1, 2, 4, All

Anyone leading meetings, presentations, or teams should be aware of Liberating  Structures.

1, 2, 4, All is one of the best facilitation techniques in my toolbox.



The Ball Point Game

A really fun way to learn the value of inspecting and adapting a teams through-put rate through iterations, self organization, estimation, historical data, and sustainable pace. Created by Boris Gloger. Instructions

Movements of a Hypnotic Nature

Highly recommend! Participants get the feel and touch of emergent design, iterations, teamwork and operating from high-level requirements. Demonstrate the roots of Scrum through cross-functional and self-organizing teams. I have co-trained this exercise a couple of times with Dhaval Panchal. It originates from Brent Barton.


Estimation Game

Credit to @ChrisSims who I first saw running a session like this at an AONW conference. I have used this exercise to help teams understand how a they can reach consensus in estimating work regardless of the differences in experience and skill-set amongst them.

Part 1

Divide your room into equal teams (6 – 10 people on a team works well). Each team given a list of fruits and vegetables on large stickies: (Add a single number of 1 – 10 on each sticky to represent a priority order for the items – to be referenced later)

  • Chayote Squash,
  • Potato,
  • Pineapple,
  • Apple,
  • Banana,
  • Orange,
  • Coconut,
  • Blueberry,
  • Durian,
  • Grape.

Task 1:
Order the list from left to right, smallest to largest, in how much complexity and risk is involved in peeling and eating these items. (Time boxed 5 – 10 mins) As facilitator, you should also play the role of Product Owner (PO) and Subject Matter Expert if the teams need clarification. When complete ask for a spokesperson on each team to explain the reasons why they picked their order. All teams typically have some similarities. The results often reveal differences between the groups in knowledge and experience as well as some assumptions which could have been avoided by asking the PO some questions during their 5 minutes. For example, even if an item could be eaten without peeling – thereby smaller in complexity and risk – the requirement was it needed to be peeled first. Similarly, the potato and squash are required to be cooked before eating. I’ve seen teams explain they would smash a fruit or vegetable as a method for peeling, which is fine, but as a Product Owner you should expect higher quality.

Task 2:

T-Shirt Sizes
Apply T-Shirt sizes using relative sizing. Place stickies indicating XS, S, M, L, XL above the list of fruits and vegetables.
Each team decides which single item represents a medium, their “Anchor”. This item is placed under the medium sticky and every other item is compared to this and asked the question, “Is this bigger, smaller, or the same size.” Those items are then placed in the appropriately sized bucket. We now have a backlog arranged by relative size which the entire team agrees on.

Task 3:

Fibonacci Sizes
Overlay the modified Fibonacci sequence above the T-Shirt sizes. For example, XS = 1, S = 2 and 3, M = 5 and 8, L = 13 and 20, XL = 40, XXL = 60 and 100. The team can easily move similarly grouped T-Shirt sized items into a big or small mediums, big or small larges, etc. (5 or 8, 13 or 20, etc). Remove the T-Shirt stickies. We now have a relatively sized backlog using story points.

Note the story point size on each item. The Product Owner can now take the backlog and put it back into the original priority order. This view of the backlog may also reveal some previous unknowns, e.g. items that are too large and need further splitting may be sitting high in the priority. The team should plan to focus on grooming and splitting this work very soon.

Part 2

Now the team is ready to use this exercise on real stories from their actual backlog. First find a few stories which represent  a medium level of complexity and risk to the team, the “Anchor Story.” Then they follow the same methods used above to relatively size the rest of their work.

After a few sprints, and once the team has established it’s velocity, it is possible to reasonably and accurately forecast when an item might be taken and completed from a sized and prioritized backlog.

Related information: Why use story points over hours?

Crossed or Un-Crossed?

A quick and easy way to gather everyone’s attention. All you need is a pair of scissors.


What Relates to You?

Prepare 4 sets of 3 posters containing a large single word (see list below) and place them in 3 spots in the room with a cover sheet on top.


Each flip chart will have one of the words from each set in the same order.

  • Army, Navy, Air Force
  • Beach, Mountain, City
  • Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry
  • Dog, Cat, Other

Gather everyone in the middle of the room.  Remove the cover sheets on each of the three flip charts to reveal the first set of words.

Instruction: Ask the group – how do these words relate to you? Pick the one that relates the most. You must pick one. No need to overthink it. It might be a direct relationship or something relating to your family, friends, or neighbors. Anything is OK. Move to that area, paying attention to who else has joined you there. Turn to someone in this group and share your reasons for making this choice.

Time box to 5 minutes.

Remove the top sheet to reveal the next set of words and repeat.

Timebox each round and do a final de-brief at the end.
“What did you learn about others in the room?”
“Was there anyone who was the same as you for all four rounds?”
“Are you aware of anyone who shared non of your choices?”
“Did any other patterns emerge?”

Big Ball O’Questions

Open a meeting using a beach ball covered with 50 to 100 questions written in permanent ink. Have everyone stand in a circle and toss the ball to one and other. When the ball is caught the question closest to the left thumb is the one to read aloud and answer.

Note: White beach balls work best otherwise avoid those with dark panels.

Beach Ball