Play Ballpoint
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What is it?

A game of passing the ball.

Why do it?

To reinforce agile concepts such as Pull/Push, WIP Limit and Continuous Improvement through continuous iteration.

Time Needed

45 minutes

Number of Participants

7 to 30

Supplies Needed

  • Flip chart or whiteboard
  • Marker
  • Stress balls or other object to be passed between participants
  • Timer

Process Steps

Facilitator Notes

  1. Give participants the rules (they are meant to be vague).
  2. Pass (by air) a ball to each participant.
  3. Give the team 2 minutes to self-organize and decide who will count the points.
  4. In the meantime, draw the Results Table on a whiteboard or flipchart. Include columns for: Round #, Estimated Points, Mistakes (dropped balls) and Resulting Points, and a row for each round.
  5. Once the 2 minutes are over, ask the team for an estimation of how many balls they can pass through the system during Round 1. (At this point, they won’t have a realistic idea of a result, but insist on getting one.)
  6. Start the first 2-minute iteration. (Be sure to use a timer.)
  7. Count the number of balls that fall to the floor.
  8. After 2 minutes, stop the round. Ask for the number of balls that were passed through the system. Subtract number of fallen balls. Record the results.
  9. Give the team 1 minute to discuss how to get better results in the next round.
  10. Start Round 2 by getting their completion estimation and repeat the steps above through 5 rounds.

Participant Rules

  1. The GOAL is to score as many points as possible in 5 rounds of 2 minutes each.
  2. Every time a ball completes a round the team scores 1 point.
  3. Each ball must be touched at least once by every team member on each round.
  4. Balls cannot be passed to your immediate left or right neighbor.
  5. Each ball must have air-time when passed.
  6. If a ball is dropped, there’s a penalty of -1 point.

Debrief

  1. Show the Results Table.
  2. Use quantitative data (estimation vs points) and qualitative (feelings about the game) to start the discussion. Some questions could be:
    • Describe the first iteration in one or two words?
    • What happened?
    • Which iteration was best?
    • Did you experienced a rhythm?
  3. Topics to review during the debrief:
    • Continuous Improvement: Would the team have gotten the same result if they had more time to plan their iterations? Introduce the Deming Cycle.
    • Pull/Push: Did the team respect the availability of the next person in the process? Or did they just pass the ball without the acknowledgement of the receiver? Did they say “wait”? This represents a bottleneck.
    • Work In Progress Limit (WIP limit): What where the results when more balls were put in the system?
    • Flow: Often represented by concentration and silence when playing.

Get more games to share with your team, see how we use gamification in our course development, and/or contact us to help you facilitate learning through play at your organization.

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