Resources: Featureban

Contents:

Slack channel

There is now a #featureban channel in the Agendashift slack community. Do join us if you have questions or would like to share experiences. You'll be very welcome!

Introduction

Featureban is a simple, fun, and highly customisable kanban simulation game. We use it in our own Agendashift workshops, and it has been used by trainers and coaches in Lean, Agile and Kanban-related events the world over.

The game starts simple with visual management (iteration 1); after that we layer on things like WIP limits (iteration 2) and metrics (iteration 3). This incremental approach is very much by design, and you are free to introduce your own elements in a similar fashion.

You might find it helpful to take a look at the slideshare embedded in Are we there yet? (positiveincline.com). If you’re an Agendashift user, the checklists shown in that deck will seem familiar!

As per the copyright notice at the bottom of this page, Featureban is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Customisation is encouraged!

Video

Here I am facilitating a big Featureban session at the Agile Gurgaon 2016 conference:

Timing

Time and priorities depend very much on needs, goals and audience. These are typical:

  1. Iterations 1 and 2 followed by a “here’s one I prepared earlier” on iteration 3 (there’s plenty of material in the slides to support that), plus general Q&A — 75-90 minutes is comfortable, depending on the amount of discussion you encourage
  2. Iterations 1-3 with a few minutes of efficient debrief for each — 90 minutes or so
  3. Iterations 1-4 (all of the provided material) ‐ up to 120 minutes out of a longer workshop

Option #1 above is very meetup-friendly.

Materials and downloads

Essential:

  • For the board: A3-sized or larger paper or card, a flipchart, or a whiteboard per team. Smaller (eg A4) paper will do at a pinch but I don't recommend it. I've not yet tried Featureban with an electronic kanban board but I can imagine circumstances where it might be worth a try.
  • Plenty of sticky notes. For an A3 board (which is smaller than your typical real-life kanban board) I use small 51mm x 38mm stickies. Colour isn't important.
  • A supply of suitable pens: finer pens for writing stickies, marker pens too if teams will be constructing their own boards instead of using one that has been pre-printed.
  • A coin per player. I don't supply these but you may wish to have some in reserve. Digital alternative (mentioned in the deck): justflipacoin.com

Near-essential:

  • The slide deck and the means to display it. PDF versions can be downloaded directly:
  • For the original PowerPoint (.pptx) files, see the Customisation section.

Optional:

  • Pre-printed boards, template here. I popped round to my local print shop and got some done on 300gsm card but that's a nice-to-have.
  • Metrics capture sheets for round 3 (one per team), template here
  • Excel spreadsheet for generating charts and metrics, here

Tips

  • Experience before explanation! Let people discover things for things for themselves; your job is to help consolidate their learning afterwards in the debriefs. Please resist any temptation to kick off with teaching — you might believe it is necessary, but trust me, the learning experience will be less effective as well as a lot less fun.
  • Don't let players think that they should take it in turns to move. In the standup meeting, they share the results of their coin tosses and discuss what moves they plan to make. They won't get much benefit from the discussion in iteration 1 but should realise in iteration 2 that they can coordinate their moves to good effect.
  • Be ready to stop iteration 1 as soon as most teams have delivered a couple of items. Most teams will have lots of WIP in the second column. Some useful phrases to use: “All starting and no finishing” and “Lots of activity, little delivery”.
  • Remind teams to hold replenishment events before their backlogs become depleted. In later iterations, they might reuse “done” tickets to save time.
  • Do not reset boards between iterations 1 & 2.
  • Ensure everyone agrees before playing iteration 2 that the only rule change has been the introduction of the WIP limit. In debriefs, I’m careful not to use the word “collaboration” myself until participants make the key observation that this has improved significantly. Gentle nudges may be required from the facilitator before this comes out, but be patient, it usually does without help!
  • A WIP limit of 3 per column works well. The fact that the limit is imposed by the facilitator rather than proposed by the team should be an interesting discussion point when you get to “Improve experimentally, evolve collaboratively” (CP6) in the debrief.
  • As per the Timing section above, one option for iteration 3 is to skip playing it and instead going straight to the debrief slides.
  • A recent addition is a fourth iteration which I use only when I have a couple of hours available (eg in a workshop). One option is to explain this iteration without actually trying it, eg to initiate a discussion or exercise on change management.
  • One last tip I heard first from other facilitators and can confirm myself: interaction around the game is improved if the board is mounted on a flipchart easel or taped to a wall so that players don't spend all their time with their heads down. They may wish to stand.

Customisation

The Featureban game and its resources (including this page) are covered by a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Customisation and translation is encouraged — iteration 4 even offers some suggestions!

To obtain the original source files (.pptx, .docx, and .xslx) rather than the PDFs, just ask.

Assess your game

We've set up an Agendashift values-based delivery assessment (mini edition) specially for Featureban game participants to try. Please use it to assess the Featureban scenario from iteration 2 onwards (only):

Assess the Featureban scenario (iteration 2 onwards)

We use this mini assessment in training to identify priorities for improvement much the same way as we would use the full version in an Agendashift transformation mapping workshop.

Updates

Join the Agendashift LinkedIn group to be sure of hearing all the latest news. The detail of significant updates will be posted to the Agendashift blog. Older articles remain on my personal blog positiveincline.com under the featureban tag.

Changeban

Coming soon: Changeban, a Lean Startup-inspired derivative of Featureban. If you've read chapter 5 of the Agendashift book, the design will be familiar.


Enjoy!
Mike Burrows, October 2015 (last updated July 2017)

Copyright © 2014-2017 Agendashift (a trading name of Positive Incline Ltd)
Featureban by Mike Burrows of Positive Incline Ltd is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/.

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About us

Agendashift™ is brought to you by Positive Incline Ltd, UK-based specialists in Lean-Agile transformation. Founder Mike Burrows pioneered the values model for the Kanban Method that led to his definitive book, Kanban from the Inside. His new book Agendashift: clean conversations, coherent collaboration, continuous transformation was published May 2017.


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