Dienstag, 2. Juli 2019

The Ubongo Flow Game (instruction and templates)

Games are a good opportunity to condense temporal experiences and learn together. Karl Scotland and Sallyann Freudenberg published their Lego Flow Game in May 2014. We took the game's main idea, and changed the material. Instead of Legos we use the material of Gregorz Rejchtman's Ubongo Game. These are the instructions of the Ubongo Flow Game.
Fig. 1: Material for the Ubongo Flow Game

About this game

This game simulates project work with different roles in 6 minutes. The players have to finish work packages, and thereby earn value points that we count for each team per round. The game is played in three rounds. We change the process in each round (Waterfall, Kanban, Scrum). The players thus experience that the way they work together has more influence on the result than the individual skills or motivation of the players.

This simulation is now well known in Germany as an introduction to agile ways of working. Search for images in Google or look for tweets at Twitter.

Although this explanation is comprehensive, the game is easy to play. Reserve 45-60 minutes for the game. You can easily manage 2-3 teams. You need assistance for larger groups. The largest group we had consisted of 120 people.

Please: if you use this game or if you publish something about it on your website etc. please point to this original description and mention the authors. 

Thanks

We thank Karl Scotland (http://availagility.co.uk/about/) and Sallyann Freudenberg (https://twitter.com/salfreudenberg) für the development and publishing of the LEGO Flow Game (http://availagility.co.uk/lego-flow-game/).

We thank Grzegorz Rejchtman and the Kosmos-Verlag (in Germany, http://www.kosmos.de) für the development and sale of the game Ubongo. We are grateful for the permission to publish this instruction under the title "Ubongo Flow Game".

Thanks to Sebastian Kolberg (https://twitter.com/kolseb) who translated large parts of the German instructions and without him there would not be a version in English language now.

We do not sell the cards or game material.

Material

  • Ubongo: one Ubongo Game by Grzegorz Rejchtman (Kosmos 692339 - Ubongo, new edition 2015 or the previous edition Kosmos 6961840 – Ubongo)
  • Specification cards
  • Role cards
  • Post-Its (for symbolizing buffers in the second round)
  • Clock for taking the time
  • Flipchart for logging the numbers
Next, I'll describe the material in detail.

Ubongo Game

We need one Ubongo game per group of 4-8 persons (approx. 30 EUR). We only need the 36 puzzle boards and the 4 bags with 12 tiles each.
Fig. 2: Ubongo Game (New Edition 2015)
(The box might look differently in Sweden: https://www.bastaspelen.se/sallskapsspel/barnspel/ubongo.)

Puzzle boards

We need a puzzle board for every workpackage. The players have to fill the placement area with tiles. It's best to orient the puzzle boards in portrait rather than landscape.

Different tile combinations can be used to completely fill the placement area. Every column represents a good combination.

Please be aware of the two sides of the puzzle boards. We only use the side with 4 tiles per column.

The first column always shows the easiest solution.

Specification cards

There is a specification card for each work package. We have created these cards and they are not part of the commercially available Ubongo Box. You will find these cards at the end of this article. A specification card holds additional information:
  • Name of the work package
  • Value (lower left corner, star symbol): values from 1 to 8
  • Effort (lower right corner, hammer symbol): values from 1 to 21
Details to the cards:
  • The name of the work package has no significance. The players do not need it to play well. (It just states the coordinates of a single square. The root of that system is lower left corner A1.)
  • Value signifies the complexity of the pattern. Easy patterns have a low value, complex patterns with a lot of corners have a high value.
  • Effort stands for the relative effort for puzzling using the parts of the first column. A low value means easy to solve, a high value means difficult to solve.

Roles

There are several roles in that game. You should at least have roles 1-4. An ideal group size is 5-6 persons. For larger groups add roles 7-8.

The group can decide to switch roles after each round. You need at least 4 roles:
  • Sponsor (client): Select 6 work packages, two each of value of 3, 5 and 8. If your team finishes earlier, you may distribute further work packages.
  • Analyst: Find the right puzzle boards for the work packages. 
  • Supplier: Select good tiles for the puzzle boards. The first column lists the 4 tiles for the simplest solution.
  • Developer: Cover the given placement area on the puzzle boards with the tiles so that the area is completely covered.
If there are more than 4 persons in your group, you can add these roles:
  • Manager: Report to your sponsor at the end of the project. Create a status report at least once during the project
  • Test manager: Checks that the developer has covered the placement area correctly.
  • Observer: Observe the group at work and make notes on improvement points. 
  • Scribe: Log the time of when each work packagein the second round was delivered.
Roles at different group sizes:
  • 4 players: sponsor, analyst, supplier, developer
  • 5 players: like 4 players and a test manager
  • 6 players: like 5 players and a manager
  • 7 players: like 6 players and an observer
  • 8 players: like 7 players and a scribe

Buffers (sticky notes)

In the second round, you will limit the work in process. Every "working" role (analyst, supplier, developer, test manager) will get two buffers represented by a sticky note. The sticky notes won't slip away while playing. 

Timekeeper

One round lasts 6 minutes. It is useful to make this visible. You can use the following apps on Microsoft Windows:
You can use your smartphone, too.

Flipchart

In and after each round, the numbers of value points achieved by the teams are noted. The flipchart is prepared as shown in the illustration:
Fig. 2: flipchart
  • The time is entered on the X-axis (1-6 minutes, unit 1 minute on 3 boxes).
  • The value is entered on the Y-axis (0-50, unit 10 value points on 2 boxes). ATTENTION: Please leave space up to approx. 175 points. 
  • At the value of 32 points the project goal is drawn with a dashed line. 
  • To refer to the original authors, I write the game name and authors on the flipchart (as far to the left as possible. On the right we still need space). 

Goal of the game

The goal is to experience the effects of different ways of working. The group will play three different working methods (variants of Waterfall, Kanban and Scrum). The simulation should not show that one method is better than another. The simulation will show that you can influence the results much more strongly through the type of cooperation than through individual competence and motivation.

Start situation:
  • The team works together in one project.
  • The goal is to deliver a value of at least 32 points (2x3, 2x5, 2x8 value points) within the project duration of 6 minutes.
  • To complete a work package you have to completely fill the placement area of a puzzle card with tiles.

How to play

The game consists of three rounds. Explain the process beforehand. Do not reveal what you will change in the following rounds.

Explain the process

  • Explain that we will start a process simulation.
  • Explain how to play the game before handing out the material of the game.
  • If there are more than 4-8 players: Divide the players into teams. There should be at least 4, better 5-6 and max. 8 players in a team. The teams do not play against each other. The goal is to learn something about processes.
  • Explain the assignment: Each team must complete work packages. Each work package involves completely covering the given placement area of the Ubongo puzzle boards with tiles. Show the puzzle boards and the tiles. Very important: It doesn't matter which tiles are used. It is only important that the area is filled.

Explain the roles

  • The sponsor selects at least 6 work packages (2 x value 3, 2 x value 5, 2 x value 8). If the sponsor thinks that the team can do more, he/she may also place more work packages. (Show the specification cards, so that everybody sees them). Only after the sponsor has selected ALL 6 work packages they are passed on to the next person. 
  • The analyst needs to find the puzzle boards for the selected work packages. For this he/she gets the stack with the puzzle boards. Only when the analyst has searched out ALL the puzzle boards for the work packages, is he/she allowed to pass them on to the next person. He/she hands over the printed specification cards together with the puzzle board to the supplier, so that the information is combined and the points mentioned on the work package can be counted at the end. 
  • The supplier now selects tiles for each puzzle board. He/she is free in his/her choice. He/she must ensure that the surface can be covered with the tiles. Each column (with 4 parts) represents a combination that we know works. Only when the supplier has selected ALL parts for the work packages they are passed to the developer. 
  • The developer now solves the puzzle tasks. Only when he/she has completed all work packages they are given to the next person.
  • If there's a test manager: This role checks whether the placement area of the puzzle board is properly covered. It does not matter which tiles are used.
  • If there's a manager: The manager creates a report to the client at the middle and end of the project. How much work have we done? Are we still able to complete the project?
  • If there is a scribe: This role writes down the sum of the value points and gives this information to the manager.
  • If there is an observer: He/she observes how people work together.
After each round the roles are switched. Don't worry, everyone is allowed to puzzle. Now assign the roles and hand out the game materials.

The sponsor gets the specification cards last in order to that avoid a team already starts working.

Place the stack of puzzle boards in front of the analyst. Inform him/her that the puzzle boards have two sides. We only use the side where there are 4 rows of tiles.

Place the tiles in the middle of the table in front of the supplier.

Please note that we want to compare the results of the rounds. It is important that the teams start and stop together.

First round

The roles and tasks have already been presented. Start the time now. Set the timer to 3 minutes. When the time is up, ask all participants to stop working.

The managers (if applicable) or the team must now create a report. They first discuss within the team: Where do we stand? Can we still achieve the project goal? What did we observe? Report out to the whole group and draw the achieved value in the flipchart per group.

Remark: Experience shows that no team has finished anything after three minutes. Draw for each team on the flipchart the value, which was compiled (usually 0 points).

Set the timer to 3 minutes again and let the teams work. When the time is up, let the manager create another report. In the first round, you rarely earn many points. Mark the final score on the flipchart.

Overview:
  • Start timer at 3 minutes
  • When time is up: ask for a report. Mark the score on the flipchart.
  • Start timer at 3 minutes again.
  • When time is up: ask for a report. Mark the final score on the flipchart.

De-briefing of the first round

First, ask the teams to return the material to its original state. Ask the group what happened. Why didn't we reach the project goal? Collect all observations / feedback from all groups. If you want, you can use typical management phrases like "No wonder this isn't working. You are not passionate and motivated. But we need motivated employees here".

Perhaps someone mentions as a cause that everyone had to wait. Confirm this. We will change that in the next round. Ask if the teams are familiar with such situations.

Background: This round depicts a classic waterfall with fixed responsibilities and large batches.

Preparation of the second round

Swtich roles within the team. The procedure is the same as in the first round with the following changes:
  • No one has to wait until all the work packages have been completed. He/she may pass on work immediately after it has been completed.
  • Each person / workstation gets 2 buffers, symbolized by two sticky notes (Post-Its). Everyone may pass on work as long as one or two buffers are free. If both are occupied, the work must wait. The idea is not to start work until something is finished. One buffer could be the worker's desk, the other a waiting place. At no time may there be more than 2 work packages at a workstation.
  • When a tester (or manager) takes over the work, the tiles are allowed to be returned to the supplier. So there are no shortage of tiles. The puzzle cards and the specification cards remain with the manager (or the person doing the bookkeeping).
As a reminder, if the sponsor sees that the team is able to complete more than 6 work packages, he/she may select more specification cards.

Second round

Start the time now. Set the timer to 3 minutes. When the time is up, ask all participants to stop working. The managers (if applicable) or the team must now create a report. They first discuss within the team: Where do we stand? Can we still achieve the project goal? What did we observe? Report out to the whole group and draw the achieved value in the flipchart per group.

Experience has shown that all teams are have completed some work packages. Mark the completed value for each team on the flipchart. Set the timer to 3 minutes again and let the teams work.

When the time is up, let the manager create another report. Mark the final score on the flipchart.

Overview:
  • Start timer at 3 minutes
  • When time is up: ask for a report. Mark the score on the flipchart.
  • Start timer at 3 minutes again.
  • When time is up: ask for a report. Mark the final score on the flipchart.

De-briefing of the second round

First, ask the teams to return the material to its original state. Ask the group what happened. Did we reach the project goal? Usually, the group will have done so.

Point to the flipchart. Ask the group if this was a good change or a bad change. (By the way, this is empirical work. You make hypotheses, collect data and evaluate the result on the basis of the data.)

It is already clear that the result of the work depends on the system of cooperation and not on the motivation of the employees. The same work was done as in the first round. But the team did more overall.

Here you can also see that you have to look at the whole system. It is not enough for one person to work faster. It depends on the total throughput.

Finally remove the buffers from the table. Background: in this round the players got to know Kanban. The sticky notes represent the WIP limits.

Preparation of the third round

The procedure is the same as in the previous rounds, but with the following changes:
  • We cancel the specialized and dedicated roles. Remove the role cards for analyst, supplier, developer and, if necessary, the tester from the tables. Only the sponsor role (and manager, observer and scribe) remains. We now have cross-functional teams. When someone takes a specification card, he/she searches for the right puzzle board, selects good tiles, and fills the placement area of the puzzle board. For the test he/she briefly shows the work to another team member before handing it over to the manager.
  • Instead of 2 x 3 minutes, we now simulate 3 x 2 minutes. After 2 minutes there is a short break so that we can write down the value points. In addition, the teams have to sit down and think about what they want to change in the next 2 minutes in order to improve.
  • Like in the second round: When a tester (or manager) takes over the work, the tiles are allowed to be returned to the supplier. So there are no shortage of tiles. The puzzle cards and the specification cards remain with the manager (or the person doing the bookkeeping).
Overview:
  • Place the stack of puzzle boards and the tiles in the middle of the table.
  • Remove the role and and the role cards for analyst, supplier, developer and, if necessary, tester.

Third (and last) round

Set the clock to 2 (!) minutes and let the teams work. When the time is up, let the team create another report. Enter the value on the flipchart. Ask the team to reflect and agree on one improvement action to try out in the next 2 minutes.

Repeat until the 6 minutes are over. Go through the tables. Remind the teams that it is only important to fill the area. It doesn't matter which tiles are used. Just make sure the area is filled correctly.

Overview:
  • Start timer at 2 minutes
  • When time is up: ask for a report. Mark the score on the flipchart. Team agrees on one improvement action.
  • Start timer at 2 minutes again.
  • When time is up: ask for a report. Mark the score on the flipchart. Team agrees on one improvement action.
  • Start timer at 2 minutes again.
  • When time is up: ask for a report. Mark the final score on the flipchart.

De-briefing of the third round

First, ask the teams to clean up the tables. Ask the group what happened. Did we reach the project goal? Mostly the group completed a lot more.
Point to the flipchart. Ask the group if this was a good change or a bad change. Why did we complete more? After all, it was the same people and the same work.

In this round we see clearly that the way we work together has a major influence on the result.

Background: cross-functional teams are a feature of Scrum.

Why does the game work?

The simulation works well:
  • No team can do everything in the first round. The large batches lead to long waiting times. It only works if the analysis can finish quickly and the team has a good puzzler.
  • Even if a team manages everything in the first round, in the second round it manages much more and delivers value earlier.
  • In the third round, the handover points are omitted. The free access to all tiles makes the puzzle task a lot easier.

Templates

If you want to try the game yourself, you will find the short description, roles and order cards as PDF and PowerPoint files: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B0OytVvtT0h4VWZ2cXhEM3dncU0?usp=sharing
  

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