Kanban Pizza Game

10-40 people

The Pizza Game is an excellent tool for both new and established teams to grasp the concepts of Lean & Agile. By immersing themselves in Kanban, participants can learn how to transition from an existing process to a Kanban system, visualize the system, and make modifications. This fun and engaging activity allows teams to experience the challenges, rewards, and enjoyment of the process firsthand, and reflect on ways to improve their workplace practices. Plus, participants get to create their own (paper or digital) pizzas!

Workshop steps


LEARNING GOALS 1. Engage in hands-on Kanban learning by participating in an activity that demonstrates its principles. 2. Recognize the potential benefits of "playing the game" compared to just observing a Kanban board and its mechanics. 3. Develop the skill to view a board as a dynamic system that adjusts to the process, product, and users, without striving for perfection. 4. Comprehend the advantages of limiting your Work in Progress (WIP). 5. Experience self-organization, adaptation, and self-leadership. 6. Enjoy a fun pizza-themed activity! MATERIALS & PREPARATION FOR IN-PERSON SESSION For each team, provide: - 2 blocks of pink Post-its (representing ham or vegan ham) - 2 blocks of yellow (or gold/orange) Post-its (representing pineapple) - Yellow A4 thin printer card (for pizza base) - 2 red markers (for tomato sauce) - 2 glue sticks (to attach cut-up Post-its) - 2 scissors Additionally, prepare: - 1 roll of masking tape per table - 1 paper plate (as an oven) per team - A4 white paper (for Pizza Parlour sign)


FORM GROUPS AND SELECT PIZZA PLACE NAME Form groups of 4-6 individuals, ensuring each table has the necessary materials mentioned earlier. Request each group to pick a name for their Pizza Place (e.g., "Sloppy Giuseppe's!") and attach their sign to their table. Facilitator: Gather the group names, display them on the Scoreboard flip chart at the front of the room to encourage friendly competition!


SHOW, SHARE, AND PLAY THE PIZZA GAME 1. Prepare a sample of a well-made ham & pineapple pizza slice to demonstrate the desired outcome for the teams. 2. Present the pizza slice to the participants and explain the components: - Pizza base (paper triangle) - Tomato sauce (red marker) - 3 slices of ham (pink Post-Its) - 3 slices of pineapple (yellow Post-Its) - Ensure the sauce covers the base and toppings are evenly distributed. 3. Explain the rules: - The plate is the oven, with a maximum capacity of three pizza slices. - Cooking time is 30 seconds, and the oven remains closed during this time. - The goal is to make as many pizzas as possible while minimizing waste. 4. Display the instructions and a sample of a good pizza slice for reference. 5. Confirm that all participants understand the rules. 6. Start the game by shouting "GO" without specifying a time limit. 7. Play upbeat music and encourage a fast pace while walking around. 8. Time the game for 8 minutes without informing participants of the remaining time. 9. End the game by shouting "STOP" when the time is up.


TIME'S UP! QUALITY CHECK & SCORING TIME Once the time is up, have the teams step back to admire their creations. Next, introduce the scoring system: - Add 10 points for each fully cooked pizza slice - Deduct 4 points for each pizza base - Subtract 1 point for each scrap of cut pizza or ham Tally the scores and evaluate the quality. Make comments on aspects like: - Oversized slices: "These could put us out of business!" - Inconsistent toppings: "We need more continuity!" - Uneven tomato sauce distribution: "Our customers might complain!" Remember: Keep the atmosphere light and fun!


Introduce Kanban (Step 8 provides a detailed explanation of each principle) After completing the first round, present Kanban and its fundamental practices: 1. Visualize the Workflow 2. Limit Work in Progress (WIP) 3. Manage the Flow 4. Establish Feedback Loops 5. Define Process Policies Clearly 6. Collaborate for Improvement Discuss the principles with the participants. Inquire from them: - Do they utilize Kanban at work, and if so, how does it benefit them? - Encourage the teams to focus on these practices in the future.


ROUND 2 1. Clean up and reuse the materials, refill the uncut materials. 2. Provide participants with the same instructions as Round 1, but inform them they have 8 minutes to prepare their pizzas. 3. Allow them 5 minutes to plan, utilizing the established Kanban principles. 4. When there's 1 minute left, give them a heads up. 5. Play soothing music during the activity. 6. After 8 minutes, halt the activity and gather the scores. 7. Expect to see a significant improvement! 8. Reward the winning or most improved teams with a prize, such as candy or pizza.


REFLECTION ACTIVITY Spend 5 minutes discussing in teams Take 10 minutes to present to the larger group (Adjust time based on team/group size) Consider these reflection questions: - Compare your behavior in the first round to the second round - Discuss your feelings during the first round versus the second - Share what your team learned - Identify if there was a leader - Explore any other observations


KANBAN PRACTICES Visualize the workflow With the physical production of the Pizza the workflow is always present, and by drawing the workflow we create a model that we can use for reflecting on the current process. Remember: all models are wrong, but some are useful. The workflow is a simplification and can never match reality perfectly, but it allows us to study and understand our work. Note that the workflow can be represented in multiple ways. The fact that some pizzas go into the oven with toppings and some without can be described using tags, swimlanes, non-linear workflows, directed networks, cadences (alternating between hawaii and rucola in the oven) or a number of other methods. Over the course of the game, each team created a workflow that made sense in their own context of people, resources and bottlenecks. While it is likely that other teams could pick up a board and make it their own, it doesn't mean that any one of the boards is necessarily ""more right"" than the others. Limit WIP Throughout the game, the built-in bottlenecks caused queues to pile up. This is intentional. During the game the teams introduced limits on the work in progress (WiP) to make sure that they produce the right things and to avoid losing points for unused materials. The participants experienced that WiP limits are more than simple limitations: they drive and change the behavior of people. People tend to interact more on the overall production, communicate more and help each other when needed. Manage flow Kanban works best when work is flowing nicely through the system. Normally you would increase the flow by measuring and minimizing the lead time. Unfortunately this takes too much time away from the facilitator, and so in the Pizza Game we use a scoring system that is set up to penalize inventory and trigger similar flow-optimizing behavior. In the first rounds of the game there is a tendency to prepare small stockpiles of materials in advance. In later rounds the team learns to keep inventory down and maintain flow by tightening the WIP limits. Measuring the flow in the Pizza Game can be very instructive, but you will need a co-facilitator to do this. Make process policies explicit After the first round, each team documented their workflow by marking it on the table. Any changes to the system were made immediately on the table. We also set a common quality standard by selecting a Reference Pizza. How did this help the work? How about roles? Did people have clear roles? How did they appear? Who allocated the ""resources"" in this simulation? Implement feedback loops What did we collect feedback on? Ask the teams to think for a moment about what kinds of feedback loops there were in the game, and write these on post-its. You can either collect all post-its on a board, or ask people to give examples. During the debrief, ask them what would have happened without each specific type of feedback. Improve collaboratively and experimentally The game consisted of four rounds, with time for inspecting and adapting in between. What would have happened without the possibility to inspect and adapt? Who did the inspecting and adapting? What information was it based on? What did people in the tables talk about during pizza production?


Agile 42's Kanban Pizza Game Tips & FAQs: Keep in mind that the Kanban Pizza Game is primarily a learning tool, not just a fun activity. Focus on the educational goals and avoid turning it into a chaotic competition. Why not use a large stopwatch with six-minute rounds? Avoid showing the remaining time to prevent teams from slowing down early. Aim for rounds between five and seven minutes to keep work ongoing. Should I provide an extra oven if the team asks for one? No, don't magically fix bottlenecks for them. Let the team learn to identify and handle bottlenecks on their own. Is the game too slow? Should I pressure the teams more? Allow the game to develop naturally and observe the teams' behavior. Encourage good practices and discourage unwanted ones. If needed, create competition or ask teams to measure and improve lead time. What if teams work too fast and make low-quality pizzas? Highlight the quality differences and ask teams to agree on a quality standard. They can appoint a QA person, create a Definition of Done, or establish a Standard Reference Pizza. How to handle teams that tear ham by hand and call it "artisanal"? Explain that the ham is made from regular materials (pink post-its) and that customers may be unhappy with the quality. Refer to the Reference Pizza and refuse to accept poorly made pizzas. Can I add variations or extensions to the game? Feel free to share successful enhancements, but be cautious of introducing elements that may not work well. Remember, the game's primary purpose is to teach Kanban, so keep it focused on learning objectives.

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Anna Lundqvist
UX Designer and AI Ethics Strategist guiding innovative product development and educational workshops
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Eddy Salzmann
Design lead and team culture enthusiast driving products and design processes
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Ola Möller
Founder of MethodKit who has a passion for organisations and seeing the big picture
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