top of page

Playing Games is Serious Business

Every project needs workshops. They are essential tools for gathering and spreading information, brainstorming ideas, and solving problems. But too often they are woefully under-utilised. Many project managers see them as a means to save time, when in fact they are excellent opportunities for team building, creativity, and fun! You just need the right approach.


By creating a workshop within the framework of a familiar game we can encourage a ‘strategic’ perspective that supports creative ways to solve the problems facing an organisation or team. By removing the jargon and formality of a typical meeting, problems can be stripped back to their core, with solutions offered up more readily by more participants. Leveraging the amount of human capital in that workshop room is a missed-opportunity for most projects, but when it is taken advantage of, remarkable solutions can be achieved.

RailCorp managed each property well, however, they didn’t have an overall property portfolio strategy. They could identify and manage individual assets, but they didn’t come together to view their overarching strategy. They lacked the creativity and motivation to take time out and strategize the problems facing their property department. We needed to take them from tackling problems on an individual level and start viewing the department as a whole and the relationship between their different assets.

The Solution: Monopoly

The real estate driven gameplay of Monopoly provided the perfect familiar context for our team. The game board now functioned as our catalyst to set the agenda. Real estate squares along the board would relate to real-world assets, and other game mechanics like community chest or chance cards would allow us to address a set of predetermined questions or problems in a randomised order. Soon we had the whole property team bonding, having fun, throwing out ideas, and asking for the ‘workshop’ to keep going! The outputs from this workshop contributed to the development of a new Target Operating Model for the Property group within RailCorp.

Building a new police station sounds easy in principle, you buy a block of land, then build a station there. That was the perspective most of the internal customers and their external service providers had at Police when we arrived. We needed to show them just how many different factors have to be accounted for, how many people are involved in the process, and how many operational challenges there are. Up until that point no one could properly articulate what everyone else did, and what benefit they gained from that knowledge.

The Next Step: Lego

Instead of just getting everyone to take turns telling the team what their role was, we got them to show us! Building a police station in a day… using lego. The task set for the team required them to use a scale-map of an area currently owned by PoliceNSW, then set about building a police station that would fulfill all the needs of its users, while complying with legislative, financial, and organisational requirements. We then threw up ‘real-world’ operational obstacles for them to overcome as a team that would affect their ability to build the station in one day. This demonstrated the challenges the department experienced during “a day in the life” of providing property services.

This created a tactile situation where everyone could now visualise all the different aspects that go into building a police station. The success of the team relied on sharing the knowledge about their day-to-day operations. By having different departments and vendors all in the same room working together, they got to see how others worked and where they fitted in the bigger picture and they realised just how complex it was to build a police station. This increased understanding resulted in a more collaborative working environment.


Aidan Hughes was the Executive General Manager of Commercial Services for Rail Corporation NSW | Transport for NSW. This is where he first engaged FBS. Based on the success of this first engagement Aidan sought out FBS to work for him once again when he was the CFO and Director of Finance & Business Services for the NSW Police Force. The following is Aidan’s testimonial for those pieces of work:

“I initially engaged FBS Hartley at Rail Corporation NSW (RailCorp). This Government owned organisation provided passenger rail services throughout NSW. FBS demonstrated their consulting versatility by undertaking several challenging assignments within the Commercial Services functions under my management. These included: relocating the RailCorp 450 seat training campus; a Health Check of the existing $40M Property Management Service Agreement to inform an impending contract renewal; facilitating the resolution of critical audit items reported monthly to the Board Audit Committee; working with critical stakeholders to develop a Target Operating Model for RailCorp’s non-operational Property Management Group, and project management of the construction of a service road at the RailCorp Clyde Maintenance Facility. All tasks were completed in a thorough and professional manner, with requirements met or exceeded.”

“In my next role at the NSW Police Force (NSWPF), and based on results achieved at RailCorp, I again engaged FBS to manage several complex and major projects within the business areas under my management as CFO.

Initially, operating within the Police Property Group, FBS was tasked with managing a large, complex property services contract transition between the new and incumbent service providers. During this program they were accountable for regular Executive briefings to myself and my superior, the Deputy Commissioner Corporate Services.

FBS successfully managed the transition; they ensured sound contract management practices were in place and resolved the many significant commercial challenges that were to be expected when dealing with a $1.6B property portfolio and a $220M annual program of work.

Following the commissioning of the new service provider FBS led the development of a rolling five-year Property Management Strategic Plan covering all aspects of the property portfolio from acquisition of an asset to disposal of those no longer operationally required. This Plan also included strategic decisions around the build of new police stations and refurbishment of existing properties. FBS led an exhaustive collaboration process involving key internal and external stakeholders in completing the Plan.

The NSW Government completed a whole of sector review of property assets and where they were best owned, maintained and operated. Policy dictated that a front-line agency such as the NSWPF should only own operational properties and be provided with commercial and other properties by a Government owned Property Owner. To this end, the NSWPF owned a residential property portfolio of some 700 residences. FBS was tasked to transition these properties from Police ownership to Property NSW ownership and arrange ongoing Police access on a rental basis. This required tough negotiation between stakeholders, developing strong working relationships between government departments, peak bodies and within the force itself (especially in the regional areas of NSW). Critical to the program was the disciplined management and governance of the commercial aspects of divestment of government assets.

FBS also completed several minor concurrent projects in the Property space to support the massive changes impacting the Portfolio. This included the resolution of a capitalisation review to clear a backlog of $140M worth of project work sitting in Capital Work in Progress and the reconciliation of a $270M portfolio of “zero value assets” to address critical audit issues.“

In Summary

"FBS always provided “value for money” and operated with the best interest of the client in mind. They combined the necessary discipline, versatility, and experience necessary to consistently deliver complex projects on-time and within the NSW Government’s strict compliance and governance framework for operating agencies. I would not hesitate to recommend their services.”


bottom of page