Ranger4 DevOps Blog

Experiential Learning - the WOW Factor with Apollo 13

Posted by Philippa Hale on Tue, Jun 4, 2019 @ 13:06 PM

SCAN-06-1To all change leaders: Have you been tasked with introducing new ways of working (WOW) in your organisation? Or are you already part way through introducing a new WOW such as DevOps? Agile Service Management? or a transformational change involving/led by other functions: HR, L&D, Finance, Legal, Sales, Marketing ... ?

Do you need some fresh ideas and techniques to help you to engage and inspire key stakeholders and teams, to overcome change fatigue, steer and champion the changes and get the new ways to stick?

If so, we can't recommend highly enough that you include experiential learning activities in your change and communications plan, rather than the traditional one-way presentations or briefings; Both for the change leadership team, and for the target communities involved.  

Leading change and making change stick is not something that can't be 'taught'.  The theory is relatively simple to understand intellectually.  Actually doing it draws on everything we are as leaders and humans, our resilience and confidence, as well as our practical capabilities and common sense.  It involves our analytical abilities and systems thinking, our emotional intelligence capabilities combined with commercial and organisational savvy.  We also need to have our unconscious biases and habits surfaced and respectfully challenged, in a constructive and engaging way.

Both the change leaders and the target audiences are likely to be busy, senior, and very diverse in their specialist fields.  The more senior people are, the harder it is to unlearn ways of working that have served them so well in the past. (Chris Argyris's classic article: Teaching Smart People to Learn, HBR (1991/05) is worth a read on this, or the more recent 'backwards bicycle' youtube clip) Also, there isn't a standard change approach or method as all organisations have different cultures.  Activities that would inspire in one culture would lose you your audience in others.


The Apollo 13 business simulation is a serious business game, designed by GamingWorks and has been played on all continents, by 1000s of leaders, managers and teams. We now have a new version specifically focusing on the People and Cultural aspects of evolutionary change.

10-15 participants play the roles of the original Mission Control Centre of the 1970s mission. This historic event demonstrates how imminent disaster can be averted thanks to the combination of effective flow of work across teams, minimum necessary and continually improved processes, the right technologies and exceptional cross-team collaboration.

The parallels with participants' real world of work and their transformational journey are clear. The simulation takes participants through three carefully facilitated plan-do-check-act cycles - practice being only way to unlearn old stuck habits and thinking and embed the new.

The outputs of this classic experiential learning activity include direct, personal experience of improving in the moment, the group's change leadership skills, such as:

  • Team work & feedback sharing
  • Working closely with and focusing on customers
  • Handling complexity and unpredictability
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Cross team collaboration
  • Leading from the back of the room
  • Leading and making continual improvements
  • Fast, effective communication within and across teams
  • Authentic, impactful feedback in well structured and facilitated reviews/retrospectives
  • Influencing and negotiating under pressure
  • Making working processes effective and usable data visible in the simplest way possible
  • Analytical thinking and planning: shifting from do-do-do-do to plan-do-check-act

If you would like to experience the Apollo 13 simulation, and have a taste of experiential learning, or if you would like a wider conversation about how experiential learning activities could support your new ways of working initiative, contact malcolm@ranger4.com  

About Ranger4 

Ranger4 are DevOps evolution consultancy specialists that assist organisations with growth and change, programme leadership, leadership development and experiential learning.

Team Lead, Philippa Hale, brings 25+ years’ hands-on experience
from her own career in business leadership and consultancy
and as a Henley Business School Executive Fellow.


Topics: Experiential learning