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Evocatus Consulting Ltd

Building Resilience Through Business Wargames

By Anthony Sharman
Monday, March 22, 2021

ResilienceBusiness Wargaming

When many people think about “business wargaming", they tend to focus on the adversarial, gaming through scenarios and red teaming to generate competitive advantage.  This is understandable, given perceptions on what wargaming is and, perhaps, what businesses think defence uses it for.  At Evocatus, we know that defence uses wargames and exercises not to practice winning, but to develop people, teams and plans through practice, putting stress on all 3 in training so that they are more able to cope with adversity when it counts, on operations.  The stereotyped view of military teams is that they are tight, tough and well-drilled.  It makes sense that these qualities are required for the environments and roles they perform; environments and roles in which high levels of resilience are crucial to success.   


Resilience is defined as the ability to recover from setbacks, a combination of toughness and elasticity, which is every bit as important to businesses as to soldiers.  It starts with leadership and a culture which is both determined to keep going when things get hard but also flexible enough to adapt rapidly to changes in situation.  But operationalising this culture requires an approach to leadership and decision-making which allows for everyone to contribute; I’m not going to cover it here, but Stan McChrystal’s “Team of Teams” and “The Starfish and the Spider” by Brafman and Beckstorm are good places to start on how crucial decentralisation is to organisational agility and resilience.  Cultural change like this requires practice; exercises to build trust and confidence across teams are an important part of turning aspirations into reality.

As well as decentralising authority and decisions, risk management processes such as contingency planning are important ways to develop resilience, particularly when plans are developed in a scenario-based exercise in which teams can work together under pressure.  Having to improvise solutions in this sort of game are a great way to build confidence in dealing with the unexpected.

There is a range of ways in which we can help organisations to develop resilience.  At the simplest level, we can run a scenario-based discussion exercise, designed to get teams talking and thinking about their vulnerabilities and how they can prepare to face them; we also find that by making the exercise an immersive experience we can start to build the relationships, trust and confidence across the team which are the foundations of genuine resilience.  For organisations which have moved beyond this stage, a tabletop exercise may be more appropriate, designed to put a little more pressure on decision makers, or to stress-test a plan.  Finally, we can run live exercises to really immerse teams in the experience.  The only limits here are time and resource available; our team has experience managing exercises which run for weeks with thousands of participants, so we are up for a challenge!


We are really looking forwards to getting back on the road helping with this and other risk management strategies; Bath, Bristol or Exeter are our home turf but we are very happy working further afield when required.  Get in touch with us if you want your business to develop a more resilient approach in 2021.

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