Team Responsibility Game

Team Responsibility Game
Submitted by Yuliya Mijuk on 09/22/2014

At the 9th of September the 6th Lean Agile & Scrum Conference took place in Zurich. In an interactive session Markus Wittwer presented "team responsibility game"

This game is really fun and shows how important it is that all team members take responsibility for their joint work equally. It also helps to understand the influence of certain personnel group changes on working together and the success of a group.

I think the game deserves to be more widely used.

What you need for the game:

Inflatable beach balls and about 6 meter long ropes tied to a circle (one ball and one rope for about 7 persons).

How to play:

The facilitator asks the audience to split into groups of about 7 people. Each group gets an inflatable beach ball and a rope bound to a circle. Thereafter, the groups must use the rope to build a net that is able to hold the ball. Each of the group members holds with two hands on the rope and pulls. Each team member should be assigned a number in sequence.

Once the nets are ready, the facilitator says that the groups should move around the room in a circle and play along with the ball. The ball should always be in motion and cannot be dropped.

While the groups move in a circle and play with the ball, the facilitator gives them some instructions to group changes.

  1. Member #6 should take 130% of the responsibility in the group and pull with correspondingly more power on his/her part of the rope. After one to two rounds all team members have 100% responsibility again.
  2. Member #1 weakens the responsibility to 70%. After a while (1-2 rounds) all move around normally again (100% responsibility).
  3. #3 and #6 have a conflict and pull the net apart. After a while the facilitator gives the command to walk normally again.
  4. #4 switches to a different group, and stays there.
  5. Members #2 and #5 switch their places in the group.
  6. Member #3 works for two groups: makes one hand free and grabs the net of the neighboring group. Release after 1 round and run normally again.
  7. Member #7 works "remote": closes the eyes. Go back to normal after a while.

After that

Debrief within the teams:

  • What did you notice?
  • How did the changes influence the team?
  • What could the possible usage of the game be?

Exchange your experience and insights with the other teams: one of the team members represents the team and summarizes the discussed together

Some key experiences in my team:

  • Multitasking doesn't work at all
  • The team works at its best, if the responsibility is evenly distributed
  • Loss of a team member had a less negative impact than the receiving of one new member
  • Working remotely went well, maybe because of the fact that the remote member had been already longer on the team
  • The more changes we experienced, the more complex was our net, it even needed repair at some moment during the game

Possible use:

In a Retrospective meeting as a team building activity

As a demonstration tool to show company management that 

  • it takes time until a team begins to work together smoothly
  • after each change in the team a certain time is necessary, until the team has caught up and started to work well together again
  • when working in multiple teams and multiple projects it is very difficult to achieve success

I could not recollect the course of the game with an accuracy of 100%, but it is not so important in my opinion. You can try out other group changes in the game and look for new cases of application. One can, for example, try out whether it makes a difference if a team has only one or two or even three "remote" members.

After writing this article, I found out that I was not the only one, who was excited about the game. Here you will find photos of the game and an alternative description in English.

Yuliya Mijuk

About the author

Yuliya Mijuk

Yuliya’s professional life started with Scrum. She is a Certified Scrum Professional and received her certification as ScrumMasters in 2006. She studied Computational Linguistics at the LMU in Munich. After the graduation in 2004 she came to WEB.DE where the transition to Scrum was taking place. Later on Yuliya worked as a ScrumMaster and Scrum Coach at SPRiNT iT and billiger.de (solute GmbH).