The Great Game of Business: Defining Your Critical Number

The first element of the Great Game of Business is the critical number and know and teach the rules. The first part of this operating system gives us financial and cultural results. This is how The Great Game of Business is laid out, the process circle.

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Know and Teach the Rules

If a company wants to reach its goal then they must teach their people what that goal is.  There are three things that must be done in order to teach employees about the company’s goal.

  1. Financial Transparency and Education
  2. High Involvement Planning
  3. The Critical Number

Financial Transparency and Education

The company is not guaranteed results by only opening the books.

“Just because you open the books doesn’t mean doves and rainbows will fly out.” Jack Stack, CEO of SRC Holdings

Without education, transparency does not mean much.  If a company wants to create a plan and pick the critical number but does not involve its employees around that then those employees will probably not be interested in helping the company get to that goal. Perhaps, they want to, but they have no clue as to what they are aiming at.

It is crucial to always start with the “why” and not the “how.”

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

“The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who knows why will always be his boss.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

High Involvement Planning

It is important for employees to think and act like business people.  Employees are the ones generating the numbers in the business so owners should engage them on a completely different level.  Companies should involve their employees to have them help select the critical number.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin

The Critical Number

In reality, a critical number is different for every company. Typically,  a critical number is considered to be the one thing that defines winning, not for all time, but say for a year.  If the critical number is not surrounded by training programs, huddles, scoreboards or its stake in the outcome then the critical number cannot be reached and nothing else matters.  Bonus plans can also be created around a critical number.  If people understand that the company’s goal and their bonuses are tied to each other, then they will absolutely help the company get there every time.

The one thing I will suggest is, “Do something.” Every day wasted is another chance to fail.


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Steve Baker

Steve Baker is the Vice President of The Great Game of Business, Inc., a division of SRC Holdings Corporation. Known for his high-energy and engaging message, Steve has become a top-rated and sought after speaker, author and coach on topics of Open-Book Management, Strategy & Execution, Leadership and Employee Engagement. Steve co-authored the update of the #1 bestseller, The Great Game of Business - 20th Anniversary Edition.

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