A recipe to get to know Scrum – with Scrum simulation

This blog post was originally published in Polish on IT-Leaders.pl and is co-written by Anna Finn, Language & Communication Specialist at Setapp.

Imagine that you have bought a house and you would like to renovate it. You choose the best man for the job in town. Then, you decide on the final look of your new place. The house will be ready in just a year. However, during the works you will be unable to contact the people who renovate it.

You cannot introduce any changes to the first project or check on the progress. Moreover, you will not be able to verify if your original project is as functional as it was in your head. There will be no corrections possible as it comes to the first draft. You will have to wait patiently and keep your fingers crossed that you like the final effect. This is exactly what the waterfall model looks like.

The agile methodology in Scrum

One of the alternatives to the waterfall model is the agile approach where you deliver products iteratively and incrementally, e.g. Scrum. Scrum Team works in time intervals, called sprints. The end result of a sprint is delivering a working product.

Unlike the waterfall model, Scrum provides transparency at every stage of building the product. Thanks to this you can actively participate in the creation process. You can decide if the achieved effect is satisfying, if you are heading in the right direction and you can react quickly in case you need to introduce any changes or modifications.

More and more teams choose to work with Scrum when they familiarise themselves with its basic principles – in theory, they are easy to understand. Unfortunately, if you think it is so simple, your initial euphoria can quickly disappear when you realise that Scrum, in fact, is difficult to master.

Lukasz Setapp

However, when the methodology starts running in your bloodstream, everything is much easier and you start wondering how it is possible to create new products without Scrum.

Introducing scrum principles with LEGO

If you would like to introduce your team to Scrum principles or if you are already using it but you would like to refresh the knowledge, an amazing way to do it is Scrum simulation with LEGO. Sounds childish? Nothing of that sort. This training enables you to understand Scrum better using a very simple tool – LEGO blocks. It shows how sprints work, lets you evaluate the team’s work and allows you to see the areas that still require working on.

What are the requirements?

  1. You will need two hours to conduct this training if you want to use planning poker or a similar technique. (If you decide to use fast estimation, an hour and a half should be enough).
  2. The ideal size of a group that takes part in the exercise is two to three teams consisting of four to six people.
  3. LEGO box per team – “Basic Brick Set #61772” will do the job.
  4. Apart from the bricks you need to make sure to provide enough space for the teams to present their final products along with the training essentials – i.e. flipchart, markers, post-it notes and the planning poker cards if using.

The training starts with a backlog which you need to prepare beforehand. It should be open and what is crucial it should not contain any precise instructions what you should do step by step. The vision is more important than the detailed directions.

The rules of LEGO simulation

  • The first step of the training is the preparation stage (pre-game). It is followed by the game stage itself (game) and then you go to the final summary (post-game). All three stages are of equal importance so you shouldn’t skip any of them. The objective is to build a city with LEGO bricks. 
  • The city is constructed during three sprints in the main stage of this simulation. However, the number of sprints can be changed to even five or seven. During the preparation phase, you create the teams and the visions of the city. You define the processes and estimate in order to move to sprints and the game itself.
  • Each sprint is divided into three parts: three-minute planning, seven-minute execution and five-minute review. During each sprint you have time to see if the project is heading in the right direction. You can also introduce changes if needed. Once you finish all the sprints, you should always have time to sum up the whole training.

Takeaways from LEGO simulation

  • The LEGO simulation shows exactly who takes which roles. You can observe who is more of a dictator than a team player, who is more outgoing and loud and who prefers to stay quiet. It will also be a fantastic opportunity to see what mistakes the team make.
  • Random and unpredictable elements are introduced. For example sickness of one of the best team members – which means that the person cannot participate in the game for a bit. Another can be budget changes – which is equal to getting rid of the last sprint. Such elements allow you to check how groups cope with change and re-grouping that is needed.
  • The discussion panel that should finalise the training is the time when all the participants can discuss together what they liked about the exercise and share their insights.

Even if Scrum is present in the life of your company, this LEGO simulation can be very useful. You can use it as a refresher rather than a training per se. However, if you have never worked with Scrum but you would like to give it a go and share with your team a new approach to working with projects, the described LEGO simulation can serve as the first step in that direction.

Wrapping up.

We live in times when the only certain thing is the change. Therefore, if you want to keep up with the ever-changing world around you, you need to change with it. You should choose the solutions that can help you become a better version of yourself.

Scrum guarantees you transparency in the processes. Moreover, it lets you keep an eye on them and assures the highest quality of the end product. A lot of enterprises has already succeeded in raising productivity thanks to Scrum. So, if you do not want to stay behind, you should become friends with this methodology as soon as possible.


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