Magazine article Talent Development

The PIE Factory: Prepare People for Performance Efforts by Having Them Make Pie Boxes. (Training 101)

Magazine article Talent Development

The PIE Factory: Prepare People for Performance Efforts by Having Them Make Pie Boxes. (Training 101)

Article excerpt

This exercise is designed to help participants in a performance improvement course or initiative understand factors that can affect job performance. The PIE (performance improvement exercise) Factory places participants in teams to produce boxes for carrying pies (smaller versions of actual pie boxes).

Here's how it goes.

Show participants the box they're to create (the performance standard), and ask them to estimate the number of boxes they'll be able to produce in five minutes. That's their production goal; record on the chart shown. The exercise has at least three rounds.

During the first round, the teams produce as many boxes as possible. After five minutes, inspect the completed boxes and record the number that meet the standard. Prior to the second round, give teams an opportunity to revise their production estimates, then record those estimates on the chart.

Hand each team an envelope (they shouldn't be aware those are coming). Some envelopes will contain good news, but most will contain bad news. The envelopes contain situations that can affect performance, and most will result in barriers to production (see instructions). These barriers will affect the teams' ability to achieve their goals. They continue to make the boxes.

After five minutes, inspect the completed boxes and record the results on the chart. Prior to the third round, the teams again revise their estimates, without knowing what news will be in their envelopes during the next round. Distribute the mystery envelopes, and resume production.

Following the third round, inspect the boxes, and record the results.

The facilitator leads a discussion focused on how the various performance factors affected each team's ability to achieve its goals.

After completing the exercise, participants should be able to describe the effect that various factors can have on job performance.

To prepare

1. Use construction paper to make a copy of the box pattern (see figure) for each team.

2. Fold one box to serve as the performance standard.

3. Provide each team with one pair of scissors, one roll of transparent tape, one pattern for the box, and about 100 sheets of construction paper cut in squares the size of the pattern. Put all of the materials in paper bags, one to each table where the teams will work.

4. Divide participants into teams of about six members.

5. Prepare the production chart (below) to record the results of each round.


1. Explain that each group is to act as a production team at the PIE Factory. Each team should select a team name and a supervisor. Record the team names on the chart.

2. Demonstrate how to make the box, using the construction paper, pattern, scissors, and tape.

3. Instruct each team to estimate the number of boxes they think they can produce in five minutes. Each team should write its estimate on a slip of paper along with the team name and give the slip to the facilitator; that prevents hearing other teams' estimates. The facilitator records the teams' production goals under the Goal column for Round 1. Give the teams five minutes to produce as many boxes as possible. Alert them when they have one minute remaining, 30 seconds left, and then end the round. Ask the teams to turn in their completed boxes for inspection by the quality control inspector (the facilitator). Record the number of boxes produced to standard by each team in the appropriate column of the chart.

5. Discuss with the teams how their goals compare to actual production. …

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