Epic bedtime story

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There are not many games out there to explain and discuss how distributed teams work and for very good reasons. Teams **should** be co-located.
This simple game is intended for any member of your organisation/teams to understand the challenges related to “distributed scrum”.
This also relates to the roles/skills and how natural instincts affect teams so there is no wrong way to play it.
**I tried it with 4th graders to test it before I brought this to the grownups. Went really well in both cases.


The goal is to create a children's book of 10-12 pages within 40 minutes using 2 to 6 teams.

Timing – 40-60 minutes


-Paper (20 to 50 sheets)
-Markers or crayons (1 box of 10 colors by team of 5)


  • If you have the opportunity to do so, set up the room so that teams of 5 will already be together.
  • Select one person in the room to be the creator, sit him/her in front of the room. Works even better if you have somebody you can give the book after.
  • Explain roles and how the game will be played.
  • Walk across the room, gives advice during sprint 1 but not sprint 2.
  • Ask team how confident they fell they will succeed and why they should not for retrospective.

You will recognize the analogy there with Scrum roles vs specialties vs cross functional teams.

Creator (only one creator) – The creator is the one with all the answers. He is not a member of any team and is shared.

  • Wants a Story that can be read to a baby and that the kids could be reading by themselves when they are old enough to read.
  • Wants only one main character.
  • Wants images and texts to be on the same page.
  • Does not want the book to be more than N pages long.

Writers  – The writers will decide what will happen in the story and write the script.
Illustrators – They draw the images, have to be consistent with the writers and editors choices.
Editors – Editors will decide on the overall look of the book, page orientation, grammar, consistency.

Teams are distributed (can have one of each role or one team by role).

They need to sit as far away from each other as possible as if they were in different countries or even timezones.

And one last tip that could be really helpful

A children’s book can be simplified as the following…

  • Cover page
  • Introduction
  • Exposition
  • Rising action
  • Climax
  • Falling action
  • Resolution
  • Lesson learned


Part 1 - Explain the roles and how the game is played - 5-10 mins
Part 2 - Planning (10 mins)
  • Give teams 10 minutes to self organize and plan the work, knowing they will have to work together, split the work and listen to the Creator.
Part 3 - Sprint 1 (10 mins)
  • 10 minute sprint to create a draft
Part 4 - Sprint 1 retro (5 mins)
  • 5 minute retrospective (internal to the teams)
Part 5 - Sprint 2 (10 mins)
  • 10 minute sprint to create a final version.
Part 6 - Demo/Review/Retrospective (15 mnins)
  • Review with the Creator, what does he/she thinks of the result.
  • The whole group discuss about the difficulties they’ve had.

Learning points

  • Teams want and need to communicate to each other even when they are not in the same team/location.
  • We “may” have trust issues and that affects quality and effort.
  • Overcompensation.
  • Not knowing what’s going on at the other end makes some team members insecure. Teams are performing better when they have better visibility (trust).
  • People not familiar with Scrum understand the challenges and how deciding to work with distributed teams has an impact.

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5 Responses to "Epic bedtime story"
  • Eric October 16, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Hi Hugo. I think “Part 4 – Sprint 1 retro” in your Recipe section has the wrong bullet. Seems like the second bullet under “Part 3 – Sprint 1”, 5 minute retrospective (internal to the teams) should be under Part 4. Also, do you have any list of recommended stories from which teams could choose – ones that maybe the teams could really latch onto right away, instead of thinking back 10-20 years when parents had little children?

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  • Hugo Emond November 12, 2014 at 7:06 am

    Hi Eric,
    Thanks for your feedback, I just fixed the glitch in the Recipe.
    II my opinion suggesting a story would make things too easy and you could miss out on important communication.
    For example, if you chose Snow White, everyone knows what color her dress is so they would not have to make sure they have agreed on the dress and made sure they have aligned.
    On the other hand, selecting a known character could save you some time, just make sure you make it so they have to align on the rest of the plot and characters.


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  • Ebony January 9, 2016 at 9:03 am

    I am a little confused about the teams. Assuming I have 3 teams, are the teams made up of writers, illustrators, and editors or should the teams be mixed with those roles? Is the goal for each team to have their own children’s book or for each team to somehow work together to present one complete book to the creator?

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  • REConf 2019 – kiwi-COO business games March 14, 2019 at 2:36 pm
  • Hugo Emond March 14, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    FYI, for anyone who reads this, the goal is to have a single book. I’ve done it several times and it gives amazing results

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