- 1 "Agile Black and White Stories", or What's The Difference between a Sprint and a Penis?
"Agile Black and White Stories", or What's The Difference between a Sprint and a Penis?
What are "Agile Black and White Stories"?
"Agile Black and White Stories" are a variant of the game Black Stories which is a card game for kids and adults. Black Stories are always tricky, morbid, sinister, and "raven-hued" riddle-stories. Their peculiarities are
- it's a card game.
- the stories are real, r-e-a-l, short — each story fits on a single side of a playing card.
- they are a kind of "raven-hued" riddle.
- it is the task of the audience to reconstruct the morbid story from a single cryptic hint only — told by the facilitator/narrator — placed on the backside of the card.
Here's an example for a Black Story:
Story headline: "Cheap Porsche".
Teaser: "A woman decides to sell her husband's new Porsche for a mere 500 euros."
Did you solve the riddle without cheating by looking at the solution?
Black Stories are a great tool to energize meetings and to nudge people to lateral thinking. In lateral thinking, you try to solve a challenge by constantly re-framing your thoughts. With this, you address the problem always from different perspectives. Thus, you may come up with ideas that are not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic — which is called vertical thinking.
I attended an open space session at Play4Agile16 hosted by Jordann Gross where he illustrated to vivid his team's Scrum Ceremonies by Black Stories. ((Jordann Gross: Black Stories invoke creative thinking. Agile Testing Days 2016; Jordann Gross: How Black Stories Revive Scrum Meetings.))
Inspired by Black Stories and the concept of lateral thinking, Anja Stiedl, Udo Wiegärtner and myself created together with other Play4Agile16 attendees in a follow-up session the "Agile Black and White Stories".
The idea is to re-phrase agile concepts by tricky, funny scenarios the players have to reconstruct by asking questions. The facilitator, game master is allowed yo answer them with "Yes", "No" only or to ask, to re-phrase the question.
Of course, I know, you are attracted to read this blog post only because its puffery title: "What's The Difference between a Sprint and a Penis?" only.
Believe me, I'm aware of this, for sure. — Ok, take a deep breath... here's your challenge:
Inspired by Black Stories Anja, Udo, and I, we adapted the concept of lateral thinking to the communication of Agile Mindset, Values, and Principles. — The "Agile Black and White Stories" was born.
"Agile Black and White Stories" — The Game
"Agile Black and White Stories" is a card game like in Black Stories. One side of each card shows a tricky, funny question as a teaser. The card's backside shows the name of an agile concept that will be a proper answer.
You may play the game in two variants:
- In round-robin style: each single player tells the teaser and the other players guess and identify the agile concept.
- With a fix game master, who reads all teasers, whereas the players have to solve the riddles.
At present, "Agile Black and White Stories" consists of 20 cards which are maintained in a Google file (bit.ly/p4a16-AgileBlackStories):
- a Google Spreadsheet with the Question/Answers.
- a Google Doc for printing the cards via mail merge, and
- a PDF with the printed card set.
You can download the card set here: bit.ly/p4a16-AgileBlackStories.agile-black-and-white-stories
Use "Agile Black and White Stories" in Your Daily Scrum
As Scrum Master or an Agile Coach you may use "Agile Black and White Stories" in your team meetings and daily stand-ups:
...to spark creativity, to make people think out of the box, to nudge lateral thinking, to teach people to ask the right questions, and, and, and...
to help team members or meeting attendees to get out of their previous contexts easily.
You can use Black Stories as energizers in the opening of your meetings or in between to shake the people awake again.
Feedback from the Community
I hosted a workshop on "Agile Black and White Stories" at AgileCologne2016 to promote the game idea and to get further feedback from the Agile community.
First I played some traditional Black Stories, then I switched to "Agile Black and White Stories".
To put it short, the session was a great fun for all! I assume, this session was the one with the most and loudest laughings at AgileCologne2016! The participants enjoyed the idea and concept really very much.
Beside the usages aforementioned the participants came up with two awesome new ideas:
- Agile Bullshit Bingo: in situations where an Agile concept is used too excessively, draw the proper card, read the teaser and yell "Bullshit - What is '<teaser>'?".
- Agile Clinic: in cases when you and your team are faced with a situation where something runs really totally wrong, draw the proper card to stimulate an extensive — and lateral — team communication and discussion.
The session participants mentioned as one drawback of the current game version, the lack of real stories for each card resp. Agile concept.
Their argument, the current story format is more a kind of funny Q&A than telling real, identifiable, stories.
- Getting the "right" answer is momentary more guessing than lateral identifying the solution.
- The facilitator/game master can currently judge whether the players meet the Agile concept only by 1:1 congruence with printed concept.
Congruent stories would provide both sides — players and facilitator — more support in taking decisions.
For example, for some cards, the participants of the AgileCologne2016 workshop came to totally different solutions than the Play4Agile16 workshop attendees. — And all are "right" solutions, there are no "Wrongs".
|#No||Question||Answer Play4Agile16||Answer Agile Cologne2016|
|#6||What do a Sprint and a penis have in common?||Both are supposed to provide a safe environment.||Both show deliverables.|
|#8||A Scrum-Team sits naked in a meeting. What happened?||They mixed up Planning Poker with Strip Poker.||They live total transparency.|
Here a slide deck of Agile Black Stories I presented at Tools4AgileTeam2016
Be Part of the Community
Create your own "Agile Black and White Story".
Share your story as a comment to this blog post.
Don't forget to mentioned your Twitter name that we can credit you properly.
- Agile Black and White Stories. Google Doc: bit.ly/p4a16-AgileBlackStories (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6HbhqOe6K-eZ2lvU3JRQ3dja1k/view)
: Udo Wiegärtner, .