Making a Game out of Building an Amazing Team
Games are extremely useful tools, both for assessing the skills and aptitudes of job candidates and for improving the skills of existing team members. I was reminded of this during the summer of 1979 as I endured Army Basic Training, and I’ve since developed a passion for using these tools in my efforts to build and continually improve teams.
As part of my research, I found that games have been used this way for hundreds of years! According to Thomas B. Allen, author of War Games: Inside the Secret World of the Men who Play at Annihilation, near the beginning of the 19th century, the Prussian Army developed war games with officers moving pieces around a game table, using dice rolls to indicate chance and with an umpire scoring the results. After the stunning Prussian victories against Austria in the Seven Weeks’ War and France in the Franco-Prussian War, the Russians, Japanese, French, and many other countries also began using wargaming as a training tool. The US Navy began using wargaming in earnest by 1889.
Games are not just useful in training for war; they provide value in all industries. In IT, it’s a cost-effective and efficient way to evaluate, assess, and thus hire people with the right expertise and aptitude. It is an equally practical and powerful way to continue to develop and improve the team and individual team members.
When using these tools to assess while the participants are learning, it is those observing the participants who truly benefit. They get to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of each individual as well as the collective team. How does each individual respond to pressure? What about the team itself? Is the individual an extrovert (which some say is important to be effective in an agile culture) or an introvert? Are they detail-oriented? Are they a creative and fast thinker? Are they tactical or strategic? The possibilities as to what you can target are endless. Truly knowing team members, individually and collectively, allows a leader to make changes in strategy, training approach, or the team itself.
The results of using games as development tools to nurture the skills and traits of your team members can be astounding. While someone is still observing, more emphasis is placed on team members participating and learning. It’s proven that the mind is more receptive to learning when genuine fun, team camaraderie, and good-spirited competition are involved.
Which games do you use? That depends on the aptitudes you’re trying to identify and skills you’re attempting to nurture. Games requiring an active imagination and subject expertise combined with an element of time are great when creativity, ability to think fast, and knowledge are being measured. Quickly finding minutia hidden in an image can help determine if someone has attention to detail and the ability to focus. There are numerous options.
Using games are an amazing way to improve your efforts to build and maintain an outstanding team. It’s cost-effective, efficient, a great morale booster, and a historically proven method. And it makes team-building fun!
Bob Crews presented the session Creating an Agile Test Team Isn’t a Game—or Is It? at the entirely remote Agile + DevOps Virtual conference, June 8–11, 2020.