Building Teams with Two Truths and a Lie

Two Truths and a Lie is a teambuilding exercise which can be played using agile coaching cards from the agile self-assessment game. It’s a fun game where people hear things about agile that their fellow team members believe in … or not believe in.

This exercise is based on the well-known two truths and a lie icebreaker. I suggest using it for new teams for people to get to know each other and make agreements about how to work together in an agile way in a team.

Playing Two Truths and a Lie

In this playing suggestion for the Agile Self-assessment Game, people tell two truths and one lie using agile coaching cards. The objective of the game is to discover the lie.

The setup for this game is to sit in a circle. You can use chairs or people can sit on the ground if that feels comfortable enough for them. It helps to have a table nearby and for instance use a tray where you put the cards on. Alternatively, you can sit around a table, but then you will miss some of the none verbal communication because it will be hidden behind the table.

Playing the game starts by shuffling the cards from the agile self-assessment game. You can use cards from the main agile game and expansion packs. Next, the cards are divided over four stacks of equal size. The stacks are put face down on the table or tray where all players can access them.

The first player picks one of the four stacks, looks at the cards, and takes two cards which (s)he thinks are agile principles or practices that (s)he strongly believes in and does her/himself; things that are important for the whole team to know. Don’t show the cards. Then the next player picks a stack and selects two cards.

After all of the players have picked two cards with things they believe in and do in their daily work, they do another round but now each player picks one card that triggers them about something that they don’t believe in, a thing they generally don’t do or would prefer not to do.

After all players have selected the cards and took time to prepare their statements, go around the circle where each player uses their cards to tell two truths and one lie.

Now it’s up to the players to guess the false ones, the lies. You can have a voting, or everybody can say for each person which statement they think is the lie.

Remember, it’s not a competition about who finds the most lies. It can be fun to discover a lie, or to completely miss a lie and really learn something about somebody.

Example

To show how this playing format can help you to discuss agile beliefs and help team members to learn about each other, let’s do an example. After going through the cards I picked these two cards I believe in and one that I have serious doubts about (I’ll reveal the cards later).

Next, I might say:

It’s important to keep a constant pace in our team to prevent getting overloaded and keep our team healthy

I believe that we have to involve everyone when we plan our sprint

Retrospectives are the main driver to reflect, learn, and improve

People who know me, know that the last statement is something that I really believe and do, so that’s an easy one: a truth about me. But what about the first and second? Which one is true and which one is a lie? Do you know?

Let me help you out. For me, the second statement is a lie. I don’t believe that it’s feasible nor effective to always involve everyone in every planning sessions. Sure, it’s good to have different views and giving people a say increase their involvement and hence gets them more committed to the result. But involving everyone in everything simply doesn’t work; that’s my belief.

Now you learned something about me that you didn’t know before! You might agree or disagree. Have a strong opinion yourself. That’s ok, but remember that the goal of this game is to get to learn each other, not to judge.

For those interested, these are the cards that I picked as my truths:

Agile 21: The team is able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely

Agile 35: Agile retrospectives are done frequently

For the lie I picked:

Agile 6: All team members, including testers, are involved in planning the work

As you can see, it’s not just selecting cards. I added my personal drive and reasons for a statement, by saying why it matter to maintain a constant pace (prevent getting overloaded and keeping our team healthy) and do retrospectives (reflect, learn, and improve). That’s how the cards help teams to learn from each other!

Building the Team

If you find out during the game that one of the lies (or a truth) is found very important by several team members and that an alignment for the whole team could be helpful, then you can decide to discuss it further.

Going back to the example, let’s asssume that several team members reponded to my “lie” and show that they don’t agree. We’re a team, they said, so we need to do everything with everyone together. Well, that would be something to discuss in the team and agree upon the ground rules for working together.

There is no right or wrong, working together in a team is about people who have their own beliefs, and that’s ok. But for the important things, like who to involve in what, it helps if teams agree up front how they will do it.

One advice: Don’t discuss specific statements before all players have presented their statements and all lies have been guessed.

The Agile Self-assessment Game

Two truths and a lie is a fun game, doing it with the Agile Self-assessment Cards can help teams to find out how people truly feel about the agile mindset, principles, and practices.

Two Truths and a Lie is one of the many playing formats described in my book The Agile Self-assessment Game. Teams play the game to reflect on their own team interworking, discover how agile they are and decide what they can do to increase their agility.

Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

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