This is a theory of constraints based game that I am in no way attempting to claim credit for. I just wanted a link where I could point people to

Timing:

20-30 minutes

Materials:

• A minimum of 10 people
• A bag of 20 small coins
• A flipchart to record the scores

Instructions:

4 people are to be workers, seated at a table

Each “worker” will have a “manager” stand behind them with a timing device (stopwatch or smart phone)

Two extra non-workers will also be stood around the table with timing devices

Give the 20 coins to the first “worker” and instruct everyone that the objective of this game is to process the 20 coins through the system of workers.

To be processed, coins must be flipped – one at a time and with your left hand only – and then passed to the next worker in the chain who will do the same. Once the coins have been processed by all four workers, they are considered “done”

Workers may only pass the coins once the full batch of coins is complete.

The managers of each worker will time how long it takes for their worker to process the 20 coins

One non-worker will also be timing how long it takes for the first coin to be processed completely

One non-worker will also be timing how long it takes for the 20 coins to be processed completely

Round One:

Workers operate in batches of 20 i.e. they may only pass coins to the next worker once they have flipped all 20 coins

Round Two:

Workers operate in batches of 10 i.e. they may pass a batch of 10 coins to the next worker once they have flipped 10 coins

Round Three:

Workers operate in batches of 5 i.e. they may pass a batch of 5 coins to the next worker once they have flipped 5 coins

Round Four:

Workers operate in batches of 1 i.e. they may pass each coin to the next worker once they have flipped it

In each, round, the facilitator will capture the time for each worker, the time for the first coin and the time for all 20 coins to be processed.

At the end of round 4, the facilitator will lead the group through the analysis of the timings.

Individual timings will typically increase while the time to get coins process goes down which gives the impression of each worker becoming less efficient (especially those at the end of the process) while the process itself becomes more efficient. Discussions around bottlenecks, cross-functionality etc will typically be instigated.
Variations:

Try throwing in a different sized coin in to the process to see how teams cope with variations

Try tracking how long it takes for an “urgent request” to get through the various batch-sized systems

## 12 thoughts on “The Penny Game”

1. Paulie says:

does anyone have a virtual game that demonstrates the same concepts?

2. Lucas says:

I have a lot of dice lying around, so another variant you could use a set of dice that start on 1 and each person has to increment the number on the dice so the second person in the chain would rotate all the dice to the 2 face, the third person the 3 face, etc. . If you have more than 5 people just have 6 flip back to 1 or start going back down (5,4,3,2,1…). otherwise very similar.

3. Albert says:

In some scenarios, the managers are the bottlenecks who by hirearchy expects the worker to get approval before handoff (code review, test case review, bug report format reviews, all necessary data given or not review etc). This adds more time.

How about having a small modification where when the worker flips the coin, he look at manager and get his nod/yes as approval (with unavailability for some minutes) and then proceeding further.

This also helps to demonstrate the problem of handoffs when multiple stakeholders are involved in the process.