Lean Games – A Great Way To Train And Motivate Your Organization

Almost everyone who has had the task of motivating and training organizations in the lean principles has experienced a set of barriers, especially when dealing with people who are reluctant to buy into the Lean principles and Lean thinking.

How often have we not heard; “Well it sounds all right in theory but it will never work in real life!”

To a certain degree these people have a point. I have had to listen to numerous consultants and teachers who are preaching Lean principles, but without the ability to link the great theories to the real world.

And when they are challenged, the response often is: “Well it does work, just look at Toyota!” Guess what? That is not going to convince a sceptical production manager with many years of experience in a traditional batch production.

In my experience it is extremely important to be able to let the trainees see and feel how the lean tools can actually be the answers to many common challenges.

It is also a common fact, that people have different ways of learning, some are able to learn just by reading a text, while others need visual input – and Power Point slides are not the answer!

To deal with this, we have had great success in using Lean games as great way of demonstrating that the Lean tools and principles actually work in real life.

Actually our evaluations from our fundamental Lean training sessions were improved from just above average to top scores every time when we integrated lean games!

How to use a Lean game in a training session

The way we use it, is to initially train the students in the fundamental tools, not into great detail, but just a brief introduction.

And then move on to a Lean game session, where we simulate a production based on traditional batch principles.

Then we introduce some of the lean tools into the setup, and now everyone experience how each tool is affecting lead time, work in progress, quality and profitability.

Between the different game cycles it is important to get some valuable discussions on what the effect was of the changes.

It creates great involvement and motivation from the students, and even the greatest concrete heads are normally growing into lean manufacturing preachers.

As a side effect it’s great fun and gives a lot of good laughs. This is also an important factor if the students in the session do not know each other. Or use it as a team building tool, in the team you learn, you create ideas together and you have fun together, a common experience that improve the team feeling.

Which games are available?

There are different lean games available in the market. They all have different qualities and it is important to select a game that gives you the positive effects without being difficult to facilitate.

There is a new shop on the net with Lean games which are the exact games that we are using in our successful training session.

In a later article I will touch on the subject on how to assess what Lean game suits your needs best.

But you should at least consider some of these criteria:

  • – What numbers of participants are required?
  • – Is there a detailed and effective guide for the instructor?
  • – Playing time
  • – Which Lean tools are applied during the game?
  • – Setup time for the game

Further possibilities

There are many other situations, besides training sessions, where you can use the Lean games as a great tool. A good example is in the work with continuous improvements.

It is also a good idea to try to relate the game situation to the kind of products that the students are familiar with.

In this article I have only spoken about Lean games as a tool for teaching Lean principles in a production environment, but new games are evolving also for teaching how to apply lean tools in administrative processes.