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Optimising delivery with the LEGO® Star Wars™ Game

21 Jan 2019

| Author: Paul Dykes


Optimising delivery with the LEGO® Star Wars™ Game

A short time ago, in a galaxy right next to Angel…

On 16 January at the aptly named RocketSpace in Islington, imperial forces – in the form of IndigoBlue’s Agile Managers and Leaders Meetup Group – convened to build the Galactic Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star, with the aim of achieving the objective:


As the Galactic Empire, I want to dominate the galaxy so that all are enslaved…”

…and also the objective of learning about Agile and DevOps behaviours and ways of working that optimise flow along the delivery pipeline. The LEGO® Star Wars™ Game is an IndigoBlue simulation that provides experiential learning to this end. 

Alan de Ste Croix introducing the gameIndigoBlue’s use of this simulation to finesse delivery team skills at one of its clients, TrakCel, contributed to that client’s finalist place at the UK IT Industry Awards 2018 in the category Development Team of the Year. At IndigoBlue, we recognise that the Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be... more Agile.

Story map prioritisation

To get the game underway, Emperor Palpatine – aka Senior Consultant, Alan de Ste Croix – set the objective and introduced the group to the Death Star user story map which was grouped by epics such as ‘Enable domination’, ‘Transportation’ and ‘Living’.

Example user story cardThe group was then tasked to self-organise into three teams under a Product Owner: Emperor Palpatine himself; Darth Wader (Head of Innovation, Stan Wade); and Grand Moff Tarkin (Senior Consultant, Peter Bird). Each team was commanded to take at least one epic on the story map and to prioritise it into three incremental delivery sprints. 

This soon prompted conversations around which user stories would deliver the earliest increments of value to the Empire towards meeting the overall objective. For example, if the superlaser would enable the Death Star to blow up planets, should that be delivered as a higher priority than dormitories to accommodate the stormtroopers who would suppress and enslave whole populations?

Story Map prioritisation

Sprint 1

The three teams went off to separate rooms to work on the stories they had agreed to deliver in Sprint 1. Some collaboration soon took place within teams to agree how best to achieve each story’s acceptance criteria to the satisfaction of their Product Owners. Far from finding their lack of faith disturbing, the imperial Product Owners soon found themselves being referred to appropriately as “Sir” and “My liege”.

Sprint 1 underway

At the end of the sprint, the delivery teams returned from their rooms for the Sprint 1 Demo, showing the group the stories that they had managed to complete.

At the end of the demo, Emperor Palpatine altered the deal (and everyone prayed he did not alter it any further), changing the scale from centimetres to inches for an acceptance criterion relating to the Death Star’s core infrastructure. “You would go imperial,” quipped a foolhardy stormtrooper; as last words go, they were impressive, most impressive.

TIE fighterAdmiral Piett (Principal DevOps Consultant, Bruce Richardson) then emerged from his DeathOps silo to set out integration constraints that he had not shared with the teams during Sprint 1. He specified the minimum number of stormtroopers that needed to be accommodated on each integration point between components of the Death Star. By the end of Sprint 2, the teams were required to have some Death Star components in Production.

Sprint 2

Having worked in separate rooms in Sprint 1, all of the teams stayed in the same room for the second sprint, recognising that collaboration across teams was required to understand how the components needed to be integrated, smoothing the flow along the pipeline into Production. The team producing the Death Star core infrastructure understood that they needed to deploy to Production first.

Admiral Piett decreed that each team must nominate Sith Initiates from among their ranks; only they would be allowed to touch the infrastructure in the DeathOps Galaxy Room. The initiates would need to be briefed by their teams on integration challenges and would not be available thereafter as developers.

Sprint 2 collaboration

With the new DeathOps team in place, features had started to move along the pipeline into Production and the Death Star was beginning to take shape at the Sprint 2 Demo. Increments of the canteen, dormitory and garbage compactor were all connected to the central core. However, some work was found not to meet the Definition of Done – for example, there was only one moveable wall in the compactor. 

The group took the opportunity to identify other integration challenges, some of which would require redesigns. The garbage compactor had to be located below the detention level and the meridian trench needed to be at least six inches wide to accommodate TIE fighters. This required construction to move into three dimensions and the production of new components to allow rooms to be placed on top of each other.

Sprint 2 Demo

Sprint 3

Addressing integration challengesDispensing with the pleasantries and putting their teams back on schedule, the Product Owners found new ways to motivate them in Sprint 3. Communication and collaboration increased in the DeathOps Galaxy Room to address the remaining integration challenges, steadily improving flow along the pipeline into Production.

In the Sprint 3 Demo, a multi-level, fully operational battle station was demonstrated, with the canteen above the dormitory and the detention level above the garbage compactor. An interrogation chamber was deployed and a new medical centre for the temporary resuscitation of interrogatees.

Also integrated were the planet-destroying superlaser, the landing bay complete with a TIE fighter and a troop transport, and a communications centre for the broadcasting of propaganda to crush the will of imperial subjects.

Fully operational Death Star

“When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master”

Darth Vader's executive liftReverting momentarily from Galactic Emperor to Agile Coach, Alan then discussed with the group the lessons that they had drawn from the simulation.

The group acknowledged that in the initial excitement of delivery, they had built features without an appreciation of scale or of integration constraints. Delivery had commenced without sufficient cross-team planning, meaning that key uncertainties were not identified and resolved – such as the scale and integration challenges presented by the meridian trench.

This had been exacerbated by working in silos in the first sprint and not communicating with other teams. It was important to communicate and collaborate across teams early and throughout. And not only across delivery teams – it was vital also to work with DevOps from the start in order to understand and address integration challenges. To achieve optimal flow along the delivery pipeline, all of this collaboration is essential.

In the end, no product or service can be proved to have met its objectives until it has gone live; it was time to demonstrate the full power of this battle station. But before Grand Moff Tarkin could issue the command, “You may fire when ready,” news came in that a band of rebel scum had stolen the Death Star user story map. Darth Wader was despatched on the Northern line to Scarif to intercept them, duly confident that there will be no one to stop us this time. I don’t know, though; I have a bad feeling about this...

Use the Force to optimise your delivery pipeline

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Paul Dykes

Paul is a highly experienced digital product owner and digital marketer, with experience of leading digital marketing teams and directing the development of multi-million-pound web development projects.


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