The name game
The name game, also know as the "How long does it take to write a name?" challenge is a game that illustrates that multitasking is not working.
The multitasking Name game is has been develop by Henrik Kinberg from Crisp and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
When you give this training never call it the multitask name game since it gives away already the essence of the training. Therefore call it the "How long does it take to write a name?" challenge or simply the name game.
What do you need?
- teams of 4 to 6 persons
- one pen per team, preferable a thick marker
- empty name cards. 2 per participant. You can cut an A4 or letter size paper in 10 pieces (2x5)
- A projector to project a clock on a screen. (alternatively the can use their smartphones to measure the time)
- A flip chart
How long do you need?
- 20 minutes for the rounds
- 10 minutes for the lessons learned
The objective of the game is to write the names as quickly as possible.
The objective of the training is to show that multitasking is not working.
rules and game play
Remember the alternative name: "How long does it take to write a name?" challenge. Well it is time to ask the question. How long does it take to write a name? People will tent to say that it depends. If they do so ask why it depends and write down the factors they say (e.g. length of the name, quality of the handwriting, ...)
Here it is important you keep asking the question until you get an answer. Depending on the group culture you will have to coach them a little bit in order to get an answer. You could ask for examples questions like: would it be more than 60 seconds, 30 seconds, ...? Would it be less than 1 second, 2 seconds? In the end you will end up with something around 3 to 6 seconds. Write the time on the flipchart!
The seconds questions you have to ask is if they can come up with more factors which could have an influence on the time to write a name. Continue adding them up to the list you started (length of the name, quality of the handwriting, letter size, complexity of the name, ... ).
If you did not called it the multitask name game and did not yet speak about multitasking chances are high that nobody will say that multitasking is a factor!
The third and last question is how long it would take to write 4, 5, 6 names. Pick here the number which is equal to the size of the team. For example if you have teams of 5 people, ask how long it would take to write five names. The answer is simple. If it takes 5 seconds to write 1 name, it takes 25 seconds to write five names. Write also this time on the flipchart!
Now, let's find out!
Divide the participants into team. One person will be the manufacturer of the name cards. the other persons will be customers.
Each customer gets a blank name card. They want the manufacturer to write down their name on the card. As a customer you want to have your name card as quickly as possible. You will measure the performance of the manufacturer. A clock will be projected on the screen. When the round starts, you give your empty card to the manufacturer and say your name (do this only when the round starts!). You note down the time on the back of the name card when you receive your name card with the name written correctly. If the name is not written correctly you will sent it back to the manufacturer and the time keeps running.
The manufacturer is the only person who is allowed to write. He can ask however questions to the customer (for example can you spell your name?, is it written with ck of just a k?, ...). He has to follow company policy. This is: Never keep a customer waiting, because that's bad business. The company is afraid that they lose customers if they keep the customer waiting. Because nobody likes to wait, right? They also have as a company policy: the earlier you start something, the earlier you finish! In order to fulfill the company policy the manufacture has created the following procedure:
Write the first letter of the first customer, then the first letter of the second customer, then the first letter of the third customer, etc. When the first letter of each customer is written, Go back and start writing the second letter of the first customer, then the second letter of the second customer, then the second letter of the third customer, etc. Continue like this for the next letters. When a name is finished the name card is given back to the customer.
start the clock after the rules are explained and clear for everyone.
observe during the game the different teams. Make sure they follow the rules. sometimes the manufacturer asks the customers to spell the name letter by letter. You can allow this since it is not a violence of the rules.
write down the different times once everyone has his name card back. What is the average time per team? What is the longest time per team. In other words when are all customers name cards finished?
Compare it with the estimate times. Typically there is a huge difference. And start discussing why there is a big difference. Refer to the list you made in the beginning with influence factors. Were it really long names? Were it really complex names? Is the letter size really big? The answers is always no. The real influencing factor is multitasking!
Explain that the manufacturer is multitasking and that you want to eliminate the multitasking in the second round.
Ask each manufacturer to rotate to the next team, so that each team has a new manufacturer that is not familiar with the names of the customer. You can compare it with moving to a new company. And each company has its own policy! The policy in this company is different from the previous one. The company policy is: Don't multitask!. In order to comply with the company policy the manufacturer writes only one name at the time. This means that he only accepts one empty mane card at the time. When he is finished with the first name, he will ask the seconds customer for the empty name card, etc.
The customer still will measure the performance of the manufacturer. In order to do this he has to write down the start time and end time on the name card. the start time is the time when he hands over the empty card. The end time is when he receives back the name card with the name written correctly. He also has to note down the project time. Which is the difference between the start and end time.
start the clock after the rules are explained and clear for everyone. write down the different times once everyone has his name card back. What is the average project time per team? What is the longest waiting time per team. In other words when are all customers name cards finished?
Compare the times with the estimate times and the times from the previous round. Typically there is a huge difference between round 1 and 2. The project times and longest waiting time should be close to the estimated times. Refer again to the list you made in the beginning with influence factors. Now the difference will probably be influenced by the factors they have summed up in the beginning (length of the name, complexity, ...)
The main lessons learned will be that multitasking is not working. Multitasking is not only working in this game but also in the real-life work environment. The trainees should look were multitasking is done within their work environment. and try to eliminate it.
Multitasking creates waste. By identifying and eliminating the sources of multitasking you will see a significant improvement in the efficiency of the work done. Multitasking in often the main contributor to efficiency loses.
A pull system where the work is pulled in by the manufacturer works better than a push system where the customer pushes the work to the manufacturer. You see also a reduction in the Work In progress (WIP).