‘Game without Thrones’
is a playful, intense, hands-on simulation using blocks. Game without Thrones is also the key training game in our eXponential Business Agility (XBAP) practitioner Certification course. It’s a Game without Thrones because of the self-organization rules.
We use blocks and figurines to teach you how Agile Organizations work, with no command and control, but instead chapter meetings, tribal treaties, small councils, Leadership as a Service. The game aligns autonomous teams into self-managing streams, and the wit and wisdom of Wildlings …
You don’t need to have read or watched any “Game of Thrones” related material, we just use castles and dragons as metaphor for real life organisational activities and challenges.
The simulation gives participants a hands-on experience of using some of the core Agile patterns taught in the XBAP course, including:
Chapters and Squads
We’ll keep the squads to the optimum size – just 6, and we’ll give each of the 6 squad members a chapter, and let the chapter meetings cross-link squads:
- The Artist: metric is geometric and scale symmetry. Focuses breadth-first, never losing sight of the whole.
- The Architect: metric is enclosed volume. Focuses on reusable practices, tools and building techniques
- The Merchant: metric is # of different rooms. Focuses design on experiences of high-born lords and ladies
- The Maester: metric is sturdiness. Integrity vs winter, wobbles and walkers. Focuses on root causes.
- The Captain: metric is military preparations. Focus on defence via trebuchets, boiling oil, pit traps, etc.
- The Coach: metric is balance – the multiple of all the other metrics. Focuses work on the current bottleneck.
But who builds? Everyone builds. These roles are analytic perspectives, not hierarchical positions. Everyone loves to work with the Lego so it isn’t fair to shut anyone out of it.
Leadership as a Service
Every team has need of leadership yet good leaders are hard to find. So both at squad and council levels we use a simple protocol to supply leadership when and only when a team needs it. It’s called Leadership as a Service:
- If the team are unanimous about a decision, no individual role gets to decide. Servant leaders lead through influence, not authority.
- If the Coach judges the team won’t reach a decision before the Last Responsible Moment – then the coach picks which individual team member will decide based on what kind of decision it is. The Coach never gets to decide the question themselves.
- Members of the team may voluntarily swap chapters at any time if need be. Otherwise your chapter defines the leadership service you provide to your team.
- A Coach can only coach their own squad. For the sake of autonomy, no one is permitted to make decisions for any other squad. That goes for chapters and councils too – they can’t over-rule squads, only define and prioritise the work.
Build – Measure – Learn – Refactor!
Agile Organization is based on interlocking, continuous, high cadence build-measure-learn cycles.
You can plan and release in months and quarters if that suits you, but the plans are continuously maintained, not left to go stale in the face of current learnings.
In this game our build-measure-learn cycles are synchronised to four 5-minute ceremonies. Real world Agile Organizations have a more drawn out cadence than this, but the dynamics remain the same:
where each squad builds and integrates features of the castle. Squads work in their own areas and don’t attempt to integrate their work until the third ceremony …
During the Sprint Squads work separately in their own area – they won’t integrate their solutions with the rest of the castle until the Refactoring ceremony. In Sprint Zero, a squad is concerned with getting into a collaborative cadence and sketching out broad strokes for the layout of the castle as a whole.
The Small Council meeting will define real priorities for Sprints after that.
The main problem for a game-runner during a Sprint is how to get people to stop playing when it’s is done.
where people of the same role share their learnings between squads and propose features and treaties.
Each chapter’s purpose is to share learnings across squads. The obsolete “Scrum of Scrums” pattern provides too little bandwidth to do this effectively. During chapter meetings all the analysts meet each other, all the architects meet each other, and so on, rather than meeting with members of their own squads.
where the squads work mob-programming-style to integrate their new features into the castle while paying down technical debt, and the Small Council meets to prioritise the features that were just proposed by the chapter meetings.
In the real world, Refactoring is essential to continuously pay down tech debt. It ensures the design of each part is the simplest that can possibly work while the whole is balanced in the face of change. In our game, with no fixed product backlogs, there’s plenty of that!
The Small Council
As embodied in the Haudenosaunee council tradition employed by modern day Mohawks and their brother nations in the Native American Iroquois Confederacy, a living tradition in continuous use since the 13th century, a consensus council is made of representatives of its constituent chapters.
While the squads refactor the castle, the Council for Small Matters prioritises new features. It’s made up of reps from each of the Chapters and coached by the representative of the Coach Chapter. Representation rotates from release to release to prevent hierarchy forming. Otherwise we would need a throne …
where everyone rejoins their squads to adapt its way of working to what they’ve learned in the chapters and from refactoring, and to align treaties between the squads. The council members act as bridges between the retros when treaties need modification and ratification.
The retrospective is where a squad decides how it will change the way it works in the next sprint.
XBA: Training in Exponential Business Agility, including ‘Game without Thrones’
To find out more about our Business Agility training and certification please follow the link to the eXponential Business Agility Practitioner (XBAP) course description.
We would be happy to welcome you to the first, ‘Game without Thrones’ in London! … and we hope to see you there!
Christopher William Young
🦅 finaplana AG
Maximizing business value through organizational agility