Skip to main content

Experiencing Leadership & Change management process: integrate innovative active learning methods


Students on a video call

By Dorra JlouliIng, Agr, MBA
Part-Time Professor at the Telfer School of Management, uOttawa

Telfer School of management MBA’s students in the course Leadership & Management - MBA5636 – felt proud this semester about experiencing an interactive online simulation to acquire leadership skills preparing them to successfully lead change management process in their organisation!

« We are very proud to have been part of the first group in North America to complete Wallbreakers Leadership online simulation.! »  said Vickie L. , Mireille N., Cherlande R and Charlotte K., candidates to MBA 2022, Telfer School of management. I warmly thank the University of Ottawa and Professor Dorra Jlouli for providing us with this rich experience as part of our MBA journey", added Mireille N.

Who had not faced challenges while managing one’s team resistance caused by a major process of organisation’s change ? Our recent context of COVID-19 is the best shared example.

Innovate in our way of teaching

8 dimensions of leadershipThe recent move to the online training in our Ottawa University was itself a significant change that had a major impact on the teaching methods we have been using. That said, this context was also a great opportunity forcing us to lead with innovative ways of teaching. The Funding Program for Pedagogical Innovation of Telfer School of Management supported our initiatives to innovate in our way of teaching. My certification for using and facilitating a workshop with Wallbreakers leadership simulation was supported by this innovation Fund.  It’s an excellent example proving the efficiency of learning by action where the students enjoy the game while learning leadership skills.

"And honestly, I would r'ank this method at the top of the list for learning change management and leadership in general! ”, said Arlette G.

How does it work?

wall_break_simulation_screenPrior to the two day simulation workshop, the students learnt the different theory related to leadership and change management that they need to practice during the simulation. We went especially through the Gauleman leadership styles, disc® 8 dimensions of leadership , Ungian-Inspired Personality Types,  Rick Maurer approach to change management, Jand ohn Kotter’s Eight Accelerators.

During the workshop, the students are divided into 4 teams where every team represents the manager of one of the major four  departments of the company who have to lead the change and overcome the resistance of their 10 employee who have recently heard about a fusion between their company and an unknown one. The buses, the game’s metaphor for the department, are presented with different colours (green, red, yellow and violet).

The students are competing and every team see simultaneously the way the other teams are managing their change process. What you see inside the buses  are not pieces of Lego game, but the employee. The students have to move forward the buses from the first phase of the change process (The Start-up phase) to the last one (the anchoring one). They are challenged  to keep as many employees as inside the bus during the hole process of change. That’s a continued challenge as the “virtual employee” resist all along the three phases of the change process.

competition_resultsThe students have to manage both the gear they decide to use to move the buses forward (the speed of managing the change) and to take the suitable leadership action to manage their employee’s resistance. They immediately see the effect of their decision in terms of employee resistance as shown below.The only way to overcome their employee resistance is to choose the suitable leadership decision to bring their employee back to the bus “their department”.

“Through a practical case on managing a merger of two companies, I had fun using the Wallbreakers tool. This allowed our team to have real-time feedback from employees on our various decisions and to regularly adjust our actions in order to get everyone on board ” Said Pierre C.H.

The debriefing session following the simulation is as important, if not even more important than the simulation itself, as the students synthetize on their experience, share their lessons learned, realize and understand the consequences of their leadership decisions and comment on their own leadership style and how it affects the team dynamic. They make the connection between the theory and their active learning experience.

How does it benefit MBA students?

The Wallbreakers simulation allowed us to exercise our different styles of leadership and to understand that the situational leadership was the one that best suited team mobilization and goal achievement. “ Said Charlotte K., candidate to MBA 2022.

For MBA Students, who have already an experience in management, the active learning methods such using simulations is suitable.   Indeed, it offers them a similar environment of a real professional situation they might had experienced. This stimulates their learning capacity by helping them to make some connections with their own experience. They learn from their mistakes and capitalise on their success.

"The Wallbreakers experience allowed me to put the theoretical concepts I learned in the course into action immediately. We had the opportunity to have several important team discussions on change management and leadership that will be useful throughout my career path.", said Justin Thibault, candidate to MBA 2022.

Wallbreaker simulation give us the opportunity to practice the concepts learned in class. We really experienced it as a real business situation, sometimes forgetting that it was just a simulation, so heated were the debates to reach a consensual decision within the group!”, said Arlette G.

To learn more about Wallbreakers simulation, the recording of one of the debriefing sessions following the simulation of the course MBA5636 is available here.