The debriefing session follows the beergame session.

The debriefing usually begins with a brief discussion of students’ experiences throughout the game. Typically, the following questions are being discussed:

  • Did you feel yourself controlled by forces in the system from time to time? Or did you feel in control?
  • Did you find yourself “blaming” the groups next to you for your problems?
  • Did you feel desperation at any time?

This discussion typically shows that people indeed were blaming their neighbouring supply chain partners for not doing their jobs right (either not ordering in a sensible way or not being able to deliver)

Desperation and frustration are common feelings during the last rounds of the game.

Structure creates behaviour

A first learning from this discussion is that it is the structure of the game (i.e. the supply chain) that causes the behaviour.

This is precisely what its inventor (Forrester) intended to achieve and what is referred to as the effects of systems dynamics.

Reflecting on the game setup

A second set of questions can be discussed to reflect upon the beergame  and its degree of simulating real world conditions:

  • What, if anything, is unrealistic about this game?
  • Why are there order delays?
  • Why are there production delays? Shipping delays?
  • Why have both distributor and wholesalers; why not ship beer directly from the factory to the retailer?
  • Must the brewer be concerned with the management of the raw materials suppliers?

Please note: By stressing the fact that real-life supply chains are much more complex (a huge variety of products and supply chain partners exist, as well as complex criss-crossing networks of relationships)  students can quickly be convinced that real-life conditions favour the emergence of the bullwhip to a much greater extent and that the beergame is indeed a good vehicle to simulate the creation of the effect.

Discuss the results

The next step is to present, for all supply chain groups, the data and figures derived from the game play.

This typically leads to a very interactive and lively discussion. This is were the concept of ‘cumulated supply chain cost’ is introduced, e.g. by pointing out that the product at the customer end has to earn all (cumulated) costs of all supply chain parties; this insight serves as a first step in establishing the idea of global thinking and chain-wide optimization, which essentially requires eCollaboration technologies.

At this point in the session one can then go on with identifying the causes of the bullwhip effect.