War Games: Setting the Agenda

A War Game can seem like a free-flowing event with little organization, but the appearance of chaos belies the effort that goes into setting an agenda and keeping the event on task and under control. The key to making the event stay focused even though it seems unscripted to the participants is a good agenda.

A War Game agenda builds on the analysis tools used to structure the event in a way that leads the teams towards actionable results. Typically, the agenda starts with a review of these tools, which sets the tone of the War Game and focuses the participants on the process. The review is important even when all the participants are familiar with the tools that will be used in the exercise, but since at least some of the participants are usually not familiar with them, a review session gets everyone on the same page.

Beginning the War Game with this review of analysis tools does not have to be more than covering the basics of how the tools work and how they are to be applied in the War Game event. This common base will ensure that the tools are applied equally by each of the War Game teams and thus produce more uniform analysis.

Once the tools are defined, the next item on the agenda is typically a breakout session in which the teams apply the tools to analyze the companies in the War Game. This first session is intended to set the tone for the rest of the War Game and to define each competitor in terms of its current place in the market, strategy, capabilities, and capacity. The actual analysis tools used and the outcomes of the first session are based on the goals of the overall War Game and will vary from game to game.

A War Game will most often have a second breakout session in which each of the competing teams will identify likely next steps for its company. These next steps are based on the analysis done in the first breakout and informed by knowledge of the current market and the competitor’s capabilities. Depending on the circumstances of the War Game, additional analysis tools may be used at this step to refine and focus the effort on determining likely competitor actions. As with the first breakout results, the actual assessment of what the competitor will do is based on the analysis, the scope of the War Game, and the strategic or tactical issues the War Game is built around.

The final key agenda item of a War Game is the roll-up session. In this session, the War Game teams unite to define strategy and/or tactics that can be used to meet the likely actions of the competitors. Often, implementation tasks will be assigned to team members to ensure that the War Game delivers real results to the company.

In our next post, we’ll address how to leverage the results of your War Game into actions to achieve strategic and tactical advantage.

– Erik Glitman, CEO