Open for Business

Is your business an open book?

Open book management is a leadership philosophy that’s grounded in the notion of creating businesses of business people where everyone in the organization thinks and acts like business owners.

I’ve been taking clients to open book management pioneer SRC Corporation in Springfield, Missouri for more than 25 years.  For them, it’s an eye opener. For me it’s a reinforcement of what’s possible when a company shares vast amounts of the right information with its people. They make smarter decisions and take performance to unheard of heights.

People in open book companies are steeped in business literacy, work daily to improve the financials, have huge amounts of financial information available to them (hence, the term open book) and their rewards and recognition are tied to financial performance. Folks who see open book for the first time are “blown away.” Their words, not mine

Next month, more than 700 people will attend the 26th annual Gathering of Games, the world’s largest event on open-book management and transparency in the workplace.

Forward-thinking business leaders from around the world gather each year to learn and share best practices related to broadening the concept of leadership, encouraging employees to think and act like owners, promoting continuous learning and building trust and improving financial results.

At last year’s Gathering of Games, I spoke about blending the concept of open book management with classic change management processes to improve performance faster while retaining a high degree of ownership among the employees.

During my presentation, I invited people to share their views about open book management. Here’s what they said.

“VP’s and above don’t really know much. It’s the wisdom of the crowd that makes us much smarter.”

“In traditional organizations, leaders go to bed every night not knowing what they don’t know. “We know what we don’t know because everyone is so involved.

“Many leaders have a Santa Claus complex. They only want to share good news.”

“It’s liberating to give people the information they need to make better decisions.”

Here are four key points from last year’s gathering.

  • Communication management is, as it should be, future-focused through the windshield. Most companies manage communication historically by reporting what has happened—through the rearview mirror. Sure, we want to know if we’re winning or losing, but the emphasis should be on numbers we can do something about.
  • Don’t think about top down and bottom up. That’s old thinking. Think about lateral conversations—people collaborating to get the job done better. Ban we/they thinking and language.
  • Focus on the critical number you’re trying to improve—the one that provides organizational focus and that everyone can influence. So-called “messaging” becomes old way because the focus is less on talking points and more on the numbers that represent the real game that’s being played in business.
  • If you have a trust problem, open the books. If you won’t open the books—even a little—you’re perpetuating the trust problem. Can you continue to lead if you’re not trusted?

If you want to attend this year’s gathering from September 5-7 in Dallas, here’s a link to the Gathering of Games site.

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