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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prepare For The Worst - Expect The Best

I received the following email yesterday evening. In many parts of the U.S. economy (and around the world) businesses which practice Open Book Management practices -- that is, actively engaging all of their employees in the business operations -- now are facing tough, challenging times. The Great Game of Business, founded by entrepeneur Jack Stack, advocates openness and ultimately employee ownership/equity in businesses. I believe these practices, conducted properly, are both effective and vital.

Open Book Management (OBM) : The Survival Guide
Succeeding in tough time's means staying committed to your Game. No Excuses.

A Letter to the Open-Book Community from Your Friends at Great Game.

Managing through difficult times requires the full engagement of a focused, educated and informed workforce. Success will have everything to do with how well you communicate and encourage your people to stay in The Game. Show the big picture, stay focused on your critical numbers; make sure your people are acting on the right financial drivers; and persistently- let me repeat- persistently keep score and follow the action. This is what rallies an organization to face challenges head on. This is what provides the focus, the alignment and the sense of urgency we all need in an economic turmoil. And most importantly, this is what brings people together.

Open-Book Management has long been embraced by leaders with the courage to share practically everything--the good, the bad and the ugly. While communicating effectively is always important, it takes on a much greater significance during tough times. As Open-Book leaders we must continue to talk candidly with our people about the realities of the business and the marketplace. Keep in mind "what your employees don't know can hurt you." The unknown can create a huge distraction in the organization and if you don't let your people know what's really going on, they will certainly fill in the gaps. An Open-Book approach can drive out negative rumors and help eliminate the emotions and fear that comes with uncertainty. Emotions can cloud our judgment, but communicating with the numbers can put everything back in perspective. It's time to play smart and how you get smarter is by studying the numbers and listening hard for the stories behind them. That's where you will find the opportunities and the smart way forward.

As Open-Book leaders, communicating with your people should be your number one focus. Leaders should never delegate communication...and they should do it face-to-face. We should communicate in a way that creates healthy dialogue by giving our people frequent opportunities to ask questions and openly discuss the realities the company is facing. If you give your people the opportunity to talk it out and discuss and debate the challenges, they will help you find solutions.

When we do communicate the realities of the marketplace, we should be very careful not to blame everything on the economy. This implies the situation is out of our control and sends a message to our people that all we can do is ride it out. When in fact, we must fight it out. Direct your energy towards the opportunities and give your people something positive to focus on and reach for.

Successfully weathering the storm will depend on how well you maximize one of your only true competitive advantages, your people. We should have confidence in our people and trust them to find new ideas and ways to work through these tough times. Leverage the knowledge and expertise of your team. Motivate and engage your people in the business by including them in the problem-solving process and enable them to act and take responsibility for improvement ideas. Try not to be single-minded on cost savings and driving optimization. Encourage innovation and creativity. Find ways to take advantage of every opportunity and build on them to get even better.

And don't forget to keep your people fired up. People rally towards leadership that is positive and optimistic. Leaders need to stay energized and show true resilience. Create small wins; the big ones may be hard to find. Those small incremental improvements will make all the difference. Give your people a chance to win and then celebrate, celebrate, celebrate when they do win.

And finally, sometimes success can simply depend on what outlook or attitude you choose to take. So stay energized, stay positive, and most importantly stay in The Game.

The Great Game of Business

All the Best,
Rich Armstrong
President, The Great Game of Business

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