Agile Games for Remote Teams
Due to Covid-19, many individuals and teams have transitioned to remote work and have no in-person interactions with colleagues. Many were also not prepared for the inherent challenges of virtual work and require extra support. One way to help team members navigate this new reality is to introduce and use Agile games to bring your remote team members together. These games work equally well in person, so use them when your teams can be together again.
These agile tools are an excellent way for Scrum Masters to orient teams to Agile processes and are foundational to team building. Many Product Owners and Scrum Masters have increased team cohesion, encouraged collaboration, improved team member relationships, and generated trust among Agile team members. A Scrum Master will also find games to be a great way to help teams learn more about agile values and principles.
Try some of the following games to bring your teams together for a remote or in-person work reset.
Learn Someone’s Life Story in Five Minutes
This is an excellent exercise in listening, mirroring, and helping team members learn about each other’s interests and build relationships. To play, place people into pairs and set the clock for five minutes. Instruct them to tell their partner their entire life story within that time. After the five minutes are up, the listener must relay their partner’s life story from memory to the virtual group.
The Birth Map
Goal: Team Cohesion/Trust
Another fun virtual team-building game is the Birth Map. Print a map of the world or upload it to a shared document or online whiteboard. Ask everyone on your team to put a sticker or a pin on the map to show where they were born. Then encourage everyone to share a short story about what they love most about the place they were born. This activity illustrates the diversity of voices represented on your team and allows people to share their cultural values and share some fun facts about where they are from.
A great alternative when many people are from the geographic region is putting a pin on the area of their favorite food comes from and tie in a follow-up discussion.
10 Common Things
This Agile game is good for starting a brainstorming session to have the team feel connected. Originally an in-person activity, it can be easily amended to work for your virtual audience.
Divide your team into small groups and ask them to spend ten minutes coming up with a list of ten things they have in common. If you prefer to keep the topic more business-oriented, limit the list to work or industry-related topics. It can be as simple as “we all wear shoes” to something more specific like, “we were all hired in 2014.”
Each time someone has something in common, they draw a string (or physically toss a string) between each other. By the end of the exercise, there will be many intertwined strings, and the team will realize they have a lot in common – the intent of the exercise.
They may have fun doing it, creating a bond, and being creative, but the intent is the most essential aspect as it spills into future behavior.
Wow, Wondering, Worried
Goal: Improve Retrospective
This graph-like retrospective game allows teams to laser-focus their attention on specific issues, stimulate ideas, and spurs discussion. For example, teams can evaluate how they conduct meetings or how they foster relationships with outside stakeholders.
Create a graph with a horizontal axis depicting workflows or items you want to rate and a vertical axis with three predefined labels: Worried, Wondering, or Wow.
Team members then need to rate every item on the horizontal axis.
In the end, you’ll have a visual representation of what your team thinks about every meeting or item on the X-axis. This game will help stimulate ideas for the retrospective, potentially resulting in improvement opportunities.
Download the SAFe Scrum Master Starter Guide for more great ideas.
Goal: Improve Retrospective
While not a game, this is a retrospective technique we really like. Divide your whiteboard into four areas: keep, add, more, less. You and your team will reflect on your previous sprint and generate ideas and observations to be placed on the board:
Keep: Something the team is doing well and should continue doing.
Add: Something new that the team should incorporate in the next sprint.
More: Something that’s bringing value to the team, and you should do more of.
Less: Something that isn’t going as well, and you should do less of.
A Fun, Remote Demo of the Benefits of Self-Organization
Goal: Teach benefits of self-organization
Mark Reilly developed an exercise specifically to help teams where all team members are working remotely. “It’s a quick exercise for up to six participants, to demonstrate the differences between teams that are tightly managed and those that are self-organizing.” We recommend you visit the blog at tastycupcakes.com and try this game with your team.
Other Agile Games to Explore
There are many more games out there that can serve your teams well. Here are a few other favorites that dive into Kanban, Lean and more.
Kanban Pizza Game teaches Kanban and Lean concepts.
The Penny Game is a great game to play with Product Managers who push teams to add stories to their Sprints. It teachers you need to go slow to go fast.
The Spaghetti Marshmellow Challenge is for beginners in design thinking to practice protyping in testing.
Learn about Lean by playing the multiple games found on Lean Simulations.
This DevOps game is an interactive game that allows one player to role play as a CIO with DevOps teams.
Have more agile questions? Check out our Agile FAQ section.