ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - January 2000
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Issue Highlight - Y2K, Oh
-- "At 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2000 we both breathed a sigh of relief and simultaneously attended a coronation...The coronation may have been more significant than the relief."

In This Issue...
Elementary TQM
Workplace Humor
Games at Work
Merger Mania
Boosting Capacity

Features...
Peter Block Column
Views for a Change
Pageturners
Briefcases
The Quality Tool
---- I Never Use

Diary of a Shutdown

 

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire
Playing Games in the Workplace

---Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, judging by the TV show's lack of punctuation and its phenomenal success, the implied answer is a no-brainer: everyone! Games are hot. As a couch-potato, spectator sport television games are extremely entertaining. However, games can also be physically competitive (baseball, basketball, football), mentally stimulating (crossword puzzles, chess) and/or informative (Trivia, Monopoly).

---The latter attributes are no surprise to Jamie Bierchen, Joanne Zabaldo of Paradigm Learning, Inc., based in Tampa, Fla., and Judy Boyer Lew, director of training and development for optical lens manufacturer, Essilor of America in St. Petersburg, Fla.

---Big cash game shows may dominate the airwaves, but, according to Bierchen, there is an equally widespread focus on the game of big business, especially as buy-outs, mergers and downsizing complicate the business world. With the help of Paradigm, Essilor see who wants to be a millionaire/p6 educated their employees about the financial operations of their business in order for them to understand the company's new game plan.

It's All In The Game
"Employees at every level are being asked to understand their firm's 'big picture' and to better understand their roles in it," explains Bierchen, senior consultant with Paradigm Learning. "Many organizations are realizing that, outside of the senior management team, few others in the company really understand how their actions impact the bottom line," adds Beirchen. Thus, spake "Zodiak."

---Paradigm Learning created "Zodiak: The Game of Business Finance Strategy (r)" as a board game designed to teach people the basics of business finance and strategy in a fun, fast-paced format. Aimed at putting employees in the driver's seat by allowing them to run a multi-million dollar company for a hypothetical three-year time frame, the game involves them in setting up Zodiak Industries, securing bank loans, attracting investors, manufacturing a product, paying bills and collecting account receivables. Drawing from chance cards, they also become at risk to weather problems, customer complaints and supplier shortages. They study strategies, make decisions and keep an eye on the balance sheets. As the saying goes, "It's all in the game."--- "Paradigm has had phenomenal success with the Zodiak game," reports Zabaldo, product manager at Paradigm Learning, adding that in the past five years Zodiak has been used by over half of the Fortune 1000 companies. Paradigm Learning has recently provided business literacy games, simulations and discovery map programs for such well-known clients as Monsanto, Prudential, Pizza Hut and Pepsi-Cola.

A Friendly Neighborhood Learning Game
A neighboring Florida-based company with which Paradigm has worked closely is Essilor of America, Inc., a leading manufacturer and wholesaler of optical lenses and a division of the Varilux Corp. Essilor has enjoyed a strategy of business literacy training for many years, but in recent years has had added impetus stemming from what is referred to as the Essilor Challenge.

--- Judy Boyer Lew of Essilor explains the increased need for employee understanding of their business operations,"Essilor of America, which already had Silor Optical as a business entity, took over another with the addition of the Varilux Corporation. Essilor is now the world's leading corrective lens manufacturer and leads the ranks in the American lens prescription market. Silor and Varilux successes include the Orma organic lenses of lightweight and impact resistance and the Varilux progressive lenses, which change power without lines. To diminish competition between the two units, Essilor moved Varilux to the same St. Petersburg facility that houses Silor."

--- Folding-in the units brought the usual problems faced by changing, merging organizations: repositioning employees, outlining sales territories, uniting teams and adjusting distribution lines. Essilor also had to establish market positions for different priced progressive lens products, balancing a high profit line against a less profitable core product line.

---"For the new unit to emerge as a strong enterprise," Lew continues, "a new team culture was needed with everyone understanding the organization's business and financial strategies. This is just one reason why business literacy training was so important to Essilor of America."

Picking Teams, Setting Rules, Getting Down to Business
In Essilor's Zodiak effort, Lew worked closely with Paradigm's Bierchen. The plan set up classes of approximately 25 employees, divided into teams of three or four per table. Million dollar chips were distributed and each team was directed to purchase a $40-million dollar Zodiak Industries company and run it for the hypothetical three-year period. During the four-and-a-half hour simulation, game-players are set adrift on an exciting course of discovery learning.

--- The facilitator may answer questions or offer guidance, but for the most part, the players are on their own. As both owners and members of a management team, employees see a bigger picture of business and how decisions in one area have an impact on another.

---"For many participants," Bierchen says, "it's the first time they've ever really understood financial information, much less completed their own balance sheets, income statements, cash flow and key financial ratios. More importantly, they come to understand what these statements and ratios mean." The company gains, he adds, from improved investor returns, a stronger organization, clearer communication of goals and greater job satisfaction.

--- "Another key learning point," Lew interjects, "is to realize how little a company keeps out of every dollar of revenue that comes into the organization. Employees tend to think that their company keeps 40, 50 or 60 cents out of every dollar of sales revenue. Reality is that most companies keep only five cents or even less of every revenue dollar."

---At Essilor of America, and with most companies taking advantage of the Zodiak program, team members return for a follow-up course of four hours the following day. Paradigm Learning then supplies what they term exercise connections. For Essilor, these exercises focus not only on the optical industry in general, but on Essilor as well, even pointing out specific relationships with team members' departments or individual jobs.

---"Once they understand the business concepts, employees can analyze how they fit into the overall picture and how they can impact the bottom line," Lew reports.

---"Essilor of America expects everyone to look beyond his own 'turf' and see how their decisions might also affect other areas of the company and its customers," she further explains.

--- "An employee can positively impact the organization's bottom line in three areas," Lew continues. "These are by increasing profitable revenues, by better managing expenses or by more effectively utilizing the assets of the organization."

Team Spirit and Support
Stressing team need for strong support, Lew adds, "For this type of training and focus to be successful, the management of the company must 'walk the talk.' Senior management at Essilor of America, Inc., is supportive of the program, encouraging participation and emphasizing the importance of everyone's contribution to the company's financial health. For example, Essilor's CFO requires all managers to take the Zodiak courses and to reinforce key learning points through monthly manager meetings and video communication with the entire company."

---With the training of nearly 600 employees successfully completed, the business literacy course is now being offered quarterly through the firm's professional training unit known as Essilor U., where Lew is a faculty member.

---When it comes to business literacy and discovery learning, Bierchen and Lew seem to agree that games are the "name of the game" - even if you're not one Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

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