In the simplest terms, software development decisions for commercial organizations can be reduced to a calculation of whether the cost of developing the software will be outweighed by the revenue generated or costs saved by the software.

However, what does this mean for government and other non-commercial organizations for whom the impact of software isn’t primarily measured in terms of revenue? How should organizations prioritize work in the face of conflicting goals and metrics? Help more people? Minimize delays? Prosecute more crimes? Lower costs? In this game participants will experience a dice-based simulation that has been created to explore these questions by examining the impact of these decisions on the performance of organizations in changing environments.

Timing: The game takes 45 to 75 minutes to run depending on whether you run it over 2 or 3 rounds, and how long you run the debriefs.

Materials:For each group of 5 to 7 participants

  • Instruction Sheet
  • Basic Rules Sheet
  • Organization Profile
  • Goal Sheet
  • Recorder Rules Sheet
  • A Blank Chart Sheet
  • A lot of dice (4 per person)
  • 3 pens of different colors
  • New Goal Sheet

It is best to have each of the groups around a table.

Instructions: (The three round version. Instructions for the two round version are included in the attachments)

Each group represents the organization described on your Organization Profile card. Most of the participants in each group will roll dice to represent the work of the organization. The recorder in each group will capture how the organization performs. The baseline for how your organization performs is described on the Basic Rules card

  • The group complete ten turns of work. In each turn each of the non­recorder participants will roll the dice and note how many of the organization’s goals were met, and share them with the recorder.
  • The recorder will plot the data on the chart sheet after each round
  • At the end the round, discuss your observations about the round, and any parallels you
    might observe between the game and your actual work
  • At the start of the 2nd and the 3rd round, select ONE of the candidate New Rule cards
    for your team, i.e. an improvement for how your organization can perform. Note on which turn the new rule will take effect

How to run the game:Set up all of the materials except for the New Goal Sheet for each table. Have a short discussion after each round. In the third round, after each of the tables has selected their new rule and have started the round, hand out the New Goal Sheet, and have them start applying that instead.

Learning Points:

  • What is “success” and value within a Government or other non-commercial context.
  • How value can drive prioritization decisions.
  • How the inspect-adapt cycle can drive success within these organizations
  • The tradeoffs represented by prioritizing towards multiple mission metrics

Discussion and facilitation guidance:

  • The first round helps establish a baseline. Ask questions about similarities to what the participants experience in their day jobs. Also ask questions about whether they are concerned about the relative progress against their three metrics.
  • The second round discussion can both address the process by which each group chose their improvement and the outcome. Did groups do any estimation or ranking of the different options? Did groups value their three metrics equally? Many times participants haven’t done anything formal, but the conversation can prompt discussion of different models. Ask the groups how much they factored the time it would take to get the new capability.
  • In the third round discussion focuses on the impact of the change in goals. If there are multiple groups, see if groups picked different capabilities, and did the new goal affecting different groups differently. If participants knew the goals could change, would it have changed their strategy. Ask if groups changed their approach to selecting a new capability based on the discussion after the second round.

Acknowledgements:Developed by David Kane (@ADavidKane) and Deepak Srinivasan (@deesrinivasan). Thanks to the Games for Agility, Learning and Engagement Meetup for the forum to initially workshop the game. Thanks too to Southern Fried Agile and the DC Enterprise Agilists Meetup for the opportunities to share the game.