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DevOpsGroup Blog Ten reasons to make game days a regular event

Ten reasons to make game days a regular event

The game day concept originates in hackathons, where programmers get together to build or improve upon a piece of software. Game days however are more inclusive of non-technical people. They offer many benefits, especially for organisations on the cloud adoption journey. This post explains what game days are and gives ten good reasons to hold or take part in one.

What is a game day?

A game day sees a group of people solving a fictional problem or developing a new idea. They’re given a short period of time – usually hours, but sometimes days or a couple of weeks – to complete the challenge. The beauty of game days is that they’re inherently flexible. Participants can meet in person or virtually. They might be existing team members and colleagues, or complete strangers. They could have shared skills and experiences or come from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines.

Some of the best events I’ve been part of involve technical and non-technical people working together. Having both organised and participated in game days, I think they’re an excellent way to foster a growth mindset. They can also play a valuable role in change management if you’re introducing new ways of working or integrating teams. Game days are great fun, but they also deliver serious business benefits.  

Ten great things about game days

1. Strengthen relationships

The time constraints of game days create a high-octane environment. As pressure mounts to complete the task participants have to rely on each other to get jobs done. This can result in a feeling of camaraderie that lasts far longer than the event itself. It’s a great way to build bridges and nurture relationships between departments, global teams or people with different levels of experience.   

2. Extend skills

Game days often require participants to draw on a wide range of skills. The core challenge might be technology focused, but solving it is likely to require leadership, mentoring, communication and decision making. Participants are often pushed out of their comfort zone, and it’s great to see people rise to the occasion. You may discover colleagues have hidden talents that make them a great fit for future projects.

3. Push boundaries

We all know that it’s important to drive continual improvement, but it’s also easy to get stuck in the rut of day-to-day tasks. Game days encourage you to think outside the box. They offer a safe space to push boundaries and deal with any consequences. Sometimes this reveals new and better ways of working that can be implemented in the real-world.

4. Try new things

One of the best – and most stressful – games days I took part in saw the organiser continually introducing faults that we had to go and fix. We’d complete one task, and another bigger problem would emerge. As the challenges escalated, I found myself reaching for tools and techniques that I’d read about but hadn’t yet used. It was a great opportunity to try new ideas and learn on the fly. 

5. Road-test plans

Game days can be a powerful test bed for activities like cloud disaster recovery. Having a plan in place is all well and good, but staging a worst-case scenario enables any gaps to be identified and rectified. This can form a central part of regular disaster recovery reviews.

6. Plan for failure

Look at your architecture and think about where things could go wrong or what a malicious actor might do. Structuring a game day script around this can be an interesting way to test the resilience of cloud-based systems.

7. Encourage innovation

The open-ended nature of game days, coupled with their removal from day-to-day priorities, makes them a fertile ground for innovation. They can also create a dynamic space for people with different perspectives and capabilities to spar and stimulate each other. While the timeframe is limited, teams can be surprisingly productive. One game day I hosted resulted in a team developing a chatbot to solve a business challenge. Soon afterwards it was launched on the company’s website.

8. Solve problems or avoid future issues

Building a game day around a specific business goal or priority can be very effective. In a cloud context, you could take a theme like security or cost-efficiency and use that as the focal point. The event might deliver tangible outcomes or ideas that can be implemented in the real world. At the very least, it will give participants a deeper awareness and understanding of the topic.

9. Foster psychological safety

Cloud adoption can be really hard on individuals as they get to grips with new ways of working. People tend to adapt more quickly and embrace the inevitable challenges more willingly if their team and the wider workplace is psychologically safe. This is a huge cultural issue, and game days can’t be used as a sticking plaster solution. But they can help building trust and creating an environment where people are comfortable with experimentation and don’t fear failure.   

10. Accelerate progress

Game days are a brilliant vehicle to improve cohesion between and within teams. They encourage people to stretch their capabilities, think differently and try new things. They’re exciting, stimulating and challenging. All of this brings out the best in people, sharpening their skills and refreshing their perspectives. And it greases the wheels to enable quicker, more seamless progress with game-changing initiatives like largescale cloud adoption.

Colin is a Lead Cloud Solutions Architect. You can find more posts from him and the rest of the team on our main blog page.


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