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Creating guiding principles for enabling you and your team to make decisions in real-time: A three-s

The approach described in this article is a continuation of the story from my post “What does it take to make real-time decisions in a real-time age?

Just as recall, by using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® we discover a new answer to the key question “when can we decide things in real-time?” We can, when we have a clear ‘operating system’ which guides us – as an individual, as a team, and as a company – in decision-making.

Imagine having universally valid guiding principles for you and your team, helping you make decisions in any circumstances.

Creating the list of guiding principles is a three-step approach, exactly addressed by the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method.

Step 1, build the field where our company does business: Imagine observing your world from the sky. From 10,000 meters, look down and see yourself, your team, your company and the networked business you are in as if you are on a playfield. On this playfield you see elements representing your customers, suppliers, competitors, and existing and emerging technologies. All these elements are physically connected to each other with, for example, information / data flows, flows of materials and products, money flows, etc. The elements depend on each other in such a way that if one encounters problems, one or more of the elements in the system will either suffer or profit. Imagine one of your suppliers has a production issue; your company will have difficulty in delivering and your competitor will profit from the problem.

Step 2, run events and play decisions: on the playfield, the next exercise consists of reflecting upon how the system (or parts of it) reacts to dynamic events that lead to a new situation in the system itself. This is done by physically playing with the elements of the system. For example, consider the situation mentioned above – your supplier has production problems – and play out how the system reacts. We will see;

i) how the material flow connecting our company with the supplier physically breaks;

ii) the connection between our company and the customer; and

iii) how a competitor will jump in closing our delivery gap.

Confronted with this event and following what we saw was the reaction of the system, we now have to make a decision. Playing out decisions has two components: 1) to brainstorm different actions we could take in response to the event, and 2) to decide on one action to take and play out how the system reacts in consequence. By playing out this step multiple times with different events and a multitude of decisions/actions, we will exponentially increase our knowledge of how the ecosystem works.

Step 3, distill your guiding principles: Imagine you are skier. At the top of a mountain, before starting skiing, you must take heed of the weather. This guiding principle of “remember to heed the weather” is universally valid, based on experience, and remains with the skier throughout the run to guide her decisions. Based on the insights gained with Step 2, we can now visualize what played out well and what played out less well. By using a combination of Lego models and questioning technique, the moderator drives the team in systematically distilling the guiding principles. The resulting list of guiding principles for the skier could include “stay away from the busiest trails”, “don’t push yourself too much”, “have a trail map with you every time”.

The guiding principles of the skier will be key in making real-time decisions in almost any circumstance she encounters. Similarly, at the end of the three steps, the company, the teams and the individuals will be armed with a proven set of guiding principles specifically distilled from their unique shared values, their identity and aspirations, while fully considering the dynamics of the business environment in which they are doing business.

Would we trust this company, this team and these individuals to be able to make superior real-time decisions when faced with the unexpected?

Would you like to test the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology to develop real-time decision capability?

I’m happy to work out a specific suggestion to target your specific situation. My email:


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