Bento Box Challenge

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Pitch

Bento (弁当 bentō) is a single-portion take-out or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento holds diversified food in a box, which form a simple yet balanced meal as hole.

It’s not uncommon for some mothers to spend up to 45 minutes per child’s lunch, according to Christopher D. Salyers, author of Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes. Again the bento meal has become a marker for social status, with the most popular children unboxing the most elaborate bento. We will use this metaphor to challenge ourselves exploring agility.

Introduction

The Bento Box Challenge is intended for teams that have at least 1 year's agile experience in using agile practices, and are now becoming stagnant and need to get some deeper insights into the agile principles and simplify their approaches to software development.

The workshop challenges 4 x teams of 4 people to work across a number of dimensions as they create training elements for a central task. The workshop is split between 4 iterations or experiments as the teams are taken on a journey that challenges their approaches of how they can work together.

The outcomes of the workshop are a shared learning experience that continues after the workshop. It is quite possible that teams may change their thinking style about agile as a result of the workshop, and may not be able to freely express what they have learned at the end of the workshop. Hence, the final debrief section is very important to help the teams assimilate the experience and their feelings towards what they have achieved and how they did it.

A post workshop get together is recommended a week or so after the workshop to help the team process what they have learned and how they have applied it within their workplace.

Dimensions

  1. The first dimension are the work streams or elements of the Bento Box. Each team selects one of the work streams to produce their element of the Bento Box. A completed Bento Box has each of the elements completed for the central task. Work streams and elements can be selected in an overt way with teams self selecting, or in a covert way by blindly selecting a card or opening an envelope which reveals their element as a bit of theatre. The elements of a Bento Box generally include:
    • a video
    • a podcast
    • an infographic
    • a learning tool
  2. The second dimension are the challenges that the teams face through each iteration and experiment, with a new challenge being presented at the start of each experiment:
    • The first challenge is "Overcome". Teams will need to orientate themselves to the tasks and will need to crash through their initial fears and anxieties to get ahead. Hence this challenge is about enabling the teams to create their first prototype quickly and reduce the procrastination that they may be experiencing
    • The second challenge is "Harmonise". The teams may have worked well in the first challenge, but may have become self serving with a narrow focus. Hence, this challenge is about broadening the teams' horizons to consider what the other teams are doing and how can they support them and harmonise to provide a well balanced Bento Box
    • The third challenge is "Evolve". The teams may begin to work well with the other teams, and now this challenge is about industrialising their approaches and learning how to do more with less
    • The fourth challenge is "Transcend". The teams might be working well together to produce consistent outputs, however, the challenge is now about what deeper insights into the way that they are working they have, and can they now break all of the rules to arrive at something new.
  3. The third dimension are the learning styles used to learn about the central task. These include:
    • Learning by receiving knowledge, either reading or other means of information acquisition
    • Learning by understanding as the teams begin to process what the information means and position their elements in the Bento Box
    • Learning by doing, as the teams begin to build the elements of the Bento Box
    • Learning by teaching, as the teams begin to tune their elements of the Bento Box to teach others about the central task
  4. The fourth dimension, which is optional but seems to work well for a half day workshop, is the application of the four agile manifesto values. This could be done as the central task, with each value being the central task to deliver for each of the experiments. Hence, at the end of the workshop the resulting Bento Box would have 4 x agile manifesto values with each one having 4 x elements that can be used to teach others about the agile manifesto values.

Bento Box Elements

Learning Objectives

  • How to simplify their approaches to creating an output
  • Realisation of what being agile is rather than just doing agile
  • Raises deeper questions about their approach to agile

Materials

  • Workshop Kanban Cards + Debrief Kanban Cards to communicate the flow of the workshop
  • Task materials e.g. Agile Manifesto Values Cards as the task to be worked on by the 4 Bento Box Elements
  • Run sheet for the facilitator
  • Timer to help the teams understand the rhythms of the workshop
  • Challenge Cards + envelopes
  • Experimentation Cards
  • Feedback Cards
  • ID Cards for speed dating and team formation
  • 4 x Bento Box Graphic v1 or v2 to communicate how the elements fit together and the expectations
  • 4 x Bento Box Elements to help the team identify with their particular Bento Box element:
  • Debrief Cards
  • Flip chart paper + markers
  • Post it notes + sharpies
  • Desk bell for the speed dating component
  • iPad or similar to create videos
  • Smart phone or similar to create podcasts
  • A3 paper to create infographics
  • Masking tape to mark out the Bento Box graphic on the floor
  • Creative materials to create learning tools e.g.
    • paddle sticks
    • balloons
    • tape
    • clips and pins
    • coloured markers
    • pipe cleaners
    • pong balls

Workshop Flow

Connections

The connections of the workshop include the following aspects:

  1. connection to the workshop - opening is done with an opening circle to allow the attendees to reframe and get in tune with the workshop
  2. connection to each other - speed dating is used as an activity to meet other people and derive how the teams are to be formed
  3. connection to the task - introduction of the task at hand and which bento box elements the teams will provide
  4. connection to the methods - descriptions of the challenges within each iteration are introduced via a card in an envelope opened at the start of each iteration

Concepts & Concrete Practice

Concepts are introduced with a challenge card and a task card in envelopes that are opened at the start of each iteration. The iterations are then started with the teams responding to the task and challenges to produce the outputs of the Bento Box. Depending upon the task, there may be supplied equipment and information in the form of concept centres for the teams to use to produce the Bento Box of training materials.

The emphasis is on learning through understanding, applying and then teaching others, as the teams incorporate new information from the concept centres, apply it to their Bento Box elements that they are producing, and then using the outputs to teach others.

Conclusions

Conclusions are provided with a structured debrief with cards to evoke deeper observations or feelings experienced during the workshop. A reasonable amount of time for a paced and structured debrief allows the attendees to provide some structured self reflection and deeper insights into the experience, and allows them to learn from their activities.

In addition, there may also be a follow up discussion exercise where the teams reform to discuss what subsequent insights and observations they made after the course and how they have applied their learning to the work.

Half Day Implementation

Start Finish Duration Item Notes
08:30 09:00 30 mins Arrive
09:00 09:40 40 mins Welcome + Connection * Opening circle - 5 min
* Speed dating - 15 min
* Team formation - 5 min
* Explain task - 5 min
* Explain the mechanics of the workshop - Bento Box Graphic - 5 min
* Stream selection - Bento Box Team Graphic - 5 min
09:40 09:45 5 mins Experiment #1: Intro * Introduce next part of the Task
* Introduce next challenge - OVERCOME
09:45 10:05 20 mins Experiment #1: Build * Build prototypes with the equipment provided
10:05 10:15 10 mins Experiment #1: Feedback & Insights * Participants provide feedback to the teams e.g. market place or sequential depending on number of attendees
10:15 10:20 5 mins Break
10:20 10:25 5 mins Experiment #2: Intro * Introduce next part of the Task
* Introduce next challenge - HARMONISE
10:25 10:45 20 mins Experiment #2: Build * Build prototypes with the equipment provided
10:45 10:55 10 mins Experiment #2: Feedback & Insights * Participants provide feedback to the teams
10:55 11:00 5 mins Break
11:00 11:05 5 mins Experiment #3: Intro * Introduce next part of the Task
* Introduce next challenge - EVOLVE
11:05 11:25 20 mins Experiment #3: Build * Build prototypes with the equipment provided
11:25 11:35 10 mins Experiment #3: Feedback & Insights * Participants provide feedback to the teams
11:35 11:40 5 mins Break
11:40 11:45 5 mins Experiment #4: Intro * Introduce next part of the Task
* Introduce next challenge - TRANSCEND
11:45 12:05 20 mins Experiment #4: Build * Build prototypes with the equipment provided
12:05 12:15 10 mins Experiment #4: Feedback & Insights * Participants provide feedback to the teams
12:15 12:20 5 mins Break
12:20 12:50 30 mins Debrief * Debrief cards in pairs + shareback
12:50 13:00 10 mins Close * Closing circle