Zensiblo Consulting

How Planning a Heist Becomes a Training Task

Creating learning experience is always a welcoming challenge. 

My motto is “you can make anything a learning experience.” The catch, however, is how relevant and effective the experience can be. (Side note: I personally don’t like to include activities that are not relevant to the topic, even for the ice-breaking activities.)

A banking and finance client once asked me to provide project management training to a group of middle level staff. In addition to some formal presentation of concepts and tools, simulation activity was a top choice for more engaging and rich learning.

Many would think of giving teams a project to do, such as building something. Some like to use variants of the Marshmallow Challenge, building cardboard houses, etc.

I thought, why not go over the edge. Let’s rob a bank! For banking staff to devise a plan to rob a bank would be a highly playful and crazy experience.

Finally, we decided to add the element of unfamiliarity and… planned to rob a jewellery shop! 

Of course, the scenario was highly simplistic and hypothetical. 

Even with the description of the shop like a kid’s play, the teams really stepped into the roles and plan carefully about the heist, with no prior discussion on any project management concepts and tools. (Well, I wonder if the real army of thiefs would attend relevant training first!)

But think about it. Every critical elements of planning a project comes naturally. 

  • Outcome planning – what do we want in the end: the jewellry, the status of the team, etc.
  • Information gathering (but there is no way for 100% certainty)
  • Strategy and tactical planning – what should be grand roadmap
  • Execution planning – detail actions and timing, or the storyline
  • Risk assessment – likelihood of getting caught, information security, 
  • Resource planning – car, masks, guns, axes, … 
  • Manpower planning – how many, roles, skills, …
  • Time planning – when to do what
  • Contingency planning – what-if, plans B, C, D, … 

Learning comes naturally when teams share and review their plans. The needs for different aspects of project planning also became evidenced. Facilitating this type of activities is highly enjoyable, with all the learning and surprises! (The kind of creativity from the participants are amazing.)

Over the years, this activity has been refined to enable better facilitation and learning, while the fun and attraction remains. (Maybe I can market an activity kit later ?)

How about your own experience on some over-the-edge training ideas?

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