A Quality Moment From My Past

In this month’s ASQ Influential Voice assignment, ASQ CEO Paul Borawski asks all:

So in November, I ask the Influential Voices and other readers to share a “quality moment.”

It can be an experience at work where you improved something or solved a problem. Or maybe your quality moment occurred outside of work. Did you share your quality moment with your colleagues? Was it part of a bigger solution?

Did it give you a sense professional satisfaction? Either way, I’d like to hear about it.


Oh, by the way. Happy Quality Month!

That’s every November – for your calendars.

The Quality Moment From My Past

Where I improved something or solved a problem. Or maybe the quality moment occurred outside of work.

Well, mine is a work example, from work back in 1986 through 1994.

It was one of a series of projects for one client, all targeted on one job family: Product Management. Their job was to bring new products and services through both New Product Introduction and then Life Cycle Management.

I made a game out of it.

My moment was in the Pilot Session when I realized that the game made sense to all the players. And their end-of-day feedback changed from “I don’t like games” to “this game is a simulation” of what I and others across our team do in our real jobs.

It was close enough.

New to the job folks got a broad understanding. Experienced Product Planners and Product Managers got in-depth practice facilitating meetings with “those types of people” with their functional attitude built into the Role Play Materials – and they were able to practice those team meeting facilitation skills 5 times. Plus watch others do it 20 other times, as they sat in other functions’ shoes.

5 “rounds” – where in each round you focused on one of 5 integrated products (in a system) and played one of 5 key Roles-Sets – each representing one or more large, complex organizations that needed to be involved in both the initial product planning and in the ongoing product management as well.

Here is the gameboard.


My client was AT&T Network Systems (before that they were Western Electric) and their Product Management staff in the Marketing Organization – where my targets implemented the strategic “product planning” decisions of others in the complex organization that Marketing is.

Marketing – it’s more than promotions and advertising. It’s where “what the company is going to provide and to whom” at what strategic price levels, etc., etc. It’s about what business you are in. Deliberately.

Slow Thinking.

The Gameboard and “Breaks Cards” were used to throw variance in each class’ starting data points in the games 5 rounds, so that later learners would not get a heads up on the game from earlier learners. Competitive people worry about things like that. And they would all share that common boot camp like intensity of playing the Product Management Game.

And it – the game – wasn’t about any score at the end. It was about learning a theory and the basic mechanics of both New Product Introductions and Life Cycle Management – and as that was what their job was focused on they all got serious about a game. The job requirements necessitated a whole bunch of discreet Knowledge and Skills to perform Tasks that were always varied from any attempt to generally describe – and the game let them make this retrofit to their realities and use their prior knowledge – and allowed them to share what they knew about the topics going on in the game. We made them make their thinking more visible, and in a structure that left plenty of room for innovation.

Write it down on the slides – or flip chart pages. Slow down and do the steps and then present and discuss them.

There was even a Novel – a novel approach – to On-Boarding – back in the day … 1986

One’s Role in the game, as one of 20 participants in this 8-day course – was sometimes on their 2-person team as the:

  • Product Managers – including products, services, market planning, marketing support
  • R&D Managers – including Bell Labs and many other engineering support groups to The Labs
  • Manufacturing Mangers – including manufacturing engineering
  • Sales Managers – including Sales Reps, Resellers in the sales channels, etc.
  • Services Managers – including installation, delivery, warranty repair, repair parts inventorying and replenishment.

The Products that they managed as the Product Managers and played their other Roles were:

  • Camera
  • Tape
  • Recorder
  • Cables
  • Monitor

and they managed them through a 5 Stage Life Cycle Model that is roughly:

  • Product Concept – Business Case/ Product Business Plan
  • Product Development – Product Design/ Manufacturing Design
  • Product Introduction – Product Development/ Ramp Up
  • Product Growth/ Maturity
  • Product Decline/ Discontinuance

The feedback from those PM with a little experience was very validating, very gratifying, and built the confidence of the learners with less experience, or people with fairly narrow experience in the job.

Creating a complex simulation game was a bit of a Risk, with a Professional Audience of all ages and backgrounds. Having it be played using fake products in a fake marketplace – where the focus was on data, negotiated data, negotiated with a complex team of members, representing complex organizations.


We helped them see their own pieces of the puzzle, and how they might work better with all of the other organizations in their complex world.

Did you share your quality moment with your colleagues?

Yes. My client shared it via several internal organs, as they used to say, back in the day. Media today.

1987 ATT NS New Course A Challenge to Participants

And my firm did as well.

Was it part of a bigger solution?

The 8-day course was the capstone event in the first battery of Training Modules, or Learning Modules. Mostly short Self-Placed readings, and sometimes videos. And some CBT.

Yes. CBT. This was 1986.

The course and game were the 2nd level design – after the CAD Design – Curriculum Architecture Design level effort and visual/marketing poster Output the Development Path’s Formal Learning component. Some might call that the ADDIE-level of instructional design. Many of the Events/Modules where of many blends of media and mode, and many were optional, depending on your job assignment and your business unit and your product’s stage in the life cycle – and your competition.

Here is a video produced by AT&T-Network Systems and my firm, that explains the Curriculum to the Target Audience of Product Planners/Managers.

The rest you’d learn Informally.

We called that U-OJT for Unstructured OJT – On the Job Training – which included everything on the Learning Map/Path/Menu… that was not put in place. Those by definition were U-OJT.

Many of the modules and modular events were never to be offered. But we could still place those Informal Learning experiences in the appropriate location – in the flow – to give the Learners a clue. Also known as an Advanced Organizer IMO. And the managers would have a clue when to get some topic/skill covered somehow someway because no one (corporate) was going to provide it all to them. Eventually about 60% of the Curriculum Path was put in to place. The rest was left to “by hook or crook” or “sink or swim” – or whatever you call the “whatever” approach to development.

CAD Path Prod Mgrs

The course with the game was the last blue box in the 1000 Series in the photo above. Many modules would prepare one to get to know their job, products and marketplace better before coming into the 8-day session.

Did it give you a sense professional satisfaction? 

Yes. When I saw first the feedback from that Pilot Session – in 1987 – and reaffirmed in the subsequent 31 sessions I delivered on my client’s behalf from 1987 until 1994 – including 5 in The Netherlands – was always energizing. For all.

Here is a short video clip from one session in The Netherlands in 1991 – a 2 Minute video – where everyone is heads down working to prepare their presentations on their current Product Plan and Financials:

See the clip way at the end – at: 1:17:35 (the other video is a tour of The Netherlands by my client and me).

The Novel – one year in the life, etc. – was the key Advanced Organizer of the Curriculum. That was the 9th box (Training Module) of the 1000 Series above. Reading a novel about your new job. Novel. In 1987. And still today.

1987 The PM Novel Draft 3_Page_01

The Novel as we called it was “a year in the life” of 3 Product Planners in a fictitious Business Unit at Network Systems.

It helped explain why everyone’s job seemed so different… all due to where they were in the Product’s Life Cycle, among other variables. Dozens if not hundreds of variables.

1987 The PM Novel Draft 3_Page_02

This was an example of one of the modules the overall architecture of the Formal Development Path, or Menu.

And the keystone event is what tied all the pre-work of the basics and performance-based ONBOARDING of the 1000 Series Events/Modules, were followed by the ONGOING Development of the 2000 and 3000 Series. All of it tied back to a single Performance Model of 8 key Areas of Performance – as represented by the cube below, in a brochure I put together for my client:

NSPI Award Brochure 1989-1990_Page_3

The game really brought all the mini-lectures together, dealing with typical life cycle issues in a team forum, where the needs and constraints of the various functions, helped determine the financial results forecasts, based on deliberate key decisions. And then you were doing that 4 more times with your 2-person team teammate, each time sitting in a different function’s shoes. All of a sudden their issues – from your prior knowledge back in the real world – now made greater sense in this game.


No computers.

Note: I’ve written about this project before – herehere and here.


All handwritten slides and reports. It was about the performance flow of a product and their roles during those stages – and the Finances – hand calculated finances – not impersonal spreadsheets.

Always it was about the finances.Unless your product was a key part of someone else’s product. Then yours might be a dog, but it would be kept alive for other strategic reasons. The team might have to work across such constraints. Manage an unprofitable but strategic product, or product family.

And the dialogue across the team that was necessary to produce better product plans, as a team was a key takeaway.

Experienced each Phase of the Life Cycle 5 times, as the product evolved through its 5 stage life cycle. 25 Role Plays and 5 as the Product Manager.

The feedback at the end of the session and the feedback from learners’ managers 9 months later concluded a that this was a valuable learning experience for the participants of the Pilot Session and the 31 deliveries over an 8 year period.

As it was for this facilitator, with each of those 31 deliveries.

# # #

6 comments on “A Quality Moment From My Past

  1. Pingback: T&D: My Top 50 Posts 2007-2018 – And Links to the Top 10 | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  2. Pingback: L&D: Immersive and Intense Simulation for Product Management (1987) | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  3. Pingback: L&D: Game This | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  4. Pingback: L&D: Story About Stories | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  5. Pingback: My Site’s Top 30 Posts/Pages Since 2007 | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.