This is a fun and effective way to replicate the challenges of scaling product development across many teams.
It puts teams into a situation where they need to turn their individual features into one collective increment within a Sprint. They need to work out how to manage dependencies between teams as well as cross-team requirements and constraints. Consider running this exercise right before introducing a group to a scaling framework, such as Nexus.
Setup: Teams are presented with a Product Backlog and constraints (Definition of Done & NFRs) for a bound booklet about animals in the Nexus Zoo. Each Product Backlog item represents a page in the booklet (along with some acceptance criteria).
Cover Page : Zoo logo and name centered on top of page ; Map of the zoo ; Images of at least three animals
Narwhal Page: Show both common and scientific name; Three sentence description of animal ; Sketch of the animal ; Same color paper as Unicorns ; Small zoo logo on top right
Plan: Teams have 4 minutes to select at least one item from the Product Backlog and plan their Sprint.
Sprint: Teams have a 10 minute Sprint to create a complete increment. The increment must meet the Definition of Done.
e.g.: Common copyright, center bottom of every page; 1 color Sharpie per page; Text should be clear and readable with no crossed-out wording (errors); One-sided page; Integrated into the booklet; No more than 3 of the same color paper; No 2 consecutive same color paper.
Observe: Just step back and let it happen. As a facilitator you really shouldn’t have to do anything else. The point of it is to see how separate teams self-organize to deal with dependencies. You can give your honest opinion about things they are making, but if you are asked any questions about how to proceed, just play dumb.
For example, we were asked what the copyright should say exactly, we just said ‘Oh wow, never thought of that. What do you think?’. The participant then looked up copyright laws on his phone and presented us with options. We picked one and he then asked how the other teams would know to use the same copyright text. We just shrugged our shoulders. So he grabbed a mic and made an announcement to the rest of the room.
Some things to look out for:
Debrief: Stop the Sprint promptly at the 10 minute mark and examine the increment with everyone.
Debrief the exercise by pointing out many of your observations. Discuss pros & cons of their scaling practices and start to tie it to the Nexus framework (or any scaling solution).