Project Management : Paper Planes Inc.(R)™


Project Management and Communication for Engineering, Government, Banking, Education, and Science


What happens in most organizations when customers change their minds? Are the needs of your customers changing faster than your organization can adapt? How flexible is your company when things change?

Paper Planes, Inc. is an innovative, award-winning project management simulation that delivers bottom-line learning in an internationally successful format. Paper Planes, Inc. quickly reveals barriers to organizational success while providing insights into creative solutions and teamwork in business. Paper Planes, Inc. , helps participants experience the powerful effects of system reengineering and process improvement, gain first-hand knowledge about the cost and waste inherent in a dysfunctional system, recognize barriers to change, develop new paths to continuous improvement, see the impact of redesign and reengineering on quality, perceive the critical connection between systems thinking, total quality, and customer orientation.

Designed for groups of 12 to 50, Paper Planes, Inc. is recommended for project-oriented professionals want to adapt and communicate more effectively when customers (or higher-level execs) change their minds.

This innovative simulation received the 1993 David Campbell Innovation Award for Research & Development in Human Resources Development.


What Happens:

Participants are employees of a aerospace design company contracted to manufacture a new plane. These paper planes are needed by an international consortium for use in preliminary wind tunnel design tests for a plane that will travel the globe in two hours by flying to the stratosphere.

The work is divided functionally such that each person performs only a small piece of the overall job and consequently does not understand the overall process. The planes must meet specific visual and performance quality standards as defined by the customer.

The simulation consists of three production runs. After each, group members meet to discuss and evaluate their efforts measured by production cost, quality, customer satisfaction, delivery time and worker satisfaction. As each plane is completed it is inspected and tested before delivery to the customer. When questioned for causes of poor quality, typical responses are to blame others, point fingers, and complain about the customer. After evaluating the effectiveness of their efforts, the workers are allowed to redesign the production process in any way they choose. Again production is evaluated afterwards. Interventions from the customer complicate the work redesign and production process.


Production Runs:

Run #1 - A Functionally Designed System: Participants manufacture the planes using an established production design. 

Run #2 - A Group-Designed System: Participants experience first-hand the impact of employee involvement on quality, cost, commitment and morale by working with a system they have designed.

Run #3 - A Continuously Improving System: Participants learn that through collaboration and continuous improvement efforts, significant changes take place. These are changes that are easier to implement and maintain because of the participants' ownership of the change process.


Who Should Participate:

Paper Planes, Inc. teaches valuable project management skills in an active, challenging, fun format. It is ideal for:

  • Professional Association Conferences
  • Cross-functional Teams (Sales and Manufacturing, for example)
  • Project Management Training
  • Research and Development, Engineering, Marketing, and Customer Service
  • Executive Education
  • Leadership Development Programs


What Participants Learn:

  • Benefits to team-based change and team building
  • Problems inherent in compartmentalized work
  • Structure gives rise to behavior
  • How various participation strategies affect ownership and commitment
  • The importance of everyone understanding the big picture
  • Critical connections between production and customer service and communication
  • Leadership development and methods for continuous improvement
  • Positive effects of work redesign on cost and quality
  • Elements of successful work team building and communication
  • Barriers to organizational success from not communicating
  • Insights into creative space and time solutions
  • Learning as continuous improvement
  • Team participation requires process
  • Transferring workshop learning to the workplace


How Participants Benefit:

  • Participants gain first-hand experience in process improvement and the underlying true costs of disorganization and poor communication.
  • Through learning how to create systems that respond to changing conditions, participants focus on meeting customer needs for total quality, production flexibility, lower pricing, and higher satisfaction.
  • Through experiencing real-time opportunities to practice communicating customer and supplier changes, participants learn what's important and what affects costing and time.


Agenda: 4-5 hours

  • Welcome and Overview
  • Briefing: The Aerospace Modeling Process
  • Production Run #1, followed by debrief and redesign session.
  • Production Run #2, followed by debrief and redesign session.
  • Production Run #3.
  • Debrief on Learning Applications / Examples
  • Summary and Evaluation