In this guest blog, Monika Lancucki, reflects on the value of play for strategic thinking.

Based in Melbourne, Australia, Monika advises her clients on governance, corporate affairs and strategic planning. She can be reached on

Late last year I took a contract opportunity to lead an external communications team in a large and reputable Australian federal government agency. Whilst I had worked with many public sector clients and held in-house leadership in various types of organisations, I had not worked in-house in the public sector. So, when the opportunity to take part in Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders tailored for the Public Sector came up – I jumped at the chance.

While it may be tempting to dismiss game-based play and simulation workshops as aimed at early career professionals, I would caution against being too hasty to do so.

I had participated in a corporate version of Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders at a global conference several years ago so knew this was a chance to test my strategic thinking in a new operating context.

Given it is a team-based workshop, I also knew it would provide the opportunity to better understand how those who work in the public service reason, think, and discern the best, most strategic way forward.

I was not disappointed.

Simulation-based play provides an opportunity to test strategic thinking and decision-making in a safe and fun way, and not just for early career professionals. It offers leaders and experienced practitioners precious insight into the assumptions, motivators and thinking of people in different markets, organisations, or stages of their career.

Whilst there is a lot of rhetoric about “fail fast and iterate”, many organisations are still unforgiving of failure. For those who might be branching out into a different operating environment, from corporate into public sector or vice versa, this is a way to test out their understanding of the complexities of the sector in a safe sandbox.

Decision-making is not so much about choosing between “right” and “wrong” but about discerning the best of several “right” answers

Unlike a test or exam, there is no single “right” answer in Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders. The game places players in teams and then the teams deal with a series of hypothetical scenarios with possible decision options. These options come with impacts on stakeholder relationships, professional integrity, and substantive implications. The choice isn’t so much between right and wrong, but rather based on ethics, best practice, commercial and practical considerations, which is the best of several possible choices. And it is in the opportunity to hear your team members’ reasoning as to why they would make a particular choice that the true value lies.

Win or lose – don’t lose the insights

Of course, Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders is a game and in games “winners are grinners”. But for leaders and experienced practitioners, the benefit of the exercise is less about proving how clever you are by leading your team to victory, and more about gaining insight into how your colleagues think and reason. Why does the team choose a particular way forward? What factors did they consider? What did they miss? Did they take in different perspectives to find creative and innovative ways to navigate these challenges?

In a real-life work context, we have deadlines and a bias to execution, and a focus on decisions and recommendations rather than reasoning is often the priority. Too often you don’t have the time to delve into why team members take the approach they do.

As a leader, you may find the insights from Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders help you identify potential development ideas for your team, and test your own assumptions as to the motivators, drivers and understanding of colleagues.

Acquire a deeper understanding of stakeholder organisations

Hearing from other practitioners also provides the opportunity to discern how individuals from other organisations – of the kind with which your organisation may have dependencies – approach scenarios, again providing valuable insights to take back to the workplace. You can test your own assumptions and offer ideas about other ways to tackle complex challenges.

There is a saying that “win or lose, don’t lose the lesson”. When it comes to Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders, particularly for more experienced practitioners, you might rightly add “don’t lose the insights”.

Who knows, you may also have a bit of fun along the way.

Strategic Comms Government Workshop Australia
Strategic Comms Government Workshop, Australia, 2021


Monika participated in a half-day Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders post-conference workshop delivered virtually by Australia delivery partner, Zora Artis GAICD SCMP and Canada delivery partner Sharon Hunter SCMP. Tailored public sector or corporate sector workshops are available for in-house teams, events or conferences for communication, engagement and HR professionals.