Alpha State Cards in Practice: Experiences from an Agile Trainer

Having had the opportunity to incorporate the Alpha State Cards within some recent training classes I have been delighted to see the enthusiastic reaction they receive. The cards are great at bringing what can sometimes be complex and difficult concepts to life and making them of real practical value to people.

In each Agile training class I deliver now, I use the cards to support an exercise that challenges the groups to determine the current status of a sample software development project. In the discussions afterwards, the groups have consistently reported:

  • They were really impressed on how the cards enabled more effective team communication and collaboration
  • The cards demonstrated in both a tangible and visual way that significant progress was being made, as the Alpha State Cards made it quick and easy to cut through the “noise” to the heart of what mattered
  • The whole experience showed how quick it was to come to a useful conclusion and each group found it an enjoyable way to work

When asked how the cards might support other team activities the feedback included the following:

  • The cards offer a great set of objectives to assist with task identification, task planning and  prioritization activities
  • The states on the card provide a basis for simplifying governance objectives and evaluation criteria, as well as making the whole process leaner
  • Revisiting the card abacus during iteration reviews to demonstrate iteration progress from a state perspective
  • They recognize the ability for the cards to advance and retreat along the abacus, to reflect significant change impacting one or more Alphas

I get a lot of satisfaction from using the cards in these courses as they really act to break down the barriers early in the course by helping the attendees to relax and to build their confidence working collaboratively together. They also gain a sense of experiencing something not only new, but highly effective too, and something they can easily apply back on their own projects to add value and improve ways of working.

For me as a trainer and coach, the cards significantly contribute towards an enhanced learning experience, and in so doing, increase the knowledge retention for the key learning points. The bottom line is it’s best to use the cards in a group situation to truly appreciate their value.

The Alpha State Cards, games and further guidance is available here if you want to try them yourself.

Also there is now a Alpha State Card LinkedIn group which is a great place to share ideas & ask questions about using the cards.

  1. John Lamertina | January 24, 2014 at 8:32 am Reply


    Thank you for all of the many helpful references at the ivarJacobson web site!

    In your training classes, do you use the Alpha State Cards to determine the status of the entire project, or just the current increment/version?

    • Alan Jones | January 24, 2014 at 10:42 am Reply


      Hi John,

      Thank you for your feedback on the content of our website. Pleased to hear you find it constructive and helpful.

      In our one day Agile Simulation training courses we use the Alpha Cards to determine both the current health/status of a project as well as referring to them to plan/identify tasks for the iteration, at the increment level. We also discuss how they might be used as another dimension of progress within status reports, at both project and programme levels.

      If you are specifically interested in drilling further into how the state cards could be applied to your situation, it might be more effective to run an on-site Agile Simulation course, where we can drill further into this area, or possibly to conduct a workshop specifically around your requirements. If this is something you are interested in pursuing, then please get in touch and we can discuss your requirement further.

      [email protected]