connection before content – get the fire startet first

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‘Good morning all you supernumeraries’ said one of the participants of a team development workshop to his colleagues when he entered the room.

colored pigs

Their boss already told me upfront that this workshop will be challenging and that there are some problems with the relationships between the participants. That is one of the reasons why their boss thought, ok, we need an external facilitator for a team-intervention as the relationships in the team are highly crusted over. Every piece of work feels like a little war fight and communication, better not to mention communication – people in the team prefer to write eMails to each other while sitting just on the other side of a desk or shoot each other if they are angry as they have soft-air-guns (!?!) in the office…

the Challenge

I knew, the very first challenge w’d be creating a safe space for all participants – without such safe space, where people feel comfortable to state the painful and to talk about the home truth, I could skip the day and w’d end up in what some poeple would call – ‘just another wasted day’. During the briefing for the workshop I was informed that this team already tried several things out and one of the biggest problems was, that past activities concentrated on visualizing the problems and dysfunction in the team with the outcome of some action items. At the end, any appearing motivational energy fizzled out after a few days back at work. Does this sound familiar?

sail boat

Ok, challenge accepted, I just have one sinlge day to transform a highly dysfunctional team into something new, where dialogue is possible and the motivation to change something on the current situation should last longer than a few days. I am aware that I can’t change the complete world of a team that has dysfunctional grown over the past years in one single day, even I’m not able to change their behaviors for one day, but maybe for the duration of the workshop. So the only chance I’ve had is to create an impact, a tiny little thing that could be the starting point for making a huge difference.

When I started to think about the design of the workshop, I asked myself 2 simple questions – which I always ask myself when creating a workshop, training or even just a meeting:

  • Connection: how to connect participants related to their status quo?
  • Content: when participants leave the workshop, what has changed, what is different for them than it was in the beginning?

Connection

Visiting…

  • …a foreign city and asking the way.
  • …a conference where I know absolutely nobody in person, all I know is the theme for the conference and that there’re a lot of experts in the room – so as I.
  • …a grandmother and all others of the family for a family afternoon.
  • …a best friend to talk about the girl you’ve just met.
  • …a colleague to discuss the upcoming project.

In all of these situations, there are different kind of cennections in place, a different kind of a relationship. If you imagine you meet all these people/situations listed above, try to imagine for every single situation:

  • what kind of relationship is there?
  • how does this relationship influences the way I talk with the other person about the subject?
  • how would the talk be different, if I simply replace the existing relationship with one of the others?

perspective

You don’t need to have an outstanding power of imagination to grasp the fact that different kind of connections will have different kind of impacts to your behavior, and even to the behavior of yours opposite. It doesn’t matter what kind of topic I talk about with somebody else, the first and biggest impact on our communication is our connection! A second important impact on our connection and communication is the environment, but the impact of the environment to our communication is a different topic – and a different post…

Content

Did you know, there is a purpose why people have meetings? Yes, it’s true! I know, for some people this sounds very surprising as they discovered meetings in the past as a complete waste of time… But there’re meetings that are different, they very often feel like little workshops and without any surprise, successful workshops, meetings and trainings have something in common, not just the environment nor the connection, no, somebody had deep and powerful thoughts about the content, about the message being transferred, the one and only piece of knowledge that makes it possible for me to see more or less of my entire world totally different than I did before.

key

Content, like connection, is key. So, one of my most important part of work when designing and creating a new workshop or training is, to answer the question -‘ at the end of the workshop, participants will…?’

What is very interesting, recently I’ve learned that exactly this sentence is also the most important question for any public speaker when creating a new speech… I just realize what public speeches, meetings, trainings and workshops have in common…

WorkshopDesign

After evaluating all information which were available, I ended up with a design using tools and methods from LEGO® SeriousPlay and parts of the discovery-phase of Appreciative Inquiry (AI). My Agenda was to create an environment where people can overcome old habits and feel safe to try new ways of collaboration so that participants are able to create solutions in a way they never did before – with a complete new perspective and connection with each individual and the entire team, that was my mandate.

For discovering individuals, the team, it’s purpose and to create a team identity we used StrategicPlay® based on the tools and methods of LEGO® SeriousPlay. So, for the purpose of building a new connection across the entire team I choosed to use a very playful and safe environment to break the crusted over connections so that new and fresh ones can occur.

For working on the content – topics were around how the team works and behave together – I choosed the discovery phase of Appreciative Inquiry (AI). One of the core principals around AI is to concentrate – and put focus on great experiences and what people want to have more of in their life instead of concentrating on all the problems which are present and how to tackle them. As working on the content was up to the participants, I decided to choose the AI framework to create an environment where participants feel safe to share their thoughts.

You might think, phew, this won’t solve the problems they have. Sounds like another waste of time… I need to disagree! On a short term current problems won’t be solved, yes. What is much more interesting than tackling current problems is how to behave and how to avoid situations that leads to these problems – as most challenges that we call ‘problems’ have patterns in common, we start to learn a new culture, a new way how to deal with situations which are challenging, a complete new behavior! While we create a new kind of culture, we also start to deal differently with the current challenges. This norm

As we just had less than half a day left to start the content phase, I didn’t explained the whole AI approach. For time savings I just explained the challenges for an appreciative interview, what is the first part of our AI-approach.
After the interviews were held, we gathered in groups and I gave a short introduction in the upcoming process as it was about to choose a top story the groups wanted to work on and then to discover the situation of the interview, find out success factors and possible action items to get more of that in the current team.

team rafting

That was more or less the whole day!

Debriefing

At the end of the workshop we gathered in a circle of chairs, by the way there were 13 ProductOwners of an international IT company.

After a harvesting of the AI-discovery phase I closed the workshop and invited the participants to give a last comment, feedback or anything they would like to say and how they would like to continue.

Most of participants liked the complete new approach they discovered over the day and they had the feeling that this was a milestone in their development phase. Some were sceptic as they discovered in the past that after such a great workshop the motivation which occured during the team intervention disappeared a few days later when people were back at their daily work. This fear clearly was present. One participant stated clearly that he has didn’t like the morning while ‘playing’ with LEGO and that for him this was a complete waste of time. But the afternoon has made it up.

It made me happy when all participants committed to continue the team development work upcoming monday – the next appointment was in place, good.

I totally respect if somebody does not like something about the framework I deliver, even if the dependencies between the exercises are not clear in detail for everybody. Important for me is that at the end, the framework made a difference, created new possibilities and opened the bridge to new perspectives and communication.

Connection first? why?

Remember the beginning of the post when I gave the examples of visiting a situation. Do you remember how your behavior changed when imagining the different situation in different relationships? Most people discover that as more powerful the connection is , as deeper and more fruitful a conversation can go. You can challenge the content, never challenge the connection!

That is why it make sense to build a connection first before I start to talk about crucial topics. That does not mean that I have to feel love or lots of sympathy for everybody! What is important is that I respect everybody in the team, I need to understand them, how they behave in different challenging situations and what kind of connection we have together so that I’m able to adapt my behavior if necessary. If such a connection exists in a team and teammembers are committed to the same targets and environment, communicate open-minded and have the courage to let the leopard change his spot, a team will learn how to fly!

very little aviation

Epilog

Last week I’ve received a mail from one of the participants of the workshop of this post – about 7 weeks after the event. The Team has still some problems but something crucially has changed, they work together differently than the years before. They are more respectful with each other and still work on the outcome of the workshop – towards of what they want to have more of. It seems that the fire is still burning and that people in this team have discovered that nobody is a supernumeraries, our team is star!

Vulnerability

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vulnerabilityAbout two weeks ago I attended a public speaking training in Antwerp, Belgium which was organized by the wonderful Olivia Schofield from Spectacular Speaking. As I love to do sessions and talks on conferences and one of the trainers was recommended by a friend, I reached out to improve my speaking skills by attending a professional training. What I did not know was, that, as it often happens, it would come to a situation where I instinctively fall into a mode of showing 100% of my vulnerable human side.

We had some great workshops on storytelling, speech structure and much more in the morning with lot’s of high valuable learnings before we came back from lunch for Olivia’s workshop on stage presence.

As so often, the energy-level after lunch is low, so it was for us. So Olivia started to challenged us participants with a new game called Rhetoric which is about public speaking. We played a very dumbed-down version of that game. As it contains two kind of card-sets, one with topics and one with challenge questions, Olivia choosed one of the participants and gave her/him one of the cards. After a short moment of thinking the timebox starts, two minutes for a story in front of the course regarding that topic or challenge question which was handed out. If possible, we can try to integrate something what we’ve learned in the morning.

I assume we were about 45 people in total and we were sitting in a hoof-shaped arrangement of tables in a large room. In the front there was a huge canvas and our stage was a position in the middle of the room. As we did the game as a short warm up exercise to raise energy, chances for me were high not to be asked so I started to relax after the third ‘speaker’ was choosen. – yes, I was nervous as I’ve found out over the morning and during lunch that all participants, except me, are Toastmasters. Toastmasters, the people who meet up every week, bi-weekly or at least once in a month to train public speaking.

If you want to leave your comfort zone, go to an event where people have to communicate and where you are a complete ‘foreigner’ related to all other participants.

In addition, during lunch it turned out, that the training was an upfront conference training. The european conference of Toastmasters in Antwerp started the next morning and was held for the next 3 upcoming days. Wohoo, I was surrounded by ‘professionals’ and as I just did conference talks and sessions in the past, where I normally integrate all participants into a learning process, ‘just’ talking and bringing a message across was completely new to me.

So, what happened during the warm-up exercise after the 3rd speaker left the stage? (And by the way, all speakers had great storys)? Yes, Olivia choosed me and my inner voice started to panic. Why did I panic? I directly felt this feeling of being vulnerable.

Nevertheless I walked on the stage and Olivia said to me, ‘ok Thorsten, prepare to be challenged’ – directly after this words a tiny bit of me relaxed a little bit as it just flashed through my mind, ok, I know a lot stories about challenges, ‘preapre to be challenged’ is a guiding principle in Open Space technology and I’m passionate about Open Space… phew, I have so many challenges from the past years… which story shall I take…’ I was thinking, my mind was self-directed searching for the right story in milliseconds when Olivia said:

‘Ok Thorsten, what makes you cry?’

SILENCE

In the same milliseconds my mind tried to find the right story, my mind realized that in the first place Olivia was talking about the category ‘challenge questions’ and that my question was ‘what makes you cry?’. I felt like an air-balloon on a fair that was just hit by a dart – I slumped down as there was the story of my life flared up. Having no other thought, I started to tell my story:

In december 1979 my sister and I were celebrating the birthday of my father. I was 7 years young and my sister was 10. We had this weekend with my father, like every second weekend in a month, as my parents were just divorced. My sister had prepared a birthday card with the words ‘happy birthday for your 40th anniversary dear dad’. When she gave my dad the card his face turned from smiling into something serious. I do not really remember a detailed face, what I remember is an changing expression of his face. Without interpretation we celebrated his 39th birthday!

Ok, something like this can happen. We were young childs and counting can be a hard challenge for kids. However we’ve celebrated my dad’s birthday with soft-drinks and whippet cookies.

About three months later, it was friday 14th of march 1980 and spring had just shown up. It was one of the awesome first days of spring after a strong and cold winter with lot’s of snow and hard freezes. It was friday afternoon and my sister and I were outside and playing games in the spring-sun with other children from the neighbourhood while we were waiting for our dad to pick us up for our weekend. Normally he showed up around the early afternoon. But this day was different. The sun went down and no signs from my father. So we went home as we get hungry in the early evening.

It must have been around 6:00 pm when we had a bite to eat when the telephone was ringing. My mother stood up and went to the phone. All we heared was a huge, loud and distressing ‘OH MY GOD’ …this scream curdled our blood…

What happened? The phonecall was from the german police, searching for the identity of a dead body they’ve just found in the forest. They assumed it was my dad and somebody had to identify his dead body… The bitter truth was, yes, it was my dad and he died by suicide in march 1980, he was 39 years old.

All my life I was missing a dad, a father and best friend, somebody a young boy can look up to. As a young man, still something was missing. Nobody to ask what’s right or wrong. Too many topics I didn’t want to talk about with my mother or sister. Women, I never wanted to talk about women with my mother or sister in the past. I don’t know why but for me it was just a topic for men.

All my life, 40 was a magic number, like 39, 07 and 10.

Last year I turned 40. An age I thought I’ll never reach as this would mean that I became older than my father was when he died, something what was not possible for me in the past as this w’d mean to be longer on this wonderful planet earth than my father was allowed to. But even if I had hard and very challenging times in my life I turned 40 last year and something wonderful happened. All my life, what made my cry was thinking about my dad, that he left me when I was seven, that he gave up life. When I turned fourty I had to cry because I felt a big release.

That is what makes me cry!

I felt like a samll mice when I finished my story, I did not hear that people applauded. Olivia gave me a hug and I went back to my seat. During my way back to my seat two people stood up and gave me a spontaneous hug and thanked me for sharing my story. One last speaker followed before we started with Olivia’s workshop on stage presence.

In the next coffee break people came to me and thanked me also for sharing my story. Something had changed in the relationship between other participants and me. As in the morning there was somehow just a professional distance in talking with each other, in the afternoon it seemed that a distance was broken and much more personal and ‘intimate’ stories were exchanged. It was a different level of relationship than it was before. I felt the empathy of others for me and that made me feel having trust. Face to face talks changed and were much more open and personal.

What I’d like to say with this post is, even if you feel to be in an threateningly environment, show vulnerability first if you want to make a difference in relationships – if you won’t do it, who will???

Agile Coaches go nuts

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At the end of April 2012, I attended the first Agile Coach Camp in the Netherlands. Thanks by the way to the organizers for a great ACC in a very cozy hotel with a warm and nice atmosphere. I really enjoyed the time I’ve had with you, my dutch friends!

background

I was driving from cologne to the netherlands by car which was fully packed with LEGO® and I was totally excited to meet good friends and lots of new people. Frankly, I’ve expected a great conference as I know some of the organizers and know about their passion for agile and our community.

Beside having a really fantastic and great time with the awesome dutch agile community, I’ve made some very great experiences during that conference. In this first post I’ll write about some interesting experiences we’ve gained during one of my LEGO® sessions. In a second post about the Agile Coach Camp Nethlerands I’ll write about co-creation of the Ewan McGregor game – but this will follow a bit later…

my offer

During the Open Space marketplace I offered a StrategicPlay® session based on LEGO® SeriousPlay as well as the Scrum LEGO® airport. The Scrum simulation I offered for saturday evening, as an offtrack session starting at 09:00 pm – drinks are allowed.

accnl - marketplace

I’ve created the Scrum LEGO® airport about two years ago and ran it already on several conferences all over the world, at different companies and within trainings. So nothing special. Just one fact was differrent this time. All the times I’ve ran this Scrum simulation before, lots of the participants were newbies to agile with little to average experience with Scrum. Sure, there were also agile-grey-hairs which also gained lots of new insigths, and not all but most of the attendees I’d call newbies. This was the first time that I’d run it just with experienced Coaches, Agile Coaches and ScrumMasters. So I’v expected something different this time, not sure about what in special, just something different.

the set up

The first surprise happened when people entered the room for my session. As we were about 50 people at that conference, all attendees were already experienced agile practioners and I proposed the session for saturday evening, I’ve expected about 10 people max to come.

When we started, we were 27 participants, splitted up in 4 teams.

accnl - Scrum LEGO airport setup

We did 3 full sprints within a complete Scrum framework with 4 teams, 27 people and 22 requirements for a complete airport, 4 ScrumMasters, 4 ProductOwners and 19 developers. What do you think have they delivered after 3 sprints?

You’d expect a complete airport? Yes, I’ve expected the same!

delivery

What they delivered was an ambulance car. One single ‘lousy’ ambulance car made of LEGO! Ok, a Scrum simulation with LEGO might be a little bit different to your daily work of SoftwareDevelopment. There is just one but – all Agile values, principles, the Scrum framework and the whole agile mindset is not just focused on SoftwareDevelopment – you can apply it in nearly every – let’s say manufacturing and production process as well as to build an airport with LEGO!

Ok, it’s normal in the simulation that teams fail in the first sprint. This is a regular learning phase. But normally they learn with every single sprint as we do retrospectives and the customer is available for questions. So I’m used to see teams improving already after the first sprint as they start to communicate and to deliver.

what happened?

So, what happened with my dutch colleagues? They’ve made every single mistake you can make and most important, they didn’t communicated with the customer, they even didn’t talked between teams. So they were’nt able to find out the right priorities for the airport, did not adjust cross-team development and every team built what they liked most and thought is most valuable (in their opinion!).

accnl - Scrum LEGO airport swarming

And, no surprise, during the Scrum Reviews the teams tried to sell the customer (me) every single requirement they’ve built. Starting from a Helicopter which doesn’t fit on the Heli-pad they’ve built, an Airport Tower without any space for workers and which is as tall as an airplane and so on. And every single product they’ve built had a special value – unfortunately not for me as the customer, so I had to refuse all built requirements, sorry guys! =;-)

inspect & adapt

During the third (!) sprint the first team started to ask and talk to me as the customer. Hooray, they found out that security has the highest priority for me – so before any landing-field, building or whatever is build, security like ambulances, fire-trucks and police must be available on demand.

accnl - Scrum LEGO airport - review preparation

et voilà – after the third sprint, exactly this team was able to deliver an ambulance car and fulfilled all acceptance criteria. Surprise, surprise, it was accepted! By the way, this team was the only team that delivered something!

Agile Coaches go nuts

After 2 hours of playing with LEGO the discussions between participants reached a level I haven’t expected. For the rest of the evening, this session was the top topic at the bar and people talked about what happened and why the hell nobody of all the experienced Coaches did not practiced what they pray and coach on a daily basis?

Whatever the outcome of all these discussions was, I think everybody had their unique point of view and outcome. For me it was totally great to provide participants a great time, 2 hours of serious play with LEGO, lots of fun, learning and new insights which made them think. Wow, what an awesome conference, thanks everybody I’ve met there!!!

And, if you were one of the participants, please leave a comment and some of your insights…

Play4Agile – #p4a

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What is the most attractive, easiest way to promote learning, create valuable meeting outcomes, motivate and boost teams, raise commitment and just get the best out of every involved person? Right: through play!

Dr. Brian Sutton Smith – Professor Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania and leading proponent of play theory explained in his book ‘Ambiguity of Play’ that the opposite of play is not work, it’s depression!

Pat Kane, writer, musician, consultant, player, theorist and activist states in his book ‘the play ethic’ that play will be to the 21st century what work was to the industrial age – our dominant way of knowing, doing and creating value!

Play4AgileLogo

In May 2010, Olaf Lewitz did a StrategicPlay® session at Agile Coach Camp Germany. Inspired by this session Martin Heider had the idea to create an unconference concentrated solely on the topic of serious games for agile teams. Organizers for such an unconference were quickly found – it turned out that a lot of coaches had already discovered the value and fun of games played in a serious context, and used them regularly.

A first in-person meeting of organizers to create an unconference for serious games took place in summer 2010. For 2 exciting days we created our first joint vision for Play4Agile and started planning. Not surprisingly that these two days were tremendous fun, as we created our vision and planned using StrategicPlay® facilitation, powered by LEGO® SeriousPlay™!

play planet drawingAgile conferences and unconferences are popular meeting places where coaches, trainers, and all people interested in agile topics, learn from the experiences of like-minded people and exchange knowledge. Play4Agile sets itself apart from other agile un-/conferences in a couple of ways. Not just that participants are having fun and learning from each other by exchanging serious games for 3 days in a cozy hotel in the country. Also, every evening participants enjoy playing games in the bar. This is not a must, but each participant likes to do it! At the bar it’s ok to play games just for fun, without any serious context.

FLUXX at the BarThis whole mood of playing games together for 3 days leads to irrepressible spirits and gives the unconference the character of a magical, familial event.
Furthermore, there are no keynotes, no lectures, mostly interactive sessions and the OpenSpace is facilitated by participants on a daily rotation.

It’s not only a perfect place to learn how to practice and use serious games for agile teams, it’s also the perfect place to create new games, as all participants are passionate about testing and experimenting with new game ideas and prototypes! For example, Fearless Journey, Nobody’s Perfct, Towering Options and Lean Procrastination – the last reponsible moment game are all games invented at Play4Agile.
Moreover, we have lots of other activities like theatre games, learn how to design and make a game or how to create games to solve problems. The whole event transforms into a huge playground!

Open Space Marketplace

The Play4Agile unconference is completely based on Open Space technology and took place for the first time in February 2011 with the theme ‘Serious Games for Agile Teams’. In 2012 the motto was ‘High Playformance for Agile Teams’ and 70 participants from all over the world enjoyed this special unconference. As Play4Agile 2012 was already booked after nine hours, you should mark your calenders, because the date for Play4Agile 2013 is already fixed!

To put the Play4Agile spirit in a nutshell: Play, have fun & learn!
www.play4agile.org

2 great TED talks about the importance of play:

Stuart Brown’s TED talk – play is more than fun
Tim Brown’s TED talk – creativity and play

I’ve written this article for the ‘whoisagile’ project by Yves Hanoulle and it’s published in the 13th version of the ‘whoisagile’ book. Thanks to Deb and Martin for proofreading end editing!

Dragon Lady

The Agile Actor – Agile Stroytelling

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… or: how to bring more daily-fun in your daily Scrum!

In agile teams it’s usual to use storyboards for visualising your work and to create transparency about the progress and what’s happening. It doesn’t matter if you are using a storyboard as a Scrum team or if you visualise your work by using Kanban.

snoopyA lot of teams I met in the past worked also with avatars on their storyboard. Instead of having a name-tag on a magnet, you can use an avatar, a character from your favourite cartoon, movie or adventure. Just print out a picture of your avatar, cut it out and stick it on a magnet. Now you can use your avatar on the storyboard. Some teams put their avatars on the task they’
re currently working on. This leads to more transparency as you can directly see on the storyboard which teammember is working on which task.

The Agile Actor – Agile Storytelling

Some weeks ago I was searching for something new to bring more fun to the daily work. I was thinking about how to use the avatars more intensive? People love their avatars, they love the characters and stories around them. Thus, people have a special relationship to their character. They know their behaviour and their special skills. They know what perspectives their characters prefer.

How to use it, how to play:

Use your avatar-team during your daily stand-up. Ask each teammember to participate the daily-Scrum in the role of their character. Each teammember should give their status-update to the team from the individual perspective of their avatar.

Positive effects:

  • each teammember will learn and train the power of storytelling
  • fantasy will be stimulated which can lead to more creativity
  • more fun in your daily work
  • looking at your daily challenges from a different perspective can lead to new insights

In addition, you can ask your team if they want to extend this kind of role playing game. If your team is crazy enough you can ask your team to participate all Scrum meetings in the role of their characters.

For more diversity and to avoid wearisome repetition you can close each role playing game iteration (sprint) within your retrospective by asking all teammembers to find a new character they’d like to be and start the new sprint by printing out a new avatar and stick it on their magnet… be crazy, be creative and have fun…

Discover your inner Planet (at) Play4Agile 2012

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Play4Agile Logo

Last weekend, the Play4Agile 2012 took place at Seminarzentrum Rückersbach, a beautiful venue near Frankfurt. Our theme this year was ‘High Playformance for Agile Teams’ and as the first Play4Agile in 2011 it was a great success again. The event is reinvented itself and that makes the unique power – quote of Christine Neidhardt.

On the 2nd day of the Open Space event, Jenny Jepsen, Martin Heider and I did the session ‘Discover your inner Planet‘. The idea was to run a session with a technique from CoActive® Coaching combined with StrategicPlay® powered by LEGO® SeriousPlay™. Jenny, Martin and I are all StrategicPlay® Facilitators. Moreover, Martin and I are currently doing our vocational training for becoming a CoActive® Coach.

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - towerWe designed the session during a lunch break and ran it in the afternoon with 20 participants. We started the session with skills building exercises. Skills building are exercises for becoming familiar with LEGO® and reaching a metaphorical flow.

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - tower - storytelling

First, participants were asked to build a tower, share what’s special about their tower with all other participants, the storytelling, and then adapt the tower to an agile tower. Again, participants had to share what makes their tower agile with all other participants.

To reach the next metaphorical level, we then asked the participants to build a model which describes they’re passion about attending the Play4Agile Unconference.

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - passion about p4a12 - 1Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - passion about p4a12

These two pictures are models which were built by participants, showing their passion for attending the Play4Agile Unconference 2012.

Again, each participant had to share their model through storytelling.

Now, everybody was in the right mood and flow to start their journey to their inner planet. This journey is a mental one and a technique from CoActive® Coaching, which is used as a tool for discovering individual fulfillment.

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - journeyWe asked all participants to close their eyes and relax. We turned on some chilling out music and started the mental journey to the inner planet by telling an inspiring and visionary story for the mental journey. This took about 5 minutes.

At the end of this mental journey, we asked the participants ‘how does it feel to live on your inner planet’, open your eyes and build a model which describes this feeling.

You may ask youself now, hm, how can you build a feeling with LEGO® bricks. Indeed, this is challenging. But if you once have the chance to attend a StrategicPlay® session, you’ll discover how this works and I’m pretty sure you will be surprised and amazed!

Here is a picture of such a model which was build by one of the participants:

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - how does your planet look like, how does it feelThis model was a rotating one, turning on it’s own axis!

As we just had 60 minutes for our session, we had to stop after this exercise. You can build up to this by start to extract individual guiding principals, fulfillment goals or start to discover your personal inner team which lives with you on your inner planet and guides you through life…

Agile Golf

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Time: ~ 90 min

Requirements: StickyNotes, IndexCards and felt-pens and hour-glasses

For continuing the ‘Agile Olympics’, I created Agile Golf. You can use this exercise for Retrospectives, ‘blue sky thinking’-sessions and strategic meetings.

Agile Golf drawing

Basics

A golf course contains normally a track of 9 or 18 holes. In this exercise of ‘Agile Golf’ we played for 6 holes, but you can vary and take more if you have enough time!

Please feel free to adapt this exercise to your own needs!

Preperation

Preperation

An ‘Agile Golf’-hole represents a topic you want to improve or perfect. In this exercise we used the following topics as golf holes:

  • Materials
  • Equipment
  • Environment
  • Management
  • People
  • Process

First, prepare the wall with your ‘golf holes’. Make sure there is enough space below the topic to post IndexCards. In addition, make sure there is enough space between all topics as there will be also StickyNotes posted.

Hide all topics with a white sheet of paper so that nobody can see what comes first and will be the next topics – this is important for participants to concentrate exactly on one topic at a time – the one you’re trying to ‘hit’.

Room Preperation

Make IndexCards available for the team and reveal the first ‘Golf hole’-topic. In our exercise it’s ‘Materials’. Set a timebox of 1 minute and ask participants what should we do to perfect the materials we’re aroking with? Each participant should create 5 topics at least!

arrange topics

After one minute, let participants post their topics below the ‘Golf hole’. Let them remoce doubles and make a dot voting on the topics. Find out what are the ‘top 3’ and remove all other topics from the wall.

dot voting on topics

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.

Reveal the next topic and repeat the process of creating improvements until you have found out the ‘top 3’ improvement for every single topic.

You can see the three topics of each ‘Golf hole’ as a challenge you need to tackle in order to perfect that ‘Golf hole’-topic. You have now prepared Agile Golf Course! This should be handled within 30 minutes.

In the next step, you introduce the golf clubs on StickyNotes to the team, there are 3 available. The colours you are using are important as each colour represents a special golf club!

Golf Clubs

Every patricipant has these 3 ‘golf clubs’ available. These are called ‘company’, ‘team’ and ‘personal’. After introducing these golf clubs you can start the Agile Golf Tournament.

You start at the first ‘golf hole’. Provide the coloured StickyNotes. Each participant need to have enough StickyNotes of the three golf club colours.

Again, you set a timebox of 1 minute. Now the challenge is that each participant need to create as much solution-combinations as possible. For each improvement a valid solution-combination means to have used all three golf clubs for providing a valid proposal. For example, for improving a topic, I could/should do… (green StickyNote for persoanl), the team could/should do… (orange StickyNote for the team) and the company could/should do… (pink StickyNote for the company).

As a variation you can use more than three golf clubs – just use additional colours for additional roles like Management, Sales, Marketing… Feel free to adapt as it’s useful for you!

Agile Golf TournamentLet participants post their solution-combinations of StickyNotes diretcly beside the relevant topic of the golf hole improvement as you can see it on the right picture! As you can see, there is just one valid solution-combination for the first improvement, non valid for the second and 4 valid solution-combinations for the third.

That does not mean that the non valid solution-combinations make no sense, absolutely not – perhaps I don’t need an action from one of the roles to solve/improve a topic. On the other side of the coin, this exercise has the intention to involve all roles represented as golf clubs!

Each participant should now explain her solution-combinations shortly – no discussion about it at this point!

As a ‘little motivator’ you can give candies for each valid solution-combination.

Repeat this for each single ‘Golf hole’. At the end you’ll have a wall full of improvements, possbile solutions and roles of people need to be involved in order to improve/perfect a special topic. It’s now up to you and the participants what you’ll do with that outcome. You can ask each participant to take responsibility for one single topic, let them decide by their own which one. You can keep the outcome for more discussions or futher improvements. …

Feedback from participants

  • great to have golf clubs representing roles in the company
  • awesome structure for generating creative ideas
  • candies
  • results are concrete actions
  • little time for thinking
  • tough timeboxing
  • creates spontanous outcome

Variation

Use as much roles as possible and don’t take care of valid solution-combinations to find out which roles need to be involved to improve/perfect a special topic…

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