An Agile Game Is Ball Runner

The #play14 unconference in London in September 2015 served as the inspiration for the Ball Runner game. I was experimenting with the concept of a work-in-progress (WIP) game. Teams and individual members of these teams often experience extreme stress when working on WIP. I pictured a team engaged in a game where a single player was doused in balls while they attempted to accomplish a task.

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A handful of us split away to discuss this concept at the unconference. Although the outcome much exceeds my initial goals, I think it is still more beneficial. I’ve played this game several times, most recently at an Agile Adventures group. The maximum number of players in this game is 20, but by disclosing this information, I hope to encourage others to give it a try with more players in a broader area.

Main conclusions

This game allows you to implement certain Agile principles. Every facilitator will approach things in a different way, and participants will offer some more ideas depending on what they have discovered.

ongoing development. The teams have the chance to examine and adjust in every round.

Teams that organize themselves. There are no clear roles in the game. (Well, there is one, but the game isn’t limited to just one player for this to happen.) It is necessary for teams to collaborate.

Contest procedures. When implementing Agile transformation, many teams find it difficult to challenge established procedures and guidelines. This match will reveal whether a side is prepared to strive to bend the rules to their utmost.

Constraint theory. The team should identify any bottlenecks in the system and investigate ways to move them as part of the enhancements made in each cycle.

restricting WIP. One strategy for relocating bottlenecks is to limit the flow, albeit this isn’t always the best approach. A lot of jobs are batch-completed by some teams in between stages.

Pull versus push. Certain proficient teams attempt to emulate their workflow by “pulling” from the last member of the group or from an earlier bottleneck.

Kanban. Teams that work well together may see the system’s flow and convey it to one another.

Details about the game

A list of the things you’ll need to play Ball Runner is provided below.

Players: Four minimum; maximum based on available space

Thirty to forty-five minutes

Goal: Within two minutes, teams must complete a series of easy activities using balls. The team has produced greater value the more balls they have processed.

There will be a lot of work in progress (WIP) during the first run-through since bottlenecks will be introduced rapidly. Teams are allowed to try to remove the bottlenecks many times, with an opportunity to assess and adjust after each effort. The regulations permit trial and error in order to improve performance.


100 balls for each team (really strong teams might use them all in one session; save extras or recycle)

Each team is allowed five containers (boxes, sacks, or anything else large enough to hold the balls).

A device (e.g., a board, flip chart, laptop and projector) for keeping score for each team

A clock or timer

Getting ready:

a board, flip chart, or set of slides with the rules highlighted.

a sheet, board, or flip chart featuring a round, estimate, and actual score table.

Split the group up into equal-sized, compact groups. Teams with four to five members function well. The maximum is six.

To encourage competitiveness, if you are playing with more than one team, have each squad identify themselves.

To imitate work flow, arrange the containers in a sequential line on the floor, allowing space for individuals to pass between them. The greater the area needed, the more teams you have.

Give the containers 1 through 5 labels.

Place every ball inside container 1.


In less than two minutes, move as many balls as you can from container 1 to container 5.


Every ball must be thrown high and caught by the same individual.

Only the balls that were captured can be found in Container 2.

Every ball needs to be tossed between two individuals.

Only balls that have been tossed between two persons are permitted to be in Container 3.

Every ball must circle the team through a person’s hand, with the exception of the person in rule 7. (“Orbit” refers to the need that the ball travel around the squad in the hand of one player.)

Only the balls that have circled the team can be placed into Container 4.

Each ball can only be placed in container 5 (“done”) by a single, designated individual. This is comparable to having a product owner approve the job.

Balls that drop are regarded as flaws and cannot be tallied as completed.

Teams will have two minutes to practice improving after every round.

Explain the subsequent workflow:

Grasp a sphere from opening 1.

Toss the ball upwards, get it, and place it into container 2.

The ball should be taken out of container 2, thrown to a person, asked to return it, and then placed back into container 3.

After circling one of the teams and containers, take the ball from container 3 and place it in container 4.

Transfer the ball from container 4 to container 5, noting that the committed individual is capable of filling other responsibilities should the team determine they are necessary.

Add a new regulation, identical to rule no. 5, stating that only a committed player may retrieve a ball from container 1 if the team consists of six players.