(Agile) Games

I was really excited when i discovered “Magic Maze” at the Agile Coach Camp Germany 2018. The game is a real fun way to understand each other and the planning factor. Later in this year i stumbled upon “The Mind”. There the key is to find a common … hey, i really shouldn’t tell this secret here! It is a real great way to find a common feeling in the team. And on top it is strange how you feel (and later on loose the feeling, just to recover it again) the spirit and the mind in this game. I am overwhelmed and recommend this game for team building too.

For a bigger variety of games and more experience in social games i started to search communities in my nearer surrounding (around 100km around my hometown Freiburg in Germany)… and i found a great thing in Basel: the play14 chapter in Basel. Play14 was founded cause they were motivated by the “hey, the play4agile is booked”-shock and did not just wanted to complain. It is inbetween a movement and an unconference, where people show up and talk about how to play and actually play games.

play14-movement, copyrights at play14
play14-movement, copyrights at play14

Overall i am really happy, that i found the games, the fitting community for them and so much fun in bringing some laughter beside the bad jokes (ok, some are really great) into our offices.

Do you know some more great games? And some conventions, (un-)conferences or whatever format for playing and games?

Let me and the rest of the world know it by leaving a comment! Thanks and have a beautiful day!

Book review: the dip

In this book review i will tell you a bit about one of the books of the great Seth Godin. You never heard of Seth Godin? Then you have a task to find out who he is! (For all the guys who have not much time: he is not only one of the marketing gurus, for me he is the marketing guru. He brings whisdom and razor sharp conclusions into books which lift you up and tell you how to go and where to go and why to go or stay… sounds good? Its worth!)

Now we’ve set the stage for some parts of whisdom we can extract from the book: it is named after the key concept, which Godin is gifting us: the dip. Sounds clear and easy? Lets come to the explanation! Whenever you face a situation where you could quit, there are mainly three different curves you could find yourself in: the dip, the dead-end road and the cliff.

The dip

The dip is the point after the easy starting days, before everything pays off. After you learned a bit of a new language. Lets assume you are new to asian languages and go for it by trying to learn mandarin. After the easy first words for daily usage, you will somewhen come to the idea to learn some letters. And than it gets hard. You realize, that there are over 100.000 letters in mandarin. Okay, for daily usage its enough to know around 3.000. Which is nicer, but also hard to learn, if you’re a mediocre european, who never learned an eastern asian language. So after the first words you wake up in a situation, where you know how much work it will be to be able to have a normal exchange of letters with a friend in mandarin. This is the dip. The motivation and results curve is going down. And it can stay on this bottom for a tremendous time, until it gets better and you see more results. Its like the desert walk, and after two days you finally reach something like an oasis. The good point about it is, that there is a better time afterwards. The bad part, on the other side, is, that you have to go through the dip, to have more and better results.

Other curves

Beside the dip Godin named two other curves: the dead-end and the cliff. The dead-end, or cul-de-sac, is a situation, where you find yourself investing time and it doesn’t change anything. It is like the famous fight against the windmills or the Sisyphos stone. You can try harder and harder and end up always in the same spot as before. Often this is the case in smaller companies: you can reach a certain carreer level and thats it. You will not climb higher there, even if you buy certificates (ahem, i ment improve yourself). This can have several reasons. It could be, that you reached the level under the CEO and he is not giving more too you. Or there could be an overflow of guys on your level. Often only one gets the chance to climb a step further, the rest stays there. Sometimes even all the willing guys don’t get a chance: some extern dude gets the job. Sounds tragic, but its a dead-end, which will not lead you anywhere.

The dead-end is the better curve of the “other curves”. The other one Godin talks about explicit is the cliff. The cliff is, as you expect, a situation, where you see it coming: the tragic end. You literally know, that it can’t end well. For instance if the sales of the company decrease month by month and nothing in the strategy changes. Your company is maybe on a sinking ship branch of economy, like mass production of carriages when the first cars evolved. Or you find yourself in a company, which isn’t caring, what any of the customers want and the product is only fulfilling requirements nobody needs. In the best case these example companies get bought by some other company because of the employees or some other assets. The worst case is that they go bancrupt. If you’re like me, you don’t want to waste your time in those environments.

Another curve Godin points out is the market distribution. As also described in “The Long Tail” he tells, that the biggest fish in the market segment gets plenty times more of the revenue than the number two and number three combined. In the long tail they focus on the niches, on the number ten till to the end of the market. Godins viewpoint is, that you should always look for being number one in the world. Just for having the chance to get two or three times more than number two and three combined. Than you can build a dip on your own for new competitors. If this is to hard, you can focus on a part of your market or change the market complete. The latter is a bigger risk than going deeper in a part of your market.

Is it a dip? And if so: what’s next?

Godin gives some tips on how to find out in what kind of curve you are at the moment. For instance in the end of the book is a list of questions, which helps reflecting yourself, your life and your carreer. Very powerful! But the point which really excited me was that he comes up with an easy, but really cool change of the viewpoint. You should think before you even start and decide what quitting conditions you set. Before you start you can think about what benefits you will have behind the dip. If there are plenty of benefits, you can decide, if they are worth the invest. If they are worth the invest, you can think about, if they are really worth for you or if there is something else giving more benefit to you and your plans. With this little steps you seperate the unthought and fast forgotten starts of a new hobby (how many guys do you know with once used skis, dumbells or things like this?) from the real beneficial things. For everything which sounds cool, but is not giving you a thrill for at least a year, isn’t worth starting. A big point to not start and quit stupidly everything which comes in your mind, you decide while starting when to quit and why to quit. So everytime you decide to give a new hobby a try, you give yourself the conditions when you allow yourself to quit. For example: my decision to blog again has the conditions, that i would quit, if i don’t find anyone reading my blog constantly in a year. Than it makes no sense to blog in public and i can go to a private blog/diary and save time by not watching my style and grammer and switch to my mother language german. With fixing the quitting scenario you bound yourself to the new hobby or passion until you find yourself behind the dips. This prevents you from quitting in panic. Because you can directly go to your conditions to quit for this thing and (wo)man up by saying “ok, its (a bit) hard right now, but i can’t allow myself to quit now”. I really like this idea to define front up what circumstances you would allow to drive you away from the new part in your live.

So the way to not quit unthought in a dip goes over the clever starting, defining the conditions to quit before starting and deciding to do all this more aware than up to now.

Overall for me the book the dip is a diamond. It is full of wisdom and thouht-provoking impulses. Thats the big value. It is short, concise and really fun to read. You really want to read “only” this next chapter. And another one. And than it is over and you know: i will read it again, to be sure, that i don’t forget everything in a blink. This conciseness and fun are the polish of the diamond Seth Godin gave us with this little book. An absolute must read for everyone who really want to live more aware and push all his or her games to the next levels. Thanks for not quitting to read this long article!

Think on different organizational layers

When i started to learn about Scrum, it was a great mind opening pleasure for me to have some easy rules combined with a set of values and best practices. Over the years seeing multipe more or less agile surroundings it got crystal clear to me, that without the management support Scrum can only work in a small scale. At best on team level. But often without a good environment its doomed to only give some team members an inner peace. With this differentiation somehow i started to look for habitats where everone is convinced to go with a process. But this was not all what popped up in my mind. After a while i realized, that there are more layers than a person and a team. Sure, its really obvious, but here’s the observation:

  • teams are composed of team members,
  • departments are composed of teams,
  • companies are composed of departments,
  • companies have partners,
  • companies have customers,
  • companies have competitors in markets and
  • last, but not least, there is the rest of the world.

What can we do with this list of layers as for instance as a Scrum Master? First of it all it helped me reflect my (re-)actions. So whenever i get a question from any team member, i try not to answer immediately. I started to ask myself things like:

  • What would be best for this team member?
  • What would be best for the team of this guy?
  • … and so o, up to the whole universe

This little thoughts made my answers more holistic and helped to build a better environment. The next step i am going with these questions is, that i start to open the minds of my team members and colleagues by asking them back. So if somebody asks me “I see, that XYZ is happening between colleague A and colleague B. I feel the urge to do something about it! What should i do and where should i start?”, than i can ask him back

  • “What would be best for your team?” followed by
  • “What would be best for your department?”
  • and so on…

Twice i already remembered to go this way. The interesting point was, that the questioner came out of the mind of doing things for the sake of doing things into a state to deeply think in a bigger scale. The best part about it was, that both persons understood the problem better and saw how hard it will be to find a good solution. As you recognize, i am not talking about the best solution, because you never know, what would be really best to do. Sometimes there are only bad solution and you’re doomed to find the least bad solution. But with the knowledge, that there are many solutions i find myself often giving more valuable answers than before or i even lead by questions.