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Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Management Simulation Program

Yesterday, we had the Management Simulation Program at the Leavey School. In this exercise, we are divided into a number of "pseudo" organizations and each of us is assigned a designated management role, such as, President, VP, Director or a Manager. The idea was that we had all met at an off-shore meeting place to discuss issues and we had to come to some conclusive results and take some decisions. The objective of the exercise is to be able to identify problems, communicate efficiently, effectively manage your boss and of course, take correct decisions. Obviously, the time is at a scarcity - so, once you are given your exercise packet and you know what the problems/issues are in your group, you will be spending your time talking to your "boss","subordinates","peers" or researching about issues in the "corporate library" to come up with a decision.

The name of the organization in this exercise was Silicon Valley Technologies. It had 3 units - Wire (core business), Utility Products (decent market share) and Advanced Products (video projection and sound suppression). I was assigned the role of Director of Product Development, Advanced Products for Team X. Susmita was the Director of Sales and Marketing, Utility Products for Team VII. I had 2 managers reporting to me - 1 for Video products and the other for Sound Suppression. I had to report to my VP and I had the Director of Sales and Marketing, Advanced Products as my peer.

After going through the packet, I could understand that the Sound Suppression was doing well and there was an enormous potential for this product. So, the upper level management was trying to have aggressive sales target for that group. My goal was to determine whether it was possible to meet that and also to determine what were the additonal problems that were being faced in that group. I also realized that the Video Unit was not doing all that great, although it had quite a bit of potential. The upper level management had anticipated a 14% increase in sales target. Once again, my goal was to talk to the manager of that division and then determine whether it was possible to meet that and also to determine what were the additonal problems that were being faced in that group.

My initial conversations with the managers of the 2 groups did not reveal any new information. Both had issues to deal with but both were confident of meeting the sales target(probably a little lesser than the forecasted one). It was at the meeting with my VP that I got the first "googly" - the upper management was actually trying to sell the unit or tie up with another unit for some kind of licensing. Of course, this was extremely "hush-hush". So obviously, the idea was to focus more on the Sound Suppression unit.

At the end, the President addressed all the groups together and informed us of the decisions taken. There were quite a few actually (spanning across other sectors). For my group, they had decided to sell-off the Video Unit to get some cash flow going. I felt that the communication could have been better because I was informed about this only half-way through the exercise. If I had known about this, then probably, we could have given a stronger case for keeping that group :).

Lessons to learn

(1). Communication within an organization is really really important. Of course, everyone knows about this hard truth - this simulation exercise just shows that in practise.

(2). Being prepared for a meeting - a couple of times, I went into discussions with my peers and subordinates without knowing about the issues that were being talked about. Obviously, I couldn't contribute much at that time - I had to tell them that I would get back to them soon : a waste of my time as well as theirs.

(3). Manage your boss well - if your boss does well, you do well. In our case, I couldn't do much because we couldn't hold on to the Video unit that got sold off. Probably, I could have given more information (sales numbers, potential for growth etc) to my VP, who could have then communicated it to the higher level management.