Agile and Lean principles call for teams to delay decisions and activities until the “last responsible moment” so as to minimize rework and waste.  While this sounds good in concept, sometimes teams fall victim to waiting until it is “too late” to make a decision or get started on a needed activity resulting in missed opportunities and/or down-to-the-wire heroic efforts to meet a deadline.  This workshop entails a competitive LEGO simulation where participants will divide into small teams, each team will be given the same simple LEGO build challenge, and then each team will be able to conduct their own experiments as to when the “last responsible moment” really is.  Following the LEGO build challenge, participants will engage in a debrief to discuss the outcome of the challenge, identify factors that helped to successfully identify the last responsible moment, establish linkages between the LEGO simulation and agile software development activities, and of course congratulate the winners of the challenge.  During the debrief, participants will complete a debrief worksheet to reinforce key learnings and takeaways from the simulation that they will be able to take with them from the session.  Best of all, this is a LEGO session, so you will get to play with LEGO and fun will be had by all!

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

Workshop Background

This is a new workshop conceived over the summer of 2014 that has yet to be presented on the agile conference circuit but has been presented in June 2014 at the Lean Kanban St. Louis meeting (St. Louis, MO).  The LEGO build challenge served to stimulate lively discussion during the debrief where participants established linkages to “real-life” situations on agile software development projects (such as not allocating enough time to get ready for a customer demo, resulting in the loss of customer trust since the demo had to be delayed).  Surprisingly, discussion regarding the LEGO build challenge and “last responsible moment” continued at the Lean Kanban St. Louis meeting held in the following month (July 2014 - yes, two months of user group discussion from a single fun activity) as those that played the game during the prior month offered continued examples of the “last responsible moment” in action.

 

In a workshop setting, the LEGO build challenge itself only takes about 20 minutes from beginning to end, so there will be sufficient time for debriefing and questions within a 60 minute conference time block.

 

Premise of the challenge (simulation context)

  • Workshop participants will be split into small teams of 4-5 people.
  • All teams will be given the same instructions to build a LEGO structure.
  • Teams that delay the start of building receive a bonus for waiting (so as to simulate reduced cost/time needed to complete a project) - the bonus increases the more the team elects to wait.
  • Lego blocks are treated as a shared resource between all teams, so as an added challenge groups that wait to begin (to maximize the bonus) run the risk of falling victim to the last responsible moment by not having enough time OR lego to complete the build
  • A scoring matrix is provided to each team where they compute their total score by assessing the completeness of their build and how long they decided to wait until they began building
  • From presentation at Lean Kanban St. Louis, several commented that the simulation also touches on elements of risk management (competing for shared resources against other teams) as well as sustainable pace (using a slow and steady option which results in a complete build for maximum points with little/no bonus vs. a frantic build seeking to maximize the bonus that ends up being incomplete or poorly constructed which incurs a penalty - such discussion linked activities in the LEGO game to agile team activities such as trying to complete a few more user stories within a sprint but forgoing rigious testing or TDD on those "last minute stories").

 

Key Debrief Areas / Questions

  • Describe your group’s strategy to decide when to begin the build during the simulation?
  • Identify groups that felt as though they properly identified the “last responsible moment” (winners of the game) seeking to maximize the bonus while still being able to complete the build.
  • What factors / information were used to identify the “last responsible moment”?
  • Can anyone think of linkages or examples between the factors / information that helped to identify the “last responsible moment” in the simulation and agile software development activities?
  • Was there a point during the simulation when you realized that you had waited too long to begin?  What factors / information led you to this conclusion?
  • Can anyone share past experiences of agile software development activities where you waited too long - what did you learn from those experiences, what data / information was disregarded, and what was done to safe-guard against waiting too long in the future?
  • What did you learn from the simulation?
  • What do you think your colleagues would learn from the simulation if you were to share it with them?

 

Workshop Timing (60 minutes) - elapsed time is shown in parentheses

  • 5 minutes (0:00 - 5:00) - Welcome & Workshop Background (serious play + LEGO)
  • 10 minutes (5:00 - 15:00) - History & Benefits of the “last responsible moment (from lean and agile principles)
  • 10 minutes (15:00 - 25:00) - Simulation Setup + Simulation Rules Briefing (split into teams, review rules, objectives & scoring)
  • 10 minutes (25:00 - 35:00) - Lego Build Simulation
  • 15 minutes (35:00 - 50:00) - Simulation Debrief (participants will complete a debrief worksheet during the discussion to capture key outcomes
  • 5 minutes (50:00 - 55:00) - Highlight Key Takeaways (from all participants - include these on bottom of debrief worksheet)
  • 5 minutes (55:00 - 60:00) - Final Q&A and Thanks for attending

 

Presentation Materials

Applying elements of Sharon Bowman’s “Training from the Back of the Room” this workshop is fully experiential (LEGO & worksheet based) and does not use slides (the workshop does require a projector to show a timer - noted below) - participants will be provided with a worksheet to reinforce the theory behind the “last responsible moment” by writing key ideas down and to allow participants to capture outcomes from the debrief - game/simulation instructions are provided by a printed worksheet that will be made available to each group.

Learning Outcome

  • Participants will learn the value and logic of deferring decisions and actions until “last responsible moment” as advocated for by lean and agile principles.
  • Participants will gain first hand experience in how to reach a team consensus regarding when the “last responsible moment” is during the LEGO build challenge.
  • Participants will be exposed to the use of LEGO-based techniques for help teams learn and test possible outcomes / decisions within a safe environment.

Target Audience

Team Leads, Team Members, anyone that contributes to team decision making regarding “when” to get started, and of course anyone who enjoys playing with LEGO

schedule Submitted 2 years ago

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  • George Dinwiddie
    By George Dinwiddie  ~  2 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Jason,

    As AgileDC has grown in popularity, so have the number of submissions we received from the Call for Proposals (CFP).  In this, our fifth year, we received 158 submissions for 45 time slots. That means that there were many more compelling sessions proposed than we could possibly fit into a one day event.

    Unfortunately, your proposal was not accepted this year.  However, we are exploring options for diversifying the types of sessions being offered by incorporating Lightening Talks and Open Space Jams which will take place in parallel with the day's sessions... as part of this offering, we are interested in including a couple of different "games".

    With the above in mind, would you be interested in re-engineering your proposal to fit into a 30 MINUTE Game Open Space (no access to overhead, just a couple of oversized poster boards, sharpies and several round tables)?  Assuming you think you can, please let us know how you might imagine the session to work and what you would need to make it happen.

    My thanks in advance for your consideration and response.

    Kind regards,

     

    George Dinwiddie and Phillip Manketo

    On behalf of the organizing board members

     

     

     

    As we mentioned in the CFP, in order to keep costs low we are unable to offer an honorarium or travel expenses.  However, you'll receive free entry to the conference and the adulation of your audience.  Also, we

    enjoy a good get-together and would like to welcome you with an icebreaker the night before the event (details to follow).

     

    If you are still interested in presenting at AgileDC, please RSVP “I AM IN” to SPEAKERS@AGILEDC.ORG  by 11:59PM Sunday, September  7th, 2014.   Also, please verify that the session Bio, Description and Headshot are up-to-date and accurate as that is what will be published in the schedule.

     

    On behalf of the organizers of AgileDC, congratulations and we hope to see you in October!

     

    Best,

     

    George Dinwiddie and Phillip Manketo

     

    for the AgileDC organizing committee


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