Game of Flow – Agile vis-a-vis Waterfall

Software Delivery is hard! Very hard.

Inherently, compared to writing software, delivery should be technically simple and needing less intelligence but thanks to the cumbersome, large, bureaucratic & siloed enterprises; technical work has often become the easiest and the cheapest part – managing managers – has become the expensive part.

Development processes can be many but the principle of flow is key. The ability to identify which areas of the organization are local optimizing and inherently with their goals of being good/best more often than not, hurt the overall delivery capability of the larger team. Agile is a great methodology that is built on the concepts of flow and you will be surprised when done right; how much more organizations can deliver.

To demonstrate this, here is a game we run with our clients to show the concept of agile and flow.

Select two sides with 5 participants each. The formation of these teams is critical, so follow the rules:

  • Team 1: Team Agile. Try to pick folks over 50.
  • Team 2: Team Waterfall. Pick folks in their 20’s or 30th.

Now place 10 of each – Pens, Envelopes, Letter size paper, Stamps and Glue sticks – in-front of each team.


  1. Team Waterfall:
    • First person will take a pen & paper and write down 10 letters with the same sentence – “This is efficient, we will win!”.
    • Second person will fold the letters written by first person so that they will fit into the envelopes.
    • Third person will put the letters into the envelopes
    • Fourth person will seal the envelopes and glue a stamp.
    • Fifth person will write the address on the envelope.
  2. Team Agile:
    • First person will take a pen, write a letter and pass to the second person. After passing will continue to write more letters till complete.
    • Second person will take the letter, fold it so that it fits in the envelope and pass to the third person.
    • Third person will glue in a stamp and will write the address and get the folded letter and place it into the envelope and close it.
    • Fourth person will take a call as to which part of the flow needs help and will help out. Most likely writing the letters.
    • Fifth person will help as needed.

Every time this exercise is repeated, guess who one! The over 50 group and for a very good reason.

Flow rules all the time. Sometimes in a good organization which flows smoothly, not all teams are perfect or will all teams be busy. This is the principal of slack and slack is good; tension is bad.

Try this game out! You will be surprised.

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