Managing change is an essential part of strategy execution but many courses focus on strategy content and fail to give implementation the attention is deserves. As such, students may underestimate how much resistance they will encounter and managing this is key to success. Amy Lewis and Mark Grosser published a Journal of Management Education paper that describes an exercise for teaching change management. This 45-minute exercise can be used in a range of management courses and works well in almost any size class. Students are divided into two groups (managers and workers) that must cooperate to produce a re-organization (a simple seating chart). However, managers discover that workers are reluctant to move and about 90% of classes fail to achieve the task. This generates a lively discussion on what is required to lead change, as well as on topics such as communication, trust, power, and motivation. I just ran this for the first time and, to my surprise, the students were successful. However, in the process, it was clear that there were moments of distrust within and between groups. A last person held out to see if he could appropriate more value. In the end, the management team gave up all value that was created. That is, employees appropriated all of the value and managers actually lost money in the exercise. It was quite successful and students thanked me for the experience. All of the details needed to run the exercise are in the article at the link above and it was easy to set up and run.
Contributed by Russ Coff
I used this in my professional MBA class and it worked perfectly in illustrating resistance to change, power and conflict, and the need for communication.
I used this exercise in the first half of the semester in my MS Global Commerce graduate class and it worked very well in illustrating key points around trust, power, information asymmetry, communication, etc.