Conference Business Games
Although team working challenges are popular at conferences, often they have little relevance to business. In contrast, the Conference Business Game retains the team building elements but adds a business success dimension.
Over the years I have been involved running business simulations (business games) at business conferences many dozen times. This page describes why companies have used them on conferences, the practical issues associated with their use and lists several suitable business simulations (business games).
Reasons for Use
Practical Issues with use
Suitable Business Games
The day was a fantastic success with great feedback. The program ran very smoothly... I had a great team who familiarised themselves with the software beforehand which led to a very smooth operation on the day. We had 15 teams (140 delegates!) so ran 8 on one laptop and 7 on another laptop. Once my team received the decisions they were turning the input and printout around in 15 minutes!
The format of the day worked really well. After the initial round of the simulation (which I allow an hour for due to familiarisation) I followed it with alternating business presentations from senior managers across Boots (45 minutes each), and further rounds of the simulation (30 minutes each). We were able to run the game for four quarters which was sufficient for people to implement their strategy. The winning team was based on their combined net profit and cash balance at the end of the fourth quarter. This meant all teams had to consider profit and balance sheet management, something that is being increasingly pushed at Boots. This worked really well.
Feedback from the delegates was very positive. They found the simulation to be fun and interesting and an ideal breakout in between presentations. In particular they fed back that it was great for getting everyone talking to each other at the start of the day, ongoing networking with people they didn't know, and teamwork.
I wouldn't hesitate in recommending your software to other people within Boots or to other companies.
Carl Jennings, Finance Manager - Boots Brands & Exclusives (1st November 2012)
Team working activities are attractive events at business conferences. However, often, they have no business relevance. The conference business game combines the two. Where each member of a sales force works in isolation and where there is little face to face contact with "head office" team working and building is very important.
Business games involve participants comprehensively in "problem solving". During the business game teams must assess the need to take actions, generate options, evaluate these and choose the "best". The business game model will implement this. Following this, teams must assess whether the solution is successful and change it if necessary.
The purpose of many conferences, especially sales conferences, is to provide an opportunity for executives to meet, build relationships and "network" with fellow executive with whom they had only spoken to on the phone or via Fax. Team formulation can be done with this in mind.
Business games involve working on a comprehensive mix of business problems (finance, marketing, operations, behaviour etc.) and thus they differ from other participation events (such as bungy jumping, go-karting, paintball, inflatable sumo wrestling, fire walking etc.).
Beyond the business orientation aspect of Conference Games they are concerned with money - profits, profitability and cash flow. A common need at sales conferences is to explain and emphasise to the sales force the need for profitable sales rather than just making sales (growing unit sales volume no matter what!) Likewise a total enterprise business game allow different functions to see how the business fits together and build relationships between functions.
Many executives are not as fit as they could be, should be or as they believe. Physical, team-building activities are not without risk. If business or peer pressure is high these activities can be positively dangerous. In contrast the Conference Business Game still challenges team working but thorough mental faculties rather than physical strength and stamina. A challenge that is, perhaps, more appropriate for the successful businessperson.
STIMULATING & MOTIVATING
The competitive and active nature of a Conference Business Game is very stimulating. Teams will become very involved even to the extent of working on the game rather than visiting the bar - surely the ultimate test of involvement on a business conference!
In contrast to formulating teams to develop relationships, teams can be formed from individual business units. This helps build the unit's team and competitive spirit.
The business oriented, team working and problem solving nature of business games challenges delegates and provides an opportunity for senior management to observe staff "in action". (Business games are also used in formal Assessment Centres). If the apparent role of the senior management is to "coach" teams the assessment dimension can be disguised. (Disguising is sensible since, otherwise, conference delegates might be constrained and not have fun!)
On a course a business game is generally run with twelve to thirty delegates. At a conference the numbers may be from forty to a hundred or more. This may require several games to be run in parallel. This, coupled with an abbreviated timetable, demands experienced tutors and careful planning.
ABBREVIATED TIME TABLE
Although conference use is a learning experience this is usually not the prime purpose. This allows the period between decisions to be shortened and fewer periods simulated. For instance, on a course, the decision cycle might be one hour reducing to thirty minutes with eight periods simulated. The same business game, on a conference, would involve decision cycles reducing from thirty minutes to twenty minutes and only six or five periods simulated. Finally the review and debriefing period can be shortened to a few minutes. This means that it may be possible to halve the duration of the business game. However, the increased number of teams and logistics must be considered.
Although conference games can make use of separate syndicate rooms there are advantages in running the business game with teams sitting at separate tables in one large room. This reduces privacy and the ability to use flip charts but, significantly, simplifies control of the event, speeds the process and increases the buzz of competition. (This is particularly true where, in a hotel, the syndicate rooms are widely spread.)
On a course a single tutor might run the business game. At a conference, the additional numbers and tight time table means that several tutors may be required. For the sixty delegate example the team consisted of three and for the forty delegate example two. All were kept very busy and had little time for coaching and assessment. The coaching and assessment role can be usefully provided by senior management (who otherwise would expect their team to win!) So we suggest that the person directing the activity should be very experienced with the business game. (We are always willing to help you run Conference Games - especially if they are at exotic locations!)
CHOOSING A WINNER
Unlike short course use, where it is not usual or desirable to choose a winner, it is normal to choose a winning team at a conference. This choice of winner can either be based on a single objective measure or based more subjectively on several measures. The single measure approach is quick and clear but it may lead to most groups developing the same strategies, attempts to "beat" the game and may be demotivating for the losers. Using several measures to assess past, current and future performance about profitability, growth and survival is a more realistic measure of "business success". Further the range of measures means that most teams will have some areas of strength. If you are using several measures it may be sensible for a very senior manager to choose the winning team.
Source: Churchill Fellowship Study and chapter in my latest book - Corporate Cartooning Book (find out more).
Most recent update: 03/04/12
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