Team Practices Group/Agile Games West

I (Max Binder) spent a day attending Agile Games West, a pre-conference event before Open Agile California 2016 in Berkeley.

Website and source of resources


I attended 4 sessions which were held concurrently with 3 others (the first was part of the keynote). They were:

  1. The Power of Play: Transforming Agile Teams - Laura M. Powers
  2. The Change Game - Emilia Breton
  3. Agile Metaphors with LEGO® Serious Play® - Paul Wynia
  4. The Sorting Hat - Llewellyn Falco

The Power of Play: Transforming Agile TeamsEdit

The facilitator focused on why "play" is an important psychological component of healthy and effective teams. After an introduction to the concepts of "play" and "flow", and related available resources, the room split into about 6 groups of about 4-6 people each. The groups cycled through 8 different personality types over 3 rounds of 10 minutes per round, and participants were encouraged to grade, on a spectrum of 0 - 10, how much of a certain type they were. They then tallied up the totals across the groups (where "total" was "raise your hand if one of your top two personality types was X").


The Change GameEdit

This group was shown how the game Fluxx can be used as a teaching experience for the inevitability of change and adapting therein. 3 groups of 4-6 people were given a copy of Fluxx each (2x Monty Python and 1x Zombie). The facilitator roamed the room to clarify any rules quirks and generally observe patterns. After about 30 minutes of play, a team finished, and the group returned its attention to the room to discuss the experience. Players noted

  • that the game could be used as an analogy for over-engineering process or requirements (the rules change almost every turn),
  • the challenges of leaving one's comfort zone (Fluxx encourages silly behavior), and
  • how the game can be used to rapidly bring a group of people who don't know each other together (such as a newly-formed software team).

It was also suggested that the game could be used to illustrate how hard it is to move people between teams, though this was speculative and was not tested in this session.


  • Session description excerpt:
    • "In traditional project management we are all taught to toss up as many barriers to change as we can. Change is something to be feared and avoided; it is the killer of projects. Whereas in agile adapting and responding to change is at the root of each framework. In today’s modern agile environments, conditions, requirements, tools and even the overall goals can change overnight. Fear of change is often at root resistance to change. This game helps teams practice embracing change in a fun, safe space."
  • Fluxx website: http/The beast in carnage.www@sccpss/or Twitter

Agile Metaphors with LEGO® Serious Play®Edit

The facilitator distributed a pack of Legos to each person in groups of 6-8 participants. Participants were instructed to build a tower, and after were asked to construct a story, on the spot, based on their own tower. They then shared their story within their group. The facilitator then ran through a series of slides, each of which had examples like "Requirements" or "User Value" or "Testing" and participants were given 2 minutes to create a story using their Lego models. The purpose of the exercise was to illustrate the power of metaphors, and how it doesn't have to be complicated to get the point across (in fact, the timebox was also meant to limit the tendency of participants to tweak their Lego models to no end).


  • Session description excerpt:
    • "Using LEGO® Serious Play®, explore the power to creatively describe common Agile practices and processes, allowing for fresh insight into the challenges we face in our work.  Using metaphors in these ways can help unlock a shared understanding, build empathy, and create connections."
  • LEGO® Serious Play® website:

The Sorting HatEdit

This session was run by a Tom Hardy doppelganger who explained how quickly people can learn to recognize patterns (and "become experts" on previously unknown topics), and how that can make it easier to do things such as scan a codebase for bad code. Using a method originally designed to teach pigeons to recognize when medical scans showed cancer, or to identify the sex of young chickens, the group was put through its paces comparing different types of things from a category. Starting with different types of sparrows, the group eventually learned how to recognize the difference between clean and cluttered code, and even different programming languages that few knew beforehand (in this case, Rust vs Haskell). The Cynefin Framework was also explained for a sequence determining complex vs complicated images. The facilitator went into detail about how the subconscious mind learns to recognize patterns, and then the logic-brain constructs narratives after-the-fact to justify what the pattern-brain knows to be true, even when those narratives are illogical ("I knew it was X and not Y because it was more 'relaxing' to look at X").