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Agile Misfits


Based on a game I used to play as a kid, this simple game is easy to setup and run. The general idea is 4 people individually draw each part of a body (head, body, legs, feet) without seeing what the other did. I’ve ran it with over 96 people (and it could scale further it needed to!). At scale this is an ideal game for a warm up on a PI Planning Session.

The game will demonstrate the effects of silos, hand-offs, and how ideas can be scuppered by organisational constraints. With lots of fun and chaos the teams will also experience the power of self-organisation and continuous improvement with metrics and feedback loops.

About this article

To help get the initial idea across I have described the game with 4 people and then added the layers to show what extra happens when you have 8+, then finally if you are have 42+ people.

At the end of the article there are a list of some other variations I have tried out, each with different learnings available.


1-4 People 30 Minutes

8-36 People 45 Minutes

42+ People 60-90 Minutes


Envelopes - 1 per 4 people playing.

Index cards 25 per person

2-3 sharpies per person


Flipchart marker

Setup (1-4 people)

Facilitator draw a head, body, legs and feet on 4 separate index cards - this is he “Master Misfit” everyone has to replicate.

Put envelopes on the start (Head) table. Use them so that each person can’t see what has gone before.

Create a chart with 4 round numbers with space for timings and Quality Score for each round.

Table Layout

1 person per table

Nominate each table as a body part (Department)

Table 1 - head

Table 2 - body

Table 3 - legs

Table 4 - feet

Introduction - Background

Describe the background that you are an engineer working in a Doll/Action Figure Factory.

Times are tough, with countless consultants and experts coming and going - the management has turned to you.. the engineers to save the company.

We are making a product called “Misfits” - a figure made of random designs.

Management wants ideas from you, the factory engineers...the idea is to self-organise to make production better. Continuous improvement is the name of the game, you have some simple rules to start with, but it’s up to the engineers to make things better.

Introduce (initial) rules

  • 1 of each body part per envelope (no duplicates)

  • 4 different engineers must be involved in production of a Misfit


Practice making your body part (5 mins)

Each person belongs to a department to make only their body part. Ask them to go to the front to study the “Master Misfit”. They can’t bring it back, they have to remember what they saw and replicate. Give them 5 minutes to do this and practice.

Round 1 - Make a Misfit (5 mins)

Before you start get the stopwatch ready and make it visible to everyone (type stopwatch and use googles free full screen)

Explain how production works...

Starting with head department

  1. Draw body part put in envelope (explain each department cant start until they receive envelope)

  2. Pass to next table

  3. When all 4 parts drawn (in turn), assemble on table

  4. Write timing down (When assembly complete).

We are only making 1 Misfit in this round.

Rate My Misfit

Facilitator rank the Misfit against “Master” from -5 (Awful!!) to +5 (Like a photocopy!) write on flipchart for that round.

Reflection (5 Mins)

Ask group "What was difficult about production"

Encourage them to change one thing

Ask them to choose a goal and decide how to achieve it. - Note goal on flipchart.

Round 2 - Make Another Misfit (5 mins)

Implement goal

Rate My Misfit

Facilitator rank the Misfit against “Master” from -5 (Bad) to +5 (Perfect) write on flipchart for that round.

Reflection (5 Mins)

Ask group "What was difficult about production"

Encourage them to change one thing

Ask them to choose a goal and decide how to achieve it. - Note goal on flipchart.

Round 3 - Production Line (10-15 minutes)

Given what happened in round one ask them to decide on a vision... what is possible?

Make as many we can make in 10 minutes.

Rate My Misfit

Facilitator rank the Misfit against “Master” from -5 (Bad) to +5 (Perfect) write on flipchart for that round.

Reflection (5 minutes)

Ask group "What was difficult about production"

Possible learnings

There are lots of learnings you can reflect on, it will depend on what the group notices. Some that I have observed are...

  • Difficulties in working in Silos

  • Collaboration is hard when split up

  • Self-organising lead to a choice of improvements

  • Speeding up doesn’t always improve quality

  • T-Shaped (draw different department parts)

  • Last rounds where quantity was important - did we have lots of waste?

Project Codes (8-32 People)

So far, I have described 4 people.. if you want more people per table, here is an outline.

You will need the same amount of people on each table.

Ask each person on the table to number themselves from 1 to number of people on table.

I call this number a “Project Code”. This will start to show how collaborating in silos is difficult. When you get to improvements, they may want to work outside their department,.

Play as before, but the people on a table pass the envelope to the person on the next table with the same “Project Code”

Suggested table layout and example flow.

Factories (32 - 100+ People)

Add 4 more tables per factory.

Give each 4 tables a colour and call them a factory.

Works as before..

I ran this with 16 tables (4 factories), 6 people on each table (6 project codes).

Journal - I would recommend getting tables to write a Journal between each round and ask the question

"What was difficult about production?"

At the end, get a Factory to summarise from the journals collected to share issues and learnings.

Additional materials for Mega Scale

I have created a slide deck for use with a large amount of people which you can use.

At scale I would recommend a facilitator per 2 tables.

Someone ready to show the clock too.

An audible horn or such for getting everyone’s attention so you can keep things moving.


I have tried different variations which you can incorporate into rounds as you see fit. Below are some suggestions, they are quite varied and will enable different learnings.

Variations - Initial Design

Allow the group to create a master design. Take ideas from different designs individuals have drawn, pay attention to the artists! If they draw really intricate detail others will have trouble copying...

Variations - Quality

You can spend time accepting and rejecting Misfits based on criteria you want to make up. You can choose weather you share the rules or not ;)

If you do this instead of timings, there is definitely a different focus.

Variations - Integration

If the joints don’t match they will need to work with their project codes not departments to align. This is hard to do when you have lots of project codes and factories... so they may want to get the project codes together. You can reject or reduce points based on this and ask them to improve it. Using larger index cards or a4 paper makes integration more erratic.

Discuss comparisons with APIs and integration points..

Variations - Customer and Change

Another way to change this up is to have a customer focus group at the front. They can make demands about the design.. for example we don’t want misfits we want a Police/Space/Chewbacca outfit. The legs are too short/long (rotate the card so it’s different)

Then see how they organise to align... remember there are departments and project codes (which may illustrate organisational structure as an impediment)

You can send the focus group out to the tables to work with the engineers to change their design and align together.

Variations - Product owner

You could add a product owner in to make things difficult generally, or even get the Product Owner to choose what improvement to make. The product owner can be vague, picky, or absent and a bottleneck for accepting the finished product.

Variations - Speed/ Quantity

Ask them to make as many Misfits as they can in a certain amount of time (or) time how long it takes to make X misfits. In this way could measure W, Quality, Cycle time if you organise it differently.

Variations - Managers (Gemba)

If you want to illustrate Gemba (go-see), you can assign a manager to walk around and make suggestions, observations and help remove impediments.

Variations - Managers (Command and control)

Ask the managers to find poor performing t and tell people to speed up, give them other tasks to do, or take individuals away to help with other tasks. As the work is serial, it will slow production.

Variations - T-Shaped

Allowing a table to make a full doll where everyone is making all parts is a good way of illustrating role share. This may come out when the feet people are bored at the start.

Round Goals, Metrics and Continuous Improvement

You can ask the teams to write down what improvement they were trying to make, and add a measurement in to see if it improves. If you do this at the end of round 1, you can record things in round 2-3 to compare.

Cycle time and Queues

The process can mapped as a Kanban board. Recording timings between handoffs you can also look at CFD’s, cycle time, and queuing theory.

Variations - Colours / Queues

If you really want to be mean, introduce colours - but don’t have many of that colour around so the teams have to share ;) This can introduce waiting and queues.

And Finally...

I have tried to keep things simple in this design. You can obviously take it wherever you want. I have included the deck I used here.

Feel free to get in touch and ask questions or share experiences.

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