X + Y game




Form into 3 or 4 teams (departments). 4 works best.
Ask the teams to name themselves
Add the names to both the game board spreadsheet and the decision board
Have the scoring chart on the screen / projector
Hand out copies of the scoring chart
Hand out X and Y post it notes


The department who earns the most money after 10 calendar months will receive a Christmas bonus and will win the game.


Each department will work independently to decide whether to produce X or Y this month.
One one person from each department in an interdepartmental discussion before announcing their products.
All departments will announce simultaneously.


Set the scene: “All of the teams are departments in XY Inc. Every month each department can produce either product X or product Y. The amount of profit each product will earn depends on saturation into the market, illustrated on the screen.”
Every month all departments will announce what they will build
Every month all departments will have a brief opportunity to collaborate on strategy

Round 1

  • Each department has 1 minute to discuss which product they will make
  • Each department, please send a representative join the interdepartmental discussion.
  • You have 1 minute to discuss anything you need to
  • At the count of 3, please indicate your decision an X or a Y post it on the board.

Round 2 - 10

  • Each round follows the format of round 1
  • Start the timer immediately following the announcement
  • Insight: This keeps the game moving and tight, it also keeps the tension up
  • While they are deliberating, update game board spreadsheet and hand back the post it notes

Bonus rounds

  • Rounds 5, 8 and 10 are bonus rounds, where the teams will receive additional profit. Round 5: 2 times, round 8: 3 times and round 10: 10 times.
  • At the beginning of these rounds, announce to all teams the potential bonus.
  • Insight: This helps tease out the local sub-optimisation :)

Ending the game

  • There are three outcomes to each round in this game
    • All departments play X - The company as a whole loses money
    • One or more departments play X - The company breaks even, generating zero profit
    • All departments play Y - The company as a whole makes money
  • At the end of the game, the company's profit is the sum of all the departments profit. This is likely to be very low.
  • Celebrate the department with the most profit, but then inform everyone that regretfully the company is going out of business :(



  • Stand up if (In real life) you feel that you’re a generally nice guy
  • Stay standing if you were a nice guy in this game
  • Celebrate the nice people :) and sit down

Those that played X, what was your chief motivation?
How did you feel playing X?
Did you enjoy feeling like that?
And those that played Y, what was your chief motivation?
How did it feel when others played X?
How did the negotiations go?
Has anyone experienced a similar situation?
At work have you ever been in a team that needed something, but couldn’t get the support from others who could help?
Why didn’t they help?


Prisoner's Dilemma - Video
Localised sub-optimisation
Zoom out and ensure that your personal and team definitions of success still apply in the bigger picture
The secret to Agile is to inspect and adapt, its ok that your plan might have to change to help others