Team Building Games

Leonor Urena

 Originally published by scrum alliance  Have you used agile learning games and play as a method of learning and of developing teams? Team building games are a tested method, one that is found in most schools today. However, it doesn’t need to be limited to adolescents, and it can be just as beneficial to help adults learn and hone new skills.This is especially true in the workplace, where gamification is revolutionizing team building and being used by businesses for employee development and to increase productivity and effectiveness. A concept that could seem like a gimmick has been proven to yield visible results. Agile Gamification in the workplace uses game-style thinking and strategy in non-game contexts, with the aim of engaging users in problem solving in order to induce desired behaviors. Essentially, this is exactly what Agile coaching is -- supporting teams to drive specific behaviors that contribute toward more effective, productive, and harmonious working relationships.

Agile Gamification

Given the similarities between the two, Agile gamification has proven to be a natural evolution, combining all of the benefits of gamification, such as game mechanics and rewards, but in an Agile software development setting. I’ve been known to create games on the spot in attempt to readjust team behavior. I have found that the earlier games are introduced, the faster a team gets to synergizing. The bond is created much earlier in the forming stages of the team.While at one client's workplace, I introduced music to the daily stand-up as a means of expression for the team and as a way of learning about each other. Each member was to select a favorite song one minute before the stand-up.  After a few weeks of playing music, one team member mentioned that he was not interested in doing this any longer. This started an argument, as the majority of the team felt it was fun and this individual did not. I left it to the team to decide, and the individual was outvoted. The team reflected on the reason for keeping it, and to my surprise they thought this one event every morning helped to mentally align them. This helped win over the individual who did not care to listen to music.By experimenting with different one- to three-minute activities, you may find a good match that could help your team.

Agile Learning Games

Team building games that help teams learn to work together are instrumental in team development. Teamwork is a vital aspect of any product development project, regardless of which industry it is in, and Agile coaches pay a whole load of attention to the personalities and dynamics of a team to ensure that it is as productive as it possibly can be.However, even with the right people in place, varying degrees of team building need to happen in order for members to learn to trust one another and work together effectively. Agile coaches drive and oversee much of this team building, but gamification  and Agile learning games can take this to a whole other level. In fact, Agile gamification doesn’t simply promote collaborative working but actually relies on it in order for those taking part to progress through the game.At another client workplace a few years back, I came on board to help a distributed team complete a project. The project had gone over budget and the team was simply not performing well. As part of my first strategy, I wanted to give the team face-to-face time through Google Hangouts. True, that is not a formal tool for a lot of organizations, but it could be a fun tool. During the team's stand-ups I would put silly faces on the speaker and that would make everyone giggle and point. At other times I would have them do the “Captain Morgan” stand-up just to make sure the offshore team was awake. (I am sure you are familiar with Captain Morgan ads). Anyway, the point is that, as silly as some of these things were, they worked! The team doubled their performance. Now, I am not saying it is as simple as introducing a game or something silly to do. What I am saying is that it helps!

Key Benefits

So what are some of the key points of  agile gamification and team building games?

  • Gamification aligns the incentives of the team members so that they are all working toward a mutual goal. Players realize that the game connects individual results in order to meet a collectively successful outcome.

  • It creates autonomy as individual team members learn to take ownership of their own tasks and performance. There is no hiding or shirking and no room for excuses.

  • It also creates a sense of accomplishment and achievement when individuals have completed their assigned tasks.

  • It improves communication by forcing transparency, and this in turn fosters rapport and trust within the team.

  • Team building games that are multiplayer can be used regardless of where your team is located. Making it ideal for distributive teams.

  • Agile learning games can reinforce skills every time the learner gets on. How many training programs you know that can continuous keep reinforcing the skills they learned?


Before choosing team building games or creating one, make sure the game has a purpose. Don’t choose a game for the sake of having the team play. If you know your team well, you know where the team needs help. Select wisely and choose a game that will fill that void. If it's communication they need to improve, for example, than select a game around communication. Have them play telephone! I once had a distributed team that, like many, did not get much face-to-face time due to time zone differences. So during their Daily Scrum I would have them play telephone. I would tell one individual on line a rhyme or quote (my favorite is Peter Piper picked a peck . . .). That individual would privately instant-message what they heard to another team member, and when the game got to the people in the room, each member there whispered what they heard to the next person. The difficulty of communicating to those online versus in the room resonated with the team. Repeat a game like this, or one of your choosing, several times and the team will improve. To help Managers, Coaches, Project Managers, and Scrum Masters in team building, we designed "Gelling".  Learn more about Gelling here.  Be resourceful and creative, and happy playing! 

About our guest writer

Sustainable Games
I am an Agile coach with a passion to help teams to collaborate, strategize, cooperate and to deliver solutions that are in direct support of strategic initiatives. An agile transition is all about people and interactions and that is my concentration. I apply gamification, and proven techniques to motivate teams. Through these techniques I support teams to drive specific behaviors that contribute towards more effective, productive and harmonious working relationships regardless of the methodology or framework used.

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