HKMA’s Hong Kong Management Game 2015 provides the perfect test for aspiring leaders
Long before computer games surged in popularity, the annual Hong Kong Management Association’s (HKMA) computer-based Hong Kong Management Game was challenging the skills of young professionals and providing them with a training platform to become managers and leaders of the future.
Launched in 1971, the Hong Kong Management Game is a knockout competition using real-life business scenarios leading up to a final. Glover Chan, senior marketing manager at HKMA, says the competition has developed over the years into one of the most sophisticated and challenging computer-simulated management training exercises available – one that develops and tests teams in an exciting and competitive atmosphere.
He adds that the competition focuses on testing each team’s ability to integrate financial, production, investment and marketing skills to develop effective business decisions and gain market capacity.
“Participants get a risk-free opportunity to try and practise some new management strategies,” Chan says. “The realistic simulation of business is not just a game, but has serious training objectives. The game also stresses the value of teamwork, so colleagues or friends are encouraged to form teams to join the competition.”
Over four decades, more than 400 participants from various sectors have come together to form teams to try to outwit each other in making management decisions.
This year’s Hong Kong Management Game – devised by renowned game designer Russell Morris – will challenge participants to operate a business in the pet food industry.
In each round, small groups will compete in a contest over a specified number of accounting periods. All rounds, except for the final, are played through online correspondence. According to the game schedule, teams submit their decisions by email once a week. The initial trial round consists of two periods played over two weeks, followed by the official round of eight sessions played over two months.
Chan says the game has been updated significantly over the years. At first, the game was based on a simple format where participants played against a computer rather than each other. As it developed, participating teams came to compete against each other instead. This year, participants will be able to use a tailor-made computer program to try out different scenarios and record their decisions.
To ensure the game remains relevant, the software has been rewritten five times and a completely new Windows-based system was developed in 2000. “The ability to simulate different management problems have mushroomed considerably,” Chan says. “As new trends within management have occurred, the software has been developed to incorporate them.”
New facilities are constantly being developed, often as a result of feedback from the game’s administrators and participants. “The current software is able to combine many different facilities to reflect almost any management situation,” Chan says.
Pet project: Participants face realistic challenges in a competitive market
For budding Jack Mas and Mark Zuckerbergs, taking part in one of the most sophisticated and challenging computer-simulated management training exercises available allows them to get a feel for running a real-life business without the financial risk of failure.
Game designer Russell Morris says the annual Hong Kong Management Game is designed to reflect the demands and trends of the modern business environment, while challenging the ability of participants to operate a business in a highly competitive sector.
With this year’s game focusing on the pet food industry, each team will face the same realistic business situations, while having to decide how best to increase their market share and profits.
A major new feature this year is the ability to trade and resell. The challenge will require teams to operate a pet food manufacturing business with its own retail outlets.
“In order to maximise profits, the retail outlets also sell a line of pet accessories purchased from another manufacturer,” Morris says. While production is still important, the requirement to purchase products for retail resale gives participating teams plenty of opportunities for considering such things as product mix, product suitability and product balance.
Morris says the required business strategies reflect the nature of the problems faced by this type of company, but can easily be applied to any company with a significant product mix. “Add to this the fact that one type of product is a foodstuff, which makes many demands on production, packaging, quality and hygiene,” Morris says, stressing that the challenge will require team discussions regarding ethics and corporate responsibility.
A key part of the challenge is learning about how the different functions within a company relate to each other, and what the resultant effect is on team building, Morris adds.
Glover Chan, senior marketing manager at HKMA, says the essence of the game is the ability to make consistently sound business decisions in the fields of finance, production, investment and marketing – even in a time of crisis.
“Decisions need to be welded into a strategy if a winning combination is to be achieved,” he says.