Agile – Penny Game Rules
As attendees of my courses know, I like to use the Penny Game. So, I wanted to share more.
1. Say: “We are about to see who is the best penny processor in all of [city] today. And the winner, with the best single round, will win $20.”
2. Select 4 players (these will represent 4 departments or teams).
3. Select 4 managers, one for each Dept. Make sure the managers each have a stop watch. Also, we need one or two special managers, for the ‘first penny’ and the ‘last penny’, also with stopwatches. (Get inventive if you don’t have enough people.)
4. Give Dept 1 a bunch of pennies (any kind) and say: “Please get 20 pennies ready, all face up, or face down.”
4b. Optional: ask the managers how they will motivate their workers. Some good laughs.
5a. Rules: They can flip one penny at a time, with one hand. They can switch hands mid-stream. They can use two hands to pass. The timing if for flipping all the pennies and successfully passing all 20 (not 18 or 19, but it only stops when all 20 have been passed).
5b. Round 1: The managers time how long it takes to flip each penny, one at a time. And pass.
6. Write up the times for each Dept, and the times for the ‘first penny’ (to reach the customer) and for the last penny (to reach the customer). Note: The first and last penny both start ‘at the beginning’ and both should have the same time. Often they are 1 second different.
7. Round 2: Same as Round 1. I do this to enable them to learn how to do it better. Still, often the scores get worse.
8. Round 3: Each Dept must process 20 pennies, but in 2 batches of 10. As soon as the first 10 are flipped, they must be passed. Each manager measures the full 20, until fully delivered. Again, we write up the scores in public. Including the timing for the first and last penny (the last penny is in the last batch).
9. Round 4: Each Dept must process 20 pennies, but in 4 batches of 5. As soon as the first 5 are flipped, they must be passed, and so on. Each manager measures the full 20, until fully delivered. Again, we write up the scores in public. Including the timing for the first and last penny (the first penny is in the first batch, the last penny is in the last batch).
10. Round 5: Each Dept must process 20 pennies, but in batches of 1. Flipping must be separate from passing. As soon as the first penny is flipped, it must be passed, and so on. Each manager measures the full 20, until fully delivered. Again, write up the scores in public. Including the timing for the first and last penny.
Note: I always give special instructions for the last round. They cannot flip and pass in one motion. They must flip in place, and then pass. Also, there is lots of motion and a temptation to go too fast. If they make errors (sliding the penny off the table), then the error is on them, and they must correct it, thus affecting their time. So “you must go slow to go fast.”
The Dept with the lowest single score ‘wins’ the $20. Pretend you will hand the money to the worker, then hand the money to the manager. Usually a laugh or two.
11. Ask the participants: ‘Did we do this game to find out that [George] is the best penny processor in [city] today?’ They say: No.
12. Ask someone, “The numbers are talking to you. What are they saying?” If you have experience with the game, you might comment on how ‘normal’ the numbers are. Typically most numbers are quite normal, but some times they can be ‘off’.
Usually the group will come up with some very good, counter-intuitive Lean insights.