Leaders in all roles are responsible for strategy translation: “connecting the dots” from a higher level business unit or functional or corporate strategy to the work of the local team. As we’ve said in prior posts—this work is really three activities: understand the strategy, connect it to the local level and align your work across boundaries. What’s interesting, given how important it is to do this well, is that most leaders learn HOW to translate strategy somewhat haphazardly—by watching others succeed or stumble, or through their own trial and error.
Business simulations, however, are a more focused and faster way to help leaders practice and strengthen their strategy translation skills.
Simulations are a great methodology for several reasons:
1) Simulations are multidimensional: Translating strategy is not a simple exercise. It requires leaders to apply both cognitive skills (to think strategically and understand the business direction) and interpersonal skills (to engage their peers, teams and bosses to take action). Simulations can create a rich context with complexity of market dynamics and organizational systems that challenge leaders to practice strategic translation in an environment parallel to the real world.
2) Simulations collapse time. Translating strategy drives business activity in the short term, but delivers results across multiple time horizons. A simulation can help leaders understand the longer term implications of their decisions and direction for the organization, and can help them build the skill to balance both short term and long term objectives.
3) Simulations create a platform for neutral feedback. One of the greatest challenges of strategy translation on the job is the absence of feedback from the team and leadership in the moment. There are no observers in place to help leaders develop and improve their ability to think strategically or engage their team. Simulations create a “pause” in the action for leaders to reflect and learn from their decisions and behaviors.
Strategy translation is too important a leadership skill to NOT develop it intentionally. A business simulation can help deliver a message about the strategy (“live in the new world”) as well as help leaders build foundational skills that they can apply in any setting. Here are just a couple of examples…
For a leading health product research organization, we created a class that developed project and mid-level leaders’ ability to “connect”—to align their actions and the work of their teams to the broader strategy and objectives.
For a major financial services company, we created a learning experience that developed mid-level leader skills in strategy translation and adaptation in the face of relentless market change.
Strategy translation is a leadership skill that improves with practice and experience. A business simulation can help accelerate that learning curve.
Karen Maxwell Powell is an affliate at Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich, immersive business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.