Timing: takes about 40 minutes
Overview: This game is for exploring team members’ responsibility to ask questions to find out the criteria for success, and to understand the importance of close collaboration with the customer/Product Owner to the success of a project.
Materials Needed: just regular white copy paper, enough for three pieces per person
Ask this opening question: at the start of most of your team’s projects, are most of the criteria for success known or unknown? How do the unknowns become known? – spend about 3-4 minutes discussing
Pass out a piece of standard white copy paper to every one in the group.
Iteration 1: someone volunteers to be the PO. Facilitator takes them off to the corner, and whispers to them the “product” they’re looking for – e.g. paper airplane. Ask group members to make something with the paper that they think the PO would like, giving them 5 minutes. Then bring PO back, have them go around and accept or reject the products they have made. Discuss how it felt to problem solve under those conditions, and assess the results.
Iteration 2: a different person volunteers to be the PO. Facilitator takes them off to the corner, and whispers to them the “product” they’re looking for – e.g. paper boat, then brings PO back to the table. Inform group members they can ask Yes or No questions to find out what they should make. Give them 5 minutes to ask questions and make something. Discuss how it felt to problem-solve under those conditions, and assess the results.
Iteration 3: a different person volunteers to be the PO. Facilitator takes them to a corner and hands them a piece of paper with printed instructions for making something – e.g., a paper hat, then brings PO back to the table. Inform group members they can ask the PO anything they wish in order to make the right product. Give them 5 minutes to ask questions and make something. Give them 5 more minutes to play and embellish if they’re having fun. Discuss how it felt to problem-solve under those conditions, and assess the results.
Finish by asking the three Product Owners what it felt like to play those roles, and what the group observed about itself as a team moving through the three iterations.
noticing the frustration and isolation of having to “mind read” versus the opportunity to ask questions
not taking the customer/PO’s availability for granted – asking useful questions that will enable the team to progress
encountering inner resistance about what questions are “okay” to ask when things are really open-ended – removing the constraints we put on ourselves
10 thoughts on “Mind Reading”
A great exercise I must try. Thanks for sharing
Glad to hear of your experiences, Ole and Wayne. Inspiring to see how you’re strengthening the role of the Product Owner! THANKS for adding these comments.
I am delighted that this has worked so well for you all, Ole and Wayne. Gives me inspiration about respect for the Project Owner role. THANKS for your comments!
We just finished our sprint today and we played this game during our retrospective. The team had more fun at it than they thought they would have and we all learned how valuable two-way communication with the Product Owner is.
We also got some pretty fancy hats! The boats were a different story 🙁
This was the second time I had facilitated this game and found it went better after a little practice. Thanks for the idea!
Hi again Elinor. In our Product Owner course (“PO 360” – more later) Jenni has now run this exercise twice, and has now completely discarded all our slides and other exercises about the Product Owners role with/on the team, because this exercise works much better. And I will use this exercise on Friday for a two hour session about requirements. THANKS!!!
Bonus info about our PO 360 course. For inspiration – I hope 🙂
We have named it PO 360, because we’re trying to cover not just “normal PO stuff”, but everything it takes to make Product Ownership WORK – including
– FACILITATION: To make Product Owners better at including others from the business/customer and not only communicate their own story),
– VALUE-FOCUS: Understand the difference between features and benefits – and the “benefit first User Story” – more info here: http://www.infoq.com/articles/communicate-business-value-stakeholders),
– COMMUNICATION SKILLS: PO’s need to be able to make themselves understood, so their stories create meaning for people around them
– LEADERSHIP: The PO is – together with the Scrum Master – the leader of the team, so things work much better, if the PO understand the basics of how people are motivated, etc.
Thanks again, Elinor!!!
GREAT – do tell me how it goes!
Hi thanks a lot Ole. I’ll play this game in the next few days with the teams I coach.
Looking forward to play this with thee team….
MANY THANKS, Ole! This team had fun doing it. 🙂
Have NOT played this game yet – but having been with Elinor on the stoosinactin.dk organizing committee and experiencing her energy and creativity – i HAVE to try it!!!
Thanks, Ole Jepsen
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