Major Automotive Player Accelerates Manager Commercial Acumen using Simulation

Case Study by Ken Thompson

Background to the Customer:

The company is a global automotive company with an enviable brand and customer loyalty in all its markets including luxury and SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) segments.

Customer Needs

Like all its major competitors the company operates in a highly competitive and regulated global market and as a result it needs to ensure that its community of managers are totally at the peak of their performance in terms of their “commercial acumen”. HR in consultation with the other business departments designed and commissioned an integrated portfolio of taught and experiential learning sessions on this topic aimed at the different manager grades and each addressing a different horizon – operational/near-term, operational/medium-term and strategic/long-term. Each of these sessions runs for 1 or 2 whole days which is a big commitment in terms of manager time spent away from the job.  

The Solution

The company commissioned a custom business simulation based on our AUTOPLAY Business Simulation Blueprint.

AUTOPLAY allows teams to manage Sales, Market Shares and Profits for a representative portfolio of company products across different markets for 4 periods which can be quarters, years or longer all of which takes place in a single day!

Core features include Organisational Decisions such as Corporate Branding and Marketing plus Product-in-Market Decisions such as Price Elasticity and Supply & Demand Balancing.

AUTOPLAY was customised with particular features of importance to the customer such as :

  • CO2 Emissions with National Targets and Penalties
  • The impact of foreign currency movements on sales and costs within different markets
  • “Variable Marketing” support to dealers and its impact on the sales of different vehicle types depending on their maturities and market positions
  • Special Projects which could be commissioned to impact the Brand or Dealer Channels
  • Market Updates at the start of each round covering key competitor activity such as new models and promotional price campaigns
  • Global Updates covering relevant economic factors and government policy changes
  • These market and global updates were delivered by professional actors in the form of BBC/CNN news bulletins to maximise their impact and realism.


Participant Feedback

Below are some direct quotes from the company managers about what they learned from the simulations:

  • Working in cross-functional teams means you think in a wider business context, and learn from each other
  • Teaches how quickly market conditions can change, through using market updates
  • Simulation teaches you how to react to market conditions and that you don’t need to react to all market updates, it’s better to stick to a good strategy and follow through on it!
  • Amazed at how nimble you have to be to stay above the game, as market conditions can go wrong so quickly
  • Learnt you need to pay attention to all data that is available and not just what you think is important. e.g. look at customer satisfaction as well as financial performance
  • Simulation enables delegates to link to the bigger picture

Overall Conclusions and Value

We designed the simulation in close partnership with a senior company director who also acted as both Sponsor and “Lead Subject Matter Expert”. They also introduce each session and act as the “CEO in the Simulation” judging the final results performance and presentation of each team of managers. The winning team is presented with a Commercial Acumen Trophy at the end of each session and all teams scores were recorded an online league table which all previous teams could see.

The fact that  a senior sponsor is happy to invest half a days time every month to support the Commercial Acumen Simulation with the manager community pretty much says it all in terms of the value of the simulation!

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More about Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson

Ken is a practitioner, author and speaker on Leadership, Collaborative Working, High Performing Teams, Change Management, Project Management and Business Acumen. His work has featured in major publications including The Guardian , Wired Magazine, The Huffington Post and The Henry Ford Magazine. Ken has also spoken at many international events including TEDx, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Learn Tech (London) and NASA.

Ken is Founder of Business Simulations Ltd.

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