We’re Having a Party

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Timing: 30 mins


  • At least 10 pages (8.5’ X 11’) per participant
  • 1 marker per participant
  • Stickers


We are having a party, and we need to enlist everybody in the room to create invitation cards (3 per person). Begin by showing an example of what the finished card should look like:

  1. fold page in half
  2. draw a happy face on the front,
  3. write a message on the inside,
  4. sign the card,
  5. stamp the back (sticker) and,
  6. mail the card by dropping it in a box.

Once everybody is comfortable with all of the steps, start the timer and have participants build 3 cards each by completing each step to completion before moving on to the next step; this is known as batch & queue. Stop production about half way through and ask everybody what would happen if we decided to change the color of the paper. How much wasted effort would there be? How does this map to software? Let production continue and note the time when the first card is delivered to the customer and again when all cards are complete. Run the process again. This time, have participants complete a card before moving on to the next; this is known as single piece flow. Again, stop production about half way through and ask the same questions as before. Let production continue and compare the times with the first method. Obviously, the second method is much faster at getting something to the customer, but more surprisingly, the second method is also faster over all. Discuss why this is; if the participants say that it is because they have become more efficient, then run it again with the first method and challenge them to beat their time.

Learning Points:

  • By taking a smaller set of requirements all the way to completion, you get something to the customer faster. Conversely, if all the requirements are processed at the same time, changes later in the cycle become more costly.
  • Single piece flow is often faster then batch and queue. This is due to the fact that each cross-functional participant can take ownership of a module all the way to completion, reducing overall task-switching and hand-offs.
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4 Responses to "We’re Having a Party"
  • Ronica Roth September 8, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I love this game. I remember you ran this game at Agile ’08 with small groups. Can you remind how it changes if you have the idea of small groups or teams? Do you still track time-first-completed overall? Or is each team responsible to time first-completed? Is each small group like a “team”, competing against other teams?

    At what size group do I want to shift to having teams, rather than a single large group?

    I appreciate any guidance for making this game successful with a larger group.

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  • Don McGreal September 9, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Hi Ronica,

    Thanks for the comment.
    I have used this game to demonstrate single piece flow with just one person as well as with almost 100. The learning points can be made whether we group the audience in teams, or just time them all as a whole. Honestly, the only reason we divide participants into teams is to make the exercise more fun by creating a little competition. I usually go with teams of 3 or more.

    Also worth mentioning: to make the game quicker and a little less grueling, I often drop the message writing step of the exercise.

    I hope that answers your question Ronica.

    Happy to help,


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  • Sean March 27, 2014 at 10:51 am

    We just went through this exercise in our agile software engineering course. Though I found it interesting, I found there were some learning biases; the first time around, we were still familiarizing ourselves with the instructions. Of course the second time around will be faster, because we already knew the instructions!

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  • Michael December 22, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Hi Don,

    Card Party seems to run opposite to the multitasking simulation games. Are the results reliable that all cards get done quicker when you do one card at a time to completion?


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