Behind the scenes of the Delaware Game of Operational Excellence

mars 30, 2015
Let’s admit it: we all have moments that we are craving to go back to those times when we were complaining about the huge amount of work after waking up at noon and still recovering from the evening before. Alas – without being rude – these days have passed for most of us. This also implies that participating in the Delaware Game of Operational Excellence is no longer an option. As a consolation, we give you a glimpse behind the scenes of this business game.

The battles

In the second edition of the Delaware Game of Operational Excellence, 60 students from 3 Belgian universities took up the arms and fought for victory. They subscribed in teams and acted as consultancy firms working for a fictive customer. This year, ‘iaXai Design’ was in desperate need of advice for the start-up of their new production site in order to fulfill demand of the new e-commerce sales channel. The company challenged the 13 consultancy firms in 4 battles spread over 4 weeks, to evaluate the troops on a variety of criteria.

Battle 1: The strategic orientation

The first requirement for a successful battle is an excellent strategy. In the first assignment, the consultancy firms have to develop a strategy for the new production plant and sales channel. Will the firm focus on low costs or customer satisfaction? What about the quality of the products? And how important is the environment for the company? Based on a map with the possible production locations and the short list of vendors, decisions have to be made on where the new production plant will be built and which vendors will be selected, taking into account energy prices, labor conditions, political situation, etc.

Battle 2: The budget

Next was the eternal struggle: the battle with the budget! Based on incomplete information, the consultancy firms have to come up with an estimated cost price of the product. Decisions taken in the previous assignment, have direct impact on the cost estimates in this assignment. The goal of this exercise is to break the clichés on the boringness of costing and revealing its relevancy in strategy execution and its link to production and supply chain.

Battle 3: The war plan

In the third assignment, the last preparations for the big battle have to be made. The consultancy firms dive deep into the operational level, with the previous assignments in the back of their heads. Based on a forecast they received from the SAP APO system, they analyze and calculate the optimal level of machines to be purchased, the number of employees to be hired. They advise iaXai Design on production volumes and stock strategies, on safety levels and machine set-ups.

Battle 4: The war

For the last assignment, all previous decisions are consolidated and entered in the SAP system. During a simulation event, all troops gather to play the ultimate battle: a business simulation in SAP. Four weeks of production are simulated, in which the consultancy firms act as production planners. Machines break down, raw materials are being held at customs and those who built a production plant in Belgium are confronted with strikes. After weeks of analysis and calculations, the teams are now being challenged on team spirit, entrepreneurship and out-of-the-box thinking. Which teams can cope with the stress and turn it into an asset?

Regrouping forces

During the four weeks of battles, we give the teams the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. After every assignment, thorough and personal feedback is provided to the students. They also get a graphical overview of how they are performing in comparison to the other teams, and in comparison to their previous assignments. Growth during the business game is an important criterion that is used in the evaluation of the different teams.

Other criteria that are being monitored are pragmatism and visualization of the gained insights. Pragmatism is required as not all necessary data is being provided in the assignments. The participants have to make assumptions and have to think out-of-the box to come to realistic solutions for iaXai Design. Furthermore, the management reports the students hand in, should only contain relevant information. They should be brief and structured but at the same time complete and well-argumented. In short: we do not expect academic papers.


During the four weeks of assignments, students get in contact with some skills that are expected from consultants: analytical skills, coping with stress, team spirit, pragmatism, visualization and communication. On D-Day, the grand finale, one of the most important skills is tested: presentation. Every team gets the opportunity to give a short sales pitch to a jury of professionals, containing amongst others our CEO Jan Delaere and professor Geert Poels from Ghent University. After a strictly timed presentation, the teams are being challenged by questions of the jury.

In the final deliberation, all aspects of the business game are taken into account. The scores on the content of the assignments, the different criteria mentioned above, and the final presentation during the grand finale. Eventually, a winner is being selected. Congratulations to Solisu Consulting, the consultancy firm that iaXai design has eventually selected as their preferred counterparty and therefore winner of the Delaware Game of Operational Excellence 2015!

With this glimpse behind the scenes of the business game, we all have an extra reason to feel nostalgic to those days as a student, don’t we?

Want to know more? After the edition of last year, we wrote an article on the motives for organizing this business game: A business game that breathes the Delaware Consulting culture.

Any other question? Ask us!