DELETE – IT IS IN HUBSPOT Play Two Games to Change the World

At the end of my both my Agile 2015 Keynote and my Agile Australia 2016 keynote I challenged attendees to play two games to change the world. While this sounds great, some of the attendees pointed out that they felt a bit lost: they didn’t know which games they could play to change the world, let alone which games they could play to address problems they’re facing at work.

The goal of this blog is to answer this question and provide a path from solving four specific agile-centric work problems to solving larger problems in society. Find two that match your situation and play two games to change the world. As always, let me know which games you’re playing – at work and beyond.

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[table_cell_head] Work Problem [/table_cell_head]

[table_cell_head] Recommended Framework [/table_cell_head]

[table_cell_head] Larger Impact in Society [/table_cell_head]

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Prioritizing Features

We need a way to prioritize features with stakeholders and customers so that I can build awesome products and services.
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Buy a Feature is a terrific way to prioritize features or other items. In this game we present 3 to 8 participants with a list of 12 to 20 features. Each feature has a name, a description and a cost. Players are given a limited amount of money and collaborate to purchase the most important items.

Certified Scrum Trainer Carlton Nettleton of Look Forward Consulting created a really novel use of Buy a Feature to promote the systems thinking so critical to the effective use of Scrum. He calls his approach Buy a Framework. The full description is in his blog post here, so in this post I’ll just summarize the basics.

Carlton identifies each aspect of the Scrum Framework and assigns it a price.

Small teams are given the option to work together to purchase those aspects of the framework they think are most important with a limited budget. They can’t purchase everything, so they have to reason about “what’s most important” and the impact of giving something up.

The activity ends when the participants realize that they “can’t win the game” (no, it is not a variation of the Kobayashi Maru).

To try out this real-time experience, start by organizing a one hour meeting with your team. When you’re ready, everyone joins the forum using the SAME URL: http://innovationgames.com/game/join?id=055-997-136. Join the forum, and see what everyone thinks!

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Buy a Feature provides the foundation for work in Participatory Budgeting (PB), a civic innovation recognized by the United Nations as a means to engage citizens, build communities and fight corruption. In Participatory Budgeting, citizens are given a shared budget that that can use to directly control public spending. A powerful example of Participatory Budgeting is D3 Decides, in which residents of District 3 in San José, CA were given $100,000 to spend to improve their district. The results were amazing!

Playing Buy a Feature at work gives you the experience and tools to implement PB at all levels of government, from small cities to state and even national governments.

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Building a Roadmap

We’d like to create shared understanding of our how product and service will evolve without getting lost in the details of a backlog.

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Long-term software architectures are constantly evolving, growing and changing to better meet the needs of all stakeholders. Unfortunately, traditional approaches to representing software architectures fail to capture this dynamic.

By representing a product or service as a tree, Prune the Product Tree gives Agile teams a powerful tool to manage growth and evolution. Luscious red apples represent tasty new features. Rotten apples represent features that need to be fixed. And bananas on a apple tree? Crazy ideas that might represent real breakthroughs! To make sure your tree has the infrastructure needed to stay strong over time make sure you add items into the roots.

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Communities and cities have similar needs for evolutionary growth. Use your skills in developing product roadmaps with Prune the Product Tree to help members of your community identify how your community should grow.

San José, CA is known for its apricot orchards, and they used a modified version of Prune the Product Tree with apricots. You can too!
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Enterprise Retrospectives

I want to scale retrospectives so that I can improve the performance of my entire organization.

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One of the best retrospective frameworks is Speed Boat, in which teams collaborate to identify impediments (represented as anchors) and accelerators (represented as wind puffs. An enterprise retrospective scales this practice by having every team conduct a per-team retrospective and then analyzing the data across all teams.

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Communities and cities are just like agile enterprises: they stop evolving when they stop retrospecting. So, instead of attending a boring town hall meeting, in which people awkwardly explore how to address community problems, use your skills with enterprise retrospectives to help your neighborhood, community, school or city identify the best opportunities for shared growth and success.

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Release Planning

Our development organization is distributed and we need a better way to do release planning.

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High-impact release planning is a negotiation between business and technology, with both sides exploring options to find the best value for the effort invested.

A planning wall is a collaborative release planning framework that captures business value on the Y-axis and effort on the X-axis. As Product Backlog Items (PBI) are placed into the grid, business representatives (product managers / product owners) control the placement in the Y-axis and the technical leaders control the X-axis. The goal is to see how many items the team can place in the top left area of the game board, as these high-value, low-effort items represent the best value for the business.

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Imagine elected officials settling down to plan a new public works or urban planning project with citizens using a planning wall. Citizens would be the source of “value” and control the Y-axis and elected officials and technical civil servants would control the X-axis of “effort. The result? A collaborative framework that helps integrate citizens and their elected officials.

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Project Kickoff / Liftoff

We’re starting a project with a development team. How can we get everyone excited about what we’re going to create?

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Two frameworks that help distributed teams start projects with hustle are Empathy Map and Cover Story.

Empathy Map helps teams focus on users as real people by asking teams to imagine what potential users are hearing, thinking, seeing, thinking and feeling, along with the challenges (pains) they’re facing and the benefits for addressing these pains (gains). When supported by personas and other user-centered design and customer-experience artifacts teams, teams that start with a clear understanding of their users as real people tend to build software that meets their needs.

Whether or not we realize it, we often ask our development teams to create extraordinary results. Unfortunately, all too often we keep the dev team away from the marketing glory when the release is finished. Cover Story is a framework that enables the dev team to share in the glory of the future release by asking them to imagine that their favorite magazine was writing an article about their project. By exploring the key themes, sidebars and characters within their story you’ll help create excitement about your next release.

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The uses of Empathy Map and Cover Story for civic engagement are parallels to the uses of these frameworks for Agile teams.

Developing empathy for the users of our software is a powerful precursor to developing empathy for our other citizens, and using Empathy Map for civic engagement is incredibly easy because of the diversity of the people that inhabit our cities. Instead of a town hall meeting in which everyone speaks for their own interests, invite your fellow citizens to use an Empathy Map to develop empathy for the needs of other members of the community.

Much like a company, all too often our elected officials miss opportunities to engage citizens in building an exciting vision for the future of a project. Let’s fix that! Invite your fellow citizens to use Cover Story in any project and watch them become engaged with the future they create.

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We Played MORE Than Two Games – And Changed the World!

Dear Agile 2016 Attendees –

In my Agile 2015 keynote, I challenged the Agile Community to change the world by playing two games. With the help of the Agile Alliance, the Scrum Alliance, Agilists around the world and a whole bunch of other people, Every Voice Engaged Foundation was able to accomplish a whole lot! Here is a brief summary of what we accomplished since August of 2015.

Completed: We produced a very large Zero-Based Budget Participatory Budgeting project for San José, CA in February of 2016. This project enabled the City to better allocate more than $63M in funding for Neighborhood Services (report here). This project is a terrific example of how San José, CA continues to experiment with various forms of Participatory Budgeting for dollar amounts that are quite significant. We are presently hoping to expand this to get City employees involved in the process because we think they would have excellent insight on the best way to allocate reallocate funds within a budget.

Completed: We produced www.d3decides.com, a project in which residents of District 3 were given $100,000 in funding. Residents submitted ideas, shaped them into proposals, and selected the funds. If you like Product Box, you’re going to love watching the videos of residents pitching their products: http://d3decides.com/phase-four/. This project also enabled us to extend Buy a Feature to enable single-player mode on smart phones, dramatically increasing our ability to engage residents.

Completed: We wanted to see if we could push the boundaries of Participatory Budgeting, so we gave $500 to the Sunnyvale Middle School (grades 6,7,8) under the condition that the kids were in complete control of the funds. They used our software platforms to create project ideas, shaped them into proposals and then selected them. The winning project surprised all of the adults: replacing an existing water fountain with a new model that could refill water bottles (better for the environment ;-).

In-Flight: We’re presently producing a project for San José, CA in which residents of a specific neighborhood of District 2 are determining how to spend $1M. Yup – that’s a pretty big chunk of change. We’ve completed the ideation stage. Details here.

In-Flight: We finished a whole slew of updates to Common Ground for Action, our deliberation platform we created in partnership with the Kettering Foundation. We’re in the midst of planning a big project for 18 members of the US Congress on Making Ends Meet (inequality), Immigration Reform, and Political Fix (getting American politics back on track).

Completed: We’ve trained more than 100 facilitators (this was pro-bono training!). And we’re going to KEEP on training people.

In-Design: We’re hoping to work with Kettering and other Communities to improve race relations with public safety (police) and the communities they serve. This is an especially sticky problem so we’re moving with respect and caution.

Finally, y’all know we’re crazy dreamers… so I’ll close this post by sharing The Democracy Machine, our vision of an expanded platform that integrates and extends our work in Participatory Budgeting and Deliberative Decision Making. Written by John Gastil with contributions from Luke Hohmann, Amy Lee from The Kettering Foundation, and others, we’re proud to have published this work in collaboration (there’s that word again! ;-)) with the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Dream and Play On, my friends.


Frameworks for Agile Adoption / Agile Teaching

I was talking with Tarang Patel, one of our Certified Collaboration Instructors (CCIs), about various frameworks that we use for helping teams adopt more Agile practices or in Agile classes and thought the broader community might enjoy the fruits of our conversations. We’ll cover:

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  • Identifying and Prioritizing Class Goals
  • Discovering Hidden Wisdom
  • Developing Systems Thinking (especially for Scrum)

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Identifying and Prioritizing Class Goals

We know that 20/20 Vision is one a great framework for prioritizing a set of benefits or goals. Here are some of the ways we use 20/20 Vision.

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  • Before the class we often use the online version of 20/20 Vision to identify shared priorities and familiarize participants with online collaborative forums.
  • During the class, especially at the beginning, we’ll ask participants to work in small groups to identify their goals and prioritize them. We simply give them the rules of the framework and then explain the framework when they’re done. Sometimes we start with a generic list of goals suitable to the class. Most of the time we allow each participant to add one goal.
  • For Agile-specific classes, like a CSM or CSPO class, we’ll ask participants to prioritize the practices of the Agile Manifesto. This often reveals important preconceived notions about Agile.

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The framework is exceedingly flexible! You can adapt it to prioritize any set of learning objectives, desired benefits or similar outcomes within a group.

Discovering Hidden Wisdom

I cringe when I see instructors or consultants waltz into a room secure in the knowledge that they’re going to magically transform the students through their wisdom and brilliance. These are often the same instructors and consultants who assume that because they’ve been hired to help a company improve their Agile practices that everyone must be a bloody idiot and their job is to cram Scrum down the throats of the team.

Ouch.

Our reality is much different. Most of the companies we’re privileged to work with are quite successful. Many, like GE, Cisco and Adobe, to name just a few, are among the most successful on the planet! Accordingly, we find it helpful to start our relationship by mining the considerable wisdom of their existing teams.

We do this through a framework that we call Best 5 / Worst 5. We start by organizing the participants into small teams (hey – we always start this way because a collaborating team is optimally 3 to 8 people!). We give each team a topic area relevant to their job function. For example, software development teams might be given topics like Requirements Management, Release Management or  Quality Assurance and innovation teams might be given topics like Discovering Unmet Market Needs, Managing the Innovation Portfolio or Innovation Processes. If your group is large enough you can give the same topic to more than one team to get even more insights.

Using the framework we ask teams to identify, by reflecting on their entire career, the Best 5 and Worst 5 practices they’ve experienced. Teams have to argue and agree. And if this sounds like a variation of 20/20 Vision, you’re right – but it is enough of a variation that we think of it as a separate framework. (If you want to learn how to create your own variations, check out our class Designing for Multidimensional Collaboration).

In doing this we find that the participants often have an extraordinary amount of accumulated wisdom that they’ve somehow lost or forgotten. Often this wisdom is surprisingly Agile and the results of the framework build passion within the group for “let’s do more of the Best and less of the Worst”. From there, you’ve paved the way for your Agile training and it is easier to showcase how Scrum and other Agile frameworks are designed to help teams do more of the Best and less of Worst. Equally importantly, the results help the frame the limits of a method and identifies areas where a method isn’t the best approach.

This framework also works well as a technique to engage customers. For example, GE used this technique at one of their Proficy Advisory Council meetings with customers to identify their perspectives on a variety of practices. Customers enjoyed learning from each other and GE product teams found many ways to improve their roadmaps and backlogs.

Developing Systems Thinking

Novices often want to pick apart Scrum before they’ve had a chance to experience it. And while I’m supportive of groups modifying Scrum to meet their needs, a topic I addressed directly in my Agile 2015 keynote (please, let’s ban the use of the term “Scrumbut”), I also recommend that teams new to Scrum learn the basics of the framework before modifying it. Yeah, I know this reeks of practicality, but hey – Conteneo is all about getting stuff done through Collaboration.

That said, it is often hard to understand how the elements of the Scrum framework work together as a system. So, we need techniques to promote systems thinking about Scrum.

Certified Scrum Trainer Carlton Nettleton of Look Forward Consulting created a really novel use of the collaboration framework Buy a Feature to promote the systems thinking so critical to the effective use of Scrum. He calls his approach Buy a Framework. The full description is in his blog post here, so in this post I’ll just summarize the basics.

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  • Carlton identifies each aspect of the Scrum Framework and assigns it a price.
  • Small teams are given the option to work together to purchase those aspects of the framework they think are most important with a limited budget. They can’t purchase everything, so they have to reason about “what’s most important” and the impact of giving something up.
  • Instructors observe the discussions and bring key issues to the table.
  • The activity ends when the participants realize that they “can’t win the game” (no, it is not a variation of the Kobayashi Maru).

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The real value is the deeper learning and systems thinking promoted by this framework.

Want to try this out? Great! I’ve configured a version of this framework that you can use with your Scrum team (up to 8 people). We call this a Gala, and here is how it works.

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  • This is a real-time experience, so start by organizing a meeting with your team. I’ve configured the forum to last for 1 hour, which should be more than enough time for your team.
  • When you’re ready, everyone joins the forum using this URL: http://innovationgames.com/game/join?id=270-811-640.
  • Play the same – and see what your team thinks!

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So, there you have it: Three awesome collaboration frameworks to help you teach and/or adopt Agile!