Experience MVP – the game!

20151028_121447 Ok, so we know the theory about the minimum viable product, as you can read and see in my previous post. But how can you make sure people get it? You have to let them experience it!

The whole point of doing an Agile game is to let people who play the game have a mini experience of what it is in real life.

So as a second logical step in our MVP campaign, we developed an MVP game. And with ‘we’ I mean my colleague Agile Coach Rosanne Bal and myself. In this post I would like to share this game with the Agile community, so that you can use it if you want.

The goal of this game is to show the participants that when you have real customer data, you discover what your customer really needs and you’ll be able to pivot when necessary. This is the reason that you create two teams and you don’t explain a whole lot to teams in advance. You let them discover and talk about it later.


  • Depending on the number of participants: divide the group into two teams (don’t make the teams too big) or more.
  • Every team has one Product Owner (who’s in on the game).
  • One (group of) teams will have direct customer contact and the other will just talk to the Product Owner. So you will need a customer role as well (who’s in on the game).
  • Each team has it’s own resources: pencils, post-its, scissors, colored paper, tape etc. etc.
  • You work in sprints: but it’s not a Scrum exercise!
  • Use a shared timer that both teams can see. Use it to show how much time there is left in a sprint and they have the same sprint pace.

Customers wish: Cozy and nice atmosphere during the holidays. (We did this game a couple of times before the Christmas season, so you may need to adapt if you are doing this during the summer. Be creative! ;))

Product Owner of team 1 has spoken with the customer shortly about his/her wishes. The Product Owner remembered a couple of things very clearly and has translated this into a product backlog with concrete user stories. The PO has agreed with our customer that the team will start working on these user stories and will show the result after a couple of sprints. Why bother your customer with not-yet-finished results right???

The Product Owner of team 2 also talked to the customer about his/her wishes. The PO remembers a couple of things, but is not really sure if this will work out and realizes that the customer needs to experience the product as we go. So the Product Owner has agreed to go ahead and start the first sprint and will make sure the team shares the results as soon as possible. This way the customer feedback will help improve the product as we go.

The teams have 4 sprints, time-boxed as followed:

  • Planning & executing the sprint: 4 minutes
  • Review: 1 minute
  • Retrospective: 1 minute

Usually 4 sprints are needed, but sometimes you need to adjust as you go, to see where the teams stand.

Teams Group 1Teams Group 2
The Product Owner has put together a backlog according the customers wishes and has made a number of assumpions.
The team will create products according to this backlog in a number of sprints.

Assumptions made by the Product Owner:
- Cozy and Christmas means having a tree.
- The tree needs decoration
- The customer mentioned paper snowflakes, so that's what the decoration should be.
The Product Owner started out with the customers wishes. The customer is available during the sprints to validate the team's most critical assumptions and will give direct feedback during the sprint reviews. (And more if the team asks for it).

Wishes behind the customers first wish:
- Decorated table during Christmas diner having white snowflakes on the table.
- Happiness and cosines when the guests arrive.
- Customer doesn't like decoration in the tree. It caught fire at one time, so it's a bit traumatic. Besides, you can buy that if your want. Lots of it.
- A polyphony live Christmas song sang by the team!

Ask the teams to think of their most critical assumption before building the product, so they can ask the customer in the review or give it a try so they can validate that assumption.
Customer interaction:
Customer is available only after 4 sprints, when the product will be delivered. De Product Owner will provide them feedback at every Review session. Product Owner will create new assumptions based on the products delivered, so he/she can improve the customer experience!
Customer interaction:
Customer is sitting at his/her Christmas tree. He will visit the reviews, so the teams can show the products the have made and let the customer experience it. They can also ask the customer to come by during the sprints, if they ask for it.
After not all that long, the team will discover that the customer fears Christmas tree decorations and the snow flakes are meant to be table decorations. Besides: the customer doesn't feel delighted with the result, so he/she wishes other table decorations as well. And maybe some live music?

So from this point on the two groups of teams develop in different directions. Teams of group 2 will have experienced a pivot in their product after the first sprint already!
Review with the team(s) of this group only. Reviews with the team(s) of this group only and the customer!
Customer's response:
"Now that I see this, I realize I didn't know what I really wanted"
"I expected more..."
"It'll have to do, because it's almost Christmas, so there is no time left..."
Customer's response:
"I thought I knew what I wanted, but the result is so much better!"
"I'm so glad I was so much involved in the product in the making!"
"It really feels like my product!"

Here’s an example of a Product Backlog for the teams in group 1. Be creative though and give it your own twist!

User StoryDefinition of Done
As a customer I want white snow flakes as decoration in my Christmas treeDiameter: 15 cm
On 4 sides symmetrical blue ribbon
As a customer I want white snow flakes as decoration in my Christmas treeDiameter: 10 cm
On 8 sides symmetrical silver ribbon
As a customer I want a peak for the Christmas treeHight: 20 cm
On all sides the same colors
Should be able to stand
As a customer I want colored snow flakes as decoration in my Christmas treeDiameter: 10 cm
On 4 sides symmetrical blue ribbon
Green and Red
Silver ribbon
As a customer I want colored snow flakes as decoration in my Christmas treeDiameter: 15 cm
On 8 kanten sides symmetrical one color
Silver ribbon
As a customer I want colored baubles in my Christmas treeDiameter: 10 cm
Two circles shoved together
Blue/white ribbon
As a customer I want decoration underneath the Christmas treeTo be determined

The final retrospective is with all groups and participants.

Form groups of 4 participants, but make sure there is a mix between groups 1 and 2. Ask them to answer the following questions:

  • What’s the difference in the approach between teams in group 1 and 2?20151201_095235
  • What is the role of the Product Owner, the team and the customer?

After that, get the whole group to share their findings. Ask them what they have learned and what they will take back to their teams, so they can improve the way they think about a Minimum Viable Product.

As a facilitator, you can share some of the following findings with the participants:

  • A lot of teams create things because they are asked to. They don’t ask questions. How valuable is this to our customer? Teams in group 1 will have experienced that there freedom was limited, the Product Owner knew (or thought he knew): the customer wanted decorations for the Christmas tree. That’s what everyone wants, right?
  • Customers often think they know what they want, but until they can experience the real product, they can truly give you valuable feedback. So you want to know this as fast as possible, so you can pivot if necessary.
  • With validated learning you avoid spending precious time, effort and ‘resources’ to something nobody wants.

We have done this workshop three times now, and people really find it valuable! It helps them think big, but act small and think about what the customer needs. Validate assumptions, LEARN!

Please try this workshop (or in an adapted form/theme) in your organisation and share your experiences here!


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