Scrum Learning Games: Elephant Carpaccio

scrum learning gamesThere are a number of great scrum learning games “out there” and this one was developed by Alistair Cockburn. It is a classic that’s great for Shu level teams. I’ve taken a few liberties, inspected and adapted, and offer up my own recipe.

Nano Incremental Development

Cockburn designed the exercise to help people practice breaking user stories and their related tasks into really thin vertical slices.

After he named the exercise, he later realized that he got the language is backwards:

We are not starting with an elephant and deconstructing it into slices. Having a pile of elephant slices does not produce an elephant.

We are actually going in the other direction: starting from nothing and constructing the elephant. First an armature, then a walking skeleton, then a semblance of a moving elephant, and so on.

So maybe Elephant Lamination would have been more accurate… not slicing. But alas Elephant Carpaccio was so much more catchy a name…so it stuck

What’s a User Story Anyway?

vertical user storyA User Story typically follows this format:

  • As a <type of user, “Actor”>, I want <some action> so that <some goal/achievement>.

There’s quite a lot of power tucked into the simplicity of user/action/goal. Also, a user story typically spans multiple architectural layers: UI, client, and a backend. Take a deeper dive into user stories via this post: What Makes for a Good Agile User Story?

How Big Should User Stories Be?

“It depends”….An iteration could be anywhere from a week to a month depending on your sprint length. Really big stories are typically called epics – which might then span more than one iteration.  I coach my teams to try to keep stories down in size to a couple of days from start to “Done”. The Elephant Carpaccio game takes things a bit further and goes to minutes… while we still keeping the stories vertical.

Why Split Stories as Small as Possible?

Cumulative Value DeliveredConceptually there are a lot of benefits to thin slicing: 

  • Learn faster w less risk, its easier to verify things since there’s just a small increment of functionality to test
  • Better product earlier, as the feedback cycle is quicker
  • More business options and flexibility, easy to drop a story without the burden of sunk cost.
  • Less time “underwater”, helps prevent assumptions which can lead to bloat
  • Deliver more value more often, over time the area under the value curve – the cumulative value – delivered is greater

And all of this leads to happier stakeholders, happier users, and higher customer satisfaction.

Scrum Learning Games – Facilitator’s Deck

My slide deck, with facilitator notes (and my special surprise ingredients) is available for download:

All I ask if you use my preso, when you make improvements, you share ’em…


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