This is an important exercise, which many people feel they can’t prepare for; this is wrong. At least thinking about the following points and having them in your mind on the day can potentially make a huge difference.
The Group Exercise consists of six people, each representing different Government departments, where you will be tasked to gain a solution to an incident, or recommend a project, but the solution must favour your department. You’ll be given an A solution, which is best, and a B solution which would still be acceptable. Sometimes you may also be given one stipulated solution which would be unacceptable.
As a group you’re then asked to rank a best and second best solution, and then pick a worst and second worst solution (ignoring the options that finish in the middle ground).
For example the Department for International Development will want to help an international crisis hit region. While this is ideally how Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) would like to respond to an international crisis, it may be your job (if you’re representing the Treasury in this exercise) to let the group know how economically difficult that would be. You will be briefed to gain a solution that produces the cheapest option. Each person will want different solutions (some slightly and some greatly) to an overall Government problem. It is very important to remember this fact: even though you represent your specific department, you are still contributing to an overall solution on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) to a national or international incident.
Two main aspects are being tested in this exercise: your ability to deliver a result in an adverse environment, but you are also being tested on how you go about getting that result. Sometimes, even if you don’t get the desired result for your department, you can score well. In the coaching we cover the preparation and tactics to do this well.
In a group of able and confident people all trying to move the discussion in their favour, things can become heated. It’s vital you do not fail the exercise because of negative indicators – I’ve heard this referred to as the “don’t be a dick exercise”. Many people fail it because of negative indicators, which include pen-pointing, finishing other people’s answers when they don’t agree, shouting, cutting people off and the list goes on.