Fire Dice – The Game

“Fire Dice” is a lean/agile learning game that allows for safe experimentation to enable better understanding of the “Theory of Constraints” and how it applies to software development.  The game challenges participants to experience and learn key lean concepts including:

  • Prioritizing work to maximize value
  • Minimizing work-in-progress
  • Determining optimal batch size
  • Calculating cycle-time and lead-time
  • Using process analytics (lead time, etc) to determine what to next

History & Motivation for the game

“Fire Dice” was debuted at the December 2014 Lean Kanban St. Louis Holiday Party as a fun and interactive way to reinforce materials on the Theory of Constraints that had been presented at prior Lean Kanban St. Louis Meetups.

Game Play & Learning

During the game, work is simulated by pulling playing cards through a multi-step workflow (activities can be modeled based upon common software development activities, DevOps, or any type of workflow), players roll dice to determine how much capacity they have for each step within their workflow.  Each team has the same number of dice for the game and each die can only be rolled once in the game, so teams have to be very careful about how they allocate effort/dice across the steps of their workflow.  By limiting the number of dice that can be rolled in the game, participants get to experience how the theory of constraints can impact their workflow and how they should respond/prioritize.

What are Fire Dice?

“Fire Dice” are introduced after the game is initially played to allow players to explore other ways to manage the impacts of the Theory of Constraints on their workflow.  Effort that is earned by rolling the “Fire Dice” is special in that it can be used anywhere in the team’s workflow (vs. in a single station which is a limitation of the “regular” dice); however, as can be imagined, there is a cost to gain this flexibility.  The game allows players to decide if the flexibility gained by using “Fire Dice” is worth the investment or if the same outcome can be achieved through other means.

Game Example

Here’s an example of “Fire Dice” in action – notice how the game play inspires a discussion about the optimal batch size as well as a mention of “we should have waited” based upon understanding the lead time for work to go through the process.

Direct YouTube Link:

Want to learn more

Contact @theagilefactor to learn more about “Fire Dice” and how you can use it to help your team better understand the Theory of Constraints so they can improve their flow.