• Nancy Beers

GAME(S) OF THE MONTH: DEBRIEFING CUBE & MEETING SPICER


There are so many games to choose from. But which ones are really worth the effort? Of course, being the Happy Scrum Master, I have quite a few favourites which I'm more than happy to share with you. The last couple of months, we played online and discovered the best online energizers and introduction games. This month, I’m giving a shout-out to the people behind some of the best games in town: Julian Kea &Chris Caswell and Dov Tsal & Regis Schneider.

This month I’ll be discussing: the Debriefing Cube and the Meeting Spicer.

I thought long and hard about discussing these two games. Not because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to discuss them. I do, I really, really do. They’re absolutely amazing and worth talking about but… I just wasn’t sure if I should be discussing them in my ‘Game of the Month’-blog because, well… are they actually games? I tend to describe them as ‘pretend games’: they’re more ways to facilitate certain actions masquerading as games rather than actual games. The aim of these games is not simply to play the game but, for instance, to start conversations or provide structure in a playful way. These games are part of the cornerstones of Serious Play and Playification: learning through play and using play to help streamline your processes. And if you look at it that way and define a game as a playful way to learn something, then yes: these two games are definitely games which means it’s OK for me to discuss them in my GoM-blog. Actually, it’s my blog so I can discuss whatever I want in whichever way I want but I’m sure you get what I was trying to say.

Another cornerstone of the Scrum Master and Play community is sharing information. There are so many different types of Scrum Masters and by sharing games, we exchange experiences and learn from each other. This doesn’t mean that you have to invent games too so you can share them. It’s perfectly OK to make use of the games that’ve been shared with you in some way or other. And if you feel guilty about it? Don’t! But DO share your feedback, because, quite simply, that is the best and most important thing you can share in return. That also applies to these games and they’re continuously updated and improved as a result of the feedback the makers receive from the community. Yes, you need to buy these games but they’re available at a price that’s meant to cover the costs rather than making a profit. They’re both produced under a creative commons license. In short, these games are explicitly meant to be shared! And, as you may know by now, I’m an Open Source Hippie and love to share knowledge! I also believe in supporting other people who’re doing amazing things, so this blog is my way of spreading the word and helping to support these amazing initiatives. It’s always exciting to compare the old and new version and see the improvements that have been made. My latest version of the Debriefing Cube, for instance, comes in this wonderful little wooden box. It makes my smile every time I look at it. I’m such a fan. And now, without further ado, on with discussing these games!

THE DEBRIEFING CUBE

The Debriefing Cube is, you guessed it, a debriefing game created by Julian Kea and Chris Caswell. Debriefing is the most important thing about Serious Play. SERIOUS GAME = SERIOUS DEBRIEF. Without a good debrief, a game is simply just a game. Debriefing is where the magic happens and where you link the fun your team’s just experienced to the lessons that can be learned from those experiences. But debriefing isn’t easy. It’s something you really need to practice and then practice some more. In time, you’ll learn to read your team, evaluate their experiences and, as result, you’ll know the issues that you’ll need to address during your debrief. This game helps you to get the most out of your debriefing by providing you with sets of questions in six different categories and an accompanying cube (or dice). For more experienced Scrum Masters, this game is the perfect way to help you avoid getting stuck in a rut of asking the same old questions over and over again.

The different categories are: Goal, Process, Group Dynamics, Communication, Emotions, and Take-away. These perspectives will help you to address all the levels that need to be addressed during a good debrief.

There are several ways you can set up this game. For instance, you can choose all the questions beforehand, allowing you to guide the debriefing towards the lessons you want your group to focus on. It’ll give you a certain amount of control that can be helpful but….you will also be ‘dictating’ the lessons and you might well miss some wonderful learning moments that occurred during the game that you hadn’t expected to happen.

You can also allow the team to choose the category. Let them decide which perspective they need to focus on. They might have a very different idea of what’s important than you. By allowing them to take responsibility for their own learning experiences, you’ll be able to get more productive results from the game and your debrief. Expect to be pleasantly surprised by all the insights they’ve had that you weren’t even aware of!

Or better yet, let chance decide by rolling the debriefing cube to choose the category. All Scrum Masters, even the experienced ones, have their ‘blind spots’ and by randomising the questions you’ll be able to work around them. It’ll not only help you debrief your group but at the same time help you identify certain subjective notions you yourself might have. A win-win situation.

What I love most about the Debriefing Cube is the versatility of the perspectives and questions and the fact that it enables me to give more responsibility to my team when it comes to debriefing. As a Scrum Master I’m here to support my team, not necessarily lead them and the Debriefing Cube provides the structure to do just that. I also just go over the cards sometimes when I could do with some inspiration. Julian and Chris even provided a few blank cards so you can add any questions you feel are missing. But when you do, please also send them a note with ‘your’ question, there’s a good chance they’ll add it to the next version. ;-)

If you want, you can also download an edition of the Debriefing Cube online. That is, if you don’t mind spending some time with a pair of scissors and some glue to create your own pack. ;)

THE MEETING SPICER

Meetings, meetings, and yet more meetings. Sometimes it feels like all we do is go from one meeting to another and not get any actual work done. It’s one of the most often heard complaints about Scrum, actually, the fact that there are so many meetings. But, the thing is, those people complaining are WRONG. Because if you do it right, a Scrum Team only spends 10% of their time on meetings. 10%! That’s not that much, now is it? The real problem is that companies tend to add yet even more meetings to the mix and those are the ones that take up a lot of time and energy. Another often heard complaint within organisations has to do with a lack of communication. So, simply cancelling all meetings isn’t an option either. I really believe that meetings can be useful but I also really believe that they could be a lot less braindead and that’s where the Meeting Spicer comes in. It was created by Dov Tsal an Regis Schneider as a way to get rid of ineffective meetings. Their mission is to: Hack Meeting Culture Worldwide! Woehoe!

It’s a set of cards that will help you to address your team’s focus and intentions for the meeting by setting them a series of micro challenges designed to make your meetings more engaging, effective and fun. There are 3 different categories: Starting Cards (Green), Delegated Roles (Grey) and Ending Cards (Red).

The Delegated Roles (Grey) are there to help you decide who does what during the meetings without the usual suspects getting assigned the usual tasks. It’s a really neutral way to make sure that, for instance, the only woman in the room isn’t the one having to take notes. My favourite Role-card is the Time-keeper card. When using that card, there’s actually someone in charge of making sure that all the topics are given the time they need but not a second more. Time’s up? Move on, people! Let’s keep this meeting short and sweet! And because that person’s been assigned that role, you can’t accuse them of whining: it’s their task to make sure that you don’t take more time than allotted to that topic.

Starting Cards (Green): These cards will help people focus on what the meeting should be all about, why they’re taking part in the meeting or set a goal to make sure the meeting is effective. One of my favourite cards will ask you, for instance, whether your participation is mandatory. And if not, the follow up question is: is it really necessary? And if so, what is your role during this meeting? Which means that if you answer no to the first two questions, the best thing you can do is stand up and leave. Don’t waste your time on a meeting that isn’t beneficial to your work. Just don’t do it. Leave! I absolutely love it!

Which brings me to another point that is often overlooked but should, in my opinion, be common practice in any meeting. In Open Space environments it’s called the Law of Two Feet: if you are taking part in a meeting and the issues to which you could contribute or that could provide you with useful insights have been addressed, instead of waiting for the meeting to end - and as a result waste time on unnecessary meetings - get up and leave. I know! I know! This is not how most of us are used to doing things and I completely understand if you’re afraid of coming across as rude. But if you clearly explain why you’re leaving and everybody would do it, it would soon stop feeling weird or rude and everybody would be able to spend less time in meetings they’ve got no use for. Mission accomplished!

Ending Cards (Red): These cards will help you evaluate the meeting and identify the problem areas. But because everybody’s simply answering the questions during the meeting instead of pointing fingers or whining about it afterwards, you get to have a discussion about what people think went wrong, could go better, etc. It’s a really neutral way to make people aware of things that could be improved and that they can take with them to make next week’s meeting even better. By addressing these issues head on, you’re creating transparency and that’s one of the Scrum pillars.

What I love about the Meeting Spicer is that it’s just that: a way to spice up your meetings! It makes them fun while at the same time addressing some serious issues that make most meetings those dreaded, everlasting nightmares. But because it’s fun, it makes it easy to participate and figure out how to improve things. My favourite thing about the cards is that they’re marked with a green, yellow or red pepper to indicate the different levels of spiciness. Because well, each meeting is different and not all meetings are suited to some in-depth self-reflection, for instance. But if time-management is a hot topic, make sure to add those questions!

Oh, and how cool is this? At the same time I was writing this blog, Dov posted a link for free downloadable Remote Meeting Spicer on LinkedIn! Get it while it’s hot!

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