
  • One team be Britney Spears and the other my great grandma.

Try one of these approaches next time you are stuck for ideas and let me know if it works.

How do you mean?

I am running a workshop workshop today – a workshop on workshops.

Actually I am running a training course for some experienced facilitators and the course is about how to run workshops better.

So I have been reviewing conflict management techniques, ways of engaging un-engaged participants and issue resolution techniques.

Interestingly I have just noticed (yet again) that some of the workshop techniques (affinity diagrams and speed dating for example) work for both mitigating “strong personalities” and influencing the “passengers” to stop sitting back and start contributing.

Then I decided to throw in the question compass some abstract/concrete thinking and some fun things like options generators.

But now I have decided to lead with one of the least sensible seeming yet most useful techniques – the grammatically nonsensical question “how do you mean”.

Another facilitator taught me this one – it does not actually make sense so there is no right answer … which gets people to blurt out any answer .. which helps then explore what they really want to say.  I am not quite sure why but it frequently seems to work.

So – 10 experienced facilitators and the first and best tip I will give them is just to ask a dumb sounding question.

I will see how it goes.

Agile release planning game downloads

There are now three versions of my agile release planning game so I thought I would add them to the site so people can download them directly:

The original version

The basic game covers release planning and also the challenge of planning for new features, fixing defects and being impacted by technical debt. It works well when leading discussions about velocity charts, replanning and technical debt.

It is set on Mars and involves the team planning how to survive or leave Mars.  The version attached contains additional complexity around having the team set clear priorities (survive, continue with a scientific mission or work on leaving).  But some people prefer to ignore the scientific goals of the project to simplify the game, in which case they tell the team to focus only on surviving.  The components are:

ARPG facilitators guide v1.1     ARPG game board v1.1     ARPG glossary v1.1

ARPG iteration instructions v1.1    ARPG status report v1.1

An older version of the game had events the impact the team as well as defects and stories.  Generally I have ignored the events so I have removed them from the following folder.  So the following folder contains stories and defects … although you may find that the status report is all you need to track defects: ARPG Story Cards and events v1.1

The iteration planning / Kanban extension

The following version can be played on its own (though you will need to read the facilitators guide above and use the story cards).  Alternatively it can complement the game above if you use it to replay a couple of the iterations in the orginal game.

It is designed to focus on storywalls and resource allocation during the iteration.  The team allocate people to different stages of story development (effectively – elaboration, build and test/deploy).  Then, during the life of the iteration they encounter bottlenecks and re-assign people to provide better flow through the team. 

Debriefing this extension can lead to great conversations about “activity versus throughput” and the potential issue of testers sitting idle for a week and then being flat out for a week (and hence becomming a bottleneck).

ARPG game extension – iteration storywall v1.1

The lost alphabet extension

The latest addition to the family comes from Brazil and was created by Eduardo Meira Peres. 

Eduardo has created a simplified version that can be explained and played quicker than the original. He has also changed the problem the team face.  They no longer have to survive on Mars, but instead they must work with a tribe here on earth who have lost their alphabet. 

 The intriguing problem that the team must now solve is to use an agile process to help the team re-invent the alphabet from scratch.

I believe this extension is available in both Portugese and English, though I have only provided the english version here:






Please feel free to use any of these versions – and let me know how you go.