Financial Focus

How do you get highly specialised employees to include considerations of profit, payment rates, and profitability in project work? What does it take to form an overview of whether you are utilising the most expensive employees where they are most needed? And how to get project managers to think innovatively and to incorporate currency fluctuations, cash flows, and risk assessments in their portfolio management?
To solve questions like these, COWI chose to work with the culture among their project managers and make a game that helps them be aware of financial aspects of their work.

Engineers typically have a work culture where they are focused on carrying out a project as technically perfect as possible - and preferably better than the customer has asked for –yet this is not necessarily the best solution for the company. To create awareness among the project managers, of being innovative at the same time as thinking financially, required a change of mentality. ‘Big changes such as this are best achieved through involvement’, says Morten Jaeger, a senior consultant and designer at Workz, who and has helped to develop the game 'Financial Focus' for COWI.

Out of all of our training sessions this is definitely the most popular, at the same time as it is the one where I have seen the most eye-opening experiences of the participants

COWI is an engineering company with 6000 employees worldwide, working in construction, environment, and technology. COWI also specialises in consultancy. Engineering is a pressured industry with small margins and despite rising sales earnings had been unsatisfactory for COWI. It was therefore decided that a new system would be introduced, to provide transparency in the economics of project management across the group. COWI decided to work with the business culture among project managers to ensure successful implementation of the new views. In the end the problem was solved in cooperation with Workz, with the game 'Financial Focus'.

’The game gave us a fun way to address some of the new economic concepts and make them both understandable and tangible. And it really was important to ensure a good understanding, with so many new things’, says Henrik R. Mortensen, Change Manager at COWI in charge of the business change.

Financial Focus takes place in a world reminiscent of COWI. Participants play the roles of departments. They jointly plan and implement a number of projects with the aim of maximising earnings. The players decide on the projects they think will bring the highest profit, they calculate risks, assign fictional employees to the projects, and manage them.

Along the way, the players select the right number of projects, as well as the projects that best suit their skills. They negotiate with customers on payment terms and play a series of project activities that can act as shields against potential future problems with the projects. These may be actions like hedging against uncertain currencies on projects abroad, spending time and resources to produce more thorough descriptions of services available, or conducting a more thorough risk analysis. A number of bad decision –embarking on too many projects, spending too much on employees, or ignoring important stakeholders– can lead to financial troubles and even bankruptcy.

"The game has been a success. It has created dedicated discussions and high levels of energy throughout the almost three-hour duration of the workshop. We could not have reached the same with PowerPoints. Out of all of our training sessions this is definitely the most popular, at the same time as it is the one where I have seen the most eye-opening experiences of the participants" says Henrik R. Mortensen, COWI.

The game was created for this specific project, but became a solid training component of COWI's Project Academy. It is currently played by approximately 1,000 of COWI's project managers.

Workz has subsequently developed Financial Focus further into a new version, called Stream Liners. Read more about Stream Liners here.