A simulation I regularly do in my Scrum trainings is, what I know as, the Tuckman game. The game tries to simulate the different stages a team can go through, from formation to dissolution. This model was developed by dr. Bruce Tuckman, an American psychologist, and is widely used. I learned of it during my time at Prowareness, and by no means have I developed it myself. But recently somebody asked about it (Thanks Ralph ;), and I couldn’t find any description of the full game online. Therefore here goes, for posterity ;). Oh, this blog post by no means tries to give an elaborate description of the different stages from the model. It just outlines the game.
I start with asking the partipants to stand in a circle. Then I ask them to, in their minds, choose to people from the group. One will play the role of fictional best friend, and one of nemesis. Remember to point out that this is a game, and therefore nobody actually is a best friend or nemesis. When everyone has chosen his or her two persons that represent a best friend and nemesis, the game can begin.
The first exercise tries to mimic the forming stage of a team. In the forming stage the team members are new to each other. There is no trust yet, and informal leadership is yet undetermined. Conflicts are evaded. There is not yet a clear shared goal, the team is still a group of individuals with their own goals.
Ask everyone to position their best friend between them and their nemesis. Your best friend essentially forms a human shield between you and your nemesis. No talking allowed! The effect most likely is that the group starts to move, and move in waves. I often observe some uneasiness, some awkward moves and nervous laughter, which is perfect ;). When they start to arrive at an equilibrium, someone often moves and starts the movement again. But at some point they are fine with their position. That’s when I tell them this part is finished, and I start a recap. In it I share my observations and try to link them to the characteristics of a team in the forming stage (see above). Then I ask them how they, as a Scrum Master, can try to influence the group, so they can move to the next stage quicker.
In the storming stage, the team members start to feel more comfortable, comfortable enough to speak up about the things they like and dislike. The pecking order takes shape, as conflicts arise and informal leadership emerges. Still, there is no overarching team goal, so team members may be going in different directions.
To demonstrate this stage, ask everyone to now position themselves between their best friend and their nemesis. You are now the human shield. If it goes as expected, you will see people bumping in to each other, pushing a bit and getting close to one another. You start to see friction, conflict :). If you have seen enough of it, call it and recap. Point out what you saw and link to the storing stage. Then again ask how a Scrum Master can get a team through this stage, on to the next.
A team in the norming stage has set groundrules and there is a clear understanding of them. Team norms have formed and are agreed upon. Team members now work together towards a shared goal.
Ask the group to form triangles. These specifically do not have to be equilateral, just triangles. This should be quite easy and the group probably arrives at a solution pretty soon. Recap again, sharing your observations, like how they now first had a shared goal that didn’t conflict with individual goals. Again, try with the group to come up with ways for a Scrum Master to challenge the team to the performing stage.
In a performing teams, not only norms and goals are clear and shared, but also values like respect, commitment, focus (you see where this is going ;). Team members challenge each other to perform better and function as one body. Walhalla :P.
Finally, ask the group to form equilateral triangles. This probably takes a little (or lot) more effort. Here again you probably observe some wave-like motions. Once they arrive at a decent solution, call it and recap. High performance ain’t easy!
Also, see if the group can come up with ideas for the Scrum Master to retain performance.
That’s it! Tuckman’s model contains another stage, adjourning, which I don’t get into. A Scrum Team stays together for a longer period of time, so no need, right ;)?
Hope this was clear and valuable to you. If not, reach out and I’ll try to improve this article.
Keep on learning!