The Airplane Factory Game

Agile Airplane Game

This is the multi-team airplane game that we use to introduce Agile through games.

This game especially highlights how teams work together (or don’t as the case may be
Some of the interesting results I’ve seen is that this exercise acts like a mirror showing teams how they respond under pressure. The way the teams coordinate in this exercise seems to reflect their actual working style.

Also, it is great fun when I rip the first plane (for not passing acceptance criteria). The collective gasp is always entertaining. I’ve also had people actually ask “You mean they have to fly?!”. Students usually focus too deeply on the mechanics of what’s in front of them that these other big picture concerns completely escape them… until the first acceptance test that is.

The next section contains the instructor notes, so that readers can understand how the game works.

Agile Airplane Game – Instructor Notes

Step 0: Materials Prep

  • Print 1 copy of each airplane
  • Prepare financials chart ($ on vertical, sprints on horizontal)
  • Prepare note cards for any “helpers” to take responsibility for parts of facilitation

Step 1: Set the stage

Explain that air shows have become popular spectator events. The demand for planes has increased significantly. Everyone here is part of the “Agile Aviation Company”.


  • Air shows across the country have placed orders for planes, we need to fulfill them.
  • Economics: The company has a burn rate of $12 per team, and starts with $40 per team in the bank. Updates are made at the end of each Sprint.
  • Pass out supplies (paper, scissors, tape, colored markers)
  • Pass out (1 beginner, 1 intermediate) plans to each team – “your initial setup”
  • Color code plans and planes (based on available colors) – a stripe is fine

Step 3: First Order, Begin Sprinting

  • Every complete delivery of (15 Beginner, 10 Intermediate) planes will be paid $20.
  • Give team 1 minute to plan Sprint
  • Run Sprint for 4 minutes

Step 4: End of Sprint 1

  • Demo to Customer (Instructors)
  • Only tell teams about acceptance criteria if/when they ask
  • Reject planes (by spectacularly ripping them) that don’t meet acceptance criteria
  • Group batches of “done done” planes into orders
  • Update financial chart for Sprint 1 based on any completed orders and burn rate

Step 5: Run Sprint 2

  • Give teams 1 minute to reflect and plan
  • run Sprint 2 for 4 minutes

Step 6: Run Sprint 3

Step 7: Safety Issue, Run Sprint 4

  • Pull one Basic plan out (safety issues found in design) – pull the one with most in stock

Step 8: High Value/High Risk, Run Sprint 5

  • Pass out (1 advanced) plan to each team
  • Offer new order type: $10 for 4 Advanced Planes

Notes for instructors/helpers:

Customer Acceptance:

All folds line up with 3mm tolerance. (Don’t be too stringent).

Each plane is properly color coded.

Each plane is folded properly (no inverted folds, …)

Must fly across 6 foot (2 meter) platform (tables or chairs)

Test Infrastructure:

Setup a stable surface (tables or chairs) about 2m (6ft) wide for the planes to fly over.


At the end of each Sprint, after plane acceptance, update the financial chart:

  • modify total by: ($ from Completed orders) – $12 X (# of teams)