The Ball Flow game is a fun simulation to teach teams about the concept of flow and the simple metrics that can be used to assess the impacts of changes made to improve flow.
Simulation participants are challenged to self-organize into a production system where work is simulated by passing balls amongst all participants – the goal of the simulation is for all participants to pass the balls as quickly as possible while still following the rules. Cycle time is tracked during the simulation and participants use this data to assess whether or not changes made improve the efficiency of their production system.
The simulation challenges participants to focus on experimentation and gathering data to assess the results of experiments vs. on a lengthy planning process up front. Participants also gain valuable experience in how to make decisions and communicate effectively within a self organizing team.
If you’re interested in presenting your own session of the Ball Flow game, you can find Plastic Play Balls at your local toy store or even at Amazon – you can expect to pay about $10-$15 USD for a set of 100 balls which is enough to allow a few groups to participate in the simulation head-to-head.
I recently had the opportunity to present the Ball Flow Game at the 2014 Agile Gravy conference held in St. Louis, MO. Presentation materials from the 2014 Agile Gravy event will be uploaded here after the event.
See Karl Scotland’s post on running the Ball Flow Game – for additional references and information to get started – Karl’s post also includes a link to download the Excel based metrics spreadsheet that computes Cycle/Lead Time and draws Cumulative Flow Diagrams in real time during the simulation – http://availagility.co.uk/2011/07/19/running-the-ball-flow-game/
Note – if you look at Karl’s materials and spreadsheet – he refers to “Lead Time” as what many refer to as “Cycle Time” (the time to complete each work unit).