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Pumpkin Head Activity

Dean Stevens Senior Consultant
Reading: Pumpkin Head Activity

halloween girl with pumpkin head

I have a nice learning activity to illustrate the benefits of product owners participating with teams. It is also about the team’s responsibility to make good use of the product owner’s time. It’s called the Pumpkin Head Activity.

You need a flip chart and a marker for each group. You need to download 3 simple pumpkin head stencils. Keep it simple. Here are some examples when I Google simple pumpkin head stencils. Order the stencils in order of complexity, simplest first.

Form groups of 4-6 participants. Read the following Activity Description to all of the participants.

Activity Description

  • The product owner will describe an image
  • The Team draws the image
  • PO never shows the image to the team
  • Team can ask questions
  • It may be an image of a pumpkin head :)
  • Run three rounds with a different image each time, about 10 minutes per round

Ask them to select a member to serve as product owner. Ask the product owners from each group to meet with you.

Product Owner Instruction

  • Give each the ordered drawings.
  • Repeat the instructions
  • Ask them to ensure the team does not see their drawing (use a workbook or folder so the other participants cannot see through the paper).
  • Ask them not to use their hands to describe the image or point to corrections (they can’t help themselves)

Instruction for each round

  • The Phone Call round
    • PO cannot look at the drawing. Have the product owner stand behind the easel or with their back to the drawing.
    • Debrief. Discuss why this is hard, unfair, nearly impossible.
  • Face to Face round
    • Product owner can look as the team draws. But product owners can’t use their hands.
    • Discuss the benefits of fast feedback. Can teams get too much feedback?
  • Accelerate Feedback round
    • Product owner describes an increment (the left eye for example) then waits. At least 3 members draw what they think they heard. The product owner picks the closest one and describes modifications, then waits. The team iterates.
    • Debrief. Discuss the benefits of incremental and iterative approach to accelerate feedback. Who is responsible for providing the opportunity to accelerate feedback?

This is frequently one of the groups favorite learning activities. Once the group has finished ask one more debrief questions. How did the team feel about accomplishing the drawing? How do the product owners feel? Teams can get very enthusiastic about accomplishing this task. Imagine if our work life was this exciting.

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