To accelerate its discussion of corporate strategy, a global industrial manufacturing leader engaged IE to embed a half-day, simulation-based learning experience into its annual leadership forum for the top 100+ executives.
As the fifth largest producer in its global market, the company has ambitious growth and profitability targets to reach by 2020. Interviews with senior executives revealed challenges inhibiting effective execution of the 2020 objectives:
- Leaders prioritized short term targets over long term growth and positioning, including balancing P&L implications with a capital and asset perspective
- The culture needed a bolder approach to change management and corporate agility
- Leaders were not strong at continually communicating the strategy
- Messages were communicated frequently, but not internalized
- Leaders needed edge in their communications: courage to approach difficult topics
IE designed a fast-paced, rich learning experience to highlight the leader’s role in strategy execution.
In a single ballroom, eighteen teams of leaders made three years of decisions in four hours of decision making in a simulated business, Global Resources International (GRI). Like our client, GRI was composed of multiple business units, each with a unique position in the strategic portfolio. Participants felt urgency to deliver GRI’s EBITDA and revenue goals for 2020, as they addressed the same competing opportunities, priorities, and obligations they experience in real life.
Participants leveraged company financial data, character-based roleplays and scenarios, live instruction, and Insight Experience’s proprietary simulation technology to make a series of strategic, operating and people management decisions for GRI.
Participants discussed existing behaviors and best practices through large group discussions, live polling, decision making, courageous conversations, and team communications. Results of each round reflected how key leadership behaviors drive toward the company’s 2020 goals, and helped leaders understand the challenges that lie ahead.
In round 1 participants had 35 minutes to establish their organizational goals and priorities, decide the course of action to take with a dissatisfied customer, and communicate their organization’s direction in an email.
Interestingly, of the 18 teams that participated in this program, only 3 were able to reach the target Revenue, and only 2 hit the target EBITDA. These results highlighted the challenges that lie ahead, and helped each leader to identify his or her own growth opportunities.
Successful teams in the simulation:
- Prioritized current needs with long term growth (efficient processes and quality, with product innovation and market insight)
- Aligned priorities and execution (business at risk)
- Managed investments with profitable growth and return on assets
- Drove execution of investment allocation (or mitigated losses) with leadership initiatives
- Developed capabilities ahead of external change
- Communicated strategically
IMPACT AND RESULTS OF THIS EXPERIENCE
The leaders are immediately implementing what they learned: many commented about changing their communication approach and reconsidering some of their investment tradeoffs.
The simulation amplified the CEO’s strategic messages: The program flowed seamlessly into the Leadership Forum, and the CEO made use of IE’s debrief slides to emphasize his own points in the wrap up of the day.
The participant feedback has been overwhelmingly positive: Participants commented that it was a fun, engaging, and high-impact way to collaborate with other leaders and better understand the company’s strategy at their annual forum.
Karen Maxwell Powell is a Managing Partner and Ashley Perry (co-author) is a Consulting Associate 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.