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Are serious games a new approach to learn about Lean? A story from Pratt & Whitney


Are serious games a new approach to learn about Lean? A story from Pratt & Whitney

Pratt & Whitney, a world leader in the design, manufacture, and service of aircraft engines and auxiliary power units is headquartered in East Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

Excellence is one of seven Pratt & Whitney’s (P&W) core values. With the aim to continuously improve the company’s processes and ensure excellence is represented in all and every product and service its customers receive, P&W applies lean product development principles and other continuous improvement techniques. Through its journey, the company established best practices in several aspects of lean product development.

Continue reading to get more insights in how Pratt & Whitney recognized the opportunity to introduce experience based learning, simulations and serious games to its teaching processes.

Pratt & WhitneyPratt & Whitney (part of United Technologies Corporation – UTC) is a world leader in the design, manufacture, and service of aircraft engines and auxiliary power units headquartered in East Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

The company was founded in 1925 by Frederick Rentschler and since then it builds its business on the seven core values: Excellence, Innovation, Dependability, Adaptability, Customer service, Integrity, and Accountability. One very important part of Pratt & Whitney is skilled people, which is also why novel training techniques are something the company explores and implements.

Several studies show that the core ingredient to achieve innovation is trained and skilled people (Edgett, 2014; Reyero, 2014; Hering and Phillips, 2005). Nevertheless, today’s teaching and learning methods are still mainly the same as they were decades ago, especially when considering innovation. Higher education started to be questioned in 1980’s (Kerr 1991) and a need for novel learning methods that are time efficient, affordable and which truly engage learners has been identified (Riedel et al., 2001; Bachvarova et al., 2012). Dale’s cone of Experience (1969) charts the average retention rate for various methods of teaching.

The further you progress down the cone, the more learning increases and the more information is expected to be retained. Dale also suggests that student involvement in the learning process increases knowledge retention. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that more and more organizations are recognizing the value of novel teaching to improve the learning experience.

Dale's Cone of Experience (Dale, 1969)

Dale’s Cone of Experience (Dale, 1969)

Pratt & Whitney recognized the opportunity to introduce experience based learning, simulations and serious games to its teaching processes. ACE (Achieving Competitive Excellence) is the operating system that UTC uses across its divisions to ensure quality products and unified processes that deliver the intended value proposition to its customers. The three elements of ACE – Tools, Competency, Culture – provide the basis for delivering value to UTC customers and stakeholders.

In the 1990s, Tony Rizzo developed a pedagogic tool to teach about the negative effect of multi-tasking on employee performance (i.e.Little’s Law). A serious game is a physical simulation with some role-playing that is also used in Pratt & Whitney ACE courses to show the drawbacks of working on serial phases of two or more projects simultaneously. It can be used for both, manufacturing and innovation demonstrations.

Each player task involves sorting, remixing or processing beads of different colors according to a set of rules. Two scenarios are used during the simulation: one in which two projects (Red and Blue) are executed in parallel or multitasked, and a second one in which the projects are executed in series or prioritized. As a result, the multi-tasking approach of project management shows a delay in the delivery of all projects by a significant margin which is surprising for most managers. The takeaway learnings from the game are that executing multiple projects in sequence by delaying the start of most of the projects, even when some resources are significantly under-utilized, will improve the completion dates of all projects overrunning them in parallel with shared resources (Roggenkamp et al., 2005).

P&W Teaching with Games


Top Management in Pratt & Whitney during bead game.


Pratt & Whitney uses several other simulations and games to teach its employees different ACE techniques that serve to reinforce their ACE training.

Book 2017 - Mockup 01 (small-900px)

Pratt & Whitney’s Best Practices are presented and described on more than 25 pages in the Lean Product Development Best Practices book. Pratt & Whitney’s chapter is only one out of the 10 chapters presenting the real-world application of lean product development in multinational companies.

The hard copy of the book with the 10 cases is available for only 74.99 EUR.


Pratt & Whitney’s Lean Product Development case is available digitally free of charge to our members.


Interested to become a member?



Bachvarova, Y., Bocconi, S., Van der Pols, B., Popescu, M. and Roceanu, I. (2012), “Measuring the effectiveness of learning with serious games in corporate training”, Procedia Computer Science 15 (2012), pp 221-232.

Dale, E. (1969),”Audio-Visual Methods in Teaching”, New York, US. Dryden Press.

Edgett, S.J. (2014), “People: A Key to Innovation Capability”, The European Business Review, March – April 2014, pp 10-12.

Hering, D. and Phillips, J. (2005), “Innovation Roles: The People You Need for Successful Innovation”, White Paper, NetCentrics.

Kerr, C. (1991). The great transformation in higher education, 1960-1980. SUNY Press.

Riedel, J.C.K.H, Pawar, K.S. and Barson, R. (2001), “Academic and Industrial User Needs for a Concurrent Engineering Computer Simulation Game”, Concurrent Engineering: Research and Applications. Vol. 9, No. 3, pp 223-237.

About the Authors


Lean Analytics Association

Doroteja has 3 years of experience collaborating in lean product development projects with a background in mechanical engineering and ultra-precision technologies. She has worked with global organizations from various industrial sectors, either leading or supporting the development and introduction of bespoke lean innovation and new product development solutions.

Doroteja is interested in innovation capability development and over the past years, she has developed several training courses to support organizations achieving quick and efficient knowledge transfer through customized simulated sessions. Being a certified Service Design Thinking Facilitator she believes in “Doing, not speaking” and supporting developments of truly customer-centric products and services.

Doroteja is a co-author of the Lean Product Development Best Practices book and conference publications.


Lean Analytics Association

Dr. Flores has over 20 years of experience collaborating as internal or external consultant in different manufacturing and services organizations, leading several initiatives related to Lean Thinking, Business Process Improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain, Change Management, Open Innovation, Digital Transformation and Human Centered Service Design; providing also training and coaching.

She is co-founder and president of the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) and visiting scholar at the College of Management of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

She carried out her Post-doc at EPFL collaborating at the Lean Product and Process (LeanPPD) FP7 European Project from 2009 to 2013. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano studying Open Innovation Models to enable Industry-University collaboration for innovation. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Systems in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Monterrey Tec (ITESM) in 1996.

Doroteja Maklin
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