The Scoreboard Effect & The Great Game of Business

“If you’re not keeping score, it’s only practice.”

Scoreboards are so pervasive in our culture that we sometimes take them for granted. But can you imagine how different life would be if we didn’t have scoreboards? In a sports context alone, would we care to watch a game to the end if we couldn’t see who’d won? Would their be any drama? Would there still be a podium? Would there still be a champion? What would there have been for Stuart Scott to talk about all those nights on ESPN?

Even gauges are a form of scoreboard; they display information we need to run our lives. From the gas gauge in our car dashboard to the digital countdown on our microwaves, we continually check how we’re doing compared to established standards of performance.

The same can be said of business. How would you know how your business is doing if there were no Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you could see to evaluate its progress? And what if your employees didn’t have any visibility into what those metrics were or how they were performing against them or why the metrics mattered? Wait a minute! That describes the majority of businesses in the world today–especially small and growing businesses. Is yours one of them? Like a game, there is a goal, a scoreboard and a reward for winning.

The Great Game of Business

The Great Game of Business is a radically transparent and collaborative approach to winning in business (and the name of a business book that has sold more than 300,000 copies since 2002, and was named one of “the 100 best business books of all time). This deceptively simple concept aims to increase the chances of winning by closing one of the most obvious, yet challenging gaps in business — the gap between managers and employees — by teaching front-line employees the financial machinery that drives business and how what they do affects financial outcomes.

The Game uses an approach called Open-Book Management (OBM) to engage employees in taking responsibility for managing and growing the business. As explained on The Great Game of Business web page, OBM was “forged on the factory floors of an engine shop in Springfield, Missouri called SRC Holdings Corporation (SRC).”

Learn more about the Great Game of Business.

“The OBM concept was born in 1983 when a green manager named Jack Stack was battling to turn around a dying division of International Harvester and save 119 jobs. He shared the company financials with his employees, but needed a way to help them understand how they could affect those financials. Stack’s open-book approach to managing the company grew from simply sharing financials to actually teaching his employees the “rules” of business. Stack’s approach to managing the company became known The Great Game of Business.”

Stack compares business to a game making learning about how business works seem as approachable and unintimidating as possible. The OBM approach includes the following principles and practices:

  • Everyone participates and has a stake in the outcome—especially the front-line people who are closest to the action.

  • Like a game, there is a goal, a scoreboard and a reward for winning.

 

Of course “The objective of keeping score is to simply and consistently inform the players if they are winning or losing, and who is accountable.”

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