With the arrival of Covid, I was looking for a replacement for the Ball Point and the Airplane Building games I would run during my in-class sessions. This game uses the foundations of the Coin game and adds a twist with coins of different values and adding the scrum framework for actions. This mashup is a lot of fun and makes everyone talk and work together.

Organization:
Time Required: 45~60 Minutes
Tools:

  1. Kanban board created in your tool of choice: Online ticket system. In my organization, we used Klaxoon. But it could easily be ported to MetroRetro.
    In the UI shots below, you will see the Klaxoon Board
  2. A way to flip coins Also, need a physical coin or use justflipacoin.com
    This is not shown in the images below. I explain to the participants that the coin flip is on the honour system. They can move each time they flip the coin.

Objectives:

SETUP: Execute three sprints to make the most money possible
Team size: 4-5 people
Tools: Klaxoon board, a coin

GOAL: With the Klaxoon board representing an entire team, see how much money your team can make by moving coins through our process to our wallet (aka Done)

ARCHITECTURAL CONSTRAINT: Each coin can be moved by one person from an idea card in Klaxoon

PROCESSING CONSTRAINT: Each team member may only move ONE coin at a time.  Each move of the coin requires you to move another coin before moving that coin again (i.e. the same player cannot move the same coin, two times in a row). 
You MUST NOT move a coin two times in a row!!

TESTING CONSTRAINT: Only the Product Owner can move the coin from the final step to the wallet (AKA Done).

RULE: Each person can make one coin flip and move one coin if the coin lands heads up

ACCEPTANCE CRITERIA: Each coin must land heads up before moving the coin to the next step.  The PO is in charge of ROI and must accept all coins, ONLY the PO can move the coins to the wallet. Only one heads up coin is required to move each coin.

DEFECT CONSTRAINT: If your coin lands “tails up”, you MUST not move a coin. 

WIP CONSTRAINT: Work in progress (partially moved coins AND put in the Wallet) must be put back in the PIGGY BANK at the end of each Sprint.

  • Partially moved coins are moved back to encourage the idea that we finish work, rather than starting work.
  • Wallet coins are moved back to clean up the workspace. This is part of the concept of having a clean workspace at the start of every sprint.

BOARD SETUP

The board is setup into two major ares:
Area 1Piggy Bank: Before the session, I create a large number of “coins” using cards with images on them. The coins have the following values (I am in Europe, so we use Euro coins): 2 EUROS, 1 EURO, 50 Cents, 10 Cents and 1 Cents
The piggy bank is bottomless and will always have more coins.

Area 2 – Scrum Play Area: This consists of the usual setup to move to coins from left to right in a scrum fashion using the rules above.

Scrum Play area for coin game

Due to the value of the coins, each one has a different number of steps:
2 EURO requires 4 total heads to arrive in your wallet
1 EURO requires 3 total heads to arrive in your wallet
50 cents requires 2 total heads to arrive your wallet
10 & 1 cent pieces require a single heads to arrive in your wallet

Scrum kanban board in action

Roles:

As you can see in the rules above, there are classic roles:
Product Owner: Must prepare the sprint backlog and also must “accept” the coins to put them in the Wallet
Scrum Master: Must enforce the process and the time box. This will include ensuring the documentation and counting is done, and improvements are documented.
Team: They do the coin flipping and work together to deliver the work.

Time Boxes

As this is scrum we create a time box for the team to execute as seen below:

Timebox for sprints

Statistics are gathered every sprint by the team for the value delivered. the product owner will be very busy trying to count and will usually need help. Make sure your scrum master enforces the time box!!

Let’s play!!

Let the team get started and work on their backlogs. Sprint 1 is always chaos and you can quickly see the teams who are communicating and working together.

After sprint 1, the team will need to start their reviews and retros. This will result in the Sprint results being tabulated and the improvements documented.

Moving sprint to sprint is a timeboxed affair as well.
Sprint end, moving into the next sprint

Wrap up and lessons learned

Continue on with this pattern until the end of sprint 3. Finalize with a discussion on the roles, the difficulties and what they learned.
Collect Answers for Your Team
1.What improvements did your team make over three sprints ?
2.What would have happened if there was no time box ?
3.How would waterfall be different from this ?
4.Who made the final design decisions in the team ?
5.What waste did you remove from the system ?

System Thinking lessons to learn

You might also want to discuss the variability in the system. The coin flip brings in a large amount of variability that is invisible. This can lead into a larger discussion on system thinking and how the system design impacts the flow of work.
Lesson to learn: Processes with only a single variable can have large gaps from the expected range. You cannot assume that a variance will come back to the norm in a system when there are no controls.
That is to say, some teams will do better just because of the variation in the process, not because they are better at playing the game. See two sample sets of 1000 coin flips.

This team could be rated poorly, but it is the system that causes them to have lower than average performance.
This is an above average team and they are able to constantly improve. It is based on the variance of the process, not their skill!

Multiple teams

The nice thing with this setup is that you can have multiple teams working a the same time. We use MS Teams and create breakout rooms for each team. Make sure the PO and SM roles are allocated before the breakout. I have run this with four teams in parallel and will pop in and out of the virtual rooms to see the dynamics

Multiple teams in parallel in Klaxoon

When you have multiple teams, you can bring up the discussion of communities, knowledge sharing and how to manage dependencies between teams.

Have fun. Let me know how it goes and share ideas to make it even better!

12 thoughts on “Piggy Bank Scrum Simulation in Remote”

  1. Hi Paul, thx a lot for your answer and helpful clarifications! I still have few small comments and two typos:
    – so, a coin can’t be moved two times in a row (by any players) AND not two times in a row by the same player (even if the coin was moved by other players in between)?
    – the PO has to flip the coin as well?
    – isn’t the instruction “Only one heads up coin is required to move each coin.” obvious, thus rather confusing?
    – still confused that the coins in the wallet count to the WIP, I’d prefer to say “WIP and DONE” must be put back to PB
    – finally, there are two small typos: “cannot move a the same coin” and “if the coing lands heads up” you might want to correct?
    Thanks again and best regards,
    Jens

    1. Hi Jens,
      – so, a coin can’t be moved two times in a row (by any players) AND not two times in a row by the same player (even if the coin was moved by other players in between)?

      A coin can be moved two times in a row, but by different people. The goal is to get people to focus on handoffs and communicate when work is ready.
      e.g.
      OK: Person A moves, Person B moves, Person A moves, Person B moves
      Not OK: Person A moves, Person A moves, Person A moves

      – the PO has to flip the coin as well?
      Yes, the PO has to flip as well

      – isn’t the instruction “Only one heads up coin is required to move each coin.” obvious, thus rather confusing?
      I know, but some people wonder if they need to have 4 heads to move the 2 EURO coin. The goal is to avoid working in batch, work in increments.

      – still confused that the coins in the wallet count to the WIP, I’d prefer to say “WIP and DONE” must be put back to PB
      This is aligned with agile principle “Working software is the primary measure of progress.” We only count coins that are in Done, anything in WIP is a form of waste from a lean thinking point of view.
      But you are correct, the DONE coins need to be cleaned up too, just remember to count before moving them!!

      – finally, there are two small typos: “cannot move a the same coin” and “if the coing lands heads up” you might want to correct?
      Thanks, I updated 😉

  2. Hi Paul, just found this when I was looking for good remote games to learn scrum. It looks a little bit complicated, but hopefully works out. Especially to have 3 or 4 groups in breakouts is a great thing, so many students can play and learn simultaneously. Also I wasn’t aware of justflipacoin.com, thanks!

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  4. Hello Paul,
    I would use this game for 1st Retro in my team, and I have a few questions:
    1. Developers should flip a coin in same time or one after the other ?
    2. 3 mins is TimeBox for “play” stage (I mean for flipping coin and move into a wallet ) ?

    1. Hi, ScrumM. This is used more for teaching the team the fundamentals of scrum rather than a retro. To answer your queries,
      1. Everyone plays at the same time, it is chaos, but that simulates real work!
      2. Yes, 3 minutes to play, 1 minute to review, 1 minute to retrospect

  5. Paul, thanks a lot for this inspiring game, I was looking for remote approaches in introducing teams to practical SCRUM, this is a hit.

  6. Hi Paul (et al.), thanks for this very nice remote simulation game! I’d really like to try with my team. Still, I’ve got a few (hopefully not stupid) questions:
    – Is the 1st step to move a coin from the backlog to the assigned “in progress” column, heads up? Then, in each column the coin first has to be flipped in order to be moved to the next column.? Does the AC = “must land on a heads to be moved” mean it is moved “heads down”/”tails up” or the player has to “dice” a heads in order to move? If moved heads down, does it have to be flipped twice in the 2nd column then?
    – Does “get a heads” and “receive a tails” mean, that each player is rolling the (coin) dice with each turn and only if they get a heads they are allowed to move a coin on the board (= random principle)?
    – Why does WIP Constraint include “partially moved coins AND put in the Wallet”? Aren’t coins in the wallet finished/done, i.e. not part of the WIP?
    – Finally, does the rule “Each move of the coin requires you to move another coin before moving that coin again.” mean one player must not move the same coin in a row or the coin can’t be moved two times in a row (by different players)?
    Sorry for bothering you, but I’m really interested in properly understanding the rules in advance to trying this game.
    Thanks a lot for your answer and clarification!
    BR, Jens

    1. Hi Jens, thank you for your comments. I have gone through the post and updated the areas that you asked about.
      In short, you can imagine having two “UIs”. The first is done for a coin flip. This is manual at your desk or use justflipacoin.com.
      This is to simulate the individual work of a team member.
      The second UI will be your board to work with the team. This is to simulate the coordination, collaboration and communication between team members.

      The rules are designed to maximize communication and synchronization. Each sprint is setup to be a reset with a focus on cleaning the workspace everytime (similar to the Lean 5S idea).

      Please take a look at the udpates and tell me if it is easier to follow now.

      PaulS

  7. Hi Paul

    Awesome game, from the looks of it. Thanks for putting in the time!

    Question: As in our company we can’t use Klaxoon / MetroRetro (Firewalls…), do you think this could be done in another way? I was thinking of doing it in JIRA, although it won’t be that “sexy” of course, but on the other side people will get to know JIRA… Easy Kanban board, couple of colums, and the ticket names represent the coins, the first columns is the backlog. Any thoughts? Any other ideas (e.g. MS office suite?).

    Best
    Tom

    1. Hi Jim, I think you could use JIRA as a simulation also. I would probably add more time if you are trying to teach people about JIRA at the same time. I tried to keep the activity tool agnostic. Even with klaxoon and metroretro, you have people that have trouble logging in or understanding how to move the post its.
      I like the concept of KISS…..keep it simple ____

      Cheers
      PaulS

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