Connect the Dots Guide

Updated on 2024-05-27 (first published on 2024-03-12)


Estimating tasks in complex systems is typically challenging, and the reasons aren’t always intuitively clear. This activity demonstrates how deceptively straightforward tasks can pose substantial estimation hurdles. Furthermore, it underscores the underlying challenge of formulating the appropriate questions from the get-go.

Use Cases

Use this game to show stakeholders or teams the difficulty of accurate estimates and how a deceptively simple task can be challenging. It can help create empathy for the team’s estimation challenges and help shift focus from “why can’t you estimate better” to “how can we change the way we work and deliver to make more accurate forecasts.”

How to Use

  1. Start the game when all players have joined.
  2. Ask each player to estimate how many iterations they need to connect the X number of dots. (You decide the number of dots when creating the game. The default is 20.)
  3. When all players have provided an estimate, start the first round.
  4. The round ends automatically after 30 seconds. You can choose to play as many rounds as you like.
    • Previously connected dots are remembered between rounds.
    • In each iteration, numbers are mixed up.

Facilitator Tips

  • Before you ask players to estimate, encourage players to ask any questions they may have to clarify the task, and be able to estimate accurately.
  • Instead of rushing into the subsequent round, take some time to discuss the outcomes of each session. This will allow for reflection and shared insights.
  • Some possible discussion points and learnings:
    • What were your initial assumptions about the exercise before the first round commenced? What clarifying questions could you have asked?
    • How feasible is it for development teams to ask relevant questions? Are there any “unknown unknowns”?
    • Is the process of estimating becoming progressively easier or more challenging as more rounds are played? Can you explain why? (For example players might find that drawn lines make it harder to find numbers.)
  • The outcomes after every round are depicted in burndown charts. These can be used as a basis for discussing the results and the key takeaways. You may also want to explain how to interpret the burndown chart. Perhaps after the initial one or two rounds.

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