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This resource review describes the web-based Change Management Simulation: Power and Influence by Harvard Business Publishing and discusses its application in both undergraduate and graduate courses. The simulation focuses on personal and organizational change factors that influence the adoption of a sustainability initiative within a manufacturing firm. Students experience leading strategic change in different contexts given the instructor’s ability to assign different authority levels and change urgencies. We provide an overview of the simulation and suggestions for introducing, playing, and debriefing the simulation. We also briefly discuss the strengths and limitations of this supplemental pedagogy.

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Keywords
change management, power and influence, simulation-based training, student engagement

Resource Description


The Change Management Simulation: Power and Influence (Harvard Business Publishing, n.d.; https://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cbmp/pages/home; HBP Product No. 3292) is an individual-play, web-based simulation that allows students to experience the challenges and successes associated with leading strategic change. In the simulation, the student plays the role of change agent in the Spectrum Sunglass Company, which designs, manufactures, and sells sunglasses. The change agent is responsible for leading a new sustainability initiative and is seeking adoption from top and middle managers and key line workers. Success is determined when a critical mass of adopters (18 out of 20) is achieved.

The simulation provides a realistic context where students make a series of decisions to influence organizational members to adopt the change initiative. It can be used to teach a variety of change management concepts such as Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Change, resistance to change, stages of adoption, organizational change phases, power as related to authority in the organization, and change urgency resulting in reactive or proactive change. The simulation can be played during an 80-minute class, but we typically spend two to four classes and time outside of class to complete the simulation (introducing, playing, debriefing).

Students can be assigned up to four Scenario (change agent) role options that are defined through two main contextual contingencies: Level of Urgency (low/Proactive, high/Reactive) and Level of Authority (low/Director of Product Innovation, high/CEO). For example, Scenario 1 = Low Urgency, Director of Product Innovation (low authority); Scenario 4 = High Urgency, CEO (high authority). Instructors can assign all four Scenarios, select certain Scenarios, or randomly assign Scenarios for students to complete. For each Scenario role, the student chooses among 18 decision options (termed “change levers” in the simulation) to move organizational members through four stages of adoption: Awareness, Interest, Trial, and Adoption. The success of each decision depends on both the stage of adoption of the organizational member and the current organizational-level change phase (Mobilization, Movement, and Sustaining). For example, some decision options help organizational members gain Awareness of the change initiative (e.g., Conduct Private Interviews) and can be more effective in the Mobilization phase. Other decision options (e.g., Provide External Skill Building) are more effective if the individual has already progressed to the Interest or Trial stage of adoption and the organization is in the Movement phase.

In addition, each of the 18 decision options can be mapped to six change management topical areas: Credibility, Communication, Training, Cultural, Political, and Technical. These categorizations are helpful in defining the decision options and assessing the effectiveness of the decision. The impact of each decision option is also influenced by the urgency of the change and the authority and credibility of the change agent. Furthermore, the simulation includes the social networks of the organizational members, which can influence adoption, and some organizational members are identified as “resistors,” which increases the realism of the simulation.

For instructors, the simulation comes with an extensive Facilitator’s Guide that includes a teaching note, directions on how to adopt the simulation and provide student access, a simulation overview that includes screenshots and commentary for ease of instructor administration, and several appendices with detailed simulation information and theoretical resources. Students have access to a how-to-play video with a transcript of the video, foreground reading, and scenario introduction readings. The foreground reading provides common background information about the company (e.g., financials, organizational chart, company status, information about the change initiative), while the scenario introduction readings provide unique information about the change agent role(s).


The Change Management Simulation: Power and Influence falls within the simulation-based training domain. Several empirical and conceptual reviews have found that simulations, notably computer- and web-based simulations, are an effective instructional method that possesses both internal and external validity (e.g., Bedwell & Salas, 2010; Bell, Kanar, & Kozlowski, 2008; Gosen & Washbush, 2004; Johnson & Rubin, 2011; Salas, Wildman, & Piccolo, 2009; Sitzmann, 2011; Sitzmann, Kraiger, Stewart, & Wisher, 2006). Simulation-based training has been shown to result in higher levels of self-efficacy, declarative and procedural knowledge, and retention of training objectives than other comparison instructional methods (Sitzmann, 2011). Four key instructional features guide the effectiveness of web-based simulations: content, interactivity, communication, and immersion (Bell et al., 2008). Each feature can provide information on the extent to which learning is enhanced and help explain particular limitations. Simulations can also be effective in enhancing learning beyond the simulation learning objectives. For example, Lovelace and colleagues found that simulations were an effective way to develop critical thinking skills (Lovelace, Eggers, & Dyck, 2016), demonstrating that both hard and soft management skills can be fostered through simulation-based training (Poisson-de Haro & Turgut, 2012).

In addition to the learning objectives provided in the Change Management Simulation: Power and Influence, at the undergraduate level we have three overarching learning objectives:

To improve students’ abilities to apply theoretical concepts to practical contexts.

To improve students’ abilities in analyzing unstructured problems.

To aid students’ development in critical thinking and decision making reflective of evidence-based management.

Similarly, in addition to the simulation learning objectives, our graduate level learning objectives include:

To improve students’ abilities to communicate effectively at the individual, group, and the organizational level.

To improve students’ abilities to diagnose power and manage change, conflict, and stress.

We have used the simulation in MBA courses (assignment worth 25% of total grade) and in undergraduate courses (worth 10% of total grade) for the past 8 to 10 years. We use written analysis papers to assess learning and require participation in the simulation debrief. At the graduate level the written analysis requires extensive research, scholarly citations, and analysis. The assignment for the undergraduate students follows a report format including summary tables and reflections on the change management process. A team component has recently been introduced to increase the instructional features of interactivity, communication, and immersion. Students are encouraged to support each other during simulation play and to discuss prior to the debrief their main learning points and experiences from the simulation. Grading rubrics are provided to all students. Appendix A provides examples of graduate and undergraduate assignment requirements. Textbooks most recently used include Introduction to International Organizational Behavior (Dolan & Lingham, 2011) at the graduate level and Essentials of Organizational Behavior (12th ed.; Robbins & Judge, 2014) at the undergraduate level.


To gain access to the simulation, go to the Harvard Business Publishing site (https://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cbmp/pages/home) and register or sign in to the site. After logging in, click on the Coursepack tab, click on New Coursepack, then Add Coursepack, and search for the simulation title: Change Management Simulation: Power and Influence. Once the simulation is in the Coursepack, the instructor can practice the simulation and review the resources by clicking on the Manage Simulation tab.

To assign the simulation to students, the instructor sends an email to students that contains a unique link for registering for the simulation (this is done through the simulation page). This email can be sent at any time, but we usually send it a couple of weeks in advance of the start of the simulation. The current cost is $15.00 per student. Students must register (and pay if the school is not paying), and the instructor must assign the different scenarios to students before students can play the simulation.

The scenarios can be assigned in any order. For the undergraduate courses, we assign Scenario 4 first followed by Scenario 3 (then 2 and 1). This allows students to do the perceived “easier” Scenarios (4 and 3) first (due to the high urgency of the change). In the graduate courses, one Scenario is randomly assigned to each student. After assigning the Scenarios, the simulation is ready to begin.


Our pedagogical approach follows Bandura’s (1977) social learning theory, which includes (1) gaining student attention and interest, (2) learning retention, (3) practice, and (4) feedback on performance. To get student attention and interest we typically use one class session (80-90 minutes) to introducing the concepts of change management and power and influence, including Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Change, reasons why individuals resist change, bases of power, and organizational development techniques, as well as to explaining the assignment. This information serves to both gain attention and help with retention of information because students become clear on what content they will be learning and applying.

Another class is used to directly introduce the simulation and for viewing and reviewing the “how to play” video posted on the simulation website. This session enhances retention, and students start to practice the simulation. Slides for introducing the simulation are provided on the instructor’s page of the website and can be edited to fit instructor’ preferences. The simulation introduction is done in the second class for undergraduate courses (after the course materials have been covered) and in the first class for graduate courses, where the students have reviewed the course materials on their own. During the introduction, strategies for starting the change process are discussed. For example, we use examples of how the change agent can “establish a sense of urgency” and “form a powerful guiding coalition” (the first two steps in Kotter’s model) by reviewing the different decision options in the simulation. We also discuss how some decision options, for example, “restructuring the organization” are highly disruptive and require appropriate timing—if used at all—to positively affect the change. Depending on instructor preferences, resetting the Scenario play for students to play the run again can be an option and would be announced at this time. This option can be time consuming but often helps students learn the concepts better because they have more chances at success (increased practice).


Both authors establish “virtual” classes for completing the simulation. This essentially means that we do not formally meet for class during the time allotted to the simulation, and students are free to complete the simulation on their own time furthering the social learning theory steps of practice and performance feedback. Many students complete the simulation independently; however, a number of students will come to office hours to receive help in understanding the simulation. At the undergraduate level a due date is imposed for the completion of the first Scenario play so that time management is practiced. There is an intervening “virtual” class in graduate courses during which students read the literature and the simulation instructions and then play the simulation and write their papers.


The debrief serves not only as means to provide feedback on performance but also cycles back through to gain and increase student interest, retention, and practice. As part of the simulation, debriefing slides that pull in the unique performance data of the class can be created. Pie charts are provided that show what percentage of players were successful in obtaining the required number of adopters for the change initiative. To encourage a rich discussion of the simulation experience, students can be grouped into the four different scenarios or can form small groups on their own to discuss their ideas and experiences. We then bring the class together as a whole to discuss the simulation experience and take-homes for managing change in organizations. Examples of debrief questions are included in Appendix B.


A main strength of this resource is the extensive instructional materials. For example, the Facilitator’s Guide includes the theoretical foundations and detailed descriptions of the change management variables and the effects of decisions on these variables. The simulation context is also realistic and students are generally interested in the goal of getting people to adopt the environmentally friendly sustainability initiative. Because of interactivity features of the simulation, it is also easy to successfully use the simulation even if the instructor (or student) is trying it out for the first time. In our experience, the more one uses the simulation, the more concepts from the Facilitator’s Guide are realized.

The simulation also has limitations. Even though it is easy to use, it takes some practice to figure out how best to present all the related factors to students. For undergraduates it is useful to show the “how to play” video a couple of times, go over the 18 decision options/change levers relative to the six change management topical areas, and explain how these decisions could relate to Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Change. For graduate students, it can be challenging to effectively relate the literature that they read to decisions that they have to make when playing the simulation.

Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Change itself is a source of controversy despite being in use for over 20 years (Kotter, 1995). Kotter’s Model is claimed to be derived, as most change models are, from Kurt Lewin’s (1947) unfreeze–change–refreeze or “changing as three steps” (CATS) classic approach to change. However, Cummings, Bridgman, and Brown’s (2016) recent research suggests that such theoretical efforts are only post hoc reconstructions of Lewin’s work as Lewin never developed the CATS model.

Furthermore, Kotter and Cohen (2002) contend that behavior change has less to do with data analysis and is more about how people feel and state, “The heart of change is in the emotions” (p. 2). However, none of Kotter’s eight steps directly address the affective nature of change. In contrast, Boyatzis’ (2006) Intentional Change Theory (ICT), which is a dynamic and iterative model of change, suggests that one moves in the direction of one’s ideal self, which is best motivated when the balance of positive emotions outweighs the negative emotions of the individual seeking change (Dyck, 2017). Dyck and Lovelace (2018) have recently positioned ICT as a meaningful alternative to existing and long-standing behavior change models.

In addition, another potential limitation is the sequential nature of Kotter’s (1995) Model that the simulation is based upon. For example, the simulation content presents the stages of adoption as a linear progression from awareness to interest to trial to adoption. It is possible that an employee could jump from awareness to adoption given circumstances related to organizational constraints, politics, or escalation of commitment. Likewise, the organizational-level change phases only move in one direction: mobilization, movement, sustaining. Organizational units could have setbacks that result in backward movements. As such, tempering the simulation model with nuances of human nature could provide additional and practical knowledge for students and allow for a rich discussion of the dynamic nature of managing organizational change, which often does not follow a straight line.

A final comment is that not all students are comfortable with web-based simulations (contrary to the millennial tech-savvy stereotype), and some one-on-one guidance is needed particularly at the undergraduate level.

In summary, the Change Management Simulation: Power and Influence is a useful instructional resource for learning about organizational change and can be adapted to both graduate and undergraduate students.


Change Management Simulation—25% of final grade—250 points

The Change Management Simulation: Power and Influence is an individual assignment and an experiential learning activity designed to enhance your learning about managing organizational change. The goal of the simulation is to allow you to see and feel what it means to lead a strategic change in an organization. The assignment is to be completed during our VIRTUAL Class 9. No in-class meeting will be held.

Start by purchasing the Simulation after clicking on the coursepack link. Read the information provided about the Simulation. Select and read at least five (5) references (i.e., articles, books, etc.) from the list titled: Change Management Simulation: Power and Influence References located in the Class Materials folder on Bb for Class 9. Then play the Simulation while being careful to reflect upon your reading prior to each of your decisions.

After you have completed the Simulation, write a five (5) page paper excluding title page and references, using 12-point font and double-spacing and post it through SafeAssign on Blackboard. You are to cite at least the five (5) references that you read in preparation for playing the Simulation in your paper. This means that you are to integrate the concepts from your reading and refer to them in a relevant way throughout your paper using APA format. In your paper, you must:

A. Describe each of the levers that you used and the sequence in which you used them. Provide a rationale for each of your choices.

B. Explain your assessment of how effective you were as a change agent.

C. Explain what you learned about managing organizational change.

D. Based on your response to “C” above, describe what are you going to do differently the next time you are leading change.


Using Chapters 17 and 13 materials, lecture notes, the BizEd article Navigating Change by Tricia Bisoux, any other readings from class, the simulation foreground readings, and experience with the simulation, prepare a report that addresses the items below.

For each of the two scenarios your report should include the following:

Specifically identify which scenario you are writing about. State the title of the position and whether the situation was low urgency or high urgency and the power level (high/low) of the change agent.

Complete the following table for each of the two scenarios (i.e., one for each scenario):

What did you learn about the change management process from the simulation given the change context and your player authority?



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Points you might include

How did the receptivity to change (stages of adoption) of your change targets affect the timing of the particular levers you chose?

Did the stage of organizational change (mobilization, movement, sustaining) affect the success of your levers? (Include how many weeks you spent in each of the three areas of organizational change.)

What were the effects of social networks?

How did the urgency of the situation affect your success during the change process?

How did your power and credibility in the situation affect your success during the change process?

What actions did you take to increase your credibility?

What other insights did you gain from participating in the simulation?


This assignment includes an individual component and a team component. As an individual you will write up a short report on your simulation performance and course learning. As a team, you will synthesize common learning points and lead an informal discussion of these learning points in class. The deliverable will be the combined individual reports and a summary page of the team’s key learning points (see below for specific directions).

The purpose of this assignment is for you to analyze your experiences with the Change Management Simulation: Power and Influence. In this analysis, make connections and illustrate your knowledge by incorporating material from course readings and assignments such as Chapters 17 and 13, lecture notes, the BizEd article Navigating Change by Tricia Bisoux, and the simulation foreground readings and scenario role descriptions.


For the assigned scenario that you achieved critical mass in the fewest number of weeks, complete the following table:

Reflect on how well you were able to use Kotter’s 8-Step Change model to lead change in the simulation and provide four to five bullet-points on key learning applications. For example (thought starters):

What did you learn about the change management process given the change context (High Urgency) and your player authority (either High or Low Authority)?

How did the receptivity to change (stages of adoption) of your change targets affect the timing of the particular levers you chose?

Did the stage of organizational change (mobilization, movement, sustaining) affect the success of your levers?

What were the effects of social networks?

How did your power and credibility in the situation affect your success during the change process?

What actions did you take to increase your credibility?

What other insights did you gain from participating in the simulation?



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Ideally, you and your teammates should support each other through the simulation experience. This may include physically doing the simulation at the same time and discussing strategies, decision choices, outcomes, rationales, and so on, or playing the simulation on your own but checking in regularly with your teammates to learn about their experiences.

Even if doing the simulation together, each team member should have, at the very least, slightly different courses of action. There are several “correct” ways of completing the simulation. While the goal is reach critical mass within 96 weeks, it does not necessarily mean that the shortest time is always the best approach. Try out the simulation by taking actions that you believe follow Kotter’s 8-step model.

The deliverables for the team component are the following:

Describe how your team supported each other to complete the simulation. Did you work together? Separately? How did having the support of your team members affect your satisfaction and performance? Were all team members happy about the way the team decided to complete the simulation? (Discuss these points as a team and summarize your discussion. ~1-2 paragraphs)

Before the Debrief (Debrief is on ), meet as a team and make a list of four to five main learning points from the simulation that all team members can relate to. Be prepared to lead an informal discussion on these insights in class on the Debrief day.

After the Debrief, edit and consolidate your list of learning points and prepare your final report that combines the Individual and Team Components.

See more: Jasmine From The Dl Hughley Show, Jasmine Sanders

Submit your assignment to (information removed).


What were your main lessons learned or “aha” moments?Emails “No one read your email” (One of the responses to the change lever: “Issue e-mail notice” is “No one read your email.” Can discuss the issue of people not reading emails and how it is not always an effective way to communicate.)

Value of “private interviews” (The “Conduct Private Interviews” change lever can be an effective and valuable communication tool. Useful for “creating a sense of urgency” and “forming a powerful coalition of support”—the first two steps in Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model.)

Importance of personal credibility (Credibility scores range between 0 and 10. If credibility is low, then your ability to influence is greatly hindered.)

Compare and contrast Scenario 4 and Scenario 3. Was one scenario easier for you?

How did you use the change levers (i.e., decision options)?

How successful were you in your timing of the change levers? Did some levers work better given the organization’s change phase?

How did understanding the person’s stage of adoption affect your decisions?

What was easy for you? Fun?

What was challenging?

What were the effects of social networks?

Did you need to reset the simulation? What did you do differently the second time around?

Why were some of you more successful than others?

What seemed to work? What didn’t?

Were there any common missteps?

Did you take any time to diagnose and strategize before you began to act?

What levers did you find yourself using first? How about later?

Which of your readings best supported your strategy?

In which Scenario was it the easiest to effect change? Why?

In which Scenario was it the most difficult to effect change? Why?


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