by Dan Parisi
Olympic athletes, pro sports teams and members of the military’s special forces all strive to achieve the highest levels of human performance. Winning requires not only innate talent but enormous amounts of focused practice.
In business, time is rarely set aside for practice. Employees are expected to be in performance mode 100 percent of the time. Even when a company’s senior executive team completely shifts the company’s strategy, opportunities for practice are rarely created. Instead, employees are expected to step into roles with little more preparation than viewing a PowerPoint presentation. Imagine what would happen if a professional sports coach put a basketball player in the game without the opportunity to practice with the team?
Winning requires not only innate talent but enormous amounts of focused practice.
Innovative leaders are taking a page from the playbook of elite performers and turning to business simulations and rigorous practice techniques as a way to accellerate their employees’ transitions into new roles, align employees to the strategy and enhance the skills and capabilities required to deliver results. Business simulations can drive business insight and change behaviour by providing a realistic approximation of the business environment. Simulations enable participants to experience:
- How behaviour and action fit into the larger business strategy;
- Define the characteristics of the new behaviours;
- Identify what situations will require the new behaviours;
- Learn what is important, to whom, and in what circumstances;
- How behaviours impact different aspects of the initiative.
Case study: Autodesk
In 2009, Autodesk, an engineering and entertainment software developer, set out to change the mindset of its value-added resellers (VARs), the group responsible for 90 percent of the company’s billions of dollars in sales.
In order to successfully execute the new sales strategy, Autodesk VARs had to learn to focus on solving a customer’s business challenge and avoid tactical selling based on application feature sets.
Autodesk found that the traditional approach of broadcasting the strategy to the channel via PowerPoint presentations and memos was not achieving the desired results. Instead, they invested in a business simulation that would enable their 1,900 reseller partners to practice a more powerful and effective sales approach.
Becoming the customer
Autodesk worked with BTS Group, a strategy execution consultancy, to develop a customized computer simulation that let the sales force and resellers practice running an industrial machinery manufacturing company. The simulation began with the sales force and resellers taking on the role of CEO at a potential Autodesk client. The resellers were then forced to wrestle with the decisions the customer would have to make.
After running the customer company through a three-year simulation, the VARs switched back to their sales roles. They then called on the company and the executives whom they had played in the simulation and used their expanded knowledge of the client’s strategic issues to better position Autodesk’s software solutions in the context of helping customers win in the marketplace.
In the end, the simulation of the industrial machinery manufacturing company enabled participants to develop a deep understanding of the business drivers for the customer, which resulted in meeting many of the project’s goals.