In one of my posts I shared with you the full framework I use. In this post (and following ones), as I promised, I will share with you activities for each phase. Keep in mind that it works for me; however, it does not mean that it has to work for you. It is something that I would like you take your time to evaluate and validate if you can use “as is” or maybe you could adapt it to your real context. As I said from the beginning, my intentions are not to create the new step-by-step “fix-all-in-one-shot” guide. I want to share what works for me and that you are able to validate or adapt it to your real situation.

Remember that in this process and subsequent activities, we are working with humans, so it is impossible for you to have the exact same situation as mine, because there are no 2 people or teams equals. Tweak it and adapt it at your discretion and pleasure.


The “ground floor” phase: How-To

Here is a small refresher of this phase:

What should happen here: Discussions and interactions, common vocabulary, and understanding should be the most important here.

Format: In groups.

Output: “What do you want to become in X years?” If you are working at the team level, X could be 1 or 2 years. At the organization level, you should use something between 10 and 20 years. Sometimes, people don’t want to think more than 5 years ahead and that is all right.

All the information about this phase is in this post, today, I will address the “how-to”. To do that, I will share the first activity with you for this phase.

Activity II: The cover story

Introduction and more…

Cover Story is a game about pure imagination. The purpose is to think expansively around an ideal future state of the team/organization/ecosystem. The object of the game is to suspend all disbelief and envision a future state that is so stellar that it landed your team/organization/ecosystem on the cover of a well-known magazine. The players, i.e. employees must pretend as though this future has already taken place and has been reported by the mainstream media. This game is worth playing because it not only encourages people to “think big,” but also actually plants the seeds for a future that perhaps wasn’t possible before the game was played.

One of the most effective techniques to recognizing the common dreams people have for your company is to ignore all limits and imagine what “could be.” With The Grove’s Cover Story game, players, i.e. employees can unleash their visions for the team/organization/ecosystem and sprint toward success. During this creative activity, participants imagine a future accomplishment of the company so spectacular that it gets published on the front page of a newspaper. Cover Story uncovers shared goals and can lead to realizing true possibilities that were once unimaginable.

The game…

I made a few adaptations of the original game to fit the goal of this exercise. As you see, I am doing exactly what I am asking you to do with this series of posts related to performance appraisals. (tweak & adapt)

Start by drawing a large cover story poster for each 5 – 8 person group. Feel free to arrange the chart however you want, but make sure it has the following five components:

  • Today – “Who are we today?”
  • Tomorrow – “What do we want to become in X years/months?”
  • Cover – states the spectacular success accomplished by the company.
  • Headers – reveal what the story is about.
  • Images – pictures that support the cover story.


After taking 5 -15 minutes for a discussion about “who are we today?” You as the facilitator; could ask more questions to help the team to build a rich conversation.

Assign 5 minutes for participants to silently ponder where they want the team/organization/ecosystem to go (“What do we want to become in X years/months”), have the team members collaborate within their groups and fill in the components of their charts. This can last 30 – 45 minutes.

Once all the cover stories are complete, give each group 5 – 10 minutes to present their big-picture ideas. As a team, work to recognize any commonalities among the stories and reflect on how these similarities can actually be applied.

At the end, you will get the “cover story” of your team/organization/ecosystem. If the group is big (10-15 people), split them in 2-3 groups, and allow 15-30 minutes more to let the group merge their stories and build only one cover story.

The strategy…

The story is about the wildest dream for the team/organization/ecosystem that has already happened! As a facilitator, you need to talk about their “success” with passion and enthusiasm in a past tense. Encourage the use of past tense to participants when they are creating the story. This game is not about logic, pragmatism, or parameters. Remember, the idea is to create what we want to become in the future. Be creative and ambitious.

With the upcoming posts I will present you with more activities for the different phases. Stay tuned!

Thank you!


READ: Extreme Makeover – Performance Appraisal Edition – full post series


Cover Story – The Innovation Games® Company
Cover Story – PDF sheet – How to run the original game document
Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Gray – Brown – Macanufo – 2010
Gamestorming web site
TIME magazine cover – July-2013

About the author

Omar is an agile practitioner and lover. Certified Scrum master. Agile Coach & Agile Leader. He believes it is important to continually be learning and growing. His dream is to be a lifelong learner; growing each day. He is also passionate about leadership development and seeing people reach their full potential. He is also a good husband & father (his wife says that time to times). He has a wonderful wife and 2 fantastic kids. In his free time, if he does not have any plan ahead, he tries to apply agile methodologies at the family level :). He enjoys a lot to travel with his family and discovers new places for them.