The Werewolf Game!

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Note: The image above was created using Bing AI

This game helps explain why teams keep losing the political game(s)…

“Mafia, also known as Werewolf, is a Russian social deduction game created by Dimitry Davidoff in 1986″ (see the Wikipedia article for the original content, citations, quotes, etc., for this article since I have modified the original article to highlight the idea of asymmetry(s) in the following article).

The game models a conflict between two groups: an informed minority (the mafiosi or the werewolves … in organizational contexts: the leadership) and an uninformed majority (the villagers … in organizations: the team members not part of the leadership).

At the start of the game, each player is secretly assigned a role affiliated with one of these teams. The game has two alternating phases: first, a night-phase, during which those with night-killing-powers (the werewolves / executives) may covertly kill other players (the villagers / team members), and second, a day-phase, in which all surviving players (the villagers / team members + the werewolves / executives) debate and vote to eliminate a suspect.

The game continues until a faction achieves its win-condition; for the village, this usually means eliminating the evil minority, while for the minority, this usually means reaching numerical parity with the village and eliminating any rival evil groups.

Most of the time this game is played…the werewolves win!

Information Asymmetry

And the werewolves win because of asymmetry(s). This game demonstrates Information Asymmetry extremely well. And many team members in most organizations have an aversion to playing the political game, not understanding that this thinking puts them at a steep disadvantage.

Teams that win, will leverage the power of asymmetry(s) as outlined in my previous two books (Flow and Nehemiah Effect) to master their domain and win!

Achilles Heel of Agile

So far in this article I have kept it generic with any kind of team.

However, those that work with (or on) Agile teams have put themselves in a position of substantial risk if they are ignoring the political landscape and reality(s). To voluntarily ignore the information, cues, and communication of the leadership is unfathomable to me and I see it all the time.

What is puzzling is that Agilists keep hoping that somehow their success at the team level will somehow magically translate into acceptance at the leadership level. This demonstrates that they have completely misunderstood the game of leadership and power.

It is a different game, with different rules, and as I have often stated in the past, “politics is a blood sport!” It is time to choose whether the werewolf will eat you, or not. Yes, I understand that only a small percentage of those that identify as an Agilist will actively (and with intent and purpose) engage in politics.

In fact, most Agilists wear their “I’m-not-interested-in-(or-am-playing)-the-game-of-politics-worldview” as some kind of badge of honor. Guess what? It’s not an honor that will help you succeed organizationally. It will work against you.

For example, if you have been uninvited to a leadership meeting (i.e. your presence is no longer needed in the meeting), then that should be a huge red flag (and don’t wear it as some kind of achievement).

It is stunning that I have had more than one Agilist brag about being excluded from a leadership meeting (that directly impacted the trajectory of their team and its success).

Hello! That was NOT a “win” by any definition!!!

My takeaway…

For my future training courses (for those genuinely interested in leadership, power, politics, and agility), I will be incorporating this game into the curriculum since it so beautifully illustrates asymmetry…and why it is vital to your success!

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Note: this blog post is also mirrored as an article on LinkedIn.

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