Making paper planes benefits your business processes

Making paper planes benefits your business processes


Did you know the insurance industry benefits from what would be traditionally thought of as manufacturing techniques that are Lean and Kaizen? Lean being the elimination of waste, and Kaizen being continuous improvement every day with practical wisdom- that is the wisdom of the teams who do the work.


Now the good news about the processes

In any company they have internal customers and external customers, tangible or intangible products and services, and they operate providing a service and a support to their customers or members. These are all areas of business we can address, streamline and be creative with through the implementation of Lean and Kaizen, regardless of the industry. But how can we best teach teams about the elimination of waste and Kaizen in a non-tactile industry such as insurance?

Well, this is where it can help to link it back to something we’re all familiar with: paper plane folding. It’s a very powerful reinforcement of effective team behaviour which engages teams in a hands-on game where process flow, the elimination of waste and load-leveling is practiced. This is particularly useful to an industry with no physical products to manipulate.


Rules of the Game

  • Introduce the concept of the game- train the team on how to build paper planes in a particular manner
  • Set the rules for the build- we’ll generally start with a situation that the business would typically find itself in
  • Run one round of the game- see how many paper planes can be built under a set of specified conditions
  • Investigate the results- generate discussion around the concepts of the 8 wastes and load-leveling
  • Provide opportunity- encourage teams to generate ideas for improvements or adjustments to processes
  • Run a number of subsequent rounds
  • Identify at each round which waste is eliminated- continue to generate further improvements to processes
  • Play the game to the point where teams exceed all targets and significantly reduce all wastes in their process


Tailored to the insurance industry

When conducted with insurance companies, the airplane game comes with its own unique terminology to suit the industry. The planes are called insurance policies. Participation in the different stages of the build represents the different stages within the insurance industry, such as policy creation and management.

By design, this exercise provides the opportunity for recognition of unexpected wastes in processes. It provides teams the chance to recognise that load-leveling will create, regardless of what the product is, a better pace throughout the process. A pace that does not result in individuals becoming stressed or overworked. This is a huge step forward for the whole team.



Insurance companies experience a significant benefit from this kind of practical exercise: the opportunity to experience the same benefits that are apparent when Lean and Kaizen are implemented in a manufacturing environment. The production of flow, elimination of waste and load leveling, become apparent to teams who work in a service or transactional, non-physical product industry. The utilisation of something as simple and hands-on as paper planes makes for highly effective training. And it also makes learning fun. That’s really important as well.

Regardless of individual learning style, most people will really connect with this light-hearted practical method of training. To learn and practice these techniques with something physical, and as simple as building a paper plane, has a big impact. Recent feedback around the building of paper planes in order to practice and understand Lean and Kaizen techniques and concepts reflect it’s effectiveness in the insurance industry: people walked in at the start of the day, having no idea why they were there and how the exercise was relevant to them. However, they’d left at the end of the day with a real appreciation of the potential for the improvements they could make back at work. In addition, they’d left with an understanding of how important it was to actually focus on process improvement within their business.  Teams learned how to stop working in silos and start collaborating.


Scoring points

  • Teams benefit when they develop the ability to identify waste, even if it’s not clear what the waste is, just being able to identify that there is a waste or problem is the first step to improving processes
  • Teams benefit when they develop a recognition of the fact that with continuous improvement, it is possible to facilitate incremental change over several iterations of a process
  •  Teams, or group of people from different teams, benefit when they are provided with a forum in which they can bond, and are given an opportunity to recognise that if they work together they can achieve so much more


The benefit to your business processes from playing something as simple as the paper plane game is far in excess of what is thought to be achievable.


Let us share more with you on this opportunity, contact us here.


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