$500 of Legos or Bust – How I taught Scrum using Legos

by Chad on August 15, 2011

In April I attended RallyOn11 in Boulder where I was introduce to Aaron Sanders one of the Rally’s Agile coaches. During dinner I explained to Aaron that I felt teaching Scrum using basic games and slides was ok but not great nor did it create the engagement and excitement I wanted to generate. Aaron asked me if I ever used Legos to teach Scrum. I replied with, “Nope, but please tell me more.” He went on to explain how he learned it from Geoff Watts another Rally’s Agile coaches basked in the UK.

After the conference I kept thinking how is it possible to play Legos and learn Scrum. Over the next couple of months I exchanged emails and phone calls with Aaron trying to get as much details out of him on how this actually works. I remember asking Aaron how much he spent on Legos during one phone call and he said, “$1000.” I then remember thinking, “crap how am I going to pay for this.”

Fast forward two weeks ago. I woke up on Saturday, four days prior to my scheduled Agile training in Moline. I opened the slide deck that I used once before and deleted all of the slides. That night my wife and I were at Toys R Us and purchased $500 worth of Legos. I remember her saying, “Not exactly what I thought we would be doing on a Saturday night.”

That Sunday morning my wife starting building Lego and keeping track how long each one took to be built. While she was busy keep track of time and building houses, I started building my slide deck based on the idea of building a Lego city that would teach all of the core concept of scrum like backlog, stories, story points, acceptance criteria and teams.

That Monday I emailed my manager and told him I just purchased $500 worth of Legos for my training class in Moline and Germany. I told him that if people felt like they didn’t learn anything, I would pay him $500 + the $100 for all of the wasted time.

Going into day one of the training I had 50% of it figured out told myself to go with the flow and inspect and adapt.

The first day went off without a hitch and the teams were excited to get building the next day. Below is a video describing how it all went down.

  • http://lisacrispin.com Lisa Crispin

    Thanks for posting the video, it was interesting to see people actually working together on the Lego city project. I’m also trying to move towards ‘back of the room’ & find more ways to do concrete exercises (for helping people learn agile testing, not Scrum). I can’t afford Legos & also don’t want to lug them to Europe and back. I recently bought a building kit that uses plastic straws and connectors, played with that a bit at the Agile 2011 Open Jam to get ideas, I think it has promise. I’m looking forward to getting more ideas at the Agile Game day in Columbus in Sept. Thanks for the extra inspiration!

    • Ninja

      Thanks Lisa. I’d love to see your plastic straw kit. Teaching Agile testing using games sounds really hard. Maybe I will just leave my legos in Germany and we can share 😉

  • http://Www.inspectandadapt.com Geoff Watts


    Well done on taking the risk. My classes generally love the simulation and you can always re-use the Lego when you come up with the next idea :-)

    Thanks also for the credit! Say hi to Aaron for me.


    • Ninja

      Thanks Geoff. This couldn’t have been done without you and Aaron coming up with the idea.
      It’s so much fun watching the teams build a one lego city that has to work together.