The Addiction Game

Presented by: Nancy Van Schooenderwoert

Addiction is defined as: persistently engaging in compulsive behavior that the addict knows to be harmful.
Even the smartest teams and organizations can have addictions. It’s about habits and practices over time, not intelligence. And there is plenty you can do about it.
The Addiction Game’s playing board is a diagram of the way addiction works – a quick feedback path for short-term relief, coupled with a slower feedback path for destructive consequences of the addictive behavior. Players nominate an addictive pattern, then take turn placing cards to identify its triggers, rewards, and painful effects. Addictive behaviors can include skipping tests, placing blame, writing long methods, and many more. Any destructive behavior that is self-reinforcing is a fair target for this game.
Using prohibition - “Just say no” – to stop an addiction merely compounds the problem. An organization demanding ever higher velocity numbers from its Agile teams (addicted to the illusion of control) will find the teams redefining the meaning of story points to give bigger numbers.
Prohibition is a static solution to a systemic problem. That’s why it doesn’t work. Using the game board we will play out Jerry Weinberg’s 3-step addiction cure:
  1. Stop doing X.

  2. Find an alternative solution Z that really works (and doesn’t create long term problems).
  3. Soften the short term pain, if necessary, but not with X.