Agile games night: Lost in the Desert

We met again at the Wemanity Agile Tuesdays, and this time I joined the game “Lost in the Desert”, a self organizing exercise.

In this game, a group of people (around 8) are supposedly flying through Africa when the plane crashes on a desert.  All of the participants survive the crash, and they find themselves on a desert with a list of 15 items:

The game begins now, first letting these 8 people think by themselves and come up with their ‘personal’ list on how to prioritize these 15 items. Give them 10 minutes for that.

Once they have it, they have to keep for themselves their own list, and during the next 20 minutes discuss with the group to come up with a ‘common’ prioritized list.

You can guess that the objective of the game is not to the list itself, but more the analysis of the interactions, the thinking and acting behind the process of finding the ordered list.  This is our result:

 

Let me tell you that we have been congratulated by our Agile facilitator, because a regular result of this game is … no list at the end of the 20 minutes! He told us that usually people get lost on discussions and don’t deliver. And you know the saying: “A bad decision is better than no decision”.

To measure your result, compare your ‘personal’ list to the ‘common’ one.  For that you could add the distance of objects in each position between the 2 lists. Did you do better or worse than the group?  Sometimes you can observe that the ‘common’ list is better than any other ‘personal’ one: collective intelligence worked there at the most!

You could also compare how is your ‘common’ list related to an ‘expert’ survival list? This is just for fun, but I’m sure you are curious as me to learn survival skills for your next holiday trip to a desert 😉

As always in Agile Games, the interesting part is the debriefing after the game: that’s where you reflect on your own behavior, on the other’s ones, and you learn and improve yourself.

  • How was the process done? (in an ordered way, with shouting and frustrations or calmed?)
  • Did a vision on what to do emerged (do you stay there waiting for the rescue, try to rejoin civilization,..?).
  • Did more specific goals have been defined? (to survive, to get help, to get noticed..)
  • Who emerged as natural leaders?
  • Did everybody have the opportunity to talk? Remember collective intelligence is usually better than one person’s decision
  • What strategies have been used for negotiation? Which ones worked better?

If you work in Agile, you can immediately relate this exercise to many parts of the process:

  • the Sprint planning, where we define the goal of the Sprint, a common vision that will help get aligned the many small personal decisions every team member takes while doing their job.
  • the role of the SCRUM Master, allowing time to everybody to speak.
  • defining your prioritize Backlog features… going back to the game, I hope you gave a high priority to your parachute so you could be on the shade during the long hours of negotiation 😉

Want to know the optimal prioritized list? One done by an expert on survival on the wild? Drop me a line and I’ll reveal it to you 😉

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