By Margery Weinstein
When Cox Enterprise’s Cox Leadership Program (CLP) needed an action-learning simulation to support its curriculum, the company turned to PressTime, a computer-driven behavioral simulation created and distributed by Discovery Learning. After observing the simulation at a company in Canada, Susan Edwards, Cox’s business effectiveness and executive development consultant, decided it met the leadership program’s learning objectives.
“We were looking for an active learning experience that would require participants to build skills and knowledge in planning, strategy execution, decision-making, collaboration, and feedback,” says Edwards. “We wanted a strong business focus, but we also wanted an emphasis on people capability and engagement. This simulation appeared to do exactly that.”
PressTime is designed to simulate situations that compel participants to make the fast-paced and diverse decisions that project managers and team members have to make every day. “Basically, the simulation has the group running the development arm of a company,” says Lance Rigdon, CLP participant and senior director of technology at Manheim Digital, a subsidiary of Manheim owned by Cox. According to Rigdon, the company in the simulation makes typographic materials, and although it’s been successful, technology changes are forcing the company to make changes.
“The company’s primary product, while good, now is dated,” explains Rigdon. “To keep the company competitive, we had to figure out which of several new products to invest in, and then deploy a new product that will satisfy the needs of our customers.”
Rigdon explained that CLP participants all got to play different roles in the simulation—scientists, marketing, HR, planning, production, and finance. He chose the role of marketing representative to get out of his normal role. “I got to be the voice of the customer in our simulation and would get notes from time to time from Sales and others in the organization urging us to go faster, or driving us in terms of product features,” says Rigdon. “It was my responsibility to ensure the team didn’t lose sight of the important features our product needed to support. It was a great opportunity to see some of what goes into other roles in the company. The simulation is realistic, and you get to see the impact of your decisions almost immediately.”
Edwards says the simulation achieved what the company hoped for by teaching participants how to think strategically. “The simulation provided valuable lessons about specificity, or lack thereof, in strategy and the implications for execution,” says Edwards. “They got to experience the realities of starting out with agreement on a solid strategy and then see what happens when everyone becomes distracted by day-to-day urgencies.”
This gave them plenty to discuss during the debriefing about individual behaviors and group dynamics, says Edwards. “The experience provided valuable knowledge and practice in all the areas targeted, which were feedback, collaboration, decision-making, planning, and strategy execution,” she says.
According to program evaluations, the learning was seen as valuable by the executives, many of whom reported that the PressTime simulation provided the most valuable learning from the entire week-long CLP experience.
As evidence, Edwards shares some verbatim comments from participant evaluation sheets in response to the question, “What component this week provided the most valuable learning?”
- “The simulation was the most valuable because it clearly showed the value of effective decisions, leading courageously, fostering innovation, and influencing others.” “Simulator—I learn best by ‘doing’ and the reflections. This was fun, challenging, and relied heavily on teamwork. I can use the collaborating on a project experience in my role.”
- “Simulation, particularly because of the emphasis on decision-making styles, but also for an understanding of why some people make decisions in a certain way. Also, I had a good stretch assignment.”
- “The PressTime simulation—it was a great opportunity for us to work on ourselves in a group setting. I will use it as a reference when I work in groups at work.”
- “To me, the most valuable was the simulation. It helped me to be willing to take bigger risks.”
- “The simulation was very valuable. It was an excellent opportunity to work on my strengths and weaknesses in a safe environment.”
- “PressTime Simulation: This gave me a safe place to try out some new leadership tacks and find a balance between current and future states. I also felt the post-simulation feedback session was a real gift.”
- “The decision-style session. Working on a project and the group dynamics. Keep people in focus while in the heat of battle.”