Type of simulation used in management development programs and assessment centers is the in-basket exercise. The goal of this technique is to assess the trainee’s ability to establish priorities, plan, gather relevant information, and make decisions. The sequence of events involved in an in-basket exercise typically includes the following:
1. The trainees are told that they have been promoted to a management position that has suddenly vacated. They are given background information about the organization, including personnel, relationships, policies, and union contracts.
2. The trainees then receive the contents of the manager’s in-basket. This material includes documents such as telephone messages, notes, memos, letters, and reports.
3. The trainees are then asked to read, organize, prioritize, and make decisions regarding the issues presented by the in-basket material.
4. At the end of the decision period, the trainees’ decisions are then evaluated by trained scorers.
The object of this technique is to force trainees to make decisions in the allotted time period. Because there is usually insufficient time to read each doc- ument and respond, the trainees must make quick and accurate decisions. The trainees are evaluated not only on the quality of their decisions but also on their ability to prioritize and deal effectively with all critical documents. Research on the in-basket technique shows it to be successful in improving trainee effec- tiveness, as well as in predicting future managerial effectiveness, either alone or in combination with other devices.
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