Transformation is happening in the transportation industry, and people want more flexibility than ever before. But how can businesses prepare for the shifting world ahead? For an industry that’s continually changing, start with understanding the wants and needs of the customer.

When you begin to tackle change, you may need to turn to a tool that can help conceptualize and better align your business processes with the shifting landscape. Whether in transportation or other industries, war games are a very effective tool in the business planning process.

A good mechanism to use when an industry is undergoing a lot of change, war games are driven by innovation and competition. While not your typical business exercise, these tailor-made simulations help draw in numerous perspectives to develop potential approaches and solutions to difficult challenges. The transportation industry is primed for getting great value using this scenario approach.

For companies looking to mold a business model that fits with evolving customer desire, or looking to solve ongoing issues within an industry, the war game strategy shouldn’t be overlooked. The most important aspect of the war game is that a disruption is thrown into the middle of a business process to help simulate what happens in real life. Potential pitfalls are dissected and explored to inform different contingencies built out in a fast-paced environment. The goal is to broaden thinking and provide an avenue for diverse perspective.

The scalable nature of these exercises lets you take on specific business challenges or more comprehensive, complex issues. Whether you want to align a company with a broad societal change or bring a product to the market, this is another way to conceptualize, talk about and plan for change.

Transit is uniquely positioned to use technology. With the rise of electric vehicles and the emergence of driverless cars comes a significant disruption to many aspects of the transportation industry. As new technologies continue to evolve, it may be worth considering war games for new business ideas and generation.

We’ve seen firsthand how a variety of industries, clients and locations have benefited from this exercise. For example, after a successful session at the 2018 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, the war game session will be returning for this year’s 2019 meeting in Washington, D.C. For a brief overview of last year’s competition, watch this quick video. This year, the challenge will focus on how new technologies, public and private organizations, and consumer preferences can be combined to deliver mobility as a service.

During an upcoming session at the Annual Conference and Canadian Transit Show in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, participants will address the challenge of developing policy associated with the emergence of autonomous vehicles that will manage the changes that are going to impact the Canadian transit industry.


While there is no crystal ball to provide answers for the future of the transportation industry and others faced with the threat of disruptive change, war games can be used to help focus and filter future decision-making. Businesses may also want to consider utilizing long-range scenario planning to anticipate and prepare for insight on responding to change in the coming years. 

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Julie Lorenz leads the strategic consulting and public engagement services for the Transportation Group at Burns & McDonnell. She has more than 20 years of experience in communications, public affairs and policy development in the transportation industry.