The Tangram Challenge: An Agile Workshop

It is difficult to conduct team building exercises that demonstrate the effectiveness of Scrum in virtual teams. Now that the ‘new norm’ is set, it is very hard to conduct team building exercises with your scrum team. Most, if not all, require face to face physical interaction like the Agile Paper Airplane Game, Lego for Scrum Games, and Agile Battleships.

After teaching my kid her math tangram exercises, I thought that the tangram could be a great Scrum Team-building exercise. A Tangram is a Chinese geometric puzzle consisting of a square cut into seven pieces that can be arranged to make various other figures.

Left Photo: Tangram Pieces, Right Photo: Tangram figure

Tangram Exercise Goal:

A tangram demonstrates the power of time-boxing and teamwork in a fun way. You are required to build as many figures from the given tangram blocks in a certain time, for example, five minutes.

Sprinting : Run the exercise in 2 to 3 sprints. What I did is to give my teammates the following time-boxes:

  1. Give 3 minutes for Sprint Planning
  2. Give 5 minutes for Execution
  3. Give 3 minutes for Retrospective

Rules of the Game:

  1. The tangram pieces are to be evenly distributed among the participants.
  2. Each participant can only move their own pieces.
  3. Participants should be able to create multiple figures out of their own pieces before being able to build the next figure.
  4. The facilitator should have a different set of patterns for each sprint.
  5. The facilitator should only share the patterns during execution to avoid the team building the patterns ahead of time.

Materials Needed:

  1. Shared virtual whiteboard: I use Miro – board for virtual exercises. As the facilitator, you need to prepare the shapes on the board for the team members to move around in order to create a figure, like a cat. You may need to teach the users how to navigate the virtual whiteboard. Teach them how to move, rotate, and duplicate the shapes.
  2. Set your tangram figures: a simple google search will show several figures that the facilitator can share and the participants can follow. Sample figures are shown below:
Tangram Puzzle Toy Plan | Tangram puzzles, Tangram patterns, Tangram
The above patterns are from freepatternsarea.com

Debrief the participants after the exercise

  • Talk about what made them improve over the sprints.
  • Talk about how waterfall may be different from what they have done.
  • Talk about what would have happened if the time box was not there.

Best of luck! Enjoy playing the game.

Please share your experiences with this tangram method in the comments below.

-agile pinoy

Published by agilepinoy

We are Agile Pinoy. We believe that Filipinos can build globally competitive Products, one team at a time.

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