For nearly four decades, SRC Holdings have been evangelizing the importance of tapping into the universal human need to win. The Great Game of Business® educates your people in the rules of business, rallies them around a common goal, empowers them to see and improve the score, and engages them by allowing them to share in the rewards— What we call a Stake in the Outcome®—presenting them with the opportunity to win as a team.
If you want to see success the way SRC has for almost four decades, you must start with communication. You need a system to ensure that you get the most out of your meetings. That doesn’t mean you need one identical to SRC’s meetings, or Huddles as we call them. On the contrary, your system will inevitably look, sound, and feel very different, as well it should. Companies are as diverse as people, and nothing is more distinctive than how you communicate. You have to develop a language and style with which you and your people feel comfortable, which fits your business personality. You will also have to adapt other companies’ techniques to your circumstances, and you may well have to invent new methods of your own.
The truth is that every business will face unique challenges in developing an effective communications process. If you need help overcoming them, our advice is to explain the problem to your people and ask them for their ideas. Beyond that, let us offer some lessons that our founder, Jack Stack, has learned over the years and that you may find helpful as well.
Keep It Regular and On Time
The most important thing about a weekly meeting is that everybody knows it begins at 9:00 every Wednesday morning. It’s not 10:30 on Tuesday this week, 3:00 on Wednesday next week, then back to 9:00 after that. It’s always the same day, same time, same place. That way, people can count on it, plan for it, and develop a routine around it. They don’t have to spend a moment thinking about where or when the meeting will take place. They can focus all their attention on The Game.
Hold It Frequently Enough to Stay in Control of the Numbers
Over the years, SRC has experimented with the frequency of the Huddle cycle. For us, the weekly staff meeting is key to our communication style; two weeks was too long between updates, which disrupted the routine for the team. Maybe every two weeks is the perfect Huddle cycle, or bi-weekly fits your needs more due to your circumstances. Develop a pattern that lets you control the numbers, and then stick with it.
Put a Name and a Face on Every Line in the Income Statement
Break down the major categories on the income statement into controllable elements, and then assign each element to someone in the company.
That person will then be responsible for reporting the number in the meeting. You do this to give ownership to that number and humanize the business. By attaching real people to the numbers, people no longer go on the offensive when the numbers are not up to par. Instead, they ask what we can do to help. There’s a personal connection. People have an innate want to support each other. When one person is down, someone else steps in and picks him or her up.
Invite Anyone with Something to Contribute
Regardless of the frequency, staff meetings are open to everyone in the company. Depending on the size of your company, it may be everyone on staff, or you might only see the people with a number to report, news to share, or it’s important for them to see what is happening across the company. There should never be any mystery when the meeting is happening, where it is, or who is invited. If you are a large company and do not feel you can bring everyone together each week for one big meeting, then read our blog post on Huddle Cycles. We provide helpful information on how to be transparent across large workforces.
Have a Fixed Format, But Don’t Be Boring
Have a simple format that never varies, and be sure the content is interesting and fast-paced. No one wants to sit through a long, drawn-out meeting without purpose.
- Start with setting the tone for the meeting and establishing a theme - this is usually led by leadership. Keep it brief and concise.
- Then go around the room twice:
- The first time around, you will go through the income statement in the manner described above. When finished, everyone should understand how the company is doing against the pretax profit goal. Meanwhile, the chief financial officer quickly puts together a Cash-Flow Statement, using the numbers that people have just announced, and goes over the results. (At The Great Game of Business, we automate this with a Cash-Flow Statement document. If you don't have one, feel free to download ours.)
- The second time around, people report any news or other information they feel the group wants to hear— new customers, important milestones, industry awards, fishing results, golf results, individual accomplishments, etc. This part has the flavor of a town meeting, with each member getting up to tell us a little bit about what’s happening in his or her neighborhood. There is much joking, commiserating, congratulating, and laughing. We are renewing the bonds of our community.
- Close the meeting with a summary of the results. It is always good to come back to the theme discussed at the start of the meeting or pick up on something one of the other participants has said. The purpose is simply to highlight whatever you think our common focus should be, based on what we’ve just heard and what is happening around us, the environment we are operating in. Then we adjourn.
Be a Leader, Not a Boss.
If you are running the meeting, be careful to avoid the trap of being the person with all the answers. You never want people to think they are reporting to you to tell them what to do. It’s important to keep putting the responsibility and the tools for earning more in their hands. It’s easy to come in after the fact and say, “You should have done this or that.” But, if you do, they’ll start leaving the decisions up to you. Empower them to make decisions by providing tools. The best tool you have is the financial statements. So we’re all moving in the same direction. There aren’t any more mixed messages, just the results on the financials.
Use this as a means to lead and teach.
Make Sure the Numbers Get Out
Never forget, what happens after the Huddle is more important than what happens in it. The whole exercise is a big waste of time if the information stays with the people in the room. This is not a big concern if your company is small enough to have everyone in the Huddle, but if your company is large, you need to have a routine to get the information out to the rest of the company. That’s why we put so much emphasis on the small, short standup Huddles. We hold as many as necessary to get the word out as fast as possible. In a small department, there may be only one. In a large department, there may be as many as eight. The head of production, for example, meets with all seven of the frontline supervisors on the shop floor. They then go back and hold similar sessions with their respective teams. In each meeting, people are not only getting the numbers and the news, but they are also figuring out what they can do to improve the score.
Insist That People Write It Down
An essential step in the whole educational process is writing down the information. When you report to people every week about the company’s condition, you establish credibility. When you get them to write the information down, you teach. Education comes by repetition. It’s like learning the multiplication tables. If you do it often enough, it becomes second nature. That’s what you want. You want to be sure that you are really teaching people what they need to know— that you are taking ignorance out of the workplace and educating people to understand what needs to be done.
To hear more helpful tips on educating, empowering, and engaging your workforce, download a free copy of The Great Game of Business.