First Things First?

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A team plots their current and future work on the time management matrix outlined in Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  This visual and tactile exercise can help a team really get to the bottom of what’s most important; and if they’re spending time and energy on things that aren’t that important.  It promotes alignment between team members and leadership (i.e., Product Owner).

Logistics

Timing

  • Prep time – 15 minutes.  This is somewhat dependent upon the quantity of work items you’ll be plotting on this matrix.
  • Running the game – 30-45 minutes.  Again, this is dependent upon the quantity of work items you’ll be plotting on this matrix.
  • Debrief – 5 minutes.  To debrief on the game at the end.  You should be debriefing on the work items throughout.

Materials

You’ll want to do this in a room with a whiteboard, wall, or table.  You’ll need:

      • Tape
      • Markers
      • Hard copies of:
        • The team’s current work items (for example, user story cards; you could also take a “higher level” approach to the game and use features or epics)
          • Each work item should include some metadata:
            • Current status (i.e., “To Do,” “Waiting,” “Doing,” or “Done”).
            • Current priority (i.e., high/medium/low)
            • Size (i.e., S/M/L/XL, size/complexity value, business value)
          • The team’s future work items
            • Limit the quantity of future work to coincide with the team’s next time box (i.e., sprint, week, month)

Instructions

Create Covey’s Time Management matrix on the whiteboard, wall, or table — Urgent & Not Urgent on the top axis; Important & Not Important on the side axis.  (For a visual example, just Google “covey time management matrix.”)

This game is played in two rounds — both are outlined in the sections below.

Round 1

How important were the things we finished?  What things didn’t we finish that are still really important?

  1. Pass out all work items currently in a “Done” status to team members — giving items to the person who was primarily responsible for driving the card to completion.
  2. Ask team members to tape their items in the quadrant where they think that work item was.
  3. With the entire team, discuss placement of work items and adjust as necessary.
  4. Take a picture of the matrix.
  5. Pass out all current work items that didn’t make it to “Done” to team members — again, giving items to the person who was primarily responsible for driving the card to completion.  If the work item was not claimed, ask the team to collaboratively place it on the matrix.
  6. With the entire team, discuss placement of items and adjust as necessary.
  7. Take a picture of the matrix.

Round 2

How important are the new things we’re attempting to do?

  1. Remove items from the matrix that made it to “Done.”
  2. Pass out all new work items to team members — giving items to the person primarily responsible for driving the card to completion.  If the work item does not have a logical team member on deck to work on it, ask the team to collaboratively place it on the matrix.
  3. Ask team members to put their items in the quadrant where they think that item should be.
  4. With the entire team, discuss placement of items and adjust as necessary.
  5. Take a picture of the matrix.

Learning Points

Round 1 Questions (current work items)

- Which types of items got to “Done”?

- Did anything in quadrant 1 or 2 not make it to “Done”?  If so, why not?

- Alternatively, which types of items didn’t make it to “Done”?  If so, why not?

Round 2 Questions (future work items)

- Are we aligned with how we view the importance of the work we’re about to do?

- Are there any adjustments we need to make to our future work items?  Are we trying to do too many important things at once?  Are there un-important things we can take off the priority list?

Keeping this Game Alive

If your team responds well to this game, consider reviving it at the next logical step (i.e., the end of the next iteration)!

You can do this by:

  1. Recreating the picture you took at the end of round 2 above (you could also project this on a screen).
  2. If any new items were added that weren’t previously part of the picture, add them.  Note them with some sort of symbol.
  3. Note the items that made it to “Done.”
  4. Ask any of the round 1 questions listed above.
  5. Play “Round 2” again with new work items.
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