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uni'wissen 01-2016_ENG

Atwelve-minute simulation, divided into three rounds of equal length, each followed by a brief analysis – that’s all the time Prof. Dr. Stephan Lengsfeld and his team need to illustrate to students the effects of so-called departmental egoism. This is a term economists use to describe the behavior of employees who follow their own interests and goals or those of their department, if necessary at the expense of other departments or the entire company. The example the economist uses to demonstrate this term is that of a chocolate factory. It needs chocolate, cream, and cherries to make various kinds of chocolates, represented in the simulation by black, white, and red Lego bricks. The factory has work stations, each of which is responsible for a special task in the value chain. Before the first round begins, the students receive instructions on the relevant tasks and targets for their work station. The “purchasing” station is responsible for purchasing raw materials at the lowest possible unit prices, the “warehouse” station tries to minimize refrigeration costs, the “produc- tion” station makes as many chocolates of various kinds as possible, and the “distribution” station handles incoming orders by arranging the choco- lates according to the customers’ wishes, packing them in boxes, and sending them off. Overcoming Departmental Egoism In the first round the stations are separated by cardboard walls to prevent the students from seeing what’s going on at the other stations, be- cause the departments at companies are also often separated from one another in a spatial or organizational sense, resulting in a lack of com- munication. The factory has already suffered a loss after the first four minutes – even though all four stations are acting in accordance with their individual tasks and targets. Lengsfeld has en- countered this pattern in many companies: “Every- one thinks everything’s running fine in their own department, but the overall result is poor, because they lose sight of the big picture.” In the second round the cardboard walls are gone, and the students can see which raw materials the factory is running out of and which kinds of chocolates the distribution department needs. Now they recognize that there can be a discrepancy – possibly caused by the system of targets and incentives set up by the company itself – between fulfilling their own targets and achieving the best possible result for the company as a whole. When they are ready to focus less on their own targets, the individual stations can cooperate better. The purchasing station doesn’t just buy the cheapest raw materials available, and the production station doesn’t just try to make as many chocolates as possible but pays more attention to demand. The students make a profit in this round, and the task in the last four minutes is to increase it: Now the students can discuss their tasks and roles with one another and consider together how to further improve the production process. uni wissen 01 2016 “The basic questions come from the business world.” Black, red, and white Lego bricks stand for the raw materials for making chocolates – chocolate, cream, and cherries. 41 uni wissen 012016