Pandora Cart: Creating a Sprint Timeline
In a recent retrospective I wanted to dissect the sprint day by day. The books recommend drawing a timeline, adding events to it, and then maybe drawing a satisfaction graph for every team member across the whole thing. This always felt time-consuming and tedious to me.
When in doubt, make a game of it, I thought. So here is Pandora Cart. The name is a mix of the team name and the console game that inspired me.
The team coach sets up a course of n x 3,5 numbered playing fields (just use index cards), where n = sprint length in days. Include field 0 as “start”.
Also, the coach creates a large number of event cards, about 5cm x 5cm. Half of them shows the picture of a banana, the others show a mushroom. There is plenty of space on the cards to make notes. A sensible number is m x 6 cards, where m = team size.
Finally, a game progress marker is required, preferrably a toy car approximating the shape of a cart; plus a D6 (regular 6-sided dice).
2. Game Setup
The team coach lays out the course on a table in numerical order.
Team members are asked to remember the sprint and all events that helped or hindered the team or the individual colleague. For each helping event, the team member takes a mushroom card and jots down a short summary of the event. For each hindering event, the team member writes a note on a banana card. Include the day of the sprint it occurred.
When setup is finished, we have
- the course, i.e., the numbered fields, on the table
- the cart sits on field zero/start
- each team member has a stack of banana and mushroom event cards in front of them
- the D6 lies on the table
3. The Rounds
There are n rounds in the game, representing the days in the sprint. For each round:
- One of the team members rolls the die and advances the cart by the according number of fields.
- All team members play event cards for the round, i.e., they describe the event and place the card on the table:
- Whenever a mushroom is played, the cart advances by one field.
- Whenever a banana is played, the cart moves back to the previous field.
- Take care to lay out the cards for each round in one separate row.
4. Game End
The game ends after the last round no matter what. No player should have any event cards in their hands any more. All event cards are on the table in n rows, the rows ordered by rounds (days). This display of event cards is your timeline of the sprint!
This image from a running game shows day four in a bad shape, while day six collected many mushrooms. The cart track is partly shown in a circle around the timeline, by the way, the cart is on field 18 at the lower right.
Now that you have gathered the data, you can move on to the “generate insights” stage of your retrospective.
The final field of the cart could be a point of discussion, but chance will heavily impact the result. Also, it does not matter at all where the cart ends up. Throwing dice is just there for the fun of it.
It is probably best to play this game for sprint lengths up to ten working days. For longer sprints and more rounds the game might become boring.
About the length of the course: The cart should, on average, advance by 3,5 fields per round. If, for every sprint day, you expect one more banana than mushrooms, you’ll end up at 2,5 fields per round on average,and can shorten the track accordingly. Maybe you even need negative fields if the first day of the sprint was a real mess …