Help with 'The Beer Game' LO25849

From: Jan Lelie (
Date: 01/08/01

Replying to LO25837 --

Hello Claire, all the best for 2001, wrote:

> I have facilitated the Beer Game several times and, in general, it has
> been a successful learning experience. I have used it mostly as part of a
> systems thinking workshop. In a couple of weeks, I'll be facilitating it
> again and the audience is a mixed group of managers from a manufacturing
> organization who are experiencing supply chain management problems.
> I thought I'd put out a call for any advice or suggestions for making the
> game more rewarding. Has anyone found a particularly successful way to
> debrief/ wrap up?

i've done the Beer Game a few times with this type of problems. The
following method has been developed by us (mind@work). For feed-back we
used a computer supported brainstorming tool of our own design
(mind@teamwork(tm)) in which the participants can share their ideas on a
number of questions at the same time. They can read the answers and
re-act. In the mean time we print them on coloured hexagon-labels, called
Euro+Forms(tm), also invented by us, so the participants can arrange and
cluster the ideas on large electrostatic boards.

Goal: implementing measurable improvements based on common experiences and
a common "language" (archetypes)
Result: a draft action plan to start improvements
Method: game for having a common back ground and a simple illustration

We made a script that goes like this:
 1. Introductions and, using mind@teamwork, "what do you expect from this
workshop?" In our method this question is crucial.
 2. Play the game - first round
 3. 3 questions: "What went right? What went according to expectations?"
"What went wrong? Where did you feel frustrated?" "What improvements?
using computerized brain storming.
 4. Implement suggested improvements, play the game, second round
 5. 3 questions again. Print the ideas and cluster the ideas.
 6. Discuss the results
 7. Introduce archetypes (what, why, how do they look like, show
examples). Use the results from the game (the cluster titles) to
 8. Participants make their own - simple - archetypes in teams of 2 or 3,
either based on the game-results, either on their own situation using
empty templates; preferrably on a large board.
 9. Discuss the various examples
 10. Present the encompassing model (i developed what i call the
4C-Model(tm), that combines concrete results (like reducing inventories)
with systems parameters (like lead times) and organizational processes
(like communicating). I use it as a memnonic and participants receive a
"plate" with this model. It also is like the top of the ice-berg of the
 11."Measuring improvements": what and how can one measure; defining a
Performance Indicator, usually based on a PI supplied by the management,
like reducing costs to a certain level or reducing time to market to a
certain limit. We usually ask the participants to - anonymously - vote on
the target and usually it is sharper then the management proposed.
 12. Make a fishbone chart (Ishikawa), using mind@teamwork ("what will
contribute to the PI?") and ordering contributions in the shape of a
fishbone or tree.
 13. What will contribute most to the target? Discuss.
 14. Design a draft action plan for the strongest contributors (agian
defining a PI), using Fish bone chart again
 15. Have a dialogue on the action plans keeping in mind the archetypes.
 16. What next, when, where, who, co-ordinate?
 17. Evaluate

Takes about three halve days, depending on knowledge levels. I prefer to
have an intake session first with the management team to define the
management vision, mission, goal and PI.

> to make connections to supply chain management
> problems?

Most people tend to develop to complicated PI's. Not only do they want to
know what the performance is, they also want to know who is responsible,
what to do and what action will have what result. Do not fall in that
Invite partners from the supply chain. Show that everybody is basically in
the same situation.
Try to make clear that everybody uses the same - local - reasoning that
generates a - global, chain wide - problem. Most of the time they "know"
that, but are scared to make the first step (the chain is considered to be
a zero-sum game).

> Any problems you encounter with the game and ways to overcome
> them?

Many problems.
We also used variations on the Beer Game and one time developed a game with
the materials the participants used theselves. In our experience, some people
have trouble generalizing from their actual situation to a game and
translating back from a game to their own situation ("we do not produce beer"
"we do not produce for the consumer market..". ).
On the other hand top managers seemed to think it was childish to play a game,
supposed that "they knew it all" and didn't fully co-operate. Search for an
executive sponsor.
Politics in a organization also was a big problem once: the participants
agreed on the outcomes of the game, but didn't dare to implement the results.
The game was blamed - off course.
Implementing results: always plan a feedback session two to four months later.

Many problems do NOT rely on an information system implementation, so
ICT-departments and others do not like the results.
How is are the results, the gains, shared? How will the resulst be celebrated?

With kind regards - met vriendelijke groeten,

Jan Lelie

Drs J.C. Lelie CPIM (Jan) LOGISENS - Sparring Partner in Logistical Development Mind@Work est. 1998 - Group Resolution Process Support Tel.: (+ 31) (0)70 3243475 or car: (+ 31)(0)65 4685114 and/or taoSystems: + 31 (0)30 6377973 -

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