Management Game Techniques and International NGOs
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Previously published in International Associations,
1967, 10, pp. 659-665
Management games or simulation exercises have generated considerable interest
among educators, training directors, operations research scientists, and among
business executives. This article discusses some of the main features of these
games: what they are, their usefulness, their limitations, etc. The purpose
of the article is to indicate their potential value to international organizations.
What is a management game ?
A management game is a dynamic training exercise utilizing a model of organizations
in a workday environment. The organization could be a business, a library, a
government department, a professional association or an NGO, in fact any organized
social entity. The participants, executives or officers, are grouped together
to represent the controlling bodies of the organizations. Each body is required
to make the same operating and policy decisions as are made in real life. The
decisions are made on the basis of periodical reports which may consist of press
reports, financial and cost reports, membership reports, personnel reports,
forecast, etc. The decisions and reports refer to a specific time period, which
may he a day, a month or a year. Decisions are made for the next period. They
are processed, new reports are returned, and the game proceeds. Time is thus
compressed and many months or years of operational decisions may be made during
the course of the game.
Games have varied in complexity from monsters which require 300 decisions by
teams of 18 every decision. period, down to tiddlers which require only 3 decisions
by one-man teams.
There are at least 100 management games in existence. Some are designed for
competition between teams or individuals, in others a solitary player competes
against a computer or a standard of performance. Some use a computer as umpire;
others have human umpires who evaluate deci-. sions manually. Games can be either
competitive or non-competitive, aiming in the latter case at maximum co-operation.
Why have management games ?
The main reason for using management games is that they provide the opportunity
to learn from experience without paying the price in funds, morale or prestige,
that would result from incorrect decisions in real life. Management games
can be made very realistic and are used for quite serious purposes. They are
exciting and are powerful educational tools which increase understanding and
ability in decision making and problem solving. They create an awareness of
the interrelatedness of the many factors that must be taken into account in
any organizational situation.
What are management games used for ?
Games were originally developed to simulate military and political decision
making. They have acquired a degree of notoriety with such expressions as 'the
Pentagon war games'. They have since been used to simulate decision making in telephone exchanges, hanks, insurance companies, industries, government
departments, and in many other spheres.
Games can be constructed to simulate decision making in non-profit organizations,
hospitals, libraries, schools, professional associations and other such bodies.
Most games concentrate on general management principles, such as organization
theory, human relations, long-range planning, decision making, communications
and the effective utilization of time, men and materials. Other games aim
at teaching very specific skills and techniques, particularly those built
around the production planning and control function.
How are games played in practice ?
Games have been designed for varying numbers of participants from one to
about fifty. The latter are the more typical and are organized as follows. The
game generally begins with a briefing. The instructor describes the organizations
and their objectives in the environment. He will explain the factors which will
oppose those objectives and that the organization will only be successful if
it correctly balances, its various decisions and plans at each stage of the
game. The instructor then details the decisions that have to be made and the
reports and other data on which these decisions must be based. All sorts of
factors may be included in the game, such as: strikes, resignation of vital
executives, loss of needed information, takeovers, Acts of God, etc.
Each controlling body then has to determine its specific objectives, evolve
a structure (president, vice-president and other executive positions) and
make decisions for the 'first period. These are usually recorded on pre-printed
forms. At the end of the decision session the forms from each organization are
collected and processed, either manually or, more commonly, by computer. New
reports are distributed indicating the actual performance over the past period
and new environmental factors to be taken into consideration. New decisions
are made and the process is then repeated.
When a set number of periods have been played the results for the whole period
are then displayed on graphs. The graphs are analyzed by the participants
and the instructor to evaluate decisions and determine to what extent they led
to the desired results. The game may have simulated a commercial situation,
with, for example, four competing companies selling two products in three
different markets. One company may have so balanced its decisions as to achieve
the greatest return on the money invested.
How are games made- how much do they cost ?
The first step in designing a game is to decide very clearly what the game
is to be used for. This establishes the criterion by which irrelevant frills
can subsequently be assessed and rejected to keep the game simple.
The second step is to list out the decisions that it is required that each
player or team should make. These decisions should then be checked through carefully
to determine whether each is absolutely necessary in terms of the criterion
The third step is to work out in detail the desired effect of each decision-the
results it will have. The game becomes more sophisticated if several decisions
interact (particularly those of all the teams in the game) to give a particular
result e. g. quality, price, advertising may determine sales. The relationships
between decision areas and results can be obtained from historical data for
the organization. They can be summarized in graphs or tables.
The fourth step is to decide whether the game is to be a manual or computer
game. In the first case preparation costs can be kept low (executives time
plus clerical costs, simple materials, counters, etc.) but the game must then
remain fairly simple or else processing of decisions becomes burdensome, slow
and open to inaccuracy. It is difficult to run large games on manual systems.
Using a computer involves costly prograin testing and it is costly to run
the game- it is, however, much easier and much faster, and with good contacts
it is generally possible to get free computer time. The computer, of course,
allows many complexities to be introduced into the game-it also adds prestige
to the game, which can be very important.
The fifth step is to test the game repeatedly to discover the flaws and decisions
which produce peculiar results-these 'bugs' have to be removed.
One existing computer game is so well balanced and flexible that it will react
correctly to decisions to close down the factory, fire the workers and go bankrupt
and will still prepare a valid balance sheet, income statement, etc.
A complete manual game could be prepared by anyone with limited mathematical
knowledge -although, of course, the more sophisticated the game the more
sophisticated the mathematics required. A computer game would have to pass from
stage four into the hands of a computer service bureau with detailed written
instructions as to what was required.
Limitations of management games ?
Games have limitations. In general, they may cost more, both in money and personnel,
than other educational tools. Questions have been raised as to the validity
of games as training tools, but the enthusiasm of, and favourable comment from
participants is certainly an indication of their value.
Another problem is the validity of the model. Obviously since the game model
is an abstraction from reality the game can only aim to appear realistic
to the player. An illusion of reality can, however, sometimes be more convincing
than reality itself.
What use are games to international NGOs ?
There are a number of possible uses of these games to international NGOs. Games
could be developed to illustrate the decisions and problems in congress organizations,
in the creation of an NGO and in the actual work of one or more international
One of the problems for an individual in a national organization who is suddenly
allocated the unfamiliar task of organizing an international congress is that
he has no concept of or feel for the many problems with which he will have to
deal. A game is ideally suited to the task of allowing him to go over his various
decisions in a simulated environment without having to suffer the embarrassment
of some of the disastrous results achieved in practice. The game plus information
on the game 'environment'
could be sent to the organizer. He could make his decisions for the first phase
of congress preparation on special forms and return these for processing.
They could be evaluated manually (30-60 minutes) or by computer (about 1 minute)
and the revised situation reports could be returned to the organizer for his
decisions on the next phase, and so on. In this way the neophyte organizer could
gain an awareness of the problems he will face, month by month, and an evaluation
of the probability of success of his simulated congress.
Features could be introduced so that the organizer would have to cope with
evaluating alternative congress halls and dates, organizing accommodation,
inviting participants, bargaining with airlines, keeping within budget limits,
scheduling, etc. A game could be built up so that groups of organizers could
simulate the competition for the best facilities. Such a game could perhaps
be used at a congress of congress organizers. With computer processing, decisions
on two years of congress preparation could be simulated during the course of
one day or less of real time.
b) Creating an NGO
It is often the case that national organization delegates can be brought together
for an international congress but are extremely suspicious as to the value
of going a step further and forming an NGO. Each organization suspects that
it may be forced into implementing or supporting policies with which it is not
in agreement. The problem here is a conceptual one. The national organizations
do not know how the operations of an international organization would affect
them. Clearly there is an argument for the use of specially designed games
to simulate the interactions between members resulting from the creation of
an international NGO.
How would this work ? Each national organization interested in the formation
of the NGO could be given a set of decisions to make on the basis of a preliminary
agreed game constitution. The decisions would be collected, processed and the
resulting decisions and effects returned to the national bodies. This procedure
could then be repeated with decisions, votes or proposals for activities by
the NGO. Votes could he taken to modify the constitution if if proved unsatisfactory or favoured any particular group.
EXHIBIT I: EXAMPLES OF REPORTS AND DECISIONS IN A POSSIBLE
Reports received on performance in Period III (e.
g. a period of 3 months)
(N.B. These reports are used as a basis for decisions for the next
period, Period IV).
1. Balance sheet.
2. Income and expenditure statement :
- donations, legacies, etc.;
- magazine revenue, advertising revenue.
3. Programs and activities successfully initiated (shortterm, long-term)
: _ indicates a measure of effectiveness.
4. Numbers of new and lapsed members :
- indicates long-term acceptability of policies.
5. Numbers of favourable and unfavourable letters received
- indicates short-term acceptability of policies.
6. Number of paid personnel hired, fired, resigned. Number of voluntary
7. Magazine quality indicator.
8. Indicator of comparable salary levels in commerce.
9. Influence indicator :
- a figure computed from membership, donations, magazine quality and
sales, etc. to indicate a level of performance for the period.
Decisions made for Period IV
(N.B. These decisions are used as a basis for computing the information
in the reports on performance for the period, Period IV.
1. Expenditure on programs to be initiated (short-term, long-term).
2. Expenditure on office and other equipment :
- compensates for depreciation;
- increases efficiency.
3. Expenditure on membership campaign.
4. Bank loans to be obtained-if possible.
5. Donations to be solicited :
- too much effort in this direction reduces the level of the Influence
6. Magazine :
- pages of text;
- pages of advertising to attempt to sell;
- copies to be produced;
- selling price.
7. Number of paid personnel to be taken on or fired. Number of voluntary
8. Salaries of personnel.
All these decisions can be made to interact e. g. :
1) if salaries go below a certain percentage of commercial salaries there
is a chance that personnel may resign;
2) if funds are not devoted to activities the rate of increase of membership
may become negative.)
In this way, either by post or during a congress, a more real concept of
the consequences of the creation of the NGO would be obtained by the members
or delegates of each national organization. In addition, using game models
allows the delegations to produce successive improvements to the constitution
until it provides the basis for the formulation of a satisfactory final version
for use in practice.
c) Working NGO Simulation
A working NGO has a wide range of problems which include balancing the conflicting
interests of members, scheduling programs in its field of activity, interaction
with other NGOs, personnel, UN consultative status, relations with national
governments, obtaining funds and controlling operational expenditure. Many of
these could be included in a game. What for ? Such a game could be used to simulate
the consequences of suggested new policies to determine likely results. Naturally,
it could only he a guide as it is difficult and expensive to build an accurate
The game could also he used to give an understanding of the operations of
the NGO to potential members, new staff, or the Executive Council. A game
has been used by the management of a commercial firm to explain operational
problems to its Board, realistically and in a short space of time, prior to
a critical decision.
The main use of these games in business is for training management. Although
members of top management may he very familiar with their businesses and tend
to resent the implication that they can learn anything from a game, participants
soon become highly involved. This is particularly the case where the result
of the game indicates some level of proficiency. A game is a good medium for
introducing some new technique. It allows the treasurer to undertake the functions
of the production manager and, consequently, to understand his problems and
exhorbitant demands in real life. NGOs could use games in the same way. Where
the Secretariat of an NGO rotates between the HQ of national member organizations,
a training game would very usefully orientate the new office holders to the
problems with which they will be faced. An example of some of the reports and
decisions that might be included is given in Exhibit I.
What is the potential of management games in international relations ?
Games have great potential as research and training tools in all areas involving
administration and decision-making. For example, one game has been developed
to attempt to simulate the problems and interactions during United Nations peace
negotiations, in this case the nuclear disarmement treaty (ref. 4). In the
past few years, ILO experts in management development have used business games
in various countries, adapting the game to the conditions of each particular
country, usually in a simplified form to be used without the need of a computer.
On the business side, the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business
has developed the first major business simulation exercise oriented toward the
specific problems of international trade and cooperation by multi-national corporations. The game covers problems in four areas (U.S.A., E.E.C., Brazil, Liechtenstein),
whose inhabitants represent three different cultures. The corporations may choose
to become members of a fictive World Federation of Appliance Manufacturers
and can then, if they pay their dues, receive this NGO's magazine, which contains
information on changes in the international market (see ref. 7). Efforts have
also been made to simulate the behaviour of particular countries. Two projects
are of special interest to international organizations.
The first is an international relations game developed as part of the International
Relations Program at Northwestern University, U. S. A. (for an analysis of some
other international relations games, see ref. 1; for a bibliography on simulation
in international relations, see ref. 9). The game operates at a number
of levels, with humans serving as 'decision-makers,' who are assembled into
'nations', which in turn interrelate with each other, as well as with surrogate
'governments' acting for 'international organizations,' forming an 'international
system.' These components are interlaced with each other through interaction
of the decision-makers, both within their nations and between the nations, as
well as through a set of computed programs, which helps to provide the capabilities
and restraints of the simulation. The game involves 5-7 teams of 3-7
persons each. Each team represents a nation which has one member as ruler. The
rulers make decisions on political,
economic, and other factors. The decision-makers of each nation can freely
develop relations between their states as their circumstances dictate. Each
ruler must satisfy his voters but may follow policies of any shade from capitalist
to totalitarian. International governmental organizations may be formed. The
game is manually scored by an umpire staff. It has been used by college students
and professional diplomats and is now available commercially as a kit for educational
and research purposes (see ref. 10). During one run, as an example (ref. 5)
'two large powers established an international grant-in-aid corporation to
which the dissident smaller powers, flirting with aggressive national policies,
might apply for grants-in-aid. The external ministers who manned the corporation,
however, squabbled so much among themselves that, before the terms of the grants
were formulated, the smaller countries experienced internal disorders, with
many changes in their decision-makers. The disagreements among the great powers
and the disorders within the smaller powers eventuated in a world war. It was
interesting to note that the postwar peace treaty provided, among other things,
for reestablishment of an international grant-in-aid corporation, this time
with a worldwide membership on its board.'
The game as it stands has only 5-7 teams. Many theories in international
relations can be built and tested with such a limited number of nations. In
order to simulate situations in the real world more accurately, however, the
effects of many new social entities must be brought into the model. The more
that are introduced, the more fruitful and representative the model hecomes,
and the more difficult it is to check. It is to be hoped that future computer
and mathematical techniques will enable researchers to represent, within
the same model, the effects of relations between all the different social entities
mentioned in the following passage on model checking by Prof. H. Guetzkow (ref.
9, pp. 262-3) :
'Once one abandons the level of the total system and begins to work with
large social groupings, such as nations and international organizations, one
has many entities available for validation studies. The world contains approximately
120 countries. There are about 200 intergovernmental organizations (IGO's).
Add to these roughly 2,000 international organizations of the non-governmental
variety (NGO's), along with 1,000 to 1,500 international businesses. One then
has a universe of almost 5,000 entities, counting such quasiunits as alliances
among the states. If one were to work with the interest groups related to external
matters in each of the 120 countries, one would have a population of at least
another 5,000 entities.
Moving to the level of the person: were one to check the validity of the simulate
decision- makers against the political leaders themselves, those making and
executing policy in the foreign ministries throughout the world (about 35,000),
the international civil servants who operate the official and non-governmental
international organizations (an additional 10,000), and the international business
executives (another 5,000), one would have a universe of approximately 50,000
The other project has been initiated by Southern Illinois University as part
of R. Buckminster Fuller's World Design Science Decade 1965-75. The proposal
by Fuller is concerned with the development of a large-scale, computerized,
world display and game facility. It is to be part of the University's Centennial
celebrations. The World Game, as it is called, will be the first attempt to
set up a physical facility directed towards the solution of world problems
on a scale now only available for war games. Though similar to the World Game,
and extremely ad-
vanced technically, the large military command and control installations are
limited by their purpose. The World Game facility would treat a whole world
map complex as a dynamic display surface capable of showing a comprehensive
inventory of the planet's raw and organized resources, together with the history
and patterns of world people's movements and needs. The facility will be used
for educational and research purposes.
These are clearly only the first steps. In time it will be possible to simulate
the complete network of relations between national and international organizations.
The value and effect of planned changes will then be assessed, clashes anticipated
to some extent, and communication improved. More important is that this would
provide a realistic model for the concept of the interdependence of organizations,
businesses and governments which represent individuals throughout the world.
Games have been used successfully in all types of organization except international
NGOs. It is hoped that this article has shown that management games could
be of considerable use to NGOs. Cost may be a limiting factor but groups of
NGOs with similar problems could use a similar game. Development costs could
be spread between them. Many satisfactory manual games have been built at reasonable
Les Techniques du "Management Game" et
les ONGs Iinternationales
Résumé de l'article en anglais
Le "management game" est un exercice auquel peuvent se livrer
entreprises industrielles et commerciales, départements ministériels,
Les participants groupés pour représenter les organes de contrôle
des entreprises, doivent prendre sur la con duite des affaires les décisions à caractère
opératoire tout comme dans la vie courante. Ces décisions sont
prises sur la base de rapports périodiques de toute nature. Décisions
et rapports portent sur une période déterminée, que ce
soit un jour, un mois ou une année. Les décisions sont prises
toujours pour la période suivante. Elles sont enregistrées, de
nouveaux rapports sont remis et le jeu continue. Le temps est ainsi compressé et
les décisions opératoires dont l'élaboration prend normalement
plusieurs mois ou années peuvent être concentrées pendant
la durée du jeu.
Les jeux varient en complexité de 300 décisions pour une équipe
de 18, à 3 décisions pour un seul homme. Il existe au moins 100 "management
games": compéti tion entre équipes etinvididus, entre
joueur isolé et ordinateur... certains utilisent l'ordinateur comme
ar bitre, d'autres préfèrent les arbitres humains.
Le "management game" fournit une occasion de profiter des enseignements
de l'expérience. Ce sont des instruments éducatifs qui augmentent
la clairvoyance et l'habileté à prendre les décisions.
A l'origine ils ont été utilisés dans le domaine militaire
et politique, mais depuis, dans bien d'autres sphères. Ils sont pour
la plupart concentrés sur les principes d'organisation. Pour préparer le jeu, il faut d'abord répondre à 4
questions: dans quel but le jeu va-t-il être utilisé ? - Quelles
sont les décisions
à prendre ? - Quel est dans le détail l'effet recherché de
chacune des décisions ? - Se servira-t-on de moyens manuels ou
d'ordinateur ? Enfin il faut essayer le jeu pour découvrir ses défauts
en même temps que les décisions qui amènent des résultats
Les jeux ont leurs limitations. Ils peuvent coûter davantage que d'autres
auxiliaires éducatifs. Ils sont aussi, ne l'oublions pas, une abstraction
de la réalité.
Ils peuvent avoir leur utilisation dans plusieurs aspects de l'activité des
organisations internationales non gouvernementales, par exemple: la préparation
d'un congrès, la création d'une ONG, l'établissement d'un
programme, la solution des conflits d'intérêts, etc... Pour l'organisation
d'un congrès les données introduites peuvent être: . plusieurs
dates et lieu de congrès possibles, le logement, les invitations, les
limites budgétaires. Un tel jeu pourrait être utilisé à un
congrès d'organisateurs de congrès. Le jeu peut aussi aider les
associations nationales qui préparent la création d'une organisation
à se rendre compte plus exactement des conséquences de leur démarche.
L'auteur cite plusieurs expériences de "jeu" dans le
domaine des relations internationales, mais regrette que celles-ci n'aient
jamais été encore tentées chez les ONG internationales.
M. Judge pense que malgré le coût de ces opérations, le "management
game" devrait être essayé par les ONG, éventuellement
en groupant celles qui travaillent dans le même domaine.
1. Harold Guetzkow, Chadwick F. Alger, et al. Simulation in International
Relations: Developments for Research and Teaching.
Prentice-Hall. 1963, bibl.
2. P. S. Greenlaw, et al. Business Simulation. In: Industrial
and University Education. Prentice-Hall, 1962.
3. J. M. Kibbe, et al. Management Games: A New
Technique for Executive Development. Reinhold Publishing,
4. O. J. Bartos. A Model of Negotiation and Some Experimental
Evidence. In: F. Massarik (Ed.), Explorations in Behavior al Science, Irwin,
5. Harold Guetzkow. Structured Programmes in Their Relation to Free
Activity within the Inter-Nation Simulation. In: F. Massarik (Ed.), Explorations in Behavioral
6. A. P. Raia. A Study of the Educational Value of Management
Games. The Journal of Business, University of Chicago, 39, July 1966,
pp. 339-352, bibl.
7. H. B. Thorelli and R. L. Graves. International Operations Simulation
with comments on design and use of management games. Free
Press of Glencoe, 1964, bibl.
8. International University Contact for Management Education. Management
Games. Summary Report. Delft, 1963.
9. Harold Guetzkow. Simulation in International Relations. In
: Proceedings of the IBM Scientific Computing Symposium on Simulation Models
and Gaming, held on December 7-9, 1964, at the Thomas J. Watson Research
Center, Yorktown Heights, N. Y. (Includes bibliography updated to June 1966).
10. Harold Guetzkow and C. H. Cherryholmes. Inter-Nation Simulation
Kit. Science Research Associates, Inc.,
11. T. H. Naylor, et al. Computer Simulation Techniques.
12. Claude McMillan, et al. Systems Analysis; a computer approach to
decision models. Irwin, 1965.
13. K. D. Tocher. The Art of Simulation. Van Nostrand,
14. C. P. Bonini. Simulation of Information and Decision Systems
in the Firm. Prentice-Hall, 1963.
15. R. Mattesich. Simulation of the Firm through a Budget Computer
Program. Irwin, 1964, bibl