Too many people spend their working lives just putting in their time with little energy or passion. Gallup polling shows that nearly 70 percent of employees aren’t engaged at work. Creating a culture in which people are truly engaged and want to work continues to confound most organizations.
But a growing movement shows substantial anecdotal evidence that workplaces need no longer be places of disheartening drudgery. The new approach buries the mindset that people should just show up and do their job — nothing more and nothing less. Instead, organizations treat business as a game: specifically, the Great Game of Business.
The Great Game of Business is built on the idea of openness and inclusiveness. It operates using open-book management and teaching financial literacy so that every individual in an organization has the information needed to act.
While many CEOS consider it dangerous to share financial information broadly inside their organizations, those who do so find it’s an incredibly effective way to demonstrate trust and respect for their employees. They find that when they open up the rules of business to everyone and invite them to come up with solutions, it becomes a kind of game that engages and empowers everyone to move forward as a cohesive team.
No longer are associates working on the assembly line left to think that only those walking around in sport coats and ties have access to all the information. Instead, every associate understands how to make a difference in the organization’s financial performance. Making everyone privy to where the organization stands and where it needs to be to hit its goals is an invaluable way for leaders to demonstrate trust and respect in their employees — and create a culture in which people are truly engaged.
To play the Great Game of Business, start with the fundamentals. These include:
- Know and teach the rules. Most people don’t think that there are basic rules in business. Maybe they just haven’t read the directions and are making up their own rules. But operating without the structure of basic rules is like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box. How can you put the pieces together if you don’t know what you’re trying to build?
It’s important that everyone in the business understands how the money that comes in as sales revenue eventually finds its way to the bottom line in the form of profit — or loss. The whole intent in teaching the rules of business is to help people in the organization get a better sense of the big picture and of where the organization is going. An organization will always have a better chance of winning if everyone on the team knows what it takes to win.
- Keep score. A lot of people in business get caught by unexpected surprises because they don’t keep score of where they stand at all times. Keeping score helps validate the rules of the Game — when you take action, you can see the results on the scoreboard in terms of the numbers and the financials. You can see how you make a difference.
A scorecard also helps create some excitement and gives people something to get pumped up about. Too often, there’s not enough excitement at work. Making the scorecard visible to everyone and engaging everyone is regular huddles to strategize around it provides an opportunity for some fun. When all workers have access to the information and the data, they can’t help but get excited to come to work to see if they can do better than they did the day before.
- Share a stake in the outcome. Teaching people the rules of the marketplace and showing them how to keep score lets them understand how they can win and earn their share of a stake in the outcome. It’s motivational. They begin to look for more sophisticated ways to win, to innovate.
The more that workers are taught to think and act as owners do, the better the decisions they make to create a bigger pie that everyone can benefit from. Giving people the information to get to those better decisions and solutions is how organizations can give everyone a stake in the outcome.
The Great Game of Business is really about the psychological side of work, not just about doing a job. It’s about turning something that could be boring or menial into something fun and participatory. It’s about everyone being engaged in the action and helping the team win.
That’s what it takes to build, and most importantly, to sustain a culture of ownership. The payoff is a workforce full of people who care, who take responsibility for one another, and who will do whatever is necessary to protect their community and the business behind it.
There are lessons here that go beyond business, however, because ownership is a state of mind. Ownership is hope. It’s curiosity, openness, an eagerness to learn and grow. It’s caring about yourself and the people around you. It’s wanting to contribute, to make a difference. It’s the ability to handle diversity. It’s the courage and conviction to face the future.
Those are great qualities to have in a business, but they’re also great qualities in a school, or a church, or a social service organization, or a nation. And they’re the qualities we need now more than ever.