Agile Games 2012 Keynote – Games Landscape and Importance of Play (Video)

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Slides and Infographic

Here is a summary of the games landscape.

See slides session summary for more

Games Landscape and Importance of Play – Keynote

This is 45 minutes so you may want to flag this for when you have time to watch the whole thing.

More Agile Games 2012 Videos

Here are photos and videos from Agile Games 2012.

Keynote Take-Aways – What people said


  • Play helps us get into the state of flow. The opposite of play as depression.
  • When the going gets tough, get playing
  • Games as a way of learning & using games to learn
  • 1) Games->flow->happiness 2)games->happiness
  • Celebrate imperfection
  • Courage to play games ‘!’
  • You need a safe environment to promote play.


  • Thinking about building play skills
  • Look for more ways to gameify work
  • Figure out more opportunities to play for work
  • Trying to instill a more relaxed atmosphere by getting a little more playful attitude
  • Look into Lego Serious Play
  • Find ways to make my work more like playing. Increase the amount of play in my life. Think about what I liked to do when I played as a child and bring that back.
  • Our teams don’t play enough games, it’s important to introduce more!
  • There were some games from Tasty Cupcakes I would like to try with my team
  • Read/watch Brene Brown talk/book about shame

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My Personal Vision

I am re-inventing myself both from a personal and work perspective; in this post I share my vision for working with clients and partners.

Personal and Organizational Transformation

My main goal is to work as a change agent in the world at large to support people and organizations in transformation.

On the left of the photo we have individuals undertaking the hard work of personal transformation: learning and growing; shedding the baggage of our pasts. This is very hard and rewarding work. I have been getting more involved in this as evolve as a coach. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on the work of Brene Brown to learn more.

The core of the photo shows the daunting challenge of organizational change. It is like attacking the ramparts of a castle: climbing up the ladders to effect organizational change is not for the faint of heart. The rewards – of liberating people and companies – is commensurate with the challenge. My purpose is to add safety and capability to this challenge.

It is my belief and understanding that personal transformation precedes organizational transformation. Leadership by example is required for success.

Consulting to be 10% Better?

In Gerry Weinberg’s Secrets of Consulting, a good consultant never promises more than a 10% improvement since it would imply that the management of the organization doesn’t know what they are doing. A kinder view that I adopt is that many organizations are not ready for personal and organizational transformation. In these cases, I am happy to help them get a 10% improvement and support curiousity about larger improvements. Siraj Sirajuddin’s approach of Supplication is about appreciating each person, client, organization for where they are at now.

In the photo at left, one can see the consultant applying tools to help the machine. The large monkey is the 800 pound gorilla of organizational inertia that is to be respected.

Organizational Structure to Support Vision

The rather intricate model in the photo (left) depicts my future state organizational structure to support the vision outlined above. It has two main parts: the people and the culture.

In the foreground, we see that success is enhanced by a core group that works closely with each other. Of course the number follows Luke Hohmann’s rule, “More than 8, no collaborate.” Everyone is wearing red to denote alignment to a compelling shared vision. Like a cross-functional Scrum team, skills and talents will vary. Beyond this group is a wider circle (heads on ground) to support this group.

At the back, we have the tree of culture. At it’s highest, we see that there is balance between individuals in the organization. I see this along the lines of WorldBlu (democracy for the workplace) or culture guides such as Valve that are about self-accountability. Other elements:

  • Red flower is for compassion and caring
  • Net is for safety
  • Wand is for passion and purpose
  • Monkey is for me – helping the world connect with play
  • The lion is for courage to do the right thing

Alternatives to create Organizational Structure

An open question for me is how to realize my future state organizational structure. The diagram above shows three possible ways for me to achieve this.

I can continue to work as an independent but invest time and energy into building a close network of partners who share my vision. (Shown on left)

I can build a regional consultancy with others. (bottom)

The third option is to join an existing organization that is compatible with my vision. Some candidates are Agile42 and NuFocus. (on right)

What’s Left?

Lots. My goal for the next six months is to explore relationships and do some safe-to-fail experiments to test out these alternate structures.

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How to Conduct an Informal 360° Review

Scott Edinger talks about how to conduct an informal 360° review for yourself: ask the people around you these four questions:

  1. What are my strengths?
  2. What are my fatal flaws?
  3. What strengths work best for the company?
  4. What strengths work best for you?

Consider Johari Window

Another great approach that is more general is the Johari Window technique. Again you are going to want to get input from others, but this time with an eye towards discovering who you are by sharing hidden perspectives.

Want a high performance team? Then have the whole team do this exercise together. And of course  Strategic Play® with Lego® SERIOUS PLAY® is a great way to explore a topic such as interpersonal perspectives.

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Explaining Agile with Lego

At Agile 2011, I spent a lot of my time in the OpenJam running sessions on StrategicPlay® with Lego® so that people would have a chance to experience what I see as a strikingly powerful technology.

What follows are some of the models and deep insights that were developed about Agile and how it is experienced at companies. Even though I know a fair bit about adopting Agile, I still find I learn a lot hearing these stories.

Scrum Alliance Leadership

See related post Scrum Alliance Leadership – Models for Success

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Scrum Alliance Leadership – Concrete Actions

This post identifies concrete actions. See also: Acceptance Tests and Models for Success.

The final step was to identify concrete actions that the Scrum Alliance organization and membership can take to move toward the goals associated with specific parts of each model. This is the list we came up with. Each item was given a “thumbs up” or support vote. (There was only one thumbs down, but this was cleared with further discussion/explanation).

  1. Create an initial Product Backlog of actions and desired future conditions. This list is a start.
  2. Make that backlog visible to all members.
  3. Create a mechanism to make it easy for members to volunteer for tasks associated with items on the backlog.
  4. Find someone (or several persons) to facilitate the volunteer mechanism.
  5. Develop ways to detect new trends and opportunities that may impact the SA and/or be influenced by the SA – eg. the new PMI/Agile certification program.
  6. Develop a means for official public response to such trends and opportunities.
  7. Start/continue building “bridges” with related communities involved with such trends and opportunities.
  8. Apply Scrum/Lean/Agile tools (timeboxes, teams,  iterations, WIP limits) to work on these backlog items and management of the overall SA portfolio.


Note: Sorry we didn’t get everyone in the picture…

  • Bob Allen
  • Brad Swanson
  • Chris Sims
  • James Smith
  • Heidi Helfand
  • Mark Levison
  • Bjorn Jensen
  • Christoph “Krishan” Mathis
  • Carol McEwan
  • Roger Brown
  • Henrik Kniberg
  • Skip Angel
More photos can be found on Flickr.

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Scrum Alliance Leadership – Models for Success

This post identifies two visions for successful leadership within the Scrum Alliance. See also: Acceptance Tests and Concrete Actions (& Participants).

The group was divided into two teams. Each team independently went through the Strategic Play® visioning process:

  1. Every team member built a model representing their ideas to support thought leadership.
  2. In turn, each team member shared their ideas through the Lego model.
  3. The models and ideas were integrated into a shared model. The results are shown below.

Shared Model from Team 1

Some Notes:

  • Low barriers to entry
  • Transparent
  • A source of ideas (not only source)
  • Listening to outside ideas
  • Building bridges to other communities (PMI, Kanban, etc)
  • Welcome other community members into our community
  • Stepping places for learning and different approaches
  • Many people working to move SA forward with coordination of effort and needs
  • Let go of past
  • Have awesome tools and capabilities within our community

Shared Model from Team 2

Some Notes:

  • Simple machine with inputs and outputs
  • Inputs are multiple communities through individuals and “antennas”
  • Collect ideas in central backlog with adequate levels of transparency
  • Courageous Leadership to move ideas forward
  • Other leaders to spread ideas
  • Assisting people with entry to so they can grow
  • Building bridges with other communities


There were a number of key differences between the models.  A few are discussed below.

What kind of leader? The inclusion of the Crown by one group was particularly challenging due to symbolic association to a king and absolute authority. Upon clarification, it was used to represent strong leadership that was inclusive of other voices and opinions. Something more than a facilitator and less than an authority.

What communities? The first group was much more oriented outwards to other parts of the Agile community and even wider. The second was focused more on the different communities or membership within the Scrum Alliance. So, both internal and external stakeholders are important.


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Scrum Alliance Leadership – Acceptance Tests

This post identifies acceptance tests for successful thought leadership within the Scrum Alliance. See also: Models for Success and Concrete Actions (& Participants)

Process: Everyone built a model for an acceptance test and each group voted to select the two most valuable acceptance tests. So there are four acceptance tests in total.

Acceptance Test #1 – One Leader, one Message & people following

Acceptance Test #2 – Tuned in to community and able to influence it

Acceptance Test #3 – Build bridges between communities

Acceptance Test #4 – Start with one concrete thing supported by multiple communities

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Agile 2011 Preview – Innovation Games and Strategic Play with Lego

I am heading off to Agile 2011 and I wanted to share why I am really excited to be attending.  It’s really all about the power of play.

Understanding Flow through Games

I was fortunate to be accepted to the Agile Bootcamp track to present Lean Fundementals: Understanding Flow through games. I am thrilled since this touches on two passions of mine – Lean/Flow thinking and using games for learning.

Strategic Play® with Lego® for Solving Serious Problems

I am going to run two open jam sessions (each with a maximum of 14 participants) to use  Strategic Play® with Lego®  to solve some serious problems or build a shared vision. I will announce the times via twitter (follow-me) and also using the open jam board.

One of these will be focussed on generating leadership ideas for the Scrum Alliance. Some example acceptance tests for leadership are:

  • There is a clear compelling vision of the Scrum Alliance that is supported by 70% of the membership.
  • Satisfaction with leadership in Scrum Alliance is high. (e..g more than 4 out of 5 on survey).
  • Public perception of the Scrum Alliance is positive.
  • Members feel like their voice is heard regarding key decisions.


Innovation Games® T-Shirt Contest

You probably already know that Innovation Games® are amazingly powerful for supporting Product Owner/Manager communication and discovery with customers and stakeholders.

What you may not know is that there is a game at Agile 2011 for promoting awareness about Innovation Games® using a photo contest. Get your picture with me and other trained facilitators to win cold hard cash. I am very excited to participate and am bringing my two t-shirts. See front and back below. Sadly, my new tshirt did not get here in time…

Tasty Cupcakes – Game on!

I have been working with Mike McCollough and Don McGreal to accelerate as the destination site to find and share games for learning about Agile and for games that do valuable work.

Games provide a way for people to play to get outstanding business results or accelerated learning.  Spot me wearing a TastyCupcakes tshirt and I’ll help you find the game for you!

Coach’s Corner

As a Certified Scrum Coach I thought I would pay it forward by participating in the Coach’s Corner to help coaches.

If you were thinking that this is not about play or games, well either you are right or life itself is a game. A collaborative one.

My office hours are:

  • Monday 8am-9am
  • Thursday 5pm to 7pm
  • Friday 8am-9am




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StrategicPlay® with Lego® SERIOUS PLAY® – Creative, Collaborative Solving of Wicked Problems

StrategicPlay® with Lego® SERIOUS PLAY® is a powerful experiential tool to enhance innovation and business results. This post provides a brief introduction to summarize what I learned when I attended the amazingly good facilitator training with Jacqueline Lloyd Smith last month.

Understand Complex Problems

For me, the heart of StrategicPlay® is that is brilliantly assists a group to create a shared understanding of complex problems and of each other. Consider the complex model constructed below that was evolved iteratively over the course of the day through phases of building, storytelling, and integration. The physical model has no inherent value – it is the meaning the participant place on it, the decisions, and mental models that matter.

Applications and How it Works

Consider the diagram below. The ovals identify some typical applications of StrategicPlay® and below them you can see the mechanisms used to achieve these results.

At it’s most basic, StrategicPlay® is a facilitation tool. Other facilitation tools are sticky notes, GameStorming, and Visual Facilitation.

Why it Works

Below are some of the key reasons why StrategicPlay® works so well. Please read it (click to for full-size picture) as there is too much good stuff to summarize. (If you want a screencast, let me know by twitter or comments).

StrategicPlay® is based on research that shows that this kind of hands-on, minds-on learning produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its possibilities. It creates the perfect storm by engaging the brain, body, and emotions of the participants.

On the right is a crazy picture of a homunculus to help you connect with some of the research. This how psychologists believe our brain is connected with our body. Notice that connections with hands is disproportionately large – when we use our hands, we can use more of our brain. We are wired for using our hands, not for sitting around a table talking.

Where did this stuff come from?

Starting in 1999, the Lego® company worked with business consultants and psychologists to solve their own problem of developing and effective company strategy. The outcome was the invention of Lego® SERIOUS PLAY® which was made open source in in June, 2010. StrategicPlay® was created to develop new applications and train facilitators. If you are curious, check out this presentation on the History and Evolution of StrategicPlay®. You may also want to get Katrin Elster’s view on How and Why StrategicPlay® works.

Wow! This is Cool! What’s next?

Good news is that this is really powerful. The bad news is that this is a complex tool and requires significant investment.

It’s not like a lot of Agile games where you check out a recipe on and then you just do it. Sadly, you can’t just dump a bag of random Lego® pieces on the table and expect results.

So here is how to get started:

  1. If you have never had a chance to experience StrategicPlay®, then that’s the first step. You need to get your own sense of how cool this really is. Ask me or another StrategicPlay® facilitator to give an introductory session in our home town or at a conference.
  2. Get training in North America (where I went) or in Europe.
  3. Buy specially designed Lego® kits. Yeah, they’re expensive and you need ‘em.

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Three Ways to Use Play for Business Results

Play is a profoundly powerful tool for achieving business results. I think of three main ways to accomplish this: Using explicit play to do work, using play for learning, and building people’s play muscles.

Consider the following diagram:

Play for Work

The goal is here is to take difficult, boring, unproductive work  and create great results through play. In the diagram, I give a few examples of how to make work through play:

  • Innovation Games® have a proven track record of using play to help companies understand their customers and build innovative products.
  • Planning Poker is a well-established team based estimation technique that is now complemented by other estimation games.
  • Lego® Strategic Play® is a hands-on activity for solving tough problems, team development and creating company strategy.
  • The world of facilitation provides a host of engaging activities from team retrospectives to Open Space.

For more information, check out some ways I help clients with bring play to work.

Play for Learning

I have been very involved in games to assist people learning about Agile, Lean, etc. I made a helpful diagram that shows different types of games and what they can be used for. Probably the best place to go to find a game is – it’s a community-driven and has an ever-growing collection of games. I even volunteer my time to make it better for everyone – that’s how much I care and believe in play as a powerful dynamic.

Of course, play goes well beyond Agile through folks such as training master Thiagi and GameStorming. (Both are on my to-learn list)

Building Play Skills

What if you want to build the skills of your team or organization to harness play as part of daily work? To have play and creativity permeate everyone and everything? For this, your best bet comes from dramatic techniques such as ArtfulMaking and DramaTech. Also, strongly recommended are Improv skills. You may notice that these are not just about creativity, they are also about listening and collaboration as an added bonus.

For results, play on!

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