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Wargaming The secret of business resilience

Tank on chess board - "Wargaming ? The secret of business resilience"
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Improvise, adapt and overcome. This phrase is often used to describe the process of resilience. But however true it is, and however useful, this only describes the process. It does nothing to tell us how we can be good at it. Richard Lawrence, CEO of CounterStrike explains how businesses can use the theory of wargaming to become more resilient and grow stronger teams.

We probably all know someone we would describe as being good in a crisis. We may even think that this individual has an uncommon gift, that some genetic boon has been bestowed upon them that magically makes them a quick thinker, infinitely able to adapt to changing events.

The truth is more prosaic. They are quick thinking and adaptable because they have thought about it all before. The hard work has already been done.

Take, for example, the seemingly super-human special forces operative who makes rapid and accurate decisions under fire following years of the finest training available. He does not simply rock up to the battlefield, shrug his shoulders and say, ?let’s see what happens?.

And the business world is no different. The most resilient individuals don’t just ?go with the flow?. When any plan of action is considered, they always ask, ?what can go wrong?” and make plans for those contingencies.

The best performing teams do this as a formal process A wargame to give it its military term. The wargame takes place when a plan has been worked up in detail and is now ready to face scrutiny.

A team effort

The secret of this process is that it is a collective effort. The intellectual horsepower of the team is combined. No single individual is expected to have a monopoly on good ideas. The wargame starts from a basic principle ?no plan survives contact with the enemy?.

Whatever our best intentions, the forces of chaos will play their part. The enemy will have its say. The enemy is anything that can act to oppose our aim.

In the business context, this is not only your competitors, but changing market conditions, consumer habits and, as we re now seeing, global pandemics.

Wargaming in business

In the business context, let us take the rollout of a marketing strategy as an example. The target customers could be played by an individual whose job is not merely to conform to our expectations of what we want them to do, but to operate in an independent way, as people do.

“If our expectations of our potential customers are based on false assumptions or hopeful guesswork, now is when it will come to light.

At each stage of the rollout, ask these questions:

  • What is the target customer doing at this stage
  • What might they be thinking?
  • What are our competitors doing at this stage
  • How might they inhibit our chances of success?

Planning survival amidst a pandemic

Right now, many businesses including mine are furiously planning their survival during the COVID pandemic.

As we rollout our plan to stay in business, we have an individual playing the role of the Government. This individual can even play the wargame in two ?modes” to account for different scenarios. One where they play the Government’s likely actions and one where they play the Government’s worst likely actions (in terms of how tighter restrictions will affect business).

The result of this process is not just identifying problems, it is creating plans for overcoming them.

“The wargame gives us the opportunity to adapt whether it calls for slight adjustments, contingency plans or a complete overhaul.

The benefit of this process goes far beyond the immediate needs of the plan in question. It creates a culture where teams and individuals constantly test their processes against what can go wrong.

Active engagement

That culture is essentially one where questions are asked. This enables business managers to actively engage with their employees by asking them questions and encouraging them to contribute to planning and solutions.

It’s not a trick question or a trap, the manager doesn’t already know the right answer. These are genuine questions, requiring real teamwork to identify and resolve.

These genuine questions enable employees to analyse their own role in the business, teach the manager and ultimately inform future planning.

As well as growing more resilient to enemy attacks” in whatever given form, the process will also give teams a greater sense of purpose, satisfaction and loyalty.

With businesses the world over confined to working remotely, it’s more important than ever to cultivate that sense of teamwork, belonging and camaraderie.

Having coached many businesses in resilience training, I have had the privilege of watching this play out and seen teams start to work together in ways they hadn?t considered before.

The culture of wargaming then becomes a continuous process, with the best minds in your team all working together to build resistance into the heart of your organisation.

Captain Richard Lawrence in uniform
Captain Lawrence (left) says wargaming can be used to increase business resilience

About Richard Lawrence

Richard Lawrence is a former infantry officer in the British Army who now heads up CounterStrike which delivers resilience training to companies to help them become better equipped to cope with change and adversity.

Whilst still serving, Richard realised that the lessons learned from the experience of dealing with crisis on a daily basis could be applied to companies and the corporate world to help them become more resilient, efficient and productive while better understanding their colleagues and working together better.

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