How Microsoft Transformed Technical Talent into Strategic Leaders with Capsim

Case Study – Microsoft – White (1)
  • Microsoft spearheaded a new training initiative to provide technical experts with a pathway to becoming technical leaders.
  • Recognizing people management isn't for everyone, the program enables individuals to think strategically, influence senior leaders and lead groups to solve complex business problems.
  • With a cohort of 60 employees dispersed across 14 countries and a handful of time zones, Microsoft needed a virtual solution that could be implemented over 2-3 months.
  • They partnered with Capsim to design a virtual, facilitator-led leadership development program using Capsim's international business strategy simulation.
  • The solution provided learners with an engaging, competitive, and immersive experience where they could experience first-hand the ripple effects of their decisions across the company and over time.

As the saying goes, "not all leaders are created equal."

Microsoft is a global leader in technology and one of the most valuable companies in the world.

A critical reason they're able to continually innovate and grow is by understanding that not all leaders are meant to be people managers. And also understanding the role technical leaders play in their organization's success.

These individuals possess a deep technical focus and can effectively influence senior leaders and lead groups to solve complex business problems with scalable and sustainable solutions.

However, a skill gap must be addressed to prepare these technical experts for the next step in their careers.

"Typically, individual contributors don’t understand the decision-making paths they need to take. They present unrealistic ideas from a business perspective," said Jim Chismar, Team Manager at the M365 FastTrack Center.

So Microsoft embarked on a journey to bridge the gap. They  created their 'Journey to Principal' community that would give these emerging leaders a chance to:

  • dive deep into leadership and business development opportunities
  • gain visibility into Microsoft's top challenges
  • take advantage of opportunities to develop executive-level communications

They assembled a group of 60 individuals who weren't satisfied with the status quo and were driven to make a difference.

With a vision in place, Microsoft needed a way to instill these skills and do it with individuals spread across 14 countries and a handful of time zones.


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 create an impactful learning experience, they struggled to find a solution to support their program structure. 

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

Microsoft partnered with Capsim to design a virtual, facilitator-led leadership development program using Capsim's international business strategy simulation. The program consisted of two cohorts meeting bi-weekly for a total of six training sessions over three months.

Participants were immersed in a dynamic and competitive environment where they needed to think and act strategically as they made cross-functional decisions to grow their businesses. Participants also received expert debriefs after every session. This deepened their understanding by connecting concepts directly to Microsoft’s recent financials and operations.

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 facilitator-led leadership development program, Microsoft used Capsim’s suite of sim-based leadership assessments 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.”



While Microsoft views the Journey to Principal community as a long-term investment, an immediate impact was revealed as participants had more meaningful conversations with the leadership team. They were thinking through problems in a way that their "manager, and manager's manager," would.

In addition, the response to the simulation-based training was well received, to say the least. 

  • 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

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 >>