This is a game to let people experience the effects of different punishments/rewards systems have on the way a team works together. One team will be ‘The Team’ which is rewarded and punished on a team level and ‘The Individuals’ have a mix of team and individual rewards and punishments.

Timing: 20-45 minutes
Materials: Deck of Cards, rules instructions, paper/pen to keep track of scores
Instructions:
Divide the groups in 2 groups. Ideally around 4-7 people per group. Explain people that the point of the game is to build one or more houses of cards.

The 2 groups are going to have slightly different rules. One team will be rewarded and punished on a team level and the others will be rewarded individually.
Whenever I talk about a section in the rest of the rules I mean either the 2 cards standing up ( /\ ) or the card covering it ( — )

The ‘Team’ scores as follows:
2 pts for every section they add to the house. This is multiplied by the layer they have added it to. So on the second layer they get 4 points. On the third layer they get 6 points.
-10 pts for every time the house (partly) collapses.

The ‘Individuals’ score as follows:
1 pt for every section added to the house, multiplied by the level for the individual
1 pt for every section added to the house, multiplied by the level for the team
In the event of a (partial) collapse the person whose turn it is gets -8 points. And he can shift the blame by choosing someone else to also receive -2 points.

Both teams are also required to keep track of how many sections at what level they add and how many times the house collapsed.
It is also possible for a person to pass and not attempt to add any more cards.

The reason to give them their printed instructions and not explain it in public is that you do not want the teams to know they are playing by 2 different rules.
Give them 5 minutes to build houses. As soon as one collapses they can keep going and start over.

After the 5 minutes are up, ignore the scores and gather the statistics on the amount of sections added and total number of collapses.
Then do a debriefing to gather experiences and see what was different between the 2 teams.

If there is time do a round with both groups on the team score for some friendly competition.

Learning Points:

What usually happens is that The Individuals will be competing against each other. They are probably more risk-averse and look to blame strategically. After someone has a high enough score they sometimes sit back and pass instead of taking the risk of losing their lead.
The Team on the other hand is working together. They are figuring out the way to place cards, help each other place them and warn when they see something going on.
Compare this with how bonuses and blame is usually distributed in their organisation.

Special thanks to the people in my PLAID workshop at the AgileHolland Agile Games Night who came up with the problem and the resulting brainstorm and the volunteers at Agile Coach Camp Denmark for being guinea-pigs.Ce jeu a pour objectif d’illustrer et d’expérimenter les différents effets de systèmes d’évaluation (méthode de la carotte et du bâton) sur le travail en équipe. Pour ce faire, une première équipe sera évaluée à l’échelle de l’équipe, tandis que la seconde équipe sera évaluée à deux niveaux, individuel et équipe.

Durée : 20-45 minutes
Matériels : jeux de cartes, instructions / règles, papiers, stylos (afin de noter les scores).
Instructions :
Répartir le groupe en 2 équipes, idéalement entre 4 et 7 personnes par équipe. Expliquer aux participants que l’objectif de l’atelier est de construire un (ou plusieurs) château de cartes.

Les deux équipes ont des règles légèrement différentes. Un groupe sera évalué au niveau de l’équipe tandis que le second appliquera un système d’évaluation individuelle.
Lorsque je parlerai de « section » dans le reste des consignes, il s’agira de 2 cartes verticales posées l’une contre l’autre (/\) ou de la carte horizontale de recouvrement (—).

L’équipe est évaluée sur cette base :
2 points pour chaque section ajoutée au château, multipliés par le numéro de l’étage sur lequel la section est ajoutée. Au deuxième étage, ils reçoivent 4 points. Au troisième étage, l’équipe reçoit 6 points, et ainsi de suite. Un malus de 10 points sera affecté à l’équipe, à chaque fois que le château s’effondre (même en partie).

Les individus sont évalués sur cette base :
1 point pour le constructeur, par section ajoutée au château, ainsi qu’un point pour son équipe. Les points sont à chaque fois multipliés par le numéro de l’étage sur lequel a été construit la section. Dans le cadre d’un effondrement partiel ou total du château, la personne ayant causé l’effondrement perd 8 points, plus 2 points supplémentaires qu’il peut affecter à un membre de son équipe.

Les deux équipes doivent enregistrer le nombre de sections construites, le nombre d‘étage atteint ainsi que le nombre de fois que le château s’est effondré.
Il est aussi possible pour une personne de ne pas participer à la construction ou de cesser sa contribution à la construction du château.

La raison pour laquelle les instructions sont imprimées et non pas expliquées publiquement est que vous ne vous voulez pas que les 2 équipes sachent qu’elles jouent avec 2 règles différentes.
Après avoir pris connaissances des règles, donnez-leur 5 minutes pour construire le château. Dès que le château s’écroule il peuvent poursuivre la construction ou repartir de zéro.

Au bout de 5 minutes de jeu, ignorez les scores finaux et réunissez les statistiques sur le nombre de sections ajoutées et le nombre total d’effondrement.
Puis faites un débriefing afin de partager les expériences et d’observer les différences entre les deux équipes.

Si il reste du temps, vous pouvez faire une nouvelle itération avec les mêmes règles pour les deux équipes pour une compétition amicale.

Points d’apprentissage :
Généralement les individus lorsqu’ils sont évalués à titre individuel entrent en compétition les uns contre les autres. Ils seront surement plus frileux face au risque et chercheront à nuire de manière stratégique. Lorsque quelqu’un a un score suffisant, parfois, il limite le risque et sort du jeu plutôt que de perdre sa place de leader.
De l’autre coté, l’équipe travaille ensemble. Ils échangent sur la manière de positionner les cartes et s’entraident de manière à prévenir tout effondrement. Comparez cette expérience avec la situation réelle d’intéressement ou de sanction en pratique dans leurs/les organisations.

Remerciement spécial aux participants de mon atelier PLAID lors de l’AgileHolland Agile Games Night qui sont venus avec les réflexions qui ont débouché sur le brainstorming à l’origine de cet atelier ainsi qu’aux volontaires de l’Agile Coach Camp Denmark pour l’avoir « testé ».

15 thoughts on “The Blame GameLe jeu du blâme

  1. As simple as the rules for scoring are, I’m still having trouble understanding them!

    For team 2, am I right in thinking that for each section the individual gets one point, and the team gets one point. Both points are multiplied by the level the section is added to. So for team 2 there will be one score for the team and one for each of the individuals. Team 1 on the other hand has only one score, the team score.

    Is that right?

  2. Where do I get the instructions for the game? This really sounds like a perfect game for a session that I am planning to facilitate soon. Looks like there’s some PDF that explains the instructions for the team. Is there are a way, I could get them? Would really appreciate it.

  3. How many decks of cards are required (per subgroup of 4 – 7 people). A deck per group? Two decks per group?

    I wonder, does this simulation strictly demonstrate the effects of reward and punishment, or will it work equally well to demonstrate the difference between several individuals performing a task and a team working together?

    I’m really looking for something to make people see that it’s valuable to go for team and working together first and foremost, rather than to throw procedure at everything, to be worked out and written down in detail (of course..). — Suggestions welcome.

    1. Wim,

      It shows the other way around, that people behave as individuals or a team depending on how you reward them.
      That is slightly different than what I think you are trying to accomplish. You might be able to adapt it to that though. Let me know if I can help with that. Or let me know your results.

  4. @Thomas,

    I stopped doing that because it did not work out as well. What happens is the groups settle into a way of working. What that way is is depending on what team they are on, but it mostly sticks afterwards. So the difference is not that great.
    It is also shorter and you can have a discussion between the 2 groups. It also makes the differences so very clear. One group having a big tall tower and the other a significantly smaller one.
    The only thing that is bad about having the 2 groups is the fact that the individual group is slightly down, because of the system they have been put in.. and they also feel like they lost.

  5. Hi Erwin,

    I was thinking if it would be good to let all groups Play the game twice, first in the Individuals mode, then in the Team mode. This would give each one a better comparison between the two Scenarios and you can Play the game with a small group.

    What do you think? Will that work?

  6. Looks like a really nice & interesting game. The remark that the height does not count for the individual team made me think and the evil game breaker in me woke up. If I would be on the individual team I would propose that every individual would build “his” house and suggest having only one level, with cover cards. I didn’t try but I have the feeling that they would have more sections than building a higher building with multiple people at the same time. As I never played the game I can be completely wrong of course.

    1. Jan,

      Thanks for catching that error. The individuals should get scores based on the level. The point is that the scores are almost identical between the teams. Only way that is different is how they are distributed.
      But you really should try the game sometimes.. it has been hilarious and very troubling at the same time.

  7. Erwin, that’s great. I just overheard you mentioning that players could ‘skip a turn’ if they wanted to and assumed a turn based game explanation.
    Now I no longer feel we had an unfair advantage by working together 😉
    Just to nitpick: in the game description, better replace ‘In the event of a (partial) collapse the person whose turn it is gets -8 points.’ with ‘In the event of a (partial) collapse the person whose fault it is gets -8 points.’.

  8. Erwin, I very much enjoyed playing this game at the NL-Scrum Agile Game Night last week. The difference in results between the two teams was impressive.
    One thing I feel would make it even better is to elminate the concept of playing in turn. Let the teams decide for themselves who can do what and when.In software development we don’t take turns, instead we try to work concurrently without stepping on eachothers toes. I expect this to be a lot harder for the individual rewards team 🙂 Also who to blame for a collapse will more unclear, leading to more arguing amongst the team.
    .

  9. Sebastian,

    The reason I ignore the score is that the scores are not comparable. What you do want to compare are the sections added at what level. I’ll make up a proper form and upload a PDF next time I play the game.

    But most important is to discuss team dynamics. The Individuals are competing against each others and the Team is just adding stuff to the house. They do not care if the house falls over every now and then.

  10. What a cool game. One question when finishing the game. You mention to ignore the scores. But what to gather – you mention the sections but isn’t it important to consider the layers too? How to compare the result for both teams. For team 2 – building layers seemed not to be important? But building layers is difficult and could distract team 1?
    Can you please give me a hint on this?

    Thx Sebastian

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