Agile Penny Game

The Penny Game

We believe that play is an important part of learning. It encourages collaboration, provides a safe place for mistakes, and results in observations that can be directly applied to daily work.

One game to play in agile trainings is the Penny Game. The goal is to encourage self-organization and demonstrate how a team is less productive when processing large work loads. It also teaches the team the difference between in the delivery speed of when a customer receives an iteration vs. the speed at which they would receive an entire product.

Game Requirements

  • 20 (virtual) coins / pennies
  • 5-7 people per team
  • recommended: video conference with all participants

Objective

The project is complete once all 20 coins have been flipped and passed through each Worker, following the rules presented.

Team up!

All members are assigned to be Workers. This is a variation to the table top version of this game. The functionality of Manager and Customer are covered by game algorithms.

A Few More Things

  • Work is defined as turning a coin from one side to another - this happens by clicking on the coins in the game
  • Once Worker 1 has flipped the coins, Worker 2 will flip opposite, etc.
  • The game takes place in four iterations.

Iteration 1

The first Worker flips the coins one by one and when they are all flipped, he/she passes the batch to the next Worker, and the last Worker passes the batch to the (imaginary) Customer by clicking the respective button.

Each Worker passes the coins to the Worker next in the list. In this first iteration, Workers have to work with the entire batch...all 20 coins.
At the end of the iteration, the results are shown in a table. The data recorded will include the time it took for each Worker to complete their Work and the overall time for the full iteration to be completed.

Organize for a 2-minute retrospective to allow the team to identify any process improvements that would allow them to work faster.

Iteration 2

Teams need to update their process following the retrospective.

New Rule: Reduce the batch size from 20 coins to 10 coins.

Run Iteration 2, time results will be recorded again. This time there is no retrospective at the end of Iteration 2.

Iteration 3

Teams need to update their process following the retrospective.

New Rule: Reduce the batch size from 10 coins to 1 coins.

Run Iteration 3 and record the time results on the table.

Feedback

At the end of the game, the team should be asked how they have felt about the game, whether they noticed differences between iterations, whether the results have changed and, if so, why, and whether they have observed an impact related to the size of the batches.

When running a batch of 20 coins, the individual Worker's performance is the best. However, time to customer delivery is the longest. Additionally, the Customer didn't receive anything until the entire project was completed. There was no opportunity to make changes.

The smaller the batches get, the more the individual performance suffers. However, the Customer is getting the product faster. AND by allowing the Customer the opportunity to see the product in batches, he has the chance to make changes since the entire work isn't done. (Good thing the Customer isn't submitting change requests during this game!)

Ultimately, the goal is for the team to consider improvements for their day-to-day life.

The "Penny Game" allows the team to learn through self-organization and observation; specifically, that smaller batches can deliver value to the customer faster. In addition, the game demonstrates that the size of the batches has a direct impact on the delivery. With a large batch, the Workers feel more pressure on themselves to get the batch to the next Worker; with smaller batches, the pressure is lower but more constant.