Strategic plan off base, do not pass go

Board game lets teams of employees run a business, simulating hard decisions and strategic challenges.

A group of employees is gathered around a colourful board game, chatting and discussing work. An after-hours get-together? Lunchtime in the cafeteria? Not at all—they’re in a training session, using simulated learning to become more effective in their jobs.

Making Sense of Business: A Simulation is a training method designed by Development Dimensions International (DDI). The game provides hands-on experience in executive decision-making, helping employees to understand how and why business decisions are made.

The simulation lets them run their own “businesses” in teams of two to five people. They make decisions about budgets, resources and investments, helping them to understand the dynamic nature of business. The game shows employees how complicated operating a business is. Often, employees don’t understand how their job affects the organization as a whole or why certain decisions are made.

Employees also may not support business decisions and initiatives they don’t understand.

The DDI board game allows participants to:
•learn how money travels through a business, how to create a simple balance sheet to see how businesses operate, and how to chart their success;
•discuss direct costs, indirect costs, and cash flow in relation to business profits and day-to-day operations;
•review their strategic plans and determine their approach to business competition;
•determine which team has gained the strongest strategic position, achieved the highest profits, or come up with the most innovative solutions to problems;
•see how their own job contributes to business success, and how their job relates to others; and
•make the hard decisions and trade-offs that business leaders deal with every day.

Jocelyn Bérard, general manager for consulting and outsourcing services, says DDI has trained workers at several companies, including Bell Canada, Pratt & Whitney, Kellogg’s and BASF. He says DDI tailors the game for each client, “it’s based on their competencies, what are the key competencies they want to develop for employees and managers. We tailor the solution around those.”

Bérard says the game gives trainees “a lot of interaction, a lot of excitement… people like it because of the interactivity. It’s not just a fun game, where you say, ‘well, I had fun but what did I really learn’.”

But it’s not just tons of content that puts people to sleep after an hour either, so it’s a good balance between the two.

“We wanted something highly interactive, but really where they learn. They learn by applying” the concepts.

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