The military hones its strategies with role-playing simulations. The technique can help your business, too–but you have to make it realistic. By: Paul Schoemaker & Toomas Truumees, partner at DSI.
Before the SEALs raided Osama bin Laden’s hideout, they worked for months on their strategy, studying satellite pictures of his compound, constructing a detailed model of the buildings and rehearsing exactly how the mission would unfold. A key part of the preparation was to have some participants play the role of the enemy–to simulate how the defenders would react, so the SEALs could remain one step ahead.
In our consulting business, we encourage clients to do simulations in their business strategizing. We call it war-gaming–because metaphorically, that’s what it is. It serves exactly the same purpose as for the SEALs.
For example, one client, a pediatric hospital, was grappling with how to respond to rapid consolidation in their metro area. Larger hospitals with adult patients were actively looking to merge or form strategic alliances. To prepare, the hospital CEO engaged his board in a simulation in which board members teamed up in roles as the market’s five major competitors. Each team was given wide latitude to explore possible alliances or mergers over the next two years. Thanks to the simulation, the executive team quickly realized that their most direct pediatric competitor would likely want to merge if certain adult hospital mergers were to occur. As it happened, one such major consolidation was announced just a week after the simulation. The CEO and board were aligned and ready to act. They quickly approached the other pediatric hospital about teaming up and seized an opportunity that might otherwise have been lost.
Five steps to a good simulation. Read More.