In this case study we discuss the use of Business Simulations as a powerful tool to compliment a major Change Management Project. We interviewed Scott Milne, the Director of Strategic Portfolio Management at MPAC, to get his insights and feedback.
The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) is a Canadian public sector organisation responsible for assessing the value of more than five million properties across Ontario, and it’s their job to provide an accurate and impartial property inventory. The work they do is a vital input for government programs, business decisions and property transactions, and their data helps identify changes and trends in property uses in Ontario.
MPAC has undergone considerable change in recent years as the organisation transitioned from public sector to a private sector business model. This transition necessitated an extensive change management program covering culture and technology, aimed at helping the enterprise adapt to its evolving remit.
The MPAC management team implemented 13 corporate programs over several years across all areas of the business. However, teams were not fully engaged with the process and success was limited. As advocates of the ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement) change management model, employees were familiar with the theory, but didn’t feel connected to or have ownership of the strategy. Feedback suggested ADKAR felt more theoretical than applicable in a working environment, with teams quickly slipping back to 'business as usual'.
In a 2016 employee engagement survey, only 38 per cent of MPAC employees felt that the pace of change was sustainable. The remainder felt the pace of change was rushed. Employees also reported that they did not feel a sense of ownership over the process.
Recognizing the importance of culture and the pivotal role that employees had to play, MPAC management understood that something had to shift if they were to truly implement lasting change. They had previously tried simulation technology and knew it worked. That’s when they approached Business Simulations Ltd to ask if we could help.
We spent time listening to MPAC’s requirements, working with them to identify where we could add value. In 2017, we introduced two Change Management Simulations, COHORT & CHAPTER. Each Simulation session lasts approximately 3 hours, with employees virtually rolling out a program of change, whilst trying to build and influence Stakeholder support for the program, forcing participants to collaborate and work as teams.
Employees really enjoyed the sessions, which helped deliver long-lasting results. Employee engagement has risen year on year, despite an increasing number of change initiatives. To date, MPAC have successfully run over 35 Business Simulation sessions, to over 650 staff.
Feedback highlighted the value in having a dedicated time for employees to fully discuss their thoughts on the Change Management programs, under the guise of a 'gamified training session'. This opened up conversations and allowed teams to engage collaboratively as well as competitively. They got to know each other and heard how the changes and strategy impacted across all of the organisation.
Participants used the Stakeholder Mapping Tool to identify Stakeholders and their influence within the organisation. Playing the Simulation allowed them to try different styles of engaging with decision makers, management or those they had limited contact with, in a virtual environment, where they could safely experiment and learn new ways of operating.
"The Simulations are a fun way for Project Teams, Executives and Leaders to understand the concepts of Change Management, as well as how to implement them.
We leave the sessions with the key principles of Change Management firmly embedded, for when we next need to introduce or change a Business Process, Strategy, Technology or project within the organization".
Scott Milne, Director of Strategic Portfolio Management – MPAC
When employees were surveyed again in 2017, MPAC saw an immediate jump of 10 per cent, with 48 per cent of those surveyed now saying that the 'pace of change was’ just right'. In 2019, this increased to 61 per cent in support of the change initiatives which translates into better employee engagement all round.
In reviewing the results of these employee surveys over the last four years, MPAC was able to appreciate what these figures translated into, in terms of impacts to the business.
- Employees were more engaged with their day to day work, which increased productivity.
- Teams were more collaborative which helped break down long established silos.
- The Simulations helped develop insights into other’s roles and the challenges they might face, which led to better rapport and a better working environment.
- Employees gained a deeper understanding of the need for change and what was driving the program, which increased support for the initiatives.