Three improv games to play with your agile team
Written by Eden Lehr
You may be asking yourself – what does improv have to do with me and my agile team? Well, the principles behind successful improvisation can relate directly to the core values and principles of a successful agile team.
The three improv games linked in this list will allow your team to practice working successfully together, and – have fun!
Per the Agile manifesto, there are 12 principles of agile. Arguably, parallels could be made between improv and all 12 principles; however, this post will start with just three:
- Motivated Team
- Working Together
- Welcome Change
PARALLEL #1: Motivated Team
Supporting, trusting, and motivating the people involved
Agile Principle: Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
In improv, the environment built for the players is one of the most important elements for successful improv. Feeling supported, comfortable, and encouraged is the best way to overcome fear and embarrassment.
In the improv classes at HUGE Improv theater, every time a player takes a turn, everyone applauds afterwards. So, the players know that no matter what they say or do, it will be received positively, and they won’t be discouraged from trying.
On agile teams, feeling safe, respected and appreciated allows team members to more freely voice their opinion, actively engage in team discussion and be more willing to speak up when they disagree. Scrum masters strive to build this type of environment on their teams as they know it will produce great results, just like in improv.
PARALLEL #2: Working Together
Being a Team Player and Listening
Agile Principle: Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
The team mentality is something very prominent in both agile and improv alike, and is integral to the success of both.
“The only star in improv is the ensemble itself; if everyone is doing his job well, then no one should stand out. The best way for an improviser to look good is by making his fellow players look good.” – Del Close, Truth in Comedy
A huge part of being on a team is listening to each other. In improv, it can be the difference between an okay show and a great show. If an improviser is listening closely to what’s happening with their fellow players, they can make connections to what was said or done earlier in the scene and bring them back cohesively.
The audience (and users!) remember everything, so if a team member makes those connections, the group as a whole will look more impressive.
PARALLEL #3: Welcome Change
Agile Principle: Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
In improv there is an idea called ‘Yes, and.’ It is a standard practice in which an improviser should accept what their scene partner(s) says and build on the idea. An improv scene can’t go anywhere if the players are just saying ‘no’ to each other’s ideas.
A struggle for most beginning improvisers is resisting the urge to come up with ideas and things to say before entering a scene. They risk being caught completely off guard by the totally different idea that has already formed. ‘Yes, and’ is a good way to both get back in the moment as well as remember that it’s a group effort and to just go with it.
Anyone who works in an agile environment knows that things are going to change and change a lot. Changing scopes and sprints, changing priorities and constantly pivoting, you just have to go with the flow and make it work. Ultimately, in both agile and improv, this change and welcoming it is a good thing.