Timing: This game may take from 20 to 30 minutes

Materials: A multicolor light weight ball, 6 strong sticks or plastic pipes with 21 inches each stick/pipe length, space to walk around while playing


Game brief:

Invite at least 6 volunteers to play this game. We are going to experience various scenarios in this game to demonstrate the need and importance of “collective code ownership” concept.

The volunteers have to come close and hand over them the sticks/pipes. Tell them the ball is their code base. In each scenario they have to make sure to play the scenario without dropping the ball. If balls drops then 1 penalty point. If they complete each scenario without dropping the ball then they get a bonus point. At the end of the game their total score will confirm how they could manage their code.

We need to keep a fixed time period to complete all scenarios mentioned below). This is to make the activity timeboxed.

Team can move to next scenario only after the previous scenario is done successfully without dropping the ball.

Note: If you are playing this game with more than one team then keep a separate scoring board to track the time and final score of each team.

Scenario – 1: Your code increases over a period of time

  • All the participants need to sit on their knees and hold the sticks/pipes with their one hand (left or right does not matter) and try to keep the ball balanced on those sticks. They should not use their other hand at all.
  • Participants have to stand on their feet without dropping the ball.

Scenario – 2: Your code is not static, it changes all the time

  • Ask the participants to walk from their current place to a distance of 5 feet
  • Ask them to make a rotation of their places

Scenario – 3: One team member develops more stories (more code)

  • One person pushes the ball hard
  • Rest of the members to balance this scenario

Scenario – 4: Change the roles

  • Ask the members to switch their positions (not immediate left or right)
  • They need to keep the ball balanced on the sticks/pipes while they rotate their positions







Scenario – 5: A very important story came up!

  • Tell the team that the Product Owner has come up with a very important story
  • The story is to rotate the ball in such a way that the color that is on the bottom side should come to the top

They should not use the free hands and they need to just rotate the ball using their sticks/pipes

Scenario – 6: Couple of members on vacation

  • Ask two team members to drop their sticks and leave the game abruptly
  • Remaining members should be able to manage the ball with remaining sticks/pipes

Learning Points:

The team understands the importance of following concepts:

  • Code should be developed with proper supporting tests
  • Code should be stable even the team is adding new code
  • All the team should have a fair idea on the code base and it should be a collective responsibility and not any more individual owning. Even there is a specialist developers writes some critical parts, there must be a knowledge transfer planned to get everyone up to speed
  • Collective code ownership, making the code stable always, quality of the code should be as per expectations
  • Team should be cross functional so that they can manage the code effectively
  • Manage the technical debt time to time and do not go for work-around solutions or short term fixes









2 thoughts on “Hold the ball longer…stronger… together

  1. I tried this game out with students of computer engineering who have no knowledge of how software gets built. Wonderful response. Tried this out with 6 students, relay batons and a multi color volley ball. Takes appx 1 hr. You can involve 5 sets of students and hen e can give 30 people a chance to participate. (In a class of 80). You will have to walk around and talk to the non participants to ensure all of them are engaged.

  2. We used this game today using items to hand which led to a little variation. We used a set of sticks from a giant pick-up-sticks game and blow up balloons. We started with a simple balloon, so light that it could be hit from one team member to another and kept in the air without the team collaborating very strongly. Then we weighed the balloon down with a blue-tac to represent the code base increases in size and complexity. The result was that the team had to move to a collaborative approach to keep the balloon in the air. The only other variation was to set the team the challenge to move the balloon from one end of a table to another, whilst removing and swapping team members ‘mid-sprint’ to observe the effects. There was an interesting moment where we removed half of the team mid-sprint and the remaining team members slowed down to complete the task more carefully. Lots of simple insights about teamwork, more than code base and testing, though.

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