At the recent AgileDC conference, Ricardo Abella and I co-facilitated a session entitled “The Value of Building Untouchable Towers”. It was adapted from a session that Ricardo attended at Agile2022 by Jessica Guistolise and Brendon Hernandez. This in turn is based on a collaborative elementary/middle school STEM exercise that emphasizes problem-solving through building towers out of solo cups without touching them with your hands, and instead using string and rubber bands.
While the original exercise is good for helping people understand teamwork and problem-solving, it doesn’t focus on value. Ricardo and I felt that having something that put value as the central purpose for the exercise would be beneficial. Thus, instead of teams just trying to build towers of different difficulties, we created a scenario that put people into teams under the same fictional company and gave them a customer.
Ricardo and I acted as the CEO and COO of the fictional company and the customer determined the value of each tower. The customer could answer questions about the tower value or his needs. We had some stipulations on the tower construction for the customer as part of the exercise, such as that each tower has a unique value that he would decide each round.
Another stipulation was that the customer wants unique towers. Thus if two teams built the same tower, whichever got theirs done first earned money for the company. Each team would receive payment, but we tracked the total amount earned at the executive level on a visible flipchart after each round. Tracking earnings on a flipchart became interesting when three of the four teams decided to build the same tower in the second round, but the customer only paid the first team. This situation became an interesting debrief point during the debrief and showed how delivery value could have been shared amongst scaled teams in a more organic fashion than dictating a set of team structures and how value gets passed from on high.
Download the deck we used and our facilitation guide to start your own exercise. These resources contain a photo of the index card we gave the customer to determine the value of each tower each round and to mark off which ones were completed. If you use or modify this version, please attribute the work to us, we did spend considerable time putting this design together. If you run the game, we’d also love to hear from you, drop me a note at [email protected] or send a note to Ricardo or me on LinkedIn.