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Words: An Agile Simulation Game

We all have used props to simulate and encourage some of the interactions, events and outcomes of an agile team. These simulations work well in almost all settings and for different groups of people - but one thing that I've continuously noticed is that, the less complicated the simulations / games are, the more opportunity we get to emphasis and discuss the underlying message. That message being the Agile Manifesto Values and Principles which are as true today as they were nearly two decades ago.


While we want to encourage people to really get into the games and play it with passion, we don't want to lose the learning objectives in the rivalry and competitiveness of the game.

One of the recent games that I've introduced in my Agile Teams classes, which seems to be working well, is the "Words Game". This game requires limited prop but is powerful enough to cover all of the four more desirable elements of Agile Manifesto Values. The prop is a box of letters - the shop that I purchased the box from only had them in 100 letters.


The game setup is simple.


Here are the sprints.

sprint 1

One of the ways to get the teams appreciate the value statement of "Customer Collaboration" (continuous feedback loop) and "Individuals and Interactions" is to let the teams know, at the end of the sprint, that you - the stakeholder - wanted the words to start with capital / uppercase letters, with the remaining letters being lower case. This should also introduce a shortage of resources into the mix.

The stakeholder(s), product owner and the team may decide on the next step to remedy the situation, if required.

sprint 2

You'll have noticed that there is a slight ambiguity in the story, "... If not possible to extend create a word with double letters instead..." I wanted to introduce the programmers dilemma in here which goes like:

If you're asked to "Go to the store and buy a carton of milk and if they had eggs, get six." Would you come back with 1 carton of milk and 6 eggs or 6 cartons of milk and no eggs?

sprint 3

If you want to challenge the teams and take them to the next level of multiple teams working on a shared end goal, you could try swapping letters from the teams' boxes. For example take some vowels from one team's box and swap them with consonants from other team's box. Here we want to encourage the teams and particularly the Product Owners to interact - reducing competitions in favour of collaboration.

The Words game should help create the environment to simulate some of the day to day interactions of an Agile team. If you do use this simulation and find it useful or have any comments then please let me know.