WIPL Game [not finished yet]

The Work in Progress Limit Game is based on two illustrative games I've played in the past: the first was about making paper air-planes, and the second was about placing dots on a card. This game is closer to the second, with elements of the first added.

Summary

This game is intended to teach the players about the potential benefits of limiting the amount work in progress (WIP) that a team, or its individual members, takes on. The theory is that by limiting WIP we can increase the overall quality of the product being producing without unduly impacting the performance of the team. We also theorize a decrease in the risk of work having to be thrown away when objectives change. Each round of the game takes a few minutes to play and several minutes for data gathering and discussion.

Requirements
  • a supply of cards or post-it notes. The initial round(s) can consume a large number of these, so I recommend having at least 100, if not more.
  • four different coloured dot stickers in large quantities (again, 100+ of each is advised). I'm going to assume the colours: red, blue, green, and yellow.
  • one person to keep time
  • one person to act as the customer
  • 3-6 people to act as workers
  • a table where everyone can sit with enough space to work on the cards
  • paper, pencil, and stopwatch for the timekeeper
  • a pen for each worker
  • optional: painters tape for delineating working areas
Set up

Sit the workers such that they are in a linear sequence (line or circle) around the table. Each worker will pass their work onto the next worker in line. The last worker passes the product off to the customer, so the customer should be sat after them. The timekeeper needs a clear view of the first worker and the customer.

Each worker after the first worker has an incoming queue for the worker before them to pass work into.

The Product

The goal is to produce a post-it with coloured dots on it that looks like this:


This can be reproduced using this DrRacket script:

#lang slideshow

(define (card a b c d e f sz)
 (define (cr color) (colorize (circle sz) color))
 (let
  (
   [rc (rectangle (* sz 4) (* sz 4))]
   [bl (blank sz)]
   [vs (blank (/ sz 2))]
  )
  (let
   (
    [top (hc-append (cr a) bl bl (cr b))]
    [mid (hc-append bl (cr c) (cr d) bl)]
    [bot (hc-append (cr e) bl bl (cr f))]
   )
   (cc-superimpose rc (vc-append top vs mid vs bot))
  )
 )
)

(card "red" "blue" "green" "green" "blue" "orange" 20)

Roles

Timekeeper

The timekeepers tracks two things:

  1. Total time from when a round starts to when a round ends.
  2. Total time from when Step 1 starts on a specific product to it being handed to the customer. (Regardless of the customers acceptance of the product.) This is tricky to measure after round changes as the system needs to "flush" the built up work from the previous rounds before changes to the process will be reflected in the timing.

Customer

The customer looks at each product and accepts it or rejects it. The customer should be extremely picky about quality. Stickers should exactly line up with the edges of the post-it, the two centre stickers should just touch and be perfectly centred, and the correct colours should be in the correct positions. The customer is looking for any reason to reject the product, and will accept nothing less than perfection. They will also check that all eight steps are accounted for by initials on the back of the product card.

Worker

The workers assemble the product. Each worker should have easy access to the product coming in from the worker before them.

Product Building Steps

Building the product is split into eight steps. The steps are intentionally not distributed evenly, since in real life the steps involved in creating a product are not evenly distributed.

For a 3 worker game:

Worker 1: Step 1
Worker 2: Steps 2,3,4,5
Worker 3: Steps 6,7,8

For a 4 worker game:

Worker 1: Step 1
Worker 2: Steps 2,3
Worker 3: Step 4
Worker 4: Steps 5,6,7,8

For a 5 worker game:

Worker 1: Step 1
Worker 2: Steps 2,3
Worker 3: Step 4
Worker 4: Steps 5,6,7
Worker 5: Step 8

For a 6 worker game:

Worker 1: Step 1
Worker 2: Steps 2,3
Worker 3: Step 4
Worker 4: Step 5,6
Worker 5: Step 7
Worker 6: Step 8

Step 1

The worker removes a post-it from the pile, initials the back of the post-it, and adds it to the next workers incoming queue. They mark every tenth post-it with a small X on the front left edge.

Step 2

The worker places to top left dot, initials the back of the post-it, and adds it to the next workers incoming queue.

Step 3

The worker places to top right dot, initials the back of the post-it, and adds it to the next workers incoming queue.

Step 4

The worker places to left centre dot, initials the back of the post-it, and adds it to the next workers incoming queue.

Step 5

The worker places to right centre dot, initials the back of the post-it, and adds it to the next workers incoming queue.

Step 6

The worker places to bottom left dot, initials the back of the post-it, and adds it to the next workers incoming queue.

Step 7

The worker places to bottom right dot, initials the back of the post-it, and adds it to the next workers incoming queue.

Step 8

The worker verifies the product it correct, initials the back of the post-it, and passes it off to the customer.

Rounds

In each round the workers will produce products using the steps above. When ten products (accepted or otherwise) have been delivered to the customer the round ends. Workers should continue to perform their jobs until the round ends, even if ten products have already past through their hands as we'll pick up from where we left off in the next round. Try to be a quick as possible gathering metrics between rounds and move onto the next round as fast as your can.

Round 0: Baseline, Go Fast

Explain the steps and worker assignments. Each worker is told to do only their steps, and do them as fast as possible. Tell the time keepers to time the two metrics: from start of the round to tenth product (post-it) handed off to customer, and the time for a single product, selected near the middle of the round, to travel through the pipeline). Tell the workers to continue working until the round ends, as we'll be resuming from where we left off.

Make it clear that the customer should provide no feedback to the workers as to why products are not being accepted, and workers should not discuss the product with each other.

Run the round and the gather up the following metrics: The two times from the time keeper, and the number of accepted post-its (as determined by the customer).

Round 1: Go Fast

Starting from where Round 0 left off (don't clean up) produce another ten products (post-its) using the same rules as for Round 0. Gather the same metrics again.

Round 2: Requirements Change

The customer now announces a requirements change, and will be looking for:

Don't clean up, and start the round (same rules as round 0) immediately and run until ten products are produced. Remember that the produced products do not have to be accepted by the customer.

Round 3: Customer Feedback

We now change one rule. The workers are allowed to ask the customer yes or no questions during the round.

Round 4: Go Slow

We now change another rule. The workers are told to go slower and take their time. Focus on getting the product correct rather than going fast.

Round 5: WIPL

We now add a new rule. A worker cannot pass the product they are working onto the next working until the next worker is ready for it, and a worker cannot start work on a second product until they've past on their current one.

Round 6: Requirements Change

Our fickle customer has decided to go back to the original product design. Thankfully the customer will now also converse freely with the workers about why products are not being accepted.

Round 7+: Empowerment

Workers can now talk to each other during the round. Additionally we open up the rules and allow the team to change, add, or remove one rule every round. They're given one minute between rounds to decide and must follow the rules during the round. Run as many rounds as you have time for. Help the team use the metrics being gathered to decide what rules are working and what rules are harming. The customer still gets to decide what products to accept. (I.E. only rules about the team and their production of the product can be changed, not what product the customer is looking for or will accept.)

Retrospective

Look back at each round and examine the impact of requirements changes, WIP limit, open communications, and finally the team owning the rules. How is quality and production time affected by these changes? How much waste is generated from requirements changes?
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