Make continuous improvement (even more) fun

A GameStorm Retrospective

GameStorm is a technique for brainstorming developed by Bart Hufen from BrandNewGame. It uses gamification to identify areas for improvement and to make their impact transparent. We have adapted it for use in Sprint Retrospectives to support continuous improvement in teams. This format is excellent for a series of Sprint Retrospectives focused around a recurring challenge and makes very transparent what needs to be improved and how.

Full credits for the format go to BrandNewGame — we only simplified it for use in Sprint Retrospectives. You can obtain all the official GameStorm materials (and many more gamification techniques and digital tools) by becoming a member of the Gamification Academy. Join their upcoming training on March 21 & 22 or in September to learn how to apply this game to organizational change and get more out of it. It fits very comfortably with Scrum.

Material

  • A room with a large table in the middle and space to move;
  • One GameStorm-canvas (below) per group;
  • Green and red post-its;
  • Markers;
  • Two timers;

Steps

  • Play this game with up to 12 people. Split into parallel groups if you have more;
  • Set up the room with a large table in the middle, with the canvas on it. Create two corners for the two teams (see below);
  • Collectively identify an overarching challenge. An example could be: “Expand ‘Done’ to include a tested deployment to production” or “Development Team remains stable for at least 3 months”. Write the challenge on the blue post-it at the top;
  • Collectively identify the three biggest obstacles that need to tackled and write them on the yellow post-its directly below the blue post-it. You can brainstorm these together, or use 1–2–4-ALL to identify them;
  • Ask the team to determine the relative value of the obstacles by asking them to divide 10.000 dollars across the three obstacles: “How much is saved or gained by removing these obstacles?”. Write the values down on the three yellow post-its at the bottom of the canvas. We’re not trying to fly to the moon with these values, so don’t worry about not being precise;
  • Create two teams of equal size (4 to 8, with 6 as the ideal number): The Killers will identify concrete actions that the team (already) performs that keep the obstacle in place or strengthen it. The Dreamers will identify concrete actions that are needed to remove or reduce the obstacle;
  • Both teams take 15 minutes to identify as many actions as they can per improvement. Write them down on individual post-its and collect them in a ‘team corner’, grouped by improvement. You can use 1–2–4-ALL to give everyone an equal voice within their team, and prevent dominant or more extrovert members from influencing the results too much;
  • Ask the teams to physically switch corners, meaning that the Killers now get to see what the Dreamers came up with and visa versa;
  • The teams take 10 minutes to dot-vote the top 3 actions per improvement. So the killers dot-vote the three best actions per improvements as brainstormed by the dreamers, and visa versa. Ask teams to consider feasibility, impact and how actionable the items are;
  • Both teams pick the top 3 actions per improvement and put them in the boxes on the canvas. The resulting canvas now should have eighteen actions; nine actions that keep obstacles in place, and nine that can help remove them;
  • Ask the group to divide the value per obstacle across their six actions identified (both green and red). So if the obstacles in column 1 has a value of 3.000, the team can divide 3.000 dollars across the six actions above it;
  • You now have a canvas with eighteen actionable activities to start or stop doing, and address the obstacles and resolve the overarching challenge. Decide which items the team will pick up first (e.g. during the next Sprint). You can revisit and update the Canvas throughout the Sprint or during upcoming Sprint Retrospectives — until the challenge is resolved;

Tips

  • Provide the team with fake money to make the valuation more fun;
  • Create a leaderboard to promote friendly competition among members or teams. Whoever completes a green action or stops a red action from happening again (as decided by the entire team) earns the points awarded for that action;
  • Create avatars for the members of the team, or the teams themselves if you play with more teams;
  • Keep track of the challenges bested by the team(s) by creating a timeline. You can even treat them like ‘achievements’ that teams ‘unlock’;
  • For some fun, decorate the corners for the Killers and the Dreamers with appropriate attributes;

Give it a try!

In this simplified form, GameStorm is a really fun format for series of Sprint Retrospectives. It creates friendly competition by laying down a simple framework for improvement. It helps teams work from big challenge to small, actionable activities that contribute to solving that challenge. And it creates transparency in what the team is currently improving.

Want to know more about GameStorm? Join their upcoming training on March 21 & 22 or in September to learn how to apply this game to organizational change and get more out of it.