Previous Article Next Article Play to winOn 1 Feb 2002 in Personnel Today In business, playing the game is important. But game playing can be just ascrucial to business success, says John Handley. Just taking part, though, isnot enough. You have to aspire to learn and be willing to put ideas intopractice if you really want to add a new – human – dimension to your businessstrategy.Business games can transcend geographical and cultural boundaries, and theywork between various management levels and different business functions –between education and industry, public sector and private enterprise. So, what exactly are business games, or simulations? Think of them as thecommercial management equivalent of the simulator for racing-drivers, pilots orastronauts. Using a business simulation, a group of people can test commercialdecision-making in a relatively risk-free environment, with only personal egosat stake, and without the risk of commercial failure. Organisations request our simulations for many uses: – to develop commercial awareness; – to highlight interdepartmental understanding and co-operation; – to consolidate corporate identity following organisational re-structuring,mergers or acquisitions; – to encourage and develop strategic vision and creative thinking; todevelop teamwork and decision-making skills; – to encourage networking by bringing together personnel from differentgeographical locations; – or as part of an detailed assessment. Games often come into play at company conferences as a tool to change thepace, offering a quick shift into group activity, which can motivate, challengeand instruct. Learning with fun is a potent mix. One beauty of a business game is that it can meet diverse objectives, andcan be ‘topped and tailed’ to meet precise goals. Some contend that it is ‘onlya game’, that what goes on in the game play is not what would happen in reallife. But experienced facilitators argue just the opposite: What goes on withinthe business game group frequently mirrors day to day personal confrontationsand different perspectives which can either enrich or, more frequently sadly,hinder or even de-rail the decision-making process. “What happened today is what happens at work,” is an expressionone often hears at the end of a business game. However, “I did all thenumbers, I told them how it was and what we had to do, but they wouldn’t listen– until we went bankrupt”, is also a regular assessment. Seldom does aplayer admit “I just couldn’t convince them. I just didn’t have thenecessary skill to persuade them that my analysis and ideas were sound.” In the past, the main thrust has been to use business simulations toincrease commercial awareness, to emphasise total business profitability andcross-functional dependency. Now, the focus is increasingly on the humandimension in business. The same models are used but facilitation differs. Anexample is the increasing use of a business simulation in dealing with change –a real issue for most at some point in our lives. Change is more prevalent inbusiness today than possibly ever before because of the speed of technologicaldevelopments and the uncertainties of an ever increasingly competitive andglobal market place. Simulations become useful then as a tool to help peoplerecognise the reality of a change, and to be able to analyse and handle itpositively. Cherry picking In one game, qualified observers watch teams of five who act as the board ofdirectors, working together to drive their company towards profit. The change intervention is to move one or two members out of a team, as ifheadhunted by a competitor. Common reactions are of annoyance and frustrationthat the team has been broken up. The effect is more extreme if the team feelsit has been operating successfully up to that point. The members who leave theteam are always regarded as the ‘best’ members. The replacements are regardedas ‘cast-offs’ from the competitors. It takes time, rational thought andunderstanding to challenge this instinctive reaction which more easily sees thenegative side of change. In a de-briefing session, the participants’ attention is drawn to theirresponses to change and they are made aware of the chain of reaction. Then, andonly then, can the healing process begin and lead to the development of newbehaviour patterns that will hopefully lead to better team-working and improveddecision-making. For young executives cutting their teeth in a leading financial company, andwho regularly switch between new project teams, experiencing this in arelatively risk-free environment proves to be a powerful and valuable lesson.The organisation benefits, and life becomes more exciting and rewarding for thenew executives as they learn to embrace change. Top bananas A similar ploy with an organisation’s top management team reveals whyprogress is so difficult in day-to-day situations. After working together for two days at a conference in ‘running’ awell-established business, members of each team are ‘made offers they cannotrefuse’ and accordingly transfer their experience, skill and knowledge to acompetitive team. Uncertainty is a common reaction. Other feelings – such asresentment, annoyance, anger, disappointment, surprise, delight, welcomingsmiles – are also evident. Some teams see a newcomer as a new asset, and are quick to absorb them intotheir team – information is shared, resulting in wider knowledge of the market.Other teams treat newcomers cautiously, revealing nothing of their strategy.And there are teams that treat newcomers with disdain and gain nothing from theadditional resource. Where one newcomer joins a team of two, the original pairstrengthen their working bond. Where two newcomers join two existing members,the balance of power has to be negotiated. The behaviour is often entirely atone with previous professional assessments and also with individuals’confidential opinions of their colleagues. In fact, this ‘game’ turned out tobe a microcosm of the organisation concerned – mirroring the daily activitiesof the managers involved. Plum positions Project management cultures provide fertile ground for business games.Learning how to juggle several projects simultaneously is crucial for managerswho find competition high for their time and expertise. In this instance, whensuch experience is the aim, the business simulation is only one of severalconcurrent tasks. The process is paramount to the learning and qualifiedobservers work with the groups as well as the business game facilitator. As an assessment tool, the game is simply a catalyst for behaviouralobservation. It is not the commercial success that is being measured, althoughthat remains the players’ goal. What is being assessed is individuals’ capacityto lead a group, fit into a team, use data, analyse, and his or herdecisiveness, flexibility, clear-headedness, imagination and creativity – or,communication skills in their widest sense. In this simulation, it is no longer necessary for the playing field to be levelfor all teams at the start. The game facilitator sets the starting positionsfollowing predetermined strategies for the competing teams. The players need todeal with the position they inherit, and the situation left by theirpredecessors. In most game plays, data gradually builds up for teams to handle,but in this game they are bombarded from the start with data, graphs andcharts. A joint-venture company is created from the existing teams to avoid anoverseas competitor buying into the market. The venture capitalist supportingthis initiative sets performance standards. Employee trades unions enter intonegotiations when profits surge. The simulation in this case is the essentialskeletal framework on which any amount of flesh can be hung by imaginative andskillful educators. One of the strongest messages to emerge in all simulations is how thesubject of the brief does not seem to matter. Tasks, as opposed to processes,predominate in most peoples’ behaviour. It does not seem to matter when the exercise’saim is simply to run your business successfully or profitably. The behaviour isalways task-oriented and the goal is to win, to be the most profitable,allowing players’ inherent competitiveness to generate momentum to a grandfinale. Industry has always had difficulty convincing its different functionalelements to talk with each other and to understand their inter-dependence.Increasing specialisation demands that greater awareness is needed of thewhole. In the orchard of personal development, business simulations are a meansof harvesting the fruit of successful communications. John Handley is a management development consultant atthe Cranfield School of Management and general manager of Cranfield BusinessGames. Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed.
Leadership successionOn 1 Sep 2003 in Personnel Today Steve Newhall, managing director of global HR consultancy DDI UK, arguesthat in a service economy, lack of basic leadership skills at senior level willstifle the best-intentioned initiativesThere was a time when companies were run by their founder, or his family.The vision, innovation or creativity of the owner was what drove the culture ofthe business. And if that was accompanied by autocracy and unilateraldecision-making, well that was ‘just the way things are done around here’. Withthe succession of the son and heir, it was as important to preserve thecultural legacy as to continue to grow the business and provide jobs for theworkers – who were generally glad to shelter under the patriarchal umbrella. Things are very different now. The UK economy has moved away frommanufacturing to the service industry, and the make-up of the workforce haschanged along with it. Instead of demanding loyalty from uneducated employees, businesseshave to meet staff requirements, as research proves that employee engagement isclosely linked to productivity. Focus on relationships For example, if customer service staff who are uninspired by their workallow their attitude to affect their behaviour towards customers, companieslose money. Expectations are higher, and being treated as an equal by the bossat the communal coffee machine is just a start. Many British businesses depend upon their people to differentiate themselvesin the market. So for those accountable for business performance, what mattersnow is how good you are at developing and displaying great skills inrelationship-building within an organisation and, equally importantly, outwardsto customers. The trouble is that most organisations don’t check the right credentialswhen they assume people’s aptitude for leadership. Promotion to management isoften a reward for performing well in specialist roles such as sales, IT andengineering. Recruiting externally brings no easy answers either. Most senior people’sCVs list achievements unrelated to their ability to lead people. The two key questions for organisations whose market share is won or lostthrough their people’s behaviour should be: ‘How can leadership potential bereliably spotted, early?’ and ‘How do we best accelerate the development ofthose in whom we find it?’ Desired culture In our experience, three out of four companies admit they lack clearcriteria for actually determining potential. They have failed to define aconsistent vision of their desired culture, so have no clear idea of whatskills future leaders need. At DDI, we set out to find this Holy Grail. We took more than 30 years’assessment data on thousands of individuals, and combined it with ground-breakingresearch from the likes of Jim Collins, Morgan W McCall, Ann Howard and DougBray. This gave us a process and a set of criteria for gauging leadershippotential. So what should companies be looking for? An inherent desire to lead othersand the ability to bring out the best in people is critical. Aspiring leadersmust care about people and be willing to give their time and intelligence tounderstanding different personal needs, motivations and histories. Are theysecure in their own ego, rather than needing to dominate? This has a highcorrelation with integrity, too – we call this ‘leadership promise’. Leadership imperatives So what are the premium leadership skills on which development should focus?At DDI, we believe there are seven ‘leadership imperatives’, the ‘must-have’leadership skills that our research demonstrates drive success: coaching;inspiring; partnering; influencing; driving performance; selecting; andmanaging work and resources. If you don’t start when you’re young – in this case, on the first rung ofthe management ladder – you are unlikely ever to excel at any of these things,and long-held bad habits are harder to change. The only way to ensure the future CEOs of our service-led organisations aretruly leaders of people, and not just charismatic money or marketing men, is tostart building those ‘must-have’ skills today. Fledgling leaders in their firstmanagement role – and many already in the job who have had no formal training –must be equipped with the leadership imperatives to do the really importantstuff really well, and let an engaged and motivated staff do the rest. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed.