Zhong Zhi, a one-handed agile game for illustrating problems and finding solutions

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Timing: playing takes only a few seconds. The debrief is initially just as short – the point has been made. We’re hoping that’s followed by a fuller discussion.

Materials: None – just your hands.

Instructions

Four person team, around a table in a bar. One member chooses to use Zhong Zhi to surface an issue about poor performance.

Everyone takes their hands off the table. On the count of three, everyone is to put their right hand down on the table with between one and four fingers extended. The team wins if there’s one person with one finger extended, one person with two, one with three, one with four. Ready, steady, play.

It is unlikely this will happen by chance (less than one chance in ten). Repeat until either (a) it does happen by chance, or (b, preferably) someone notices that there’s nothing in the rules about not talking to one another before putting the hands down.

Variations

For the problem of over committal : same game except that the number of fingers put down should be 3, 4, 5 and 6. Either (a) someone says lets use both hands [increase team size] or (b, preferably) the team refuses to play until the goal is achievable.

For teams who want to investigate the sense of winners and losers, or of creative solutions within fixed constraints. The team divides into pairs, preferably facing across the table like a foursome playing bridge. When the hands appear, a pair wins if they have the same number of fingers while other pairs do not. Non-verbal communication is allowed. Once a team has won using a form of communication, that form may not be used again.

Learning Points

“So, we don’t talk to each other unless someone makes us”

“We accepted the crazy target, why didn’t we just say no?”

Background

The first suggestion for a name, Middle Finger, was considered offensive. Zhong Zhi (get a Mandarin Chinese speaker to help you with pronunciation) means middle finger, and we hope is less offensive and cooler.

Written up by Jonathan Clarke with credit to my friends at Agile 2011, in the Agile Game Incubator session run by Michael McCullough and Don McGreal.

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