Simulate your office’s future

Look around. No, really, look around. Does your workplace operate in ways even remotely similar to the manner it did, say, four years ago? If not (because of job cuts, office closures, geographic changes, expansion, whatever), then ask yourself if it would have been useful to have seen a simulation back then of how your IT shop works today.

I’m guessing that you don’t work for an enlightened firm that uses simulation software to present various business and work scenarios in order to encourage cross-training or broaden the knowledge base of all employees. Few of us do.

It’s not that the tools aren’t there. Schools across the country use simulation software developed by New York-based nonprofit Classroom Inc. to expose students to a variety of workplace skills. Interested in what it’s like to be the manager of a paper mill? Classroom Inc. has a module to deepen your understanding of environmental topics, land use, conservation, air quality and recycling.

The modules are designed for teams consisting of three students and teachers who have been trained to present the material as part of the school curriculum. According to Pamela Patton Cone, head of product technology at Classroom Inc., parent guides are also available for each simulation, and training services are always included with the software.

Some businesses are putting similar tools to use.

Managers at St. Louis-based utility Ameren Corp. use technology from Maumee, Ohio-based Root Learning Inc. to role-play, going through the decision-making processes they may encounter running the company. Questions such as, “Should an energy purchase take place, and what effect will a reduction in the workforce have on overall production?” are available as part of the simulation package.

Some CFOs might balk at the idea, saying there’s no real payoff for the costs involved in creating simulations. But they’d be wrong. The current tools can reuse a company’s everyday forms and templates so that it doesn’t have to spend time creating new forms to build simulations around. The simulated company really is your company.

But even with new tools to make it easier to build simulation modules, you must commit to keeping your corporate curriculum up to date, just as you would any technical textbook. Otherwise, you’ll look dated. For example, the current version of Classroom Inc.’s software for students simulating the world of an IT project manager shows an office administrator greeting a new employee with talk of stock options.