Paper Airplane Game

A good game that explores continuous improvement and lean workflow.

Learning goals: Lean workflow, value stream mapping

Time to play: 60 minutes

In person or Virtual: Both

Number of players: 4+ players

Resources required: Recycled or scrap paper

How the game works:

The goal of the paper airplane game is to fold as many airplanes as possible in a given timeframe, but only one person can make a fold at a time.

Paper Airplane game rules

The goal is to, as one team, make as many paper planes of the same design.

The rules are as follows

  • There are 3 minutes per iteration and 5 iterations
  • In between, there is a 1-minute retrospective
  • The airplanes folded must be of the same design and quality.
  • Only one person can fold at any one time. Others can do other things as needed for their design.

Gather the team and provide the goals and instructions.

Ask them to agree on the design of the airplane. It can be a simple design with a few drawings that can fly one meter. This includes an element of design, production, and quality testing.

Start the process and time the activity. Let them play it out and then record the number of airplanes that have met the quality requirements. Record the number of airplanes created.

Now time the retrospective, allowing people to change how they work in the next round. They can provide a new estimate if they wish.

Repeat the above process for as many iterations as possible, recording the number each time.

Once all iterations are completed, run a debrief. You can ask questions such as

  • Where did you notice you were waiting (waste)?
  • How often was everyone engaged?
  • What changes were made, and how did they affect the production process?
  • What design aspects could make the flow slower or faster?
  • How would this game differ if it was played virtually versus in person?
  • How did quality controls play a part in this process?
  • Did you experience the concept of flow?
  • Which iteration stood out?
  • How did you feel like working as a team?
  • Did leadership change during the iterations?
  • What did you learn from playing this game?

Variations to the Paper Airplane game

You can vary to this challenge by

  • Timing how long it would take the team to create a set number of planes.
  • Increasing or decreasing the complexity of the design of the airplane.
  • Introducing quality control at the midpoint of the game, rather than at the end.
  • Increase the difficulty, e.g., the airplane must fly at least 2 meters to count.

Try it free for 30 days, no credit card required

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