A bit of a “how to” post reflecting on a session I ran yesterday for the technology team from a retail client.

The Brief

All of my most exciting pieces of work come at short notice. I spoke with the CIO from the client on Tuesday, and he wanted an interactive and fun session to be run, ideally using Lego, for a group of around 60. There was a mix of experience – some agile practitioners, some more traditional tech people (development and service), and some non-techies. The session was for 2 hours.

The Plan

Here’s the session in STOP chart format:

Increasing Agility Harvey Nichols.png

Increasing Agility Harvey Nichols (1)

Starting off with a variation of a short game I’ve run a few times (Play games…) and then into a short chat about the model I’ve been building up around how to select whether agile, waterfall or other approaches are appropriate. (I’m going to do an animation on that soon).

Then the bulk of the session running an adaptation of the game described here:

I’ve created a briefing pack for people acting as clients here:


All of the requirements had been hand-written out on Artefact cards in advance, different colours for each sprint, and a set handed to each team client.


Changes, observations

The game developed by Velocity Partners involves teams being given sets of user requirements over a number of sprints, and they have to build an aeroplane to those requirements. Each requirement is described in short, and then has a “Business Value” associated with it.

There are three key things for me that can be learned from this game:

  1. the nature of delivering compromises to maximise business value on each iterative cycle of development
  2. that what a customer has specified isn’t necessarily what they want (for each requirement, the customer has a secret acceptance criteria – if the teams just build to what they have been explicitly told, they’re unlikely to deliver the business value)
  3. that involvement with customers throughout is essential for developing good products

I’m sure loads of other things come out, but these are the big ones from my perspective.

In terms of the mechanics of the game, I ran with a big group yesterday – 8 teams of six people in the end. Each team had a nominated client, and they were provided with the briefing pack. In terms of materials, I had three medium-sized Lego Classic sets which provided enough bricks. Each kit contains nine bags sorted by colour, so each team got three bags.

Every so often I would bring the Clients together to see how things were going, and to give hints and tips on what was coming up. At the end of each sprint they would have to total up how much business value had been delivered, and then we recorded all of that on a flipchart to introduce a bit of inter-team competition. Making the clients feel included in the game (because they’re not doing the actual building) is important.

I initially was expecting to run the sprints at 20 minutes for the first one, then 15. In reality, 15 and then 10 was ample. In the workshop as a whole that meant that we ran 3 sprints in total, and that felt about right in terms of the energy in the group. At the end we finished with a fly-past (Dambusters theme tune playing in the background).

And then there was a bit of a debrief, picking up on a few observations that came up during the session. The massive variation in the final products is fascinating and worth calling out too.

Lego aeroplanes

If you’re interested in me running a similar session for your organisation, do get in touch! 

One thought on “Agile Simulation: Method and Reflections

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