10 benefits of lean games

How can we boost the learning experience when teaching lean production? Admittedly, presentations and monologues from the front of the classroom are rarely something people remember for a long time. Learning can be greatly improved by using games and simulations, which provides the learner first-hand experience in lean and its benefits.

The Volvo Trucks Lego Lean Game played at a MBA course in Norway

My own Volvo Trucks Lego Lean Game played at a MBA course in Norway

I just returned from some great course days in North Lincolnshire in England. A company in the process industries is revitalizing its lean journey, and invited me to lecture all employees the principles and effects of lean production. I wanted to provide an experience that will not evaporate a week after my visit, so I decided to bring along the Volvo Trucks Lego Lean Game—a new simulation game developed on the basis of my visits to more than 40 factories in the Volvo Group. In the game, around 25-35 participants share the responsibility for one truck assembly plant together. Can they become competitive in a very tough industry?

It was amazing to witness how the participants quickly turned into an enthusiastic team with many excellent improvement suggestions for their truck factory. By developing the factory from craft production, via mass production, to lean production, the participants personally witnessed what lean principles can do for competitiveness. In the first round of the game, the factory was not even able to deliver a fixed number of standard trucks (see picture below), whereas in the last round, the factory were able to handle order variations in both volume and specifications—and manufacture and deliver a high-quality Lego truck to the market every 12 seconds. The benefits of lean became obvious to all.

Arguably, we never get ahead with implementing lean if we do not understand how it fundamentally differs from the old way of working. Also, companies will most certainly fail if only a handful of employees share that insight. I therefore warmly recommend using lean games and simulations for creating a shared and profound understanding of lean principles among all employees in your company. Here are ten benefits of lean games:

  1. It is great fun.
  2. It is a good team-building exercise.
  3. It retains attention throughout the lecture.
  4. It involves the learner in the learning process.
  5. It provides an arena for risk-free testing of ideas.
  6. It makes uses of more human senses for learning.
  7. It creates a common reference for the participants.
  8. It applies the concepts of lean to a real-world example.
  9. It visually demonstrates the benefits of lean production.
  10. It facilitates the participants’ active reflection and creativity.
  11. It is something the participants remember for a long, long time.

Do you want to introduce lean games or simulations in your courses? A particular valuable source is Martin Boersema’s up-to-date list of lean games at leansimulations.org.  I highly recommend you to start there. Furthermore, John Bicheno’s new The Lean Games Book is another useful resource for lean educators. Or maybe you want to know more about the “aha learning experience” provided by my Volvo Trucks Lego Lean Game? We can surely make that happen; simply get in touch with me here. Game on!

Craft production fails to meet customer specifications.

Craft production fails to meet customer demand and specifications.

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4 thoughts on “10 benefits of lean games

  1. Hello Torbjørn,
    thank you for the post and especially the resources provided!

    How much extra information(classroom training) on lean do you give after a lean Lego game?


    • Hi Roman, I usually provide the introduction before we play, and then during the game we talk about push vs. pull, kanban, 5S++
      After the game we do a quick recap. It is important that we end with the memory of the game not a lecture. Good luck with your lean games!

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