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The Frog Factory: a Kanban experience game

April 12, 2010 By: Peter Category: Agile, Funstuff, Software

At first sight, Kanban looks deceptively simple. You visualise your workflow, put some work-in-progress limit to every stage, and that’s it!

This is indeed the basics for any succesful Kanban. But why are these two principles the driving force behind Kanban? And how can we teach people these basics in a way that they understand the principles, not only know them by heart?


A two hour game

That is what the Kanban Game accomplishes.In a relatively simple game that takes two hours, participants are stimulated to discuss and understand the underpinnings of Kanban, helping them to become more agile and ultimately more succesful in their business.

The game takes place in five rounds, each focusing on a specific topic:

 

Keeping the team scores during the kanban game

Keeping the team scores during the kanban game

 

  • Round 1: solving bottlenecks to obtain smooth flow. Work-in-progress limits to help solve bottlenecks.
  • Round 2: market variability and agility and the value of stock.
  • Round 3: the effect of training: deeper expertise for optimal flow. Broader expertise to limit dependency on disturbances.
  • Round 4: process disturbances and how to obtain smooth flow even in unstable environments
  • Round 5: kanban, the big picture. How to transfer what we have learned to the real world.

Apart from these five specific topics, following topics will be brought up during the discussions more than once:

  • Visualising workflow: why it is important and why it is equally important to keep the visualisation in synch with reality
  • Importance of communication and island work versus team work
  • Expertise in the head and hands of a limited number of people
  • FTE: are people just “resources”? is “adding people” a way to achieve higher production?

Besides that, participants will gain an in-depth knowledge about origami frogs ;-)

Free download

The Frog Factory – a Kanban game can be downloaded and used for free. However,

  • when you want to share the game with others, please only link to this website. Regularly, new versions will be published so don’t copy the files.
  • When you use the game, please give me feedback (agile is all about quick feedback, remember?) so that I can improve the game. Also, ideas for extensions and the like are welcome. Do use the comment button below this page.
  • The software and material is provided as is, without any warranty. Use it at your own risk. For example, if playing this game changes your beliefs about how to run complex business processes, don’t blame me. :-)
  • Also, honor my copyright. Constructing and improving this game has been lots of work and I provide it for free, so please at least refer to this website when using the game. Posts about the game on other websites are encouraged!

Practicalities

  • the game can be played by 6 to 20 people, divided in two equal teams. If the number of participants is odd, a correction applies (automatically calculated by the spreadsheet) apart from the teams, there is one instructor and if possible, an assistant.
  • you need a suitable room with a whiteboard, if possible two computers and a beamer, per participant about 12 square origami papers in three colors and four bins per team (any recipient is okay as long as you can put some paper frogs in it)
  • room setup: project the spreadsheet with the results and use the other computer for the counter. Put it in the middle so that teams can see the progress of the rounds. There is also a sound signal so constant visual contact with the timer is not needed.


→ Download the FrogFactory (zip file, 1 MB, no installation necessary – just download, extract and access the files via Explorer)

What’s in the zip file

 

 

Visualising work in progress

Visualising work in progress

Basically, almost everything you need is provided:

  • the instructor’s manual, of which you need one copy.
  • the frog construction manual, which you need to copy once per team
  • the experience sheet, for which you need one copy per participant
  • the spreadsheet to keep the points
  • a template for a big six sided die (of course you can also use a normal die if you don’t want to make a die with cardboard and glue)
  • Separate download: the frog counter application that keeps the timing of the rounds

Note
Thanks to Sven, Serge, Peter, Christophe, Kurt, Bart, Annemie, Gunther, Griet and Nadine for volunteering to test the first version of the game.

See also this post about a Kanban game.

[shutterstock keywords="kanban"]

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12 Comments to “The Frog Factory: a Kanban experience game”


  1. Anderson Sampere says:

    hey I like this post. I found it from doing a google search. Ive been looking for this sort of thing for a while. This info will come in handy to me. I will check back soon to search the rest of your blog. thanks

    1
  2. This is a great simulation for Lean training. I’ve posted it on my blog, where I have many other ones listed as well.
    http://www.leansimulations.blogspot.com
    One question. How do the team members decide what colour frogs to make? Can they make all one colour if they wish? If they know the value, this would make sense, but if they don’t know the value, isn’t it just random? The instructions are a little unclear on this point.
    Very well put together! Thanks.

    2
    • Thanks for the feedback. During the game, they can choose whatever color they want. However, since they don’t know what one has most value, they don’t know which one to pick. This becomes clear when the points are awarded. But market conditions can (and do) change during the next rounds so they need to be agile to follow the market.

      3
  3. Hi Peter,
    That clears things up a little. When the market conditions change, do the teams know in the next rounds? I mean, since they need to follow the market, they should know what colour is worth more while they’re building. BTW, my first comment hasn’t appeared yet.
    Thanks!

    4
  4. Hi Peter,
    I was looking for a nice game for our Kanban training and I came across this one – great game, very amusing, easy-to-organize, and thoughtful. Thanks for sharing it!
    My colleagues volunteered to be my “alpha testers”:), and during the game came up with a few questions and comments that I would like to bring to you, as I expect them to come up during the trainings as well.
    1) If a player finishes his/her part of the flow before the end of the 30/60/90-sec period, are they allowed to start working on a second one (they will drop it only at the end of the next period, but will have it ready in the meantime)?
    2) If yes, what happens to any completed work that remains out of the bins at the end of the round – does it remain as WIP or is it just waste that we have to throw out?
    3) If 1 is yes, then is a player allowed to drop work in 2 bins simultaneously at the beep (my assumption is no, just want to be sure)?
    4) Are people allowed to help each other finish their task on time – e.g. if player A finishes far before the beep, is she allowed to help player B who is falling behind with his task?
    5) If 1 is yes, is a second player allowed to drop the completed work in the bin instead of the person who actually completed the work (e.g. if someone completes 2 pieces for bin 1 within a 60-sec interval, but he is only allowed to drop 1 piece, can another player drop the second piece)?
    6) Do we take out the WIP after the end of the round (my assumption is no)?
    7) Are we supposed to provide additional pieces of paper if the teams have exhausted their supplies of the relevant color already?

    And in addition to the questions on the game itself, I have a few more comments:
    1) As we are teaching our trainings in our native language (Bulgarian), I am going to translate the handouts in Bulgarian too. I hope this is OK for you (I will keep the reference to your site of course:)).
    2) Regarding the changing market conditions, if we only change them when I throw 1 or 6, this give a pretty big chance that they actually remain the same (this happened in our alphatest). Therefore, I am going to change this a little bit and shift the conditions if I throw 1,2,5,or 6 (in the same way as described in the instructions). This makes the game more interesting ;)
    3) It would be nice if we also track the WIP between the different rounds. This might help the participants understand the benefits of having a maximum number of tasks per flow step, and also analyze their bottlenecks. I even created a small cumulative flow chart – I think it’s nice to have it in the spreadsheet as well, so that trainees get used to Kanban analytical instruments. Unfortunately, I can’t find a means to send it to you, so that you can add it if you think it’s helpful too. If you are interested, please, get back to me on my email.

    I am looking forward to your comments.

    Greetings,
    Zornitsa

    5
  5. And one additional thing I just remembered: in our game test almost everybody turned out to be an expert in at least 3 of 4 phases, which made the game less thrilling in terms of learning about investments in training, for example. Maybe in such case a good idea would be to reduce the time for an iteration (e.g. to 25 or 20 sec) and ask players to re-assess their level. What do you think?

    6
  6. Hi Peter,
    Just checking out game again. I noticed that the I cannot access the file. It’s asking me for a password. Are you still giving this away for free?
    Thanks!

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    • Juan,

      there is a temporary problem with the site… I’ll fix it ASAP. Thanks for letting me know and be assured that the game is still free!

      P.

      8
  7. Thanks for the fix, Peter!

    9
  8. Dear Peter,
    can you please contact me on my email? I have some questions regarding the game, because i would like to use it during my lessons.

    10
  9. Dear Peter,
    I played the game with my team, 9 participants in total.
    I get feedback I am sharing with you.
    – 6 minutes is ok for rounds.
    – I told participants about market changes. For me it is difficult to adapt to market changes, if you don’t know them. In reality, you can have market studies or client’s communications about changes.
    – At the beginning, it appears that almost everybody is an expert for almost every step of the construction phases. So I think that the experience sheet need to be fine tuned. Instead of having times like 90s, 60s, 30s for junior, senior, expert, we could have 45s, 30s, 15s. In this way, participants can have more training during the rounds. And it would be more realistic because, participants are spending a lot of time waiting for bleeps.
    Thank you for making this game available.

    11
  10. Christian,

    there’s a hiccup on the website — I’ll try to fix it ASAP.

    P.

    12

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