This year’s work plans of the different departments of Holon Municipality have been presented through games planned and played by the municipalities’ employees. Hundreds of employees took part in the games. Holon is the only municipality so far where all departments have presented their plans using this unique and innovative method.

It is often suggested that “planning is no child’s play” and work plans are a very serious matter. Now, it appears as though work plans are not necessarily what they are considered to be. Rather, games can be used as an effective and useful tool in developing municipal work plans. And just like in other cases, in Holon, we do things differently.

For approximately two decades, every year, the municipality’s departmental directors have written the yearly work plans for the forthcoming year. These plans are derived from the City Vision and the annual areas of focus set by me, based on accumulated knowledge and information from surveys, researches and controlling and work processes.

This year we came to the conclusion that the classic, conventional way, in which each director comes to stage to deliver a presentation in which he or she provides selected goals and objectives  which are to be carried out by the different departments of the his/her administration – is no longer relevant. For this reason I decided that this year, each administration is to present its plans through games, which will be planned and played by groups of employees led by the director of the administration and engaging additional entities and groups. Holon is the first municipality where annual work plans are presented using this innovative method.

This innovative method was led by the department of Strategic Planning, professionally assisted by “Game of Life” company, headed by Or Brandt. The rationale was that playing brings about enjoyment, which, in turn, enhances employees’ involvement and knowledge, so that the entire process turns into an engaging and beneficial for a greater number of employees. So we turned our employees into one-day players of Snakes and Ladders, Darts, Memory Game, Treasure Hunt, Truth or Lie, Bowling and many others, in accordance with the contents of the work plans for the next two years.

When the concept was first introduced to the seven senior officers they were somewhat skeptical regarding its effect. Yet as they were introduced to the principles and results, it seemed to me they have gradually grown pretty enthusiastic. Every administration selected a goal and objective which would be presented and demonstrated in order to explain to the other employees critical principles and main challenges the administration faces on a regular basis/

Then, through suitable guidance, the groups reached a stage where they proposed ideas for games which they created. Of course, they were also required to explain which objectives the game promotes and in what ways.

The process of developing the games lasted several months. Then, during the work plan conference held at Holon Mediatheque, the employees were divided to groups and moved from one game to the next. Through the games, both directors and employees had an opportunity to experience the activities and routines of the different administrations. E.g. the employees of the budget administration demonstrated the dilemmas they encounter when allocating resources to a large variety of important needs. Using a memory game titled “The Stable Tower of Budget” in which participants were required to match needs and costs. They had to ask themselves whether they should invest in teacher assistants in kindergarten or foundation of a home for girls. In the second stage participants had to pull out building blocks, where each block represented an expenditure for a different purpose, from the “income tower”, without losing the balance and game.

Another example was the game “Achieving Targets of Life” operated by the employees of the Welfare Administration, who have recently began working with at-risk youth (ages 18-25). The employees were required to toss rings at a distant target. Anyone who managed to have their ring land around the target was “upgraded” to an “easy course”, while those who failed were “downgraded” to a “harder course” in which the distance from success only gets larger. This demonstrated real life situations, where each failure brings about more failures and a feeling one is distanced further and further from success, whereas each success brings about further successes. The main challenge welfare workers face was how to break this pattern. Participants in the “hard course” were provided with “assistance cards”, which they could decide to use or reject, just like in real life.

Another real-life game was the one of Planning and Engineering, who engaged employees in a thinking game named “Creating the Future”, in which they demonstrated the way they see difficulties and dilemmas they encounter as they develop the city’s master plan. Participants were required to offer ideas as to the way they see the city in 30 years, and what solutions they would offer to issues related to transportation, commerce, housing and others. These were presented on aerial photos of the city, and the purpose was to demonstrate how difficult it is to combine various needs, which might sometimes be contradictory.

It was a great pleasure to see how active both directors and employees were – their enthusiasm and great engagement. Many admitted it was the first time they were introduced to the work of different departments in such a fun and enlightening way. Another added value of the conference in its current format was the friendly atmosphere, the openness and the informal relationships formed between directors and employees of all ranks. I would like to thank those who operated the games, most creatively and enthusiastically, and the employees and directors who were very serious, learned and enjoyed a lot.

I believe such a format is fresh, innovative, and most importantly – highly informative. Of course, this is only the beginning. The detailed plans are posted to the municipality’s Intranet. The plans are measureable, timed and of course controlled bi-annually; the outcomes are examined, lessons are learned and improvements are made accordingly.

Now, there’s only one problem – how to innovate and surprise in the next conference!