Top 3 Tactics for Business Simulation Exercise Time Management

I am a time freak. My colleagues know it, as do my kids and family/friends. It’s a problem.

During our courses there are many moving parts, all of which need to be coordinated and orchestrated to create an effective learning experience. As the facilitator, if you’re not “on top” of all these moving parts, things can quickly get out of hand, resulting in both a poor learning experience, or even worse – a failure to keep to the agenda. As I learned during Edwin Tufte’s excellent course on presentations – nobody wants a presentation to go long, no matter how good the speaker.

Over the past 24 years of running simulation-based exercises, I’ve utilized three useful and effective tactics to stay on time and to ensure a great learning experience.

  1. Track It and Show It! Use a publicly viewable timer. You can’t control what you don’t measure. If a break is to last ten minutes or a decision-round 90 minutes, make sure everyone can track the allotted time easily, like on a larger projected image using the same projector you’re using for PowerPoints. This is so important that we’ve developed our own customizable timer with features such as logo display and end of time messages. Download a free version here.
  2. Have a “fun” punishment. Those that fail to arrive on time or take too long for that break need some sort of consequence. Sure they’re all adults, but when a teammate is not present it can impact your team’s performance in the business simulation, or generally just disrupt the class. In addition, it’s inconsiderate. Thirty people waiting two minutes for someone to arrive or the exercise to begin have burned through one man-hour – and that’s wasteful (see, I told you I have a problem!).
  3. So make the “punishment” fun. I like using Bean Boozled from Jelly Belly. Late-comers simply take a jelly bean from the container. It could be chocolate flavored or maybe it’s canned dog food (coconut vs. baby wipe – you get the picture). You don’t know the flavor when you select the bean, but you don’t really want to find out, so come back on time. This tactic works around the world! We’ve tried it. Order your jelly beans here.

  4. Structure Participant Presentations. If your agenda calls for participant-led presentations (which many of our Northwestern University classes call for), make sure there is a time limit, and that it is enforced. If you haven’t been exposed to Pecha Kucha I highly recommend this technique as a powerful, but simple way to keep presentations interesting, to the point, and time-constrained.