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    Written by Luke Hohmann
    on August 28, 2016

    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.

    Work Problem Recommended Framework Larger Impact in Society

    Prioritizing Features

    We need a way to prioritize features with stakeholders and customers so that I can build awesome products and services.

    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: Join the forum, and see what everyone thinks!

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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!

    Enterprise Retrospectives

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

    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.

    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.

    Release Planning

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

    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.

    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.

    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?

    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.

    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.


    Let us know what you think. 

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