For the MBA students and the master’s programs with the specialization International Business Management of the university “Institut supérieur du commerce de Paris” (ISC Paris), playing our business simulation Mastering General Management is an integral part of the curriculum. Since 2011, Prof. Dr. Sabine Bacouël-Jentjens has been using the TOPSIM business simulation in the compulsory module “General Management” to familiarize her students with the complexity of a medium-sized manufacturing company. The goals of the seminar are to develop an understanding of the “big picture“ and to promote communication skills in the team through playful application and specific assistance from the professor.
The “General Management” module is designed for master students and MBA students in their final year and is taught entirely in English. In total, a maximum of 25 students are allowed to participate in the seminar to ensure optimal supervision by the seminar leader. Exchange students can also register for this module. Each team is made up of 5 participants with at least one French and one international member. This is to promote intercultural exchange among each other. Over eight periods, the teams compete to establish their position in the national and then international market. In the past two years, the seminar has already taken place online and in a hybrid format but is now offered again completely in presence.
Procedure of the Seminar
A few weeks before the first official kick-off meeting, the students receive the participant’s manual and a corresponding pre-assignment. The most important key figures of the business simulation are to be summarized on two pages of text or in an Excel sheet. On the one hand, the students prepare themselves for the simulation and deal with its rules and regulations. On the other hand, the summary serves as a self-created guide for the further course of the seminar.
Over a period of four weeks, the block seminar takes place once a week. For each period, the teams have two and a half hours to set up their tactics and make reasonable decisions accordingly. During the subsequent evaluation, these are discussed in the large group, analyzed and reflected with targeted questions by the professor. Every week each team writes a short strategy report, explaining what they considered and why.
Special Features of Mastering General Management
According to Prof. Dr. Bacouël-Jentjens, Mastering General Management is particularly suitable as it offers students in their final year an ideal summary of the knowledge they have acquired so far. Rather than focusing on a specific individual area, the entirety and interdependencies of a company are considered. The challenge for the students is to understand these interconnections and consequently make strategically efficient decisions within their team, even if they are risky. In addition, the aspects of competition and the unpredictability of consequences, which correspond to reality, are very appealing to the students.
It’s not about looking at just one aspect in detail, as was the case with previous modules. It’s about grasping the entirety of a company as a team, understanding this complexity and also dealing with uncertainty. The most important thing is to have fun and make decisions that you might not make in real life, and with that learn from your mistakes.
Assessment and Challenges
Due to the moderate number of participants and the intensive supervision by Prof. Dr. Bacouel-Jentjens, it is possible to include many different evaluation criteria in the grading. On the one hand, she looks at several relevant key figures from the simulation, such as net income or the debt ratio. However, she focuses primarily on the written as well as oral contributions of the students, with which they justify their decisions and from which the key figures result. On the other hand, soft skills such as communication within the teams or the reliability of each member are included in the evaluation.
The greatest challenge for Prof. Dr. Bacouël-Jentjens as seminar leader is to manage the individual knowledge levels and interests of the respective students. Active communication and repeated feedback keep students motivated and maximize the learning effect of the business simulation. The coaching aspect is remarkably important to Prof. Dr. Bacouël-Jentjens. Although her external interventions are more frequent as a result, the teams benefit greatly from the feedback which is tailored to them. The comparatively higher workload proved to be well worth it in the past years.
In the future, the module “General Management” will remain an established part of the master’s program at ISC Paris. We would like to thank Prof. Dr. Bacouël-Jentjens for her enlightening insights and wish her students continued successful learning experiences with our simulation Mastering General Management.