Microsoft Develops a Global Pipeline of Technical Leaders Virtually Using Capsim

Case Study – Microsoft – White (1)

Not all leaders are people managers, nor should they be. Microsoft understands the importance of technical leaders within an organization, and they wanted to build a pipeline of them. 

What exactly is a technical leader? Jim Chismar, Team Manager in the M365 FastTrack Center, described them as “individuals with a deep technical focus that can effectively influence senior leaders and lead groups to solve complex business problems with scalable and sustainable solutions.”

The problem? “Typically, individual contributors don’t understand the decision-making paths they need to take. They present ideas that are unrealistic from a business perspective” shared Jim. 

So the team at Microsoft had to figure out how to develop these individuals to the point where they could lead other people and make decisions that their “managers and manager’s managers” would make. On top of that, he needed a way to train a cohort of 60 employees dispersed across 14 countries and a handful of time zones. 

So how could Microsoft get these employees out of their technical silos in order to make the right decisions for the business and bring better ideas to leadership?

Key Points 
  • The Microsoft team recognized the need to train future technical leaders with leadership and strategic decision-making skills.
  • With employees from 14 countries globally, finding a virtual solution that could engage employees over a few months was challenging. It wasn’t feasible to bring 60 people together for the typical face-to-face 3-day seminar, and many existing solutions failed to offer flexible and virtual options that would meet their needs.
  • Microsoft partnered with Capsim to create the ideal solution they needed to instill the skills that would improve productivity within the organization.

Microsoft embarked on a journey to build out its first-ever Journey to Principal community, comprised of a group of 60 employees from 14 countries. The group’s mission: 

  • Dive deep into leadership and business development opportunities.
  • Gain visibility into Microsoft's top challenges.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to develop executive-level communications.

The cohort consisted of future technical leaders–those who aren’t satisfied with the status quo and feel compelled to make a difference.

The key was finding a training solution that could develop a customer-centric approach to solving complex business problems.

While Microsoft knew business simulations would be their best chance to instill these skills, they struggled to find a solution to support their program structure. In addition to employees being spread across the globe, the program would be run over a 2-3 month time period across two cohorts.

In need of a versatile and virtual solution, “Capsim bubbled up to the top pretty quick,” Jim shared.

Implementing new tools into the training curriculum can be challenging. Administrators must understand them strongly so participants feel confident in the platform. Otherwise, participants spend too much time figuring out the tool instead of focusing on the learning objectives behind them.

When it came to the CapsimGlobal international business simulation, “it was very intuitive,” Jim shared. “Employees were able to find their way around it quickly and get to work without a ton of questions.”

Each of the two cohorts had six training sessions, one every two weeks. In addition to providing the business simulation, Capsim offered expert facilitation to debrief learning and connect concepts directly to Microsoft’s financials and operations.

The simulation experience allowed the participants to face challenges, think strategically, and see the ripple effects of their decision-making across departments and rounds of the simulation.

In addition to the education that comes from doing something fun, Jim simply “loves the energy the simulation brings” to training.

“It’s all about teamwork and competition. They have to work as a team, talk through things, make decisions, and live with their decisions. And these folks love competition,” said Jim.

In addition to the business simulation experience, Microsoft used Capsim’s CapsimInbox: Leadership Development Series to measure the impact of their training.

“It’s the ultimate validation of your training efforts to be able to say ‘here’s where we were, and here’s where we are now.’ Most training is technical, so it’s easy to see that change. CapsimInbox lets us see it, even when the results aren’t technical and in your face.”



Microsoft views the Journey to Principal community as a long-term investment. But the immediate results are revealed as technical leaders have more meaningful conversations with the leadership team.

As for the participants, the response to the simulation-based training was well received. 

  • 90% of participants enjoyed the simulation experience
  • 95% felt the simulation experience was relevant and useful
  • 86% agreed they would take the knowledge gained and apply it back to their work
  • 90% found the experience effective virtually
  • 85% would recommend the experience to other leaders at Microsoft

When preparing their future leaders, the Microsoft team faced a few challenges. While future technical leaders had strong technical skills, they lacked realistic business perspectives.

Capsim’s business simulations provided these individual contributors at Microsoft with an immersive, real-world experience to think like a business leader and make decisions – all in a safe environment.

Discover the products Microsoft integrates to build future leaders.


CapsimGlobal is a self-directed, simple, and powerful simulation that brings students together to experience business strategy on a global stage. The simulation provides students with an experiential learning platform in which they can manage a fictional company and make decisions that directly impact performance and profitability.

Learn more about Business Simulations >> 

CapsimInbox: Leadership Development Series

Your company’s success depends on having a fully capable and resilient workforce. And soft skills are the difference-maker in developing your team into A+ players. But you can’t improve what you can’t measure. 

The Leadership Development Series is a suite of ready-to-use inbox simulations to help you find and fix the skills gaps that matter most.

Learn more about CapsimInbox: Leadership Development Series >>