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Analysis of City Challenge Business Management Game

By Dr. B. T. Rubin, senior business consultant, Davis Rubin Associates Limited.

Table of Contents of this Analysis

The contents of this analysis are divided into the following discussion sections:

  • The Role of Business Management Games
  • The Object of this Analysis
City Challenge Business Management Game
  • General Description & Game Claims
Game Analysis
  • The Game Tradition
  • The Game Subject & Cultural Perspective
  • The Game Structure
  • Properties & Processes generated by the crafted Cryptic Clues
  • In-game objectives of participants/teams
  • Game Rules and Regulations
  • Critical Assessment of Game Elements, Motivation, the Effect of Subject Matter & How the Game Works
  • Critical Assessment of Behavioural Game Mechanisms

Summary of Game Format


The Role of Business Management Games

Standard bureaucratic structures are progressively challenged in the modern competitive international arena, with the requirement to deliver services and products with increased efficiency and at lower costs. The limitation of bureaucratic responsibilities and of the work /reward ethic as traditionally defined, both at the individual level and between departments, naturally creates boundaries in which the role of the individual seems restricted. The development of individual management abilities may be curtailed by the internal bureaucratic power structures. When individuals feel they are being treated as just cogs in a wheel, their inherent potential may never be realised. Business management games are recognised as playing an important role in developing interpersonal behaviour skills and knowledge-based decision skills of employees and through team building contribute to improved performance of organisational systems.

Current economic and social pressures, as technological changes have led to downsizing with the resultant radical change in job security, have forced a re-evaluation of the existing bureaucratic structures within organisations as they attempt to meet the demands emerging from the changing economic climate. The basic functional relationship being challenged is the traditional socio-economic balance between goals defined by the organisation and those defined by the individual. At the heart of the matter rests the optimum use of resources: increasingly it is recognised that the latent abilities of individuals within a business environment, coupled with the efficiency and power of co-operation, are critical resources to the future survival of the organisation. The development of individual behavioural skills and knowledge-based skills in a teamwork environment naturally promotes the self worth of the individual and leads to the notion of enjoyment as a key factor in the learning process. In tapping these resources, the gate is opened to release increased levels and quality of communication, co-operation and leadership potential, resulting in increased productivity and performance. Organisational and structural changes are inevitable if the development of untapped resources is to be realised: this may require existing formal divisional boundaries within the organisation to be extended, dissolved or completely re-defined.

The balance between organisational goals and individual goals is shifting away from the traditional end of the spectrum, which tended to ignore individual aspirations and resources, towards the modern end of the spectrum which includes the development and extension of individual resources and goals. As the goals of the organisation and those of the individual shift in relation to each other, becoming closer, the extent of convergence may ultimately determine the success of an organisation. If optimum balance is achieved, the individual within the organisation will experience 'work' as 'play'.

The purpose of management games such as City Challenge is to enhance the success of organisations by providing a game environment, which promotes the development of interpersonal and knowledge-based skills in a teamwork environment. The utilisation of these skills is essential if the organisation is to achieve the optimum balance between its own goals and those of the individual team member.

The Object of this Analysis

The purpose of the following analysis is to examine and compare the claims of City Challenge business management game objectives with the internal design structure of the game. We attempt to establish the extent to which the game structure matches and enables its expected outcomes in fulfilling the stated game objectives. Towards this end we have relied on the principles and criteria of management games as elegantly expounded in the Handbook of Management Games and Simulations, 6th Edition by Chris Elgood (Gower Publishing Limited, Gower House, Croft Road, Aldershot, Hampshire GU11 3HR, England. ISBN 0 566 07753 1).

City Challenge Business Management Game

General Description & Game Claims

City Challenge business management game is designed to develop team building, planning and time-management skills. Participants' work against the clock, in competition with other teams, to complete a carefully prepared series of tasks designed to enhance awareness, discovery, communication skills, co-operation and leadership. The method employed requires team members to navigate their way around a city within a specified time period, using the map provided, deducing the answers to the cryptic clues, whilst viewing and appreciating their historic surrounds.

The clues are carefully crafted and integrated to enhance achievement of the primary objectives: increased communication skills, co-operation and leadership skills. In solving the clues participants visit key historic sites and other landmarks of interest such as pubs and restaurants, where they are required to interact with the local community. E very activity requires attention to detail: some clues are deliberately linked to external observations as well as to each other. The solution to such clues demands the participation and co-operative effort of team members.

City Challenge takes place over a period of one day and is primarily suited to senior/middle management. Trained facilitators monitor the behaviour of teams throughout the game period and conduct intermediate and final review and feedback sessions with each team separately. The open plenary session allows the opportunity for teams to shine and to share their experience and learning achieved from the day.

Game Analysis

The Game Tradition

City Challenge business management game has its roots historically in three game traditions: pragmatic, social science and entertainment.

In the pragmatic tradition, the game design purports to engage, test or develop specific skills by the particular elements in the game.

In the social science tradition, the process through which a participant of the game passes is more significant than the subject matter of the game.

In the entertainment tradition a positive attitude is coupled to the learning process. City Challenge is strictly a management game, not a business game which would have its direct objectives defined in terms of financial profit.

The Game Subject & Cultural Perspective

The focus of City Challenge business management game is City and its history. Participants in City Challenge find themselves in a city renowned for its historic significance and in a cultural milieu often quite different from their home environment. The subject matter and game conditions encourage a sense of exploration of an unfamiliar environment, and the building of team spirit with their colleagues. Away from the confines of the everyday organisation, team members experience the freedom of personal communication with colleagues and discover areas of self-knowledge quite distinct from those in their familiar home environment. Engagement in a focused set of tasks, which do not directly impinge upon or threaten previous perceptions or behaviour, helps engender this feeling of freedom.

The Game Structure

The structure of City Challenge business management game employs information-gathering exercises requiring observation and interactive skills combined with team analysis of the collected information. The exercises are run against the clock, facilitating decision-making and behavioural skill-development within and between competitive teams, aimed at improving their overall communication, co-operation and leadership skills. Team members participate in deciding the format of leadership in their team. The game structure promotes personal interaction of team participants engaged in co-operative problem-solving activities. The co-operative problem-solving activities are independent of the specific information-gathering tasks.

Team participants are required to solve a set of cryptic clues by physically going to locations in the city to obtain the essential information. Team planning is required to ensure that all team members examine the collected information in order to reveal answers provided by linked clues.

A clue exchange device accomplishes interaction between teams. Each team possesses a cryptic clue vital to one of the opposing teams. Without exchange of clues no team can successfully complete its task. There are prescribed meeting times and locations at which these clues can be formally exchanged. The exchange process involves time-risk assessment and negotiation strategies.

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