Conference et al.

#p4a14 – Play 4 Agile – My Highlights

For the third time in a row I had the pleasure to participate at Play 4 Agile (Un-)Conference at Rückersbach. Three years ago Play 4 Agile 2012 was my first experience with Open Space technology and even my first encounter with the Agile “Play” Community. (Thanks to Sebs for introducing me back then!)  In review this year’s Play 4 Agile was intense and  enlightening as ever.

My personal highlights from #p4a14 (un-ordered):

Gamification Pre-Event
I felt honoured to be asked to help facilitate the “Gamification” Pre-Event together with Katrin and Thorsten. None of us are Gamification experts, but we were holding three sessions about “Gamification and Agile” at Play 4 Agile 2013 together with Birgit. In the last year Katrin attended the Gamification Class at Coursera, whereas I read some books and articles about gamification and made some real-live experiences with a team at CHIP. 🙂

pre-event Gamification p4a14The Pre-Event was mainly based on Kevin Werbach’s Gamification Design Process. Some results after only 3,5h were amazing and could actually work for real. My 2 favorites were Carpe Diem (Objective: “Experience more life to prolong your life.”) and a prototype on how to make house-cleaning more fun (Objective: “We want a clean and organized house.”). But I think all groups turned out with a valuable result.

“Show Me Your Data”
My session “Show Me Your Data” was about understanding and loving Kanban Metrics. (See my blog post here.) As I played it on several occasions last year (Limited WIP Munich and my new employer) and got lots of feedback on how to improve the game, I tried to bring “Show Me Your Data” to the next level. And I failed! 🙂
After 5 minutes I knew that the changes I introduced were not going to work. So the participants (and me) struggled hard and I stopped the actual game. But then started a (for me) fruitful discussion on how the game could work or could have worked.
Thanks for every participant for their input.
I personally was surprised that I got along with the failure pretty well and saw more the new opportunities that the failure created. (“If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”)

Buy me a Feature
It was great to find my new colleague Tom among the #p4a14 participants. At our company we are struggling with prioritization on what to do next (or rather first, as the backlog is overfilled…). To have a common understanding in the company on how hard it is to decide and to reach at least some kind of agreement among managers, Tom introduced “Buy me a feature” to prioritize what should be done next about 9 months ago. We thought it was a good idea to get feedback on this approach. So Tom held a session on how and why we are using “Buy me a Feature” and how the process evolved over time. The participants were curious and gave some very valuable feedback and suggestions on how to improve. Loved it.

buy-me-a-feature p4a14

Creative Suitcase
creative-suitcase p4a14This was probably the best session I attended at #p4a14. Katrin helped us packing our “Creative Suitcase” and selecting reminders on how to stay creative. I have my suitcase with me most of the time and opened it already some times in the last week…

LEGO Serious Play “Time Capsule”
I was happy to co-facilitate a LEGO Serious Play Session together with Katrin, Melanie and Sabine. The goal was to create a Time Capsule on “How I have changed my World in 6 Months”. The participants will get a photo of their model in 6 months time. I was messing around with my GoPro during that session and you can get an impression here:

This year I felt that there were quite a number of spiritual and coaching sessions proposed, and less “play” sessions. I’d loved to have more focus again on “play” next year, but I know it always depends on the people and their interest and energy.

Play 4 Agile is always about people and talking and discussing and laughing. With my life partner Mel (who was attending this year for the first time) we set as a goal for #p4a14 to have as many laughing fits as possible and we think, we did quite well! 😉

Play 4 Agile 2015 will take place on February 20-23, 2015. Can’t wait.

Kanban, Meeting Facilitation

Learning Playfully: Kanban Lead Time, Spectral Analysis Chart, Service Level Agreement

Some team members are at war with Kanban metrics (and probably other metrics): What are Lead and Cycle Time for? What does a Spectral Analysis Chart (SAC) show? Why should we care at all about a Service Level Agreement (SLA)? (Especially when there are so many dependencies with other teams.) You can always quote David Anderson or Wikipedia, but simply quoting won’t make sense to everyone. To better understand what Lead Time and a SAC are and how those are connected to a (desired) SLA, I tried a playful approach with one of our Kanban teams: “Show me your Data!”


– You need a couple of balloons, 2 decks of cards, some LEGO and index cards in different colors.
– Furthermore you need Post-Its or index cards and label those with “1-10 sec”, “11-20 sec”, “21-30 sec”, “31-40 sec”, “41-50 sec”, “51-60 sec” and “> 60 sec”. Stick those horizontally on a pin board.
– Write 9-12 tasks on index cards (Here some ideas for tasks: Mixed deck of index cards should be a color-sorted deck of index cards, inflate 3 balloons, sort out all red LEGO bricks, build a 3-level house of cards etc.)

How to Play:
You play in cadences.
The cadence starts when presenting the team 3 tasks that have to be done.
After that a stop watch starts and the team are working on the tasks.
When a task is finished, a team member sticks the task card in the appropriate column of the pin board in order to track how much time was spent on the task until it was finished.
When all tasks are done and the according task cards have been stuck to the pin board, the cadence end with a short retrospective: How did that work? What could you observe?

You play several cadences, depending on how many tasks you have prepared.

Before the last cadence you should start with a first debrief:
Lead time is… (If you need some good explanation check here.)
The SAC is exactly what can be seen on the pin board. (mirrored horizontically)

Now, supposing all those tasks were tasks of the team’s “Standard” service class, you can derive a SLA that results from empirical measurement of the tasks finished so far: 70% of all tasks will be done within 30 seconds (or whatever time the team needed for the tasks).
“So, let’s try to accomplish this SLA in the last cadence.”


The tasks in the last cadence should be a little harder: a 3-level house of Spade cards from an un-sorted deck of cards etc.
In this case the team can also discuss if it makes sense to split a task to finish the task within the SLA.

Why I think this game works:
It shows that metrics in Kanban measure the system and not the performance of the individual.
It explains very straight forward lead time and SAC and how to derive a SLA from those metrics.
If the tasks are not finished within the SLA, it is easy to discuss why that was the case and how the team could improve and deal with similiar tasks differently in the future.

I named the playful exercise “Show me your data!”.  David J. Anderson mentioned in his “Kanban Advanced Master Class” I attended in November 2012 that this is what he likes to ask Kanban teams he is working with: “Show me your data!”

Contact me if you want to try this game yourself and need more information. (I did 4 cadences the last time and thought it was quite enough. It took approx. 60 minutes.)

I wanted to get some feedback on “Show me your Data!”, so I held a session at “Play 4 Agile 2013“.
Thanks for the honest feedback from the participants. 🙂

Here it is:

  • Definitely a good exercise to explain how SAC works
  • Easy to understand exercise
  • When introducing exercise: Point out that you want to measure Lead Time (not Cycle Time).
  • When  introducing exercise: Point out that this exercise is not about WIP limit
  • Don’t emphasize on SLA. Rather ask the team to encourage some Kaizen:
    Why did the tasks above Average Lead Time took longer? How much longer did they took? How could we reduce the Lead Time of those tasks?