Management

Tough game even for veteran professionals

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 August, 2009, 12:00am

Just because you have years of corporate work experience - or are an avid fan of the Simbusi game - it doesn't mean you stand a better chance of winning the Hong Kong Management Game, says the designer of the computer simulation.

Players need to tackle a multitude of changing variables as the game progresses, and the idea is to strengthen management skills while enhancing business knowledge.

'Your previous experience from playing the game doesn't give you any advantage at winning the game because new business challenges, concerns and internal factors, such as customers, perceptions and competitors, will affect the business outcome and the ultimate result,' said Russell Morris, the game's designer.

For players to perform well, it is important to maintain an open mind, observe and analyse each move competitors make, and respond with appropriate strategies. 'That's why the game is so dynamic and challenging,' Mr Morris said. The game has been adopted in more than 30 countries for commercial or educational purposes.

Winners of this year's game were a group of four undergraduate students from Chinese University. They beat 'Air Cargo 1', a team from Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals which came in as first runner-up, and 'Oil & Gas number 1' from Hong Kong and China Gas Company which finished second runner-up.

'The students were more open-minded in approaching a business issue from different perspectives, and that's why they won. Contestants with a job may have focused only on one specific aspect, and this could have narrowed their thinking and led them to failure,' said Mr Morris, who attributed the failure of certain teams to their lack of foresight to gauge how things were developing in the game and reacting to these changes on time.

The game has been used by Mr Morris in co-operation with management staff to train everyone from shop stewards to army officers on subjects such as budget control and risk management.

According to So Shing-ho, senior manager of the Hong Kong Management Association, the annual management game was introduced by the association in 1971 and is open to members of the public. Participating teams of four members each make up fictitious companies. They submit decisions regarding marketing, pricing, production and finance once a week and compete in real-life business situations for six accounting periods. Companies are challenged with a wide array of simulated management problems including strikes, labour disputes, anticompetition tactics, terrorist attacks and labour outsourcing.

Because of its practical training value, a growing number of local educational institutes, such as the Vocational Training Council, have incorporated the game as a major component of their business strategy courses in recent years. The idea is to hone the students' business skills and knowledge in a fun way.

'The simulation game can supplement lectures and tutorials and provide students with a platform where they can experience how to manage a company and develop business strategies,' Mr So said.

Through this game, students can develop a business plan, set directions for their virtual businesses, and react to their competitors. The interactive nature of the game requires students to re-evaluate the situation after each move and modify their strategies to achieve the desired outcome.

'This risk-free virtual environment gives students the opportunity to try new strategies under different economic situations and helps them minimise their chances of making a wrong decision, which may lead to a loss for the company they work for in the real world,' Mr So said.