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Successful Executive MBA Crisis Management Week

In mid-September 2017, the  International Executive MBA conducted its annual crisis management simulation. Always taking place at Kartause Ittingen (a retreat in the canton of Thurgau), a retreat with excellent infrastructure in the canton of Thurgau, it enables (and requires) students to apply everything they have learned over the course of their two-year program. In addition to business management topics such as strategy development or marketing, the focus is on teamwork, leadership, and intercultural management.

The week began on Monday with a five-hour final exam. One of its aims is to “motivate” students to do revision. In addition, it puts them under a certain amount of psychological stress that remains with them throughout the simulation exercise.

At around 5pm, after the exam and a short setting-up period, a one-hour session was held to introduce the simulation exercise. Students learned that PROFUMA, the model enterprise they had become very familiar with in their past two years of study, to the extent of becoming something of a “second employer” to them, had bitten off more than it could chew with its international expansion. As a result, it was now confronted with problems on many fronts that would either improve or become more serious depending on the students’ decisions and actions in the course of the week to come.

To make the simulation appear as genuine as possible, students were asked to take into consideration different time zones and cultures. They were presented with input from a number of different sources - from deceptively realistic newspaper articles to video news reports – as well as having to interact with a number of role players from different cultural backgrounds.

From the ethical evaluation of a suspiciously good offer from the Middle East and the handling of a highly dissatisfied customer in the Far East to negotiations with potential new major customers and the associated shift in priorities and planning, the management team had its hands full. Less realistic, but just as important for learning success was the continuous changes at the top of the model enterprise: Each student was given the opportunity to take over as the head of PROFUMA for a few hours - not entirely by themselves, however, but under the close supervision of the owner, a demanding private equity group. On the one hand, this gave everyone the opportunity to actually lead for a certain period of time while, on the other hand, the constant changes required a great deal of communication as well as well-structured transfers and briefings - all things that had to be worked out in the course of the exercise in a learning-by-doing approach. A brief intermezzo in the form of a daily debriefing, which consisted of self-reflection and feedback from the coaches, enabled students to learn from past mistakes and improve continually.

After three days of around-the-clock intensive simulation, participants were rewarded with a celebratory closing dinner at “Club zur Geduld” in Winterthur in an atmosphere that was both cozy and great fun. The week finally ended with an evaluation day, which began with a video summary of lessons learned and during which the group as a whole and all participants received detailed feedback. This finally led to very positive feedback from the students for this, for most, unique experience.

The IEMBA team is already looking forward to the next time.