"The Game"

(excerpted from a newly-added chapter in The Pipeline)

The intrepid, results-based consultant opened the portfolio, removed a set of game boards, and leaned them against the conference room wall. Then, she looked into her notebook carryall and removed the zippered pouches she would need. Two of the pouches contained poker chips, and the third contained multiple, different sets of six-sided dice.

“I need the conference room table cleared”, she said.

“Change is a necessary condition to any improvement effort. You can’t expect to get different results by doing the same things the same way. But, change is difficult, disruptive, time-consuming, and costly; plus, the effort can fail to produce the intended result.

“What we need to do is to be able to learn what to change, what to change to – I hate the hanging preposition – and how to make the change, in essence, we need to be able to discover, to figure things out, without the cost, disruption, and risk of failure associated with doing it in real life.

“What we need to do, is significantly reduce the learning curve.

“At the end of the previous session, I told you that I would help you pull all of the production principles and disciplines together in a way that you can use to more effectively manage production”, she continued. “The new approach that you will use to manage production – and to thereby improve operating and financial performance – becomes intuitive and simple in practice, but there is a lot to understand.

“It is an approach that is counter to what most of you have been taught; initially, it can be hard to grasp. In short – it must be learned. And, that kind of learning is a harsh teacher when it occurs at the cost of real operating performance and actual business outcomes.

“So – we are going to engage in some discovery-type learning, by which I mean the type of learning that occurs in business games designed to simulate the competitive, fast-paced, rapidly-changing, uncertain, risk-laden, variation-filled environment in which production decisions must be made.

“It creates learning based on what you experience and do, not simply what you hear and read.

“Games compress the learning curve into a span of days, by simulating production situations that speak to the circumstances you encounter in the real world – situations that are simplified in structure, fast to run, easy to see and understand, that we can modify and run again, over and over, until we get it figured it out, until we see and understand the principles.”