Rod Willis Game session Day 2 Agile Business Conference 2017 - photograph by Tom Hampson Images Copyright ©Visual Eye

Collaboration Poker – building high performing teams

Blog post
By Rod Willis & Debbie Willis | 3 November 2017

This blog is based on a round table event delivered by Rod Willis of Assentire® Ltd at the Agile Business Conference 2017

Sharing Ideas

At the Agile Business Conference, we had the opportunity to share some tools and techniques that Agile (and agile!) practitioners may find useful to develop collaborative behaviours within and between teams and groups.  

In one hour and a half session people had the opportunity to experience an alternative way of exploring this rather ‘elusive’ but critical topic of ‘group dynamics’.  If you can already define what Group Dynamics is, and you know how to harness that, then you are all set.  If not, you may find it interesting to read on. 

The session explored a set of statements based on The Innovation Audit 3.0.  This framework provides a new vocabulary and structure to explore and ‘open up’ the discussion of Group Dynamics and collaboration for both ‘open’ and ‘closed’ groups.

Rod Willis Game session Day 2 Agile Business Conference 2017 - photograph by Tom Hampson Images Copyright ©Visual Eye

The 3 Dimensions of the Innovation Audit

The Group Dynamic (Learning and Control Dynamic combined together) explores the interplay between the Learning & Control Dynamics within the group. The Environment Dynamic statements explore what is going on immediately around the group, and between groups, that helps or hinders its efficiency and effectiveness.


Taking an Alternative Perspective using Collaboration Poker!

All the activities are designed to help members of the group express what they perceive is ‘in play’ within the group or team, and uniquely from each individual’s perspective

We are not trying to measure people.

People are measuring the ‘system’ they work within!


The resources have been designed to give people a voice and opportunity to safely express their views.  This particular game enables the group to explore any one of the three dimensions in a fun and safe manner.


Getting StartedRod Willis Game session Day 2 Agile Business Conference 2017 - photograph by Tom Hampson Images Copyright ©Visual Eye

Participants were asked a simple question and to write that score on a sticky label which is used later.

Bring to mind a close friend, colleague or family member who is considering joining this group, and you know their future depends on the success of this move. They want your advice, should they apply for the new position?   “On a 10-point scale – where 0 = Definitely not, or 10 = Recommend”

What score would you give?  This is based on the Net Prompter Score (NPS by Bain and Company).


Exploring the Learning Dynamic and Environment Dynamic

As two groups of six, using the Learning Dynamic Cards and board game individual scores were collated. The groups were asked to place a cone on a scale where they felt it most represented the ‘group’ and discuss why they felt that to be the right place.


Plotting Initial Results

After repeating the same activity for the Environment Dynamic, individual scores were plotted on the Collaboration Readiness poster.

At this point, we always hear the question, ‘but what does this mean?’ 


The ‘Monday Morning’ Question

What does it feel like to work in a place that scored either bottom left or middle/top right?  At this point real stories come into the space from the people around the table in a confidential manner, as no real identifiable details need to be shared.  It is more the sentiment and feelings this invokes that tells the story.

Rich insights were quickly gained when participants anonymously shared a little more about what it might be like to work in either a stressful, potentially ‘command & control’, environment versus being part of a highly collaborative team. Everyone could directly relate to what was being shared. 


Introducing the Control Dynamic

Now familiar with the statements, we turned our attention to the Control Dynamic, usually only introduced in a closed group once people feel ‘safe’ to share what they REALLY are thinking and feeling.  One of the key themes underpinning the audit is the understanding of Psychological Safety. We strongly recommend this video by Professor Amy Edmondson to explore this subject in more detail.

Finally, we completed a 2nd plot, now integrating the Control scores and considered the implications of this additional insight.

With additional vocabulary and data established, conversations and implications were soon becoming richer!

Rod Willis Game session Day 2 Agile Business Conference 2017 - photograph by Tom Hampson Images Copyright ©Visual Eye










Integrating and Developing Ideas

By briefly exploring the online Profile Report, Board Game and Retrospective resources to signpost the underlying theory, it becomes possible to understand the different applications. These include new ideas participants put forward about enhancing agile practice in their group, team or organisation as a ‘one off’ snapshot or on a repeating basis, perhaps as part of the ongoing retrospectives.


Bottom line?
How to talk about those things we want to, but are just not sure how to!
Playing poker can help.

This blog was written by Rod Willis, an Agile Business Consortium community member, and Debbie Willis –

All photographs by Tom Hampson Images Copyright ©Visual Eye



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