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Strome College of Business

Interview with Team Chester

Students in the MBA capstone strategy class participate in a simulation. In the simulation, students work in teams to manage a firm (in the electronic sensor industry). Teams have to analyze the environment, that is, customer demand characteristics, competitor actions, and making decisions involving Strategy, R & D, Production, Marketing, HR, Labor negotiations, Finance, and TQM. Decisions get processed on a weekly basis. In this semester, students in Dr. Nair's class played two practice rounds and 4 competition rounds. Success in the simulation depends on understanding the details of the simulation, analyzing the environment correctly, serving customer demands as closely as possible, understanding competitor strategies, making decisions that are well integrated, and managing group dynamics. After each round, CAPSIM produces detailed reports on student performance. These include both comprehensive balanced scorecard measures and financial and accounting metrics such as stock price, market cap, ROA, and ROS. Strome MBA students have typically performed well in the simulation, and on many metrics, have placed in the top 10 globally — with thousands of teams playing the simulation at universities across the world each semester, placing in top 10 in any performance metric is a significant accomplishment! During Spring 2020, one team in Dr. Nair's course placed #1 globally in one critical measure of performance: ROA.

The 2020 Team included the following members: Kimberly Early, Andrew Knudson, Sihang Li, Jacob Napierala, and Matt Graham. Even during the best of times, doing group work in a virtual setting is challenging for MBA students balancing work, family and school; however, to succeed during the COVID crisis is particularly commendable.

We interviewed members of the team to find out their recipe for success.

Q: Congratulations! The team ranked first on ROA. Can you briefly talk about the experience of playing CAPSIM?

A: First and foremost, we all agree the CAPSIM group project has been the highlight of our MBA program. Many classes in the program have given attention to group work, but none have allowed us to see the results of our work in real time. We were all sad when it ended as CAPSIM never seemed like chore, but rather an exciting learning experience.

Q: So, what was the secret of your success?

A: Each member of the team did lot of reading and research about CAPSIM. We read the manual and watched hours of YouTube videos for advice from past players. This gave each of us ideas that we could bring to our team meetings.

The research also helped us figure out that having a clear strategy was very important to long-term success. We also realized that we had to adopt a comprehensive approach and invest in products, functions and initiatives to generate returns.

Q: With full time jobs and family, how did you all manage the team dynamics and coordination?

A: As a team we committed to weekly Zoom meetings on Saturday mornings. These meetings sometimes lasted up to three hours, but it allowed us to communicate more effectively and ensure we were all on the same page when it came to decision making. It was a unique experience as several of us are not even in the same location, geographically speaking, but we still were able to collaborate effectively using technology. Jake emerged as our leader and we gladly dubbed him our CEO. He was a trooper each week, sharing his screen via Zoom and changing the inputs in each department (Marketing, R&D, etc.), based on the group's feedback. We shared a lot of coffee during our meetings.

Jake: Those coffee breaks might have been vital to our success!

Q: Managing virtual team dynamics across geographic zones is challenging . . . I am sure it was even more challenging due to the disruption cause by COVID. How did your team manage to work around the disruption?

A: When COVID disrupted the schedule, we adjusted, as a team. Each of us was understanding of one another's work situation. During the week of transition to online classes, some of us were not able to research as much as others due to work obligations, it was during this time that those who could research helped to pull the team through.

Again, Congratulations to all of you and we look forward to following your careers! Good Luck!

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