Les goulots d’étranglement pt. 1

Summer in Paris

Portia and I are back in Paris, two months after XP Days France. The weather is gorgeous, ideal to relax during the day on a café terasse or in the shade of a leafy park; ideal for long evening walks to see the sights. Spain has won the European Championship, and the fans are singing and racing through the streets.

But we haven’t come to Paris only for fun, good food, running and relaxing. We’re here to work, teach and learn.

Goulots on the Champs Elysées

Octo Technology graciously offered the use of its offices to host a meeting of the French agile group. We organized a tryout of “A l’aide! Mon processus m’étrangle!”, the simulation game to teach the basics of the Theory of Constraints.

The game simulates a software production line, from customer request to customer payment. Some participants act as “workers” in the production line, producing paper boats and hats. The other participants act as “consultants”, watching what happens and offering improvement tips. Over three rounds, we go through the “5 focusing steps”, apply the steps to the simulation and see the effect of our improvement.

As usual, the popular Belgian chocolates provided an incentive to the players. Portia had brought some English sweets to “sweeten” the deal between management and workers: in the simulation, the “workers” are paid one chocolate/sweet per round in wages + a number of chocolates/sweets for the team, in a profit-sharing scheme. The other participants, the “consultants” were paid in sweets.

We tried out some new features of the game:

  • Running two production chains in parallel, so that we could let more people play, try out different optimisations and create some competition;
  • Let idle players “train” to acquire skills that they could use to help the bottleneck
  • Explain some basic Throughput Accounting concepts.


This was an experienced and knowledgeable crowd, so we had lots of discussion about the goal of companies, aligning the goals of teams and individuals with the goal of the organisation, how to create contracts to align customers and suppliers and much more. All very interesting, but it meant that the session became a bit too long.

We held a short retrospective, so that participants could give use their feedback. The next day we held our own retrospective and analyzed the retrospective feedback from the participants. We decided to only use the training innovation for the next two sessions. Running two production lines and explaining Throughput Accounting wouldn’t fit in the session timeboxes. We knew what to do for the next two runs at the Université du SI conference.

After the session we went to dinner with a group of agilists to finish the evening with beers, sandwiches, discussion about agility and consulting, jokes, 80’s music and even some singing.

Do this at home!

The results of the retrospective will be published on the XP-France wiki. The materials for the session are available under a Creative Commons license, so that you can play and adapt this session for your team, company or user group. You will also find more information about the “9 boxes” and “Real Options” sessions we organized recently. Watch that site for more session material in the future.

More about our Paris adventures with Bjarne Stroustrup (!), Eli Goldratt (!) and Neil Armstrong (!) later…

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