Ball Runner (AKA Lloyd's balls)




Divide the group into small equal teams, 4 - 5 ppl per team works best
If you are playing with multiple teams, ask each team to name themselves
Arrange the hoppers on the floor in a sequential line (workflow), leaving room between them for people to move
Put all of the balls into hopper 1


Get as many balls from hopper 1 to hopper 5 in 2 mins.


Each ball must be thrown high and caught by the same person
Hopper 2 can only contain balls that have been thrown high and caught
Each ball must be thrown between two people
Hopper 3 can only contain balls that have been thrown between two people
Each ball must orbit the team in the hand of a person
Hopper 4 can only contain balls that have orbited the team
Each ball can only be put into hopper 5 (“Done”) by a single designated person
Dropped balls are considered defects and cannot be retrieved
We will play 5 rounds
Between each round you will have 2 minutes to improve


Set up the space and read out the rules

Demonstrate the workflow

  • Take a ball from hopper 1
  • Throw the ball high,catch it and put it into hopper 2
  • Take the ball from hopper 2, throw it to a person, ask them to throw it back and put it into hopper 3
  • Take the ball from hopper 3, walk around one of the teams & hoppers and put it into hopper 4
  • State: “If I am the designated putter, I can..”
  • Take the ball from hopper 4 and put into hopper 5

Get ready to play

  • Check the team understand and qualify any questions
  • Give the team 2 mins to organise themselves
  • Within that 2 mins, ask the team for an estimate of how many balls they can get through the system

Round 1

  • Begin the round, time 2 mins
  • TIP: Watch for dropped balls and collect them (saves time)
  • Count the balls delivered
  • TIP: Even if they’ve counted already, count anyway - This gives the team a few moments of pause to catch their breath. Otherwise the improvement time will be less effective
  • Record the time on the score sheet
  • Record waste on the board - All balls removed from the starting hopper but not in the done hopper
  • Challenge the team to do better! Give them 1 min to improve and to give you a new estimate

Round 2 - 5

  • These rounds are essentially the same as the first
  • TIP: The interim hoppers are not required by the rules. It should become obvious that one or more are serving no purpose (essentially the WIP will already be 0. Ask the team why it’s still there?
  • TIP: If playing with multiple teams, announce the leaders and their score - This generates and invigorates competition


Ask the team how it felt to play.
Reflect on the scores, what was interesting?, was there improvement?
Did anyone try things that didn’t work?
Did anyone innovate? how?


Power of continuous improvement
Power of self organising teams
Pull vs Push
Hack the system! Don’t let the rules of the system constrain you without first qualifying and challenging them