Nov. 21, 2018

Introducing Agile to Government: How the most amazing LEGO City was built using Scrum?

Q: What do you get when you take 70 City Planners and bags and bags of LEGO? 

Lego City

The answer is *drum roll*... a ton of fun and the creation of the most amazing LEGO city ever!  

When and where did this event take place and who were these 70 City Planners?

This event took place at the Spring Municipal Information Systems Association (MISA) Conference in beautiful Langley, British Columbia. Note: A big thank you to everyone from MISA who participated, and for the invitation to introduce Agile to the municipal government.

MISA Lego City

The MISA LEGO city had all the features and necessities of an ideal city -  an airport, a power plant, a hospital, a fire hall, fire engines, and even a pub for all of the LEGO people to kick back after a long day in LEGO city! But it didn’t end here. Not only were there a school, a library, and a civic center for the arts, there were also roads, sidewalks, street lights, and power hookups to all of the buildings. Sounds amazing

So how was such an incredible LEGO city like this get built in less than 3 hours?

The answer lies in Agile.

After an overview of Agile methodology and iterative/incremental delivery, the 70 City Planners got right down to business - to learn and experience Agile concepts by building a functioning LEGO city. More precisely, experience Agile at scale with a single backlog of work ordered by the Product Owner team.

The first steps needed to create the MISA LEGO city included the following:

1. Form 9 cross-functional teams

2. Create a shared backlog of stories, and agree on the priority deliverables for the LEGO city i.e airport, firehall, bar/restaurant, parks, etc.

3. Determine a shared Definition of Done -  an agreement across the teams outlining how the teams will know that a deliverable is completed i.e buildings are integrated (power, roads, streets), and quality criteria are met (all buildings must be sized to accommodate a typical LEGO citizen)

The First Sprint: What was done and what were the learnings?

Armed and ready for the first sprint, the teams were off and running. In total, two energy-packed, highly creative, and jubilant Sprints/Iterations were carried out. All 9 teams had done the following per sprint:

i. Sprint Planning: Plan what to build [Duration: 5 minutes] 

ii. Sprint: Build deliverables to the Definition of Done [Duration: 10 minutes] 

iii. Sprint Review: Inspect what the teams have delivered and gather feedback from the attendees (primarily, Product Owner) to adapt the plan for the succeeding sprint  [Duration: 15 minutes] *** The focus is on the product

iv. Retrospective: Inspect how the teams collaborated and performed and identify areas for improvement [Duration: 10 minutes] *** The focus is on the process - the way in which the teams are working together.

The first sprint allowed the teams to uncover some invaluable learnings:

1. Teams worked independently of each other 

  • The 9 teams picked up one story each
  • There was little conversation and engagement between teams
  • There was little or no integration between deliverables

2. There was almost no discussion with the Product Owner

Outcome: During the Sprint Review, although the Product Owner was pleased with the progress, nothing was accepted. Why? Due to lack of integration (Learning #1) and unclear initial requirements from the Product Owner (Learning #2), the stories were not completed.

The Second Sprint: Based on learnings from the initial sprint, how did things changed?

Armed with the learnings from their first sprint, the teams set out to tackle Sprint #2 and the changes that were made had a significant impact on the outcome.

1. Teams worked together

  • A 10th story was started and almost done
  • Teams engaged with one another, which produced much more value than if they had worked alone
  • The LEGO city was integrated and functional
2. Teams negotiated with the Product Owner over the acceptance criteria and deliverables

Outcome: There was a clear prioritization of the backlog, and all 9 stories were completed while meeting the Definition of Done.

Through this simulation, teams were able to experience self organization. They learned how to plan and organize tasks during the Sprint. While facing the pressure of a time-boxed sprint, they also learned to communicate with each other and to focus on the sprint goal as an integrated solution. Finally, teams learned to measure their performance and to make improvements. However the greatest takeaway for these teams was the realization that working on projects together can involve lots and lots of fun as well as laughter.

To all the MISA LEGO City Planners - congratulations on building an amazing LEGO City!  You have definitely raised the bar on LEGO City planning!

Are you interested in running a Scrum simulation at your company, for more information contact us by clicking here.

Lego City 3

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Jan Barnes

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Jan Barnes

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