The instructor/moderator needs to prepare a series of cards. One set of cards (five of them) are marked with “Offense” on one side and “frontal assault,” “flanking maneuver,” “by-pass attack,” “encirclement,” or “guerrilla warfare” on the other. The second set of cards (three of them) are marked with “Defense” on one side and “structural barrier,” “increase expected retaliation,” or “lower inducement for attack” on the other side. The third set of cards should comprise of pairs of cards with the names of competitors in either the local or regional market. The instructor will need to make as many of the third set of pairs as there are groups in the class. The instructor/moderator should also set up a relevant number of chairs either side of a table at the front of the class for the head-to-head encounters.
The instructor/moderator should divide the class into teams of three to five people. The names of the competitor pairs of businesses are revealed to the class. Each group should then be allocated one of the businesses. There needs to be an even number of groups. The groups will now know who they will be paired against in the head-to-head part of the exercise. The groups should be told to consider potential offensive and defensive tactics that the businesses could take. The instructor/moderator should allow the groups 15 minutes to come up with a series of potential tactics. Once this time is up, the first pair of groups is called to the head-to-head table. The instructor/moderator can decide which of the two groups is going to present offensive and defensive strategies. The “Offense” pack is shuffled and the team picks the card from the top. This will determine the offensive tactic it need to present to the other team. The “Defense” pack is also shuffled and the Defense team takes the card from the top of the pack. This will determine the defensive tactic that it must use to combat the offensive move from its competitor. If the team chooses the “structural barriers” card, then it can choose any of the tactics outlined by Porter (p. 253). The Offense team is given five minutes to present its offensive move to take market share away from the Defense team’s business. Likewise, the Defense team is then given five minutes to outline its defensive tactic to combat the attack. The instructor/moderator must then call time. The other groups are then asked to vote on which team they think has presented the most compelling argument, and whether its tactics would work in the situation presented. The head-to-head encounters continue until all of the groups have had a chance to either make an offensive or defensive presentation. If time permits, then the roles should be reversed with all the Offense teams becoming Defense teams in the next round of head-to-heads.
Ideally, pairs of competing businesses should be drawn from the broadest possible range of markets and industries. Care should be taken to choose businesses that most of the class will have some knowledge and understanding of, as well as be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. This exercise could be preceded by the issuing of brief notes on the backgrounds and strategic directions of the businesses, or the class could be instructed to research specific businesses in advance with this exercise in mind.