The Beergame at Agile Dinner in Helsinki

Yesterday Lasse Ziegler hosted the Beergame at monthly Agile Dinner in Helsinki – and he wrote up the results nicely in his blog: http://www.lasseziegler.com/2011/07/06/beergame-at-agile-dinner-in-helsinki/

What his blog does not have is the personal reflection from the participant’s perspective, hence this post.

The game caused a big frustration in me, as even though I knew the game and could understand what was going on – I did not expect the effects happen as such. I really thought that smart agilists would play this game better and work in a way that the system works in stable manner.

The experience reminded me of great book by Dietrih Doerner, The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Logic-Failure-Recognizing-Avoiding-Situations/dp/0201479486/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1309960853&sr=8-1 ), which greatly discusses failures in systems and how our own behaviors can make situations also much worse – if we do not understand the system.

In the Beergame we played the retailer and almost constantly ordered close to the amount of beer sold to the consumer. Only in the beginning did we order considerably more than what the current demand was.

A highly visible bullwhip effect is visible, as participants higher up in the system tried to optimize their local system by minimizing costs of inventory – and had no information on which to do planning and anticipation of customer demand.

Bookkeeping in the game was horrible experience – as it showed how we as a retailer were bleeding out when we could not get enough beer at any stage in the game to have any inventory! Distributor and factory played the game safe in the beginning, causing the wholesaler and retailer to be left out in the cold when the actual orders started pouring in. It is easy to read about the game, but it is much better to actually experience the game and the frustration of not getting any deliveries for a long time while losing money hand over fist.

I highly recommend people participating in these games and also getting good coaches to do these or similar exercises at their premises for their teams – as these games work as great eye openers for also concepts closer to our work and development processes. If simple communication and trust problems in simple systems as in The Beergame cause such problems, what about in more complex environments?

Thanks again Lasse for a great game!

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