Tool: Endgame

Endgame is a universal thinking tool that allows to streamline any type of effort in the right direction. The whole idea behind the method is to “picture” the end result of the effort, trying to refer to and reason about the actual (tangible) outcomes. As a result of such upfront and “close” contact with the outcomes, substantial flaws in the action plan are typically identified, as well as ambiguities in terms of outcomes get resolved in terms of introducing multiple solution options.

From facilitation standpoint, following are useful tools to foster Endgame thinking in a group:

  1. Simple thought experiment: “Close your eyes and imagine that the initiative is finished. What do you see as a result?”
  2. Diagrams that describe the end-result (it is desirable to have them in easily modifiable and accessible environment; whiteboard are perfect for such matters).
  3. Identifying parameters that determine different “states” of final outcomes, therefore different “if-then” scenarios.
  4. Constructive prototyping or simulation as a cheapest way to get to a truly tangible representation of the future outcome.
  5. Group, rather than individual, effort. It is a lot easier to create a strong perception of future results through interaction and communication rather than as a result of individual cognitive act.
  6. Use of short, free-form snippets (or narratives) that describe the future state.

Let’s consider some examples:

  • Initiative: “improving lead time of features”. Let’s imagine, before we even started doing anything in this direction, that our lead time is improved by 30%. Let’s look at our features in the backlog and let’s do something we’ve never done before: let’s just show those feature descriptions and possibly some quick wireframes to the customer. The customer provides negative feedback on the majority of the features. Now, as a result we know that: a) the problem is elsewhere – we have product management detached from real customer needs and b) should we pursue the initial idea, we would made our already large codebase even further bloated with zero-value functionality, making it only harder to add value in the future.
  • Initiative: “adopting story-point estimation”. Let’s see what happens if we did so. We still have status reports to the management that involve progress against estimated effort, which would most likely be now replaced with same reports, just story-point based. That would have destroyed the fundamental tenet of Agile suggesting that working software is the best measure of progress and that, based on that, changing course of action is rather welcomed if the evidence suggests so. As a result the change agents realize that advancements in adopting empirical mindset are far more important and must precede other practices, like estimation, which have a potential to unintentionally cement the old thinking under new labels.

Important limitations.

It is critical to remember that the use-case for this tool is to identify gaps in action plan towards certain idea of outcomes. In that regard however, the method remains speculative in nature and carries the limitations of any speculative tools. So, just like any such tool, the method may provide better understanding in one area of concern while creating significant false sense of security in the other. So, in case of Crude Reality Method, the organization may effectively evaluate what they want and how their action strategy is going to get them there. At the same time, the outcome may represent very questionable overall value to the organization, which can only be understood as a result of specific exploration and validation.

Ⓒ Org Mindset, LLC