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Thoughts on Change Management

Business Games as a means for triggering change in a company Bringing a new twist to organisational development

rectly assess a situation our behaviour appears to make sense, i.e., publicly reprimanding an employee or withdrawing important resources. But this incorrect assessment leads to a drop in performance in the organisation and among employees.

In day-to-day work, employees and management have to overcome many challenges. In addition to targets for production and customer satisfaction, they must also achieve goals for their own personal motivation (such as financial security for the family or positive co-operation with colleagues). In cases like these, applying and practicing soft skills, such as active change management and situational management, often have to take a back seat. This poses a huge dilemma for managers: Financial targets have to be met using existing resources even though managers more often than not have to implement changes without adequate training. It goes without saying that this internal balancing act impacts motivation among staff so that errors on content, organisation and motivation level easily happen in day-to-day work. Although, a different perspective may be gained in retrospect, at the point in time when we incor-

It is, above all, external factors, such as processes and regulations, but also personal perceptions and options, which lead to cognitive dissonance when assessing the situation. Managers find themselves in a dilemma where they have to quickly “make the right decision�. In most cases, they can only rely on their own experience or a preconceived opinion in order to make their decision. Very rarely do we find a revision loop that ensures that our own actions are questioned and corrected with a view to corporate culture and scientific findings.


Thoughts on Change Management

Games as a practice area

via. Business games can also be adapted to the special needs of a company.

More than 50 years ago, Thomas Watson, head of IBM, said “Business is a game, the greatest game in the world if you know how to play it.” And after work, people in households all over the world continue to play. Some of these games, like Monopoly or You’re Bluffing! depict the world of business and teach players how to deal with assets and risks. They are also an exciting way to question our own assumptions and to gain new insights in a fenced-off area. All good reason therefore to use this instinct to play in order to develop new skills and properties in business.

Theories by famous business scientists, such as Daniel Goleman (emotional intelligence), John Kotter (change management) and Meyers Brick (MBTI indicators), are taken into consideration when drawing up such games. The learning and transfer rate of these complex themes in business games is much higher than in classical learning programmes. The focus here is on the idea of bringing about changes in behaviour and attitudes through discourse. As part of the game, the players’ preconceived opinions are thrown open to discussion in the group. That’s why business games are such a good way of taking the first step towards change.

A business game works pretty much in the same way as a board game (with a board and cards), but is geared towards situations relevant to business. This means that the purpose of the game is not primarily to entertain, but to pursue a development or teaching target. By using a business game, a very complex theme can be simplified and everyday life can be set aside.

Triggering the change journey Events, supported by business games, are extremely exhilarating for employees and organisations. During the course of the game, energy is released and rewarding interaction becomes possible. This means that they can provide strong catalytic forces to successful change initiatives. The challenging part is to maintain the energy level and the will to persevere.

We find business games to be very beneficial in change projects. Business games are board games which help managers and employees to discuss and practice specific situations in the business world. They force the players to apply their brain power as well as their emotional intelligence in a team context. We consider this to be a unique and educational combination.

Business games can therefore only trigger processes. They ideally serve as a supporting tool within an architecture of sweeping change. They support and enhance change. Sustainability, however, can only be achieved through regular and systemic measures. Since business games address the emotional level in the change process, they hence ensure that this level is explicitly taken into consideration and integrated.

Business games as organisational development tools There is a huge range of themes available: Whether change or project management, process or strategy optimisation, these board games are already very popular in Scandina-


Thoughts on Change Management

Case study – Changing the industrial safety culture with business games In an effort to motivate its employees to play an active part in the development of a safety culture, Danish State Railways (DSB) adopted an unconventional approach by using “SafetyFirstTM”, a business game with tailored game cards. In workshops, train drivers and track workers were confronted with statements depicting classical dilemmas. One card, for instance, read “It’s OK to make a phone call while driving the train” or “We don’t write a report when a colleague violates safety guidelines”. Even if the first statement is easy to answer, it is evident in practice how difficult some people still find it to respond in a safety conscious manner. DSB wanted to ensure that safety-relevant behaviour is discussed, so that positive and inspiring examples can be identified and integrated into the organisation. The participants were forced to take up positions. Addressing the dilemma helped each participant to actively make culture-relevant decisions and helped to strengthen corporate culture in the long term. Corporate culture changes from the inside out: This change does not turn into action until there is a change in employees’ basic assumptions. And ultimately, measures in organisational development should always be geared towards improvement. One frequent cause of train accidents is failure to observe signals. Triggered by inattention, this human error leads to a higher safety risk. At DSB, active work on personal opinions and various proactive discussions have led to a decline in the number of times signals were not observed. This motivated Danish State Railways to allow additional units to actively work on safety culture. In this way, employees are to be motivated to actively work on an improved safety culture. After all, a decline in the number of accidents is also a safety culture that is visible and is being lived.

About Acrasio Acrasio is a strategy consultancy with extensive international experience with major blue chip companies.


The consulting approach incorporates two different aspects: • Analysis of the business surrounding (market, competition, regulations) and identification of adequate strategy and approach • Understanding of the human pool and employee basis and structure for a better alignment with the company’s objectives

Dr. Karin Stumpf focuses on the management of organizational changes to improve business efficiency and effectiveness. She holds an MBA and a Master in Organisational Psychology. Previously she worked for two of the world’s biggest strategy consulting firms (McKinsey & Deloitte) +49 30 44317996


Business Games as a means for triggering change in a company  
Business Games as a means for triggering change in a company  

Bringing a new twist to organisational development