With 54 million customers, Cingular Wireless has a lion’s share of the U.S. wireless market. The company has roughly 63,000 employees, many of whom are new additions following the organization’s 2004 acquisition of AT&T Wireless. Management education has been a key piece of the company’s post-merger training initiatives, and much of that training involves simulations, both the Web-based computer variety and interactive role-playing exercises.
Post-merger, senior-level leaders went through the “Getting to Great” business simulation to gain a clear understanding of what was needed to successfully merge the cultures of the two legacy companies and win in the marketplace. It was so successful, Cingular decided to roll out a similar type of simulation called “Getting to Great for Managers” (G2G4M).
“We have used management simulations to help drive business acumen, a deeper understanding of critical business measures and processes, and to accelerate the integration work that we did after the acquisition of AT&T Wireless, but we have evolved to a next step,” said Jim Bowles, vice president workforce development, Ed.D, Cingular Wireless. “A lot of literature that you read talks about the importance of management being clearly aligned with business strategy. We recognize that. It works so well we are rolling it out to the next tier of 8,000 managers. We launched in April, and we will continue to train and to use this simulation for the next seven months to get through those 8,000 people.”
G2G4M participants form teams to play a simulated board game developed by BTS. The game has many of the same basic objectives as the original Web-based computer simulation for senior leaders, but the focus shifts from setting direction to the execution of five objectives: Apply the wireless profitability model to identify key drivers of profitable growth, which involves business acumen and Cingular-specific economics; share practices that will unlock profitable growth and support the merger objectives, which encourages sharing among cross-functional groups; explore the path to industry leadership in the context of the competitive landscape, which emphasizes the company’s vision to be number one; explore what great execution means for Cingular versus its competition; and understand the discipline required for superior execution.
“It’s fascinating because not only are we teaching them the importance of the customer service, sales and network functions, if they don’t play the game right, they run the risk of losing some of their valuable team members to competing teams,” Bowles said. “They’ve got to also focus on employee retention as an outcome. Instead of just driving hard at business results the other element or facet of this exercise is that you’ve got to do this through your people. How do you manage your people in a way that will engage them and retain them? If you don’t do that right, you’ve got to walk the card that represents one of your key players over to another competing team and hand them off. In other words, you’ve attrited to a competitor.
“We push on a little bit of a competitiveness button that drives a greater sense of engagement and interest,” Bowles explained. “We have a very competitive group here, and competitiveness is a nice ingredient to throw in because ultimately the pathway to winning in this thing is knowledge, and you’ve got to learn in order to win and succeed. Winning is the motivation.”
Cingular metrics and success indicators center on something called the four R’s: rate of penetration, revenue intensity, reputation and return on operations. These transcend every level of the organization. The company recently completed an all-employee survey as part of its continuing effort to understand how well merger initiatives have been received. “Watson Wyatt (research) finds that organizations with employees that have a high line of sight have a substantially greater market value than those that have a low line of sight,” Bowles said. “Line of sight is measured by questions that are tied right into this work we’re doing: ‘Management does a good job providing information on how Cingular’s performing against the four R’s; I have a good idea of the steps we’re taking to achieve the company’s business objectives; I have a good understanding of how my job contributes to key business metrics; and I have a good understanding of the company’s business objectives including the Cingular 2006-2008 operating plan.’ We have a 76 percent favorable rating across the organization. That includes management and non-management. That’s important to us. It’s what we’re getting after with “Getting to Great,” to continue to drive this notion of line of sight and its impact on business results. There is a market premium attached to this notion of line of sight. We acknowledge that, and these initiatives are really focused at improving it.”
–Kellye Whitney, firstname.lastname@example.org