Utility Wargaming – Preparing for the Unexpected | SEPA Skip to content

Utility Wargaming – Preparing for the Unexpected

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson, former heavy-weight champion

“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.” – Isaac Asimov, an American writer and professor

The electric industry has enjoyed decades of stable operations and incremental technological change.  This situation often leads to the development of strong corporate cultures that resists new ideas. The “we have always done it this way” mindset is a significant risk, given the rapid changes facing utilities.

Legacy systems and legacy mindsets are a risk to the future of incumbent providers. Can utilities go the way of AT&T?  “Old Ma Bell” had the mindset that controlling the wire to the customer meant controlling the customer.  New industry competitors are hoping utilities also adhere to this mindset.

The Value of Wargaming

Through the development of wargaming, participants can create real-time scenarios to consider new technologies, shifting workforce challenges and new competition. They can begin to consider a completely new competitive and technological landscape in a safe environment before the barbarians are knocking at the gate.

Attending our upcoming 3-session wargaming program will allow participants to experience the disruption of a hypothetical organization’s plans in multiple ways. They will then develop a wargaming prototype for their organization, allowing them to begin to consider how disruption can impact their plans. The 3-part virtual workshop series will be held this fall. Attendees will experience an iterative process of discovery tailored for their organization.

Attendees will also develop a game specific to the unique characteristics of their organizations by considering worst case, best case and likely case for a multitude of events (e.g. pandemic, supply chain, workforce, customers, politics, financial, weather, etc.). Following the development of the spectrum of outcomes (best to worst case) for each event, attendees will identify the stakeholders, both inside and outside the organization, that may be impacted. Then, the real fun begins, as we take attendees through a process of anticipating and reacting to the needs, demands, and actions of stakeholders. Without “knowing” how each group will react until it happens, attendees will learn to appreciate the exponential impact of others’ actions.

Consider the challenge of evaluating next moves when the best options depend on the choices made by someone else.  As the game continues, attendees will evolve their perspectives towards valuable cross-functional discussions and collaboration with stakeholders.

Wargaming has value across the organization

Wargaming Graphic

An additional benefit to wargaming is that it breaks down linear thinking based on logic. We know the world is not linear, but logic takes us down that path. Wargaming allows participants to fully access intuition, creativity, and empathy, as well as their logical minds.

Let’s look at its application from multiple perspectives.

Policy Makers: When setting the strategic direction of an organization, wargaming provides real-time appreciation of the cause and effect relationship across stakeholder groups. For instance, how does a change in a specific strategic decision impact human resources, versus finance, versus mid-sized customers? When the game is properly constructed, it provides feedback across the entire spectrum of stakeholders.  This provides the potential to improve strategic decision making.

Senior Leaders: In preparing the operating budget and strategic planning framework for policymakers, senior leaders can proactively consider multiple decisions without having to wait for the various departments to provide formalized feedback. The game gives directional indications of possible outcomes. This saves valuable resources and time.

Team building: An effective game has representatives from the key stakeholder groups participating in the development and implementation of the game. The ripple effects of the real-time changing of variables gives all stakeholders opportunities to provide feedback and better appreciate the complexity of decisions. The process engenders dynamic communication across the organization with improved empathy and cohesion.

Training: The development of talent across the workforce has become more critical in recent years. The development of the game creates opportunities for individuals from entry-level to senior leaders to interact in a simulated environment. This can create a shared consciousness around the challenges, and build knowledge and leadership capacity of the entire team.

Finally, this is a game.  Millennials and Generation Z have grown up with digital games. We believe they can take the basic constructs of the game and expand it to consider a multitude of challenges at differing operational levels within the organization.

Wargaming is a powerful tool whose time has come.

I hope these brief insights encourage you to join us for our wargaming workshop coming this fall. Sign up for updates here.