How to conduct a business simulation

Strategies for driving organizational success through practice


Published on: April 2024

Mastering virtual realities for real-world results

Senior executives are increasingly turning to one powerful tool to optimize their decision-making and strategic planning: business simulations. Leaders who are committed to helping their organizations grow into the future understand the potential of this invaluable virtual reality is not just a nice to have, but need to have. In short, simulations change the game when it comes to strategy, alignment, and change.

Understanding Business Simulations

What is a business simulation? It is a dynamic, iterative model of an organization’s business operations, or a part therewithin; simulations leverage technology to mirror complex real-world scenarios designed for learning. Simulations are designed to empower leaders by giving them a low-risk, hands-on learning experiences that bridge the gap between analysis and execution.

Purpose and benefits in decision making

The core purpose of a business simulation is to simulate a real-life business scenario. Some common examples include scenarios like new market entry, product launch, crisis management, and many similar situations that significantly impacts revenue, talent, growth, and customer satisfaction.

Types of simulations

Simulations come in many flavors, each suited to a particular business need. At BTS, we offer a variety of simulations that are customized to the support the specific needs of our client organizations.

Enterprise simulations

Dynamic business simulations are built to immerse your cross-functional teams in real-world customer problems, business trade-offs, and dynamic competition.

Strategy simulations

The best way to activate your strategy, from the top down, is by creating opportunities for your leaders to pressure test and practice.

Workflow simulations

Supply chain, engineering product design and manufacturing, sales methodologies and agile sprints are complex processes. Employees need simulation time to understand the bigger picture in these situations. Simulations shed light on cause & effect, key metrics, and the ways in which each individual contributes to the desired outcomes of your strategy.

Job simulations

Test driving a day in the life deepens understanding of expectations and provides insight into capabilities and development needs to perform at peak.

Leadership and cultural simulations

Leaders and managers need to practice the pivotal Moments where leaders make or break cultural shifts. Leaders need to build experience in recognizing key moments, identifying what great looks like in those moments, and then practice new behaviors and mindsets to accelerate development.

Business unit and function simulations

These simulations help illustrates what a high performing function/BU looks and feels like and highlights the pivotal levers and KPI’s required to drive the right business outcomes.

Steps to a successful Simulation

Business simulations are an art as much as they are a science. Below are the steps you must take to make the most of this tool and meet the needs of your organization.

Step 1: Define objectives and scope

Always begin with a crystal-clear understanding of what you aim to achieve. Are you testing a new product idea? Assessing the impact of a merger? Preparing for an industry disruption? Defining your why early on will bring focus to your simulation, align the goals of your team, and ensure the simulation directly addresses your key challenges and desired outcomes.

Step 2: Select Simulation tools and software

Choose your tools wisely! Today’s market is replete with sophisticated simulation tools and software. Be it COO models, supply chain management platforms, or market forecasting applications — select the ones that align best with your objectives and are adaptable to the unique contours of your enterprise.

Step 3: Gather relevant data

Data is the lifeblood of every simulation. Precise, current, and comprehensive data is necessary to construct a realistic model. From financial reports to customer surveys, gather a wide range of internal and external data points to feed the simulation engine.

Step 4: Build scenario models

Next, design the scenarios you aim to simulate. Develop base case, best case, and worst-case scenarios to cover a spectrum of possibilities and outcomes. Tweak variables, such as pricing or marketing strategies, to observe the ripple effects across your simulated environment.

Step 5: Conduct the simulation

It’s game day! Assign and assume roles, make decisions, and witness the unfolding of events. This stage requires active participation, strategic thinking, and agility to respond to dynamic conditions that arise within the simulation.

Step 6: Analyze results and extract insights

When participants have completed the simulation, it’s time to sift through data and narratives to understand how their decisions fared. Look for trends, root causes, and areas where your strategy was sound or could benefit from refinement.

Step 7: Implement findings into strategy

The final step — and often the most critical — is translating insights learned into actionable strategic plans. Whether it’s a pivot in your product line, an adjustment to your communication strategy, or a shift in your operational model, use the simulation as a compass to guide your next moves.

Big benefits for executives

For senior leaders, the impact of a business simulation experience is lasting. Simulations promote continuous learning and push teams constantly iterate, improve, and work together well into the future. The distance between learning and application, in this practical experience, is reduced to a few clicks.

Enhancing strategic thinking

Simulations require big-picture, enterprise thinking. By engaging in these exercises, senior leaders enhance their strategic prowess and develop the ability to connect disparate dots to make better decisions on behalf of your organization.

Fostering team collaboration and alignment

Simulations are not just for solitary strategists; they magnify the importance of teamwork and the art of consensus building. They provide a platform for teams to align their vision, collaborate effectively, and intimidate the turbulence of change with prepared unity.

The future is now

In the relentless sprint toward the future, business simulations stand out as driver of future success. Simulations position leaders to transform every key decision, and every strategic goal, into a story of success and alignment.

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