"Scrumdemic" - Learning Agile with Board Games
Jun
12
5:30 pm17:30

"Scrumdemic" - Learning Agile with Board Games

  • Pace University
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Our Team of Game Facilitators:

Usha Gubbala

Usha Gubbala

Emily Hebner

Emily Hebner

Karina Mangu-Ward

Karina Mangu-Ward

Max Sather

Max Sather

Come play the board game Pandemic with us! Members of the Brooklyn-based organizational transformation consultancy August demonstrate how it can be used as a fun and engaging teaching tool for Agile.

I recently qualified as a Certified ScrumMaster and am looking to translate that qualification into teaching and Agile coaching — not necessarily by-the-book Scrum but at least to convey the principles so that small teams of all types can begin to understand the Agile mindset and borrow elements from methodologies that suit them best. The CSM course I took inspired me to find a new way to teach Scrum using a simple, purposeful team-based activity. As an unashamed board game nerd, I settled on one of my favorites: Pandemic.

Pandemic is a co-operative board game for small teams of 2–4 players. The team works together to cure four Diseases threatening mankind around the world. Along the way, you’ll have to deal with Epidemics, build Research Stations and treat infected citizens. (For a full intro to the rules, this vid is pretty good as well as the explanation on BoardGameGeek.)

Pandemic’s innate unpredictability lends itself to the Agile mindset of responding to change even over following a plan. The idea of planning out your strategy for the entire game via a waterfall method and then stick to that strategy as the world crumbles would be foolish.

At the same time, the team does have long-term goals of curing the Diseases and short-term goals that will build to that ultimate objective e.g. trading a city card with someone. The theory behind Scrumdemic is that the game will illustrate how a team can work towards the long-term goal by delivering short-term goals incrementally, iteratively and on-time. At the same time, that same team can effectively deal with new requirements.

Scrumdemic Roles

In the set-up for Scrumdemic, we’re assuming the following roles:

Product Owner — The workshop facilitator acts as the Product Owner, creating and managing the Product Backlog of goals as well as teaching the team about Scrum and explaining the game. Visualisation of the task at hand, both on the game board and on the Scrum board, is key to bringing everyone aligned on final delivery.

The Scrum Master — The spirit of Scrum is that the ScrumMaster be a separate person, distinct from the Product Owner and Development Team. This separation is important as it allows the SM to view the team’s process as a system and to be impartial as to how the system works. Being involved in the building would make that impartiality more difficult.

Since Scrumdemic is a teaching device, it is ok to blur these lines a little. Since the workshop facilitator is also teaching the practices of Scrum, it makes sense that they start the game as the ScrumMaster — reminding the team when to hold their Sprint Review/Retrospective and Sprint Planning Meetings.

You may find the during the game, the players begin to take on some of the roles of the Scrum Master. If the workshop is successful, by the end they will be able to facilitate their own planning meetings and retrospectives and manage the Scrum board themselves.

The Development Team are, of course, the players. Because of the Roles in Pandemic, a team of players necessarily reflects that of an ideal Agile team: all multifunctional (e.g. full-stack developers) but they can also augment that rounded talent with a specialization they can use themselves or teach others. Just like an Agile team, they can work together to solve problems and trade information but are responsible for their own work, and for deciding which task from the Sprint backlog they wish to tackle.

Scrumdemic Set-Up

Before the team sits down, the workshop facilitator should set up the Pandemic game board, selecting roles & infecting nine cities at random in accordance with the rules. (For teams who have not played Pandemic before, I recommend using just four Outbreak cards and allowing teams to play with open hands.) A team arriving at a board that is already set-up will immediately be more excited and engaged.

The workshop facilitator should also set up a Scrum board so that the team can visualise short-term and long-term game goals. At the start of the game, the Scrum board will have 10 goals:

1–4: Cure each of the four Diseases (low priority)

5–7: Build a Research Station in each of the black, red and yellow areas (medium priority)

8–10: Three cities start the game with three Disease cubes. Reduce the no. of cubes in each of these to either one or zero. (high priority)

During the game, the Product Owner will find themselves adding more goals to the product backlog, such as “Cure Khartoum of all Disease cubes” or “Get five yellow cards to the Operations Specialist.”

You’ll notice in the examples above that the completion criteria for each of the goals are very clear. This serves to make it very easy for the Development Team — the players — to understand what the task is. It is up to them, however, to decide how it is carried out.

Scrumdemic Gameplay

In Scrumdemic, assuming a 4-player team, a Sprint lasts four turns — one complete round. Therefore, before the first turn, the Sprint planning meeting takes place, and the team must decide which of the tasks from the product backlog they intend to commit to for the current Sprint. From the original 10 goals, the highest priorities will be to treat cities that have three Disease cubes (in order to prevent further Outbreaks). As cities are treated, players should move cards across the Sprint board to indicate they are done.

At the end of each Sprint, the Sprint Retrospective is a huge opportunity to build on the lessons learned during the previous Sprint — for instance, you may have noticed a new combination of two players' special abilities that can be used effectively or that a risk taken in leaving three cubes on one city didn’t pay off when an Outbreak occurred.

From there, the second Sprint begins and the team can look at the reshuffled Product Backlog. In the second Sprint, the team will be sufficiently spread out to think about where to build Research Stations. At the same time, the landscape of the game board will have changed — it’s possible there will be new Cities with three Disease cubes to treat, or the priority of Diseases to cure will have changed.

Missing elements

As a friend once told me, no Scrum workshop or certification is more educational than actually shipping a product to a customer. At the same time, it’s hard to ship any meaningful code in the space of a short workshop. I developed this workshop in the hope that Scrumdemic can make Scrum accessible and, importantly, fun. There are several elements of Scrum that are missing from Scrumdemic e.g. the daily stand-up, planning poker (and therefore velocity & burndown charts) and the Sprint review. However, as I mentioned previously, this exercise is designed to teach the basics of the Agile mindset and the Scrum methodology. I can see ways in which planning poker, the review and the daily stand-up could be integrated, but I think it would be at the cost of engagement and enjoyment.

A more significant flaw in Scrumdemic is that it may or may not be the best way to win the game! The idea of protecting your Sprint from changing priorities is not a smart play in the face of a double Outbreak (which happened the first time I tried this workshop!) Obviously, one goal of this workshop is to illustrate that Scrum actually works — if the team performs worse than they would have without a Scrum board then that is not a great endorsement! However, I do hope that even in that case a team can understand how they could be organised better and may still take enough from the added structure and group visibility that Scrum gives them to employ this in their working lives.

August

August was founded with the belief that today’s most valuable work depends on teams of people who work well together.

Unfortunately, the way most organizations operate today gets in the way of good teamwork, instead of supporting it. 

All around us are missions with the potential to change our world for the better. Some are incremental and are struggling to survive the next status meeting. Some are massive and require the coordinated resources of global institutions. Some will fix our biggest problems. Some will invent our future.

Each of these missions needs a team that is capable of learning and adapting fast enough to get it done.  August helps teams meet this challenge.

Jul
24
5:30 pm17:30

Bob Schatz

  • Pace University (To Be Confirmed, Possibly McKinsey)
6.00
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Talk: Creating Magic with Customer Engagement

Bob Schatz

Bob Schatz

In nearly 20 years of working with, teaching, and coaching lean/agile methods, I can tell you that there is one critical skill that an organization must build to ensure that their newly found speed and agility is heading in the right direction, and that is engaging customers. Interestingly, this is the least used skill in practice. There is a fear in many organizations about bringing the customer or user in for ceremonies that seek feedback, like the Sprint Review in Scrum. There are a lot of stories about company agile successes, but they are mostly focused on the internal processes, and not the critical outcomes that an organization must achieve today. Let’s have a great discussion and generate some ideas you can bring back to create some magic in your organization.

About Bob

Bob has over 30 years of experience in leading software, systems, and organizational development. In July 2006 Bob Schatz started Agile Infusion LLC in order to provide advice, consulting, and training to companies using agile development techniques such as Scrum and XP. Bob served as VP of Development for Primavera Systems, Inc. where he was responsible for leading the highly-successful adoption of agile development techniques starting in 2002 for the team that develops Primavera’s software solutions for Enterprise Project, Resource, and Portfolio Management. Before joining Primavera, Bob spent seven years at Liquent, Inc., managing the development of publishing software targeted for the pharmaceutical market, and 12 years at GE Aerospace/Lockheed Martin, where he held various management positions for large-scale development projects for US government agencies and the Department of Defense. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Temple University and a Masters degree in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania. Bob is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Strategic Leadership Degree at Philadelphia University.
Bob is a leader in successfully implementing agile development techniques, such as Scrum and XP, and driving culture changes in organizations. He and his team have been featured in a number of industry articles. Bob often speaks at industry events talking about the benefits and challenges of bringing agile techniques into an organization.
 

 


10 Year Anniversary Celebration with the Speakers: Aaron Irizarry and Bob Gower
Apr
25
5:00 pm17:00

10 Year Anniversary Celebration with the Speakers: Aaron Irizarry and Bob Gower

  • Pace University

Come to Pace University where everything started 10 years ago and celebrate with us!  Mingle, connect and retrospect our last 10 years with presentations, drinks and hors d' oeuvres. Reserve your seat to this unique event today. 10 years = 10 Dollars.


5pm - 6.00pm - hors d' oeuvres & drinks,

6pm - 6.30pm - Aaron Irizarry

6.30pm - 7pm - Bob Gower

7pm -8pm - Drinks and Mingling 

Ken Schwaber says "Happy Birthday"

Jeff Patton draws a Birthday Cake 

Henrik Kniberg sings Happy Birthday to Agile NYC. Jazzy Spotify-ish version.

Pavel Dabrytski says "Happy Birthday"

10.00
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Talk: Designing Teams for Emerging Challenges

The technologies and people we are designing experiences for are constantly changing, in most cases they are changing at a rate that is difficult keep up with. When we think about how our teams are structured and the design processes we use in light of this challenge, a new design problem (or problem space) emerges, one that requires us to focus inward. 

How do we structure our teams and processes to be resilient? What would happen if we looked at our teams and design process as IA’s, Designers, Researchers? What strategies would we put in place to help them be successful? This talk will look at challenges we face leading, supporting, or simply being a part of design teams creating experiences for user groups with changing technological needs.

Aaron Irizarry

Aaron Irizarry aka “Ron”, is the Director of User Experience at Nasdaq and co-author of Discussing Design: Improving Communication and Collaboration Through Critique. You can follow his frequent ramblings about food, sports, music, and design on twitter at @aaroni.


Talk: The Agile Transformation Story

Imagining the perfect agile system is easy. Building one is hard. Scaling is even harder. And transforming from another system to an agile one can be almost impossible. Well over half the attempts to change fail. In this This I'll tell stories from the org-change trenches and tie them to theory and change patterns you can use in your organization.  We'll explore first principles and common missteps. 

Bob Gower is a member of the organization design firm The Ready. He is an authority on agile development, lean theory, and responsive organizational design, and the author of Agile Business: A Leader’s Guide to Harnessing Complexity

Bob has assisted leaders at numerous companies – including GE, Ford, Chanel, and Spotify – in creating more effective organizations. He holds an MBA in Sustainable Management, is a Certified Positive Psychology Practitioner, and speaks and publishes regularly on what it takes to build great organizations. 

Michael Mah
Mar
28
5:30 pm17:30

Michael Mah

  • Pace University

Beyond Velocity: Agile Teams, Self-Actualization, and the Next Stage of Social Disruption

6.00
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According to latest research by QSM Associates, data from modern methods such as Agile are bringing into focus technologies that are truly transformative. In recent studies, some teams have been able to drive quality to new heights, while simultaneously accelerating development schedules by as much as 30% to 50%. But what if productivity, quality, and velocity alone aren’t enough? 

What’s next for software teams to up their game? What’s beyond for cutting-edge thinkers? Can we change the world? Can software teams learn from those outside of the software field?

What are the dynamics of the best companies driving market share? What can software teams learn about high-performance from direct-action conservation movements, the so called "Eco-Pirates?" 

In his talk, Michael Mah will share his experience and insightful lessons learned about teams from being a member of a high-profile Sea Shepherd Conservation Society team that is engaged in a multi-year international campaign to end dolphin and whale hunts. Sea Shepherd is the star of the Animal Planet TV Series, “Whale Wars,” which tells the story of a their fleet chasing the illegal Japanese pirate whale hunting ships in the Antarctic Southern Ocean. Michael will demonstrate how we can apply certain methods of Sea Shepherd teams, plus the ideas of renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow and his “Hierarchy of Needs” to build self-actualizing teams that are making a difference within their companies, and even the world.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding how productivity, quality and velocity are not enough to be competitive and transformative in today’s digital world
  • Looking outside of the software industry to gain insights to the dimensions of high-performance teams
  • Learning how self-actualizing teams can achieve transformative change
Doug Kirkpatrick
Feb
24
5:00 am05:00

Doug Kirkpatrick

  • McKinsey&Co.

Doug Kirkpatrik, keynote speaker at the Agile Day'15 is coming back to Agile NYC for a very special user group event. His talk is limited to 18 people only.

The Future of Work The talk will explore the lessons learned from vanguard companies that are unleashing the power of organizational self-management. What you’ll take away: 

  • Learn How to Create a Highly Scalable Enterprise Without Bosses, Managers and Titles
  • Learn How to Drive Organizational Agility, Innovation and Resilience through Organizational Self-Management
  • Learn How Organizational Self-Management Can Create Strategic Business Advantage and Slash Management Costs Current 

Doug Kirkpatrick is an organizational change consultant with NuFocus Strategic Group, TEDx and keynote speaker, author, and educator. The first season of his career was spent in the manufacturing sector principally with Morning Star, a world leader in the food industry. He now engages with Great Work Cultures, Work Revolution, The Center for Innovative Cultures and other vibrant organizations and leaders to co-create the future of management. In the last four years he has spoken about the future of work with audiences in China, Brazil, Poland, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Norway, Denmark, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and throughout the United States. Doug is the author of Beyond Empowerment: The Age of the Self-Managed organization, and a monthly contributor to the Huffington Post. He is a director at the Association for Talent Development (ATD), the world’s largest talent development association with over 40,000 members in 120 countries, and a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR®). 

 

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Dave West: Scrum Turns 21
Dec
8
5:30 pm17:30

Dave West: Scrum Turns 21

  • Pace Unviversity

90% of Agile teams are using Scrum. With over ½ a million people trained and certified. Scrum has become, for many the de-facto standard in Agile team organization. But what is next for Scrum? In this talk we discuss the success and future of Scrum and what needs to happen to Scrum to continue its relevance. We describe how skills, scaling and DevOps need to be weaved into Scrum to not only ensure its relevance for the next 21 years, but also help the profession of software development improve.
 
Dave West is the product owner at scrum.org. He is a frequent keynote speaker and is a widely published author of articles, along with his
acclaimed book: Head First Object-Oriented Analysis and Design. He led the development of the Rational Unified Process (RUP) and then worked with Ivar Jacobson running the North American business for IJI. Then managed the software delivery practice at Forrester research where he was VP and research director. Prior to joining Scrum.org he was Chief Product Officer at Tasktop where he was responsible for product management, engineering and architecture.

Richard Lawrence: Growing your Facilitation Skills
Nov
3
5:30 pm17:30

Richard Lawrence: Growing your Facilitation Skills

  • Pace Unviversity

Whether you're a ScrumMaster, Product Owner, leader, trainer, or coach, facilitation is a key part of your job. But few people have intentionally developed this skill. (Which is why so many backlog grooming sessions and sprint retrospectives are so painful.)

Do your meetings suffer from problems like these?

  • Low energy

  • Uneven participation (someone dominates the conversation, others check out)

  • Rabbit trails

  • No meaningful decisions or actions

Imagine...

  • ...going into any meeting with the confidence that it will produce a valuable outcome

  •  ...having your team members and peers respect you as someone who can help a group collaborate more effectively

  •  ...everyone in your meetings contributing in a useful way

  •  ...leading focused, productive discussions that end on time without feeling rushed

You can spend a lifetime growing your facilitation skills. But as with so many things in life, the 80/20 rule applies. The essential skills and tools you need to avoid the most common issues can be learned in a remarkably short time. In this session, you'll learn and practice these essential skills and tools so you can facilitate more confidently and more effectively.
Come with a specific meeting in mind. What problems do you have facilitating
it (or other meetings like it) today? How do you wish it looked different? Why does it matter for you, your team, your organization, and/or your customers?
 

Richard Lawrence is co-owner of Agile For All. He trains and coaches teams and organizations to become happier and more productive. He draws on a diverse background in software development, engineering, anthropology, and political science. Richard is a Scrum Alliance Certified Enterprise Coach and Certified Scrum Trainer, as well as a certified trainer of the accelerated learning method, Training from the Back of the Room. His book Behavior-Driven Development with Cucumber is due out from Addison-Wesley later this year.