THE MOST EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR TEAM-BUILDING TRAINING

teamworkA common narrative now among experienced corporate trainers is that the best-practice mode for training functional groups is exposure to team-building simulation models.  These tools are often used in the context of training workshops, and they typically involve a realistic problem-solving scenario that the team has to tackle. We find the most effective platform for such tools is a web-based, interactive system. Here are some obvious advantages:

  • Multiple users operating with a single model version (avoiding version updating hassles).
  • Concurrent users interacting with the model
  • Capability for geographically dispersed players to participate
  • Ability to ensure site security
  • Disciplined version control

Today’s emerging management talent comes from a culture of gaming and instantaneous interaction. So web-based interactive tools provide an inviting and familiar mode of engagement for simulation participants. Using modern web development tools, we find that we can quickly build such management simulations to fit specific business scenarios. Check out this article and this one to see some specific tools that we use. With this approach, we are able to replicate the most complex management processes entirely on a web site.

While any of the available CMS platforms would work (WordPress, Drupal, etc.), we gravitate to the best of these: WordPress. This allows us to quickly build out a step-by-step management decision process, with all the setup information, login process, pre-read documents, scenario definitions, user instructions, graphic images, etc.  In the background, we can build all the complex, interconnected computational components to capture and calculate results for the team’s decision-making process.

In our conversations with various training professionals, there is a consistent mantra now that the single most effective way to train multi-disciplinary teams to make effective decisions is this integrated team gaming approach. We are finding considerable interest in both the private sector and government clients for new training simulation tools.  The overwhelming rationale we hear is that without such team collaboration, we end up with “sub-optimized” decisions, where professionals see the whole elephant only through the lens of their specific specialty.  Here’s an example of a scenario that illustrates this phenomenon:

ANNUAL BUDGETING PROCESS

  • This management team consists of several highly-trained, competent managers in several areas (marketing, production, logistics, finance).
  • In contrast, the CEO is ultimately responsible to stakeholders to maximize company profits and return on invested capital. The CEO listens to the point of view of each of these mid-managers to reach balanced, holistic company decisions.
  • The Marketing executive wants an increased allocation of marketing budget in order to reach his/her targets for sales volume and growth, and for establishing traction for new products.
  • The Production executive needs more capital investment in production capacity in order to fulfill anticipated volume. He/she recognizes that achieving economies of scale improves cost-efficiency, quality consistency and production efficiency.
  • The Logistics executive wants newer, larger delivery vehicles and an additional distribution warehouse in order to meet volume requirements and meet established goals for cost per unit delivered.
  • The Finance executive recognizes that each of these incremental budget requests are based on rational, but silo-oriented perspectives. He/she wants to evaluate the overall effects of each of these requests in the context of their incremental impacts on economic profit, return on capital, and overall company profitability.
  • These competing investment opportunities are all well-intentioned, but what’s needed is an objective curator’s perspective to prioritize them.
  • The CEO ultimately will use this financial assessment, along with strategic goals for growth and market share to reach a balanced point of view that serves the “greater good” for the company’s shareholders.

Taking team members through a collaborative simulated exercise will help them see the concerns of other disciplines in real time, and force concurrent communication and negotiation to reach better decisions. Our experience with a few of these exercises shows a a compelling benefit of enhanced ongoing communication within real-world teams after the training exercise. In one case, we are having conversations with a client about converting a training simulation model to a permanent tool to facilitate the actual decision process. So we anticipate having both versions running in their organization.

If it seems that I am proselytizing for web-based management simulation tools, I AM!  I am particularly encouraged by the new economic environment for this type application. We now have a much less costly set of tools to build such applications. In this new economy, all organizations are learning to live with the new reality of scaled-down budgets. It’s the new normal.

I am very encouraged by the ability of smaller to medium sized organizations to afford such tools. Formerly this was the exclusive purview of large enterprises. We can now envision an “uprising of the proletariat” and further reach for these tools into the broader market. It’s all good.

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