A yard stick for each team
Ask teams for estimates on how long it will take them. They will usually estimate somewhere around 8-10 minutes.
Pick one ‘tiger-team’ and tell them you really believe in them and you believe they can do it in half the time: <4 minutes. (It is practically impossible to get it done in 4 minutes… we’ve tried)
Then tell another ‘slack team’ to take it easy and give them 15 minutes.
Leave the other team at the original 8-10 minute mark.
Start the timer and watch the fun.
The ‘tiger team’ will have a lot of tension as they rush to stack the dominoes. They will experience frustration and it isn’t unusual to see some in-fighting.
After the 4 minutes are up, examine their work and voice your disappointment. Give them an extra 2 minutes and tell them that they better get it this time. They won’t. So give them another 2 minutes and be sure to mention what a nice manager you are. 🙂
By this time the 8-10 minute team should be pretty much done. In our testing, 8 minutes is a good amount time to build the tower.
What is interesting is that the ‘slack team’ almost always uses most of their 15 minutes, demonstrating Parkinson’s Law.
Debrief by asking each team how they felt during the exercise. Which had the best team dynamics?
- Teams pressured to deliver “faster” are often less productive and deliver less than those with reasonable expectations.
- Teams under stress get stuck in the ‘Storming’ stage and cannot perform to their potential.
- Trust team’s estimates (and other decisions) and see them gain more ownership and performance.
- Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion (Parkinson’s Law)
In his role as VP of Learning Solutions at Improving, Don McGreal is a hands-on agile consultant and instructor.
* Author of the book: ‘The Professional Product Owner”
* Scrum.org Professional Scrum Trainer who has authored and taught classes for thousands of software professionals around the globe.
* Co-founder of TastyCupcakes.org, a comprehensive collection of games and exercises for accelerating the adoption of agile principles.
Don is an Irish Canadian Texan.