Innovation Games® Certification in Dallas, Texas

Co-founder of Tasty Cupcakes and VP of Learning Solutions at Improving Enterprises, Don McGreal will be hosting an Innovation Games® workshop for Agile Teams on May 19, 2014 in Dallas Texas. This one-day intensive Innovation Games® for Agile Teams course will enable agile practitioners to put Innovation Games® to use to identify customer requirements, improve retrospectives, prioritize backlogs, create better release plans and much more. As a Professional Scrum Master Trainer and certified practitioner, Don has over 15 years producing enterprise software as: Process Coach, Mentor, Architect, Developer and Business Analyst.


For more information on the course and registration go to:

Certified Scrum Master with Innovation Games®

All CSM courses are taught by Certified Scrum Trainers. Taking a CSM course, passing the CSM test, and accepting the license agreement designates you as a Certified ScrumMaster, which indicates that you have been introduced to and understand the basic concepts you need to perform as a ScrumMaster or team member on a scrum team.  This course also satisfies two elements of the CSD track: Scrum Introduction and Elective.

Looking for a straight-forward explanation of Scrum and how to use it effectively?  Searching for ways to tailor your current processes to effectively support Scrum? During this two-day dynamic, interactive Certified ScrumMaster class, renowned consultants Carlton Nettleton and Jason Tanner will share their proven, real-world experiences and techniques implementing Scrum and show you how you can be successful with Scrum.

Through short, focused lectures that simplify each piece of the Scrum framework, the class will include lots of peer-to-peer discussions and small group activities, which reinforce each topic and will help you maximize your understanding and retention of Scrum.  You will learn from Carlton and Jason’s experiences, and the experiences of the other attendees, what works and what does not work with Scrum.  Most importantly, you will have a blast learning as there is absolutely NO PowerPoint in this class.


Location: Rally Software, Halifax St. & Cedar St. Door C, Suite 105 Raleigh, NC 27604

Date: Thursday, March 28 – Friday, March 29, 2013

Time: 9:00am – 5:00pm

Register: Here

The learning objectives for this course are:

  • List the five values of Scrum and the eight essential Scrum principles.
  • Discuss each piece of the Scrum framework, its’ purpose, and interaction with the other pieces of the framework.
  • Describe the rights, responsibilities, and interactions of each role in Scrum-Team Member, Product Owner, ScrumMaster, and Stakeholder.
  • Discuss with the other participants what Scrum means to you and what it will mean to be a ScrumMaster in your organization.
  • Identify the main obstacles to using Scrum and the challenges of sustaining Scrum in your organization.
  • Evaluate if Scrum is the right process for you, your team, your project and/or your organization.
  • Practice applying ScrumMaster skills and thinking to solve day-to-day issues and challenges.
  • Watch Scrum in action as the framework of Scrum will be used to deliver the course material.
  • Draw a diagram describing the Scrum framework, highlighting all meetings, roles, and artifacts.
  • Explain how Innovation Games® can help your team and business achieve better results with Scrum.
What you will receive from this course:
  • A vivid, 55-page student workbook full of custom exercises, activities and course summaries that capture the essential points you need to learn and comprehend to pass the Certified ScrumMaster assessment.
  • A signed copy of Carlton’s book, Fourteen Observations of Good Scrum Practice, to use as a study guide to prepare for the assessment.
  • Documented Scrum case studies explaining how Scrum was used to create successful outcomes and improved teams.
  • A reading list of great books to jump start your continuing education on topics such as how to do Scrum better, scaling Scrum, distributed Scrum, estimating and planning, Lean Thinking, facilitation, collaboration, communication and other essential topics.
  • Thought-provoking articles relating to the role of ScrumMaster, the challenges associated with doing Scrum, identifying waste in your business, the Agile Manifesto, how Scrum was used to rescue a troubled project and facilitating change.
  • A forty-five minute, personalized question and answer session with a Scrum expert at the conclusion of the first day to answer your specific questions about Scrum and how to get started in your company.
  • Two-year membership with the Scrum Alliance providing access to additional articles, case studies and templates authored by other Scrum practitioners like yourself along with discounts to Scrum events and conferences.
  • One year standard subscription to Innovation Games® online – a $495 value.
Who should attend:

Any person who is interested in learning more about Scrum or wants to make Scrum work better for their Team or organization is encouraged to attend.  While the focus of the class is for people who want to learn how to leverage the Scrum framework to bring about change, any member of the Team or the organization who is interested in how to use Scrum would find this class useful.  Typical attendees in the past have been functional managers, Team leads, analysts, architects, engineers, software developers, directors, testers and other roles that support product development.
This is what you will learn from the other participants in the course:

“Learn how they implemented Scrum, roadblocks they faced and how to overcome those”

“Knowledge to decide whether Scrum is for me or not and when to implement it”

“That others are facing similar issues in adopting and adapting to Scrum”

“I learned a lot from people with different roles in their organization”

“Mechanics are not the emphasis for success in this methodology”

“The issues I face in my work is common among my classmates”

“Surprised that Scrum is not as structured as PMI”



Carlton Nettleton
My name is Carlton Nettleton and I am the President of  Look Forward Consulting.  My passion is to share my excitement, enthusiasm, and encouragement with teams and organizations as they reach for higher levels of performance and engagement. My business is to help your business grow and flourish.
When we work together, I will be sharing tools, techniques, practices, and insights I have gained in the last 10 years while working with Agile teams as both a contributor (I used to write code a long time ago), leader and a consultant.  My goal is nothing less than to develop high-performing teams through a combination of visibility, accountability and real ownership of the work and authentic personal relationships.  When these factors come together in your organization, teams will deliver not just the same mediocre results faster, but astonishing results.  The types of outcomes and innovation that will stun your leadership, customers, and competitors.
Today, my main focus is to lend my experience and deep knowledge of Scrum to organizations that are looking for something more out of their business and teams. Together we will apply Scrum and Lean Thinking to your projects so you can develop products that satisfy your customer’s needs better than your competitors.
Jason Tanner
Jason teaches and mentors product managers and teams to achieve their goals through Agile principles and practices.  He currently focuses on large enterprise transformation.  Jason brings his professional experience with software companies, a telecom carrier and the Marine Corps to engagements.  Jason has been an Agilist for 6 years.  His expertise spans Agile product management, product marketing, business planning, partner relationships, project management, and leadership.  Jason attends and speaks regularly at local events – wherever he works – national and international events including Scrum Gatherings and Agile Alliance conferences.  He holds an engineering degree from Cornell and an MBA from Duke and is a CSM and a CSP.

Certified Scrum Product Owner

The Certified Scrum Product Owner Course is a two-day course which introduces the concepts of agile product management using the Scrum methodology. Why does this matter? The 2003 Standish Chaos study showed that 43% of all IT projects had a cost overrun. Further, 52% of all projects failed to meet objectives, 66% failed and 82% were delivered late. It’s no wonder our customers are unhappy! This course will provide you the tools, techniques and most importantly, the understanding needed to be an effective Scrum Product Owner.

This course is highly interactive. Students will learn tried & true methods for building, managing and prioritizing the Product Backlog and ways to build a product roadmap for release planning. Some of the techniques will seem a bit odd, but trust us, they work. Exercises in this class contain Innovation Games, by Luke Hohmann. These are some of the best techniques on the planet for helping customers determine what they mean and ensuring you build what they mean, not what they ask for. This course is highly interactive. Students will learn tried & true methods for building, managing and prioritizing the Product Backlog and ways to build a product roadmap for release planning. Some of the techniques will seem a bit odd, but trust us, they work. Exercises in this class contain Innovation Games, by Luke Hohmann. These are some of the best techniques on the planet for helping customers determine what they mean and ensuring you build what they mean, not what they ask for.

At the end of this course, successful participants will be Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Product Owners as well as receive a complimentary one year membership to the Scrum Alliance, which provides you discounts to Scrum Gatherings, allows you access to member-only content such as past Gathering videos, and more.

Date: September 30 – October 1, 2013

Time: 8:00 AM – 5:30 PM

Location: Hilton Garden Inn, 840 East El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

Register: Here

Blue Cross Blue Shield Puts Innovation Games® to Work

Leon Sabarsky’s Scrum team has been using Innovation Games for a while in their work on Claim Automation.The Raleigh, NC-based team at Blue Cross Blue Shield has used Speed Boat for project retrospectives and Prune the Product Tree for backlog prioritization—both common ways agile teams put Innovation Games to work. But recently he introduced the games to the market research team at Blue Cross Blue Shield—with interesting results.

How did you discover Innovation Games?

Word of mouth. I heard about the games from colleagues and through sessions at conferences I attended. I started trying out the games at work, and eventually took the two-day class taught by [IGQI and Enthiosys President] Jason Tanner.


Can you tell me more about how are you using Innovation Games at Blue Cross Blue Shield?

I’m the manager of a Scrum team in Durham, NC. We work on claims automation, and I also serve on the Innovation Committee here at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

We use Innovation Games in our Scrum practice—Speed Boat for retrospectives and Prune the Product Tree for backlog prioritization—but have started using them in other ways as well, such as in our market research work on our insurance products.


How did the market research work come about?

It was Jason Tanner who first suggested we use Innovation Games for market research, instead of just internally with our Scrum team. I bought the book [Innovation Games for Understanding] and invited the market research lead to lunch. After some discussion, we decided to try it.


What was the project?

The target market was college-age consumers, and we wanted to determine what type of insurance products and benefits they would be interested in purchasing—and how much they would be willing to pay. In essence, we wanted them to produce a list of benefits and prioritize which ones were most valuable to them.


How did you structure the event to get those results?
One of the Product Boxes created by the summer interns at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

We recruited 20 of our summer interns as the subjects for the market research project and decided to do two phases in July 2012.

First, to get the benefits, we had the interns build Product Boxes outlining the insurance products they would most be interested in. This was face-to-face, of course. And each intern presented his or her box and then the group voted on the best one.

Second, we used Buy a Feature Online to prioritize the benefits that the interns had developed through their Product Boxes. The interns logged into the game from their different offices on the Blue Cross Blue Shield campus. We had priced the benefits and gave the interns 40% of the total budget to spend on the insurance products they most wanted. We were surprised and pleased with the quality of chat and negotiations during the game. At the end, we got a prioritized list of insurance products that college-age consumers would want to buy.


What did you learn from the games?

Price was an issue for many of them. They are buying insurance for the first time and wanted it to be reasonably priced.

Any surprises?

Yes, we had some unexpected results. The market research team had done a series of focus groups on the same topic and they had got different results than our project using Innovation Games.

Also, during the Buy a Feature game I facilitated, the game didn’t stop when the interns had spent all their money. The chat and negotiation continued, and the interns decided to un-purchase an insurance product to buy one concerning healthy benefits. It took 5 minutes of chatting to decide after I had thought the game was done.

I was impressed with the depth of thinking during the game. The interns were really serious; we thought half would not be engaged since the game was online and they weren’t together, but they surprised us. The game results went beyond what we expected.


Are you planning on using Innovation Games again?

We have a “FedEx Day” coming up in October. We’re inspired by Daniel Pink’s Drive, and want to create and deliver something overnight. Basically, you drop whatever you’re doing for a day and present a product at the end.

Our past “FedEx” Days haven’t been structured, but we’re hoping to use Innovation Games this time to help us get an outcome.We’re still planning, but think we’ll use 3-4 games, maybe Buy a Feature, >Product Box, Speed Boat, and Spider Web.

I truly believe there’s a different dynamic when you get people moving. You get much more robust idea generation with activities like Innovation Games, than sitting down around a conference table. There’s just something about Innovation Games, the moving around and collaborating, that you don’t get from focus groups.


The latest Knowsy® game from The Innovation Games® Company and ScrumTide help teams and individuals discover, challenge and improve their Scrum practice.

Mountain View, CA – August 13, 2012. The Innovation Games® Company, the leading provider of serious games for business, today announced that it has released ScrumKnowsy®, the latest game built on the Knowsy® platform.


ScrumKnowsy, produced in partnership with ScrumTide, is a browser-based serious game that allows an individual and organization improve their Scrum practice. Players can “challenge” Scrum Oracles like Scrum Creator Jeff Sutherland, or leading Scrum trainers like Jim “Cope” Coplien or Jens Ostergaard to discover how their Scrum practice compares, or play multiplayer games to track alignment on Scrum practices, roles, and responsibilities.

Jim Coplien Introduces Scrum Knowsy from Conteneo Inc. on Vimeo.


“The key to successful, high performing teams rests in alignment. Not just alignment of goals, but the alignment of roles, responsibilities, methods of work and communication,” Said CEO and Founder Luke Hohmann. “While there’s been a lot of discussion about of the importance of alignment and team integrity, a way to effectively test (and improve) team alignment hasn’t emerged. Until now.”

“ScrumKnowsy gives teams a fun and effective way to explore how well they are aligned with their mission.” Hohmann continued. “By formally testing, sharing and discussing the results of Scrum Knowsy® games, teams will explicitly reduce the degree of ambiguity and equivocality of the shared outcomes they seek to create.”


Key features of ScrumKnowsy are:

  • It’s a game, not another boring meeting. Discovering where teams are and aren’t aligned through collaborative play means improved engagement and more accurate feedback.
  • Access to experts. Through Challenge and Discover play individuals and teams can compare their Scrum practice with leaders in the Scrum community.
  • Individual or Multiplayer games. ScrumKnowsy lets you play on your own or with teams, tackling such topics as retrospectives, sprint planning, backlogs, impediment lists and more.
  • Real-time database. Playing ScrumKnowsy allows individuals and teams to track their game results over time, providing real-time information on improvement and performance.
  • Individual or Enterprise Licenses. Players always play for free, but Individuals or organizations can upgrade for additional features and capabilities like custom topics, game analytics and more. The individual can sign up for Starter accounts (individual play only) for free, or pay $19 for an annual Standard license, which includes the full range of capabilities, including multiplayer games.


“ScrumKnowsy is designed for ongoing self-assessment,” said ScrumTide partner Jim “Cope” Coplien, “because that’s what Agile is about. The goal is to have fun and create value, and ScrumKnowsy helps agile teams meet that goal.”

Forrester Analyst Tom Grant recently profiled ScrumKnowsy and it’s role in facilitating Agility at Scale, writing, “Clearly, the approach that ScrumKnowsy takes is a lot less obnoxious than the Agile standards star chamber and a lot easier to use for regular reinforcement than training classes.”

The Innovation Games® Company and ScrumTide will showcase ScrumKnowsy at Agile 2012, the leading conference for agile adherents, hosting a launch party on Wednesday, August 15. The first 500 standard account holders will get limited edition ScrumKnowsy t-shirts. For more details about the launch party, go to

The Innovation Games® Company’s portfolio includes the Knowsy® platform of products, along with Innovation Games® Online, which launched in July 2009, and was highlighted in a recent Forrester report as a leader in the serious games industry for helping businesses “do work.” Innovation Games® Online includes both real-time visual collaboration and virtual market games, such as Buy a Feature Online, Prune the Product Tree Online, Speed Boat Online and Design Your Own Visual Game. The online games are based on Luke Hohmann’s book Innovation Games®: Creating Breakthrough Products through Collaborative Play. (For more information about ScrumKnowsy®, go to


About The Innovation Games® Company
The Innovation Games® Company is the leading producer of serious games—online and in-person—for business. Innovation Games helps organizations large and small get actionable insights into customer needs and preferences to improve performance, through collaborative play, having worked with such companies as Cisco, Reed Elsevier, Yahoo!, Qualcomm, SAP, Emerson Climate Technologies and more. To learn more about Innovation Games® Online, our online game platform for real-time, distributed collaboration and our Knowsy® games, visit

Improving Team Performance Through Knowsy

If you’re lucky, you’ll have the experience of working in a high-performing team early in your career. As you continue working, you will soon realize that high-performing teams are truly magical and rarer than you might have first expected. And if you keep working, you’ll find yourself becoming committed to creating high-performing teams. You won’t succeed every time, but you’ll try.

It’s a mission I’ve worked towards for most of my professional life, and in this post, I will explore how Knowsy®, our latest gaming platform, can improve the performance of teams by helping them reach alignment on a number of dimensions critical to high performance. I will focus specifically on Scrum Knowsy®, a version of Knowsy that was created in collaboration with several leading experts in the Scrum Community from Scrum Tide.


High Performing Teams Really Are Different

Let’s explore two teams comprised of people of roughly equal intelligence, experience, and motivation. Let’s stipulate that the teams have roughly equivalent domain knowledge — meaning, if they work in automobile insurance industry, they have roughly the same amount of knowledge on “how” the automobile insurance works. Finally, let’s grant the teams roughly equal levels of knowledge and experience in the tools they use in their job.

Even with all of these aspects of teams being equal, we know that there will be differences in team performance. Researchers have studied this for a long time, trying to identify differences in performance so that managers can improve the same.

One consistent result is that high performing teams align on a number of key dimensions. They share a core set of values in what kind of work matters and how it should be done. They agree on how the work should be distributed within the team and in who should tackle specific assignments. And even if they don’t realize the influence of organizational, community and societal culture, high-performing teams find ways to agree with each other on a host of important items, such as when they take a vacation or what kinds of training are appropriate for the team.

Much of these agreements occur naturally within teams over time, if the team has the opportunity to remain relatively stable for a long enough time. The team forms a collective mind, in which the interdependent actions of the team create an “a separate transactional memory system, complete with differentiated responsibility for remembering different portions of common experience” [Weick, 1993]. More plainly, we not only know that Jill is an excellent analyst, but we rely on our knowledge of Jill being an excellent analyst and begin to assign her tasks capitalizing on her skills. We remember the tasks that she has been given and rely on her memory when we need information about those tasks. A collective mind enables the team to become more effective in problem-solving precisely because each member of the team can rely on other members to provide experience and skills we do not possess as individuals [Hohmann 1997].

Of course, we don’t want to wait to see if a high-performing team will magically appear over time, because we also know that not every team jells, let alone becomes “high-performing.” And it can be frustrating to try and improve team performance when we know that we’re working in suboptimal structure. For example, while we’re told that teams perform best when they’re stable, macroeconomic conditions, such as a very fast growing company, or a very poor economy that causes a company to engage in workforce restructuring, might make keeping the same people on the team impossible. As a result, it is quite natural for all of us to seek to improve the performance of our teams.

Let’s explore further how games such as Knowsy® can help improve team performance.


Scrum and Software Development Roles

To engage in coordinated work, teams typically define a set of roles. At times these roles become captured and described in methods, which are prescriptive ways to guide problem-solving in teams.

Scrum is one of the world’s leading project management methods. Created and predominately used in the field of software development, Scrum defines a structured, yet flexible, the framework for accomplishing a wide variety of work. The Scrum Guide documents the Scrum framework and is maintained by Scrum’s creators, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, and can be found here.

When an organization or team chooses to adopt Scrum, they are also choosing to adopt the roles defined by Scrum. According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Team consists of a Product Owner, the Development Team, and a Scrum Master. Let’s briefly explore the Product Owner and the Scrum Master roles.

According to the Scrum Guide, “the Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team. How this done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals.” “The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring Scrum is understood and enacted. Scrum Masters do this by ensuring that the Scrum Team adheres to Scrum theory, practices and rules.”

The Scrum Guide contains a number of very explicit statements about certain responsibilities of these roles, while also promoting considerable flexibility in the application of the framework. For example, while the Scrum Product Owner is the “sole person responsible for the Product Backlog,” the Scrum Guide explicitly notes that there is any number of ways in which to express, order and verify backlog items.

Similarly, Scrum Development Teams, “consist of professionals who do the work of delivering a potentially releasable increment of ‘done’ product at the end of each Sprint” and are explicitly self-organizing. While this grants a team considerable power, it also means that teams must identify how they will work together as a team. I’ve written about this extensively in my first book, Journey of the Software Professional: A Sociology of Software Development, and I won’t cover this ground again, but instead, focus on how a team can focus on roles and use Knowsy to drive performance.


Internal and External Alignment on Roles

Scrum has been successfully applied across teams and organizations of varying sizes–from small startups of just a few developers sitting in one room to extremely large organizations with hundreds to thousands of developers distributed across continents. And while each of these teams have found a way to leverage Scrum to meet its needs, it is safe to assume that these teams have honored the advice in the Scrum Guide and that there are indeed marked differences in how specific teams have defined the role of the Product Owner or the Scrum Master.

Let’s defer, for now, the potentially contentious debate on whether or not a given team has defined the role of a Product Owner or a Scrum Master in a way that is congruent with Scrum (the dreaded “Scrumbut” debate), and instead focus on the degree to which a given team is in alignment with the roles they have described for their team.

I define two kinds of alignment: internal and external. Internal alignment means that each person on the team rank orders the responsibilities of a given role in exactly the same way. Meaning, when presented with the question: “What are the responsibilities of a Product Owner,” each member of the team will rank order these responsibilities in the same way. Similarly, if they rank order the responsibilities of their Scrum Owner in the same way, then we say that the team is internally aligned. You can think of alignment somewhat like “preferences” in foods – if you and I were to rank order our five favorite kinds of Dessert, then we could say that we were “internally” aligned on food choices.

Internal alignment alone is insufficient for team performance, precisely because the act of working together means that I must be able to make predictions as to the work that other members of the team are doing, in part because effective communication and work processes rely not only on actual behavior but also on the expectations of behavior created when the team agrees on an activity. Therefore, we define external alignment as the degree to which each member of a team can accurately predict how each other member of the team orders the responsibilities of a given role. Continuing with the food analogy, we can say that we externally aligned if I can predict your favorite Pizza toppings and you can predict my favorite Bagels.

Taken together, internal and external alignment provides a powerful tool for exploring and creating some of the accepted necessary conditions for high-performing teams.


The Power of Play: Determining Alignment Through Scrum Knowsy

Thus far, my discussion of roles and alignment has been anything but playful. Indeed, sitting down with members of your team to discuss everyone’s perspective on roles strikes me as a painfully boring meeting, at best. At worst, the team runs the risk of having a few strong and/or highly opinionated members of the team dominate the discussion, resulting in a less than accurate perspective. More likely, though, is that the discussion of how the team works, even in a team that strives for balanced discussion, is not likely to be very fun, and is likely to be overly influenced by whoever speaks first, regardless of their role.

So let’s make it a game!

Knowsy® is a simple, fun, and fast game in which the winner of the game is the person who knows the other players the best. Here is how it works:


  1. A game host assemble assembles a group of 4-10 players and initiates a game.
  2. Each player chooses a Topic. You can choose fun topics, like “Favorite Ice Cream” or “Favorite Movie Genre”, or work-related, and typically more serious topics, like “What Is Important in Scrum Sprint Planning?”
  3. Players then choose their top five items in the selected Topic and order them according to their preferences. We call these a “like list”, since it represents your likes.
  4. When a player has finished ranking their preferences, they then proceed to see how well they can predict the ordering of the other players. These are called “guess lists.”
  5. The game is finished when each player has guessed the like lists of the other players. The winner of the game is the person who could most accurately predict the preferences of the other players.


When you’re playing with your family, you don’t really care about internal alignment: The fact that my favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is Phish Food® and that yours is Chunky Monkey is just a fun way for us to get to know each other. And the fact that my children can predict their sibling’s preferences on a host of issues more accurately than me (and often their mother, which a source of endless laughter) is just a fun way for my children to demonstrate their knowledge of each other.

However, when you’re at work, it really isn’t all that fun to work in a team in which everyone ascribes a different set of responsibilities to key roles and in which no one can predict the expectations of their coworkers.


Knowsy is the Test for Conceptual Integrity

More than 20 years ago, Elliot Soloway, my advisor at Michigan, told me to read The Mythical Man-Month [Brooks, 1995]. In this book, which I still consider the single greatest book ever written on software development, Brooks discusses at length the need for conceptual integrity.

Brooks is correct: We need conceptual integrity to create any product, and the need for conceptual integrity is not dependent on the size of the organization. It doesn’t matter if you have eight developers or 800: You will move faster if your team has conceptual integrity. Unfortunately, Brooks never described a means by which a team can “test” that it has developed a high-degree of conceptual integrity.

That’s always been a pretty big issue for me because a lack of conceptual integrity really does impair team performance. And while it is great to say that we need conceptual integrity, providing teams with no concrete means by which to achieve it is frustrating. I’m deeply pleased that Knowsy provides a means by which a team can formally test its degree of conceptual integrity related to its functional values. And by playing Knowsy frequently, teams can “improve their integrity score” and build some of the essential foundations for high-performance. (As an aside, stay tuned for a future release of Knowsy® that will gamify this process so that teams in organizations can have even more fun demonstrating their alignment!)

By formally testing, sharing and discussing the results of Knowsy® games, teams will explicitly reduce the degree of ambiguity and equivocality of the shared outcomes they seek to create. (For the vast majority of Scrum teams, this is working software.) Ambiguity means something can be understood in two or more ways. Equivocality refers to our degree of certainty over a shared meaning. To say a “thing” is unambiguous means each individual shares the same meaning associated with the “thing.” To say it is unequivocal means we have a high degree of certainty as to the meaning we share. When ambiguity or equivocality are high, performance is low.

Remarkably, low-performing teams often don’t realize that they are “low-performing” teams precisely because they don’t talk about their lack of alignment on roles, responsibilities, values, and goals. They inadvertently tolerate ambiguity, and, even when they manage to eradicate ambiguity, they do not operate with confidence. One of the greatest unheralded virtues of the Scrum framework is that the many meetings it prescribes work in concert to reduce ambiguity and equivocality. And With Scrum Knowsy®, your team can actually confirm, through play, that you’ve done this.


A Process for Improving Alignment

While playing Knowsy provides a team with a concrete test of conceptual integrity and can reveal their degree of alignment, it begs the question: “So what?”. In other words, what should a team be doing to improve their alignment on Scrum? And since a lack of alignment on functional roles, responsibilities, and processes suggests a lack of alignment on other aspects of work, what should teams do next?

Let’s break this up into the four quadrants of alignment that can be derived from Knowsy game data:

If you find yourself in the upper right – congratulations. Chances are good you’re a high-performing team. It is the other areas of the quadrant that require action – some much more than others.

  • We didn’t know we agree: This is likely to be an easy conversation with your team to identify why you weren’t able to accurately predict each others answers. Chances are good that you’ll find some mis-perceptions that will be easy to address.
  • This is a mess: Yeah, that’s strong language, but the reality is that your team is probably experiencing a boatload of problems. Take your Knowsy game results and sit down and take the time to talk through your differences. You might find that it is pretty easy to reach alignment. And you might find that you have some really fundamental disagreements about Scrum. While seeing your disagreements in black and white might be unsettling, it is the first step to having the conversations that produce the alignments you need.
  • We know we disagree: This could be the arena of your most challenging conversations: you know that you’re in disagreement, and Knowsy is merely revealing the undercurrent of the team. Good. Now you get to honor some of the values that you likely hold to be important, including such things as “No Hidden Agendas” at work.


The core step is that you need to work on getting into alignment. Talk. Play Innovation Games like the Vision Box variation of Product Box to build a common goal for the team. Refer to the Scrum Guide or other materials that you find as trusted references. Explore the advice of the Scrum Oracles contained within Scrum Knowsy (more on them, later). And then, after all, this is done, play more Scrum Knowsy – and prove to yourselves that you’re building alignment.

Now that you’ve achieved alignment on your functional values, you’re likely going to want to explore and reach alignment on other aspects of work, including team, division, product, or corporate goals; or, you might want to test alignment on the key initiatives associated with your corporate strategy; or, you might want to just have some fun and see how well aligned your team is on their favorite kind of food.

This is currently beyond the scope of the Scrum Knowsy offering, as Scrum Knowsy is presently focused on Scrum, and the Topics and Items within Scrum Knowsy are managed by ScrumTide. However, we can help you accomplish this broader goal through a custom-branded Knowsy for your company so that your entire organization can integrate the Topics and Items that are most relevant to you. Indeed, we’ve created branded Knowsies for several companies focused on using Knowsy to help their sales teams better understand customer priorities – see if you can find your company at And while these Knowsies help companies sell complex software solutions, we can help you target a Knowsy to help you build the alignment that leads to action.


Alignment Alone is Not Enough: The Value of Expertise

We use a Scrum-inspired development process here at The Innovation Games® Company. And I suspect some of my closest friends in the Scrum community would be able to point out a number of areas where we are not perfectly following the Scrum process

At one level, that’s OK: Our development team is very high-performing, as measured by its delivery of high-quality working software. We understand our roles, and how we’ve chosen to implement Scrum. We score pretty high on the alignment scale.

But, could we do better? Returning to a point I made earlier, it’s our collective responsibility as a team to see if we can improve our performance. For many technical components of team performance, this happens quite naturally as members of our development team scan the developer community to identify ways in which they can improve performance. For example, Dan, our CTO, recently shared with everyone several new approaches to scaling the server, while the Lucky Charms (hey, you know who you are :-)) showed off some very cool ways to show game results in a future release. And both will eventually get one of these approaches, as one has been added to the roadmap and the other to the backlog.

The situation is not necessarily as clear-cut for the “software” aspects of team performance. For example, even though we agree on the responsibilities of the Scrum Product Owner (“me”), as our company continues to grow in size we will need to formalize the role of the Scrum Master (currently, Dan). I am confident that we would benefit from the knowledge and expertise of others in the Scrum community as we make these changes.

This is the role of the Scrum Oracles, a select group of individuals whose suggested ordering of a topic is presented in the Scrum Knowsy results from the screen after the game is played. By comparing our choices with those of experts, we have the opportunity to consider differing opinions. We don’t have to agree with the Oracles, because while their advice may be sound, we may have very good reasons to have differences of opinions. Alternatively, seeing where our team differs from the opinions of experts gives us a chance to consider how we might experiment with our processes in order to improve our performance.


The Evolution of Knowsy

Over the next several months, we hope to continue to improve Scrum Knowsy and the Knowsy platform to provide even more ways in which teams can work together to improve their performance by creating alignment on those dimensions that are critical to their work. For example, we will be developing enhanced analytic tools for larger development organizations, so that companies with large numbers of distributed teams can finally have a tool that allows them to institutionalize the shared goal of high-performance through team alignment. Please [email_me emailid=””let us know[/email_me] if you’d like to participate in the development of these tools.


Thanks, Scrum Tide!

The creation of Scrum Knowsy has been a remarkable collaboration with Jim Coplien, Gertrud Bjornvig, Jens Oostergaard, and Yujie Liang. At times sloppy, and times magical, and always deeply satisfying and impactful, it has been a lot of fun. I’m hopeful that the larger Scrum and Agile Community finds tremendous value in Scrum Knowsy.

Introducing Scrum Knowsy!

Available on an Internet near you on August 13.

There’s no denying the popularity of Scrum. Thousands of organizations and individuals around the world have gone agile, using Scrum every day to build working software. But how does their Scrum practice compare with their co-workers and teammates? Are they in alignment? Does their Scrum practice align with their boss? Or with Scrum Leaders like Jeff Sutherland, Jens Østergaard or Jim “Cope” Coplien?

The answer is Scrum Knowsy®, the latest Knowsy game from Innovation Games. Scrum Knowsy excels at helping individuals and organizations improve their Scrum performance by aligning teams on roles, responsibilities, and practices–all through a fun and easy-to-play game. (Check out Cope’s take on Scrum Knowsy in the video intro.)

Agile 2012 Debut
We’ve got a great coming-out party planned for Agile 2012 in Dallas next week, including limited edition t-shirts (and a sweet price on subscriptions) for the first 500 who sign up before August 17.

Luke Hohmann will be handing out shirts all week at Agile 2012 — and holding a Scrum Knowsy and Innovation Games Game Fest on Wednesday, August 15 from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM in Texas 6 at the Gaylord Texan Hotel and Convention Center. (Thanks a million to VersionOne for hosting the shindig!)

Be sure to follow Luke (@lukehohmann) and Scrum Knowsy (@scrumknowsy) on Twitter for the latest info on the launch. And be sure and check out for info about getting your chance to play Scrum Knowsy!

Special Agile Event featuring James Coplien

James Coplien  will be presenting at a special event hosted by Linked In, the Silicon Valley Leadership Network, and Agile Learning Labs. The topic of the talk is below. Check out the meetup link here (SV-ALN) for more information and to RSVP. Our CEO Luke Hohmann will be in attendance.

The event will be held at Linked In building on 2025 Stierlin Court in Mountain View, CA from 6:30 to 9PM on Wednesday, August 8th.


“Agility” in Danish is a performance sport done by trained dogs. While training and pedigree papers have certainly found a place in Agile’s human namesake, good Agile practice is more in the hands of the Team than the Trainer. This talk discusses a Kaizen-based approach to Scrum and a shift in focus from a facts-and-knowledge-based approach to an empirical, introspective, and experiential approach based on games.

Hope to see you there!

Luke Hohmann to Speak at NYC Scrum User Group

Improving Scrum with Innovation Games

Luke Hohmann to speak at NYC Scrum User Group on May 2

CEO Luke Hohmann will be bringing Innovation Games to the May 2012 meeting of the NYC Scrum User Group on Wednesday, May 2, 2012. Innovation Games fit easily into the Scrum process, and are being used by countless agile teams to improve performance and solve problems. Come learn how collaborative play can improve roadmapping, retrospectives, feature prioritization and more.


Date: May 2, 2012, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Place: Euro RSCG, 350 Hudson Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10014


6:00 PM – 6:30 PM – Pizza and networking
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM – Luke Hohmann of Innovation Games

Luke Hohmann & Doug Shimp to Teach CSPO class with Innovation Games

September 1-2, 2010
Austin, TX
Hampton Inn & Suites Austin-Downtown

3Back’s Doug Shimp and Luke Hohmann are teaching a Certified Scrum Product Owner with Innovation Games class in Austin, TX on September 1-2. During this two-day interactive class, participants will learn about Scrum’s Product Owner role, which focuses on visioning, roadmapping and user stories, along with an in-depth discussion of and practice with Innovation Games and they can be used in this context.

For more information on the class and to register, click here.