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Optimizing and Improving Games

Practice Patience

Prioritize team practice improvements

Approach

  • Select a practice to inspect & adapt / improve.
  • Use a 3*3 grid with ‘Relative Importance’ from top to bottom (High – Medium - Low) and ‘How Good Are We?’ from left to right (Great - OK - Bad).
  • Take one card or token at a time. Discuss and place it on the board. Use the text on the card to help you.
  • Avoid overlapping cards.
  • Identify and record improvement change actions as you go.
  • Prioritize actions based on card grid positions.

Notes

  • Use turn-based or simultaneous play to get people more involved and play more honestly.
  • Use different axes to explore other aspects of your practice.
  • Time box the session and prioritize the elements to map.
  • Play frequently with a small number of different elements.
  • Join up with another team and compare your results.
  • Why not try playing with Values, Principles or Spotify Healthcheck elements instead?

Contract Bridge

Agree work responsibility splits across organizations or contract boundaries.

Approach

  • Draw a horizontal line with a Customer area above and a Supplier area below.
  • Place cards to show where responsibility lies:
  • Above or below the line - sole responsibility of customer or supplier team.
  • Central on line - shared collaborative activity with equal and joint responsibility.
  • On the line, but not central - responsibility mainly of one party, but with input, support or agreement from the other party.
  • For cards on the line, write notes to describe each party’s responsibilities.

Notes

  • This game can be used for any kind of boundary between people, teams, organizations or even things (eg Backlog Items or Next/Later epics on a Roadmap).
  • Play separately and compare results.
  • Inspect and adapt your conclusions periodically; they may change.

Practice Prioritization

Assess a practice and prioritize improvements

Approach

  • Lay out a 3*3 grid with Relative Importance from top-to-bottom (High - Medium - Low) and how good you are from left to right (Great - OK - Bad).
  • Discuss and place each card or token to show its relative importance (top to bottom) and how well you do it (left to right).
  • Avoid overlapping cards.
  • Use the position of the cards to create a unique prioritization for the elements that are most important to improve first – top right to last
  • Rank practices in the order to assess and improve them based on the position of the cards (from top-right to bottom-left).

Notes

  • Allowing overlapping cards permits items to be at the same priority.
  • Try a binary prioritization – Important/Not Important and consider adding a WiP limit (Work in Process Limit) to restrict the number of cards that can be on one side
  • Add more priority options
  • Try a debating game – one person argues why an item IS high priority, while another argues why it IS NOT. This can bring additional insights, particularly for items that seem on first glance to have an obvious answer
  • This game can be played with any tokens – even backlog items or requirements

Activity Planning

Agree how team activities will be enacted.

Approach

  • Lay out a grid with the following column headings: When, Where, Who, Why, What
  • Lay out a card for each activity you want to plan. One activity card per row
  • For each activity discuss each column and record your decision on the board.
  • When – When will this activity take place. What frequency? How long? Are there any pre-conditions for it happening? Any conditions that would cause it to be cancelled?
  • Where – Where will it take place? Room? Online tool? Who is responsible for booking the room or getting the link? Is there a backup location?
  • Who – Who should attend? Who is mandatory? Optional? What about deputies or representatives? Can people just turn up? Are there open invites? What happens if a mandatory attendee doesn’t attend?
  • Why – What’s the purpose or goal of the activity? How will you know it has been met? What happens if the meeting time runs out? How is the result recorded or communicated? When will you review the goal?
  • What – What is the agenda? What preparation is required? By whom?
  • Make sure you record the results somewhere!

Notes

  • To ensure involvement, play turn based where a different person starts the discussion of each section.
  • Try using a giant calendar instead, particularly where there are activities that depend on one another
  • Consider dependencies and discuss your decision latency (i.e. how long it will take decisions to be made) and consider whether to reschedule any activities.
  • Extend this game by also considering what level of contribution is expected.

Checkpoint Construction

Use this game to define checkpoints, including those that include multiple practices.  This game is one of the Alpha State Card Games.

Approach

  • Define the checkpoint you are constructing. For example: Release to Production Environment.
  • Consider each practice you are using, including the Essence kernel. Identify which alphas or work products are relevant to this checkpoint. Place a card or token representing that alpha or work product on the board.
  • Annotate the tokens with any additional information, caveats, constraints or exceptions.
  • For each alpha, determine which state must be achieved in order to pass the checkpoint.
  • For each mandatory state, consider the checklists and consider whether any checklist items should be deleted or added for this checkpoint to be met. For example, there maybe an aspect of the next state that you feel is important for this checkpoint, even if the rest of that state is not. Annotate the board with your conclusions.
  • Repeat the previous two steps for each work product levels of detail.
  • Consider whether there are any optional states of levels of detail.
  • Add any additional criteria that are necessary, but are not represented by a practice element.
  • Decide when you will review the checkpoint criteria.
  • Document your results.

Notes

  • Use this game to help define the minimum viable criteria for your checkpoint.
  • Feedback from this game might lead to changes to states, levels of detail or checkpoints.
  • Consider whether additional levels of detail are required.
  • Try not to add too much detail, especially to early checkpoints where work products are going to continue to be developed

Alpha State Games Guide

This instructional guide provides a brief introduction to the Alphas and presents seven different games that can be played with the Alpha State Cards by software development teams.

The use of the Alphas, and the Alpha State Cards, has many benefits for individuals, teams and organizations. These include helping you to:

  • understand where you are
  • understand what needs to be addressed
  • track progress and health
  • keep projects in balance and avoid catastrophic failures
  • form good sprint goals and other objectives
  • define practice independent checkpoints, milestones and lifecycles.

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