Dublin Calling

Episode 1

Introduction to facilitation with serious gaming

3,2,1... the show goes on

On the elevator a soft buzz accompanies us during the three floor journey.
A metallic sound tells us that we have arrived. 
Just a  moment.... 
Let's concentrate, focus on the job, fast recap on the workshop, breath....

Doors open... we are ready, let the game begin.

The venue

It’s not as easy as it would seem to have an effective conversation, a productive meeting or a useful retrospective. Sometimes we partecipate in meetings where we lose the thread of the argument or in which not all the attendees contributed effectively if at all. Sometimes at the end of a meeting we realize we have nothing but a lot of words without a solution to the problem, or that we mainly discussed everything but the topic of the meeting.

Why serious gaming?

A good facilitator must know how to balance contribution and participation of all the attendees. He must know how  allow everyone to contribute in an equal way and to ensure that the meeting remains in the theme that was set.

There are a lot of useful techniques and tools to choose from to facilitate a meeting or a retrospective. Among these, serious gaming is a set of unconventional and effective instruments that allow people to express themselves in an innovative and  surprising way and as a result a freer and more transparent conversation emerges.

Three phases: prepare - explore - close

In this workshop, in a very informal and funny context, participants experienced different techniques which can be used in a scrum team or a meeting with managers. 
The meeting was divided into three phases where Giovanni and Pino, the facilitators, mixed theory and explanations, with practical experience.

Ice Breaking

First of all, before any exercise it's better to break the ice with an icebreaker....
People were involved in games to relax the body and the mind. This is the time to get to know each other.


During the central part of the workshop Giovanni lead the Agile Animal Farm, a game useful to understand how and why people interact in some ways at the office or in a team.


After the game Pino gave the attendees some basic concepts during the debriefing-retrospective.

The Game

Agile Farm is a game meant to explore different attitudes of people working in teams.
Using the metaphor of animal characters, the game highlights some stereotypes corresponding to different behaviour which emerge when people work together in groups.

The game uses animal-cards each representing a behaviorial stereotype in a team: on the card deck we can find the pig card, representing people fully committed to their job and dedicated to the team goal; the Lion who is the command and control boss; the penguin the saboteur, the cat that is  the passive follower.
The game is useful to understand that sometimes people act differently just because they have different attitudes,  interests and involvement in the job.

Animal Agile farm was created by  Pierre Neis, Agile Coach and business consultant, and is shared under Creative Commons “Attribution – NonCommercial 4.0 International” (CC BY-NC 4.0),

The 3 pahes of the debrief

At the end of the game, the facilitator (in this case Pino), led the debrief.
During this phase the aim is to understand the meaning of the game and let players bring new concepts and tools to use in the office.

The debrief must usually follow these three steps:

Re-live: the facilitator asks the players to re-live the experience of the game. What they did and what they felt. This is an emotional phase (a sort of dream): for that reason it is important  to allow people to freely express themselves without any intervention or comments. Sometimes it could be useful to help the conversation by the use of nominalization, that is connect a concept or a situation to a word: this is an effective technique to create mental anchors.
Using a board to write emotions, concepts or words is a good idea.

Connecting to real life: after having relived all the game moments, it's time  to connect them to real life. During this phase the facilitator asks attendees if and where the game concepts and dynamics are present in their daily life at the office.
Here the facilitator uses the mental anchors to create stronger connections from the game and reality.

Theory: at this time the facilitator starts to explain the theory behind the game. Actually now he's no longer a facilitator, but is more of a teacher or coach.
Again, even in this phase the coach uses the mental anchors to help people understand what and why something happens in the office.

At the end of the workshop all the attendees were fascinated to discover that a game is more than a game. 

What have we learned? What can we take  home? What could we use tomorrow at the office?

"Great Agile Reloaded Meetup last week at Dogpatch Labs
The art of facilitation with serious gaming,  experimented with some useful techniques to facilitate a meeting or a retrospective in an informal and non conventional manner. It was a great evening and really showed us how different people’s personalities can seriously affect a team & their productivity both positively & negatively. " - 


Pino Decandia
Agile Coach in Agile Reloaded, he's working with Giovanni to create the new division in Dublin.

Giovanni Puliti
Agile coach in Agile Reloaded; he met the serious gaming community on the first Play14 conference in Luxembourg in 2014. Thanks to the help of his teammates he brought the serious gaming conference to Italy (www.play14.it).