Managers vie for recognition of skills

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 May, 2003, 12:00am

The Hongkong Management Game was introduced by the Hong Kong Management Association (HKMA) in 1971 to foster the decision-making abilities of corporate executives.

This year's game, sponsored by CLP Power Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways and the South China Morning Post , has attracted 92 participants playing in 23 teams.

Each team takes on the role of a company operating in a simulated business environment.

Scenarios require participants to demonstrate solid knowledge and skills in resource allocation, production, marketing and pricing strategies, as well as product development.

They have to handle management problems such as strikes, natural disasters or vendor-related problems.

The game uses a computer program called SINEW 4.3 to simulate a competitive business environment.

Developed for corporate training, the software has been used by corporations in Europe, the United States and Asia for in-house training and development programmes.

The eight-week Hongkong Management Game began last month and ends in mid-June.

During this time, participants are required to diagnose problems or scenarios and submit their decisions or strategies every week to the organiser via e-mail.

As in the real world, teams playing the game need to predict their competitors' strategies and actions accurately.

The software will use preset parameters to evaluate weekly submissions and generate and distribute a management report to each team for the next week's decisions.

The winning company will be the one that has benefited the most from the right decisions by accumulating the highest profits and capturing the greatest market share. The winning team will then go on to represent Hong Kong in a regional management game.

Last year's winning team in Hong Kong, code-named Santosa, came second in the regional game against teams from Singapore, Malaysia, India and Australia.

Chow Lap-man, asset development manager at CLP Power, led Santosa.

'The game/exercise gave me more confidence in dealing with business challenges,' he says.

'We had to make firm decisions in a short period of time. This benefited us all by enhancing our skills and knowledge for our long-term careers.'

The team consisted of four members of different departments at CLP Power. Three, including Mr Chow, were engineers and one was a finance executive.

All of them had joined an in-house training programme and were looking to improve their business skills and commercial awareness when they volunteered to play the game.

Mr Chow and his teammates experienced a few ups and downs.

'Our company almost went bankrupt in the regional game. But, with hard work and encouragement, we managed to turn the business around and made it profitable again,' Mr Chow says.

'In the end, we were only 2 to 3 per cent below the regional champion team in terms of profit.'

He advises this year's participants to formulate a 'a clear and focused strategy'.

'Just like any corporation, [a team] will run far better and more efficiently with an agreed strategy,' he says. A corporate strategy will also prevent participants changing their minds or tactics frequently, he says.

'For example, if your competitor cut their prices, it will be a great temptation for you to do the same, which might eventually harm the company.'

In addition, 'it is crucial to have a united team and good team spirit'.

'You need to build trust and be able to support each other. Moreover, you have to develop clear ground rules and divisions of labour. You have to utilise each other's expertise and strengths,' he says.

His finance teammate was strong in data analysis, whereas the engineers were good at dealing with a crisis.

Everyone was responsible for dealing with different scenarios and problems independently to attain higher levels of efficiency.

Finally, he says, data analysis is important.

'We could not make decisions based on gut feeling, even though it was only a game. We developed a template spreadsheet that could easily generate analysis and numbers for us to make the right decisions.

'It sped up the process, and we made consistent decisions,' he says.

Besides the valuable experience and enhanced skills gained, the four won a cash prize of HK$25,000, round-trip air tickets to Singapore and a trophy for their efforts.

The other three members of the winning team from CLP Power were Isabella Leung Mo-ching, Albert Lam Fun-sing and Kevin Lau Chi-keung.