XP2010: The Leadership Game

While I’m at the XP2010 in Trondheim, I try to update my blog with some of the interesting sessions I attend. Today was the first day with workshops and tutorials, here is my write-up from the first workshop I attended.

The Leadership Game

Yves Hanoulle

The LEadership Game is the first workshop I visit. After everyone introduced themselves to the others, Yves worked us through three different styles of leadership:

  • Command and control leadership
  • group leadership
  • process leadership

Each round we get asked to construct something from the lego bricks Yves brought. To each round there are observers picked that take on a passive role, and note things that are happening.

For command and control leadership there are two leaders. After entering the room and they tell us about their vision. Then they start to introduce us to the building parts of the game. We are asked to construct a city in two groups. The old part of the city and the new part of the city shall be build in two groups, with a bridge built between the two. The group gets separated into four people for the old city part, four people for the new city part and finally one for the bridge part. I get denoted to the old part of the city. My leader asks us to do several parts of the city, like building a school, a pub, a fire department, or a hospital. Everyone works on her own on these. during the middle we get a comment from the other team, that we’re supposed to build a metro station on our side as well. Unlickily there are just a few parts left to do that, so we sub-optimize to the goal our leader did not forsee. We build a small train station from the small parts that we still have,. In the end we end up with two pubs in the old part of the town, a mix in the colors of bricks used (we were told to use just the green and blue ones), and a presentation held by our leader with no involvement from the team itself.

The second round of the game consists of building a church. This time there is no leader at all but two observers. We get 10 minutes to agree upon what kind of church to build. Some of the other attendants visited the Cathedral in Trondheim last night, so we agree on building a Cathedral on our own right from the start. We start with a sketch of the building, and a first prototype, then continue after the initial 10 minutes for meeting are slipped to construct our Cathedral. There are three to four leaders evolving from the on-going discussions. The group is rather large, and the on-going discussions on how to build this thing bores some of them enough to search for new activities that may support the building part of the church. In the end we end up with a Cathedral that has no roof, no towers, but that has a nice color pattern, and even windows. Here is the (un)finished church.

The final round of the Leadership Game hasof two process leaders and an observer. The process leaders introduce us to the mission, which is to build three public monuments. Based on the earlier experiences we split up the group into three sub-groups, each taking one monument as their duty. We build the Eiffel-tower, the tower of Pisa, and the Colosseum. The Colosseum finishes first, and asks other group members to comment on it. After that they jump directly in to help the other teams out in order to achieve the overall team goal.

We spent a full hour on a reflection and find out what happened. Though we had already reflected in smaller groups of three right after each round, we now get all the thoughts together in the larger round. From the command & control leaders we get the feedback that they felt the power, but their work was very stressful. One of the leaders explained that they had to stab team members in order to collaborate. The leaders perceived themselves to have asked a lot of questions. When asked by Yves whether they felt they were in control, they answer with an unsure yes. One of the team members gives them the feedback, that she perceived them to be weak leaders in this command & control style.

From the reflection of the second-round, Yves gives us the feedback that we were actually gold-plating right from the beginning. A small church wasn’t sufficient, we needed a Cathedral. Some of the naive questions from Diana Larsen in the earlier two rounds were perceived to have supported the communication.

Overall the group is clear, that the third round was more successful than the other two. Interestingly we are unsure, whether a different order of the session would have yielded different results. Obviously the last round with the team-split up was biased by the second round with the poor communication. Some final interesting facts collected from the discussion are that the command and control leadership lead to a lot of noise. In the second chaotic round there was a lot of talking going on, but no one really cared to listen. In the third round the process leaders were hardly perceived by the team members. They got from group to group, asking questions, but the insights came from the team, which was really helping them engage themselves into the product they were building.

Yves put up the material to this exercise on his blog. It’s licensed under Creative Commons, so that anyone else may use it. In fact, Lisa Crispin‘s tweet from this morning mentioning Yves’ material on the web made me curious about the session, so that I had to attend.

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4 thoughts on “XP2010: The Leadership Game”

  1. Thanks for this wonderful post about your experience.

    One interesting observation I heard was that in the second game, the only way to have people listen to you, was by building something (a diagram/ spike / real cathedral)

    Feel free to use the game and send me feedback on how the material is.

    1. Yes, indeed. I missed that one out. In order to communicate with each other on that noise level – since everybody was talking, but no one was heard – you had to start building something. This happened with the sketch of the building we had in mind, and continued over the course of the whole Cathedral building. The size of the Cathedral was maybe chosen so that multiple people at one time could build something on their own, but that’s just me speculating. :)

      Thanks for the Game. This was really fun.

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