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How to Prepare an Agile Business Game

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To make playing games "interesting" from the business owner’s perspective, we need to ensure that they are aligned with the business needs. There are four steps in preparing a game: exploring the context, knowing your target group, defining the focus, and deciding how to facilitate it.

Anne Hoffmann spoke about creating business impact with agile games at OOP 2022.

Hoffmann explained the difference between game and play:

Play is the unintended playful experience one has doing things without an intention - or just the intention of playing or doing something playful. A game is a play with the intention of achieving something such as a goal. As such, a game better suits our business environment, because doing business is set up to achieve the business purpose that’s set.

Within a workshop, a game might serve as an icebreaker, as enlighter or become part of a learning sequence, Hoffmann mentioned. She presented a 4-step-model that guides us through the preparation of a game by providing a topic and questions to be answered:

  1. Context - What is the overall context? Which goals have been agreed up, e.g. with the sponsor?
  2. Target Group - Who is there? What do participants expect, want, need?
  3. Focus - What focus do you want to set with the game? What should the experience be?
  4. Facilitation - What is required by you as a facilitator of this game to create the experience as decided in 3? Which questions do you want to ask while debriefing the game to unveil this?

The 4-step-model supports efficient preparation and aligns the game to the overall workshop and its goals. This is by definition creating business impact, Hoffmann concluded.

InfoQ interviewed Anne Hoffmann about preparing agile business games.

InfoQ: How would you define agile games?

Anne Hoffmann: An agile game is a game within an agile-oriented business setup. Let me give you an example. Imagine you are responsible for a workshop that is - let’s say - about communication. With your workshop’s sponsor, you have set up a list of things that shall be addressed. In addition, your sponsor wants to have something innovative and some interaction in that workshop. So, using an agile game to foster some of the topics could be a solution. Now, you need to find out how to best put a game into the context of the workshop.

InfoQ: Can you give an example of how to use the 4-Step-Model for preparation?

Hoffmann: Sure. Let’s take the "Yes and game" in a set up with a group where we want to improve communication. During preparation and using the 4-step-model, this could look like:

1 Context - A training workshop about communication. The topic should be on personal communication and its improvement.

2 Target Group - A group of young project managers who have a strong need for personal growth.

3 Focus - Focus (as in context given) on personal communication and the detection of areas for personal growth.

4 Facilitation - Prepare a set of questions for reflecting on personal growth such as, "What did you observe about your communication style and about others?", "What did you learn about your personal communication style?" and "What are your personal highlights?" These could function as a starting point

InfoQ: How can we play such a game?

Hoffmann: "Yes and" is a very simple improvisation theatre game.

Here is how it works: for a group of 3-5 people, start telling a story as a group. Each person just says one sentence. We play two rounds:

1st. round: The sentence always starts with "Yes, but".

2nd round: The sentence always starts with "Yes, and".

Let the group invent a few stories this way. At the end of each session, ask for observations and discuss the results.

After having played both rounds, you also want to compare: what was different? Again, it is about observation and discussion of results.

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