It’s all fun and games

My team likes to play little silly games. Ok, I admit, I like to play little silly games at work. Why? I like to work in a fun and engaging atmosphere. It enhances collaboration and communication. It builds trust.

One cool way to do build a team culture is to make up some games. No single game is going to fit every team. First, you have to observe how your team works: what do they find funny? Annoying? Frustrating? Games are a good way to get those things out in the open instead of waiting for the retrospective that is scheduled for next week.

These are the current games that we play in my team: The Happiness Factor, How high are your pants? and Jim’s forecast and Taboo Word.

The happiness factor
It’s easy to make with paper and index cards. Draw a scale from 1 to 10 in the paper and stick the nicely cut index cards with each team member on it.
The game is that anyone can get up and change anyone’s position on the scale at any time. If I am pairing with Jim find that he is cranky for example, I get up and modify Jim’s position on the scale. As soon as I get up and head for the board, Jim starts to smile as he knows he’s being moved to a lower rank and the team joins in throwing a joke or two on Jim’s new position. Jim can choose to explain the reason of his crankiness…or not! That’s up to him; he knows he has the team’s attention to take action if necessary.
If it’s something bigger than a cranky morning (we all have those), we just talk about it. Because we sit together at a big table, it’s easy to get everyone’s attention.

How high are your pants?
One day, one of us was challenging a new practice that we wanted to try out. During that discussion, someone got up and acted like an old man with an old rifle asking the kids to get out of his lawn.
We all laughed at that visual picture and the game was born a few days later.
You need intermediate design skills to make this one with index cards :-)
The higher you are on the scale, the more old-fashioned-not-wanting-to-give-it-a-try you’re going to look like. Anyone’s position can move at any point. This has been proven to reduce tension when deciding on new experiments. And just for fun, I coded a Nintendo DS version of the game.

Jim’s forecast
Jim is the most experienced member on the team. He is our architect lead (he loves to be called an architect). He also carries our forecast. Some people outside of our team know this game and stop by regularly to get today’s forecast. Actually they don’t have to. Jim can broadcast the team’s weather only by the expression on his face. That always makes for funny remarks and good conversation.

Taboo Word
We have different variations on the game. It started with 2 of us talking about a word that everyone uses at our company that are no real meaning outside of it. The “word” has been there for so long that people don’t even notice they are using it. So we started a revolution. One day we decided that we will not use that word anymore. If I happened to say the “word” and my coworker could hear it, I had to give him $1 for each instance of the “word” I used. That quickly removed the habit! The team caught up on the idea and now we have plenty of money saved towards a happy hour. And more importantly we use the correct “word” now.

Yeah….You could say that some of these silly little games are just information radiators, but it’s more than that, these are OUR games! And now get off my lawn, you punks!

speak up

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