Thirty-Five

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I was introduced to this technique by Xavier Quesada Allue who told me he learned it from Tobias Mayer. A reference to this can also be found in Jean Tabaka’s book: Collaboration Explained (p207) entitled “Pass The Cards”

Timing:

10-15 minutes

Materials:

A minimum of 8 people, and an even number of people

Anything that you want to prioritise, written on separate cards

One card and one pen per person

Instructions:

This exercise only works with an even number of people and has a total of seven rounds

Give everybody a card with a Product Backlog item on it and a pen

In each round everyone finds someone to pair up with and they discuss the two cards they have in front of them:

  • As a pair, you have 5 points that can be allocated between the two cards based on the relative importance of the two cards
  • No half numbers are allowed so the points must be split 5:0 or 4:1 or 3:2
  • It is not about each person trying to convince the other that their card is more important than their partners card
  • The two people must agree on the scoring split
  • Once the scoring split has been agreed, the pair swap cards with each other and hold their hands up to indicate they have finished the round
  • Once everyone has finished with the round, the facilitator indicates the start of the next round where different pairings will take place, repeating the above process
  • A total of seven rounds are run and then the total of the 7 scores on the card are totalled up.
  • The cards are then laid out in order with the highest scoring cards at one end and the lower scoring cards at the other

Learning Points: 

  • It is easier to prioritise when only comparing two items
  • It is a quick way to prioritise
  • It is a democratic, inclusive process
  • If you have stakeholders who are attached to lobbying for one particular feature, this literally requires them to give it away to someone else

Variations:

  1. Try more rounds to decrease the likelihood of spurious results and cards with the same total score
  2. Try a bigger scoring range to increase the spread and reduce the impact of people unwilling to use the extremes i.e. 9 points instead of 5. While you may still not get many 9:0′s you may get more 7:2′s
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6 Responses to "Thirty-Five"
  • Tobias Mayer (@tobiasmayer) October 24, 2012 at 6:56 am

    Thanks for the credit. I actually learned this game from Matt Smith (http://matt-smith.net/) who used it to set the vision for the Scrum Exchange event in 2006. The form I learned was for setting a vison statement for an event:
    1. Each person writes down their ideal learning outcome.
    2. Swap cards as described
    3. Score out of 7 points (7-0, 6-1, 5-2, 4-3)
    4. Swap five times.
    5. The top two or three cards are then merged/combined to form a vision for the group, which is written up big and acts as the focus for the rest of the event—unless reconceived later (which may happen).

    I like the variation of using this to prioritize backlog items—sounds like Xavier did a “yes-and” on the game :)

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  • Jef Cumps October 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    I played this game several times, and also with an odd number of people. In case of an odd number of people, there’s always 1 group of 3 people. I ask them to distribute 10 points (instead of 7) over the 3 cards. (I play Tobias’ version with 5 rounds and dividing 7 points each round.)

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  • Geoff Watts October 25, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Thanks for the extra information guys – I really appreciate it.

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  • Tobias Mayer (@tobiasmayer) October 25, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I case anyone is interested…
    apparently the game originated here: http://www.thiagi.com/

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  • Sabine Canditt July 14, 2013 at 7:14 am

    I use this game to prioritize the 12 agile principles. In addition to learning about prioritization it also makes the players familiar with the principles.

    Kind regards
    Sabine

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  • Geoff Watts July 16, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Great idea Sabine

    Geoff

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