overview

Stop wasting delicious pizza! A sustainable way to experience the principles of Kanban

We love using games in our training courses at Organize Agile. There is already a lot out there and available for everyone. Not all games however are very sustainable. Although very effective in teaching, you may end up with a lot of unnecessary garbage at the end of the simulation game. With this Lego game I have tried to stop some of the paper waste.
Date
7 January 2020
Author
Saskia Vermeer-Ooms
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When explaining Kanban, I have used the Kanban Pizza game, as described here, many times. Although I like the game a lot, I dislike the fact that it’s very wasteful of materials being used. You need a lot of post-its and markers to make your pizza’s. At the end of the rounds it adds up to a lot of waste, because you can’t recycle the materials that are used.

There must be a better way! That’s why I started searching for other Kanban simulation games. Then I remembered a Kanban Lego game I experienced during a Scrum Round Table meetup. There is a slideshare of the original game, where you can even download the materials you need to print out. Although I think this game also does a good job at simulating the different principles of Kanban, I think the tester’s role they introduce is quite complicated for just a ‘simple’ game. Then I thought, why not try and combine the Pizza game with this game and that’s how the Lego Animal Farm Kanban Game was born!

Below I will share the description of the game. If you are familiar with the Pizza Kanban game, you will recognize a lot of elements of it, seeing as the set-up and goal are the same.   

The goal of the game

The goal of the game is to create as many complete animals as possible within each round.

From a training perspective these are the main goals for the participants:
  • Experience an existing process, which can seem quite chaotic and see how a Kanban system can give it more structure and flow
  • Practice in visualizing the existing workflow and optimizing it through WIP limits and other improvements
  • Experience inspect and adapt

How to set-up

The complete materials list is stated down below. Teams should have at least 4 team members for building the animals. There is a fifth role for keeping track of the number of finished animals and dismantling the animals. If you do not have enough participants however, you can consider combining the ‘Leg builder’ with the ‘Quality Assurance’ team member.

Each team (you can have multiple teams which will add some competition to the game) will have their own set of Lego blocks, a transport and scoring sheet and a ‘supply box’, which you as a facilitator will set-up at the start with masking tape. Any Lego blocks in the ‘supply box’ are safe from being marked as waste. However, don’t explain this to them until after the first round. Also, don’t make the ‘supply box’ too big. It should be big enough for all the loose Lego pieces to fit in, but small enough so that the participants should not be able to assemble the animals inside the taped square. 

The slide deck has the workshop with all the steps, including pictures of the four types of animals the teams should be making.

Round 1

There is no backlog in the first round, so you just let the teams create animals at will. Soon they will realize they do not have enough materials to build all types of animals, so they will have to make choices of what animals to build. 

During the first round, you do not show them the complete points system yet, which means they are not aware that they will be penalized for wasting material.

At the end of round 1 (after 5-7 minutes) you tell everyone to stop building and leave all the pieces on the table as they are. This is the time to show them the actual points system, where each finished animal is equal to 10 points. They will have to subtract points for all the animals not done, in other words, wasted materials. You subtract -10 points for each animal not done yet. -4 points for a wasted head or body and -1 point for every leg on the table. Everything that is within the ‘supply’ box does not count as waste. Everything outside of the ‘supply’ box needs to be subtracted from the total.  

Intermezzo

In between round 1 and round 2 you can explain the principles of Kanban. After you are done explaining, give the teams 5 minutes to visualize their workflow on the table by using the masking tape and post-its for marking the WIP limits. 

 

Round 2 and Round 3

In round 2 and round 3 we introduce the animal ‘backlog’. It’s a deck of cards with one type of animal written on it. One participant (usually the Leg builder) introduces a card from the backlog and places the legs on top of the card. The card is passed through the system so that all team members are aware of the type of animal which needs to be built. 

Again, after 5-7 minutes you tell everyone to stop and make sure they leave all the Lego blocks where they are. The points are counted and this time you give them 1 minute retrospective time to come up with improvements for the final round (round 3). 

Debrief

  After round 3 we debrief the simulation, for example, by asking the following questions:
  • What went well?
  • When and where did work pile up (=bottleneck)?
  • Where did you introduce improvements?
  • What was the difference between the different rounds?
  • Did you experience flow? In which round?
  • Did you change your WIP limits after round 2?
  • Did anything change when you started using the backlog?

Materials

Here is a list of the materials needed to run the game. For the Lego blocks, you will need a variety of different sizes, so don’t worry too much about the colors. 

Per team

  • Masking tape
  • Enough Lego blocks to make 4 cows, 4 horses, 4 sheep and 4 ducks
  • Post-its for marking the WIP limits
  • Printable from the slide deck:
    • A4 with 3 trucks to transport the animals
    • Scoring sheets
    • Animal cards (the backlog)

General

  • Something to keep track of time (smartphone will suffice)
  • Slide deck explaining the steps (also contains materials to print)

Final remarks

We have used this game for a couple of trainings already. Participants always seem to enjoy working with Lego and the game lets them experience a real process simulating bottleneck buildup. 

I’ve tried not to think too much about the actual process we are simulating. Those poor Lego animals! As someone who has decided to stop eating meat, because I don’t agree with industrial farming, this game can seem quite contradictory to my beliefs. However, it does limit the amount of post-its and paper waste and, in the end, it results in less clean up time afterwards. Also, no actual animals were harmed during the playing of this game.

This version of the game is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. In short, it means you can use it for free, you cannot resell it and you are required to share any further modification with the same license format. Read more.

 

Hope you have fun playing. 

Saskia Vermeer-Ooms