Integrating Innovation Games Into Certified ScrumMaster

April 4, 20135 min

Last week I had the opportunity to co-teach a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) course with Jason Tanner.  Jason is a candidate to become a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) and has deep connections with the Innovation Games® community.  When I work with CST candidates my goal is to create a completely new course that synthesizes our perspectives on Scrum, experiences and exercises.  One of the ways that we differentiated our course, and incorporated Jason’s unique perspective, was to use the Innovation Games® to teach Scrum.

In the list below, I document the six Innovation Games® we used in the course , a short summary of the game and brief description of how we applied the game for the course.  Each of the games we showcased in the course can also be played on-line and there are instant play versions of many of these games plus others that might be of use to your Team.

  1. 20-20 Vision – the aim of this prioritization game is to help participants come up with a ranked list of prioritized items where no two items are allowed the same priority.  Once items are prioritized, then we can makes some choices and act.  This is a very useful game to help structure convergent thinking.  In a Scrum context, 20-20 Vision is clearly the tool of choice to establish a forced ranking of the Product Backlog Items and is one of the games I teach in my Certified Product Owner class.  In our CSM course, we used 20-20 Vision to help the learners rank the order of the Scrum values and principles.
  2. Prune the Product Tree – in this visual collaboration game, the objective is to understand how to shape the growth of your products and services to meet the current, and future, market needs.  Prune the Product Tree is a game designed to help us discover our users’s and customers’s perspectives and offers facilitators a valuable tool to support divergent thinking.  During the course, we asked the participants to tell us which aspects and characteristics of the Product Backlog were fundamental, which supported future growth and what areas needed greater clarity in order to create a more balanced and useful Product Backlog
  3. Speed Boat – another visual collaboration game designed to support divergent thinking.  The intention of Speed Boat is to specifically ask customers and users what they do not like about your products and services.  While based on two very simple concepts – post-it notes and affinity grouping – the real power of the Speed Boat comes from the visual metaphor of anchors that hold your products back.  The larger and deeper the affinity groups in the exercise, the greater “drag” the grouping has on your product.  For the learners in the course, Jason and I asked people what they hated about meetings as a way to contrast common meeting grievances with the efficiency and focus of the Daily Scrum.
  4. Buy a Feature – during this prioritization game, players are given a price list of desirable features, a limited amount of (fake) money and are asked “what features would you buy?”  Like other prioritization games, Buy a Feature is designed to facilitate convergent thinking and the key to Buy a Feature is the players do not have enough money, either individually or collectively, to buy everything on the list.  They have to discuss and makes choices as a group.  This is an extremely fun game and I find it always yields interesting results.  We used Buy a Feature in the closing stages of the CSM class to test the participants’s understanding of the Scrum framework and what they felt were the essential pieces of the Scrum framework if you could not buy every piece.
  5. Knowsy – a relatively new game intended to help us discover our customers’s and users’s preferences and to see how those preferences match our own, or other participants in the market.  Knowsy was incorporated in our class when Jason made the observation that I have a Sprint Planning exercise very similar to Knowsy.  I was intrigued, so we used Scrum Knowsy as a way to demonstrate on-line games and see what activities the learners felt were crucial for Sprint Planning.

For me, there were two big take-aways from this experience of co-training with Jason.

  1. When I teach about Scrum, I tell the learners you have to use all the pieces of Scrum or it does not work.  So I was a little hesitant to allow them the option of only buying a percentage of the framework since it might send the wrong message.  However, Buy a Feature gave me useful insights on how the learners understood the Scrum Framework and what I was communicating to them.  The first thing they purchased during the game were the roles.  After the game was over I asked, “Why the roles?”  The participants responded (I’m paraphrasing here), “Scrum is nothing without the people.  If you get the roles right, Scrum will work.”  OMG!  They completely nailed it!  I was so happy they demonstrated that they understood the essence of Scrum.  I have already modified my CSM course to include Buy a Feature for the future.
  2. The on-line games are really powerful.  Way back in 2010, I attended in a Innovation Games® Certified Facilitator course taught by Luke Hohmann and Deb Colden.  Luke runs an interesting class and he inspired me as a trainer to get rid of Powerpoint.  At the time, Luke was just releasing the on-line games but, for whatever reason I did not show a lot of interest in them.  During our course, Jason demonstrated how to use the on-line games for Retrospectives, market research and Release Planning.  Seeing the new and interesting ways that Jason had used the on-line games as a collaboration tool intrigued me.  I am looking forward to using them in the future.