I’ve included various games and simulation exercises as part of teaching my Agile course at the University of Auckland in the last 6 years. For introducing Scrum, I’ve been using the Airplane Game simulation to enable students to experience the iterative model.
This year, I decided to combine my love for Agile with my love for LEGO® and tried the LEGO4Scrum game. Inspired by my LEGO® Serious Play® training last year, I finally took the plunge and dared to use LEGO® for Scrum simulation with my current class of 94 students. These are my reflections from the session and some pics capturing the fun and energy from the day.
Photo Credits: Austin Sutherland and Latha Murugesan
What Worked Well
- Pre-reading and brief overview: An effective session was made possible because a majority of the students read the Scrum GuideTM before the session. I had assigned readings of the Scrum GuideTM and the Scrum Primer in the previous lecture and sent a gentle reminder to read it (along with the option of switching to powerpoint slides if they hadn’t read it beforehand!) I opened the session with some general questions about Scrum (for example, what are the three questions answered in a Daily Scrum?) which students answered, and a brief overview of the Scrum roles, ceremonies, and artefacts before commencing the game.
- The People: The students were engaged and participated in all aspects of the game, including the pre-game planning, the sprints, and the debrief. Their enthusiasm and attention to detail were evident from the detailed and well thought-out models. At the same time, teams kept track of their planned/estimated and actual efforts on the planning wall. As Product Owner (PO), I was given some professional demos of the ‘features’ developed in the latest sprint. Some sleek presentation and negotiation skills were at display and my PO feedback was taken onboard readily.
- The Game: LEGO4Scrum is a great way for students to learn about Scrum through experiential game-based learning. It allowed us to go through the most basic and key concepts of Scrum such as sprint planning, sprints, sprint reviews, estimations, and customer collaboration. I added a slot for sprint retrospectives in the release cycle. Because the teams were building different items (e.g. buildings, shops, parks, etc.) they could experience a variety of story sizes in their estimations. With every sprint, the overall product (the city) came to life, allowing the teams to grasp the incremental nature of the process.
- The Space: The Unleash space truly allowed for a different kind of experience not normally possible in lecture-based classrooms. The wide open space, flexible seating arrangement, large screen monitors, speakers, colourful environment, and of course, heaps of LEGO®, enabled a fun and creative experience.
Improvements for Next Time
- Product Owner vs Facilitator: Since I was playing both roles, early in the session, it was difficult for some students to know which role was I playing in the moment. For example, when I deliberately asked to join a retrospective session, the team kindly allowed me but then I pointed out that they should have tried to gently explain to the PO that this was the team’s private time to discuss process improvement. However, it didn’t occur to them to raise this because they thought I was asking them as a facilitator. Fair point! Improvement Idea: I’m thinking I’ll bring a literal hat along next time and wear it when I am in “PO mode” so its a visual clue for students to know I am now playing the Product Owner and react accordingly 🙂
- Here’s a link to the LEGO4Scrum community website and book for those interested in trying it out in your classrooms/workshops.
- My experiences with using games and games-based learning in university contexts are now chronicled in an upcoming book.
Rashina Hoda, Using Agile Games to Invigorate Agile and Lean Software Development Learning in Classrooms, chapter accepted to the edited book Agile and Lean Concepts for Teaching and Learning: Bringing Methodologies from Industry to the Classroom, 2018 [Link Upcoming]
Thanks to all my lovely students for their active participation, and teaching assistant Dr Latha Murugesan for her excellent support with timekeeping and enforcing (with a whistle 🙂 Thanks to Austin Sutherland and Latha for capturing the energy of the day in some beautiful clicks. Special thanks to Natasha Koekemoer for coordinating all the arrangements with me at the Unleash space beforehand and on the day!
Thanks to Michael Fearne for introducing me to LEGO® Serious Play®, to A/Prof Gerard Rowe and Dr Kelly Moyle for nominating me for the LSP training program, and to my department and faculty for investing in the training.