Gaining commitment and agreeing the way forward

Published on Monday 23 September 2013 by in News with no comments

A large global pharmaceuticals company organized a 3 day Informatics managers meeting in Europe. More than 150 international managers came together in Frankfurt to discuss and scope the future of the IT capability within the organization.

One of the future shaping initiatives was a new set of corporate IT values. These were focused around ‘the importance and value of each person in the organization’, ‘driving innovation to enable business growth’, ‘a user centric approach to service quality’ and ‘ensuring investments in IT deliver value’.

GamingWorks was asked to close the intensive 3 day summit by facilitating 9 Apollo 13 business simulation games. 9 highly experienced international trainers from our partner network were mobilzed for the event.The games were played to test and explore the new values and help support one of the new people related values – ‘ONE- team’. ONE –team is about effective end-to-end, cross team and cross geographical culture collaboration.  This is seen as important enabler for success. ONE-team is also about embracing one way of working – consistent end-to-end processes. Processes that are fit-for-purpose and focused on realizing business value.

We have seen many IT organizations introduce new ‘value’ initiatives. These are always well meant, but read more often turn into empty ‘values’ that remain slogans and posters on the wall and not translated into sustainable behaviour change. The aim of the simulation games was to help the teams embrace these values and identify concrete improvement actions to take away and apply. Actions to help embed the new values in the organization.

Each game facilitator had a team of 15 people made up of different departments and geographies. They had 3 hours to demonstrate ‘ONE-team’.  At the start of my simulation the team  nodded their understanding of the values. I played the customer in Apollo and explained how enthusiastic I was about the core values. Particularly ‘Putting the customer NEEDS central’, and ‘Demonstrating business value’. As is usual the first game round was characterized by chaos. The customer was not happy, business value was not being achieved, worst still the IT performance represented a business risk.  We reflected on what went wrong and what did this have to do with the values. My first question was ‘Is the customer satisfied with the level of service they are getting’? the answer was ‘Are they alive still’!? . Is this an example of ‘Putting the customer needs first’?

As a customer I asked if anybody knew what my key goals were and what KPI’s they had promised to deliver? They looked at each other and answered ‘no’ – so much for ‘Putting my needs first and delivering value’!

It was an eye opener’, said one of the managers, ‘to see how internally focused we were, when things got too hectic we forgot the processes. This created even more chaos, confusion and failure. We didn’t operate as one team, we had created silo’s.’

The team agreed a set of improvements and ‘behavior change’. The team designed and deployed their own end-to-end processes. At the end of the day they had operated as ONE-team. The customer was happy and the KPI’s had been achieved. What were the critical success factors that had enabled this turn around in performance? One of the key factors named was ‘Trust’ . In the end the team trusted each other. Why? Because they not only defined and agreed their own tasks, roles, responsibilities but they had stuck to them. They ALL followed the process. The process had became the common glue that bound them together. And they ALL had a clear understanding of the customer needs and put these central. Another critical factor named was ‘Ownership’ – people must take ownership for their responsibilities and for the agreements they make.  

The final task given to the team was to name one key learning point that people wanted to take away and apply?

For my team this was: ‘The need to engage with the business, both the customers and the users to understand their processes, their  strategy, their goals. The need to translate this into People, Process and Technology and demonstrate to the customers that we are focused on delivering these

I was delighted to see that the team had embraced this need. Not only did this support the newly defined key values but it also helps solve the number 1 ABC (Attitude, Behavior, Culture) worst practice chosen by customers ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’. This is an important step in gaining ‘Trust’ and ‘Credibility’ from the business. Taking the Informatics group a step closer to becoming an added value business partner.

What were the overall outcomes of the session? The managers were asked to record the key success factors and take-aways to be applied. These are the top findings:


  1. Develop an environment of ‘Trust’. We must learn to Trust each other.
  2. Processes and Roles need to be clearly defined, agreed and understood.
  3. Involvement of all employees during design and improvements.


  1. Integrate an Improvement cycle in our day to day work (Continual Service Improvement).
  2. Involve people in suggesting improvements, involve people in designing and agreeing changes they want to see in people, process and technology.
  3. Under pressure we able to create solutions when we come together and facilitate innovation meetings.


  1. Keep users updated on the status of requests.
  2. Understand their problems, their strategy, their goals, their business processes.
  3. Engage with and Involve them.


  1. Constantly evaluate resource utilisation.
  2. Invest in process innovation and improvement and demonstrate the impact on Value, Outcomes, Costs, risks.
  3. Focus on value to all stakeholders.


The teams were asked to name difficulties they currently experienced when trying to adopt new ways of working:

  1. Processes, roles and responsibilities are still unclear and not embedded in the organization.
  2. We have a complex organisation with many decision makers and unclear accountabilities.
  3. The way we are organised; hierarchy, decision making, management support.

Was the simulation nice to have or need to have?

“I had my doubts about doing this ‘game’, I have done many of these times of ‘game exercises’… I hate to ‘play’ in the sand building castles with my management team, however this game makes sense, this workshop is about my work, my team and we can work on the real issues we are facing”.









The trainers: Top left to right – Robert Den Broeder, Paul Wilkinson, Martijn bakker, Daan-Jan Kleen, Bartosz Górczyński, Jan Schilt. Bottom left to right – Jeffrey Schmitz, Maarten Bordewijk, Gustave Käller.

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